Category Archives: Books

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Hootenanny Nurse

I’ve long thought hootenanny was one of the funniest words in the English language. This week’s entry has done nothing to disabuse me of that notion.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: If He Hollers Let Him Go

The African-American writer Chester Himes is best known for his noirish crime fiction and books set in Harlem. If He Hollers Let Him Go was his first novel. It’s a racially charged story set in post-World War II Los Angeles.

I read it after reading an interview with Walter Mosley wherein he recommended the book. I kept waiting for Easy Rawlins to show up. He did not but it’s a good book even without Easy and Mouse.

If He Hollers Let Him Go was made into a movie in 1968.

Here’s the trailer:

The whole damn movie is available on the YouTube for now.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Pirate Wench

This was another one of those weeks where I searched for something completely different and found this book. What’s not to love about the title Pirate Wench?

It gives me a pretext to post this ELP opus:

 

 

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Flying Eyes

Another week, another alien invasion book.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Gods Hate Kansas

I’d never heard of this book until last week. I picked it because it has a cool title and cover, the Kansas Jayhawks made the Final Four, Leftoverture by Kansas was featured yesterday, and my friend Dave Gladow is from Kansas. What the latter has to do with anything is beyond me but Dave *does* like Star Wars and comic book movies.

The book turns out to have a helluva back story:

Joseph Millard was an American pulp science fiction writer who published nearly a dozen short stories between 1941 and 1943, and then apparently gave up writing for good. Most of his stories appeared in magazines like Thrilling Wonder Stories, Amazing StoriesFantastic Adventures, and other pulps. He died in 1989.

In November 1941, he published his only novel, The Gods Hate Kansas, in Startling Stories magazine. It was reprinted a decade later in the November 1952 issue of Fantastic Story Magazine, and then appeared in paperback in February 1964 from Monarch Books, with a brilliantly gonzo cover by Jack Thurston, featuring a raygun-wielding hero riding bareback on a little red number and giving the business to an earnest-looking bug-eye monster.

Here’s the 1964 edition:

The Gods Hate Kansas became the 1967 British sci-fi flick, They Came From Beyond Space:

 

Here’s the trashy trailer:

We’re not in Kansas any more, Toto.

Procol Harum gets the last word:

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Kiss My Assassin

Same book, same title, dueling assassins. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was wildly popular when Rod Gray came up with The Lady From L.U.S.T. series. Knocked off is more like it, but when could I resist a punny title?

‘The Work Is Worth Doing’

Mallory Ortberg on their new book and the nature of the unknown: 

Ortberg: If you look at the Christian Bible—again, that’s the story that I come from—you look at the Book of Job, and there’s this fascinating, open-ended question of what is the Satan? Because that’s literally the name of the character in the book. It’s called the Satan, not like the devil or Lucifer, Satan, like that’s his name. It’s just the Satan, and it means that he has a job. It’s your job. You bring evidence against humanity, and you are in God’s employ, and obviously we lost some of that over time. You remember the cartoons of the sheepdog and the wolf who would fight all day, and then they would end by swiping their punch cards? That’s been lost, and there’s just the sense of—it is this actual demonic, supernatural entity that lives somewhere in the ether and is out to get me. I think if you look at those stories, they are incredibly destabilized and all over the place, and that’s fantastic.

Rumpus: In these fairy tales is a universe that is random and tricky. You write with a real confidence, yet a lot of what you’re getting at in this book is the ways in which no one knows anything.

Ortberg: The confidence is in saying, This work is worth doing, not, I know what the work is, or Here’s how we all get it done.

There’s a lot in this interview — which is about fairy tales and gender identity and all kinds of questions which is to say read the whole thing, as the kids once said — about questioning as something to be feared. The Olds get so ragey about the gender stuff, like it’s maddening to them, “how do I know what you are?” And they’re actually asking how do I know what I am.

We are not comfortable with our own unknowns. We feel like there is some point at which we get to Know Things, and be Done. We feel like at some point we’ll stop feeling uncertain, we’ll stop worrying if we’ve accomplished enough, and sometimes we even fool ourselves into thinking this is the case. And then along comes something to upend that.

The reason this interview struck me so directly is that what Ortberg is saying is that not only is the work never done, but the work itself is the work. The figuring, the questioning, the exploring, the arguing, the uncertainty and fear, those are all the point, and if you never find answers it’s still worth shoving yourself forward. Accepting that the work will never be done, put your shoulder to the wheel anyway, and glory in the moment of being alive to do so.

How do I know what I am isn’t something you ever stop asking, even if it gets buried under all the shit you have to do to make it day to day.

A.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Heart Of Gold

Tree Of Life by Gustav Klimt.

The weather is playing tricks on us. We’re having February weather in March. That’s fine with me. It beats the hell out of an early New Orleans summer. But the cool temperatures have brought the pollen that torments me in the Spring. Achoo.

In local news, the Mississippi River is on the rise, so it’s time to open the Bonnet Carre Spillway to divert river water into Lake Pontchartrain to prevent flooding. It has me pondering the way folks in South Louisiana pronounce French words. We’re usually off but as not badly as with the Spillway: the local media insist on saying Bonny Carry. That sounds like a blue-haired old lady up river in Duluth. It drives me nuts, y’all. I feel like taking a stroll up Charters (Chartres) Street.

This week’s theme songs are inspired by the layers of golden pollen that are everywhere in Uptown New Orleans. Achoo. Neil Young’s Heart Of Gold was the first of many sonic departures he was to take in his career. It worked: it was Neil’s first big solo hit.

Ray Davies has told two stories about the Kinks’ Heart Of Gold. One is that it was inspired by the birth of his daughter. The other story is that it was inspired by Princess Ann telling some photographers to “naff off.” Only Ray knows for sure. If you asked him, I suspect he’d come up with a third story.

I love Ray’s chorus:

Underneath that rude exterior,
There’s got to be a heart of gold.
Underneath that hard exterior,
Is a little girl waiting to be told,
You’ve got a heart of gold.
She’s got a heart of gold.

Let’s take our rude and hard exteriors and jump to the break. “Watch out, don’t get caught in the crossfire.”

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Pulp Fiction Thursday: Paul Rader

Paul Rader was an illustrator who had a long and prolific career in the world of pulp fiction. Here are four covers he did for Midwood books.

Not Everything Sucks

Some people are building libraries.

Sunshine High School in Newbern, Ala., closed its doors for good two years ago. But the town’s 186 residents didn’t just lose a school, they lost a library — the only one for miles around.

Luckily, Newbern is home to Rural Studio, a design-build program within Auburn University’s School of Architecture. Following the principle that “everyone, both rich and poor, deserves the benefit of good design,” Rural Studio set out to build Newbern a new library.

Students repurposed an old bank building donated by a local family, reusing many of the original materials. Wood that was part of the teller’s counter was made into the librarian’s desk, bricks from the vault are now part of a patio wall and the original vault door is on display in the front window.

A.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Wired For Scandal/Tune In And Die

Two-fer books were quite common in the early days of paperbacks. I picked this cover because both novels have cool titles.

Wired For Scandal sounds like an account of the current administration, which is why I gave it top billing. Believe me.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Peril Is My Pay

I asked Mr. Google to suggest some Olympics related pulp books. That’s how I found Peril Is My Pay. I picked it because of the hardboiled title, not the Olympic connection.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Night and Day

The Night Cafe by Vincent Van Gogh.

Carnival kicks into full swing this weekend. We’re about to have parades and company up the wazoo. I remain uncertain as to what the wazoo is but I think it’s first cousin to the ying-yang or the place where the moon don’t shine.

One downside of Carnival are the creeps who try to appropriate the public green as their own private space. We call them the Krewe of Chad or Chads for short. For the first time in years, the city decided to enforce the existing ordinances against ladders, couches and such being left on the sidewalks and neutral grounds. The Chads were outraged. They’re always either outraged or entitled hence the 2016 Krewe of Spank theme, Clash of the Entitled.

You may recall the mishigas over the Forever Lee Circle beads.  In a fit of hashtag activism, someone decided to do something about it:

Since we have both night and day parades, I picked a classic for this week’s theme song, Night and Day. It doesn’t get more classic than Cole Porter, y’all. We have two versions for your listening pleasure, Ella Fitzgerald  followed by a swell 1995 version by the Temptations.

Now that we’ve heard the boom, boom of the tom-toms, let’s jump to the break. See you on the other side.

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Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Mutants Rebel

If Donald Trump read books, he’d like the tagline about “an evil matriarchy.” Of course, someone would have to explain to him what that word means. So it goes.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Fire Will Freeze

This cover fits the weather conditions this week.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Case Of The Drowning Duck

I haven’t posted a Perry Mason cover in quite some time. Those of you follow me on social media, will understand the timing. The rest of you will get it tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Twelfth Night Odds & Sods: Iko Iko

1912 Twelfth Night Revelers Invitation.

It’s the first day of Carnival. In New Orleans, the Epiphany means we can consume king cake and hang our krewe flags outside the house. A reminder of mine:

Our cold snap continued all week, which meant dripping faucets to prevent bursting pipes and huddling around space heaters inside our drafty houses. It’s nothing compared to the winter hurricane hitting other parts of the country but neither our people nor our houses are built for freezing weather. Anyone who wants to mock me as soft should try living through a New Orleans summer. I double dog dare you.

Since it’s Twelfth Night, we have a seasonal classic as our theme song. The Dr. John version features Mac performing with Ringo’s All-Starr Band featuring three members of The Band and Joe Fucking Walsh among others.

The big story of the week was Michael Woolff’s “fly on the wall” account of life in the Orange House. I wrongly thought Reince swatted all the flies when he was head lackey.

Crying Woolff: Like Doc, I have reservations about the Wolff book. He’s an unreliable narrator as well as a raging, gaping asshole. His method is akin to that of Merle Miller whose book of Harry Truman interviews, Plain Speaking, was a monster hit in the 1970’s. Miller let Truman speak his piece and didn’t fact check the former president’s most egregious whoppers.

There’s an interesting piece by James Warren about Wolff’s method at Vanity Fair’s Hive that has people buzzing. Warren’s conclusion is that Trump and the creep with the extra f in his name deserve one another. “They’re like conjoined twins tied at the ego.”

In the end, Woolf confirms many things we already knew about Trump’s West Wing: it’s loaded with knaves, morons, and buffoons.

Steve Bannon’s current problems can be traced to a fatal inability to STFU as you can see in a piece  by Gabriel Sherman at the same publication. One of the interesting things we learn is that Sloppy Steve’s nickname for the hardcore MAGA Maggots is “Hobbits.” Btw, I think Sloppy Steve is one of the Insult Comedian’s better derogatory nicknames.

Before we move on, a musical interlude from Todd Rundgren:

Let’s transition from the West Wing to the Old West.

Godless is a revisionist Western mini-series produced by Netflix. It stars Jeff Daniels as Frank Griffin a half brilliant half crazy outlaw/preacher. He’s a complicated character who informs us throughout the series that “I’ve seen my death and this isn’t it” even when he expires in the final episode. Uh oh, the spoiler police will be all over me now. I don’t care: Frank Griffin is your basic doomed outlaw.

Godless centers around the town of LaBelle, New Mexico whose population is 95% women because of a mining disaster that killed almost all the men.

The cast is outstanding and includes Scoot McNairy of Halt and Catch Fire and Downton Abbey’s Michelle Dockery. The only thing her character Alice Fletcher has in common with Lady Mary is a love of horses and a bad attitude.

Here’s the trailer:

Godless is streaming at Netflix. I give it 3 1/2 stars, an Adrastos Grade of B+ and an exuberant thumbs up.

Tweet Of The Week: This one comes from lil’ ole me. The current Veep and former Veeps Fritz Mondale and Joe Biden met up this week when the two formers attended the swearing-ins of baby Senators Doug Jones and Tina Smith. Selina Meyer was not there. Of course, she’s fictional, which could explain her absence. It would fun to see Julia dance like Elaine on the Senate floor but it was not to be.

Saturday GIF Horse: I had an Epiphany this Twelfth Night and decided to post two Carnival related GIFs. Apologies for the exclamation points in the second one.

Let’s shut this party down with some music.

Saturday Classic: For a fleeting moment, Mac Rebbenack was a rock star with hit singles. This 1973 album, In The Right Place, contains both of them.

That’s it for this week. Since I mentioned Selina Meyer, I’ll give the last word to her and her “crack” staff; make that crack me up.

A rep makes it hard to Wolff down this book

As much as I want to, I really don’t believe what Michael Wolff has written about President Donald Trump in the book “Fire and Fury.” The excerpt that has made its way around the internet is full of the kinds of things I traditionally believe about our president (or as one person referred to him “Dolt 45,” a term I’m planning to steal.) Examples include:

  • Trump never really thought he would be president and now that he is, he has no idea on how to handle things.
  • He has the temperament of a toddler and he is among other things, “semi-literate” “dumb as shit” and “a fucking moron.”
  • He is remarkably thin-skinned and will take out his rage on people who he knows can’t fight back, like cleaning staff and underlings.

That said, I’m just waiting for someone with half a brain and a conservative bend to pull a copy of this thing and gut the shit out of it. I’m sure the core tenets of the book (Trump? He cray.) are true, much in the same way that Sabrina Erdman’s main assertion in “A Rape on Campus” was true. However, in that same vein, I’m sure the “Jackie” elements of Wolff’s book are lying in wait, ready to undermine the volume’s essential premise.

If you want to know WHY I tend not to believe Wolff’s over-the-top recounting of the Trump Train to Hell, you can look at various media coverage of him over the years. He has used unethical techniques to gather information, glazes over basic facts for more glamorous innuendo and essentially told people, “Hey, reporting is for pussies.” The profile The New Republic (a place once rocked by its own inbred arrogance and fraudulent storytelling) did on Wolff provides a picture of him as more of a carnival barker than a truth-teller:

Much to the annoyance of Wolff’s critics, the scenes in his columns aren’t recreated so much as created–springing from Wolff’s imagination rather than from actual knowledge of events. Even Wolff acknowledges that conventional reporting isn’t his bag.

Others have also noted his ability to create a scene by having a concept of how something “should be” kind of just pass through his mind and emerge as reality. When he spent time writing about media moguls and the upper-crust NYC East Side crowd, those scene setters were both entrancing and yet immaterial. Whether someone cried or someone else demanding a particular type of vodka wasn’t the end of the world. Here, however, it actually matters if the future first lady who had been promised, “Don’t worry. We’re never going to win this thing” was sobbing at the concept of becoming the country’s “leading lady.”

And this is where we have trouble in journalism: You’re only as good as your reputation and once you set it, make it, kill it or whatever, it is what it is. Michael Wolff might come up with a cure for cancer at some point, but I’m not taking that shit until someone with a better overall rep comes by to prove to me this works.

This isn’t just Wolff’s problem. Other people have fucked up their reputations in the minds of readers and thus have them trapped in a conundrum. Case and point hit my email this week when I got this story sent to me about UW-Milwaukee and its record on sexual harassment claims. The story itself doesn’t read all that well, but the core of it rings true: Professors trying to grope, fondle or fuck students is happening and the U is trying to cover it all up over many years. This isn’t a difficult premise to conceptualize.

After reading the story, I was ready to pass it along to a bunch of people I know and support the journalists as I had been asked to. However, just before I got into the mix, I got a quiet email on the side about this. The concern wasn’t necessarily about the students, but the faculty instructor leading the project: Jessica McBride.

I’ve written about her issues here before and my concern about the ethics associated with them, so I’m not going to rehash them here other than to say this issue reemerged in the subsequent years. I know people who worked with her at various stops in her career from college through her stops in Milwaukee and they relayed various anecdotes that gave me pause about the quality of her reporting and her methods in getting stories. The person who emailed me gave me the “Why don’t you give this a couple days to breathe before saying anything” head’s up, which usually means to be careful of lavishing praise or criticism on something until more stuff comes out.

I wanted to pump that story up and push it out to more people because I really BELIEVE the core concept and I think it’s an atrocious abuse of power, both on the part of the professors who do it and the part of universities who hide it. However, given this individual’s connection to it and prior concerns that emerged about her work, I just couldn’t do it. And that really bothered me.

Reputations carry far and wide. Some aren’t fair while others are well earned. I have always worried about about this kind of stuff ever since I was a kid getting ready to go to college. My father’s only admonition to me, as I headed to the land of beer and vomit (AKA UW-Madison) was, “Don’t bring shame on the family. That’s my name, too.”

Fair or unfair, the source colors the lens through which we will see the work.

Saturday Odds & Sods: The Best Of Adrastos 2017

2017 was a terrible year for the country but a great year for satire. It made it hard to winnow down this list. It kept growing like topsy. I’m not sure who or what topsy is but it grows like, well, topsy. I suspect topsy is somehow related to turvy, but where the New Orleans jazz singer Topsy Chapman fits into the scheme of things is unclear; much like this sentence…

I *had* hoped to get the list down to a top forty like the AM rock stations of my youth. It wasn’t happening so I got it down to a top fifty. Yeah, I know: who the hell has ever heard of a top fifty? You have now. Besides, I posted a grand total of 483 times in 2017 so a top fifty is only slightly OTT. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Here it is in chronological order:

1/12/2017: The Fog Of History: Mark Twain On The First Gilded Age.

1/16/ 2017: The Gong Show Presidency.

1/23/2017:  Mock Jazz Funeral For Lady Liberty.

1/25/2017: Sean Spicer Can Lie & Chew Gum At The Same Time.

2/8/2017: The Fog Of History: Explaining Trump.

2/15/2017: Power Before Country.

2/22/2017: The Worst Person Ever To Live In The White House.

3/13/2017: King Of The Bigots.

3/18/2017: Saturday Odds & Sods: Disturbance At The Heron House.

3/22/2017: Tea About The Tillerson.

3/29/2017: The Americans Thread: The World According To Gorp.

4/12/2017: Gret Stet Grifter.

4/17/2017: MOAB DICK.

4/19/2017: The March Of Autocracy.

5/2/2017: Lost Cause Fest: The May Day Melee.

5/8/2017: Le Sigh.

5/17/2017: The World Of President* McBragg.

5/18/2017: The Spirit Of ’73: The Unraveling.

5/24/2017: Book Review: The Selected Letters Of John Kenneth Galbraith.

5/31/2017: Glengarry Glen Ross On The Potomac.

6/14/2017: Tweet Of The Day: Larry Tribe Edition.

6/17/2017: Saturday Odds & Sods: Get Back.

6/29/2017: Mr. Bad Example.

7/3/2017: Back To The Nineties.

7/12/2017: The Beguileds.

7/19/2017: The Finger Of Blame.

7/26/2017: Follow Me Boys To The Trumper’s Jamboree.

7/29/2017: Saturday Odds & Sods: I Should’ve Known.

8/3/2017: The Fog Of Cosmopolitan History.

8/14/2017: Lost Causers Fester In Charlottesville.

8/21/2017: The Fog Of History: There Is No Such Thing As White Culture.

8/23/2017: The Primal Scream President’s* Ego Rallies.

9/13/2017: Walter Trump: Teevee Western Con Man.

9/20/2017: Your President* Speaks: Apocalypse UN.

9/21/2017:  Malaka Of The Week: Bill Cassidy.

9/25/2017: Malaka Of The Week: Frank Scurlock.

10/2/2017:  Oscar R.I.P.

10/19/2017: Quote Of The Day: Movie Monsters Edition.

10/23/2017: Bottom Of The Barrel.

10/25/2017: Flaking Out.

11/8/2017: Fuck Yeah, Virginia.

11/9/2017: Putting The Dope In Papadopoulos.

11/13/2017: Judge Pervert’s Ten Commandments Of Love.

11/15/2017: Malaka Of The Week: Rob Maness aka Col. Mayonnaise.

11/21/2017:  Now Be Thankful.

11/29/2017: The Ugliest American.

12/9/2017: Saturday Odds & Sods: Cold Rain and Snow.

12/13/2017: Fuck Yeah, Alabama: A Perfect Political Storm.

12/14/2017: Only A Memory: Pat DiNizio, R.I.P.

12/18/2017: Seven Dirty Words, 2017.

12/21/2017: Welcome To The New Gilded Age: The Great Tax Heist of 2017.

12/27/2017: Headline Of The Day: The Power Of The Butt.

Some of our more anal retentive readers may have noticed that the final tally was 52. I *had* to include the butt post since the headline was written by First Draft pun consultant James Karst. It was one of the dear boy’s career highlights so what the hell else could I do?

That’s it for this year. The scariest thing about this long and winding list is that it could have been even longer: 483 posts, y’all. The final closing bat meme of 2017 is a tribute to the late Rose Marie who died this week at the age of 94. It was a long life, well lived. Sally Rogers lives on.

 

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Black Wings Has My Angel

I originally selected this book because of the awesome tag line. It turns out to be a highly regarded novel written by a guy with ties to New Orleans. Ya learn something new every day.