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Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life in the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
In case anyone is interested in any of my past posts, an archive list can be found at the bottom of this page.
My newest novel, Happy Valley, can be found here.

Monday, December 15


I went to Birdman to see if all the Oscar buzz about Michael Keaton’s performance was as valid as all the critics were saying. It was, I think. You’ll notice how I’m hedging my bet with the qualifying “I think.” It was such an odd show, sprinkling bits of unreality in with reality. But even the reality was odd. Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) is the aging and fading star of a series of movies about the comic superhero called Birdman. He’s attempting to resurrect his career by producing, directing, and starring in a Broadway play called “What We Talk about When We Talk about Love.” The viewer can’t really tell what’s real and what’s Riggan’s imagined reality. We hear the voice of his alter ego, Birdman, speaking to him, warning him that his theatrical ambitions are folly. We see Riggan telekinetically moving things around, smashing items in his dressing room like a crazed poltergeist. We leap with him from the theatre roof and fly up and down and around surrounding skyscrapers. We hear classical music as background to his trips through the warren of halls and stairways and backstage areas of the theatre. Some scenes included drum riffs and a drummer in places he shouldn’t or wouldn’t be. One scene is backed by a shouted rendering of Macbeth’s “Tomorrow and Tomorrow” soliloquy, by a crazy street person who asks Riggan if he’d overdone it.
We see the Keaton face wrinkled as we’ve never before seen it, with that Keaton smile that comes with thrust chin and down-turned lips.
Then there’s his daughter Sam (Emma Stone) who looked like Tolkein’s golem with scrawny arms and impossibly bulbous eyes, making her look like one of the painted children in the upcoming Big Eyes movie. When the other male lead is strangely struck in the head by a falling stage light (Was it accidental or one of Riggan’s telekinetic tricks to get rid of a bad actor?), Mike Shine (Edward Norton) is persuaded to take his place. The three preview rehearsals don’t go well, with the preview audience actually booing when Shine, half-drunk from slugging gin in a kitchen scene, leaps from a motel bed in which he tried to seduce the female lead (not a play seduction, an actual seduction), sporting an oh so apparent woodie in his tidy whities. But the show must go on, despite New York’s leading theatre critic threatening to write a review that would kill the show in its infancy. Two setpieces stand out, a lengthy tirade by Sam telling her father what she thinks of him, and Riggan’s rant at the critic as she sips a martini in a nearby bar. Both are laced with current spice, lots of F-bombs and M-F-bombs. I’m from an ancient era when such words were never used, never even thought. See, I can’t even say them now and instead have to call them F- and M-F-bombs. My ears these last three decades have grown accustomed to the blue language of today’s R-rated movies, but some part of me still cringes when I hear it used by boys and girls in everyday conversation. Let me illustrate my prudishly Victorian youth. I was raised in a most conservative upper mid-western state, South Dakota. I remember a time when grocery stores and drug stores wrapped Kotex boxes in brown paper and kept them below the counter to be handed out surreptitiously to ladies in need of such verboten items. I remember a time when I gave my older sister the finger and she slapped me silly. I knew it was a signal for something bad, but I had no idea what that raised middle finger really meant. I remember when I and other young boys would leaf through National Geographic magazines to feverishly ogle bare-breasted females from other countries. I remember when my mother secretly stole my Goya’s Naked Maja stamp from my stamp collection for fear such images would spoil her sweet boy’s innocence. I remember carrying a condom (what we called back then a “rubber”) in my billfold, not one I would ever use, but as a badge of honor in the fraternity of pubescent boys wishfully thinking. I remember right after I joined the army hearing for the first time the M-F-bomb, thinking how awful that image was, a son having intercourse with his mother. What I don’t remember is ever having that father/son discussion about sex. We learned by osmosis, petting and panting but never penetrating. And language back then still retained the power of surprise, the thrust engendered by the Anglo-Saxon four-letter arsenal. Soon after I started teaching English, I learned that one of the most moral depictions of modern youth, Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, was forbidden in classrooms because of that one F-bomb that Holden tried to erase from a graffitied museum entry wall. He was trying to protect his sister Phoebe from seeing this linguistic evil, trying to catch her before she fell over a cliff at the edge of a field of rye. I found that Twain’s Huck Finn was considered offensive because of his depiction of Jim as “Nigger Jim,” the novel one of the earliest indictments of the evils of slavery and racial bigotry. And it was on the censored list. What the fuck is that? There I got that out of my system and I feel a lot better. I think (I think?) Birdman was one of the best films I’ve seen this year, and Michael Keaton will win the award for best actor.
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