Warlock by Jim Harrison

One of the first Jim Harrison books I ever read was Warlock and I remember loving it. In the fall of 1993 I went to Bordeaux as an ignorant young wine writer for Wine & Spirits magazine and had dinner at a modest chateau in one of the more modest appellations of the region–Cotes de Bourg or Cotes de Castillon or something like that. I learned two things at that dinner that I have never forgotten. One was that butter leaf lettuce drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt makes a delicious, wine friendly (no vinegar) salad. The other was an introduction to the existence of Jim Harrison, an American writer almost more highly regarded in France than in his home country. “You Americans,” the host Denis Dubourdieu fairly sneered, “You don’t even know your best writers!”

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When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris

David Sedaris is one of those writers that has me laughing out loud while I’m reading, even in public places. In fact, I recommend not taking a drink of anything while reading Sedaris lest you end up spitting, choking or having liquid come out your nose. I couldn’t stop myself from laughing out loud behind my anti-virus mask when I was tucked into a comfy chair at the BMW dealership, waiting for my i3 to have its oil changed and I think I made the other people in the waiting area uncomfortable.

Not every essay in When You Are Engulfed in Flames made me laugh out loud and some didn’t even make me chuckle silently. Sedaris can be perverse, gross and even mean, and sometimes his subject matter doesn’t appeal to me. However, since I’ve read that he is an avid roadside litter collector–something I would like to be more avid about, especially since I often find cash while I’m picking up trash–I give him the benefit of the doubt.

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Homer & Langley by E.L. Doctorow

When I first began my career as a personal organizer I worked with a few hoarders. A hoarder is defined as someone who accumulate so much stuff that their life is unmanageable and several rooms in the house are unable to be used for their intended purpose. I stopped working with hoarders when I realized that the disorder is much more of mental illness than disorganization and, even with therapy, is very difficult to “cure.” But people are fasciated by it and it is usually the first thing someone asks me about when they find out what I do. E.L. Doctorow’s novel Homer & Langley is based on the lives of two men who are sort of the original American hoarders, Homer & Langley Collyer.

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Shocked: My Mother, Schiaparelli and Me by Patricia Volk

I ended up loving everything about this book, yet when I first pulled it from my library and looked it over, I thought it might go into the give away bag without a reread and blog entry. The gorgeous, heavy and shagreen-pebbled dust jacket, in shocking pink of course, convinced me to at least give it a try. It had been a long time since I read it and didn’t remember it at all. It hooked me immediately.

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If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland

It’s been a while since I’ve chosen a book from my library for this blog. Virus and fire have put the fear of angry Mother Nature into me and my thoughts have been mostly short term and skittish. I haven’t experienced such an undercurrent of dread since I listened to the Beatles Revolution #9, forwards. (I was too scared to listen to it backwards and besides, didn’t want to screw up my turntable.) I’ve been longhand journaling, but on sadly mundane topics like home projects, workouts, finances and what I’ve been putting into my mouth. Food, mostly.

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Polishing the Mirror by Ram Dass

Over the last seven or eight months, the man I’m seeing and I made a pact to incorporate some spiritual growth activities into our couples life. We started meditating in the mornings, which we have been very diligent about, and have tried to read spiritual literature aloud to each other in the evenings, which we have been less diligent about. Somehow in the evenings, especially after many months of Covid-19 situational stress, we end up zoning out with an episode of Sons of Anarchy instead. Continue reading “Polishing the Mirror by Ram Dass”

Picasso by Norman Mailer

Yo–el Rey. I, the king. Pablo Ruiz y Picasso wrote that three times on a self portrait painted when he was just 19 and about to leave his native Spain for Paris, where he became something more than a king. The funny thing about a grotesquely outsized ego is that very occasionally it is actually representing an equally legendary and outsized talent, intellect, beauty or charismatic personality; the deep flaws of entitlement, narcissism and infidelity such an ego sanctions can be overlooked, even forgiven. Continue reading “Picasso by Norman Mailer”

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe

It was easy to pull Electric Kool-Aid off the shelf after reading the Grateful Dead biography. Tom Wolfe brilliantly describes Ken Kesey’s Merry Prankster scene, of which the Grateful Dead were a major contributor, in this somewhat novelized, novel-length report. Continue reading “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe”

A Long Strange Trip by Dennis McNally

A few weeks ago I found out that a man I’d lost touch with killed himself last spring. He’d been a magnificent influence on me in the early 1990s. We wrote for the same magazine, but his writing was many leagues beyond my work horse prose. Where he would wax romantic, I would wane maudlin, and he wasn’t afraid to tell me so. But he was kind. One late night in his office cluttered with rock specimens, empty bottles of great wines and hundreds of books, he let me recite “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” in its entirety. I was nervous, so he handed me a stress ball to squeeze. That’s a good friend. I’d forgotten his kindness. Continue reading “A Long Strange Trip by Dennis McNally”

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain & The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert

I read The Last American Man and Kitchen Confidential back to back, which wasn’t planned, it was just that I craved these biographical short books as ┬átransitional material after five volumes of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle. I tried to start My Struggle Volume Six, but my brain revolted. What I needed was an all-American male palate cleanser, make that two, and these books served the purpose well. Continue reading “Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain & The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert”