The Most of Nora Ephron
In 2012 the world lost a great artist, Nora Ephron. The Most of Nora Ephron offers the reader a comprehensive sampling of the various literary forms Ephron mastered throughout her career. This posthumous collection is divided into 9 parts which showcase each of her writing pursuits. Among them: journalist, novelist, screenwriter, and blogger. Ephron was all of these things—wearing many hats while staying true to her hilarious and candid nature. The pieces her editor and friend Robert Gottlieb selected for this volume allow you to witness the sublime arc of her life and career in one place. From her early essays as a magazine journalist in the 1970s to her recent blog pieces from the Huffington Post, Ephron’s personality bursts through every page with sardonic wit and unapologetic truth. Her screenwriting devotees will find both the screenplay for When Harry Met Sally as well as the complete Heartburn novel in this collection. For any writer or fan who ever considered stopping short of their goals, Ephron’s career is a testament to keep going while laughing at every stumble and setback. Never one to take herself too seriously, Ephron still remains a journalist at heart, a witness to the world around us, both personally and politically.
Trailer Trash, With A Girl’s Name
Named Stacey when his mother mistook the delivery room nurse’s name of Sheila, writer Stacey Roberts has clearly grown up with a terrific sense of humor because, well, is there really any choice in the matter? As he notes, in another time he “could have had a career as a rapper or a 1920’s gangster.” Instead he has become a witty author. Books as well as banks should consider themselves lucky.
Roberts takes the reader through a rollicking description of his life and family, a family where the women are crazy and the men die young. The actual trailer does not enter into the story until Roberts’ mother’s second husband Ted the Drug Dealer (originally Ted the Lightbulb Salesman) moves them into a Winnebago for five years.
There is a delightful Jewish flair to Trailer Trash With a Girl’s Name, from the edict that playing golf with goyim is a bad idea (that caused one of the deaths), right through to a recipe for chicken soup. Naturally, this is the only recipe for chicken soup you’ll ever see that has no actual chicken in it, just a handful of bones. There are other recipes too and some initially sound tempting, such as the one for cream cheese sandwiches … until Roberts describes them as tasting of ‘the absence of hope.’ Thanks. I think I’ll stick to the peanut butter.
On the whole, Trailer Trash With a Girl’s Name is great fun, even if Roberts’ own life has been something less than that. Still, as someone or other once said, comedy is tragedy deferred. Stacey Roberts has both an excellent ear for dialogue, and a fine and professional sense of timing in knowing where to end a chunk of dialogue and get on with the exposition. Great fun, with an out-loud laugh or at least several smiles on every page. Well worth a few hours’ read.
Call Me Pomeroy
There is more than meets the eye in the seemingly bold, boorish and narcissistic Pomeroy.
Fifty-five-year-old Eddie Beasley – a.k.a. “Pomeroy” is a homeless musician, who believes he is a stud – a “star” – and it’s just a matter of time before he’s going to be famous. Pomeroy lives his life on the street (when not in various prisons and shelters), singing from and adding to Ants In My Pants – the song that will get him discovered. Soon after his release from Quentin, Pomeroy finds himself in the middle of an Occupy Oakland demonstration, and is mistaken for kidnapping policewoman, Nora, when he is in fact saving her from a mob of angry anarchists. Despite the best efforts of Jessica Jiminez, his sexy Latina parole officer, Pomeroy lands himself in one spot of trouble after the next, as his adventures take him across the globe. While Pomeroy appears to be nothing more than a foul-mouthed, self-centered, womanizing misfit, he is an entertaining study in paradoxes. Despite his lifestyle, never-ending use of expletives, crude, misogynistic references to women’s body parts, and narcissism, he states: “Pomeroy ain’t no illiterate, crack-smokin’ bum”. He is right. Pomeroy is well-read, and can bring up literary analogies to his observations of life (not to mention his repartée of euphemisms to describe his belief that all women want to have sex with him); has the ability to learn from his downfalls (“When a woman puts Pomeroy in jail, Pomeroy cuts her off”); even reveals a sense of chivalry that prompts him to save Nora (“Can’t let no women get beat up, even if she is a cop”). He even has respect for those he cares about (“Jessica’s always been good to Pomeroy and Pomeroy takes care of his own.”). And through all his shocking language, no holds barred views, Pomeroy shines as a funny and curiously endearing anti-hero. While his talk about women is offensive, and so condescending on one hand, it humorously sheds light on Pomeroy’s own flawed nature as he, at times, takes on the persona of the hapless victim of every woman’s sexual desire, that lead him, for example, to quickly disembark a boat “before the women have a chance to tear [his] pants off”.
Pomeroy defies all things sacred – relieving himself on Ireland historical Blarney Castle. His views attack the hypocrisy in society, as he questions the morality of the men whose faces are on our money, the ethics of our presidents (“If a man wants my vote, he can damn well keep his pecker in his pants”) and comments on the state-of-the-art housing units in the Santa Rita lockup. Pomeroy’s rudimentary appearance and behavior invite judgment against him, but it becomes clear very quickly that his appearance and behavior belie a sense of values and decency that is missing from many who appear to be far more dignified and well-spoken.
Tight writing makes for a brisk-flowing narrative, while strong characterization captures the ironies that make Pomeroy thoroughly tawdry, yet peculiarly appealing and ridiculously funny.
Call Me Pomeroy brings us a protagonist who is a bold anti-hero that challenges the boundaries of superficiality in today’s society.
Cliff of the Ruin
Mae is a headstrong twenty-six-year-old living on her uncle’s farm in New Jersey. Because she is unmarried and nearing thirty, she gets a lot of questions concerning potential suitors. What no one knows, however, is that she has not one love interest, but two: Kieran McCree, a mysterious, handsome stranger, and William Teague, a charming Civil War hero. The beginning of the novel plays out like an incredibly fun romantic comedy, until things get very serious.
Mae, after discovering a disturbing truth about her family, runs away with Kieran and returns weeks later – alone, ailing, and married. She refuses to talk to anyone, and Mr. Teague is called in to help. Once Mae recovers, she can remember nothing of her elopement. She and Will set off to Ireland in search of her missing husband. What follows is a dark, fascinating tale involving fairies, disguises, redemption, and love.
This is a magical story, wonderfully told. McKernan does an excellent job of bringing the various characters to life, complete with charms, flaws, complex motivations, and perfectly rendered dialects. Everything feels real, even the fantastical elements, and that makes the drama that much more exciting. This is world building at its finest.
The story is also just plain exciting. McKernan takes her time setting up the plot, reeling you in, and then everything picks up speed until it is so fast-paced and intense that you can’t possibly stop reading. There are fistfights, gambling, dangerous women, scoundrels, unexplained injuries, and so much more – all the elements of a great adventure.
And the mysteries! There are so many plot threads that are barely hinted at and then slowly untangled throughout the book, leaving you constantly wondering until the very last page, where all is finally revealed. This is a brilliantly crafted tale, and I am shocked that it is McKernan’s first book. I will certainly be on the lookout for more from this author.
Cliff of the Ruin is an exceptional book, a delightful mix of historical fiction, romance, fantasy, adventure, and mystery that everyone will enjoy. I cannot recommend it enough.
What happens after one is framed for the biggest crime of the century? Junior, a middle-aged man living in his father’s shadow for far too long, learns the hard way when his father, mother, sister – and most of the other important people in his life – are blown up in a catastrophic disaster … and Junior is the primary suspect! Translated from the original Chiricahua Apache language it was written in (a tribe that lives in Baja, Texas – formerly known as Mexico), Junior’s journal gives facetious life to the “what if?” questions that many of us face today. What if there were a Fantasy Crime League, where criminals were given rankings and scores based on the magnitude of their crimes? What if Burger King purchased the New York Times (and Whopper sales skyrocketed!)?
Humorously published as a scholarly re-print of a book revered as an ageless classic commentary on the human condition, the story includes footnotes that casually assume a world quite different from the one we know; one footnote, for instance, clarifies for the reader: “[…T]he Heisman trophy was awarded by the New York Athletic Club to the most outstanding college football player. This award is now known as the Hamburger Helper Lite Heisman Trophy Presented by General Mills.” Tongue-in-cheek references are made to additional books and resources on the subject of all things Junior, such as one footnote that states, “Numerous scholarly articles have been written on the significance, or lack of same, regarding caps identified in ‘Junior’. A comprehensive analysis of this scholarship is located in ‘Hats Off to Junior!’ by Susan Staber.”
Mildly poking fun at the many political factions of our day and constructing farcical scenarios (the Jewish nation moving as a whole to North Dakota; Oprah Winfrey as Secretary of State), this book provides a light-hearted take on matters we often take too seriously for our own good – politics, religion, and sports!
Kenneth Taber did a great job of writing about the events and lives of the people in the fictitious town of El Avispero. The name of the town, located in Altanero County, also happens to be the title of Taber’s novel.
El Avispero opens with the beginnings of a city council meeting. It doesn’t take long for the reader to catch onto the humor of the names of some of the characters. If you look closely at the spelling of some of the names, you can quickly get a glimpse into their personalities. After the first chapter, or part one of the very last chapter, you begin to read about the background of the citizens of El Avispero. The timeframe of the chapters is one year before the city council meetings. The lives of the characters unfold and develop in continuous chapters. As new, very minor characters are introduced, the play on names and personalities is present again.
It was interesting reading who all of the characters in the novels were, as well as their roles in the town. The one difficulty I had related to the characters was that I couldn’t seem to figure out who that one main character was. In addition to the names of the characters in El Avispero, another humorous aspect relates to the acronyms that are formed when titles of the committees are given throughout the book.
The main dilemma in the book–the reason for the city council meeting–is whether a section of land in El Avispero should be developed for affordable housing. As you can probably guess, different members of the town were on different sides. Being on different sides led to the plot being developed.
As I was reading El Avispero, I found the occasional Spanish sentences distracting. While the English translation is given, my eyes were jumping past the Spanish sentences to the English ones. It is obvious that the native language of some of the characters would have been Spanish. By the way, the title of this novel translates to wasp nest, which could be a good way to describe events in a small town when there are opposing sides centered on a huge issue. I enjoyed reading this novel because the storyline held my interest. I couldn’t wait to read what was going to happen next for the cast of characters. The author was also creative with his use of humor, which made me laugh. My reason for giving El Avispero 4 stars and not 5 was because, for me, I needed a central main character to focus on. In addition, on the pages, where there was Spanish dialogue; my eyes were jumping around quickly to the English translation.
Overall, I liked El Avispero. If you enjoy reading stories about towns, and getting to know the people who reside in such places, pick up this book. Even if you don’t regularly read such books, this novel is an enjoyable one. You will laugh while reading Taber’s book.