JAMES LEE BURKE TALKS ABOUT HIS FICTION, HISTORY, AND THE AMERICAN DREAM

Abandoning the badasses in his usual Louisiana haunts, the Edgar-winning author crafts his first historical novel about oil, movies, and the American Dream.

Like Babe Ruth, late in his career, pointing toward the center field bleachers at Wrigley Field before sending a ball soaring out of the stadium, James Lee Burke has managed, in one swift maneuver, to confirm and enhance his legacy. At the age of 77, the Edgar Award-winning crime novelist has written his best book.

Wayfaring Stranger is unlike Burke’s previous novels, yet it contains enough vintage Burke passages of pyrotechnical prose to light up the page, and remind the reader whose work rests in his hands. The historical novel introduces its protagonist, Weldon Holland, as a child growing up in rural Texas where he has a chance encounter with Bonnie and Clyde. From there we follow him through the combat of World War II, the rescue of a Jewish woman from a death camp, the rise of the commercial oil industry, and the lights, camera, and action of Hollywood nights.

American history has always been in the background of Burke’s crime novels, butWayfaring Stranger is his first work of historical fiction. The genre change serves Burke’s writing well, and it could not have come at a better time.

Source: www.thedailybeast.com

I haven’t read it yet, but it’s up next! I have been a big fan of Burke’s writing for more than 20 years. Unlike some other authors I could name, he actually writes his books himself. He isn’t a franchise. He’s an author and a brilliant one.

I’m also glad he wrote something other than another Dave Robicheaux detective novel. I love Dave and Clete, but they are getting a bit long in the tooth. Clearly James Lee Burke is more than a little tired of his characters and I have suspected for a while he was continuing to write them only because readers love them and the publisher finds them highly profitable.

I’m glad — despite pressure — he has written something fresh and new.

See on Scoop.itBooks, Writing, and Reviews

THE BOTTOM LINE

ADULT VISION – The Daily Post – As a kid, you must have imagined what it was like to be an adult. Now that you’re a grownup (or becoming one), how far off was your idea of adult life? 


I don’t think any kid has an accurate idea of what being “grown up” is about.

I imagined it was all about freedom. Finally not having to take orders from parents, teachers, and every other adult in the world.

It turns out that adult bosses were even less fun and everything was ultimately about money. Working for it. Saving it. Using it well. Building a career that would support the life one wanted. So your family can have a home and nice things to go with it.

I rebelled against it, the whole concept … and went off to do my own thing, dragging my son with me. I took a sharp right turn into unexplored territory. And it did indeed give me a great deal of satisfaction, not to mention many experiences that were beyond price. But I still had to work and money was still the bottom line. monopoly

Money is the issue, unless you have so much you never have to worry about it — an experience I’ve never had. Money doesn’t buy happiness, but having enough will buy physical comfort, peace of mind, and a good chunk of freedom to do as one pleases.

When I was little, I remember hearing my parents talking in soft voices at night behind their closed door. I wondered what exciting things they were discussing. Would I ever have such adult conversations in my life?

Yup. Because they were usually talking about money. How to earn it, how to spend it. What they needed. What they might be able to afford for themselves, for us. That’s the basic issue of adulthood in this modern world. Maybe it has always been this way as long as there has been such a thing as money.

The freedom I was looking for definitely is part of reaching ones majority … but so are all the responsibilities I never considered. And having to work, even when it isn’t fun and not what you wanted to do. And the worry that goes with it.

Next time around the wheel, I’ll try to get it right and better. I’ll give myself a solid B minus on this round. Probably an overly generous assessment.

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FIRE AND SUMMERTIME – CEE’S FUN FOTO CHALLENGE

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Fire or Season of Summer

It’s been a warm, dry season so far and we are now deep into the summer season. No fires though, unless you count the ones we build for our own enjoyment. I’m hoping it stays that way. Mill fires in particular have been huge in the valley.

When Bernat Mills burned down 5 years ago (is it 6 now?), it took every firefighter in the valley more than 2 weeks to put it out. Even after that, it continued to smolder for months.

Those old wooden mills are always at risk of fire, though since Bernat Mills, there hasn’t been another and that’s a good thing.

I’LL BELIEVE IN YOU IF YOU’LL BELIEVE IN ME

I noticed I have about an equal number of religious and atheist friends. That probably means I’m doing something right. If you get right down to it, I believe in you. And me. I believe in human intelligence. I believe we each have the right to exercise our intelligence as we see fit.

I am not an atheist, but I’m not religious, either. You can not prove there is no god. Nor can you can prove there is a god. I will defend to the death your right to believe whatever you choose. It is your right to believe, disbelieve, question, argue. It’s my right too.

I draw the line at anyone telling me what I should believe.

Steeple and skyI dislike dogma. Religion by itself is not a problem. It’s the systems, the rules, the dogma that messes up the world. Dogma is a way to categorize everything, to put it all in boxes. If it doesn’t fit in a box, a properly dogmatic believer will beat, pummel, pound, and torture a person or concept until it fits.

I don’t want to be in a box.

Atheism is a leap of faith as is every religion. And it is a religion. My mother was an atheist, or so she declared herself. She wasn’t really an atheist, in my opinion. She hated god, felt betrayed by god. She felt that if there was a god, he wasn’t worthy of her faith.

No one can prove the existence or non-existence of god. Personally, I think we’d all be better off if everyone would stop trying to prove it one way or the other. No one is going to be convinced by anyone else’s proof. Why not let everyone be as irrational as he or she wants? Maybe if we let others do their thing, they in turn will be let us be crazy in our own ways.

It has to start somewhere. Why don’t we take the first step?

I’m sure this makes me the ultimate fence sitter. So be it. I actually believe in everyone’s right to freedom. It’s the last vestige of my optimistic hope for humanity, the last non-cynical piece of me.

It’s fun to debate god, no god, religion, no religion, faith, no faith. Whatever. Big ideas, complicated concepts. It’s particularly fun when you’re stoned. But. No one is going to be converted to your point of view, no matter how well-constructed your arguments may be. It’s intellectual exercise. It makes great after dinner conversation, but that’s all it is.

When the last cookies have been eaten, the last wine drunk, then it’s time to pack up the arguments and go home — each to our own beliefs. That’s the way it should be.

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LITTLE OLD HOUSES WITH SMALL BARN

You could tell this was down by Cape Cod by the weathered wood siding on the little houses and barn, as well as the old — but still sturdy cedar pickets.

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I think these were originally cabins for hired help, probably ground workers. The barns are clearly not for cows. Probably to stable a couple of horses and maybe store a small rig.

Today, they are “out buildings,” decorative and useful for storage.

SHARING MY WORLD, WEEK 29

Share Your World – 2014 Week 29

Have you ever been in a submarine? If you haven’t, would you want to?

About five years ago, Garry and I went on a Caribbean cruise. It was one of Royal Caribbean’s newer, bigger ships and it was a long cruise — almost two weeks. In the Cayman Islands, we took a trip on the Atlantis, a 60-passenger mini-submarine from which we could experience the coral reef.

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The subs are tiny. Everyone sits on benches, pretty much body-to-body, but there are windows everywhere including the floor. Unless you are crippled by claustrophobia (in which case, why are you on a mini-sub?), it’s all about the windows. You can pretend you are a fish, swimming with those amazing, brilliantly colored citizens of the water world.

They drift by, sometimes in schools, in small groups. Now and then, a big grouper will come to check you out. It was a one-time experience — totally worth it!

Are you a listener or talker?

Mostly a talker, but I’m getting better at the listening thing.

Do you prefer crunchy peanut butter or smooth peanut butter? Anything with your peanut butter?

Neither, thanks. Not a peanut butter person. I like peanuts, though. With salt.

Have you ever been drunk?

I am such a cheap drunk. Give me half a glass of wine and I’m wasted. I got sloshed once in college. I would not want to do it again. I hated the way it made me feel. Fortunately, Garry doesn’t drink, so I don’t have to pretend to enjoy it.

IT CAN’T BE THAT BAD, CAN IT?

Can’t Watch This — When was the last time you watched something too scary, cringe-worthy, or unbelievably tacky to continue?


Almost everyday, I am offended by appallingly cliche-ridden, derivative shows proffered as “the next new thing” for us, the obviously dim-witted audience. Not to mention the “reality shows” like “Marriage Boot Camp” which has offended me merely by its advertisements. No, I haven’t watched one of the shows. If I become that senile or desperate, please shoot me.

Form unimaginative scripts, to the failure of the writers to do even the most basic research about the subject matter, to the inevitable use of tired old lines we hear thousands of times — “Stay in the car!” “Be careful out there!” “You’re off the case and on desk duty!” — to which we all say a weary, “Yeah, right, sure,” because no one stays in the car or on desk duty. And wouldn’t you think being careful would not be something of which you needed to remind police officers who’ve been doing it for years?

However, standing out from the crowd of mediocrity is a movie we had never seen. Was it an instinctive knowledge it would be terrible? Presenting (drumroll) …

WUSA (1970) 115 min – Drama | Romance – 12 March 1971

From the IMDB, a plot summary:

Rheinhardt, a cynical drifter, gets a job as an announcer for right-wing radio station WUSA in New Orleans. Rheinhardt is content to parrot WUSA’s reactionary editorial stance on the air, even if he doesn’t agree with it. Rheinhardt finds his cynical detachment challenged by a lady friend, Geraldine, and by Rainey, a neighbor and troubled idealist who becomes aware of WUSA’s sinister, hidden purpose. And when events start spinning out of control, even Rheinhardt finds he must take a stand.

Director: Stuart Rosenberg
Writers: Robert Stone (screenplay), Robert Stone (novel)
Stars: Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Anthony Perkins and more.

WUSA_(movie_poster)It looks good on paper, doesn’t it? I mean Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, right? How bad could it be?

Bad. Very bad. The script starts off slow, but degenerates with each passing minute until it is so stunningly awful, so over-the-top hysterical and preachy, you find yourself glued to the screen, mouth hanging open, bits of drool falling from your slack jaw.

If, by some bad juju, this movie is showing on a television near you, save yourself! Find an oldies station and watch an episode of Gilligan’s Island.

There are probably worse movies lurking in the vaults of Turner Classics. I just hope we have the good sense to not watch them.

THE GARNER FILES: A MEMOIR – JAMES GARNER AND JON WINOKUR (2012)

Marilyn Armstrong:

Jim, we already miss you!

Originally posted on SERENDIPITY:

By James Garner and Jon Winokur – Release date: October 23, 2012

garnerfiles

From the first time I saw James Garner on TV as Bret Maverick, I was ever so slightly in love. I watched the show faithfully whenever Garner starred in the episode. They tried adding more Mavericks, but for me, there was only one. Apparently that’s how most viewers felt — when Garner was gone, the show was gone.

When I saw him in “The Americanization of Emily,” our relationship was sealed. I was a fan  for life. Although I have not seen every movie he ever made, I’ve seen most of them. I’ve liked some, loved most. Whenever one of his movies shows up on cable, it goes on the DVR. Fortunately Garry is a fan too.

Now, about the book. If you had the impression that Jim Garner is a plain-spoken guy with strong…

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THE OLYMPUS OM-D E-M10 — REVIEW

Marilyn Armstrong:

An excellent review of a camera I hope to buy. Superb technology at a fair price. Olympus. My favorite cameras.

Originally posted on atmtx photo blog:

Olympus OM-D E-M10 with 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 EZ lens

Olympus OM-D E-M10 with 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 EZ lens

Do you want a more detailed review? Please continue reading.

I like to start by thanking Charles from Olympus for letting me use the camera for an extended period. I shot this camera on many occasions and have even blogged about it couple of times (here and here), several months ago. If you read those early posts, you know that I often shot the E-M10 alongside my Fujifilm X100S that I purchased around the same time.

By almost every measure, the Olympus E-M10 is superior to the Fuji X100S. It focuses faster, the EVF works better, it’s more flexible and it has interchangeable lenses. I’ll give the Fuji the edge for high ISO quality and it’s probably a bit sharper. However, I’m splitting hairs here. For most people, you won’t notice a difference. Color wise, they both have their advantages…

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PIGEONS WATCHING PEOPLE, PEOPLE WATCHING PIGEONS

Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge: Week 21

This week, just one subject: pigeons.

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While at the party on Saturday, I became — don’t ask me why because I have no answer — fascinated by the pigeons on the roof.

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They looked as if they were holding a conference, maybe doing a little people-watching and pigeon commentary on our fashion sense (or lack thereof).

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Meet the pigeons. Shot with the camera’s telephoto at just about full extension, they are still reasonably sharp.

THIS IS BASEBALL? BRANDING AND THE AMERICAN PASTIME

Photo by Phil Konstantin

Petco Park, Photo by Phil Konstantin

“It’s an exciting afternoon here at Petco,” the announcer says. The Padres are playing the Mets. At Petco Park. The mental image this formed in my head were utterly un-baseball, totally non-sporting. This whole branding thing is out of hand.

I looked up from the computer, wondering if we needed more dog food and biscuits. We’re forever running short.

But next, the announcer points out the pitcher has been, so far, throwing a no-hitter. Never, in Padre history has any pitcher thrown a no-hitter, so this should have been riveting baseball. Except the announcers couldn’t seem to focus on the game and instead, were busy talking all kinds of nonsense while showing clips of everything but the game in progress. Ultimately, I suppose it didn’t matter since the pitcher gave up three hits but still, they might have at least given the kid his time in the sun.

Finally they pointed out the right-hander, Odrisamer Despaigne “… has a great, boring fastball.”

padre player uniformThis made me wonder if they should be playing any kind of game at Petco, especially if Odrisamer Despaigne’s fastball is boring. I get they are really saying something technical about the pitch. Nonetheless, words matter. Boring has multiple meanings, the most common being dull. So how boring was that fastball?

And doesn’t Petco Park sound like a dog park to you?

Someone once told me I’m “branding” my photographs by signing them. No, I’m not. I sign my art because I’m proud of it. Branding would be if I sold my blog to Costco, after which this was no longer Serendipity, but Costco Web Thoughts — but I still did the writing and photography while they paid to put their corporate name on my work. That’s branding.

Garry points out the Padres not only have a crappy team and awful branding — Petco really doesn’t work as a stadium name — but they wear ugly uniforms. From Garry, that is total condemnation.

Whatever else is wrong with the Red Sox, at least they have not turned Fenway into Burger King Stadium. Or Walmart Watcharama. And, to the best of my knowledge, the pitchers throw highly entertaining fastballs.

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Hail Mary?

Sudden Shifts – At the beach, enjoying the sun, nibbling on watermelon. Within seconds, the weather shifts and hail starts descending form the sky. What happens next?


I should be writing. Processing pictures. At least be going to the kitchen to get another cup of coffee. I need more coffee.

I should be packing up our stuff to go to the beach. I promised the kids we’d go today, but the forecast calls for hail. Bullets from heaven. Buckshot of the gods.

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I can’t seem to move. Or think. My head is stuffed with cotton wool. Hey, remember cotton wool? Fuzzy, sort of rough? We used it to stuff things, right? Maybe we used it to clean things. Whatever.

After the long day yesterday, I can’t seem to quite wake up. Beach. Blanket. Thermal bag full of sandwiches. Do we have any cold cuts? Soft drinks? Bread. The Hell with it, we’ll buy hot dogs.

Towels. Suntan lotion. An umbrella bright with stripes. Do we still have the umbrella? Oh, right, it’s under the deck. Probably full of bugs. Spiders. Never mind. I’ll skip that.

Does my bathing suit still fit? It looked hideous last year. I looked hideous last year. Bet I won’t look any better this year. At least not in a bathing suit. Do I have a kaftan somewhere under which I could hide? No?

Let me get that cup of coffee and think about this some more.

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I hear they had hail on a beach in Russia. Glad I’m not Russian because I can’t run … even with hail falling. Does that make it a Hail Mary? Sorry. It’s that kind of day.

I think I’ll watch that Sox game. Where’s the remote?

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A LOVELY AFTERNOON PARTY

With all the agonizing going on, it was a wonder we actually got out of the house and made it to the party. But we did. I’m glad.

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We don’t get out nearly enough, though I hope that will gradually change over the next few months. It’s difficult.

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I get tired quickly and almost every place we go takes hours of driving. Nothing is local.

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It was a lovely, friendly party with good food. A great old house with lots of character on an unusually cool and pleasant July afternoon. No one got drunk and stupid.

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Everyone was dressed casually. No one was there to impress anyone else. Which is more unusual than you might think.

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And no one was trying to hit us up for money. It’s futile anyway. We don’t have any money.

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FLORAL ANTI-DEPRESSANT

It must be a thing with hospitals. They always have lovely gardens. Is it to keep we, the patients, from suffering depression?

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They no longer paint waiting rooms in drab colors. Now they are bright. Because the Dana-Farber is a cancer facility, the gardens are especially bright, the waiting rooms especially cheery.

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Welcome to the garden. I sure hope they can find a vein today.

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As always, I had my Panasonic Lumix DMC ZS-25 with me. I’m a bit in love with my little camera.

 

WHAT EMPOWERS YOU?

From the Top – Today, write about any topic you feel like — but you must reuse your opening line (at least) two more times in the course of your post.


What empowers you?

When you’re worried, frightened. When you’ve lost your way and have no idea what to do, what’s your game changer?

Is it a hug from a loved one? Encouragement from peers or colleagues? A visit to the doctor where he or she assures you that all is well, not to worry?

Information empowers me. Knowledge. You can hug me, praise me, love me, talk to me, but if I don’t understand what’s going on, I’m lost and miserable. You cannot comfort me unless I have information to process. For me, the head rules and always has. It is how I have survived and how I continue to live in a world full of danger.

Despite recent visits to doctors, something is happening. I do not understand. On my most recent trip to the cardiologist I learned that the painful lump under my right used-to-be-a-breast-but-is now an implant is actually a lump of twisted steel wire. No one told me after taking me apart in March, they wired me back together with steel, knotted the ends. Sometimes those wiry lumps saw right through skin on the chest.

I pulled one long wire out months ago. With a tweezers. It had poked through. In my defense, I didn’t know what it was. No one had told me I was wired. Or a few odds and ends may have been left lying around in my chest.

What empowers you? Are you satisfied with “Everything looks great” without details? I should have asked more questions.

pacemakerThe pacemaker guy tuned up my pacemaker. My heartbeat should never drop below 72. My pre-surgery heart rate was slow, around 50. Apparently 72 is the gold standard. Thursday, at the oncologist, my heart rate was 62.

I explained the pacemaker guy said it shouldn’t be so slow. They remeasured twice. It was up to 69 the final time. I decided not to worry. I can’t worry about everything; I’ll collapse from exhaustion.

My oncologist said (“Oh my God, that’s a lot of surgery!” ) heart surgery, there must have been CT scans plus other imaging of my chest. No one mentioned anything unusual — e.g. lung cancer. I agreed though I don’t remember. I was semi-conscious, unconscious, or in so much pain I didn’t know what was going on through much of my hospital stay. They could have done anything. I wouldn’t remember it.

Yesterday, the area around my pacemaker began to throb. It is Friday evening, so there’s no one to call. A sharp thing is trying to poke through next to the incision. Has a wire come loose?

There’s no one to call, no doctor to talk to. Information void. Garry asks me what I want to do. I have no idea. I don’t know if this is serious, if I’ll be dead before Monday. Or it’s nothing and I’m just making myself crazy.

What empowers me?

Information empowers me, comforts me, reassures me. The wire isn’t through my skin. Yet. I wonder if it’s a lead from my pacemaker that’s come loose, in which case is there anything preventing my heart from stopping?

What about that party this afternoon? Can I go? I’ve been looking forward to getting out, dressed up, some make-up. It’s been a long, lonely time.

What empowers you? What would you do? What should I do?