We have a young, dynamic President, and hope is in the air. So, I'm no longer the spittle-spewing, mud-slinging, junkyard dog of last year. No more vicious attacks on Karl Rove, Ann Coulter, and what's-his-name, the ex-President. From now on, you're more likely to catch Michael Phelps smoking weed than Lefty Levine talking trash.
So, let's look at some things literary, and some things musical.
TRIVIA QUIZ: Who was the first American to be awarded the Raymond Chandler Fulbright at Oxford University? Our very own Ridley Pearson, who spent a year in England researching, writing, and drinking warm beer. (Not necessarily in that order).
KILLER COLD: Ridley is one helluva thriller writer. "Killer View" is downright chilling, and not just because it's set in Idaho in the winter.
AND YOU CALL YOURSELF A WRITER? In addition to all his novels, essays, poetry, short
stories, articles and critiques published elsewhere...the late John Updike published 862 pieces in The New Yorker. Yes, you read that right: 862! But, I wonder, how many Twitters?
"GODS DO NOT ANSWER LETTERS." If you recognize that line, you've read the greatest example of "sports writing" in history. [Disagree with that assessment, let me know.] If you don't recognize the line, get thee to Updike's "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu", his classic 1960 New Yorker piece on Ted Williams' last game. Clue: Updike does not sit in the press box; he does not hang out around the batting cage; he does not interview any players. He sits in the stands and writes prose so majestic, I weep with equal measures joy and envy.
A FLUTE BEFORE TYPING: We also lost John Mortimer last month.
Best known for his "Rumpole at the Bailey" series, Mortimer began each morning with a glass of champagne, then sat down to knock out 1000 words and a few belches.
MUSIC FOR A RECESSION: With the economy in the toilet, you might prefer to listen to upbeat tunes. Not me. I like music to reflect the times. Here's one my favorites for cooking a can of beans over an open fire: James McMurtry's
"We Can't Make It Here." McMurtry is the son of Pulitzer Prize winning author Larry McMurtry ("Lonesome Dove"), but you knew that.
I'm also partial to Merle Haggard's "Workin' Man Blues:"
But wait, there's the all-time bittersweet song that will linger in your mind long after the plant closes and the sheriff nails the foreclosure notice to your front door. It's "Our Town," from songwriter-singer Iris Dement, whose Arkansas twang can break your heart.
In the coming weeks, I'll tell you about a couple songs that helped inspire my new novel, "Illegal."
Meanwhile, it's breakfast time, which means: "Where's the Cristal?"