Saturday, April 8, 2023

1001 Books

I saw this book club, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, on social media and decided to join, even though I thought that at my age, I’d better start reading a lot faster!

But when I saw this month’s selection, Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, I changed my mind - then changed it again, mostly because its members meet in person and not on Zoom.

 I read In Cold Blood back in the late Sixties, not long after it was published. I read it and never forgot it. 

It’s a story about two men who walked through the unlocked door of a farmhouse in western Kansas in the middle of the night on November 15, 1959, and brutally murdered an entire family, Herb and Bonnie Clutter, and their two teenage children, Kenyon and Nancy.

“Two worlds exist in this country," Capote said in the 2005 movie Capote. “The quiet conservative life, and the life of those two men. The underbelly. The criminally violent.” (Or as I would put it, the sane and the obscene.) “And those worlds converged that bloody night.”

To write the book, Capote and his friend Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, interviewed hundreds of people and took more than 8,000 pages of notes. The result was the first “nonfiction novel,” and an instant success.

However, although Capote finished the book in three years, he had to wait another three, (until the killers were hung) to release it.

While interviewing Perry Smith, one of the two killers, Capote discovered that both he and the killer had mothers who neglected and mistreated them.

“It’s like Perry and I grew up in the same house,” Capote told Lee, “and one day he went out the back door and I went out the front.” 

Or did he? 

Writing that book “changed my life,” he said. “It altered my view about almost everything.” 

It also interfered with his relationship with his partner, made him jealous of Lee whose book won the Pulitzer Prize, increased his intake of both alcohol and drugs, kept him from completing another book, and contributed to his death.

"If I have to leave here without understanding you,” Capote told the imprisoned Smith, who he both "fell in love with” and used to further his career, “the world will see you as a monster.” 

But, in trying to deny the monster in Smith, Capote, I believe, unleashed the monster inside himself.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

The Movie Tar

 Even though the movie had started, it was dark in the theater when I entered. So dark I had to put my arms in front of me to get my bearings, which is how I felt throughout the movie because this movie, Tar, felt more like a puzzle than a film.

 In the first scene, which runs for almost twenty minutes, Lydia Tar, played by Cate Blanchette, is being interviewed by the New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik. Throughout the interview, we see Tar, the conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, as accomplished, brilliant and, for want of a better word, haughty. In the second scene, with a fellow orchestra conductor (a male this time), she moves beyond haughty to condescending. And in the third scene Tar is teaching a seminar at Julliard where she berates a young student after he tells her he’s “just not that into Bach.” This time she comes off as bitchy.

It is at this point that the movie begins to feel like a puzzle. There are too many questions. For instance: a woman named Christa is mentioned. But who is she and why is she at risk?  And why, as I watch Tar progress through the movie, do I feel as though I am watching a skein of yarn unravel?

The answers come slowly. At first, as guesses. And then with an undeniable certainty as the story reaches its incredibly dramatic climax.

And I am left gaping.  

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Till, the Movie


“Hate is a virus in the blood…”                                     

Roy Wilkins


I heard the words quoted above while watching the movie Till, a story about a Black boy from Chicago who was abducted, tortured and lynched while visiting his cousins in Mississippi in 1955 because he whistled at a white woman

This powerful movie begins by showing us the excitement and vulnerability of a 14-year-old boy as he gets ready for his trip. Three days later, Emmett was dead. 

After his body was discovered in the Tallahatchie River, authorities in that area tried to have him buried anonymously. It was Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, who insisted her son’s mangled body be returned to Chicago and the casket remain open during the public viewing.

During the movie, Medgar Evers, who accompanied Emmett’s mother to the trial that followed one month later, said the federal government was trying to pass a law that would make lynching a federal hate crime.

“It wasn’t passed until this year,” I whispered to my daughter, who was sitting beside me in the theater.

Why had it taken so long?  I wondered. As I sat there watching the movie, I thought about the noose I’d seen on the Capitol steps during last year’s January 6 riots and wondered if lawmakers had to experience hate for themselves before they acted.     

“Hate is a virus in the blood.” Wilkins words reverberated in my head throughout the rest of the movie.

“Does this story need to be told again?” someone has asked. The answer is “yes.”

Emmett Till was only 35 days older than I was in 1955, and I have known about his murder almost since the day it happened. His brutal death is a story that must be told again and again and passed down until racial violence and injustice in this country are finally eradicated.



Thursday, August 4, 2022

Termoli, San Giacomo, Venice and Padua!

 From Rome to Termoli with its view of the Adriatic,

we drove “just over the hill” to San Giacomo degli Schiavoni, the town with the long name and only three streets. The town with a population (today) of less than 1500, where my father lived between the ages of three and eighteen. We went to find the house he built in the Sixties.

Afterward, we drove to Venice. 

I didn't like Venice. I didn't like the canal. It was just a body of water, and I'd seen better bodies of water in Paris six years earlier, and in Switzerland as we drove passed the mountain lakes near Luzerne. 

But then we went to the old part of the city, to that part of the city that had no water and no tourists either. To that part of Venice (called Mestre) where I ate smoked salmon and (would you believe) Philadelphia cream cheese on a croissant, and where I bought a blue dress I fell (quite literally, but didn't get hurt!) in love with.

Then we went to Padua because I wanted to pray in the church dedicated to my patron, Saint Anthony. 

And finally, we started the long drive back to Darmstadt!


Sunday, July 31, 2022

Arrivederci Roma!

 We have spent our five days in Rome and have just arrived at a seaside city close to the town my father grew up in. It is heavenly here, much nicer than it was in Rome.

Oh, Rome has all the sights, all of what Irving Stone once called “the agony and the ecstasy.” It has the Vatican:

The Trevi Fountain: 

a view from the top of the Spanish Steps:

 And, of course, the Colosseum:

But Rome was hot,  hot, hot - which is why all my photos were taken at night- and this little city, called Termoli, has little more than a beautiful view of the Adriatic, and a delicious sea breeze!     

Tuesday, July 26, 2022


My pictures say it all! 

Basilica di Santa Croce
(Basilica of the Holy Cross)


Michelangelo's Tomb
(inside the Basilica)

The River Arno at night

a typical street

The River Arno again

the view from our front door

a wider street


Thursday, July 14, 2022

On the Beach

I’m on a beach. In Delaware. A mini-vacation before the longer one I’ll begin next week. I’m sitting under an umbrella, most of the time with my eyes closed, listening to the voices of strangers while a breeze skips across my skin, moving from one shoulder to the other.

There are people all around me - an older woman with short gray hair sitting alone with a book; an Asian family of three - mother, father and a teenage son who never leaves their side;  a young black man with long thin locks that frame his face majestically; and a man behind me talking incessantly on a cell phone, his voice rising and falling with the cadence of the waves, a voice I’m surprised I miss after he packs up and leaves.

Children screaming. Women laughing. All of it muffled by the mantra of the waves that lull me into bliss, until finally, I pick myself up to head home, to finish packing for a trip across this ocean to Germany and beyond.