"The universe is made of stories, not of atoms."
—Muriel Rukeyser

What’s the Best Book, New or Old, You Read This Year?

From left: Siddhartha Deb, Rivka Galchen, Alice Gregory, Zoë Heller. Credit Illustrations by R. Kikuo Johnson
Siddhartha Deb:
At year’s end, I’m remembering Cormac McCarthy’s “Blood Meridian.” Unflinching in its portrayal of settler colonialism and so familiar in its violence, racism and twisted masculinity, it is most memorable for me in its portrait of Judge Holden, the Devil incarnate, perched on a rock and waiting for us to pass by.

Siddhartha Deb’s most recent book is “The Beautiful and the Damned: A Portrait of the New India.”

Rivka Galchen:
The Italian writer Natalia Ginzburg lived through the rise of fascism, which left her widowed with three small children. Among my favorite of her works translated by Lynne Sharon Schwartz and collected in “A Place to Live: Selected Essays of Natalia Ginzburg” are “Winter in the Abruzzi” and “The Baby Who Saw Bears.”
Rivka Galchen’s most recent book is “Little Labors.”

Alice Gregory:
Rebecca Solnit’s “River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West” is the most impressive book I read this year or maybe any year. It somehow manages to deploy the most specific and peculiar facts while telling a story that’s about everything — art, politics, history, science, philosophy. It blows my mind that one person wrote it.
Alice Gregory is a contributing editor at T: The New York Times Style Magazine.

Zoë Heller:
I really enjoyed Emma Cline’s debut novel, “The Girls.” Cline writes lovely, noticing sentences, and her story about the charismatic power of an evil cult leader turned out to be a not altogether inappropriate fable for 2016.
Zoë Heller is the author of “Everything You Know,” “Notes on a Scandal” and “The Believers.”
From left: Anna Holmes, Leslie Jamison, Adam Kirsch, Thomas Mallon. Credit Illustrations by R. Kikuo Johnson
Anna Holmes:
Colson Whitehead’s slave-narrative novel, “The Underground Railroad”: a defiant, gorgeous triumph of human imagination and empathy that can be interpreted as a commentary on the past, a reckoning with the present or a provocation of the future. (It’s probably all three.)
Anna Holmes is an editorial executive at First Look Media and the editor of two books, including “The Book of Jezebel.”

Leslie Jamison:
This year I reread Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow,” a necessary account of the systemic racism embedded in our justice system. Alexander’s book feels more vital now than ever. It’s a protest against the persecution that has persistently operated under alibis of security and justice — a protest we need to keep making as powerfully as we can.
Leslie Jamison is the author of “The Empathy Exams.”

Adam Kirsch:
“Moonglow,” Michael Chabon’s new novel, is my favorite of his books and one of the most memorable novels I read this year. Using autobiography as a launchpad and then taking off for the moon, Chabon offers a funny, moving and dramatic tribute to his grandparents and their American generation.
Adam Kirsch is a poet, critic and columnist for Tablet magazine.

Thomas Mallon:
In “The Dream Life of Astronauts,” Patrick Ryan flies further into a little fictional empyrean he’s made all his own. Peopled by kookily sad denizens of Florida’s Space Coast, whose dreams rarely achieve liftoff without crashing and burning, Ryan’s stories are filled with a wan tenderness and a spectacular lack of condescension.
Thomas Mallon’s most recent book is “Finale: A Novel of the Reagan Years.” 

From left: Ayana Mathis, Charles McGrath, Pankaj Mishra, Benjamin Moser. Credit Illustrations by R. Kikuo Johnson
Ayana Mathis:
“The Plague of Doves” takes as its subject the residents of a North Dakota town abutting an Ojibwe reservation. The novel is a kaleidoscope of voices, imagery and memories. Louise Erdrich’s prose evokes the tumult of lived experience and ancestral trauma. She reminds us we are all yearning creatures, subject to forces set in motion long before we were born.
Ayana Mathis is the author of “The Twelve Tribes of Hattie.”

Charles McGrath:
“Caught,” by Henry Green. First published in 1943 and now reissued in the New York Review Classics series, “Caught” manages the improbable feat of being both a harrowing war story of London during the Blitz and a sharply observed comedy about social class. Green was a silver-spoon aristocrat, but his ear for common speech was as keen as Dickens’s.
Charles McGrath was the editor of the Book Review from 1995 to 2004.

Pankaj Mishra:
David Kennedy’s “A World of Struggle: How Power, Law, and Expertise Shape Global Political Economy” describes our world more accurately than any book I have read this year. Kennedy offers no clear prescriptions. Yet he clarifies that understanding how this world of injustice and inequality came about is the essential first step toward a democratic alternative.
Pankaj Mishra’s next book, “Age of Anger,” will be published in February.

Benjamin Moser:
In “The Fall Of Language in the Age of English,” Minae Mizumura shows, better than anyone ever has, how English is wrecking other languages — reducing even great literary languages, including Japanese and French, to local dialects — and makes a vigorous case for the superiority of the written over the spoken word.
Benjamin Moser is the author of “Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector.”
From left: James Parker, Francine Prose, Liesl Schillinger, Dana Stevens. Credit Illustrations by R. Kikuo Johnson
James Parker:
How I wish I’d written Max Porter’s ugly-beautiful post-Ted Hughes polyphonic spree of a novel “Grief Is the Thing With Feathers”; I listened to an interview with the author and could barely hear his (cultured, friendly) voice through the electrical envy-storm that was writhing in purple bands across my forebrain.
James Parker is a contributing editor at The Atlantic.

Francine Prose:
“Pedro Páramo,” — Juan Rulfo’s 1955 masterpiece — packs the scope and sweep of an epic into just over 120 pages. It has the beauty of a lyric poem and manages the dazzling magic trick of blurring the line between life and death. Set in a rural Mexican ghost town, Rulfo’s book shows us how seamlessly fiction can combine the regional and the universal.
Francine Prose’s most recent novel is “Mister Monkey.”

Liesl Schillinger:
In July, during the national conventions, I read a stunning debut that resurrects the violence and anger of the 1968 Chicago riots, carrying it forward into the present day through the story of two Midwesterners addicted to virtual-reality games. It’s “The Nix,” by Nathan Hill, the first book I’ve read in two decades that earns the title Great American Novel.
Liesl Schillinger is a critic and translator and the author of “Wordbirds.”

Dana Stevens:
I read Rebecca Solnit’s “A Field Guide to Getting Lost” under ideal conditions: alone in a strange city, at bus stops and in public parks, surrounded by families speaking foreign yet familiar languages. Solnit’s meditation on lostness as a peculiarly American experience animated my thinking and writing for the rest of what turned out to be a very long year.
Dana Stevens is the film critic at Slate and a cohost of the Slate Culture Gabfest.

Bob Dylan's Acceptance Speech to the Swedish Academy

 Image result for Bob Dylan images

Good evening, everyone. I extend my warmest greetings to the members of the Swedish Academy and to all of the other distinguished guests in attendance tonight.

I'm sorry I can't be with you in person, but please know that I am most definitely with you in spirit and honored to be receiving such a prestigious prize. Being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature is something I never could have imagined or seen coming. From an early age, I've been familiar with and reading and absorbing the works of those who were deemed worthy of such a distinction: Kipling, Shaw, Thomas Mann, Pearl Buck, Albert Camus, Hemingway. These giants of literature whose works are taught in the schoolroom, housed in libraries around the world and spoken of in reverent tones have always made a deep impression. That I now join the names on such a list is truly beyond words.

I don't know if these men and women ever thought of the Nobel honor for themselves, but I suppose that anyone writing a book, or a poem, or a play anywhere in the world might harbor that secret dream deep down inside. It's probably buried so deep that they don't even know it's there.

If someone had ever told me that I had the slightest chance of winning the Nobel Prize, I would have to think that I'd have about the same odds as standing on the moon. In fact, during the year I was born and for a few years after, there wasn't anyone in the world who was considered good enough to win this Nobel Prize. So, I recognize that I am in very rare company, to say the least.

I was out on the road when I received this surprising news, and it took me more than a few minutes to properly process it. I began to think about William Shakespeare, the great literary figure. I would reckon he thought of himself as a dramatist. The thought that he was writing literature couldn't have entered his head. His words were written for the stage. Meant to be spoken not read. When he was writing Hamlet, I'm sure he was thinking about a lot of different things: "Who're the right actors for these roles?" "How should this be staged?" "Do I really want to set this in Denmark?" His creative vision and ambitions were no doubt at the forefront of his mind, but there were also more mundane matters to consider and deal with. "Is the financing in place?" "Are there enough good seats for my patrons?" "Where am I going to get a human skull?" I would bet that the farthest thing from Shakespeare's mind was the question "Is this literature?"

When I started writing songs as a teenager, and even as I started to achieve some renown for my abilities, my aspirations for these songs only went so far. I thought they could be heard in coffee houses or bars, maybe later in places like Carnegie Hall, the London Palladium. If I was really dreaming big, maybe I could imagine getting to make a record and then hearing my songs on the radio. That was really the big prize in my mind. Making records and hearing your songs on the radio meant that you were reaching a big audience and that you might get to keep doing what you had set out to do.

Well, I've been doing what I set out to do for a long time, now. I've made dozens of records and played thousands of concerts all around the world. But it's my songs that are at the vital center of almost everything I do. They seemed to have found a place in the lives of many people throughout many different cultures and I'm grateful for that.

But there's one thing I must say. As a performer I've played for 50,000 people and I've played for 50 people and I can tell you that it is harder to play for 50 people. 50,000 people have a singular persona, not so with 50. Each person has an individual, separate identity, a world unto themselves. They can perceive things more clearly. Your honesty and how it relates to the depth of your talent is tried. The fact that the Nobel committee is so small is not lost on me.

But, like Shakespeare, I too am often occupied with the pursuit of my creative endeavors and dealing with all aspects of life's mundane matters. "Who are the best musicians for these songs?" "Am I recording in the right studio?" "Is this song in the right key?" Some things never change, even in 400 years.

Not once have I ever had the time to ask myself, "Are my songs literature?"

So, I do thank the Swedish Academy, both for taking the time to consider that very question, and, ultimately, for providing such a wonderful answer.

My best wishes to you all,

Bob Dylan

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 2016

MEG is a happy camper....

A team of 50 stunt performers from Australia, China, Hong Kong and New Zealand are getting eaten by MEG along with 80 action extras and 125 extras. Everyone is doing an amazing job!

via alpop.stunts

Jonathan Franzen Interview: On Facing the Blank Page

Jonathan Franzen – author of internationally renowned novels such as ‘The Corrections’ and ‘Freedom’ – here argues that the only way to deal with the ‘blank page’ is by working on the story in your head before sitting down to write.

Nietzsche’s 10 Rules for Writing with Style (1882)


As a theorist of the embodiment of ideas, of their inextricable relation to the physical and the social, Nietzsche had some very specific ideas about literary style, which he communicated to  Russian-born poet, novelist, critic, and first female psychologist Lou Andreas-Salomé in an 1882 note titled “Toward the Teaching of Style.” Well before writers began issuing “similar sets of commandments,” writes Maria Popova at Brain Pickings, Nietzsche “set down ten stylistic rules of writing,” which you can find, in their original list form, below.   

1. Of prime necessity is life: a style should live.

    2. Style should be suited to the specific person with whom you wish to communicate. (The law of mutual relation.)

    3. First, one must determine precisely “what-and-what do I wish to say and present,” before you may write. Writing must be mimicry.

    4. Since the writer lacks many of the speaker’s means, he must in general have for his model a very expressive kind of presentation of necessity, the written copy will appear much paler.

    5. The richness of life reveals itself through a richness of gestures. One must learn to feel everything — the length and retarding of sentences, interpunctuations, the choice of words, the pausing, the sequence of arguments — like gestures.

    6. Be careful with periods! Only those people who also have long duration of breath while speaking are entitled to periods. With most people, the period is a matter of affectation.

    7. Style ought to prove that one believes in an idea; not only that one thinks it but also feels it.

    8. The more abstract a truth which one wishes to teach, the more one must first entice the senses.

    9. Strategy on the part of the good writer of prose consists of choosing his means for stepping close to poetry but never stepping into it.

    10. It is not good manners or clever to deprive one’s reader of the most obvious objections. It is very good manners and very clever to leave it to one’s reader alone to pronounce the ultimate quintessence of our wisdom.

Read more

Destination Mystery Interviews Author Dennis Palumbo!

The last time I saw Lisa Campbell, she was naked. It was almost thirty years ago, when I was in junior high and she was the latest Hot Young Thing, smiling invitingly at me — and thousands of other lonely guys — from the pages of Playboy Magazine… Now, as she stood in my office waiting room, cashmere sweater folded neatly over her arm, I had to admit that the years since had taken their toll…
— Dennis Palumbo, Phantom Limb

I had such a terrific, full conversation with Dennis, I almost don’t know where to start the show notes. First, make sure you check out his website, DennisPalumbo.com, where he has info on all of his books, not to mention news and links and even short stories to read

Speaking of short stories, you can read his wonderful Christmas mystery, “A Theory of Murder,” which features no less a detective than young patent clerk Albert Einstein, at Lorie Lewis Ham’s online magazine, Kings River Life. It appeared on Robert Lopresti’s list of 10 of the best mystery short stories he’s read. Check out the multi-author blog SleuthSayers.org (what an awesome blog title!)

I go all fan girl on “My Favorite Year,” one of my favorite movies ever. If you haven’t yet seen it, you are in for a treat. And if you have, well, it’s always a good time to re-watch it.

Here are Dennis’ Daniel Rinaldi books, in order:

1. Mirror Image
2. Fever Dream
3. Night Terrors
4. Phantom Limb

In addition, he’s written a sci-fi novel (City Wars), a nonfiction collection of essays (Writing from the Inside Out, which we discuss in the interview), and a collection of short stories (From Crime to Crime). His first Daniel Rinaldi short story will appear in February in an anthology from Poisoned Pen Press
And if you are as fascinated as I am by his combination of Hollywood experience and psychological insight, you can also check out his Psychology Today blog, Hollywood on the Couch.

Finally, we gave a shout out to Vicki Delany, who also wrote novels while holding down a full-time job. You can check out my interview with her right here.

Laura Brennan: Dennis Palumbo is a former Hollywood screenwriter, a licensed psychotherapist in private practice, and the author of the Daniel Rinaldi mystery series. He also writes short stories and essays, blogs for the Huffington Post, and contributes a regular column to Psychology Today called “Hollywood on the Couch.” Dennis hasn’t just done it all, he makes it all look easy.
Dennis, thank you for joining me. 

Dennis Palumbo: It’s my pleasure, Laura.

LB: You have done so much, so well, let’s start at the beginning. Did you always want to be a writer?

DP: Pretty much from my youth, I would say from about 10 or 11 or 12. You know, reading comic books and comic strips and right around then I began reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Robin Hood. I’ve just always loved storytelling. And particularly mysteries and thrillers. And, yeah, I’ve always liked writing and liked doing it. It was my favorite thing to do in high school and college, was writing essays or short stories.

I actually came to Hollywood and was still writing — the only writing I had done that had seen print was writing for the Pitt News, which was the newspaper of the University of Pittsburgh from which I graduated. And when I came to Hollywood, I was writing short stories and sending them all over the place and also writing scripts trying to break into television. It was very unusual, the same week my then-writing partner and I got our first writing job, which was the first episode of “Love Boat,” by the way. The same week that happened, I sold my first story, mystery short story, to Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. It was just amazing, that week, I’ll never forget that week. I was only like, 24, 25. That was a good week. I was very, very lucky.

In fact, my whole show business career really was luck, and I’m very, very grateful for it. I ended up on the writing staff of a show called “Welcome Back, Kotter,” which I’m sure you’re too young to remember. I wrote on a lot of TV series and then when my then-writing partner, Mark Evanier, and I amicably split up — he wanted to do other things and I wanted to write movies. And it was kind of a struggle, but I was very, very lucky. I ended up co-writing a movie called, “My Favorite Year,” with Peter O’Toole, and I’m very proud of that movie. And I wrote a couple of other features and I can’t complain. I had a pretty good show business career. At the same time, though, I was always writing short stories and in fact, my first novel, a science fiction novel called, City Wars, was published by Bantam Books while I was still writing television. So I’ve always had one foot in prose and television and film as well.

LB: Well, I won’t deny that luck can play a part, but I can’t really let that pass. It’s not just luck; there’s an awful lot of talent there. And in particular, let’s take a peek at “My Favorite Year,” because that is one of the best movies ever made.

DP: Well, that’s very nice of you, that’s very kind. But I have to tell you, I think the film’s okay. I think Peter O’Toole elevates that movie. The biggest thrill for me about that film was that I wrote it for Peter O’Toole. And the studio did not want Peter O’Toole, he was not a big star anymore. It had been many, many years since Lawrence of Arabia. And so this is where luck comes in: that year, he had been nominated for a film called “The Stunt Man,” and for about twenty minutes, he was considered ‘bankable.’ And so we were very lucky then, that the studio would go for him. Their actual first choice was Albert Finney, and then they wanted Michael Caine. I think those are both incredibly talented actors, but Peter O’Toole was perfect.

LB: He was, he was perfect for that part. Well, thank you for sharing that story, and I also wanted to talk to you about the characters in that. The characters and their relationships, how what they’re going through trickles into everything is just so fascinating to me. Were you already interested in the psychology of why we do what we do when you wrote that?

DP: Well, I think every writer is, to be honest with you. I mean, I don’t know any writer for whom the human condition isn’t interesting. And why we do what we do is part and parcel of good characterization in any story. One of the things that allows a reader or a viewer to relate to a character is you get the sense that the person writing that character knows what it means to be a human being. Knows what it means to have hopes and dreams and yearnings and to have reverses and set-backs and heartbreaks. One of the reasons I think my being a therapist as well as a writer complement each other so well is because they’re both aspects of the same investigation of the human condition.

LB: What was that thing, then, that made you say, okay, I want to change my life and become a therapist?

DP: I’ll give you and your listeners the two minute version, because it was actually quite a long journey that began when I was working on a screenplay for Robert Redford about a mountain climber named Willie Unsoeld. And it ended up with me living in the Himalayas in Nepal for three and a half months, which activated all of my interest in philosophy and psychology. But more importantly, I became a patient in therapy myself. My first marriage had ended and I was needing a lot of help. I was struggling with depression and anxiety. And just fell in love with the process.

So I didn’t exactly go, oh boy! I’m going to stop being a screenwriter and be a therapist, but instead, I started taking graduate classes. I figured, well, worse comes to worst, I’ll get a Master’s degree in Psychology and all that can do is help me as a writer, right? But at the same time, I started volunteering in psychiatric facilities in a low-fee family clinic and I began realizing, I loved doing therapy. I loved it a lot. And so I finally decided to commit to the six years, almost six and a half years it took for me to get licensed as a therapist. In California, you need 3000 intern hours, supervised intern hours, before you can even sit for the exam. So it’s quite a long process.

So during that entire process of schooling and being an intern, I was also still in show business. I was writing scripts by day and going to class by night. I felt like Batman. And nobody knew it except my best friend and the woman who would become my wife, my current wife, were the only ones who knew I was doing this. No one in show business knew that I was secretly training to be a psychotherapist while I was writing scripts.

And then finally, when I got licensed, I retired from film and television and went into my private practice, which specializes of course in creative people. My practice is primarily writers, actors, directors, composers, journalists, novelists… It’s a very interesting and compelling practice, and I guess I feel uniquely qualified to do it because I was in the business for so long, almost 17 years. And now I’ve been in private practice about 28.

LB: I have to say, the idea of you in the Himalayas, it’s such a Hollywood scene.

DP: (Laughter.) Yeah, it was a real “Razor’s Edge” experience. I was very lucky, because to train, to learn about mountain climbing for this movie, I ended up climbing mountains. I climbed the Grand Teton in Wyoming, I climbed Mount Rainier, and ultimately lived in the Himalayas for about three months, at base camp and a little bit above. So I’ve had very, very good experiences that my show business career allowed me and I’m very, very grateful for it.

LB: So I want to talk to you about your mysteries, but actually I want to talk about your other book, your nonfiction book, Writing from the Inside Out.

DP: It is based on a column, I did a monthly column for six and a half years for the Writers Guild magazine, called Written By. And the column was called The Writer’s Life, and I talked about procrastination, writer’s block, fear of failure, anxiety, depression, all the things that writers typically struggle with. And so, after I’d done about 90 of these columns, an editor said to me, you ought to collect them into a book. And so I expanded the columns and collected them and the book’s been out now for a number of years, Writing from the Inside Out. I’m very pleased to say it’s become required or recommended reading in about two hundred universities around the country. I just got an e-mail a couple of weeks ago from a professor at Oxford who’s using the book with her students. So it has a long shelf life for some reason.

LB: Well, I think it’s because it’s so useful. To have a way to practically be out helping people, that must be incredibly gratifying for you.

DP: It really is, particularly because it’s not a how-to book. There’s not one word of instruction in that book on how to write. The book is about how to survive and thrive in the writer’s life. How to cope with the emotional ups and downs, the career reverses, all the conflicts that being a creative person can create financially or in your relationships. And so, I think that there had never been a book that just addressed the psychological struggles of living the writer’s life. And that’s what makes it kind of different, I think. And that allows it to appeal to people who don’t even write. I mean, I’ve had e-mails from people all over the world, engineers and doctors and whatever, who say, well, yeah, but I struggle with the same kinds of issues, even though I’m not a writer, so I found the book helpful. And that really gratifies me as well.

LB: Let’s start talking about your wonderful series. So your first book in that series was Mirror Image. Did you know you wanted to write about Rinaldi, what prompted that?

DP: No, actually, what came first was, I had always wanted to create a series character. To be honest with you, ever since I read Chandler and Conan Doyle, and anyone who’s created a series character like Poirot, Agatha Christie’s character, I’ve always wanted to create a series character. And after having been a psychotherapist for many, many years, I thought, how about a therapist hero? I’m from Pittsburgh, and I think that it’s a city that is really beautifully situated for crime thrillers. Everybody knows New York and Chicago and L.A., but I thought, what about the mean streets of Pittsburgh, you know? And what makes the city so unique is, the Pittsburgh I grew up in was an industrial hub where there were steel mills where I worked when I was in college and the air was covered with soot and smoke. The conventional view that people have had throughout the whole middle of the 20th Century about Pittsburgh.

But in the last 20 or 30 years, the city’s gone through this renaissance. All the steel mills where I worked are gone. It has become a white-collar town, with some of the premiere medical facilities in the world, a leading technology pioneer, state-of-the-art on robotics and nanotechnology. And so, my character, I wanted to do a character like me that has a foot in both worlds, with cobblestone streets and street cars and smoke in the air, and yet now, a very modern, glittering kind of white collar city.

And so, what I did with Daniel Rinaldi is, like myself, I made him the child of blue-collar people, who was the first one to go to college, the first one to have a profession, the first one to wear a jacket and tie. He gets to represent that part of the experience of someone growing up in Pittsburgh. I also, like me, he’s Italian-American, he graduated from Pitt… I mean, I use a lot of my own background. Now, the difference between me and Daniel Rinaldi is, he’s a former amateur boxer, and he’s much more brave and resourceful than I am. And he gets into a lot of scrapes that would have me running for the hills. He’s a very intrepid guy. And I really enjoyed writing the series and have been just blown away by the critical response, which has been phenomenal, and the growing readership. I’m just really pleased.

LB: They’re well-written and at the same time, just a jolt of adrenaline flowing through them. They pace and they move. I see a lot of your screenwriting technique visible in the pacing of these books. Scene to scene, they just keep moving.

DP: Yeah, I think I owe my screenwriting background to the kind of snappy dialogue and the pacing of the scenes. Even though the books are crime thrillers and I want them to be suspenseful, I also am very much interested in the mental health field, in clinical work, in psychology. And so I tried to have the characters as three-dimensional and psychologically astute as possible.

I also like to inject a little humor. I try to use all the craft that was built for me in my Hollywood career and my experience in private practice as a psychologist for 28 years. I put the two of them together.

LB: Well, you also bring a little bit of Hollywood into your latest novel, Phantom Limb.

DP: Oh, yeah! As you’re aware, the story concerns a young girl from a small town in Pennsylvania who goes to Hollywood and becomes a starlet, and has such a terrible experience here over the years that she comes back to Pittsburgh. But she ends up marrying a tycoon in Pittsburgh. So she sort of becomes the hostess with the mostest: a former Hollywood starlet on the arm of a much older husband who’s a bigwig in Pittsburgh. The book is about what happens when she’s kidnapped. But if you recall the opening couple of chapters, where she’s in session with Daniel Rinaldi, I get to talk about Hollywood a little and have some fun with that.

The seed for Phantom Limb was based on something that actually happened to me when I was an intern. If you recall from the opening of Phantom Limb, Lisa, the former Hollywood starlet who’s now living in Pittsburgh and married to the tycoon. Lisa comes in and says, I have made all the preparations, I have the means at home, a bottle of pills, and I intend to commit suicide at 7:00 tonight. You have 45 minutes to talk me out of it. And that actually happened to me when I was an intern. Someone came in, it was around 4:30, 5:00, I forget when the session was. And it was a mature woman, like Lisa, who came in and said exactly those words: I have the means, everything’s settled, my financial stuff’s in order, and I’m going to kill myself at 7:00. How long are these sessions? And I said, they’re 50 minutes. And she said, that’s how long you have to talk me out of it.

And I just was so terrified and stressed like you could not believe. But luckily, I was able to convince her to come back the following day and do another session. Finally, she ended up just staying in therapy and her suicidal ideation faded.

LB: You were Scheherazade. It’s 1000 and 1 Nights.

DP: It was the only way for me to ensure that she wouldn’t do anything, because she was a prideful, intelligent woman. And so if she made the commitment to come back and see me the next day, she would come back and see me the next day. So that’s where the idea for that book came from.

When I was planning Phantom Limb, I knew I wanted it to be about the kidnapping of a patient. I thought, why don’t I have her kidnapped right outside the office, after she has come in and said that she is going to kill herself.

LB: Wow. That is a fantastic story. And it just shows that life is at least as strange as fiction.

DP: Oh, absolutely. In fact, in my 28 years here, working with patients, I’ve heard some stories that you could not use in a novel because they have no verisimilitude. You would not believe them.

LB: Now you’re writing, you’re still writing short stories, though, in addition to writing your novels?

DP: Yes, in fact I’m very pleased, I have, my first Daniel Rinaldi short story is going to appear in February. My publisher, Poison Pen Press, their 20th anniversary as a publisher is in 2017, and they’re releasing an anthology with some of their mystery authors writing short stories. And so I wrote a short story about Daniel Rinaldi that I really like and it will be appearing in the anthology.
But as you know, I’ve also written other short stories. In fact, “A Theory of Murder,” the one I sent you, and a lot of my short stories have been collected in a book called From Crime to Crime. It has about 12 of my short stories in it.

LB: And “A Theory of Murder” is in that one?

DP: Yes, “A Theory of Murder” is in that one. Also, “A Theory of Murder” was also published in Lorie Ham’s Kings River Magazine, this wonderful online magazine she has. She’s published about 12 of my short stories so far, I think.

LB: That’s fantastic. And I’m going to link to that because, just to plug it for a minute, it did make a list of one of the 10 Best Stories of this year.

DP: Yeah. I wasn’t going to say that, but thank you for saying it. Yes, “A Theory of Murder” made Robert Lopresti’s list of 10 Best Mystery Short Stories. I’m flabbergasted but very, very pleased.

LB: Well, I’ll have the link to that in the show notes, too. I want to ask: I guess I can see how being a therapist would inform your writing, but do you feel that your writing informs your therapy at all?

DP: Absolutely. Primarily because I’ve been writing over 45 years, professionally. And so, when a patient comes in and says, “Gee, I’m really anxious when I pitch ideas to a producer,” well, I’ve pitched a thousand ideas to producers over the years. I know exactly what that anxiety is like. I struggle with writer’s block, I’ve struggled with procrastination, I’ve struggled with anxiety, depression, fear of failure, all of those things. So, while each patient’s struggles are particular and unique to him or her, because primarily, most writers’ writing struggles are inextricably bound to their personal issues and family of origin issues and the dynamics in their childhood have so much to do with the writing struggles that they have. But while they’re each unique, the actual thing itself, whether it’s blocks or procrastination, I’ve gone through my own personal struggles with those things. So I can relate very clearly to what my patients are struggling with. And I think that’s how having been a writer for so many years, and still writing, I can relate to all the kinds of issues that my patients bring to me.

LB: So, what is next for you and for Danny?

DP: Well, I’m working on another Daniel Rinaldi book. You know, it’s funny. I’m a full-time therapist, I have a full practice and so I don’t have the kind of time I wish I had, so I could put out a Rinaldi book every year or something. My books are like 2 ½ years to 3 years apart because I just don’t have as much time to write. I wish I did, but I don’t. And so they’re spaced out about every 2 ½ – 3 years, so I’m hoping to have my next novel out either the end of 2017 or the beginning of 2018.

LB: I just, actually, did an interview with Vicki Delany, who has, at this point, 27 books out. But she started writing when she was a single mom with a full-time job.

DP: Wow.

LB: It took her four years to write her first book. Sunday afternoons, that was her writing time.

DP: Yeah, I write at lunch and on the weekends. It’s hard, especially, too, on the weekends because I’m a big NFL fan.

LB: Oh, no!

DP: That really cuts into my writing time. Especially the Steelers. If the Steelers don’t win, that Sunday is shot for me.

LB: Anyone who wants to learn more about you and your work and your books can do so on your website, which is DennisPalumbo.com, correct?

DP: That’s right.

LB: And I guess, while we’re waiting for your next book, we will just have to make do with the four wonderful ones currently in the series.

DP: And the short story coming up in February.

LB: And the short story coming up in February. Excellent. Thank you for being here. It was a great joy.

DP: Well, thank you so much, Laura. And I really, really appreciate your having me on the show.

Read more 

Ruby Rose: 'I almost drowned' The Australian actress had a near-death experience while shooting her latest role in MEG

She’s one of the most in-demand action stars in Hollywood, but Ruby Rose’s latest role could have cost her career - and her life.

Be was lucky enough to visit the Australian actress on the Auckland set of her new movie, MEG, only to hear that she had a scary moment during filming of the shark flick.

With her hair slicked back in a wet look from filming a scene in a water tank, Ruby, 30, got real about her terrifying on-set incident.

"I did almost drown the other day," she tells Be during a break from filming. "That was fun."

"It was a very full on scene where I end up in the water and then there's this little bit where Rainn [Wilson] has one thing to do. 'Just one thing, Rainn! I know you were funny in The Office, but you had one job.'

Ruby almost drowned filming scenes for her latest role in MEG, a film about an extinct species of shark that lived 23 to 2.6 million years ago.

Rainn Wilson was acting out a scene with Ruby when she feared she would drown.

"And that one job helps me get out of that whole situation. [The director] John [Turteltaub] thought I was acting, and I was acting for a little bit, but then I really needed them to throw me something to get out of the water.

"[John] was like, 'Just hold, this is great, this is amazing'. And I was thinking, 'This is not fantastic, I'm sinking'."

Ruby went onto explain that Rainn eventually began to cotton on, but then she let it go on for longer to get the shot right.

She recalls: "I then screamed, 'Help!' I did it in my American accent because I thought, 'If this looks amazing, I still want it'."

When the crew finally realized Ruby's struggle, they got her out quickly. But being the legend that she is, Ruby says she got right back in the water to do another take. Jeez!

After Ruby's incident, the crew brought in a safe word for any future mishaps.

"It's Ruby!" the actress tells Be. "Because you can't say anything longer than that when you're choking water up." 

The role, which sees the star going up against a giant Jurassic shark called a Megalodon, is bound to be taxing. So we asked her how she prepares mentally and physically for that kind of role.

"Compared to the other three [film] roles I've done, physically it hasn't been as taxing," she explains. "There are a few bits where I have to go on a stroll - a very fast stroll and I get to swim, and it's cold. But that's fun."

Time out! Ruby found a nap spot on-set. Source: @rubyrose/Instagram

But while the role doesn't sound too demanding, after all, she does have a body double, Ruby says she's still wrapping her head around how to act out some of the physical stuff - like pretending to be on a boat.

"I haven't really got that part down part yet," she confesses. "The good thing about this film - I've been lucky on all of my films actually - is that we do use some sets but we also go on location.

"So being on an actual boat in the ocean and being able to shoot scenes there [means] we're not having to think, 'What's it like being on a boat?'

"We know what it's like, having spent three or four weeks on sea. And it's a good mix because I love being on location, especially in New Zealand."

Speaking about her role in the film, Ruby says she’s basically the biggest nerd in the movie.

“Her name is Jax [and] she has really cool hair,” she explains. “She’s the engineer on the vessel and she basically designed all of the equipment and technology that everyone is using. She’s a very smart, scientific gal.”

To transition for the character, Ruby says she didn’t have to cover her tattoos at all – in fact, she had to enhance them.

“I have fake tattoos covering my real tattoos,” she tells us. “I wanted them to be more themed to the film.”

“This one here is an octopus,” she tells while pointing at her arm etchings"          
Speaking of her slick hairstyle in the role, Ruby adds that she took inspo from two of Angelina Jolie's past film roles. Ruby took her hair inspiration from Angelina Jolie in noughties flick Gone in Sixty Seconds and 1995's Hackers 
“I got this [style] from Angelina Jolie in Gone in Sixty Seconds and her in Hackers. My character reminds me of her in Hackers. She's kind of got that, not manic thing, but she's very focused [like Jax]."

Wow. Now that she's pointed it out, Ruby really does have a Jolie vibe!

The Melbourne-born star, who rekindled her relationship with The Veronicas Jess Origliasso while shooting the film, went on to say how great it was being closer to home. Ruby and Jess, who originally dated in 2008, rekindled their relationship in New Zealand after shooting a new music video for The Veronicas.

“I’ve visited [mum] a couple of times so that’s been great,” she says. “And I keep forgetting I have friends here and they’ve come and visited me.”

But while filming at New Zealand was the reason why she and Jess rekindled their on-again-off-again relationship, Ruby says there was one thing she didn’t like about working there.

Because of the strict quarantine laws of Australia and New Zealand, the actress wasn’t able to bring her pet dogs Down Under.

Well, we wouldn’t want another Johnny Depp and Amber Heard incident, would we?!

She says: “The one bummer about being in Australia or New Zealand - which I am totally onboard with and I totally agree with it – is that you can’t bring your dogs.

“I totally understand why, but the one thing I miss most when I’m traveling or doing films, is my dogs.

MEG is in cinemas in 2018.

Read more

Listen to the Dr. Fuddle Anthem!

One Note Can Make a Difference!


Lyrics by Warren Woodruff based on the final movement of Beethoven's Waldstein Sonata, Op. 53, arranged by Warren Woodruff and Brianna Spottsville. Performed by Ellie Coe, piano, Carley Vogel, soprano with the Roswell High School Orchestra and the Atlanta Academy of Vocal Arts.

Jason Statham vs. MEG!

Jason Statham at Piha beach (Jason Statham / Instagram)

Recent filming for MEG involved days of shooting in Auckland's Hauraki Gulf and in water tanks at the studio.

Did you know Jason Statham is not only known for performing his own stunts, he is an experienced scuba diver?


He even represented England in springboard diving at the 1990 Auckland Commonwealth Games, although he downplayed how much the sport helps him under water.

"Everything that I did was above water," he joked at Auckland Film Studios.

Statham is best known to audiences for his hard-nosed scowl, which is sure to be present when Meg hits screens on March 2, 2018.

Read more

Alcoholism: A family disease with a cure BOOK REVIEW of Bill Borchert's How I Became My Father ... A Drunk!

How I became my father…a drunk, A memoir by William G. Borchert (BOOK REVIEW)

purchase on Amazon.com

Alcoholism is often seen to run in families. In fact, research shows that a family history of alcoholism increases the risk of alcohol use disorder by 50%. While scientists may call it the “alcoholism gene” there is usually more to the story that just genetics.

The inspirational true story, “How I Became My Father…A Drunk” portrays a family impacted by the devastating disease of alcoholism for generations, but has a happy ending. Why is this book a honest and intimate must-read? How can it help anyone who reads it find hope, get in the shoes of an alcoholic, and understand the impact alcoholism has on families and loved ones?

We review this book here. At the end, we invite you to share your questions and comments as we try to provide personal and prompt responses to all legitimate inquiries.

6 truths about alcoholism and alcoholics

In How I Became My Father…A Drunk, Bill Brochert takes us on a journey that begins in his childhood living in a family impacted by his father’s alcoholism. It takes us through his youth when he starts drinking and into his adult years where he discovers 12 Step meetings and gets sober.

This story that evolves through a long stretch of time allows us to sneak a peak at some typical situations in the lives of active alcoholics and their close family and friends. Moreover, it shows how the effects of alcoholism are transgenerational and can influence anyone that finds him or herself in its path.
Here are some general truths I recognized in this book.

1. Alcoholism is a disease.

You know that there is something dysfunctional about the family portrayed in this book from the very start. Bill’s father can be constantly found in Moochie’s Bar and Grill. The family moves from place to place to be able to pay out debts and keep food on the table, yet Bill’s dad keeps on drinking every day.

One characteristic of alcoholism is continued drinking despite negative consequences. Eventually, the brain and body become dependent on alcohol for normal function. In the story, Bill’s father will continue drinking even as his brothers and drinking buddies pass away due to the same disease. This behavior will continue to inflict great pain to Bill, his mom, and his brother and sisters.

Later on, as Bill starts his relationships with alcohol, he will find himself moving his wife and children from one to another smaller house, owing large amounts of money to sharks, struggling to pay the bills, and even at a point living in his mother-in-law’s basement.

2. Alcoholics are not bad people.

We tend to view drunks as evil people. But the author manages to capture the other side. Bill’s dad will always try to compensate for his problem drinking. He tries to win the family’s affection in many ways: buying a new car, taking them to a carnival, organizing something special for Bill’s birthdays, etc. In fact, he will unsuccessfully attempt to quit drinking many times (right before he goes back to drinking), and in these sober times he is a very different and loving person.

3. Codependency is a real issue.

Out of shame and fear of losing face and the only income the family has, Bill’s mom will call the newspaper to lie and cover for his dad whenever he’s been drinking too much. She will also lie to relatives, try to keep the family’s image in front of neighbours, and for a long time act as if there is nothing wrong in front of the children. Many of these behaviors only enable the drinker.

4. Alcoholics are good liars and deceivers.

Although deep down they may be good, honest people, alcoholics will try to disguise their problems and would rather not talk about it. Bill will lie to his wife and to his employers. He will also deceive bar owners where he would frequent for several days just to get acquainted and then he’d say he lost his wallet or forgot he didn’t have any money. After such event, he would usually never show up there again.

5. Blaming fuels problem drinking.

As he starts drinking, Bill believes that the bad things that happen in his life are a result of bad luck. He places an external locus of control for what goes wrong. Progressively, everything is someone else’s fault. Moreover, everyone and everything becomes a reason to drink.

This is the vicious downward spiral that many people can relate to: your drinking causes problems in your life → you can’t deal with the pressure of those problems → you will drink because the horrible circumstances “force” you to.

6. Self-pity and a sense of entitlement are present during alcoholism.

As a spiraling alcoholic, Bill is a victim of what we now know as “stinking thinking”. Oftentimes, he will start to feel bad about the things that he does to his wife and children, but the only way he know how to soothe this pain is by grabbing a drink. He develops a bizarre sense of entitlement thinking that he’s not paid enough money at his job, so he starts to cover his private expenses with the newspaper’s money.

Sobriety: The power to turn your life around

As the disease of alcoholism gradually and insidiously strips everything away from Bill, he will find the strength needed to get help. In fact, it is his wife that will have the strength to stay with him and support him, and his mother-in-law that will have the faith to never give up on believing that he’s a good, but a sick man.

After one unsuccessful attempt to quit drinking, Bill will start to work the 12 Steps. Soon, things start going for the better. He can take his life back into his hands, pay out debts, and eventually save up to buy much better and bigger houses and progress in his career. The true blessings, however, come from the gifts that he is able to give others, like finally leading his father along into sobriety, making his mom happy by giving her the loving husband she always wanted, caring for their children and family, and helping out other people struggling with alcoholism.

Why we like this book?

William (Bill) G. Borchert is a great writer! This is a book that you will pick up and not be able to put down. His narrative is rich and simple, and you can feel he poured his heart and soul out into every sentence, page, described event.
Here is what I find to be the most important lessons from How I Became My Father…A Drunk:

1. Alcoholism is a disease with genetic predispositions. If you add up the environment that is the alcoholic household, as well as peer pressure, the road has been paved towards developing an alcoholic problem. Bill despised his father’s drinking and what it had done to the family, yet that wasn’t powerful enough to keep him from making the same mistakes.

2. The partners of addicts are extraordinary people. It is even incomprehensible where they find the strength to hold everything together as it all falls apart due to drinking. Bill’s mom and wife both are repeatedly loosing hope, feeling embarrassed and afraid, being lied to and disappointed. They tried to keep it all together, care for the kids, and pray for a miracle (a miracle which in their case eventually happens).

Becoming a drunk or getting sober: Do you have questions?

Do you have something that you’d like to ask or add? Have you read, “How I Became My Father…A Drunk?” Feel free to post your thoughts and questions in the comments section at the end of the page. We try to answer all legitimate inquiries personally and promptly.

About the Author

William G. Borchert is an Emmy nominated screenwriter for the movie “My name is Bill W.” a story about the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous that won three Emmy Awards. He also wrote the screenplay for the movie, “When Love Is Not Enough”. Bill is an entertaining and informative speaker, carrying his own message of recovery to medical groups, college campuses, large business organizations and recovery conventions across the country. He is also a Trustee of the non-profit Willingway Foundation in Statesboro, Georgia that sponsors and supports college students in recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction and also holds workshops to help educate and fight against the stigma of addiction.


Read more at Addiction Blog

Dennis Palumbo's Essay In Equality

Dennis Palumbo's Essay will Appear in an upcoming Collection on the topic of equality due out in February of 2017.

A Tribute to the Printer Aldus Manutius, and the Roots of the Paperback [via Doug Fetterly]

CURIOUS strollers in early-16th-century Venice might have paused by the shop of the great printer Aldus Manutius only to be scared off by a stern warning posted over the door.
“Whoever you are, Aldus asks you again and again what it is you want from him,” it read. “State your business briefly, and then immediately go away.”

To state the current business at hand briefly, Aldus is the subject of a new exhibition commemorating the 500th anniversary of his death — and the birth of reading as we know it.

Aldus has attracted some pop-culture attention in recent years, at least among those with a geekish taste for printing history. The novel “The Rule of Four” gave his most famous book, the enigmatic “Hypnerotomachia Poliphili,” an upmarket “Da Vinci Code” treatment in 2004. There was also Robin Sloan’s 2012 best seller, “Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore,” which turned Aldus into the founder of a shadowy secret society headed for an apocalyptic showdown with Google.

The exhibition that opened this week at the Grolier Club in Manhattan, “Aldus Manutius: A Legacy More Lasting Than Bronze,” gathers nearly 150 Aldines, as books from the press Aldus founded in Venice in 1494 are known, for a more sober tribute. Gutenberg may have invented the movable-type printing press, used to create his monumental Bibles. But anyone who has ever sat in a cafe, or in the bath, with a paperback owes a debt to Aldus and the small, cleanly designed editions of the secular classics he called libelli portatiles, or portable little books.
“It’s become a cliché to call them the forerunners of the Penguin Classics,” G. Scott Clemons, the president of the Grolier Club, said during a recent tour of the installation in progress. “But the concept of personal reading is in some ways directly traceable to the innovations of Aldus’s portable library.”

The exhibition, organized by Mr. Clemons and H. George Fletcher, a former curator of rare books at the New York Public Library and the Morgan Library, is a gallery of bragging rights. Aldus was the first to print Aristotle, Thucydides, Herodotus and Sophocles, among others in the Greek canon. He was possibly the first printer to compare manuscripts to arrive at the most reliable text. He was the first to use italic type. He was the first to use the semicolon in its modern sense.

And then there were the unwitting firsts, like what may be the earliest known version of “This page left intentionally blank,” preserved in a 1513 edition of the Greek orators included in the show, along with instructions to the binder to remove the extra leaf.

“He printed the instructions in Latin and Greek,” Mr. Clemons said. “But of course bookbinders couldn’t read Latin or Greek.”

Aldus, born in the Papal States around 1452, trained as a humanist scholar and worked as a tutor in aristocratic households before taking up printing in the 1490s. It was a moment of upheaval in reading roughly equivalent to our own digitally disrupted age. And Venice was the Silicon Valley of printing, home to dozens of shops locked in cutthroat competition.

The Aldine Press, in its start-up phase, emphasized Greek and Latin lexicons and grammar manuals. In 1495, Aldus began publishing the first printed edition of Aristotle. In 1501, he released the first of his small octavo editions of the classics, books “that could be held in the hand and learned by heart (not to speak of being read) by everyone,” as he later wrote. The show includes 20 libelli portatiles, all bearing Aldus’s printer’s mark, a dolphin curled around an anchor. (The colophon is still used today by Doubleday.) Some of the books were treated as treasures, and customized with magnificent decoration that harked back to the tradition of illuminated manuscripts. Others were workaday volumes, filled with marginal scribbles.

The exhibition also includes examples of Aldus’s larger-format work, including the “Hypnerotomachia Poliphili” (1499), sometimes said to be the most beautiful — and the most unreadable — book ever printed.
The book, a densely allegorical erotic love story attributed to Francesco Colonna, is celebrated for its integration of gracefully shaped typography and elegant woodcuts. But visitors to the Grolier would be forgiven for letting their eyes go straight to the famously excited ithyphallic (to use the scholarly term) god Priapus standing at attention, as it were. The book is displayed cracked open a modest halfway to that page, directly across the room from a 1547 medical encyclopedia open to a passage discussing the uses of cannabis.

“We wanted the show to have both sex and drugs,” Mr. Clemons explained.

Most of Aldus’s contributions to the art of printing are more subtle, like that first italic typeface, which he created with the type cutter Francesco Griffo, a shadowy fellow who broke with Aldus acrimoniously and then slugged a man to death with an iron bar before reputedly meeting his own demise at the end of a hangman’s rope. Italics, which were intended to mimic the humanist handwriting of the day, first appeared in a modest five words in a 1500 edition of the letters of St. Catherine and soon spread to other Aldines, and beyond.

And then there was the roman typeface devised for a 1496 book by the humanist scholar Pietro Bembo — the inspiration for the modern font Bembo, still treasured by book designers for its grace and readability.
“The book itself is almost frivolous,” Mr. Clemons said of the text, which recounts a trip to Mount Etna. “But it launched that very modern typeface.”

The libelli portatiles also attracted less flattering imitations. Aldus, who had secured special printing privileges from the Vatican, was plagued by counterfeiters, despite the warnings on his title pages that those who made unauthorized copies would be excommunicated.

Things got so bad that in 1503 he printed a broadside warning consumers of the telltale marks of fake Aldines, including specific textual errors, low-quality paper with “a heavy odor” and typography that exuded, as he put it, a sort of “Gallicitas,” or “Frenchiness.” (Many counterfeits came from Lyon.)

“The counterfeiters just said, ‘Thank you very much,’ corrected their errors, and kept printing fakes,” Mr. Clemons said.

While putting together the show, Mr. Clemons identified one previously unknown counterfeit, a 1501 Virgil printed on vellum and held by Princeton University. “It was immediately obvious,” Mr. Clemons said. “It was Frenchy.”
Aldus died in 1515, and the press was taken over by his father-in-law and then by his son Paulus. The center of printing had begun migrating north, but the press continued to produce some important editions, including the first printed Greek Bible, the Septuagint, in 1518, and the official proceedings of the Council of Trent.

Aldus’s grandson, known as Aldus the Younger, took sole control in 1574, but “the gene pool had run very shallow,” Mr. Fletcher said.

By 1579, Aldines carried a list of still-available titles printed in the back. “You can almost imagine him looking over his shoulder at the unsold books piling up,” Mr. Clemons said.

In a last-ditch effort to save the press, Aldus the Younger accepted a commission from Pope Sixtus V for a new Latin Bible, only to produce a rush job so riddled with errors — about 4,900, Mr. Fletcher noted grimly — that it was suppressed.

“Sixtus died, and the new pope said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’ ” Mr. Fletcher said. (The book, which includes carefully pasted-in printed corrections, is now among the rarer Aldines.)

The press closed for good in 1597. But Aldines, which survive in the tens of thousands, have exerted an unflagging hold on collectors, from Jean Grolier, the Renaissance bibliophile for whom the club is named, to the two curators, whose personal loans make up the bulk of the show.

Mr. Clemons, a managing partner at the financial firm Brown Brothers Harriman, bought the first of the roughly 1,000 Aldines in his collection while an undergraduate classics major. “It may now finally be worth what I paid,” he joked.

Mr. Fletcher, who acquired the first of his 125 Aldines when he was 16, summed up their allure with what might be called Aldine understatement.

“Aldus was a person with a strong aesthetic sense who was also able to work with common sense,” he said. “This is an almost completely unknown phenomenon, even today.”

Reposted From The New York Times