Wednesday, August 24, 2016


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1. What are you currently reading? Book, Line and Sinker by Jenn McKinlay. This is book #3 in the "Library Lover's Mystery" series, but it's my first and so far, so good. I'm finding it slow going to start, but that could be because 1) I've got a cold and 2) this is my introduction to established characters and I'm having a little trouble keeping everyone straight.

The feeling I get from this is "cozy." Very Jessica Fletcher/Cabot Cove. Since the prolific author has also written "Cupcake Mysteries," I'm expecting this vibe to continue. (And I'm good with that. If I wanted graphic, I'd reach for the latest Cornwell/Scarpetta.)

2. What did you recently finish reading? Barbara Stanwyck by Al Diorio. I had a strong, negative reaction to this book, one I'm trying to shake so I can go back to enjoying Stanwyck's work.

The book itself isn't the problem, really, though it's superficial and highly apologetic, as if written from a series of press releases. But there's an audience for this sort of glossy biography and, since I knew so little about Stanwyck's personal life when I picked it up, it served as a decent primer about her life and put her work in some context.

It's one of the critical relationships in Stanwyck's life that has upset me. She was a dreadful mother. This woman who I knew first as warm and sacrificing Stella Dallas and then on TV as wise matriarch Victoria Barkley was cold and selfish with her own son.

Once she was ensconced in her second marriage to Robert Taylor, she sent the boy to military or boarding schools. Even though the institutions were nearby, he was never invited home for holidays and summers, instead staying with relatives or -- I'm not kidding -- employees. After her divorce from Taylor, she saw her son once to say goodbye to him before he was inducted into the service. It was an awkward lunch, and they never saw one another again.

What the hell? Stanwyck had a dreadful childhood herself, raised in foster homes and working full time at age 14. I suppose we could say that since she never had a mother, she didn't know how to be one. OK. I understand that, philosophically. But it doesn't excuse/alleviate the pain she inflicted on her son.

Yet this book tries to portray the mother-son breach as 50%/50%. No. The kid had no power in this relationship, at least not in those formative years when he was sent away. So I was appalled by Diorio's attitude. The awesome two-volume bio of Frank Sinatra by James Kaplan shows a good writer can be both clear-eyed and compassionate about his subject. Diorio was neither.

3.  What will you read next? I don't know.

1 comment:

Sorry about adding Comment Moderation, folks. But look at the bright side, at least I've gotten rid of word verification!