Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Heart Like an Ancient Gutter

By Charlie Kondek

It was time for another McGee. I left off with Darker Than Amber, so I loped over to that venerable Ann Arbor institution, Aunt Agatha's, to see if they had a copy. They did. I had my choice between the slick 1980s edition paperback and the lurid 1966 edition. If you've read this blog at all I think you know that's no choice, really.

Call this "used book pr0n" if you like. Used books like this one certainly have had a sensual appeal to me, ever since I was a child spending hour after loving hour with Ian Fleming, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and the like. Note the cover art - I forget this artist's name but I know the work of him and other cover artists are appreciated these days by a wide circle of devotees and can be found on Flickr and other sites. (Is it Robert McGinnis?) Note the price of the book (fifty cents!). And note, especially, the killer copy on the back cover. What grace!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Backed Up on The Kid

By Charlie Kondek

Been busy. But also enjoying some good reads. Just put down J.R. Moehringer's The Tender Bar. It was everything I had hoped for; page-turner, good prose. Moehringer, you may remember, wrote "Ressurrecting the Champ," which was anthologized in the Greatest American Sports Stories of the 20th Century. It's about a guy who grows up fatherless in 70s and 80s Long Island, and seeks masculine mentoring at a local, special watering hole. From the Prologue:

I used to say I'd found in Steve's bar the fathers I needed, but this wasn't quite right. At some point the bar itself became my father, its dozens of men melding into one enormous male eye looking over my shoulder, providing that needed alternative to my mother, that Y chromosome to her X. My mother didn't know she was competing with the men of the bar, and the men didn't know they were vying with her. They all assumed that they were on the same page, because they all shared one antiquated idea about manhood. My mother and the men believed that being a good man is an art, and being a bad man is a tragedy, for the world as much as for those who depend on the tragic man in question. Though my mother first introduced me to this idea, Steve's bar was where I saw its truth demonstrated daily. Steve's bar attracted all kinds of women, a stunning array, but as a boy I noticed only its improbable assortment of good and bad men. Wandering freely among this unlikely fraternity of alphas, listening to the stories of the soldiers and ballplayers, poets and cops, millionaires and bookies, actors and crooks who leaned nightly against Steve's bar, I heard them say again and again that the differences among them were great, but the reasons they had come to be so different were slight.