September 3, 2017
Last year our daughter had a math teacher who was gifted at everything but teaching. The predicable result: a bad attitude, low test scores. We asked a friend about a math tutor. After hearing her rave about Elyse Laakso, we made no other calls. Elyse started with our unhappy child last October. By January, Wednesday afternoon sessions no longer generated frowns. By April, the 9th grader was feeling good about her math scores. This year? “I may not need a tutor.” In her real life Elyse is an actress and singer; she can (almost) make math entertaining. She tutors English as well. Contact her at Elyse.firstname.lastname@example.org
August 31, 2017
I’m a horrific snob about a lot of things, but mostly about music. So I was pleasantly surprised to hear something new: a song that begins with a trumpet riff dreamy enough for Miles Davis in the l950s, then transitions into jazzy rap with urban lyrics. And how to explain that the same musician made a crazy drum video? And trumpet-backed reggae? This octopus talent is PL Mack, unknown to me because he’s been hiding out in the Berkshires. As a drummer, he’s toured as the drummer/percussionist for Wah! and has shared many stages with Krishna Das. A few years ago, he transitioned to singing, songwriting and production; he now performs with a guitar. If he were a wine, I’d say I get hints of chocolate and smoke and jerk chicken — the notes I also get in the music of Bob Marley and Ben Harper. An album is on the way; for now, there are a few songs on Google Play. In one, he sings that he’s “at war with desire.” Doubtful. But definitely at war with banality.
July 31, 2017
“Every night I go over what I did in the day, in ethical or moral terms. Have I treated people properly? Did I tell the truth? But I’m not the sort of person who thinks, ‘Oh God, wasn’t it wonderful when I was 25.'”
“The cliche is that life is a mountain. You go up, reach the top and then go down. To me, life is going up until you are burned by flames. Life is an accomplishment, and each moment has a meaning and you must use it. Life is given to you like a flat piece of land and everything has to be done. I hope that when I am finished, my piece of land will be a beautiful garden, so there is a lot of work.”
“No, I don’t fall in love. I love differently. The word ‘fall’ is meaningless. Perhaps a ‘coup,’ to be hit by love, yes. But I’m more generous now. Passion is blind, and being blind you only see your own reflection in the eyes of others. Passion creates obstacles and pain that block what love is about. Love opens you up. It’s more generous, more fun. It’s less dark.”
How have you managed to keep most of your lovers as friends? How do you avoid the poison that can come at the end of a relationship?
Maybe it is because of the quality of the relationship, you know. I couldn’t explain that. There should be respect on both sides. There should be gratefulness. Maybe because the men and myself, we know that things don’t last. Life, you know? It’s marvelous to be able to travel for a while with somebody, when nothing ugly interferes.
To truly love someone, what do you think is required?
Well, just generosity. And gratitude. The worst enemy in love is to be possessive. To think that things ought to last. Usually, to begin with, it’s an attraction, it’s passionate, and it’s violently … there’s a sort of … everything gets all mixed up. Sex, and the heart, and the mind. It’s a painful period. If you resent the fact that it doesn’t last, you think the other one is responsible. That’s where it becomes ugly. But you know, if you have a certain knowledge … people say that one should speak to each other. No! People shouldn’t speak too much. Some people speak too much. Words can destroy things … beyond words, if you know what I mean. As long as you don’t feel that the other one is responsible, as long as you don’t feel guilty, you can keep the relationship. Love is like a flower blooming and then it fades. That doesn’t mean that you can’t keep the same roots.
You’ve said that you’d like to end your days in a big house with all the men you’ve ever loved. Who would be there?
Ah, maybe nowadays I wouldn’t do that. Nowadays I wouldn’t because I love to be alone. I love visitors.
July 14, 2017
Laura Harrington may have won the Kleban Award for most promising librettist in American Musical Theatre, but I know her only as a novelist. And I came to know her quite unwillingly. Would I read a novel about a girl in upstate New York whose father grows “the best corn and the best tomatoes in town?” No thanks. Her publicist persisted. A 14-year-old girl? A father in the National Guard whose unit is called up? Oh, and he goes to Iraq. I groaned. But the publicist really seemed to love “Alice Bliss.” And it was short. I let her send it.
There are books that manipulate you into tears, and then there are books that rip you apart, and you keep reading even though it hurts and your tears are raining — I mean that: raining — on the page. That was Alice Bliss for me. I’m not surprised that it won the Massachusetts Book Award in Fiction and will soon be staged as a musical.
In her just-published second novel, “A Catalog of Birds,” Harrington has taken on bio-chemical warfare and the poisoning of the innocent. She’s set her book in 1970, at the height of a war that damaged everyone it touched. Nell Flynn is a strong student, headed for college and a career in science. Her brother Billy is headed nowhere — he enlisted as a pilot, his helicopter is shot down in Vietnam, he’s the only survivor. He’d been a gifted artist, specializing in birds; now he can barely hold a pencil. The question that drives the book: Can Billy be healed? Can his life be saved?
As a writer, Laura Harrington’s instinct is to go directly to the broken places, the critical times, the glaring problems, the fraught relationships, and then to shine a light on them that is fresh and illuminating, and makes you glad you gave yourself over to her book. Because you’re not just reading a “family saga” here — you become a Flynn. Yes, it’s that good. To order the paperback from Amazon, click here. For the ebook, click here. To read an excerpt, click here.
June 24, 2017
It happens all the time: Kriena Nederveen enters a room, and, for a second, time stops. It’s not just because she’s strikingly beautiful. It’s more because she’s so….stylish. Not, like, kitted out in this season’s trending outfit. Intelligently stylish. What you’d wear if a) you knew where to find these clothes and b) you knew how to put them together to create a “look.” Happily, after decades in the luxury fashion business and as a stylist to movie stars and musicians, she’s struck out on her own. Clé D’Or is a boutique that works 1-to-1 for women and men. Kriena can start by shopping in your closet and de-cluttering. And/or she can be your personal shopper, your beauty concierge, your go-to resource when you need a special gift. I’m sure she could even figure out who I might be if I dared to go beyond khakis and button-down Oxford shirts — but because I’m impossible, you move up in the line. Here’s the site. Here’s some praise. And here’s how to contact her: email@example.com