April 21, 2017
American Jews in Israel. An inheritance, which means money and a lot more. Back in Los Angeles, a son’s alleged financial crime — what kind of crime did you expect? — has become a family scandal. Not promising material, when you consider how Jews are presented in American fiction. The writer loves them. Or the writer hates them (or, more correctly, hates herself/himself). And in a first novel yet! I ask you: What was the last great first novel you read about Jews? Goodbye, Columbus. Okay, what else?
Bethany Ball’s “What To Do About The Solomons” is my favorite length for fiction: blessedly short. But in those 235 pages, we get a large — there are so many characters that Ball starts the book with a Solomon family tree — and unruly clan. They’re like moose with antlers locked: They can’t get closer, they can’t get apart. But you’ll have no trouble telling them apart. And coming to like them, for very different reasons.
For a novel about Real and Serious Things, this is a very funny book. Bethany Ball writes with wit as sharp as the blade of a mohel. For once, I totally concur with a New York Times review: “I ended ‘What to Do About the Solomons’ absolutely swimming with affection, not just for the characters but for the multiple worlds that created them. Despite their collective penchant for psychodrama, there’s something profoundly lovely — and loving — about the Solomons. And about Bethany Ball’s debut.” [To buy the book from Amazon, click here. For the Kindle edition, click here.]
April 21, 2017
Do you know about Book-the-Writer? At this pop-up book event in New York, a small group discusses a book…with the writer. Next Thursday (4/27), the writer is Christina Baker Kline, author of a terrific novel A Piece of the World, about the woman who inspired Andrew Wyeth’s painting “Christina’s World.” Her last book: the mega-bestseller, “Orphan Train.” I’ll be the moderator and occasional interrogator and, perhaps most important, wine butler. For information and tickets, click here.
April 16, 2017
The so-called law of life says that you start winding it down as you hit the golden years, but Garland Jeffreys is 73, and at City Winery, he put on a 90-minute show that ranged from reggae to New York soul to sound-clouds that would have done Van Morrison proud — he and his raised fist of a band rocked hard. And then he delightedly signed CDs for a legion of adoring fans. More confounding: His new CD, “14 Steps to Harlem,” is just as strong as his 2011 classic, The King of In Between. As a brother on the Back 9, he’s inspiring. But he’s a pain in the ass for me as a reviewer — he sends me to the dictionary for fresh superlatives. To buy the CD of “14 Steps” from Amazon, click here. For the MP3 download, click here.
April 9, 2017
Every month has a cause. This month, Gretl Claggett has three. As a writer, Monsoon Solo: Voices Once Submerged more than qualifies her for prominence in National Poetry Month. And “Happy Hour,” a film she made of a poem from that book, fits right in to National Child Abuse Prevention and Sexual Assault Awareness Month. “Happy Hour” isn’t fiction; it’s a short, unsettling account of her childhood abuse by a family friend during cocktail parties while her parents socialized downstairs. Narrated by Julianne Moore, it won awards at film festivals. Here’s the trailer:
You can now download the film on Amazon and iTunes, with all proceeds on both platforms going to a small group of nonprofits whose focus is treating and preventing sexual abuse and promoting healthy relationships. For film buffs, there’s a bonus: an early look at a writer-director who’s moving on to features any minute now.
April 6, 2017
My nights are suddenly — and happily — filled with plays written or produced by friends. Like “Wink,” written by Neil Koeningsberg, who was once a legendary Hollywood publicist and then a brilliant talent manager. In his new incarnation, he’s writing about a teenager who’s got life challenges — homelessness and gender confusion — and an ex-A list actor doing B movies in Hollywood. Out of this unlikely alliance comes a transformative bond. Unconventional? Unlikely? Not at all: Neil Koeningsberg is reliably smart and creative. ”Wink” runs from April 13 to May 7. Thursday through Saturday@ 8 PM, Sunday @3 PM, at Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave. For information and tickets, click here.