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Week 36: Sam Spade and The Maltese Falcon

In 1934, four years after The Maltese Falcon was published, Dashiell Hammett wrote this of his anti-heroic, hard-boiled detective, Sam Spade: "He is a dream man in the sense that he is what most of the private detectives I worked with would liked to have been and quite a few of them in their cockier [...]

By | 2018-02-20T14:46:32+00:00 February 20th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Week 35: The 39 Steps

“I returned from the City about three o’clock on that May afternoon pretty well disgusted with life." This, I think, is a perfect first line. Why is he - if it is a he - disgusted with life? What's happened up to now? And what is about to happen on that May afternoon that will [...]

By | 2018-02-13T17:07:32+00:00 February 13th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Week 33: The Bell Jar

"It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs . . ." So begins The Bell Jar, with an opening sentence that foreshadows events to come. Such a sentence promises the reader we are in for a remarkable story. If only the book lived up to that promise. If only its author [...]

By | 2018-01-30T13:20:57+00:00 January 30th, 2018|Uncategorized|4 Comments

Week 32: Lord of the Flies

It kept coming to me while reading Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House - the similarities between the chaos, duplicity and treachery taking place in Washington and William Golding's tale of a group of children marooned on a tropical island. Lord of the Flies is a world without grown-ups - as, [...]

By | 2018-01-23T16:06:48+00:00 January 23rd, 2018|Uncategorized|2 Comments

How stress can make you sick – a personal story

When the doctor at the walk-in clinic asked me about my cholesterol, I brushed it off as usual. “I’m fine,” I said. “How do you know?” I told him I’d always been within the normal range for everything – cholesterol, blood pressure, kidney function, blood sugar. I’m a healthy person. I exercise regularly, eat little [...]

By | 2018-01-18T18:54:07+00:00 January 18th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Week 31: A Confederacy of Dunces

Right off the bat I have to tell you that A Confederacy of Dunces is not - I repeat, not - about the American presidency. How could it be? Its author died in 1969, when Donald Trump was 23 ... long before anyone could have predicted that this draft-dodging ladies' man would one day be [...]

By | 2018-01-16T21:25:27+00:00 January 16th, 2018|Uncategorized|2 Comments

Week 30: Love in a Cold Climate

Are you old enough to remember the Wayback machine? I mean, before it became the name for an archive of web pages on the internet? The original Wayback machine was a plot device on The Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon show; Mr. Peabody, the world's smartest beagle, and his pet boy, Sherman, would set the machine [...]

By | 2018-01-09T17:28:52+00:00 January 9th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Week 28: Re-reading Little Women, or how to ruin a great childhood memory

Concord, Massachusetts in the mid-19th century was an exciting place to be, if you were of a thoughtful bent. For a small town, it was home to a substantial collection of philosophers and writers, the most prominent being Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of the leading lights of the Transcendentalist movement. Emerson's neighbours included Henry David [...]

By | 2017-12-19T15:48:51+00:00 December 19th, 2017|Uncategorized|3 Comments