Escape by Robert Tanenbaum read by Mel Foster

On the sidewalk outside of The Kitchennette on West Broadway, the old men are debating the apologetics of New York Liberals bending over to receive  Islamic sensitivity training.

One famous lawyer takes out the day’s NYTIMES,  which reports that: “The Islamic Society of America is complaining that television shows portray Moslems as ‘the bad guys’. …”

“Oh, please…” moans the former US attorney for the Southern District of New York: “It’s not like we’re at war with Blonde Swedish Catholics. I haven’t noticed any Episcopelian Icelanders becoming suicide bombers and charging into any synagogues….”

“They claim to be Islamic to a man and they are terrorists therefore they are Islamic terrorists….

“Bullshit!”, exclaimed Saul Silverstein, an ex-Marine who survived Io Jima, and then made a fortune in women’s apparel. “Six months after a bunch of terrorists who claim to be acting in the name of Islam murdered a few thousand people in the World Trade Center, Columbia University held a one day in service training center for more than 100 NYC high school teachers… its like we’re apologizing because some of their fellow Moslems declared war on us…. ”

This is The Sons of Liberty Breakfast Club and Girl Watching  Society, which meets to haggle over the politics, the rumours, the news … and of course.. the pretty girls walking past, with and without summer dresses.   This is as good as Paris in the 1920s, except that the intellectuals are lawyers, not artists,   they’re chewing  peach pancakes, not brioches… and they’re probably not smoking.

 

Robert Tanenbaum Malice read by Mel Foster

A girl detective who can speak a thousand languages, with her own personal Saint,  New York City’s District Attorney as her father, and an ex Viet-Cong guerrilla as a nanny — only Robert Tanenbaum (and the City itself) could conjure up the sad, inscrutable Lucy Karp. As always when we step into Karpland we are stepping into the heart of  Law,  which is not only the territory of language, but the inherited traditions of men and the relationships these traditions imply.

Where men talk privately, they sit; where they sit, they eat and drink and cross identities. Over Marlene Chiampi’s kitchen table, we find lawyers, detectives, Indians and journalists…A student of Karp’s comes to him for help in defending a coach who has been debunked by his Association, robbed of the liberty to ply his trade. And as always in a Christian kitchen,  food and tragedy mix. At the end of the second bottle of Chianti, the phone rings with news that Ariadne Stupenegel is injured in the bombing of a restaurant — where she was mixing food and words, food and information, food and secrets.

A Drop of the Hard Stuff by Lawrence Block read by Tom Stechschulte

“Don’t make any major changes in the first year” … they say at AA. Matt Scudder has five or six weeks not to decide what he’s going to do about Jan, a girl he sees Saturday night and Sunday morning …

“Some people say not to make any major changes for the first five years… or even ten,” Jim, a fellow AA member, tells him.

After a meeting at St. Claire’s Hospital they walk home and Jim says:

“Something Buddha said as it happens: it is your dissatisfaction with what is that is the source of all your unhappiness..”

I said: “Buddha said that?”

“So I’m told, though I have to admit I wasn’t there to hear him. You seem surprised.”

“Well,” I said, “I never thought he had that much depth to him.”

“Buddha.”

“That’s what everybody calls him, and what he calls himself as far as that goes. Big guy. Must stand 6′ 6 . Shaves his head. Belly out to here. He’s a regular at the midnight meeting at the Moravian Church but he turns up other places as well. I think he’s a former outlaw biker and my guess is he’s done time but…”

The look on his face stopped me.

He said: “the Buddha. Sitting under the Bodhi tree, waiting for enlightenment.”

“Listen, it was a natural mistake. The only Buddha I know works at the Moravian Church.”

Making amends is step 8 of the 12 step program, and Jack Ellery is making amends when he ends up dead. His gay, persnickety, over-responsible sponsor has Jack’s list of amendees. He tells Matt Scudder that maybe he should “look into” whether somebody on the list is a killer. Matt Scudder does.

Dry, sidewalk humor full of alcohol and hotel rooms and pre-digital middle aged uncoupled city men. But also, that wry twist of fate that takes Order and Organization and runs over it.

This time, the Order is the Big Book and its steps: specifically step 8. How rules make themselves flesh, and how that flesh moves it’s rules around life and institutes life in their image.

I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron read by Nora Ephron

Although I didn’t see her face, I knew that the woman in the coloring chair was beautiful. It wasn’t just because she had long, lush, gorgeous hair, but because she was tearing out a page of WWD, where she had eyed another beautiful woman with long hair. And beautiful women look at beautiful women.

“Can I see?” I asked. And then she turned in the chair and I saw a Vogue model, circa 1976, sans huge hat and cigarette holder. But she was still beautiful, sitting there having her hair colored and pointing to the woman in the ad with the big sunglasses and the thick brown hair, saying: “that’s not Jackie Kennedy but it looks like Jackie Kennedy. I’ve always loved that look.”

And then she told me that not only was Jackie Kennedy beautiful but she was a nice person. She knew this because she sat across from Jackie Kennedy’s chair at Kenneth’s in the city, which is where Jackie had her hair done when Jackie had her hair done. The beautiful woman in the coloring chair had worked for Glamour and Vogue for 25 years, and if we were still in NYC and one of us had been Nora Ephron then one of us might have discovered that her husband was having an affair…. But we neither of us were Nora, and this was not NY, and Jackie was dead.

Nora Ephron is writing about just this generation of women, who lived and worked and counted in NYC, and who are now oldish, or dead. Nora Ephron is not dead. But she is forgetting things, and what she remembers is not obvious. She remembers going to an anti-Vietnam protest but not getting to it because she spent the weekend in the hotel room having sex, she remembers trying to find the New York Post building, and getting lost on the George Washington Bridge, and not deciding to get a divorce, and not going to the front during the 1973 war in Israel, and not knowing anything, and believing in print. She remembers consciousness-raising meetings in the 60s and 70s with women who took themselves much too seriously, and she remembers writing scripts that she thought were funny that weren’t funny enough.

Twelve Rooms With A View by Theresa Rebeck read by Marguerite Gavin

What begins as a story about a girly James Dean with two wicked sisters and a  drunk mother becomes a story about a CPW apartment building and its history, its doorman, its neighbors.

Tina Finn is outrageous and outraged, at everyone with a bank account  or a stable identity, at her sister with the crackberry, at her other sister with the perfect husband, at grown ups. But in a Jacuzzi surrounded by gay men she becomes another Doris Day …. relaxed, bubbly, verbal.    The twelve room apartment gathers around itself a seraglio of children, thieves and lovers, and delivers an ending both righteous and happy.

Promises To Keep by Jane Green read by Cassandra Campbell

There is something beautiful and more than beautiful about these women who enjoy their kitchens, who love  all the rooms of domesticity.   Jane gives us wives, book club ladies and hostesses, in Manhattan or Westchester, well groomed and well mannered and well off, obedient to husbands or mothers in law or schedules. Some are jolly and educated New Englanders, old and odd, wealthy and artsy and irrepressible.  The plot? It is as comforting as warm bread,  about women organizing people and things; themselves and each other. One woman most of all: Callie Perry, who has always been the happy center of many friendships.

Trick of the Eye by Jane Stanton Hitchcock read by Anna Fields

The open-faced innocence of Anna Field’s voice offers up a ripe acoustical image of a woman artist in New York: Faith Crowl. Faith is commissioned by an old and wealthy New York City socialite to paint the ballroom of her storied mansion in trompe l’oeil. Faith accepts, reluctantly, after a heavy dose of gossip by her gay friend, Harry. As Faith paints the ballroom, the old woman becomes curiouser and curiouser. Her personality is  baroque, gargoyle-like, impenetrable, suspect. Faith suspects. She looks for the truth behind the old woman’s past and finds that the woman is herself a work of art, an illusion.

Linda Fairstein Death Dance read by Barbara Rosenblat

Ghoul: An evil spirit or demon in Muslim folklore believed to plunder graves and feed on corpses.

There is a ghoulish, golemic, East European element that surfaces in the life of every dishy Jewish blonde A.D.A. in NYC. A specific perversion, a senselessness knocks at her door just before it becomes evil, or criminal, or comic.

She is buried alive in the Botanical Gardens by a paraphiliac with a love of Poe. She is held captive in the Metropolitan Opera while a stage hand fingers her inner thigh. She opens a letter which bursts into flames and spoils her hairdo.

Indeed, one of the most lovable qualities of Alex(andra) Cooper, daughter and heir of a man who invented a widget, is the way the forces of weirdness tag at her heels.

For example. She talks to a Turkish intern who likes to rape unconscious women while Mike and Mercer try to trace his number. They can’t. Alex groans: “How come this works on T.V. and in the movies but when I need it the system fails?”
Well, blondie, because the 212 area code is not from the Upper West Side but from Ankara, Turkey … It’s not incompetence. It’s not idiocy. It’s something else.

The Road to Ruin by Donald E. Westlake Read by William Dufris

 

‘…This grand vehicle was a color not seen in nature… metallic, shimmering kind of not-chartreuse, not-gold, not-silver, not-mauve with just a hint of not-maroon….’

Thinks Kelp, not-thinking, not-talking to himself in a kind of not-Bronx, not-Queens, not-Staten Island, in-your-front-lawn five-borough accent while looking for a car to steal in Long Term Parking at JFK. Specifically, a car with an MD plate, cause doctors know about cars you can survive.

This is a book for New Yorkers over 40 who remember Mayor Lindsay and the Bronx before Co-op city and Queens before Balkanization.

Be prepared to laugh unstoppably in the middle of supermarkets. While waiting in line for plywood, ready for the next hurricane. With a mouthful of anything beginning with the letter B.

WILLIAM DUFRIS doing 5 ex-cons planning the kidnapping-that would-go-wrong at bowling alley volume is gut-funny, rib-funny, crotch-funny. A book to be not-read, not-spoken but laughed out loud.

Remarkable.

Hope to Die by Lawrence Block

What a wonderful Upper West Side between Broadway and Central Park West in the 70s voice to listen to …. when you’re on a boat to Kabul or Talibaq. Close your eyes and you can see the doormen, the yellow taxis, the short, balding, murderous psychoanalysts, walking their dogs between appointments with depressive middle aged lawyers suffering from garden variety impotence.

It must be comforting for the patient, I said, to have a shrink who
can pull a gun on you if you start acting out…You’re on the verge of
this major breakthrough, really getting in touch with your anger, or remembering
what really happened when your uncle came into your bedroom that night,
and you look up from the couch, and there’s Dr. Nadler, and he’s pointing
a gun at you….

Nope. Theres nothing as insidious as a bald jewish shrink on the Upper West Side — except a bald Jewish shrink with an aphorism: What do you get? You get what you get.