Monthly Archives: October 2017

BREAKING NEWS –LONELY PLANET NAMES DETROIT #2 CITY IN THE WORLD TO VISIT

ONLY Seville, Spain tops Detroit as a city to visit in 2018. Lonely Planet is the largest travel publisher in the world. They point to the River Front Walk and goovy hotels as places of interest in the city.

When you visit our comeback city, here’s what I recommend:

Yes, River Front views. Try Belle Isle, The Detroit Yacht club or walk along the Detroit River (River Walk). How about lunch at the Rattlesnake Club? Great Riverfront views!

Henry Ford Village and Museum. This is the premier historical museum and outdoor experience in the U.S. And a huge IMAX theater and tours of the Ford Rouge Plant. Don’t miss these when you visit.

Eastern Market. A huge and historic market with vendors of all kinds from crafts to local produce. Restaurants, bars and more. This venue was last featured on this blog July 14, 2014. Put Eastern Market in the search box and the story will appear.


Detroit Institute of Arts. Again, a beautiful, historic and outstanding place to view with a huge variety of wonderful art. The current exhibit is Monet: Framing Life and includes some of Monet’s earliest works. “Woman With A Parasol “ is on loan from the National Gallery.

And for Sports Fans – Detroit is the ultimate Sports Town.
Comerica Park.
This place is marvelous. A ball park you will love whether or not you like baseball.

Ford Field is home to the Lions.

Little Caesars Arena is set to open this week and will host Red Wings Hockey. I believe a Kid Rock concert is the first event. These three arenas have been built in the same area of the city.

And the Detroit Pistons have just announced they will move back downtown from Pontiac.

In other big Detroit News, Mark Wahlberg, movie star and producer, who has made many movies in Detoroit and has a restaurant in Greektown (another area to visit), is opening Wahlburgers in Royal Oak as part of the new shopping development near Beaumont Hospitals. Another don’t miss stop on your Detroit visit.

Detroit has its share of great burgers. The Chew’s Michael Symon has two B Spot Burgers in the metro area as well as a nifty restaurant downtown. His restaurants were first in his hometown Cleveland, but he is a Detroit fan, too. Read about B Spot Burgers, Brews and BBQ on this blog, posted May, 2014 and later when he opened another in Royal Oak. Use the search box to find these posts. As this picture of him with his big smile indicates, he was totally gracious and allowed me to interview him when he was in town for the opening.

Yes, there are other truly beautiful sights: Cranbrook Gardens, Pewabic Pottery, Sommerset Mall, The Fisher Theater and many more. Do tell your favorite.

Come visit and give me a call!

THE VAGARIOUS READING LIFE


Surprising how at times, at least to this reader, reading seems less understandable, less enjoyable than it is at its best. The day comes when books that had seemed to call so strongly, become a reading chore. And so my reading life goes this week. It wanders, capriciously, not in a good way. I try to figure it out.

Sing, Unburied, Sing

For the past several months, I hummed with excitement at the thought of reading Jessmyn Ward’s new novel, Sing, Unburied, Sing. How I had been captured by her nonfiction memoir Men We Reaped. I couldn’t wait to try her new novel. But this week I find myself bogged down in the book. It’s short in length; I should have finished.

The story seems repetitive, as is the life of its characters. Some of the characters are not real. Combining other-worldly characters and realistic fiction is popular these days with literary writers and critics. Though many may enjoy this kind of a read, I find the ghostly characters distracting. For me the story loses its urgency, its reality, its power.

As pictured in this story everyone in this real/unreal world takes drugs. The author means, I think, for us to understand just what these characters are up against. The scenes between the children are especially tender and even hopeful. But pain seems overwhelming. If I’m tired after 170 pages, think of the people who are living that life. For characters in Sing, Parchman Farm, the Mississippi State Prison, is an expected chapter in their lives.

Prisons – Blood In the Water

It may be my reading tiredness comes of reading two books at the same time about prisons in the United States. After hearing the author speak I couldn’t wait to begin turning the pages of Blood in the Water, about the Attica Prison Uprising in 1971 and its aftermath. It is a weighty matter that in this country we have incarcerated so many people, often those who have committed minor crimes due to drug addiction and poverty. According to a report I heard on the radio today some law enforcement subscribes to the theory if you round up those accused of small crimes, the other criminals will go somewhere else.

We insist on treating drug addiction as a crime and not as an illness. We insist on putting these people in prison, an expensive endeavor leaving us less able to deal successfully with serious criminals, or the addictions. The reader of this book soon understands the militarization of police and prisons leading to war such as occurred at Attica.

If I can stick with this book perhaps my vision on the subject will clear.

Finding Hope – Reality, Grief, and Hope: Three Urgent Prophetic Tasks

The third book I’m reading, Reality Grief and Hope: Three Urgent Prophetic Tasks, has me thinking of the message that God has given us in the words of the ancient biblical prophets. I hear the message that neighborliness is more important than nations, more important than race, religion or ethnic origin. If this is true I believe we may want to refocus some of our energies as we strive to live in a world where the parts are less independent and isolated than may have been true in the past. The last pages of this book may help me see the hope in neighborliness.

As I read what I have written, I at least understand why my reading week has become too weighty. Clearly I need to lighten up. My shelf contains some lighter reads. It’s time for me to choose one. Wish me luck.

But, as I have the last word in this conversation with myself – burying my head in the sand may not be an answer that holds any lasting power.

NOT JUST MY OPINION – GREAT PRODUCTS

Several lists I’ve read recently in the food magazines lined up with my personal favorites. Here’s an invitation to try these and to tell us your favorite in the same category.

Best Block Cheese
Cabot Alpine Cheddar (most Cabot cheddars for that matter)
A Swiss and Alpine blend in the Legacy Collection of Cabot Cheeses


Best Chocolate Snack
Bark Thins Snacking Chocolate
I like them all. Do you have a favorite? Pictured is the Dark Chocolate Almond with Sea Salt.


Best Pickles
Claussen Kosher Dill Spears
I know this category is up-for-grabs. Tell us your favorite.


Best Catsup
Centro Balsamic Catsup
I like this product so much it’s changed my life. A little goes a long way, but sometimes.. I can’t help drowning my food in it! If you haven’t tried it, I insist!


Chicken Broth
Swanson’s Chicken Stock
I buy different brands, the display, the special price. But somehow when the dish is made with Swanson’s, it always surprises me with it’s good taste.


Best Butter
Land of Lakes
This is always in my fridge. I love butter. I’ve tried many different brands. Salted or Unsalted, either tastes wonderful. I think this product is the best value and the best flavor.

Best products make for best eating experiences! Well, that’s my motto anyway.

2017METRO DETROIT BOOK AND AUTHOR SOCIETY LUNCHEON

Thanks to a friend and a book club, I attended the Metro Detroit Book and Author Society Luncheon held at Burton Manor in Livonia, MI. The annual luncheon features talks by well-known authors, and books are available for purchase and signing.

This year featured authors were Claire Messud, Chris Bohjalian, Heather Ann Thompson and Drew Philp, the later not able to attend. I believe this is the largest such organization in the US. Over 1000 readers were in attendance.

Claire Messud, an award winning author of six novels including The Woman Upstairs and The Emperor’s Children talked to the group about her latest book, The Burning Girl, a coming-of-age story and one that addresses the complexities of female friendship. The less glamorous friend is the narrator. Messud told the group she wrote the story about middle school friends because she believes that what happens in middle school determines who we are as adults. (I hope that is not true.) The story deals with how friendship unravels. Is that ever a happy story? As readers we bring our own stories to the story of any novel. We fill in the uncertainties of the story the author has written.

Heather Ann Thompson gave a short and dynamite talk about the writing of her Pulitzer Prize Winning nonfiction book, Blood In the Water. It chronicles the Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its legacy. She began by reminding us 2 million people are behind bars in our country. What a staggering statistic; these are humans. Her book opens with the heartbreaking conditions for those behind bars at the time of the uprising in New York State. For example the 1300 men at Attica had a square of toilet tissue per person a day for their use.

She gave her audience a real look at the behind-the-scenes writing of this book. Incarceration is a subject we all need to talk about. I agree with her. The statistics and conditions shake a person’s faith in human nature. She tells the story of what really happened in 1971, what was covered up, and ultimately what happened afterwards. It is difficult to know what is more frightening: the story of what happened, the cover-up or the difficulty she had in finding the truth and writing the story. Many of the readers I attended this function with found her a most dynamic speaker and several of us wanted to obtain and read this book, in spite of its length and depth of subject matter.

Chris Bohjalian shared information about his latest book The Sleepwalker and about the misunderstood subject of sleepwalking. This novel is described as a spooky thriller about sex, secrets and the mysteries of sleep.

I have been a fan of this writer for some time. I have loved many of his books and I know he is a writer who appreciates his readers. He answers my blogs and tweets about his books. Among those I expecially liked: The Midwives, The Sandcastle Girls, Skeletons at the Feast, and The Light In the Ruins. I’ve never been disappointed in one of his books. In The Guest Room, readers learned about sex trafficking and now with The Sleepwalker, we have the opportunity to learn about sleepwalking.

Drew Philp is the author of the memoir A $500 House in Detroit, described by the society website as the true story of a recent college graduate who wandered into Detroit and bought a ruined hulk of a once-grand house in an attempt at urban homesteading and as part history, part social commentary, part memoir. Sound interesting, doesn’t it?

Thanks to the Metro Detroit Book and Author Society for this outstanding program and the opportunity to hear about writing books from writers. Listed below are author websites:
http://www.chrisbohjalian.com/
http://www.heatherannthompson.com/
http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ClaireMessud
http://www.drewphilp.com/

GOLDEN HILL – BOOK COMMENT

Golden Hill: A Novel of Old New York
Author: Francis Spufford
Publisher: Scribner, 2016
Genre: Historical Fiction
Hardcover Edition: 299 pages
Source: Personal Copy

Short-listed for seven British Book Prizes, named novel of the year by The British Sunday Times and praised by many reviewers including Laura Miller of the New Yorker, this reader paid money and ordered from Amazon. The thought of seeing New York before the revolution was tempting indeed. For the first nearly 200 pages, this seemed a dubious decision.

Hardly as precise as reviews promised; long sentences and longer paragraphs, antique words and spellings, tried the patience of this reader. The descriptions of setting, altercations, and indeed everything went on for pages, or so it seemed. What kept this reader slowly turning pages, or skimming was a desire to know more about the historical context of the mid-18th century (the same era currently visually displayed on the TV series Outlander and Poldark, neither set in the US). In spite of the detail furnished by the author, I yearned for clarity.

A young man from England, one Richard Smith, arrives in New York, a town of 7000, bearing a note of exchange for the very large sum of one thousand pounds sterling. The plot thickens along with the writing. The merchant he deals with has two daughters and one Tabitha, is particularly interesting. Another thread to keep the reader dangling.

Here I will stop to recommend the review by Laura Miller from The New Yorker, July 2017. It is an exquisite piece of writing. Read it before you read this book, if you so choose, and no doubt the story will be clearer.

Enough already. From page 189 on, I raced to the finish. Finally the story captured me. It started to make sense. The ending, though not completely satisfactory was somewhat surprising and had the ring of truth. I admit, I tend to like my fiction realistic.

This author, Francis Spufford, much admired by many but new to me, is a master of mystery and plotting. He also produces beautiful prose, albeit in lengthy sentences: “It seemed to Smith that he had her (Tabitha) on the slenderest hook imaginable, made only of curiosity; like a fish-hook of ice, ready to shatter at too much force, or to melt at too much warmth; but that he might play her back all the way to safety on this hook, to the safe shore of her happiness and his own, if only he were subtle enough.”

Recommended with reservation. No doubt it is a book I would enjoy on a second reading. It seems to me that a reader must love serious reading, and historical fiction to tackle this one. This book is a challenge you may be glad you accepted.

THE GREAT MICHIGAN READ

X
Authors: Ilyasah Shabazz with Kekla Magoon
Publishers: Candlewick Press 2015
Genre: Novel
Paperback Edition: 348 pages plus Author’s Note, Timelines, Suggestions for further reading
Source: Personal copy

Each year the Michigan Humanities Council presents The Great Michigan Read. It is a book club for the entire state with focus on a single book. This year the book is X a fictionalized account of the formative years of Malcolm X, speaker, leader, and converted Muslim (1925-1965). Major author Ilyasah Shabazz is the third daughter of Malcolm X and his wife Betty Shabazz. It is described as a novel of reinvention and redemption and one which highlights the Michigan roots of this influential leader.

The Council provides books, and a reading guide to facilitate study of this book and the issues addressed. Additional information pertinent to the understanding of Malcolm’s story is part of the packet the Council distributes. This story reminds us that even when we as individuals feel powerless, each of us holds surprising power. This book is intended for all readers, young adults (I would say middle to high school students) to senior citizens. The Council strives to make literature accessible and appealing for all.

The book has many powerful themes. Unfortunately I missed the book club meeting and discussion of the book. I will point out one important theme, well articulated in the context of Malcolm’s young life and experiences. The book is strong in helping readers understand how people of color feel, especially when they come from a background of poverty.

The authors clarify rules black people must follow in our society. Some of those stated for Malcolm in the 30’s and 40’s: a black person could not say how one felt, or thought, keep your head down low when a white person passed you, use low dirty water fountains located right next to the high clean one for whites, ride in the back of the bus, not to sit down unless no white people were on board. There are things you can’t say and places you cannot go. Some of these are less frequent today and some are gone. But think, are black people today allowed to express feelings or speak about injustice as they might truly feel. What happens if they do?

As one reads this rather expected tale of Malcolm trying to find a place for himself in the 30’s and 40’s in Lansing, MI, Boston and Harlem, his experiences bring to mind experiences young black males live in contemporary society. The differences are not so great as we might at first believe. Malcolm lost his parents when he was young and though his siblings and extended family tried to assist him, the story brings home what a great loss this is for any person and how it may affect their developing beliefs.

The book speaks to a wide audience. Yes, it has much to say to a 14 year old young man from a black community, but it also teaches a white woman of 70+ years cultural celebrations and pitfalls that swirl in our midst. The book contains author’s notes, timelines and historical facts and perspectives to further enlighten readers.

The Humanities Council provides a Reader’s Guide. Of special interest to this reader was the Q and A with second author Kekla Magoon concerning in part how to approach the writing of a book with two authors. Suggested discussion questions are also included.

Malcolm Little lost his family when he was only six. He spent is early years yearning for his father, his teen years running from family and the voice of his father. It is a universal story. Reading this book, one learns about his young life and what finally led him to find his voice and become a powerful leader in the Civil Rights movement.

Thanks you Michigan Humanities Council!

STILL THINKING OF NASHVILLE And what to see next time

Interior of the Historic Ryman Auditorium

Historic Ryman Auditorium – 116 5th Ave.
This venue offers a self-guided tour of the interior. There are exhibits, a gift shop a dynamite video, and other opportunities to enjoy this first-on-the-list Nashville attraction. Concerts are also held here. With amazing acoustics, this auditorium in recognized as the Carnegie Hall of the South.

The Grand Ole Opry
What a gorgeous place. The guided back stage tour is a must!

Belmont Mansion


Belmont Mansion – 1700 Acklen Ave. on the campus of Belmont University
This ornate Italianate villa contains some of the history of Nashville. It was built by the beautiful Adelicia Acklen a very wealthy woman of the mid 19th century. The architecture and furnishings are true to the period and most interesting.

Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
Explore the museum which honors classic and current artists. Charlie Daniels calls it an “unending history book, a story that will go on as long as young men and women have a desire in their hearts and fire in their bellies.” Shop the museum store or eat in one of three eateries. On my list for my next visit. 222 Fifth Street South

The Belle Mead Neighborhood home to the Belle Meade Plantation, 5025 Harding Pike, and the Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art, 1200 Forest Park Drive.
Next time.

Tootsie’s Bar


Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge 422 Broadway
Good music and just plain fun!

Bluebird Café 4140 Hillsboro Pike
A next time must: Free on Friday nights the show features up and comers and hit-makers. You saw it on the TV show “Nashville.”

And while I’m on Hillsboro Pike, I won’t miss author Ann Patchett’s Bookstore
Parnassus Books www.parnassusbooks.net
Located a 3900 Hillsboro Pike, Suite 14 this is an extraordinary place for those who love books. Next time, for sure!

And one more:

The General Jackson Showboat Boat Tour
This departs from Gaylord Opryland Cumberland River Dock, 2812 Opryland Drive
Food and entertainment, but the tour is dockside? What’s up with that? Maybe this deserves to be at the end of the list or maybe it’s a fascinating venue.

I’LL TELL IF YOU WILL OR EXPLORING WHO WE ARE AS READERS

Some people say that the books we truly enjoy are the ones we are thirsting to read. Assigned reading may or may not be less enjoyable. I find some truth in this. Often, a book I really want to read will totally capture me.

What’s happening for you in reading? Maybe the fall season is a time you seldom pick up a book. Or maybe, as the air chills and the sun shines, you settle into a favorite chair and go for turning pages.

I’m replenishing my lists today, while plowing through a book club selection that has yet to capture my attention. I’ll tell if you will.

Placing on hold at the library:

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward.
This novel is set in the fictional town of Bois Savage, Mississippi and is written by the author of the National Book Award Winner of 2011, Savage Bones.

Plowing through:
X by Ilyasah Shabazz daughter of Malcom X and Kekla Magoon
This book, fictionalized as a novel, has been chosen as this year’s title for the Michigan Humanities Council and the Great Michigan Read. Many years ago I was highly interested in and taught by The Authobiography of Malcolm X. I applaud the new presentation of his story for a current generation, but I’ve yet to be truly enjoying it. I recommend it as quite possibly a good audio book.

Everybody’s Talking About:
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Intertwined stories of a family and a mother and daughter in Shaker Heights, Ohio. Perhaps I should put this on hold. Have you read it?

This short post is hardly a full exploration. All there’s time for today is to dip a toe in the waters of reading.

Hope you are able to take a moment to share what you are reading. Thanks!