A Random Letter in the Mail

Have you ever received a random letter in the mail?  Random, as in an unanticipated, handwritten note or letter? The use of first-class mail has been in decline for decades, and letters have become almost rare.   Any letter or note in the mail is a gift, whether it be a thank you note, a birthday card, a holiday greeting.  But most of our communications today are virtual, via social media, email, text messaging, and more, using multiple platforms. Given the shift in how we communicate, a random letter in the mail is a welcome surprise.  Within…

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Landscapes of the Suspense Novel

Brooding landscapes are often a staple of the suspense novel.  In some cases, the shadowy, mysterious house at the center of a country estate is a key character.  Perhaps it is haunted by the ghost of a sophisticated, beautiful, deceased first wife.  Rebecca, by the late Daphne Du Maurier, is a modern classic.  Most suspense novels use scene to set a foreboding mood. Suspense novels In John Banville’s Snow (Handover Square Press, 2020), his first mystery novel written without a pen name, the setting is bleak rather than menacing.  A violent, desecrating murder takes place in…

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Staying at Home

Sidewalk messaging How to practice social distancing Staying at home has become the new normal, because we are living in unusual times.  In recent weeks, my only outside activities are a weekly trip to the grocery store, and daily walks, generally close to home.  The air is cleaner, thanks to fewer automobiles on the road, and the Bay Area is getting some much- needed rain.  And the important thing is for everybody to take whatever steps are possible to keep not only themselves, but also those around us, safe in this time of pandemic. In many…

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Country Mouse
Tomales, CA farmhouse

Country Mouse

Tomales, CA farmhouse Although I am an urban dweller, part of me is a country mouse.  A vacation is not necessarily a trip to another city, rich with historic sites, museums, and fine restaurants, but rather a sojourn in a quiet rural destination, preferably one with views, hiking, and a nearby body of water. Recently, we stayed in such a place.  Downtown Tomales (CA), population 204, has a post office, a bakery, a Town Hall, a small grocery, a deli, an antique store, and some real estate offices.  Add in a hotel and a bar/restaurant, and…

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What’s in the Mail

It’s an old habit that is hard to shake; each morning I wonder, what’s in the mail today?  Thanks to the USPS’s Informed Delivery service, one need not wonder.  Informed Delivery sends an email with images of most letter-sized pieces that will be arriving that day.  But even without the preview, contents of the daily mail are fairly predictable.  Count on some form of advertising, whether printed on newspaper stock, post cards, or flyers.  Solicitations from charitable organizations proliferate.  Soon, prior to November elections, we will be deluged with political flyers in the mail.  All of…

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More About Books: Mystery and Suspense

Books and reading are among the most satisfying pleasures in life, and this year’s offerings are an inspiration to write more about books. Starting with Gillian Flynn’s wildly successful novel, Gone Girl (Crown Publishing, 2012), psychological suspense has grown as a popular book genre.  As an early fan of the works of Daphne du Maurier, including the classic, Rebecca, I am drawn to the genre, but have been disappointed by many of the contemporary novels. There is nothing disappointing, however, about novels written by Jane Harper.   Most recently I read The Lost Man (Macmillan, Flatiron Books,…

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The Room Where it Happens

Live theater is the room where it happens, where stories come to life and leave you enchanted and spellbound.   Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton is such a show, where the music, lyrics, and staging linger on long after the performance is over. Hamilton the Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter We were latecomers to the extraordinary phenomenon of Hamilton, despite the early urging of our New York cousins.  When the show first opened on Broadway, Michael and Amy suggested facetiously (I think) that even if we had to take out a second mortgage on our house, it…

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Never Too Young

An expression of gratitude is always welcome. An expression of gratitude is always welcome, and one is never too young to write that all important thank you note.  As an added bonus, children who are taught to write thank you notes tend to craft more creative and thoughtful notes when they become adults The act of hand writing a thank you note has the added benefit of becoming a learning experience for a child.  It is an exercise in manual dexterity, helps teach spelling, and encourages creativity.  For this reason, some schools sponsor letter-writing exercises, such…

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About Books and Reading
Bedside reading

About Books and Reading

Each year, I look forward to the fall months for news about books and reading.  Magazines, newspapers and trade organizations choose the fall to announce their selections for “best books” of the year.  It is a good time to compare our favorite books with these lists, hoping to add undiscovered gems to our reading lists. Many prestigious book awards also are announced in the fall.  The National Book Awards were unveiled in November; the Man Booker Prize was announced in October.  The publication of outstanding books and the awarding of prestigious prizes, however, are by no…

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Parlor Games
Photo by Mink Mingle, Unsplash Photos

Parlor Games

At a party late last year with long-time friends from a walking group, the guests enjoyed playing parlor games.  This followed the usual drinking and chatting and eating, including a delicious cassoulet made by our hosts. Parlor games, according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, are games suitable for adults to play indoors.  My personal lack of knowledge of pop culture has always led to poor performance in competitive parlor games such as Trivial Pursuit, but in these games, there were no losers, just people letting down their hair, acting silly, and having a good time. First…

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