Thursday, December 28, 2017


What did you read in 2017?
What were your favorite reads?
Please tell!
We'll talk about favorite reads on WOSU's All Sides Weekend: Books

I've listed books read below. 
A few left over from 2016, the rest from 2017.
* indicates I especially liked this book
** indicates I loved this book
+ indicates I was able to interview the author,.

These were my favorites read in 2017:
(in order of when read)

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
A harrowing  upbringing as a bi -racial child in South Africa

Lincoln in the Bardo Dan Saunders
Completely original, well at least since Edgar Allen Poe died. 

+No one Cares About Crazy People by Ron Powers

Non-fiction. Two adult sons with schizophrenia. One survives. The other doesn't. The parents find a way to live on.

+Stephen Florida by Gabe Habash
The unconventional life of a college wrestler

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Because as a white guy who was raised in a pricey suburb I had no idea.

Defending Jacob by William Landy
The teen age son of a  D.A. is accused of murder. A devastating twist near the end. Just as you were getting comfortable...

+Toscanini: Musician of Conscience by  Harvey Sachs
Mr. Sachs's second, greatly expanded biography of conductor Arturo Toscanini (1865-1957). An artist with a messy private life, a searing musical talent who stood up to Mussolini and Hitler.

The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen
Unconditional love.

The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne
A journey in Ireland with the Irish from 1945 to today. Infuriating and redemptive.

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
Vietnam, being there and living with the repercussions. Required reading for anyone who lived through the 1960s but was too young-or clueless-to understand at the time.


Middlemarch George Eliot
The Pickwick Papers Charles Dickens
The Idiot Fyodor Dostoevsky
I’ll Take You There Wally lamb
Moonglow Michael Chabon
Last Girl on the Freeway: Joan Rivers Leslie Bennett
Patient HM Luke Dittrich
The Heavenly Table Donald Ray Pollock
In the Darkroom Susan Faludi
Victoria by Daisy Goodwin
Evicted by Matthew Desmond
His Final Battle: FDR’s Last Year  Joseph Llelveyd
How to Survive a Plague David France
Eleanor and Hick by Susan Quinn
Conclave Robert Harris
When Paris Sizzled Mary McAuliffe
Eileen Otessa Mostfegh
The Reactive Masande Ntsghenga
Valiant Gentlemen Sabina Murray (Roger Casement)


Do Not Say We Have Nothing  Madeleine Thien
Absolutely on Music conversations with Ozawa
*North Water Ian McAuliffe
The Sleepwalker Chris Bohjalian
*Commonwealth Ann Patchett
Victoria The Queen Julia Baird
Rasputin Douglas Smith
*Born a Crime Trevor Noah
Two by Two Nicholas Sparks
*Class Lucina Rosenfeld
Sandcastle Girls  Chris Bohjalian
Sweetbitter Stephanie Danler
Private Lives of the Tudors  Tracy Broman
The Paris Architect Charles Belfoure
God’s Kingdom Howard John Mosher  Kinneison family Vermont

*The Dry Jane Harper murder mystery Australia
Emma Alexander McCall Smith
Revolution in Color: John Singleton Copley Jane Kamensky
Robert Lowell: Setting the River of Fire Kay Redfield Jamison
The Bone Orchard Paul Doiron
*+The World Will be Saved by Beauty: An intimate portrait of my Grandmother, Dorothy Day  Kate Hennessy
Idaho Emily Ruskovich
Days Without End Sebastian Barry
The Long Loneliness Dorothy Day
Host Robin Cook
The Devil in Webster Jean Hanff Gorelitz
Home Harlan Coben
You Can’t Go Home Again Tom Wolfe
On the Edge of Gone Corinne Duyviss
*The Inheritance Nikki Kapsembellis Alzheimer’s DeMoe family
*Ill Will Dan Chaon
*Lincoln in the Bardo Dan Saunders
Elizabeth Bishop Miracle for Breakfast Megan Mullaly
Life with Judy Garland Sid Luft
Easy Essays Peter Maurin
Dorothy Day: A Radical Devotion Robert Coles
One of the Boys Daniel Margariel
The Book of American Martyrs Joyce Carol Oates
Stranger in the Woods: The Story of the Last True Hermit Michael Finkel
Loaves and Fishes Dorothy Day
*Tenth of December (stories) George Saunders
* No one cares about crazy people Ron Powers
Mockingbird Songs Wayne Flynt
Dr. Knox Peter Spiegelman
The Whistler John Grisham
Since We Fell Dennis Lehane
*House of Names Colm Toibin
*Anything is Possible Elizabeth Strout
Inga (Arvad) Scott Faris
Crime and Punishment Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Fact of a Body Alexandria Marzano Leznevich
Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign Jonathan Allen and Amie Parness
Jesus Sons (stories) Denis Johnson
Angels Denis Johnson
Anne Boleyn A King’s Obsession Alison Weir
*Rebel Mother Peter Andreas
*+How to Survive a Summer Nick White
When the world stopped to listen: Van Cliburn’s Cold War Triumph  and the Aftermath Stuart Isaacoff
The End of Eddy Edourard Louis
*Trajectory (stories) Richard Russo esp. “Voices”
Isadora Amelia Gray
*Saints for All Occasions J. Courtney Sullivan
The Child Fiona Barton
The One Man Andrew Gross
Prince Charles Sally Bedell Smith
We Could be Beautiful Swan Huntley
Sometimes Amazing Things Happen Elizabeth Ford, MD
*+Stephen Florida Gabe Habash
*+Toscanini Musician of Conscience Harvey Sachs
Al Franken Giant of the Senate
Modern Gods Nick Laird
You Should Have Left Daniel Kehlmann
He’s Got Rhythm: The Life and Career of Gene Kelly by Sara and Cynthia Brideson
Mighty Jack Ben Hatke
**The Hate U Give Angie Thomas
  T-H-U-G L-I-F-E
(They Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody)
We Were the Lucky Ones Georgia Hunter
The Hue and Cry at Our House Benjamin Taylor
*The Accusation Bandi
    ( short stories smuggled out of N. Korea)
Friedelind Wagner: Richard Wagner’s Rebellious Granddaughter Eva Rieger
The Game of Crowns: Elizabeth, Camilla, Kate Christopher Andersen
This is my face, try not to stare Gabourey Sidibe
There Your heart lies Mary Gordon
See What I Have Done (Lizzie Borden) Sarah Schmidt
Jackie’s Girl Kathy McKeon
*Mrs. Fletcher Tom Perrotta
Making Rent in Bed-Stuy Brandon Harris
Roots Alex Hailey
Less Andrew Sean Greer
*Defending Jacob William Landay
Dying Cory Taylor
The Last Place you Look Kristen Lepionka
What Happened Hillary Clinton
Camino Island John Grisham
The Last Tudor Phillippa Gregory
Mission Flats William Landay
Liner Notes Loudon Wainwright III
Wonder RJ Palacio
*Crimes of the Father Thomas Kenneally
Submission Michel Hollebecque
**The Return of the Prodigal Son Henri Nouwen
Growing up Kennedy Laurie Graham
Turtles all the Way Down John Green
Column of Fire Ken Follett
My Life with Bob Pamela Paul’
**The Heart’s Invisible Furies John Boyne
Love, Henri: Letters of Henri Nouwen
Adam Henri Nouwen
*The Ninth Hour Alice McDermott
Unbelievable My Front Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History  Katy Tur
Bed Stuy is Burning Brian Platzer
 Victoria and Abdul Sharbani Basu
Twenty-Six Seconds: A Personal history of the Zapruder Film Alexandra Zapruder
Prague Sonata Bradford Morrow
American Radical: Inside the World of an Undercover FBI Agent Tamer Elnoury
*The Things They Carried Tim O’Brien
 *A History of Loneliness John Boyne
Overweight Sensation:  The Life and Comedy of Allan Sherman Mark Cohen
*Little Fires Everywhere Celeste Ng
Our Mutual Friend Charles Dickens
Birdcage Walk Helen Dunsmore
Oriana Fallaci Cristina DiStefano
Broken Irish Edward J. Delaney

Priestdaddy Patricia Lockwood

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Thomas Merton on Gandhi

"...Gandhi recognized, as no other world leader of our time has done, the necessity to be free from the pressures, the exorbitant and tyrannical demands of a society that is violent because it is essentially greedy, lustful and cruel. Therefore he fasted, observed days of silence, lived frequently in retreat, knew the value of solitude, as well as the totally generous expenditure of his time and energy in listening to others and communicating with them. He recognized the impossibility of being a peaceful and nonviolent man if one submits passively to the insatiable requirements of a society maddened by overstiumulation and obsessed with the demons of noise, voyeurism and speed."

A Tribute to Gandhi included in Seeds of Destruction by Thomas Merton, published in 1961.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

James Levine

I spent a lot of my time between 1979 and 1991 at the Metropolitan Opera. Usually as a standee, when $2.00 admitted you to the top floor of the opera house. Hard to see, but oh my, you could hear the splendor. And splendor it was:  the final performances of Nilsson, Bergonzi, Price and Sutherland, Scotto a lot, Milnes, Pavaortti still in his prime. Domingo singing to break your heart.

The greatest splendor was the Met orchestra and chorus. They attained world class status on their own, regardless of the soloists on a given night. The reason for all of this magnificence was James Levine.

To my dying day I will never forget James Levine's conducting in the last five minutes of Pelleas et Melisande, as the orchestra expired shortly after the heroine. Levine made Parsifal so beautiful you would stand through five hours more. His opening of Die Walkure left the audience terrified as Siegmund literally ran for his life.

The Met during my years WAS James Levine James Levine James Levine. Good.

I heard the rumors. You couldn't be within a mile of Lincoln Center or anywhere he conducted  (Vienna, Munich, Bayreuth, Chicago, Ravinia, Boston, Tanglewood) and not hear the rumors. They long predated my time in New York. James Levine liked to have sex with teen age boys. The Met engaged an African American tenor-who was at least an adult and presumably willing-to keep the conductor away from kids. Better not stand with your back to him if you are a young man. People made jokes. Adults, well placed professionals made jokes, not just idiotic kids like me.

Nobody knew anything.

It was all rumor. You can't prosecute a rumor. You can't take a rumor to court. There was never any proof offered and there were no specific accusations. You know why not? Because, the rumor mill insisted, there were huge amounts of payola, from the Met, and from Levine's management, (run by a now deceased titan long thought to have controlled all aspects of the classical music business). There were stories of divas and or their husbands coming up with alibis or bail.

Now men are coming forward claiming James Levine abused them sexually when they were young music students. I believe the men. How does coming forward benefit them? What their bravery has done is finally put a stop to the abuse. Levine is a 75 year old man in a wheel chair who I suspect has conducted his last performance. (The Verdi Requiem last Saturday. I sat listening in my car in a parking lot not caring if I was late for a commitment, the performance was so thrilling) I'm not sure what the system can do to Levine other than destroy his reputation and career. I loved his work, but after what I've read, he's getting off easy.

What troubles me-not quite as much as the abuse suffered by his victims*-are the gossip and the jokes I heard and indulged in those many years ago. I'm ashamed. I share the fury being directed toward the highest levels of Met management who are smugly "taking these accusations very seriously." Denials of any cover ups are flying out of Lincoln Center but I don't believe them.
Rumors of child abuse should have been enough to remove Levine and those  protecting him. Take all of your august financial resources and try to prove the rumors. If you really can't then they remain rumors. But was any powerful effort made to find the truth thirty years ago? Or were people too afraid of Mr. Wilford and busy CYA. A lot of the abuse currently reported took place in the late 1960s, before Levine was ever at the Met. How was this not known? How far back does the company's complicity go? To Rudolf Bing? Certainly in later years its ridiculous to suggest that no one in authority, the people who raised the money and signed the checks knew nothing about this-that they lacked facts.

That Levine's criminal activities and the cover ups at the highest levels of music management combined will destroy the Metropolitan Opera is a possibility. Who will give them money now? Who will join a board that may be corporately responsible for covering up criminal behavior?
It's grossly unfair to the hundreds of people who work for the Metropolitan Opera. People who go to work every day in whatever capacity, who depend upon the Met for a paycheck, who did nothing wrong and should not have to forfeit their livelihoods. Decision makers, if complicit, should pay. They were the people who had the authority to make the abuse stop. They chose to pay, deny and look the other way. For of the rest of us, in the audience, on the bus, walking past Lincoln Center, who traded gossip and made jokes, we'll have to try to forgive ourselves and hope all of these men get the best justice possible.

I'm relieved not to be in a position of deciding whether of not Levine's recordings should be played on the air. Since last week I've been listening to a Levine conducted 1987 performance of Nozze di Figaro with Van Dam, Battle,von Stade and the wonderful Elisabeth Soderstrom. I've put it away. It's not less wonderful since the news broke. But I am. The Met was a home to a lot of us, even those of us from humble circumstances. Now that home is no longer a safe place.

*I dislike the term victim but if it was ever appropriate.....