Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Twenty Years Ago Today

. . . I smoked my last cigarette. I remember where I went for breakfast that day: Dalt's - what I was reading: MR SKEFFINGTON, the movie I saw that afternoon: CROSSING DELANCEY. Getting dressed to go to a meeting that evening, I really wanted to smoke, and I thought, what the hell, nobody knows I quit today - I can stop off on my way, buy cigarettes, smoke this evening, and try again tomorrow. But by the time I was dressed and on my way, the urge was past.

I can't say that I had a lot of confidence I was going to make it, but somehow I did, and have continued smoke-free to this day. I used Nicorette gum for 4 days (available only by prescription in those days) and in the early days had the support of 12-Step meetings.

All addicts have a list of "Things I Might Just 'Use' Over" - they are the experiences of Life - death of a spouse or a parent or a pet, upheavals in lifestyle, etc.

Most of these have come to pass - I've lost both my parents over these 20 years, endured the deaths of several dear friends (one of whom I was with when he died), had to put two cats to sleep (I stayed with both during the process), as well as the death of a beloved aunt - at no time during any of these crises did I think about smoking a cigarette. For the past 3 years I've been dealing with employment problems. Some days it really sucks. I still enjoy watching people smoke, especially Bette Davis, though I can't say I care for the smell of it (when talking to people who are quitting smoking, I usually advise them against watching films from the 1930s through the 1950s (such as CASABLANCA and NOW VOYAGER) - they smoked like crazy in films during those years!

In all this time, only once have I actually been so close to lighting up that walking away from it took all my resolve: the morning of September 11th, 2001. I had moment of not really giving a damn. And then I thought, "If I smoke, it will be one more victory for them."

I didn't smoke. But the stress of 9/11 caused newscaster Peter Jennings to start smoking again - who knows? If he hadn't started up again, perhaps we wouldn't have lost him to lung cancer a few years later.

So, it isn't always easy. But today I'd have to choose between a pack of cigarettes or a gallon of gas - the prices of both have increased over 20 years!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Happy Birthday, Dad.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAD. You'd be 90 today. You're missed very much.
Love from your son, your daughter, and your granddaughter.

Friday, June 20, 2008


Here it is again - do they seem to come around faster as we get older?

I share my birthday with quite an impressive group of talented, creative, successful people in the Arts world:

Jacques Offenbach

Lillian Hellman

Gus Schilling

Errol Flynn

Gail Patrick

Terence Young

Audie Murphy

Chet Atkins

Martin Landau

Olympia Dukakis

Brett Halsey

Wendy Craig

Dan Greenburg

Stephen Frears

Brian Wilson

Anne Murray

Tina Sinatra

Lionel Richie

John Goodman

Vikram Seth

Cyndi Lauper

Chuck Wagner

Nicole Kidman

Maybe there's hope for me yet?

I've never gotten a birthday card from any of them, by the way. No matter - I'd rather have one from my parents, or from Aunt Lillian and Uncle Sam, but neither will happen again. I'm glad I saved the cards I received from them over the years.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

That WIND is Back!!!

After an absence of two years or so, Gone With the Wind has made a reappearance in what is known as mass-market (or rack-sized) paperback format.

I’m a long-time GWTW fan and collector, and I hate to say this, but I don’t like it!

There have been many such paperback editions of Gone With the Wind published in the U.S. over the years, and I have most of them – several feature cover-art inspired by the famous film (the familiar “flaming love” motif depicting Rhett Butler/Clark Gable carrying an apparently-subdued Scarlett O’Hara/Vivien Leigh against the background of Atlanta in flames), others artists’ renderings of the characters bearing no resemblance to their film counterparts, and at least two which featured virtually no cover illustrations at all, just the book’s title and author.

The new one features an artists’ rendering of Rhett once again carrying Scarlett, but they’re full-figure this time, although half of Rhett’s head and one-third of Scarlett’s are off-cover – Pocket Books, once again GWTW’s publisher after more than 35 years, apparently wasn’t about to pay this time around to license the Gable/Leigh images from Turner Entertainment (although their 1960s paperbacks featured them). Previous paperback editions published by Pocket ran to 862 pages in length and were 7 ¼ high (the industry standard for paperback for decades) by about 1 ¼ inches thick – some of the editions reprinted by Avon Books from 1973 through 1993 were just shy of two inches thick, and the Warner Books reprint published in 1993 (which used the same 1,024-page pagination as the Avon edition) and recently phased-out was about 1 ¾-inches thick.. Pocket Books brand-new 2008 edition has been printed from newly-set type (well, do they still actually set type?) which expands the book’s pagination to a whopping 1,448 pages! And although at 6 ¾ inches in height it’s shorter than previous editions, it’s girth sets a record – 2 3 /4 inches – wider than any standard hardbound edition of the novel!

So what don’t I like about this new edition? Well, I’m not wild about that cover, for one thing – it’s more appropriate for a historical romance รก la Rosemary Rogers than Margaret Mitchell, and will blend right in with the hundreds of similar covers that still grace many a “bodice-ripper” on store shelves. And somehow the book’s thickness makes it look awkward, almost too short (and it is shorter than the average paperback is these days – height for mass-market paperbacks has become variable these days, depending on the publisher’s whim). And while the thickness of the spine should have made it practical to show the book’s title horizontally, as


with the


they instead turned it on its side so that customers have to twist their necks to read the title (could this be an accommodation to at least one of the major chain bookstores who seem to spine as many books as possible, regardless of thickness, thus discouraging many booklovers from browsing and necessitating a trip to the information desk?). The only plus: Pocket is attempting to depict the book’s title as Margaret Mitchell intended it, with a lower-case “w” for "wind".

There’s some biographical data about Margaret Mitchell inside the front and rear covers on the book which is placed too close to the inner spine of the book to be read comfortably. Worse than that, it contains misinformation! I don’t like sloppy jacket-copy – supposedly there are people whose job it is to make sure that facts are checked inside and outside of a book – we’re informed here that Margaret Mitchell “began work on what her friends called ‘the great American novel.’ She showed the finished manuscript, all 1,037 pages of it, to a visiting New York publisher, and on June 10, 1936, Gone with the Wind was published.” Any fan even casually acquainted with the novel’s history knows that when Mitchell unwillingly presented her novel to Macmillan’s Harold Latham in 1935, it was anything but a “finished manuscript” of "1,037 pages" (which was actually the final page tally of Macmillan’s hardcover edition published over a year later) - he had to buy a suitcase in which to transport the disorganized manuscript, which resided in several manila envelopes that had been known over the years to prop up furniture in the apartments in which Mitchell resided with her husband, John R. Marsh – Latham recalled Mitchell warning him: “You may take it, but it’s incomplete, unrevised, there are several versions of some of the chapters, there is no first chapter. . . I hadn’t any intention of letting you or any publisher see it. I only wrote it for my own entertainment.” And Gone With the Wind’s publication date was June 30th, 1936 – not June 10th.

All of these facts could have been easily verified.

But there’s one more thing that’s very disappointing about this new edition, something I’ve never encountered in any other edition of the book, and it’s perhaps the saddest thing of all: Margaret Mitchell’s simple dedication of Gone With the Wind



has been thoughtlessly omitted.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Then and Now

Not long ago I got out one of my earliest journals from the mid-1970s - I knew I'd made some lists of favorite books, and wanted to have a look back at them:

Here are My “10 Best” from March 23rd, 1975:
1. ATLAS SHRUGGED, by Ayn Rand
3. CAPTAINS AND THE KINGS, by Taylor Caldwell
4. CENTENNIAL, by James A. Michener
5. THE SOURCE, by James A. Michener
6. AUNTIE MAME, by Patrick Dennis
7. GONE WITH THE WIND, by Margaret Mitchell
8. THEOPHILUS NORTH, by Thornton Wilder
10. THE BAD SEED, by William March

Two by Rand, two by Caldwell, and two by Michener only left four vacancies! More than a year and a half later, on November 20, 1976, I felt inclined to make another such list:
1. ATLAS SHRUGGED, by Ayn Rand
2. CAPTAINS AND THE KINGS, by Taylor Caldwell
3. CENTENNIAL, by James A. Michener
5. THE BAD SEED, by William March
6. AUNTIE MAME, by Patrick Dennis
7. GONE WITH THE WIND, by Margaret Mitchell
8. LOST HORIZON, by James Hilton
9. TIME AND AGAIN, by Jack Finney

That year and a half apparently brought only minimal changes in my taste: Only Rand is represented by two titles; THE SOURCE, THEOPHILUS NORTH and DEAR AND GLORIOUS PHYSICIAN are gone, the rest (except for ATLAS SHRUGGED, GONE WITH THE WIND and AUNTIE MAME) have merely been shuffled about a bit, up or down a notch, and two that remain favorites to this day – LOST HORIZON and TIME AND AGAIN – have been added. Yet the #10 slot is vacant! Did I get interrupted (the list appears at the end of the entry) or was I just unable to make up my mind?

I suppose these lists should more truthfully have been called "10 Favorites" rather than "10 Best" - there's a big difference between "best" and "favorites"!!! But lo these 30+ years later, several of these titles still rank as favorites with me – AUNTIE MAME, THE BAD SEED, LOST HORIZON, TIME AND AGAIN, GONE WITH THE WIND – and I re-read them every few years – I re-read CAPTAINS AND THE KINGS last year for the first time in 30 years or so (I'd read it four times over a period of 2 years in the early 1970s), and enjoyed it very much – Caldwell was a terrific (if somewhat long-winded) storyteller, and it’s a darned shame that her popularity dwindled after her death – only CAPTAINS AND THE KINGS remains available in paperback. Historical novels are in vogue again and somebody ought to reissue some of Caldwell’s titles. CENTENNIAL is still probably my favorite Michener novel, though it’s been years since I read it (or any Michener novel, for that matter - I simply burned-out). While I still consider ATLAS SHRUGGED and THE FOUNTAINHEAD remarkable and influential books, I haven’t gotten through either of them again in many years – Rand is simply too depressing – her books so shot through with hatred of the human race that one wants to reach for the razor blades...

So, if I were creating that "10 Favorites" list today, what books would appear on it?
1. ASTA'S BOOK, by Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell writing as)
2. ATONEMENT, by Ian McEwan
3. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, by Harper Lee (I can't believe that both lists above omitted it! What was I thinking???)
4. TIME AND AGAIN, BY Jack Finney
5. THE BAD SEED, by William March
8. THE FORSYTE SAGA, by John Galsworthy (which is actually 3 novels)

See? The old favorites persist - only the first two could be termed "recent"! It's not so easy anymore. My tastes in reading have changed very much over the years - I'm sure there's another list somewhere that includes PENTIMENTO by Lillian Hellman, whose writing I was passionate about for a long time (we share a birthday). I re-read her memoir, AN UNFINISHED WOMAN, earlier this year and still enjoyed it very much, despite no longer being able to trust her (Hellman's veracity has been in doubt ever since Mary McCarthy's declaration during an interview with Dick Cavett that that "Every word she [Hellman] writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the'." Hellman's reputation has never quite recovered - a sad fate for America's foremost female playwright).

Whereas once upon a time I was fairly indiscriminate about reading commercial fiction (yes, I used to read each new Sidney Sheldon novel upon publication), very little of it appeals to me any more, so it's very hard for me to make recommendations to people about recently-published novels. I gave up on Patricia Cornwell and Elizabeth George years ago, and have never read a John Grisham, a James Patterson, a Tom Clancy. I read Stephen King's latest, DUMA KEY, on a whim - my first King novel since BAG OF BONES in 1997 - except for King's insight into the narrator's life-changing physical injuries. Although I enjoyed it, DUMA KEY could have been written the day after he completed BAG OF BONES. King is always praising his editors, who apparently never suggest that he trim a word from his often-bloated novels (after the debacle of THE STAND in 1978, I don't think King's ever been open to trimming a novel - he doesn't have to do that anymore).

One commercial author I did remain oddly loyal to, despite the fact that his books got worse and worse, was Harold Robbins. THE PIRANHAS in 1992 was pretty bad, and was supposedly the last book he wrote on his own, due to health problems subsequent novels were ghost-written - no wonder I only finished one of them, TYCOON, which I think was published either just before or just after his death. I honestly can't recall whether or not I finished THE RAIDERS, which was an unnecessary sequel to THE CARPETBAGGERS (one of his best boos), but I know I didn't finish THE STALLION, an equally unnecessary sequel to THE BETSY (one of his worst). After Robbins death in 1997, his name was "franchised" and various writers hired to write "Harold Robbins" novels (the same had been done with V.C. Andrews, and has since been done with Lawrence Sanders and Robert Ludlum) - I've never bothered with those, but I do re-read Robbins earlier novels from time to time - 79 PARK AVENUE and WHERE LOVE HAS GONE two summers ago, and THE CARPETBAGGERS last year - I had tears in my eyes by the final page of 79 PARK AVENUE, and THE CARPETBAGGERS is still my definition of a "riveting read."

Friday, May 30, 2008

Longest Evening

Tonight will mark the second anniversary of what was probably the longest, most emotion-charged evening of my life: the long evening during which my father departed from this life as we know it. Journey's End, if you prefer the romantic phrases (more about those euphemisms later). Irving Swan, born Irving Swenciski, aged 87 years, nine months and 6 days, was checking out. A life's journey which had begun in Brooklyn, New York in 1918 was ending in a Hospice in West Palm Beach, Florida, in 2006.

My sister, my niece, and a friend of my niece's spent that last evening with him in his room at the Hospice, watching and listening as each breath he took grew longer and more protracted, as the pauses between them became longer and longer. The evening drew on - we brought in sandwiches from Subway, and each took a break to eat in one of the relation rooms provided by the Hospice.

We knew he was dying, and that the end wasn't far off - we had been advised that all the signs were there (I can't say enough good things about the compassion of Hospice workers, by the way).

To say the least, it was an exhausting ordeal, one which repeatedly stretched our emotions taut, only to release them to begin the process again. Several times the pause between breaths was so long, up to a minute or even more, that we thought, "Okay, this is it." But it wasn't, and suddenly he'd draw one of those long, protracted breaths again. And the process would begin again, and again. And again. Talk about your basic emotional roller-coaster.

Eventually my sister, my niece, and the friend left - my sister and niece were pretty much all-in by then, and we thought it would be better if they left. It was late-evening by now, but though things appeared to be winding down, there was still no telling how much longer it would go on. The Hospice nurse, and the pamphlets they'd given us to read, told us that the time-frame varied with the individual - many patients, I already knew, died during the night, in the quiet hours, after family and friends had left. Was this my father's plan? Only he knew, and he wasn't telling (which, if you knew my father, you'd know was quite typical of him!).

Many years previous to this evening, I suppose at the age of around nine or ten years old, I began to develop an anxiety about losing my father, about him dying. It had its roots in the sudden death of father of one of the boys who lived in my apartment building, a man who was a year younger than my father. He had felt ill while driving home from work, pulled over, and suffered a massive and fatal heart-attack.

Afterwards, and for many years thereafter, I worried about my father, about something happening to him. If he was late coming home from work, I worried. If he and mom went out for the evening (which they didn’t do all that often) and they were long in getting home, I worried – had there been an accident?. Sometimes I even watched him as he slept, to make sure he was breathing.

I don’t know how long this ‘obsession’ persisted; though I’m sure I outgrew it at some point. With time comes the understanding that one will likely outlive ones’ parents, and that if one lives a distance away, as I did by then, there will inevitably come a phone call with bad news: it’s part of the scheme of things, the natural progression of life. Such a call had come on March 29th, 1996 about my mother, and on January 1st, 2005 a call brought news that my father had had a minor stroke. The stroke had weakened him, and though he'd made some progress for the first couple of months, it seemed that once he had realized he would be unable to return to the life he'd been living, maintaining his own apartment, still going bowling and dancing several times a week at 87, he'd begun to lose his will to get better.

Now, after three months of decline, he had developed problems with his breathing and other physical manifestations of physical withdrawal from life, and been placed in the Hospice a week earlier, where they'd keeping him comfortable with fluids and oxygen. I’d gotten there the previous Thursday, and my sister had arrived the next day, Friday. He was asleep almost all of the time at this point, sometimes waking only to give out a long, deep sigh that was almost a moan - we really couldn't really decide which - our main concern was that he not be in any kind of pain.

At some point during the intervening hours spent at his bedside since then, and away from it as well, something had fallen into place within me without my even thinking about it: I realized that not only was the very thing I had once feared so terribly and so obsessively in fact happening, but that I was perfectly at peace with it.

My father was dying, and I was perfectly at peace with it! No fear, no anxiety, no worry - My father was dying, and I was perfectly okay with it.

Some might call this "Grace" - I don't know. Whatever it was, it was there and it was real.

I remained by myself with him until sometime after midnight, watching him, listening to those breaths, waiting. I knew he would do it his way. My father always had. Over the past several days I had said all I needed to say to my father, regardless of whether he heard or understood. So at last, sometime after midnight, I said, "Well, old man, maybe you want to do this on your own, I don't know. So I'll see you tomorrow, if that's what you want." so I kissed him goodbye, because I knew that it might indeed be goodbye, and then I stood in the doorway for a minute, watching, waiting for his next breath, because if this was indeed going to be my last look at my father, I damn well wanted him to still be breathing. He took another breath. I turned and left.

I went back to his apartment, where my sister and I were staying. We sat and talked, neither of us ready to go to sleep.

At 1:50AM (technically the early hours of May 31st by then) the phone rang - it was my niece - the Hospice had phoned her: my father was dead, had died at 1:40 AM.

Suddenly, with this phone call, I was an orphan - my sister and I were both orphans, at the age of 57 and 49 (my sister's birthday is at the beginning of May).

Moments after the phone call I stood in front of the entertainment center which housed the television, and upon which where various knick-knacks, photos of my parents, my sister, my niece, and I, and of my father and his friends on cruises. I had been joking for days that as long as my father lived this was his apartment and these were his things, but as soon as he was gone, all the pictures of his lady friends would come down! (It was indeed just a joke – I was always very pleased that my father had made a life for himself in the decade since my mother’s death.) As I stood there my eye fell on the photo of my father taken for my Bar-Mitzvah, looking fine
in a tuxedo, as he always did - with a shock I realized that my father
was only 50 when that picture was taken in June of 1969 (actually, two months shy of 51).

Now my father was dead, three weeks before the birthday when I myself would turn 50 - the age he was in that picture. But somehow I'd known or at least sensed that my father wasn't going to be around for my 50th - it was just a feeling I'd had for the past 2-3 months, when he wasn't making much progress - my mother had died 3 months before I turned 40, and I just started getting this feeling that my father wouldn't see my 50th - it wasn't a bad feeling, or an oppressive one, or even a premonition, just a feeling, almost a knowledge.

And so it came to pass. I'm not really one for euphemisms - everyone is different and has their own ways of facing things: many people go to great lengths to avoid any mention of death and dying - I remember talking with a woman about an author who had died sometime before, and more than once the woman used the term "She's no longer with us..." My sister is apt to used the terms "Passed on" or Passed away," and I've encountered many African-Americans who won't go further than saying that "So-and-so passed"(which is quite ironic, considering the negative connotations that the term "passing" has for many African-Americans - but that's another topic).

So, for myself, I have to put it that at 1:40 AM on the 31st of May, 2006, my father died. Whether he "passed away" or "passed on" (to somewhere else) is another story. And yes, the expression I remember it as though it were yesterday still applies.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Few of My Favorite Things

I wonder if Oscar Hammerstein could have turned a few of my favorite things into lyrics?

Briefly, and in no order, here are some:

My Boys - Simon and Schuster - I'm the only person I know who named his cats after a publisher (who happened to be Carly Simon's father and his business partner).


Hitchcock: YES (Just about anything).
Scorcese: NO (with the exceptions of RAGING BULL and AGE OF INNOCENCE).

Favorite Actress: BETTE DAVIS. In 1966 I saw a re-release of WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? - (remember when movies used to be re-released to theaters?) - it provided my introduction to both BETTE DAVIS and JOAN CRAWFORD - my life hasn't been the same since - What an introduction! I'm a big fan of Kate Hepburn as well, and of Audrey Hepburn, and Greer Garson. My favorite contemporary actresses: Kate Winslet, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett.

The Voices: JUDY. Barbra. Liza. Shirley. Bernadette. Ella. Ethel. Lena. Cleo. Johnny. Matt Munro..

I love British dramas and mini-series (the Masterpiece Theater variety) - UPSTAIRS/DOWNSTAIRS, THE FORSYTE SAGA (the original 1967 black-and-white version), THE PALLISERS, THE JEWEL IN THE CROWN, I CLAUDIUS, HOUSE OF CARDS/TO PLAY THE KING/FINAL CUT - the recent CRANWELL was brilliant, and I've been catching up on some Masterpiece Theater Viewer Favorites that I've missed: PRIME SUSPECT 1 and THE ADVENTURES AND MISADVENTURES OF MOLL FLANDERS (the latter featured more heaving bosoms, tremulous thighs and bucking buttocks than I've seen outside of a porn movie, but it was fun nevertheless). And I love the BritComs as well - ARE YOU BEING SERVED?, TO THE MANOR BORN, KEEPING UP APPEARANCES, etc.

There is nothing like a Dame: Eileen, Helen, Judi, and Maggie. . .

I tuned out on American television somewhere in the late 1980s or early 1990s - I've never (or barely) seen SEINFIELD, FRIENDS, MURPHY BROWN, HOME IMPROVEMENT, ROSEANNE, FRASIER (other than a few minutes of a rerun that happened to be on), and that pretty much goes for American television drama as well. And don't even think about mentioning "American Idol" around here, okay?

I was raised on the classic horror films of the 1930s - 1960s, from Universal to Hammer - I still love them, have them on VHS or DVD, and revisit them all every 2-3 years. You could say that growing up my best friends were THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, THE MUMMY, DRACULA, and FRANKENSTEIN - the friendships have endured to this day.

RUTH RENDELL: My absolute favorite writer, regardless of genre. The only writer I like better is RUTH RENDELL when she writes as BARBARA VINE - something really incredible happens when Rendell becomes Barbara Vine - her Vine novel ASTA'S BOOK (retitled ANNA'S BOOK for the U.S.) has become my favorite novel - at last count, I've read it 11 times since its publication in 1993. I've read almost every Rendell twice (a "Rendell" being her 21 Chief Inspector Wexford novels, along with about 25 stand-alone novels of psychological suspense), and I've read several of the 12 Vines published so far (a 13th is due in August), such as A DARK-ADAPTED EYE, A FATAL INVERSION, HOUSE OF STAIRS and THE BRIMSTONE WEDDING, anywhere from 3 to 5 times each. I'm known to some as "Ruth Rendell's #1 American Fan" and it frustrates me that, even though she's been published here in the U.S. for 43 years, she's still an unknown quantity to many readers here. It's a personal mission with me to make sure they find out!

As far as other detective fiction goes, I'm also a big P.D. James fan. I cut my mystery teeth on Agatha Christie, of course - I still collect her, and have a soft spot for Christie Classics such as THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD and AND THEN THERE WERE NONE.

I Knew Him When Department: American crime novelist James Lee Burke was my college writing teacher back at Miami Dade Community College in 1977 - I caught on to his Dave Robicheaux series when the first one was published and knew it was a winner - I've enjoyed his success very much - I haven't met a former student of his who doesn't. When he used to do a book signing in Atlanta, former students would drive in from hundreds of miles away.

Some of my favorite books (aside from Rendell): LOST HORIZON and RANDOM HARVEST by James Hilton (I re-read both every 4-5 years), THE BAD SEED by William March (a favorite since I was in 6th grade in 1969 - one of the best novels of psychological suspense ever - forget the movie!) - TIME AND AGAIN by Jack Finney (the best time-travel novel ever), TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (which I recently re-read for the umptieth time). I loved McEwan's ATONEMENT and thought the film made from it was excellent - they did a good job considering that the book couldn't have been easy to adapt. I used to be a big fan of James A. Michener and Larry McMurtry, too. On the less-than-literary side, last year I re-read THE CARPETBAGGERS by Harold Robbins and PEYTON PLACE by Grace Metalious, and neither can be topped for sheer entertaining storytelling. Ditto Irwin Shaw's RICH MAN, POOR MAN which I re-read a couple of years back and couldn't put down. Honorable Mention to Jackie Susann and VALLEY OF THE DOLLS - it just doesn't hold up quite as well as Robbins and Metalious.

I love good biography and history - David McCullough does both brilliantly (THE GREAT BRIDGE, THE PATH BETWEEN THE SEAS, TRUMAN, JOHN ADAMS) and so did the late William Manchester (THE GLORY AND THE DREAM, AMERICAN CAESAR, THE ARMS OF KRUPP, DARKNESS VISIBLE).

My hero and heroine are Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt - both made lemonade when life handed them lemons, and that's putting it mildly.

Oh yes, I'm a Sondheim fan from way back - I used to think he'd read my mail when he wrote songs that seemed to be about me: "Losing My Mind," "Anyone Can Whistle," and "Being Alive." FOLLIES remains the greatest show I ever saw on Broadway - I saw the original 1971 production about 2 weeks into its Broadway run.

C'est Moi - Greetings and Salutations

Hello Friends, Old and New:

Well, I've finally succumbed to the millennium's concept of self-absorption, so here I am with my very own blog - THE SWAN'S-EYE VIEW (what else could it be, eh?).

I'll post from time to time about my favorite books, movies, or people, or my least-favorite books, movies, or people - whatever is on my mind, a desire to praise or a need to vent, or something in-between.

I hope we'll have some interesting discussions here. I'm not quite sure how it all works, but I'll learn, so be patient with me, because I really haven't the vaguest notion of what I'm doing!