Alien Covenant


The day I returned from Japan, we went immediately to see Alien Covenant on opening day.  In our family, we are fans of the alien franchise, the first and second ones were good, and the first Prometheus movie was great and made us think about our god and our maker, our truth and our destiny. This latest movie didn’t have those kinds of deep waters. I missed Charlize Theron who carried the movie forward on her slim shoulders.  The great subtle beauty of this movie was the relationship between Michael Fassbender (always a pleasure to watch) and himself.  The deep longing between a man and another man was played so beautifully that you felt the keys of your heart being played like a symphony.


The horrific part is blood, guts, aliens and more aliens and an unraveling of plot.  It’s hard to be emotionally involved with these aliens with their blood that melts metal, and their complete lack of feeling.  The aliens are simply monsters. There is no passion, just the instinct to kill people.  Aliens erupt from human bellies; guts and blood poured forth all over the screen.  I wonder how many gallons of blood they used for this movie? The last movie made me want to see more Prometheus.  Now I’m not sure.  The other alien movies were sustained by our relationship with Ripley.  No one is alive for us to follow to the next movie.  It was an alien bloodbath.

Published in: on May 25, 2017 at 8:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

When are you coming home?

I’m on Amtrak getting ready to go to San Diego to hear the rehearsal for Imagine Dead Imagine

remembering the three years I came down every week to teach my students at San Diego State MFA who were terrific. I like the train lilting down the tracks, the part where you see the ocean rushing by and Mark would make me chicken drumsticks for the trip. Today I have only hard boiled eggs and an apple. But it will be fine.  I like being hungry on the train. It feels good.


My friend Karen Shoemaker is thinking of coming to California by train from the Midwest, and if she does, she’ll be snug in her berth writing her heart out, but also reading, staring out the window and reminding men on the train that she’s married. Part of Karen’s novel, Meaning of Names happens on a train, so I think she’s always figuring out ways to get back to the train and the story. We’ve taken off now in the early morning light.  This is one of the newer smoother trains, so I can read and type pretty easily.  The old ones are so bumpy you feel like your brain is being jarred.  I have five manuscripts to edit so no window gazing for me. Well maybe a little.  I’m on the ocean side, and the ocean is always talking to me and in the immortal words of Brendan Constantine,

“Oh yes, the oceans.

They asked what they always ask

And I promised I’d repeat it,

Why do you never call?

                                When are you coming home?”

Published in: on May 25, 2017 at 5:17 am  Leave a Comment  

Living in the Weather of the World, Richard Bausch is such an amazing collection of stories that it takes your breath away. If I had written either “Veterans Night” or “The Knoll,” I could just hang it up.  I could just start whistling “We are the champions,” I could start dancing in the streets.  When you are reading Bausch, you are in the hands of a master.  His writing is so good, you feel like you are in a hammock rocking back and forth.


My favorite Bausch book has always been Peace,


but now this book? The short story collection blew me away.  Bausch is a master of his craft.  These are the stories of the compressed life.  Read it and flex your writing hands. Have courage, young Skywalker.

Published in: on May 9, 2017 at 9:43 pm  Leave a Comment  


Nutshell by Ian McEwan is a book you don’t want to miss.  The whole book is told from the point of view of a babe in the womb.  The baby hears a murder planned, and his mother is in on the plan.  His mother is ready to kill, she’s ready to get blood on her hands, ready to kill the baby’s father.  You keep reading and it takes a while before you’re inside one of the greatest stories of English literature, Hamlet.  Gertrude my darling, why do you whet your knife as your belly swells? This has got to be one of the most fun books Ian McEwan has ever written.  You are inside your mother’s womb in the wet and slime of it, listening to the murder plans. You put the book down for a minute? You can’t wait to get back.

Published in: on May 3, 2017 at 8:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

If you stop and think

What if aliens are watching us and laughing that on this beautiful planet we spend so much time tapping keys.

Why do we have wars?

This 45th president is an outrage.

Why don’t we read more good books?

I need more sleep.

It’s my family that matters and creative work.

Not all of this work stuff really matters.

Why are so many people angry?

Why do I feel small when I could feel grand?

These trees, these clouds, these actual friends, how did I get so lucky?

If you stop and think

Published in: on April 26, 2017 at 11:37 am  Comments (1)  

The Nest Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney


I met Cynthia at the Pasadena Festival of Women’s books and she had the dynamic energy of a five year old, she’s like a dancer/trapeze artist.  Stuff I liked:  The description of New York, I liked the Grand Central description including the Campbell Apartment bar there, and I liked the feeling of walking around Brooklyn in the book.  The writing is wonderful, such spiff and polish of language, the story of the twins, one gay, one straight, the gay uncles, but the thrust of the story, the arc, is the “nest.”  The kids are waiting for an inheritance.  At first I was annoyed with the nest. I didn’t care whether these well off New Yorkers inherited more money. But the story grew on me, I began to realize that the point was if you know something was going to change your life, you’d wait all the time for it and that anticipation changes everything. It’s really a story about how we wait and why we can’t move beyond waiting.  We live in a culture where we don’t like to wait.  We pause to play with our phones in the line at Starbucks; we can’t stand any moments when we are alone. Anticipation changes the Plumbs’ lives.  They glorify the one of the siblings who is a shiny person. In many families, the family member who is glorified is not the one with the most compassion and integrity.  I like the ending of the book, but I won’t spoil it for you.

Published in: on April 24, 2017 at 9:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

Answer 2

My grandfather said don’t tell me anything bad, just tell me the good.
Left me hovering over corpses in the yard like a seagull.
Waiting for someone who had a story covering the past, making it new.

Then Joseph, the Mexican kid who wouldn’t go by Jose, cast off the coat
of many colors to be American with a blond girlfriend, me.
He wanted to woo me and every one else from his Chippendale perch.

He wanted to chip away at the idea that the American cowboy had to be white.
I wanted to try for a dream where I was on the sill of success
taking off into the sky. Circling the wagons from the air.

Joseph and I went out on the town, rewrote our stories in the clouds.
I wasn’t poor. He wasn’t Mexican. We weren’t infidels from our faiths.
We were born again somebodies, soon to be discovered like sunshine.

You open the window, and there we are, so welcome, so lovely.
So everywhere you want to be. So California, so shining.
So catalog perfect, so gleaming and golden and glittering.

America is where you can bury your story corpse, till the soil,
plant new beans and come up singing with a new music.
We danced to the fancy dance music on the sawdust floors.

In Mexico, rich kids broke the law, smoked weed in the streets and cantinas.
Joseph and I broke no laws. We’re just into tequila, we said. Go ahead.
Do what you do. Hiding the true story. There was no one to rescue us.

We could rot in Mexican jails till the cops come home from the whorehouses,
And still we’d be there. No one rapping on the windows, no one offering bail.
All of you have an escape hatch. We admitted to no one our hatchless condition.

When I left him next to the taco stand to move to California, the sun was setting.
I could see it shining through his hair. I left him with a wet kiss.
We said, I will see you again. We said, I will call you in the morning.

In California, there were heaps of riches for somebody else.
Elegant houses for other people. Dresses, cars, streets, shops and bellhops
for people born into the right families. Jobs and suits and funny shoes.

My fist shaking days are past. Fistfuls of hair. Now I breathe in smog and run.
You breathe. You don’t have to keep up. If you were born without legs.
You learn to fly. Your dark parts touch the sky. Your dark parts matter only

In that they define your reason to fly. Oh California, I’m on to you.

– Kate Gale

Published in: on April 20, 2017 at 4:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hanif Kureishi, Intimacy

Hanif Kureishi’s Intimacy takes you inside a man’s head, a man who lives with a wife he despises.  “Your arms are tongs,” his wife complains, Touch me with your hands.” But he cannot touch, he cannot love.  He wants intimacy but he doesn’t have the ability to love.  He’s a terrible father as well.  He admits that he put brandy in his baby’s bottle.  “I booted him hard up the nappy before he was even walking,” he says.  He threw the baby into his bed backwards hitting the baby’s head.  He isn’t much better to his mistress or his girlfriends.  Love, as it happens in this story, can’t heap up and nest and flourish in a hollow man.  It needs a moist home, and that moisture is the ability to love.  If you cannot love, you wouldn’t feel love.  “It is the saddest night, for I am leaving and not coming back.”  That is the first line of our book on intimacy.  Sadness is a closed fist, a closed heart.

Published in: on April 17, 2017 at 7:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

Los Angeles in springtime

It is weekends like this that make Los Angeles all worth it.  It’s warm, but not too warm. We have the windows and doors open and the roses keep blooming one after another.  The cats love this weather; they love nothing more than sitting on the windowsill breathing the outside air.  They dream of birds and squirrels although neither of them has the skill or cunning to catch anything particularly not Thomas who is so close to thirty pounds.  They love the wind against their fur.  The orange tree has many baby oranges, and the mint is growing thickly.  But what you mostly smell is jasmine and honeysuckle.


Our chickens are laying nearly a dozen eggs a day; they are happiest in this weather. How many eggs can we possibly eat a day? Even though I’ve been ill part of the weekend, I love this cool perfect air.  Tomorrow we have an Easter party we are going to and today, I bought party baskets for the kids which were actually party buckets.

I like the way the light pours in through the trees.  Our Empress tree is a glory in the back yard which is muted shades of green.  The front yard is roses and lavender.  You can still take a walk at two in the morning in the afternoon as we did today, walking to the park, up the hidden stairs, Tobi’s dog Zooey dreaming of squirrels and rabbits.  But it won’t last.  Heat will come in, a furnace of thick heat will descend on the Valley by July.  But for now, we breathe.  The cats love the open windows.

Published in: on April 15, 2017 at 7:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Train, Georges Simenon, translated by Robert Baldick.


I jammed through this book. I felt like I was moving through jam.  I wanted to enjoy the book and get through it as quickly as possible.  The train moved slowly and there were sandwiches; chocolate, sex, sometimes in that order, the universe kept turning around and the Germans kept coming until there were—finally—Germans all around them. The nature of war in Europe over the last century—one is eventually surrounded by Germans.  The thrust and pivot of this book is the dark girl and you can’t take your eyes off her.  Why aren’t there more books like this?

Published in: on April 13, 2017 at 8:02 pm  Leave a Comment