Letters 11-23-2015

Cheering From Petoskey While red-eyed rats boil fanatically up from the ancient sewers of Paris to feast on pools of French blood, at the G20 meeting the farcical pied piper of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thrusts a bony finger at the president of the Russian Federation and yells: “liberté, égalité, fraternité, Clinton, Kerry--Obamaism!”

The Other Mothers And Fathers Regarding the very nice recent article on “The First Lady of Yoga,” I have taken many classes with Sandy Carden, and I consider her to be a great teacher. However, I feel the article is remiss to not even give acknowledgement to other very important yoga influences in northern Michigan...

Drop The Blue Angels The last time I went to the National Cherry Festival, I picked the wrong day. The Blue Angels were forcing everyone to duck and cover from the earsplitting cacophony overhead...

Real Advice For The Sick In the Nov. 16 article “Flu Fighters,” author Kristi Kates fails to mention the most basic tool in our arsenal during Influenza season... the flu vaccine! I understand you might be afraid of being the victim of Jenny McCarthyism, but the science is there...

Keeping Traverse City in the Dark Our environment is our greatest asset. It sustains our lives; it drives our economy. We ignore it at our peril. Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) has submitted letters of concern to both the city commission and planning commission regarding the proposed 9-story buildings on Pine Street. We have requested an independent environmental assessment with clear answers before a land use permit is granted...

All About Them Another cartoon by Jen Sorensen that brings out the truth! Most of her cartoons are too slanted in a Socialist manner, but when she gets it correct, she hits the nail on the target! “Arizona is the first state to put a 12-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits.” That quote is in the opening panel... 

Unfair To County Employees It appears that the commissioners of Grand Traverse County will seek to remedy a shortfall in the 2016 budget by instituting cuts in expenditures, the most notable the reduction of contributions to various insurance benefits in place for county employees. As one example, the county’s contributions to health insurance premiums will decrease from ten to six percent in 2016. What this means, of course, is that if a county employee wishes to maintain coverage at the current level next year, the employee will have to come up with the difference...

Up, Not Out I would like to congratulate the Traverse City Planning Commission on their decision to approve the River West development. Traverse City will either grow up or grow out. For countless reasons, up is better than out. Or do we enjoy such things as traffic congestion and replacing wooded hillsides with hideous spectacles like the one behind Tom’s West Bay. At least that one is on the edge of town as opposed to in the formerly beautiful rolling meadows of Acme Township...

Lessons In Winning War I am saddened to hear the response of so many of legislators tasked with keeping our country safe. I listen and wonder if they know what “winning” this kind of conflict requires or even means? Did we win in Korea? Did we win in Vietnam? Are we winning in Afghanistan? How is Israel winning against the Palestinians? Will they “take out” Hezbollah...

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Writers, Wars, Wit and Words

Nancy Sundstrom - September 18th, 2003
Is all fair in love and publishing?
Few would probably know better than veteran authors Garrison Keillor and Martha Grimes, who use the industry that has served them so well as the backdrops for their latest works of fiction. “Love Me“ is the latest from storyteller extraordinaire Keillor, who has penned nearly a dozen books, along with being a radio host and regular contributor to Time magazine and the online Salon.com. “Foul Matters“ is a change of pace for Grimes, a top-selling mystery writer who has cranked out 18 acclaimed novels featuring Scotland Yard detective Richard Jury.
The considerable legion of fans for both authors know that in addition to being prolific, skilled and extremely witty writers, they most likely knows plenty about the nooks and crannies of the publishing world, which makes for provocative fodder, indeed. Some might see the new books as being a case of biting the hand that feeds them, but true or not, both make for satirically juicy and humorously satisfying meals.

Love Me by Garrison Keillor
The protagonist here is Larry Wyler, a Minneapolis-based writer who had a brush with fame with his debut bestseller and hasn’t had much good luck since. As Keillor often does, he sets the stage quickly and with detail, putting the reader on intimate terms with his subject in short order:

“I attained old married guyhood despite some outstanding bad behavior on my part and an unsuccessful lunge at fame and riches a long time ago. There was a fairly popular novel, *Spacious Skies,* and an apartment at the Bel Noir on Central Park West in New York and an office at *The New Yorker* with a drawing on the wall above my desk that James Thurber scrawled there years ago with a carpenter’s pencil. A thoughtful dog with a harpy standing over him, saying, ““I know what you’re thinking and the answer is No, No, No.“ J. D. Salinger‘s office was down the hall and J. F. Powers’s and S. J. Perelman’s. John Updike smiled at me in the hallways. Calvin Trillin took me to lunch. The great editor William Shawn became a pal of mine. Him and me went barhopping and got so soused we had to hold each other up. God, I loved that man. We played golf and sailed his boat, the Shawnee, through the Verrazano Narrows and out to sea and fished for grouper. I was in New York for six years and Iris almost divorced me, on grounds of emotional distance, but then I wrote a wretched second novel, *Amber Waves of Grain,* which bombed so badly she took pity on me and called off the dogs. I came down with a brutal case of writer’s block. Wrote one sentence of *Purple Mountains‘ Majesty* and quit. The sentence was: ““He and the Mrs. dreamed of alabaster cities but here they were in St. Paul and what could they do but cry in their soup?“ Couldn’t write worth beans.“

The basis of the book is Wyler’s tumultuous relationship with his talent, the publishing industry and his wife, not necessarily in that order. Droll and sharply observant, Keillor follows Wyler from New York and its high life to the Midwest and its somewhat more staid routine of daily living, as he sets about the often painful quest of clarifying one’s personal and professional goals. Eventually, he becomes an advice columnist known as “Mr. Blue,“ which Keillor fans will recognize based on his own real-life stint with Salon.com, and as the lines between art and reality blur, they also sharpen, providing some unexpected insight. All in all, this may not be Keillor’s best-written work, but even lesser efforts from this talent are well worth the time, and fans won’t want to miss it.

Foul Matters by Martha Grimes
“Foul matter“ is a publishing term for an unedited, original manuscript, and there’s plenty that’s foul (and also extremely funny) in this story of a high successful, John Grisham-like writer named Paul Giverney, who wants to sign on with a new publishing house, but under some strange terms. When we first meet him, we get a glimpse into the affluent lifestyle his work has provided him:

“Paul Giverney aimed a paper airplane at the window of his small office (“off. bdrm 3“ in the rental ad) and watched it nose-dive to the floor. The Giverneys’ apartment was in the East Village, not quite as trendy as the Village itself. The rent was unbelievable, the agent a scam artist, but they loved the apartment, especially (for him) the “off. bdrm 3,“ which was the perfect size for bookshelves, desk, and computer, a couple of chairs, and with a window that looked out on leafy branches. Hannah was seven and loved the park. Molly was thirty-six and loved the Dean & DeLuca on the other side of it. Paul loved the hungover, brassy scene of the East Village foot soldiers who always appeared to be walking off a morning after, bits of metallic conversations stabbing backward as they passed in the cold air. People couldn’t understand it about the Giverneys; they were extremely rich and yet chose to live in a rental in the East Village. Why didn’t Central Park West beckon to them? Why didn’t they succumb to the siren song of Sutton Place or the Dakota? Why? Because they didn’t. Paul gave a lot of his money to charity, a good third of it. Another third to Dean & DeLuca, but they still managed on the million or two left.

The paper airplane was one of his lists of publishers, one he had stricken several names from. Publishers on the left side of the page, writers on the right side. The airplane he had fashioned was the long list. Now the lists before him were the short ones -- five writers, four publishers. He struck one of the publishers off, two of the writers. Three publishers, three writers. What he was doing was matching them up.“
Giverney’s caveat for joining forces with the Mackenzie-Haack house is for them to dump one of their clients, Ned Isaly, a writer who’s nowhere near Giverney’s league in terms of sales, but is rather respected. The predicament leads to an impressively imaginative turn of events, involving publishers, agents, mobsters, innocent bystanders of all sorts, and, of course, the writers themselves. Greed is a primary motivating factor for everyone who comes to have a stake in the conflict, and the picture Grimes paints isn’t very pretty, though almost always comedic. Quick wit, solid characterizations and plenty of atmosphere push this one over the top, proving that at age 72, Grimes is still a force with which to be reckoned.

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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