Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Marie-Jo's Voice & Noise: Life and Lifers

Marie-Jo's Voice & Noise: Life and Lifers: I have spoken before about my epistolary friend Jason. He is an "insider." Not a political insider. But someone whose life will be...

Life and Lifers

I have spoken before about my epistolary friend Jason. He is an "insider." Not a political insider. But someone whose life will be inside forever. A lifer. A prisoner. Yes, I am friends with a prisoner and not ashamed to say it. Our letters have grown more confidential to the point that, on occasion, we console each other.

At some point, Jason wanted to talk to me so, about two weeks ago, his father arranged for a phone conversation.  How was that going to happen? Sometimes a relationship in writing doesn't translate well into a voice relationship. Was this going to be an awkward dialogue filled with cliches and loaded silences? I didn't know but, for some reason, I was not overly apprehensive. I must admit that, that same week, I had to cope with a mouse infestation, and that the resulting fatigue might have prevented anxiety to develop. Blessings in disguise. Deer mice, ha.

After some difficulty connecting, Jason was finally at the end of the line. That's when I realized our friendship had grown strong. We were comfortable with each other from the very beginning. We cracked some jokes. I asked him to give names to my invading mice. We were two spirits connecting. Prison walls and wire fences couldn't block this escape, couldn't impeach this freedom.  Compassion has no walls. And I am not necessarily talking about this side of the fence.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Marie-Jo's Voice & Noise: 20!

Marie-Jo's Voice & Noise: 20!: Remember the story about my little friend the mouse? The one who came every night as I was watching TV and asked, "What's for dinne...


Remember the story about my little friend the mouse? The one who came every night as I was watching TV and asked, "What's for dinner?" She was an insolent little brat, going into the trap, getting her meal, and getting out as if this was one of her summer residences.

So I ordered other traps. And caught her. As I went to release her into the woods, she looked at me as if to say, "Is that how you thank me for keeping you company?" The house at night felt sort of empty after that. Frasier and his brother went into their snobberies without interruption. Should I have adopted that little thing after all?

I put all my traps away. The following night, as I was going to bed, I saw a little head appear from behind a door. What the f*ck! So my friend had apparently doubled. Multiplied, actually, as you'll see. I set the traps again. And looked around the house for openings, holes, cracks. What I discovered were tunnels hardly wider than my middle finger (yes, pun intended), which I sealed and covered with bricks and tiles.

Since this past Friday, I have sent 20 mice to the forest where they belong. When caught, some go, "Now, how do I get out of this?" as they move the door slightly. Some are paralyzed with fear. Others are, "Hey, I like this peanut butter! Is there more?"  And the more aggressive ones shake the door frantically and say, "Let me out of there, you bitch!"

Inevitably, I do. Let them out. Hoping they'll stay there.

Sunday, August 4, 2013



It took me forever to finish this mystery that seemed to have promises, at least at the beginning. Was I seduced by the Paris evocations that seemed to avoid cliches and went instead to narrower and darker streets? There might be that. There are also the French words and expressions, fairly current, which pop out here like mushrooms. French expressions in American novels are not always used wisely, or when they are, there is always that annoying spelling or grammar mistake. Cara Black appears more careful, at least in the first half of the novel. And the errors that come out later are minor.
    But that is all for the seduction part. The plot itself goes all over the place while the pace drags. Detective Aimée Leduc loses her sight, but my own sense of empathy gets paralyzed. I really don’t give a damn. And this, despite the fact that one very influential person in my life was a blind uncle with whom I used to take long walks when I was a child. As for the terrifying Beast of the Bastille, he seems plastered on the decor like some horror movie poster from the 1940's.  The investigation is handled by a bunch of scattered investigators, either private detectives or cops (“les flics”), mostly ineffective. Too many flics spoil the soup.
    Finally, all these narrow passages and streets that had their charm in the beginning start to resemble each other in the end. I no longer recognize Paris. Where on earth is the City of Light? No abundance of gallic expressions, no simple enumeration of street names will recreate a Parisian atmosphere. There is a special rhythm in Paris, or a variety of rhythms, a mix of sass and poetry.  After a high traffic boulevard your steps may land on some pocket of quiet. A little further, you may struggle in a walking crowd until the city airs itself again. The Seine, Paris’ main artery, is the city’s magic mirror. I get little of that here. I get names, listings. Even characters feel like listings. And the few who are fleshed out appear boneless.  As for the ones with a skeleton in their closet, they are simply soporific.
    This is my first experience with a Cara Black novel, and probably my last. I don’t find her characters appealing, with the exception of little person René, a computer genius who is also Aimée’s colleague and best friend. Besides the few elements mentioned at the beginning of this review, he is about the only redeeming factor in this novel.   

Thursday, August 1, 2013


She came last night again, her pace slower. She even looked at me. "Where the hell is dinner?" she seemed to ask before hiding behind a sliding door.

Damn! I thought. The traps didn't work. That thing is too tiny, too light, and managed to eat crackers, cheese, peanut butter, hell, a whole fucking banquet, and glide by without disturbing the clap-lock system. That, or I bought a piece of shit from amazon that got glowing reviews. Take your pick.

I am talking, of course, about my new tenant, a mouse. If I call the animal  a "she," it's because "souris" (mouse in French) gets the feminine gender.

Every time I see her, I can't help thinking about a novel I wrote, a tongue-in-cheek romantic comedy where a sassy woman finds a rat at her place and decides to feed him cheese. Fiction is meeting reality here. I am thinking, is this a sign? Should I release From A to Zoe?

Just ordered a set of new humane traps.  Wait! Is that her laughing behind my back?