Archive for 2007

What I’m Reading/In the Book Review

Wednesday, December 12th, 2007


Now look: the pile thickened. I plodded on but finished nothing this week. I am about to be done, however, with Jason Sokol’s There Goes My Everything, which I plucked from another pile on Sunday, my big reading day. It’s an important book, and I felt rather ashamed of having taken so long to get through it. (I found it slow going but rewarding.) So that book appears in the pile for the purposes of this photograph only. I’m moving along with Pamuk and Blanning, the former dense and all-encompassing, the latter serious but witty. I will be done with one or both of these books by next week. (Kathleen scolds me for talking about “getting rid” of books I’m reading, as if I didn’t really enjoy them. I do enjoy them! But I hate the piles stacked up behind them!) As a sign of the general unfairness of things, John Fowles Daniel Martin, which I’ve already read at least twice, went straight from the bookseller’s wrapper into the pile: I’ve been keen to re-read it ever since walking through the tall grass in St Croix.

I shall be done with What Is the What soon, too. It is the Odyssey of our times — and maybe even another Odyssey. As for this week’s Book Review:

The Ten Best Books of 2007.

The Receptionist, at MTC’s Stage I

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

The Video Room has moved to a location less than one hundred paces from home.

We have had the same seats at MTC’s Stage I for as long as I can remember. They’re in the back and on the side-aisle, and I love them, because there is nothing in front of my seat and I can stretch out my legs. I’ve become so accustomed to the perspective from this perch that, on the rare night when we have to exchange our subscription tickets, I find it disconcerting to watch the stage from anywhere else. There is also the secret advantage of being right on top of the rear exit. I have never been in a theatre that is better at making you forget that you’re in a basement.

The other night, I saw a play by Adam Bock for the first time. And I saw Jayne Houdyshell for the first time. I look forward to more of both. 

The Receptionist.

Books on Monday: Tomorrow They Will Kiss

Monday, December 10th, 2007

A friend tipped me off to a novel that is both moving and dishy, a Cuban spin on the Cinderella story. (All right, Cuban-American.) Eduardo Santiago’s three “sisters” are so gracefully complete that Tomorrow They Will Kiss offers the easy pleasures of a snack but without the empty calories. This book’s calories are stacked.

Tomorrow They Will Kiss.



Sunday, December 9th, 2007


Where have all the cars gone? The city seemed unnaturally quiet all weekend. There were plenty of people on the sidewalks, but vehicular traffic, at least up here in Yorkville, was light — or at least we thought so. Kathleen asked at one point, “Was there a headline that we don’t know about?” Not that we’re complaining about reduced traffic!

I had to admit today that I have been running at full throttle for much longer than usual. It is glorious to feel purposeful all the time, but I am a bit pooped. I had a few recipes to write up for today’s kitchen column, but I hadn’t got them earlier and I couldn’t bring myself to fuss. In fact, I couldn’t bring myself to the computer until seven in the evening. As promised, I fixed breakfast in bed for Kathleen, so that she could sleep in. Also as promised — to myself — I made pancakes. For well over a year, I’ve been relying on Eli’s terrific frozen croissants, which really do bake up as nicely as almost anything that you’d find in a bakery. It was time to check my pancake mojo. That wasn’t all I tested today: I also baked a quiche, making pie crust for the first time in the second Bush administration.

People ask from time to time for my pancake recipe, but I tell them that the recipe is not the important part. Almost any cookbook will offer a few good recipes, and my advice is to go for anything that calls for buttermilk. What matters with pancakes, though, is the griddle. If your stove has one, great. If it doesn’t, then you’re going to have to invest in something rectangular and large enough to span two burners. (I’m crazy — this will come as no surprise — about my non-stick All-Clad.) You want a non-stick surface, and you want it to be hot before you pour the batter. Because pancake batter is mixed very quickly, I recommend firing up the griddle as soon as you’ve measured your quantities but before you combine anything. Trust me — a good griddle is all there is to pancakes.

Oh — and heat the syrup. Just zap it (briefly) in the microwave.

Add coffee, orange juice, melon, scrambled eggs* and sausage, and you’ve got a great breakfast. Amazing how quickly it will disappear!

* Making scrambled eggs on the griddle involves childhood-caliber play. You must work the eggs with a spatula to keep them from running off, and of course you have to keep adding raw egg quickly enough to keep the scrambled egg from drying out. The possibilities for disaster are fascinating.

Stack the finished pancakes to one side of the griddle and the sausages or bacon to the other. Beat the eggs in a spouted bowl so that you can pour them very slowly onto the griddle, just a bit at a time.

For fancy footwork, turn one burner down to low before pouring on the egg. This will give you some variation in temperature, once you find out how to feel your way.  

Friday Movies: The Walker

Saturday, December 8th, 2007

The new New Museum – a chimerical presence at the end of Prince Street.

Despite an indifferent review in the Times, I went back to the Angelika this week for Paul Schrader’s The Walker. What did I find when I got there? A shuttered box office. Along with two other hardy souls, I waited in the cold for the place to open, unsure that it would. If I hadn’t had plenty of strange and funky experiences at other movie houses, I’d begin to wonder if the Angelika was the place to catch the first show of the day. The escalator hadn’t been turned on. Once again, mistakes about choice of lens were made in the projection booth. For a solid four minutes of one of the film’s most suspenseful moments, the picture was split across the middle, so that Kristin Scott Thomas’s uncertain smile floated above her eyes. I wish that that sort of thing were more unusual than it is.

The cloud cover must have been very thick, because it didn’t seem to be quite daylight. The narrow streets of SoHo and NoLIta were off-puttingly umbrous; I felt that I was in a not-quite-right dream. The subways, in contrast, were their jolly regular selves. On the way down, I “walked” my way to the front of the train, advancing a car at every station except Grand Central until, at 33rd Street, I reached the first car. This is a game that I play every week, to the extent that a train is at the station when I swing through the turnstiles.* For much of the trip back uptown, I was entertained by two German men who were talking about something that I never caught the gist of. Both ways, I read Tim Blanning’s The Pursuit of Glory, which has finally grabbed me hard enough that I’m willing to carry a heavy book around. (On the plus side, it’s an ideal luncheon companion, because its pages lay flat when it’s open.)

The Walker.

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* The exits at the downtown Bleecker Street station are the front and the rear of the platform. Leaving by the front, one traverses a long concourse over the IND tracks and climbs out at the corner of Broadway and Houston, only a block away from the Angelika.

Friday Fronts: Malawi and Free Markets

Friday, December 7th, 2007


For me, the most memorable moment in the original Poseidon Adventure that does not involve explosions, inundations, or other forms of mayhem is the one in which Reverend Scott (Gene Hackman) confronts the ship’s doctor. The doctor is leading a large group of survivors toward the bow of the ship, because in his view this is the way to safety. The fact that the bow is manifestly in deeper water than the stern means little to this visibly shell-shocked authority figure, and nothing that the reverend can say (or, more characteristically, shout) can dissuade him from his doomed course. He rejects the reverend’s goal (the engine room) out of hand.

Now that the subprime mortgage tsunami has left Wall Street wondering which way is up, the Reverend Scotts of this world – among them, the new president of Malawi, Bingu wa Mutharika — are looking less contrarian. But I fear that we still have a long way to go before we emerge from the Erector Set phase of free-market economic theory.

Celia W Dugger on Malawi and the Free Market, in the New York Times.  

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Morning News: “He was so depressed.”

Thursday, December 6th, 2007


It is very tempting to stick out my tongue at the good people of Omaha and jeer, “I told you so.” Especially as my blood is up about a good woman’s implication* that people who aren’t Midwesterners might not be “strong and solid and sensible.” We’re pretty strong and solid and sensible in the Northeast — even in Manhattan. Forget the gun control issue. We believe that “lost pound puppies” are an unfortunate civic responsibility. And when people get “so depressed,” we tend not pay much attention to nonsense about “target practice.”

* See the end of the story.

A Year of Montaigne

Thursday, December 6th, 2007


In the course of writing up Pierre Bayard’s How to Read Books You Haven’t Read, I needed (by my own lights) to check out a quotation from Montaigne. I can’t speak for the original, but the English translation offers extremely rudimentary annotation. The citations of Montaigne refer to Donald Frame’s mid-century translation, giving only the book’s title and a page number. The name of the essay in question would have been helpful. Although Frame’s translation has been revived for the Everyman’s Library edition, the pagination is evidently quite different. It took a while to discover that the essay that I wanted was one of Montaigne’s longest, “On Presumption.”

It was really quite shaming. Why don’t I know Montaigne – know him? Every time I open the Essays, I’m struck by his wise and sympathetic character. When he does not remind me of myself — “I flee command, obligation, and constraint. What I do easily and naturally, I can no longer do if I order myself to do it by strict and express command.” — he makes his very flaws sound charming — “Of music, either vocal for which my voice is very inept, or instrumental, they never succeeded in teaching me anything.” His decent skepticism, and his insistence that the habit of putting himself at the center of Creation is a helpless vice that he bitterly regrets, mark him as astonishingly modern, far more up-to-date and congenial than men born hundreds of years later.  Even the peripatetic and unpredictable course of his discussions, innocent as they are of the rigors of Cartesian symmetry, breathes the free-for-all air of open possibility that our jaded sensibilities crave. Montaigne is by far the most ancient “authority” cited in M Bayard’s book.

As I lamented the disappointments of my own education, I read about Montaigne’s —

I gladly return to the subject of the ineptitude of our education. Its goal has been to make us not good or wise, but learned; it has attained this goal. It has not tuahgt us to follow and embrace virtue and wisdom, but has imprinted in us their derivation and etymology. We know how to decline virtue, if we cannot love it. If we do not know what wisdom is by practice and experience, we know it by jargon and by rote. With our neighbors, we are not content to know their family, their kindred, and their connections; we want to have them as friends and form some association and understanding with them. Education has taught us the definitions, divisions, and partitions of virtue, like the surnames and branches of a genealogy, without any further concern to form between us and virtue any familiar relationship and intimate acquaintance. It has chosen for our instruction not the books that have the soundest and truest opinions, but those that speak the best Greek and Latin; and amid its beautiful words, it has poured into our minds the most inane humors of antiquity.

— and it occurred to me that nothing could better complement the freshman art-history survey that used to be (and still is, I hope) the covert foundation of every student’s education in the humanities than a year (in two semesters) spent reading Montaigne. Nothing but Montaigne! Nothing but Montaigne, that is, and all the classical authors to which his Essays offer so inviting an introduction. The entire education, in other words, of a first-class Renaissance mind.

Montaigne isn’t much taught in English. Everybody gets an essay or two in the course of discovering essays (again, I hope that I speak for the present as well as the past), but the selection is necessarily narrowed to Montaigne at his most rational and least personal. And the focus of such lessons is always on the clarity of exposition; the essays are held up, after all, as models for students, not as personal reflections. Certainly Montaigne is not the backbone of liberal-arts education that he ought to be.

A year of Montaigne might be very boring for poor freshmen, but the stuff would almost certainly stick with them until better times.

What I’m Reading/In the Book Review

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007


Assiduous readers will notice that two books have disappeared from the pile. That’s because I’ve read them.* I was tempted to replace them with books from the supplemental piles elsewhere, but the shorter stack was so pleasing that I decided to leave it alone. Besides, it’s not my only “what I’m reading” pile. I’ve got another one, comprising six books that I march through for an hour every morning. That’s all I’ll say about the “morning reading” project at this time.

I did slip in Michael Ruhlman’s The Elements of Cooking (the grey spine third from the bottom). This is not a book to read, but a culinary reference. Why did I buy it? I’ve no idea.  Someone must have been singing its praises. Looking through it, I don’t see very much that I don’t already know, or that isn’t likely to be in Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking. It’s a perfectly nice book, handsomely laid out and well-written. Maybe you can tell me why I have it. I’ve put it in the pile so that I’ll have to give a thorough once-over in order to remove it from the pile – and hence from my conscience.

Not only did I remove the stack of CDs, shown in last week’s photo, but I filed them all where they belonged. Now I really can’t find them. (Does anyone else out there have Night Song, that super, one-off, Michael Brook-produced CD by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan?)

Holiday Books.

* But what does this mean? Bet you didn’t think that there was anything complicated about “reading a book.” Ha! If you don’t want to be branded as a clueless sniveling Anglophone, stay tuned for our account of Pierre Bayard’s How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read – the title of which, in the original French, is a question.

Morning News: Felony Murder

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007

Oscar Sosa/New York Times

The doctrine of Felony Murder is one of those troglodyte ideas that have come down to us from the Bad Old Days. It has been abolished in most of the other major Common Law markets (so to speak) — England in 1957; India and Canada thereafter. According to the aggressive version of this doctrine that holds in Florida, accessories to murder share full culpability. The guy who drives the getaway car, notoriously, is as guilty as the shooter.

Even the guy who lends the getaway car, it seems. If Adam Liptak’s story about Ryan Holle’s bad luck doesn’t put your bowels in an uproar, then you have no conscience.

Did I say “bad luck”? Ho ho! Could it be that Mr Holle, a black man, was unlucky to be charged with felony-murder in Florida?


Tuesday, December 4th, 2007

To look at this new luxury building from our apartment, you wouldn’t think that any windows had been installed. One has an awful fear that it will open its doors just in time for the next big Crash.

It was almost disconcertingly quiet here today. Sonja came in the morning, to “do” the rooms as she does every two weeks — only, this time, I’d put her off for a third week, so that she wouldn’t be cleaning up (last Monday) at the same time as I (from the trip). Doormen and a few phone calls aside, that was the extent of my interpersonal contact for the day. There was no mail. I felt quite disregarded.

I considered not taking a walk. There was the Book Review to attack, and I’d lost the morning to that immense sedimentary layer of Timeses. Up at four-thirty, I read newspapers from about seven until ten-thirty. “Read” is overstating things; “glancing” was more like it; but still. What an acreage of horrid newsprint. All for two or three clippings. After a sandwich at about one, and Sonja’s departure, I decided that I must have a walk after all.

The walk has settled on the same route; eventually I shall become another Kant and folks will be setting their watches by me. (Highly unlikely, actually.) I walk around the building to 87th Street — some day I’ll tell you why, unless of course I forget — and down to Carl Schurz Park. There is a loo station by the entrance there and if need presses I stop. Doors close at four sharp, though, so late afternoon walks (in winter) are out of the question. (I always stop on the return.) I amble toward the flagstaff, which is, roughly, where 88th Street would intersect with Finley Walk if it plowed through the Park. I turn right and walk down to the end, at 81st Street. Then back the way I came.

It is, oddly, not boring to follow the same route every day. Of course I am always listening to something. Not music – that would be repetitious. But audiobooks. I am just past halfway through Dion Graham’s recording of Dave Eggers’s What Is the What. It is both ghastly and superb; I long to be done with it but I wouldn’t think of moving on to something else. But perplexity impends. Who is telling me this story? Dave Eggers, who wrote the book, or Valentino Achak Deng, whose story it is — with regard to which Eggers is the most astonishing ventriloquist? Or is it Dion Graham, master of vocal impersonations?

I bought the audiobook when I came home from the hospital and understood that I would be taking walks every day. I had had the book book ever since it came out, very much at the bottom of the pile (but because it’s large). When, I asked myself in moments of candor, am I going to read a novel about one of the Lost Boys of Sudan? All that desert & privation! (And who knew that Africa isn’t the worst; Achak’s experiences in Atlanta – supposed to be the scene of a happy ending – are far knottier.) I couldn’t sit in a chair and read my way through such horrors. Much better to listen, while walking. And so it has gone, for weeks now it seems.

When I get home, I look things up, to see the spellings. “Marial Bai.” “Achor Achor.” “Murahaleen.” 

It was not so cold today, and very windy, in an autumnal way that seemed intent upon ridding the trees of their dead leaves at last. Everyone remarks on the strangeness of trees full of (dessicated) leaves. Thanks perhaps to the wind, it finally smelled like Fall. Yesterday, of course, it smelled, when it smelled at all, like Winter. But the weather in New York is more neurotic than any of the city’s inhabitants.

It wasn’t all newspapers. There was, amazingly, The Abstinence Teacher. More about that anon.

Books on Monday: Sailing From Byzantium

Monday, December 3rd, 2007

Le café chez nous.

Before we get to today’s book, I’d like to thank George Snyder, the author of 1904: The Year Everything Important Happened, for stopping by on a busy trip to New York. We met over a pot of coffee at my place, and I think I may say that we found an immediate rapport, discussing together some of the things that both of us talk about online. Then we marveled at the technology that, without our having to think about it very much, discovered us to one another. 

Colin Wells’s book about the impact of Byzantium upon the rest of the world has one of those impossible subtitles that promises romance or staggering accomplishment, but it delivers an impressive amount of information in a small space. I was very grateful to have been tipped off to it by another friend named George.  

Sailing From Byzantium.

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Sunday, December 2nd, 2007


Kathleen has gone off to Arizona for an annual convention. We were up before dawn, bundling her into a car that pulled out of the driveway onto virgin snow. The intersection of 86th and Second was hushed and empty, the stoplights signalling to no one. A few neon signs burned here and there; a picture of the scene could have been taken in a much smaller city, perhaps even in a town. I had the unpleasant sensation of being in a picture by Edward Hopper.

My task for the day is to plow through the stack of newspapers that date back to Thanksgiving week. After I read the weekend papers. I shall be sick of newsprint! My reward will be more reading: Tom Perrotta’s The Abstinence Teacher, which for two nights running I have had to put down lest it make falling asleep an impossibility. There is really only one word for this novel, and that is hot. Not as in hot and sexy, though – although the novel is very sexy. Rather, hot as in hot and scary. Forget about North Korea! The true axis of evil runs through the suburbs!

Calme toi.

Friday Movies: The Savages

Saturday, December 1st, 2007

This house on East 87th Street is part, I believe, of the Holy Trinity complex.

On my way down to the Angelika to see The Savages yesterday morning, I was flushed with the comfortable expectation of a very satisfying time at the movies, which might have seemed a bit odd in view of the story that the film has to tell, but which made perfect sense given the really tremendous cast that would be entertaining me for a few hours. It seems only yesterday that I saw Philip Seymour Hoffman in Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, and, indeed, it was only the month before last. According to IMDb, Laura Linney shot The Savages before working on Breach and The Nanny Diaries, both of which came out earlier this year. These two are so busy making great films that you’d think we were back in the old studio days (anywhere but at MGM, that is).

Interestingly — but not, I think, importantly, at least in a film that is really focused on Ms Linney’s character — Mr Hoffman plays a college professor who teaches Brecht and the theatre of alienation. Brecht didn’t want his audiences to feel comfortable, he tells his class; he wanted an argument (I’m conflating two sentences here). My, but it’s nice to have outlived all of that! There is little enough danger these days of being smothered in bourgeois comfort.  

The Savages.

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Morning News: the Biden-Cooper Rule

Friday, November 30th, 2007

The Duce of Duck? (Darren McCollister/Getty Images)

Senator Joseph Biden quipped last month that there are only three components in a Rudy Giuliani sentence: a noun, a verb, and “9/11.”

To that formulation, Times reporter Michael Cooper suggests that we qualify the former mayor’s statistical claims as “incomplete, exaggerated, or just plain wrong.”

Call it the Biden-Cooper rule for short: every claim by Rudy Giuliani involving 9/11 is wrong.

Friday Fronts: David Cole on Jack Goldsmith

Friday, November 30th, 2007

Although I have no doubt that history will regard the Bush Administration as willfully, consciously, and even self-righteously lawless, I’m sometimes afraid that we will emerge from the nightmare (assuming that we do) without having learned very much what it means to be lawful. Only a very naive observer expects a sovereign executive to “follow the law” as a matter of course. Executives are not only forced to interpret the law at every turn, but they are also in sole possession of information about national affairs that necessarily colors their interpretations. Regardless of presidential devotion to the Constitution, the attempt to legislate the executive’s course of behavior will always be met with structural resistance,

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the impact of Vietnam upon my Boomer generation. This week, I’m reminded of a similar vintage, the unpopularity of Richard Nixon. Of all modern presidents, none is more likely to be judged in psychopathological terms: the man wasn’t “bad” so much as he was “sick.” The feeling that he had acted incompetently – not foolishly so much as beyond his powers – led Congress to try to clarify the margins of executive authority. One might as well, I fear, legislate the path of a particle in a cyclotron. Presidential authority is largely beyond our control because we want it to be.

This isn’t kindergarten. Changing the rules is never as simple or attractive as disregarding them. I think that we need a more grown-up understanding of what we expect from the law.

David Cole on Jack Goldsmith, in the New York Review of Books.


Taking Stock: Fear of Flying

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

My new shower curtain.

Now, is this desperate or what? A snapshot of a shower curtain, for heaven’s sake! What next? (Don’t ask!)

Although I bought it before I broke my neck (I think), this shower curtain really does serve as the blazon of my new life. Yes, I know it’s retro, and, no, I don’t pine for the late Fifties. But these scribbles capture an international optimism that was imprinted upon me at an impressionable age. The insouciant mélange of bits of Rome, Paris, London and New York evokes the first whoosh of the jet age.

To paraphrase Talleyrand: those of you who weren’t there can’t imagine how snappy life was!

Fear of Flying.

Morning News: Dispute Over What?

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

Sarah Krulwich/The New York Times

The stagehands’ strike is over at last — at any rate, it’s “over”; the settlement has to be ratified by the rank and file. So. Who won? What was accomplished? Let’s see what the Times has to say.

But among the changes the league was able to achieve, according to officials involved in the talks, was a daily minimum of 17 stagehands on the load-in, the lengthy and costly period when a production is loaded into a theater. In the recently expired contract, producers would set a number of stagehands needed for a load-in — say, 35 — and all of them would have to stay every day for the entirety of the load-in, an arrangement that producers said often left large groups of stagehands with nothing to do.

Now, I’m sure that this means something. Campbell Robertson, who wrote the story, is one of the newspaper’s great stylists. If I worked in the theatre world, I’d know exactly what the “league” of theatre producers obtained in these negotiations. As it is, I have the vague idea that they don’t have to pay as many stagehands (for doing “nothing) while a new show is mounted. I can’t see, thanks to my lack of professional expertise, is the missing sentence that says (I think) something like this: “Having hired as many as 35 stagehands at the beginning of the load-in, the producers are free fir the first time to reduce that complement later to a number that suits their needs, or to a minimum of 17, whichever is higher.” 

The strike cost everybody millions of dollars. Broadway revenues were a trickle of their seasonal gush. The City alone is said to have lost about $40 million in indirect revenues. So we’re all glad that the strike is over, and that the lights will be shining brightly on the Great White Way. Mr Robertson’s story captures the euphoria of the moment, as bitter opponents smile, shake hands, and make nice. I just wish I had a clearer picture of what happened.

What I’m Reading/In the Book Review

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007


What am I reading? I haven’t got a clue. I certainly haven’t read anything in the past couple of days, which have been given over to housework and running errands. It was in the process of clearing off a shelf of back issues of Granta that I came across Richard Ford’s 1992 novella, The Womanizer, which I did read the other night, in one sitting, before, fearfully wakeful, going to bed resolved to think about nothing else until I fell asleep (a stunt that, amazingly, worked). I am still plowing through the same old pile: Blanning on Europe, Lilla on God and the West, and Orhan Pamuk’s The Black Book, which is indeed, as Maureen Freeley writes in the afterword to her translation, the “cauldron” from which his later work comes.

As for this week’s Book Review:

Sir Noël’s Epistles.

Morning News: Prosecutorial Overkill Threatens to Spoil Fun

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times

While the nincompoops in charge at Citigroup contemplate another, more extensive round of layoffs, putting thousands of people out of a job while remaining cushily compensated themselves, the Manhattan district attorney’s office has announced the indictment of Anthony Marshall, Brooke Astor’s son. You have to have been living under a rock not to hear tell of Mr Marshall’s alleged misappropriations; in the course of administering his failing mother’s estate, Mr Marshall is said to have channeled “millions” of dollars into pockets closer to his own than was fit and proper. Together with a rapscallion-sounding amigo, formerly disbarred attorney Francis X Morrissey — with a name like that, one is either a cardinal or a criminal — the late doyenne’s octogenarian son appears to have chased thrills only guessed at by Max Bialystock (of The Producers), mounting at least two very successful shows on Broadway.

Priorities in order — check.

Surely this matter ought never have gone beyond the civil-trial stage. Mr Marshall has undoubtedly made the mistake of allowing his self-interest to do his accounting for him. It also seems that he was a bit churlish about taking care of a mother whom, unlike her circle of friends, he neither idolized nor sentimentalized. And it is almost irresistible, finally, to attribute the collapse of such respectability as he possessed to a scheming younger wife: Charlene Marshall’s ample figure appears to be an apt symbol of her willingness to consume her husband’s largesse (source: his mother’s property). This is Harry and Leona all over again, no? She‘s the one who ought to be indicted. Let the doddering old man enjoy his last years in peace!

I cannot bring myself to agree that this family tragedy without actual victims warrants the attentions of the Elder Abuse unit of the district attorney’s office. Slaps on the wrist, disgorgements all round, and a blitz of humiliation for the vicar’s ex-wife — the public circus deserves no less. But criminal sanctions betray a lack of sense, specifically a sense of humor. From the very beginning, I have found the Marshall Affair to be rich in dark humor, the tale of a geriatric Pinocchio. I’ll have to stop laughing, though, if Mr Marshall is clapped behind bars.