Born in NYC in 1940, Gail Parent (Kostner) has had a fantastic career, mostly in TV, spanning 1967–2008. She created several shows, including Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, which shot 325 episodes, and Forever Fernwood, which did 130. She wrote for big stars: Steve Allen, Ann-Margaret, Bill Cosby, Bing Crosby, Beverly Sills, Tim Conway, Don Rickles, Mary Tyler Moore, Valerie Harper, the Smothers Brothers, Tracey Ullman. She contributed to 134 episodes of The Carol Burnett Show, and wrote 14 of The Golden Girls. She shared an Emmy each with the staff of the Burnett and Ullman shows, and received eleven other nominations. She wrote several screen and teleplays, the most successful The Main Event (1979), starring Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal. Her first novel, Sheila Levine Is Dead and Living in New York, copyright 1972, set largely in the ‘60’s, was a NY Times Best Seller. I just finished it. It’s basically a 219-page rant, likened to Phillip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint. The protagonist, 30, attractive though chunky, still in possession of the nose she was born with, is planning to kill herself, largely because she is unmarried, anathema at that time. To Parent’s credit, the narrative is not at all grim. It is lively and amusing, loaded with sarcasm. She reflects on her Jewish upbringing. Of course, her mom has had a large influence on her life. Some of what is portrayed may have been shocking back in the day, but time has lessened the impact, as writers have gained license to a degree that few anticipated. Still, the book remains interesting throughout, narrowly avoiding becoming tedious. Here’s the part I enjoyed most: “… He knew that Jewish girl Sheila Levine did not want to look prejudiced. He knew that if he played his cards right I would sleep with him in the name of civil rights. That wasn’t fair, Thomas Brown. How many good Thursday nights did you have with girls who went to Friday’s? If you were white, I would have thrown you out.” So — does Sheila Levine kill herself? There will be no spoiler here. 94 users at Amazon have rated Sheila…, forging to a consensus of 4.4 on a scale of five. I’ll go with three. My guess is it would appeal far more to women than men. There is a film adaptation starring Jeannie Berlin, who seems perfectly cast, screenplay by Parents’ frequent collaborator, Kenny Solms. I won’t rent it, as the summary reveals several changes. Although it appears the author has retired, she is still living, now 81. Unlike her heroine, she married one week after graduating from NYU. Kudos and thank you, madam. All week I’ve been saying “Sheila Levine!” to myself in the way Jackie Gleason used to introduce Sheila MacRae at the end of his eponymous variety show.
I fully expect Quid Pro Joe to keep blaming Trump for the Afghanistan debacle and to take credit for the robust GDP. Before yesterday there had not been a single American combat death in that misbegotten country for 18 months.
It’s been said that pets tend to behave like their masters. Headline from foxnews.com: “Biden’s dog, Major, bit Secret Service members for 8 days in a row, email says.”
Here’s an interesting FN headline: “Harvard appoints ‘atheist’ as president of university chaplains — not everyone is happy.” Raised Jewish, identifying as a humanist, he was elected unanimously. His supporters believe his lack of affiliation make him a perfect candidate to “organize the various religious group activities across the campus.” I don’t doubt that he’s a good person, but it seems an odd choice. Then again, it is academia. (Article by Peter Aitken)
Another good day for the floating book shop despite the heat. It was the second straight session that saw a much needed reduction in inventory. My thanks to the kind folks who bought and donated. Here’s what sold: One book in Russian, The Greatest Survival Stories Never Told by Mara Bovsum and Allan Zullo; a pictorial on the art of Rockwell Kent; Working with Clay: An Introduction to Clay Molding and Sculpting by Léonce Philibert; two thrillers by David Baldacci; one each by Frederick Forsyth, Faye Kellerman and James Patterson; CDs by Toni Braxton, Vanessa Mae and Rod Stewart; DVDs of Gladiator (2000), Black Hawk Down (2001) and Adele in Concert at The Royal Albert Hall (2011). I’m looking forward to the end of the heat wave. I hear rumbles of thunder. Let it pour.
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