vic fortezza
3 min readFeb 16, 2024

Blast from the past: Ursula Andress & Sean Connery between takes during the filming of Dr. No (1962). Photo from the

I wanted to read fiction about life. I chose Topics of Conversation by Miranda Popkey, as it easily fit into my page limit. It is told in ten parts that span seventeen years, 2000-’17. The main character is a humorless, dour, educated woman who has stopped just short of earning a PhD in literature. She leaves her loving husband. She soon bears a child out of wedlock and moves in with her hard-drinking parents, who seem functioning alcoholics. She begins drinking too much herself, eventually does a stint in rehab and finds a job and her own home in Fresno. I don’t understand her negativity and I sense she doesn’t either. She has one redeeming quality — she loves her son. At least Andy Kaufman enjoyed being hated and generated a ton of laughs from it. The tone of the novel is entirely downbeat. I don’t doubt that there are people like this, but no one else in the narrative provides even momentary sunshine. The most interesting aspect comes from a youtube video the protagonist views, a woman recounting her indirect, ugly experiences with Norman Mailer. That might hint at gender as the root of the protagonist’s problem, but I can’t say that with any certainty. Maybe the book is impenetrable to the sensibility of most males. The best I can say about it is that it is uncompromising. I wasn’t crazy about the writing style, which in certain spots abandons punctuation. Fortunately, the print is large, so the 205 pages of the large paperback edition read like considerably less. 423 users at Amazon have rated Topics…, forging to a consensus of 3.4 on a scale of five. I’ll go with two. Published in 2020, it is still selling modestly. Popkey has not released another novel. She earned a B.A. at Yale and an M.F.A. at Washington University in St. Louis. She has written essays, reviews and short stories for celebrated magazines. Photo from Google Images:

The left must be delirious now that Trump has been fined more than $300 million for a non-existent crime.

Headline from “Is Trump’s NATO Strategy Working? European Military Spending Soars.”

Headline out of Michigan from “Dem-backed Chinese firm razing trees to make way for EV plant.” And in a related story: “California EV sales see first decline in a decade: report.” Expect government coercion.

From FN out of Denmark: “Man sets record for the ‘most matches held in the nose’: ‘Didn’t really hurt’.” 68.

Given the forecast for high winds, I didn’t think I would be selling stuff curbside today. The breeze wasn’t nearly as strong as expected and sunshine was abundant. I spent the entire session of the Anti-Inflation Book Shop out of the car. My thanks to the woman who bought Dark Tort by Diane Mott Davidson, one of those culinary mysteries; and to The Frenchman, who purchased The Spiritual in 20th Century Art by Roger Lipsey; and to the gentleman who took home a hardcover in Russian and three kids’ books.

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vic fortezza

I was born in Brooklyn in 1950 to Sicilian immigrants. I’ve had more than 50 short stories published world wide. I have 13 books in print.