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    Tuesday, May 20, 2008

    Book: The Finder, by Colin Harrison (2008)

    Writing about New York City means writing about money. Few write about money or New York City better than Colin Harrison.

    Two young Mexican girls, living anonymous lives far from home, are murdered in grisly fashion on a Brooklyn beach. Another immigrant, this one from China, barely flees the scene with her life. The mayhem is fallout from a series of financial crimes that touches lives from hedge fund barons to garbage men. Harrison depicts all of these characters and their disparate versions of the city with equal skill.

    He does fall prey to one of my pet peeves. He has the habit of dropping entire chunks of undigested research into the text. Great unruly paragraphs about stock manipulation or the geographic history of Long Island. When he shoehorns the information into dialogue, he compounds the error by having someone else comment on it, saying, “I don’t need to hear all this.” And even that doesn’t clip Chatty Cathy’s string.

    But it’s a minor quibble compared to the rest of Harrison’s writing. He introduces a major character – maybe even the title character, if you want to interpret it that way – obliquely, through the eyes of a secondary figure. She’s a single woman pushing 40, knowing she’s fated to be alone, pouring her affection into her house but hoping to collect a few more memories for her golden years. She essentially disappears after she’s served her purpose, but in those pages Harrison sketches an entire life. He knows New York high and low, and puts its beating heart on the page.

    TV: Still More Sinatra

    Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne said that Frank’s 1967 TV special with Ella Fitzgerald and Antonio Carlos Jobim, which TCM aired on Sunday night, was as good as showbiz got. Who am I to disagree? I paid the show the ultimate Chez K compliment by leaving it on the DVR.

    The special’s high point was also a low point. Frank and Ella sit next to a piano and trade off on contemporary songs. Proving that synergy was around even in the ‘60s, Ella takes a crack at the theme from Frank’s then-current movie Tony Rome. The song is lousy to begin with, and having Ella Fitzgerald – Ella Fitzgerald!! – sing it represents a complete waste of talent. But I just watched Tony Rome, so I thought it was great. The segment has a sublime ending, with Frank and Ella dueting on “Goin’ Out Of My Head.” Absolutely electric.

    TCM closes out the month with Frank’s 1973 special Ol’ Blue Eyes is Back on Sunday at 8PM Eastern and Pacific.

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    The theme from Tony Rome is lousy? With lyrics like these?

    Pussy cats that run astray
    He will bring them back today
    'Cause Tony Rome is out and about
    And Tony Rome will find 'em
    If you don't watch out

    OK. I see your point.


    That special was excellent. It's funny when older performers try singing new songs to prove how "hip" they are. I also like how the audience was dressed to the nines in tuxedos and evening dresses (was that Dorothy Lamour I saw?).

    Coincidentally I also just downloaded Nancy's "Tony Rome" and even though it's no "You Only Live Twice" I'm digging it.


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