You don’t see praying mantises much any more. They’ve disappeared, along with grasshoppers and crickets. I remember them from my childhood in Brooklyn. On hot summer days occupying a place on the sidewalk, indifferent to everything, waiting and still, a little frightening in their composure.

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A Tin Tabernacle, Thorlby


In the aftermath of the British referendum on leaving the European Union, and amidst the oceans of commentary already written and still to be written about what it all means, I find myself thinking about my old friend, the late Lionel Rothkrug, and what he would have made of it. More exactly, what we would […]

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Lewi's Journey 2

Special Meetings

The women were saved to a place of emotional gratification not otherwise on offer in their lives. The men were saved from the filthiness of their natural desires. It was all about sex, really. Their disappointments they kept to themselves. Washed in the Blood of the Lamb. Trusting in the Promises of God.

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John Lockett Leaving the Tyne, by Frank H. Mason


I stumble on a fine sea yarn, a memoir called “The Luck of the John Lockett” by Shalimar, the pen name of F.C.Hendry. The story is in his From the Log-Book of Memory (Blackwood, 1950), one of many volumes of reminiscence and fiction Hendry published from the 1930s until his death in 1955. They are […]

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Mildred and me 1955


It was a common name for girls among Norwegian immigrants. Rutgersen, Börresen, Dahl, Aarstad. And others. All produced Mildreds. The vogue lasted across at least two generations. No one names girls that any more, not since the War. The median age for living Mildreds, I read somewhere, is seventy-eight, older even than the Gertrudes and […]

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I am reading Middlemarch. I am up to the moment in Chapter 5 when Dorothea decides she must tell Celia she is determined to marry Mr. Casaubon. Before she has said anything about it there is the following exchange. Celia begins: “Is any one else coming to dine besides Mr. Casaubon?” “Not that I know […]

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Enghavevej, Edvard Pedersen, 1850

Uncle Knud

I can’t let Uncle Knud alone. This is the character I introduced in my last post. Married to Aunt Josefine for five months in 1918–1919, lived in Brooklyn with his sister and brother-in-law for the next twenty-three years, until his death in 1942, and whose ashes were buried with Josefine at Evergreens Cemetery. A character […]

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Three Sisters


Old photos arranged on my desk. Everyone pictured is long dead. Some of them dead twenty years before I was born. Grandparents? Great-grandparents perhaps? Yet they are not. These are photos of my aunts, uncles-by-marriage, first cousins. On the left two of my Aunt Josefine. Then two of Aunt Anna and her husband on their […]

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Picasso, Dora Maar, 1938

Jessica Jones

We are watching, as it happens, in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, the television series Jessica Jones, which is based on a Marvel Comics original. A contemporary morality play with a feminist inflection. Sex, drugs, mental illness. An edgy air. A noirish tale in a chiaroscuro New York City. Jessica herself a wise-cracking, heavy-drinking […]

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Tent meeting

We have a photo hanging in our entranceway, a large panoramic group picture posed by a professional photographer, a religious meeting under a tent. The camera is stationed at the rear looking forward, at an elevation, so that the preacher or minister and other platform worthies, including a number of choristers and musicians, are in […]

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