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Novels by Mary Marcus


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Good Book/Bad Book

My husband is exquisitely silent this Sunday afternoon. No ranting about the pres; no musings about the state of the world, and he’s not wondering what’s for lunch, dinner, or trying to engage me in audience attendance. Ever since a friend came over with a stack of trashy novels and we selected a few, and he’s “in” one, he’s turning those pages, fast fast, he’s next to my son, and his dead mother, the fastest reader I’ve ever known.  In a few hours he will have gobbled this one up. I’m not going to mention which trashy novel he’s reading. It’s not on the bestseller list (the one I selected is) and it’s not even by someone I’ve ever heard of, not that it means anything that I haven’t heard of the writer. It’s a big book, it’s got a nice cover and it weighs several pounds. Looking at him sitting on the leather chair he made himself, glasses off, totally intent, I wonder what constitutes a trashy novel? First and foremost: None of the characters are very clear, you have to keep going back to figure out who is who. My husband and my friend say they don’t care who is who. The writing may be okay, but never beautiful or makes your heart beat, or causes you to reach for a pen to underline. And you don’t think. You don’t draw pararells, you learn absolutely nothing and when you’re done you’re actually relieved. “That’s why they are so great!” says my friend and my husband. If you’ve stayed up late with it, the next morning, like being...

Goodbye Chain Store

My son used to have this amazing recording of a traveling preacher with a strong gospel voice recorded during the Great Depression. The preacher was railing against the danger of the chain store.  How on earth did he know? I only heard the recording once, driving around the south side of Chicago near the university campus. But the voice of the preacher will be inside my brain forever. His voice was far away. There was no real sound technology in those days. “No more chain stow,” he railed. My son’s car radio and all his tunes were stolen some time later and he never could find that recording again.   Now as we face the end of the chain store, and I mean specifically the closing of Barnes and Noble, the big store that was the gateway to the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, I find myself wanting to stand on a street corner and rail for the return of the chain store. Our Third Street Promenade branch was never a really good book store, not like the big B & N in New York in the eighties on the Upper West Side. Or even the West Side Pavilion branch that closed five or so years ago and was replaced with a furniture store. But was it was indeed a bookstore with real books, floors of them.   Barnes and Noble I miss you, I’d cry. Barnes and Noble, who will replace you?  Barnes and Noble, you might have killed off the mom and pop, but what will we do without you? I used to complain about the Barnes and...

Missing Home

I’ve had a curious relationship with my dead mother-in-law’s house for the past ten years. And now suddenly, it’s over and done with.  I would describe the relationship as close, protective, love/hate, proud, loyal, agonizing, infuriating.  Indeed it’s as close as any relationship I’ve had to any house, since I’ve never had a house of my very own and have always longed for one.  My ten year thing with my mother-in-law’s old house encompasses all the range of feelings people have about the places where things have happened to them and to people they love, though I have never lived in the house, except for a short period of time a couple of summers ago. I wrote almost a whole novel during that time, within its walls, and though the novel has yet to be published, I hope one day it will be.  It was an odd couple of months for me. I hardly cooked a meal, I blamed it on the fact that there was only a couple of knives and forks, two bowls and maybe three glasses, none of them proper, all from the Ladies Village Improvement Society bargain box.  There was just the one sofa to sit on, as I had long ago emptied the place out for selling.  Back in the big bedroom, my father-in-law designed and everybody called “the motel” there was one uncomfortable bed and a broken down vintage, modernist chest of drawers so splintered, every time I reached in, I invariably had to retrieve the tweezers and alcohol.  Yet it was one of the happiest summers of my life. In the early...