Menu

M. Robert Grunwald

Award-winning playwright and author

Blog Posts

Muses,,,with apologies to Calliope

The muses. You've heard of 'em, you love 'em. If you're a writer, like me, the Olympic goddess looking over your shoulder is Calliope. If you're a dancer, Terpsichore's your go-to. A historian? Clio.

But I've got a few personal muses in addition to dear Calliope (who must be cursing my lack of se…

Read more

A Helluva Ride

One of my guilty pleasures is the horror lit, and I've just finished a doozy. Drew Magary's The Hike is like one of those "Twilight Zone" episodes that is more profound than it had any right to be. I'll be thinking about this one for a while. Without spoiling anything, the book follows Ben, a husban…

Read more

The Case of the 66 Novels

One summer in college, I read Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None (aka Ten Little Indians, aka (I found out years later) Ten Little N*****s (!) Like countless readers worldwide, I fell in love with her style and storycraft. I fully intended to read more of her books, but never got around to i…

Read more

What Is I'm Heartbroken

I passed the final "Jeopardy" auditions over the summer, but with the recent news, I'm waiting for their call with a heavy heart.
 
My wife and I were on the TCM Classic Movie Cruise in 2016. Alex Trebek was a regular on those cruises and held two extremely popular trivia challenges on eac…

Read more

Thought for the day

They Tampered in My Domain

A few weeks ago, I discovered that my web hosting service had failed to protect my original domain. I liked that domain. It was my name, my professional one, anyway, and I'd had it for several years. Now it's no longer under my control. A quick check at WhoIs.com reveals that it belongs to something…

Read more

Blog Posts

Muses,,,with apologies to Calliope

The muses. You've heard of 'em, you love 'em. If you're a writer, like me, the Olympic goddess looking over your shoulder is Calliope. If you're a dancer, Terpsichore's your go-to. A historian? Clio.

But I've got a few personal muses in addition to dear Calliope (who must be cursing my lack of se…

Read more

A Helluva Ride

One of my guilty pleasures is the horror lit, and I've just finished a doozy. Drew Magary's The Hike is like one of those "Twilight Zone" episodes that is more profound than it had any right to be. I'll be thinking about this one for a while. Without spoiling anything, the book follows Ben, a husban…

Read more

The Case of the 66 Novels

One summer in college, I read Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None (aka Ten Little Indians, aka (I found out years later) Ten Little N*****s (!) Like countless readers worldwide, I fell in love with her style and storycraft. I fully intended to read more of her books, but never got around to i…

Read more

What Is I'm Heartbroken

I passed the final "Jeopardy" auditions over the summer, but with the recent news, I'm waiting for their call with a heavy heart.
 
My wife and I were on the TCM Classic Movie Cruise in 2016. Alex Trebek was a regular on those cruises and held two extremely popular trivia challenges on eac…

Read more

Thought for the day

They Tampered in My Domain

A few weeks ago, I discovered that my web hosting service had failed to protect my original domain. I liked that domain. It was my name, my professional one, anyway, and I'd had it for several years. Now it's no longer under my control. A quick check at WhoIs.com reveals that it belongs to something…

Read more

Muses,,,with apologies to Calliope

The muses. You've heard of 'em, you love 'em. If you're a writer, like me, the Olympic goddess looking over your shoulder is Calliope. If you're a dancer, Terpsichore's your go-to. A historian? Clio.

But I've got a few personal muses in addition to dear Calliope (who must be cursing my lack of self-discipline from on high). First and foremost is my wife of 23 years. More on her in another post. Maybe when you and I have known each other a little longer. Beyond Mrs. Me, I've got five biggies. While some of them have written in various forms, only one was actually a writer.

Today, I choose to honor my five chosen muses (in no particular order).

George Lucas - For the people who know me, this is probably a given. I can draw a chronological line straight from Star Wars to my current career. That makes Mr. Lucas (regardless of what others may think of him) a cert for number one elective muse. I may write here on my history with Star Wars someday. Maybe when you and I have known each other a little longer.

Walt Disney - I was born in San Diego, and let's face it: when you're a kid, at least in the early 1970s, Uncle Walt owned Southern California. My first trip to Disneyland was in a stroller. I remember E-tickets, the pre-1983 Fantasyland with Skull Rock, and a Matterhorn whose interior was just a big open room (a real let-down to my six-year-old imagination the first time I rode it). All this, combined with the infusion of movies, weekly television, and storybooks, and Mr. Disney couldn't have missed a place on this list.

Jim Henson - A creative guy, sure. But more than anything, the Muppet King taught me the meaning of the word sensibility. It's an ineffable concept, hard to grasp, but when the sensibility of a creative artist just clicks with you every time, you feel it.

Groucho Marx - I got hooked on the Marx Brothers when I was about 17 and had most of their movies committed to memory by the time I left for college the next year. While I still love them, it's Groucho's persona on screen and (more importantly) off screen that makes him one of my muses. You know that question about who you'd invite to a dinner party, living or dead, from throughout history? Groucho's always my number one.

James Thurber - Not really part of the Algonquin Round Table, but adjacent (much like Groucho, who's connected to many of the same people). When I was growing up, my stepdad's mom gave me money for my birthday. When I turned 17 I bought a leatherbound Thurber anthology that I still have. Mix him with his good friend Groucho, and you get an idea of what i strive for when I write.

To Calliope, Mrs. Me, and the five guys above, thanks for pushing me to be my best, even when I don't.

A Helluva Ride

One of my guilty pleasures is the horror lit, and I've just finished a doozy. Drew Magary's The Hike is like one of those "Twilight Zone" episodes that is more profound than it had any right to be. I'll be thinking about this one for a while. Without spoiling anything, the book follows Ben, a husband and father of three on a routine business trip to a hotel in rural Pennsylvania. Before the party he's supposed to meet arrives, he takes a hike on a marked trail he finds behind the hotel. From there, he gets...well, lost. But The Hike isn't a lost-in-the-woods survival story. Or rather, it is, but it isn't. I'm spoiling nothing by telling you that Ben's odyssey includes a talking crab, a smart-mouthed giant, a hovercraft-cum-cruise ship, a cricket the size of a pony, and an exercise in hard labor that would give Sisyphus a run for his money. Suffice to say, Ben ends up a very different man than he was when he checked into the hotel, and it may or may not be for the better.

Since I finished it, I've recommended The Hike to three people, each looking for a good read in a different genre. While it's most heartily recommended for fans of horror and sci-fi, like the best stories, it transcends genre. It's a terrifying, funny, inspiring, heartbreaking, breathtaking read.

The Case of the 66 Novels

One summer in college, I read Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None (aka Ten Little Indians, aka (I found out years later) Ten Little N*****s (!) Like countless readers worldwide, I fell in love with her style and storycraft. I fully intended to read more of her books, but never got around to it.

Fast forward 32 years. I finally added The Body in the Library, another of her Miss Marple mysteries, to my Kindle. None of Christie's books are very long, so I finished it in a few hours. That evening, I borrowed the audiobook of Appointment with Death to my Overdrive account (more on this later), and this is where I was finally hooked. Hugh Fraser, who played genius detective Hercule Poirot's trusted friend Captain Hastings on the long-running Poirot TV series, was a perfect narrator (he no doubt picked up a great voice for Poirot working alongside David Suchet for all those years). I went through another three Christie/Fraser/Poirot audiobooks in the week that followed.

This was last September, when the "new project" phase of the COVID lockdown had come and gone and I was restless for something to do. Wikipedia informed me that Agatha Christie wrote 66 mystery novels in her long and prolific career, so I set upon a goal to read all of them by the same time this year, finishing it up with a reread of And Then There Were None. In addition to the audiobooks, I borrowed a bunch of Kindle editions through Overdrive, reading several aloud to my wife (I do a passable Miss Marple, but my Hercule Poirot is dreadful). I recently put to bed The Secret of Chimneys, number 46 on my list. It's been a great way to keep from going crazy, and it'll be one more "fun fact" about me if and when the good people at "Jeopardy" call me to L.A. (see my earlier post).

I'm not a mystery buff on the whole. While I enjoy them to an extent, I find that mystery readers tend to devour the genre, and I've never felt that compulsion. Maybe Dame Agatha just plucks the right chord with my whole Anglophile thing, maybe it's because of the fun she so obviously has with her material. I didn't know until I got deep into her stuff, for example, that she's incredibly meta in her writing. An alter-ego mystery author named Ariadne Oliver appears from time to time in her books, dissing the state of the genre and issuing mea culpas that she has made in her own works, all of which were mistakes Christie legitimately made in her own books. Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot both lament the way in which mystery writers make their cases too pat or obvious. And she routinely draws attention to the fact that none of her recurring characters seem to age whether they appear in a 1925 novel or one from 1970. All of this tells me that it's the writer, not the genre, that's really got me hooked here.

Before I go, I want to draw attention one last time to Overdrive. If you don't have this wonderful app on your phone or tablet, get it. Sign up for your local library (it doesn't matter if you already have a library card or not; the app will help set you up with one), browse, and start reading on your Kindle or listening through Audible, all totally free. Nearly all their materials can be checked out for up to three weeks, and you can place holds, renew books, and make acquisition requests to your local library. It's a fantastic way to catch up on a lot of reading without spending a dime. I can't recommend it enough.

What Is I'm Heartbroken

I passed the final "Jeopardy" auditions over the summer, but with the recent news, I'm waiting for their call with a heavy heart.
 
My wife and I were on the TCM Classic Movie Cruise in 2016. Alex Trebek was a regular on those cruises and held two extremely popular trivia challenges on each voyage. I was determined to take part in one, but when we arrived at the massive main lounge where it was being held, we found it was at capacity. The organizers started routing people to the ship's smaller bars to play via CCTV, and even then, we were the last two people they admitted. We joined two other couples, one a few years older than us, and one a few decades older. Crammed into the back corner of the ship's Irish pub, we dubbed our team the "Corner Pockets" and hunkered down to take the quiz. In the end, Alex announced that we were one of two teams tied for first place, "but only [the other team] would get prizes, since the Corner Pockets didn't bother to stick around to find out who won." Looks of shock and puzzlement passed between the six of us before we realized that no one must have informed our esteemed host that there were people playing remotely all over the ship. We began to "hurry" halfway across the ship to the main lounge to set things right. (Keep in mind I need a cane to get around and there were two people with us about 80 years old.) We got there just in time to declare our (tied) victory and join the man himself on stage. We ended up getting a nice prize package from TCM, but the memory of that frenetic, weird encounter with Alex Trebek was all the prize this "Jeopardy" fan needed.
 
Mr. Trebek, you will be missed.

Thought for the day

They Tampered in My Domain

A few weeks ago, I discovered that my web hosting service had failed to protect my original domain. I liked that domain. It was my name, my professional one, anyway, and I'd had it for several years. Now it's no longer under my control. A quick check at WhoIs.com reveals that it belongs to something called a "domain farm" in China. Research tells me that this sort of thing happens fairly frequently and that there's little one can do to rectify it unless one wants to enter into a nasty war for one's virtual property. But in an era when one's online identity is one's identity, this feels like a violation. But it also feels very 2020. In the scheme of this year, it's par for the course but hardly that important. So I've found new digs, a new web identity, and started from scratch. So welcome, thanks for following me, and remember to keep an eye on your web hosting service and their billing practices, lest you end up in a Chinese domain farm without a plow.

Search

Comments

There are currently no blog comments.