12/08/16 5:45am
12/08/2016 5:45 AM

Michael Fedele and Virginia Nolan

About six years ago, Michael Fedele couldn’t shake the image of a grungy and battered Santa Claus from his mind. The character appeared to him every single day for no apparent reason.

But finally, while driving home from work one day, the fictional Santa’s entire story came to him.


03/20/16 9:00am
03/20/2016 9:00 AM


Many people use the term March Madness and I’m never sure whether they’re referring to the NCAA basketball tournament or the excitement brought forth by St. Patrick’s Day, with its parades and general good will. We were in Savannah and were amazed at the size of its parade. We soon learned that it’s the second biggest one in America. In Georgia. Who knew? READ

02/21/16 6:00am
02/21/2016 6:00 AM

February is the month of presidents’ birthdays — two of our greatest, Washington and Lincoln. I remember a cartoon in Esquire many years ago, Lincoln and Washington in a room, Lincoln saying, “George, is February 12 your birthday or mine?” It was funny because the question was real for many people — which was whose and whose was when. This amusing uncertainty was eliminated by creating Presidents’ Day, a cop-out if ever there was one.

Washington/Lincoln: Lincoln/Washington — the endless comparisons are inevitable. There always seemed to be many more books about Lincoln, but important facts aside, Abe clearly wins the face-on-the-money contest, $5.01 to George’s $1.25. George, though, had a state named after him, plus the site of the government’s capitol and a great big bridge, while Abe had to settle for a tunnel, a city in Nebraska and a very pricey car.

The level of advice they received varied widely. Thomas Jefferson to Washington: “Delay is preferable to error”; 12-year-old Grace Bedell to Lincoln, on growing a beard: “You would look a great deal better, for your face is so thin.”

Regarding books, ‘Team of Rivals,’ Doris Kearns Goodman’s examination of the oppositional cabinet that Lincoln dared to put together, is an excellent study of Lincoln, and I just finished ‘Washington’s Crossing’ (David Hackett Fisher). I learned more about Washington and the Revolution than I ever learned in grammar school (which focused mostly on wooden false teeth, the chopped-down cherry tree that he admitted to, and the freezing cold at Valley Forge). This is a heart-thumping book, and if it looks too long, it’s not. If you exclude the copious appendices and the pages of maps and illustrations, you wind up with around 320 pages of inspirational, eye-opening material.

I don’t want to ignore the ever-romantic St. Valentine’s Day. Every couple has an “our song,” and my wife and I, back in the ’50s, decided on Pat Boone’s “Love Letters in the Sand” — it was summer and we spent endless hours talking on the beach. Years passed and if the song happened to play on the radio we’d poke each other and grin. Then one time we really “listened” to the words and realized that the bridge went, “You made a vow that you would ever be true, but somehow that vow meant nothing to you.” Now Boone’s heart is aching as the waves are breaking over the sandy love letters, etc., etc. In the 1950s, love, apparently, was not only blind, but somewhat deaf, too. But we’re working away on year 58.

As an old year ends I like to decide which was the best book I’d read. There were three I considered: ‘Someone,’ Alice McDermott’s touching story of an ordinary young Irish woman in Brooklyn; ‘A God in Ruins,’ Kate Atkinson’s follow-up to “Life After Death”; and, my final choice, ‘All the Light We Cannot See’ (Anthony Doerr), about a young blind girl in World War II France and a boyish German soldier disenchanted with his army’s cruelty. This is a beautifully written story of the faith, hope and charity that exists within us all.

Jerry CaseMr. Case, of Southold, is retired from Oxford University Press. He can be reached at [email protected].

09/11/15 12:00pm
09/11/2015 12:00 PM


“A book can make you feel better.”

That simple statement, spoken by sixth-grader Sidney Brewer, is the principle that guided a dozen local Girl Scouts in their latest endeavor. For their Bronze Award project, they wanted to give the gift of reading to their community. READ

11/28/13 1:40pm
11/28/2013 1:40 PM
CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Joseph Finora with his first novel, which takes place in Wine Country.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Joseph Finora with his first novel, which takes place in Wine Country.

Taking his first stab at fiction writing, Laurel resident Joseph Finora has recently released his first mystery novel, “Red Like Wine: The North Fork Harbor Vineyard Murders.”

The novel tells the story of down-and-out New York City crime reporter Vin Gusto and his former girlfriend, photographer Shanin Blanc, who discover that more than wine is being made at the vineyard in a farming-and-fishing community that’s slowly becoming a wine destination.

When a renowned but reclusive winemaker turns up dead in a vat of his own juice, the couple tries to solve the crime while repairing their relationship and careers amid the murder and mayhem.

Mr. Finora, whom you might know from his involvement with the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League or his recent campaign for Town Trustee, is the first to admit the tale is inspired by his experience working as a New York City reporter, his relationship with his wife and the changing dynamic of the North Fork from a quiet town to an increasingly popular tourist destination.

“I have always wanted to write a murder mystery,” he said. “And I have always been in love with the local wine community. It’s a ripe setting for it.”

The novel, three years in the making, was the result of a lot of research about crime investigations and a lot of early morning writing, Mr. Finora said. His wife, Mary Grace, to whom the book is dedicated, also played a big part in the editing process.

“She is one of those straight-shooting critics,” he said. “She was not shy about telling me what she thought and pointing out how to make the storyline better.”

The 360-page novel is Mr. Finora’s first full-length work of fiction. However, he is no novice. A full-time writer, he’s penned thousands of articles as a freelance journalist, in addition to two business books — “Media Relations and Creative Marketing Tips for Financial Professionals” in 2007 and “Recession Marketing” in 2009.

The reviews of “Red Like Wine” have already been positive. Smoke Magazine has called it “a vintage read” and author Georgeann Packard said the writing is “crisp and natural,” adding that “you won’t be able to put Finora’s book down.”

Mr. Finora said he’s already working on his next novel.

“I am letting a few ideas settle, but I am definitely working on another fiction book,” he said. “I love writing in the early mornings. I can’t wait to get back to it.”

“Red Like Wine: The North Fork Harbor Vineyard Murders” is available locally at BookHampton in Matituck and Preston’s in Greenport and online at amazon.com.

[email protected]

09/28/11 1:02pm
09/28/2011 1:02 PM

A new book has been published chronicling the life and works of Cutchogue composer Douglas Moore, best known for his American opera “The Ballad of Baby Doe” and six other operas.

“Douglas Moore: A Bio-Bibliography” was written by Jerry McBride, head librarian of the Music Library and Archive of Recorded Sound at Stanford University. It was published in January.

The hefty tome is 658 pages long and retails for $90. Cutchogue-New Suffolk Library plans to buy a copy for its local history room, said librarian Mary Ellen Ostrowski, adding that the book will be for reference use only.

Though the bulk of the book comprises lists of manuscripts, scores, recordings, performances and articles written about Mr. Moore and his works, it does include a chronological biography of more than 70 pages that details Mr. Moore’s life, from his childhood days in Cutchogue, making up plays with his brothers and sister, to his earliest musical inklings and his desire to skip out on piano lessons.

As a teenager, Mr. Moore attended the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Conn., where he met and wrote songs with classmate Archibald MacLeish. He was two years behind Cole Porter when he later attended Yale University, and inherited many of Mr. Porter’s compositional duties when the older composer left college.

In school, he referred to himself as “a meatball,” Mr. McBride writes, not handsome or popular, but “most original.”

“Douglas Moore: A Bio-Bibliography” was published by A-R Editions Inc. through its Music Library Association Index and Bibliography Series and is available online at Amazon.com. It can also be found on Google Books, where the biography portion is available for perusal.

[email protected]

11/15/10 3:17pm
11/15/2010 3:17 PM

As a child, I loved to read and was often praised for being an avid reader, and yet I was also often admonished for reading too much. I was always being told to stop reading and play with my little sister and brother; stop reading and go outside and get some fresh air and exercise; stop reading and come to the table to eat — no you may NOT read at the table; stop reading and go to sleep. First grown-ups want you to learn to read, and then they get in your face telling you when it’s OK to do it.
The other morning, I found myself being really annoying to a grandchild who was reading when I was trying to get him and his little brother to school on time. When I heard my own voice, I cringed and then apologized. Luckily, I don’t think I inflicted too much psychic damage. He was too busy reading to have really registered either the annoying part or the apology.
That is one of the ways reading works in families. The readers might physically inhabit the same space as the rest of the family, but they’re not really there. They are in the space of the story. They prefer the company of some made-up characters to yours. You can have hurt feelings if you want, but it probably won’t change anything. Readers negotiate the shoals of family life with an air of preoccupation and an escape clause. They can always pick up their book and disappear.
One reason we want children to learn how to read is so they’ll leave us alone. The other night, I was explaining to a young friend that since I had read him Anne Rockwell’s ‘At the Firehouse’ two times in a row, now he could sit on my lap and turn the pages quietly all by himself while I talked to his mother for a few minutes. That way he’d be reading to himself like a big boy by looking at the pictures and remembering the story in his head. He fell for this ruse hook, line and sinker and we grown-ups had a few moments of uninterrupted conversation. It was sweet, but of course, in a few years, he will be busy actually reading while we grown-ups are berating or cajoling him to talk to us, finish his dinner, pay attention, tie his shoes. He will have an air of preoccupation and an escape clause.
Reading with two other children on a rainy November afternoon went from the ridiculous to the sublime. First my granddaughter read aloud to me and her younger brother. She read most of Dav Pilkey’s ‘Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future’ and then, because it was so terrific and I wanted to know what was going to happen next, I read the rest. Dav Pilkey is most famous for the “Captain Underpants” series, which put him right up there on lists with Toni Morrison, J.K. Rowling, Maya Angelou, Stephen King and Maurice Sendak.
Pilkey is a bit like Dr. Seuss on Ritalin, with the grosser body fixations of the average 6-year-old. Each chapter has at least one “Flip-o-rama” section, which is a low-tech version of a flip book in which two pages, flipped quickly, supposedly give the illusion of action. Cavemen punch each other, things explode, a baby dinosaur has motion sickness. While I was reading aloud, both children worked on making their own Flip-o-rama drawings.
Then we all looked at a huge new art history book, ‘30,000 Years of Art: The Story of Human Creativity Across Time and Space,’ which debunks art historical classifications and hierarchies by presenting 1,000 masterworks of art in simple chronological order. It demonstrates what was being created all over the earth at the same time. Each work of art is on its own page, each is given equal weight. You find the Venus de Milo next to a mural from the Mayan civilization and Velasquez’ Las Meniñas next to a painting from the Chinese Ming Dynasty, an Indian jade wine cup, a ritual Nepalese plaque, a Korean portrait and Vermeer’s milkmaid. We made games of guessing what countries things were from by covering up the caption before turning the page (sort of the obverse of Flip-o-rama) and guessing what things were used for, or just saying which of two facing images we liked better — sublime games and a very sociable way of interacting with books and family members simultaneously.
Two books I read all by my unsociable self in the last few weeks both were set in Asia. Amy Tan’s ‘Saving Fish from Drowning’ is a long, ambitious book somewhat inspired by Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” in that it has 12 travelers embarked on a kind of contemporary spiritual pilgrimage. The all-knowing narrator is the unquiet ghost of the woman who had organized and was supposed to lead the trip to China and Burma, until her untimely demise.
At first, the book seems slow, because there are so many characters and a bit of explication is required to get all the narrative machinery set up, but when, having been promised a Christmas surprise, all but one of the tourists go off across a Burmese lake in boats with some tribesmen they know nothing about, things start happening fast. It is Tan’s skill that the things that happen can be very funny and at the same time unbearably sad. The privileged American tourists and the politically repressed tribal people of Burma have a perfect storm of mutual miscommunication, with some unexpected consequences.
‘The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet’ by David Mitchell is a wonderful, wonderful book. It takes place on the tiny man-made island of Dejima, toehold of the Dutch East India Company, in the harbor of Nagasaki in Japan in the late 1700s. I loved spending my time in the company of the characters — red-haired Jacob De Zoet, an ambitious but honest clerk; Orito Aibigawa, the disfigured daughter of a samurai and a talented midwife; Dr. Marinus, misanthropic healer, teacher and musician; Abbot Enomoto, ageless evil incarnate; and Ogawa Uzaemon, heroic translator. I love a novel with a historical setting so unknown and exotic as to afford me a complete escape from my usual world. It’s not that my usual world isn’t a glorious place, but I have this habit of escaping, and why not escape to somewhere very, very far away?

Ms. Johnson, of Greenport, is assistant director at Floyd Memorial Library and moonlights as an artist and newspaper columnist.

11/01/10 4:54pm
11/01/2010 4:54 PM

I came across a 1996 article by Wendy Wasserstein about New York City. She was decrying the presence of big box stores and fast-food restaurants and ended by saying, “You would never meet Nathan Detroit at a Starbucks counter.” With that, all the Broadway characters Damon Runyon created came to mind: Harry the Horse, Nicely-Nicely Jones, Madame La Gimp and, of course, good old reliable Nathan.
Back in the ’30s and ’40s Runyon, hanging out in Broadway bars and hotels, captured the voice of the seamier side of the city, a voice probably no longer heard. According to The Dictionary of Slang, he overheard many unusual words and made them part of our everyday language: “cheaters” for glasses, “equalizer” and “shiv” for gun and knife, and “the shorts” for a lack of funds, among many. I still smile remembering the four hustlers out on the river “watching the boat race between the Harvards and the Yales” and trying to figure out a way to fix the outcome. They do.
With great humor Runyon tells about the gamblers and gangsters that inhabit Times Square. The writing is stylized, but is it still enjoyable? As Benny Southstreet might say, “a little more than somewhat.”
In the ’50s and ’60s Joseph Mitchell, writing for The New Yorker, brought us stories of real-life people and, along the way, made McSorley’s saloon famous. He loved certain sections of the city — the waterfront, the Bowery, the Village — and wrote about the people who worked or lived there and the characters who wandered the streets and navigated the gin mills.
Most famous of these was Joe Gould, a slight, disheveled Harvard graduate, better known as Professor Sea Gull, who constantly spoke of writing “An Oral History of Our Time,” filling dozens of composition books. Reputed to be nine million words and growing, it turned out, sadly, not to exist at all. Mitchell wrote about the fearless Mohawk Indians, gliding along the high steel beams of New York’s bridges and skyscrapers, riveting the city together, and of Gypsy neighborhoods, with their sometimes borderline methods of making money. These and many more are compiled in the matchless “Up in the Old Hotel.”
In later years Mike Royko and Jimmy Breslin wrote wonderfully about New York City, and Pete Hamill’s autobiographical “Downtown: My Manhattan” is a tough and tender recollection of growing up in the tenements, in the schools and on the streets. In Hamill’s “Snow in August,” 14-year-old Michael Devlin responds to Rabbi Judah Hirsch’s request to turn on the lights of the synagogue for the Sabbath, and a personal relationship begins. The rabbi helps Michael with his troubles with the Falcons gang; Michael helps the rabbi with his English. The novel paints a picture of a New York City we can only hope exists.
So Manhattan is, what, 100 miles to the west? And we take the Jitney, see a show, maybe hit a museum or ogle the windows on Fifth. A nice day, but when do we just sit and listen to the voices of New York? These authors let us do exactly that.

Mr. Case, of Southold, is retired from Oxford University Press and a former member of Southold Free Library’s board of trustees. He can be reached at [email protected]