Author's Note:

The Long Habit of Living is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

This Is of the 34th Parallel Issue 51.

This Is Thursday.

I'm quite proud of these copies of Issue 51 of the 34th Parallel, which published
my short story, This Is Thursday.


"Dolly and Tootie routinely bad-mouthed every in-law in the family."

"Everybody calls him Stosh.  We were engaged to be married once."

"She smiled like a Renaissance cherub, albeit a forty-something cherub."

"This must be how his father felt after a long day's driving, or how his mother felt at the start of each new day--brushed aside, not good enough."

Here's the link so you can buy a copy.

Thank you for your time.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

This Is Thursday

My latest short story, entitled This Is Thursday, is available from
34th Parallel magazine.

Friday, January 12, 2018

My Books of 2017.

My book list of 2017.  It was a quick year for reading, and I'm sorry to say I only read half the amount of what I read in 2016.  We'll have to do something about that.

The Pistol by James Jones.  This was a strange, quirky, at times irritating novel about a soldier who is a cross between an idiot and an obsessive.  Kirkus Reviews said:   “…one small area of the early days of war [WWII], the hardships without actual or imminent danger, the frustrations and yearnings of men...just ordinary men -- etched with sharp perception and understanding. Jones has proved that he doesn't need the false props of salacious depravity to give substance to his characterizations.”  I’m not so sure.

Mannequin by J. Robert Janes.  (A St.-Cyr and Kohler Mystery).  My books for fun reading lately have been mysteries, usually unusual.  This is part of Janes’ World War Two topography, a time that I’m deeply entrenched with.

Foreign Studies by Shusaku Endo.  Three stories linked taking us to post-World War Two Paris from the perspective of a young Japanese student.

To A Mountain In Tibet by Colin Thubron is a wonderful memoir about the author’s journey to Mount Kailas (southwest Tibet).  This is a mind-filler to be sure.

Why Homer Matters by Adam Nicolson.  Nonfiction.  I really liked this book, I became engulfed in the Trojan War as if I were an archeologist, reporter, librarian, myth-intimated man of the 21st century.

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book; there is much quirky ridiculousness but it’s handled. 

Kinds of Love by May Sarton.  She does not kid around with her relationships.  We’re in a small New Hampshire town, back in 1970.  I liked being taken back there, finding an Iris Murdoch sensibility in the cold U.S.

The Dark Flood Rises by Margaret Drabble.  I love Margaret Drabble, and this is another book that I can add to my flag-waving arch of triumph for her.  It’s not for everyone.

An American Requiem: God, My Father, and the War That Came Between Us by James Carroll.  This memoir was a bit thin.  Although Kirkus says “fresh retelling…about a son’s struggles with his father and his God,” it wasn’t a book to stay up late for. 

H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald.  Memoir.  At times fascinating, at times lugubrious in its sentimentality over the death of her father and her hyper-self-consciousness.  There are a lot of anecdotes concerning the behavior of hawks and the unintelligible need for people to hood them and teach them how to hunt vis-à-vis showmanship.  Macdonald did, however, turn my lights on for T.H. White. (You remember him; The Sword in the Stone, The Once and Future King, The Book of Merlyn, etc..)

The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson.  This novel began with a curious eccentricity that I thought would level out, but by the time I finished this book I was so angry at such a waste of my life.  This is a pointless book.

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters.  This is a challenging book. It gives you a tense uncomfortable binding in your stomach and frown on your face over what people do in the face of and shrinking from passion.  Kirkus says it will remind you of Ian McEwan novels.  Maybe.

T.H. White - A biography, by Sylvia Townsend Warner, is a sad and sometimes brutal life.  Such a successful writer going at light speed without benefit of love. Born in India died in Greece. An interesting man. He was a strong influence on J.K. Rowling and Michael Moorcock and Ed McBain.

The Hothouse by Wolfgang Koeppen takes us to postwar Germany, early 1950s, late 1940s, with the guilt and love/hate fibers of that defeated culture showing through every character.  More bleak than Le Carre but without Le Carre’s charm and brilliance.

Outwitting the Gestapo by Lucie Aubrac.  This is nonfiction; it is exciting at times as well as amusing; there is love, sex, danger pitting your skills against Nazis occupying Paris and the French countryside.

Ballplayer by Chipper Jones by one of my sports heroes.  I enjoyed Chipper’s self-deprecation and his all-too-often true blue stock being sometimes swept away by appetite.

Stonemouth by Iain Banks.  Contemporary, hilarious, gritty novel says Kirkus.  Yes, it is.  Problematic you-can-never-go-home-again story that, once put down, I couldn’t wait to return to it.

Brief Lives by Anita Brookner is another novel by someone whose work I cannot get enough of; cliché, I know, but her “…portrait of a woman adrift in a comfortless world, where the hourglass never stops running” says it for me.

The Monk by Matthew G. Lewis is a gothic romance published in 1796.  Lots of scandalous behavior among nuns, princes, ladies, monks, abbots, etc.; not lurid, don’t get me wrong.

Missing Person by Patrick Modiano is his sixth novel, and won him the Goncourt Prize.  It’s about a detective who lost his memory a decade earlier.  I thought it was convoluted and confusing.

 King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa by Adam Hochschild.  One of the most extraordinary books I read in a long time, certainly one of the three most impressive of last year.  The sheer horror of white men’s cruelty to other races is and has always been monstrous, but in this book, the atrocities committed by and in the name of the King of Belgium for money and prestige, including American entrepreneurs (another way of saying “sadists”) was like a super-cancer invading an otherwise innocuous body, pulverizing everything in its wake.  You will never forget what you’ve read between the covers of this book.

The Catcher Was a Spy:  The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg, by Nicholas Dawidoff, is a strange biography of a strange man.  You get baseball’s Moe Berg working with intelligence agencies during the War, and then afterward, his lonely aimless life.  Moe Berg is a fascinating psychological study, I don’t know what of, but fascinating nevertheless.

The Red-Haired Woman by Orhan Pamuk was a disappointing post-Nobel Prize work by one of my living heroes.  Well written, captivating prose, but it is certainly a minor work.  And I hate myself for saying that.

The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty is a delightful book, my first read of Ron McLarty and I can’t wait for more.  I was reminded of the first time I read St. Burl’s Obituary by Daniel Akst, a great book I must say. (Not that the stories are the same, but the sensibilities are.)

A Legacy of Spies by John Le Carre was not what I expected.  A rehash and retelling of the Spy Who Came In From the Cold under the microscope of 21st Century British (could be anybody) stupidity.  Point taken, but not a very good novel.

1356 by Bernard Cornwell is a grand book.  It is bloody, amusing, brilliant history and should benefit the Medieval enthusiast certainly, but what a miniseries it would make.   This is a very good book.

The Winter Queen by Boris Akunin, early murder mystery work introducing his Fandorin hero.  I have a fondness for Czarist Russia, imported from my devotion to Dostoievsky and Tolsoy.  I’m hooked.

The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.  I loved this second book almost as much as I loved the first one of the trilogy (Shadow of the Wind).  I’m drawn to the darkness in Zafon’s novels as much as I am to the scholarship.  The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, I love it.  Los libros olvidados.   Naturally I’m chomping at the bit for the third one, The Prisoner of Heaven.

Christmas Pudding and Pigeon Pie by Nancy Mitford.  First one I enjoyed very much, but Pigeon Pie is not as much a satire as her other work, though it tries to be.  Outset of the Second World War crushed Mitford’s family.  The twists and champagne-blurred characters lost me.

David Crockett: The Lion of the West by Michael Wallis is an interesting book about a remarkable man, but the narrative was informational so often, as if I were reading the index cards. 

An April Afternoon by Philip Wylie is beautifully written.  I understand why he was so controversial.  (This book premiered in 1938.)

 The Man Who Liked To Look at Himself by K.C. Constantine.  Constantine is a new compulsion for me, like I need another one.  Small Pennsylvania town, chief of police is the protagonist, strange and colorful characters, and murder.  I’m looking forward to lining his books up like a flotilla.

Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanche Tribe by S.C. Gwynne.  This book is insightful, full of American history, and the wretched acts of incarceration, slavery, and genocide that the white settlers and U.S. government perpetrated upon the indigenous native populations of the American wilderness.  Early history of Texas is prominent, certainly nothing to be proud of in any sense.  A waste of lives and a destruction of resources, that’s us.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Repose comes easy in a gloomy place, a story should be a story, and other words of comfort.

In anticipation of my Year of Books 2017 list, I thought I'd share some pieces of brilliance from writers who have made a dent in my thick skull and about whom I don't write or speak about as often as I should.

"At the hour when our imagination and our ability to associate are at their height," Hermann Hesse asserted in contemplating the three styles of reading, "we really no longer read what is printed on the paper but swim in a stream of impulses and inspirations that reach us from what we are reading."

A little something from Irwin Shaw:

Fifth Avenue was shining in the sun when they left the Brevoort and started walking toward Washington Square. The sun was warm, even though it was November, and everything looked like Sunday morning--the buses, and the well-dressed people walking slowly in couples and the quiet buildings with the windows closed.
Michael held Frances' arm tightly as they walked downtown in the sunlight. They walked lightly, almost smiling, because they had slept late and had a good breakfast and it was Sunday. Michael unbuttoned his coat and let it flap around him in the mild wind. They walked, without saying anything, among the young and pleasant-looking people who somehow seem to make up most of the population of that section of New York City.
"Look out," Frances said, as they crossed Eighth Street. "You'll break your neck."
Michael laughed and Frances laughed with him.
"She's not so pretty, anyway," Frances said. "Anyway, not pretty enough to take a chance breaking your neck looking at her."
--from The Girls in Their Summer Dresses, 1939

Isaac Bashevis Singer, when asked if Arthur Conan Doyle influenced him in any way, replied:

"Well, I don't think that the stories of Sherlock Holmes had any real influence on me. But I will say one thing, from my childhood I have always loved tension in a story. I liked that a story should be a story. That there should be a beginning and an end, and there should be some feeling of what will happen at the end. And to this rule I keep today. I think that storytelling has become in this age almost a forgotten art. But I try my best not to suffer from this kind of amnesia. To me a story is still a story where the reader listens and wants to know what happens. If the reader knows everything from the very beginning, even if the description is good, I think the story is not a story.
--from The Paris Review, Fall 1968

I love this from John Cheever:

It was one of those midsummer Sundays when everyone sits around saying, "I drank too much last night." You might have heard it whispered by the parishioners leaving church, heard it from the lips of the priest himself, struggling with his cassock in the vestiarium, heard it from the golf links and the
tennis courts, heard it from the wildlife preserve where the leader of the Audubon group was suffering from a terrible hangover.
"I drank too much," said Donald Westerhazy.
"We all drank too much," said Lucinda Merrill.
"It must have been the wine," said Helen Westerhazy. "I drank too much of that claret."
This was at the edge of the Westerhazys pool. The pool, fed by an artesian well with a high iron content, was a pale shade of green. It was a fine day. In the west there was a massive stand
of cumulus cloud so like a city seen from a distance from the bow of an approaching ship that it might have had a name. Lisbon. Hackensack.
The sun was hot. Neddy Merrill sat by the green water, one hand in it, one around a glass of gin.
--from The Swimmer, 1964

A classic from Joseph Mitchell:

To a devoted McSorley customer, most other New York City saloons are tense and disquieting. It is possible to relax in McSorley's. For one thing, it is dark and gloomy, and repose comes easy in a gloomy place. Also, the barely audible heartbeat-like ticking of the old clocks is soothing. Also, there is a thick, musty smell that acts as a balm to jerky nerves; it is really a rich compound of the smells of pine sawdust, tap drippings, pipe tobacco, coal smoke, and onions. A Bellevue intern once remarked that for some mental states the smell in McSorley's would be a lot more beneficial than psychoanalysis or sedative pills or prayer.
--from McSorley's Wonderful Saloon, 1943

From The Monk, by Matthew Gregory Lewis:

The full moon, ranging through a blue and cloudless sky, shed upon the trees a trembling lustre, and the waters of the fountains sparkled in the silver beam; a gentle breeze breathed the fragrance of orange-blossoms along the alleys, and the nightingale poured forth her melodious murmur from the shelter of an artificial wilderness.*

Doting upon his wife, and believing that a look of pity bestowed upon another was a theft from what he owed to her, he drove Matilda from his presence; he forbade her ever again appearing before him.**

One of literature's guardian angels, Margaret Drabble, has this to say about John Cowper Powys:
"The realm of John Cowper Powys is dangerous. The reader may wander for years in this parallel universe, entrapped and bewitched, and never reach its end. There is always another book to discover, another work to reread. Like Tolkien, Powys has invented another country, densely peopled, thickly forested, mountainous, erudite, strangely self-sufficient. This country is less visited than Tolkien's, but it is as compelling, and it has more air."***

* - "the artificial wilderness" is what jazzes me completely.
** - Thievery by a look, what was owed to someone.
*** - It's why I love Margaret Drabble. She said this in 2006, published in The Guardian.

Monday, September 4, 2017

The Archangel - a poem instead of an observation.

[I thought a poem would do better than an observation.]

 The Archangel
 (for Joseph Centrone)

I'd known you thirteen years when I arrived
in Brooklyn, to work beside you in the plant.
You had by then become a Legend; and
the word Friend had become titanic, mythic.

More often than I can count I begged the power
of that friendship, when I should have played the employee;
played the employee when I should have been a friend.

Priorities become muddled
     when roles become simultaneous.

That is not to say I lacked in loyalty,
the heart of friendship; it is a mirror
of my own interior monologue and I
never stop talking to myself.

Pronouncements flew between us in battles
of who was right, as delivered editorials
went the way of gossip.

How eager to cry fault and corruption, how eager to commit
     each to memory, or to dust.

In the corner by the lobster crates
under seaweed and beneath Norwegian salmon,
waiting mouths were open.  I found a tag
that read: "Armondo's Brooklyn, before one o'clock."

Your words, crammed from a corner of your life,
fumbling; a mundane shove by then had caught you up;
by then indifference was metal pushed, humor garroted.

I still jump to visions, you toting the fishhook, wielding artistic threats, promises to disrespectful galley men,
while riding on a forklift, like Teddy Roosevelt,
at two o'clock in the morning.

I feel like an ice age has passed,
and my quiet form and shaking hands
remind me of existence.  Now
a fixed bridge stands between comfort 
and the mistake I call the world.

There was a time when my every move,
my every satisfaction had about it
wrong gestations of motive, and prizes
kept their value by their unattainability.

There was a time when simple nods
and handshakes brought us closer,
saw us moving closer; directions
that hope managed like a dowager.

Advice on romance and crises,
solutions taken half in recompense
for fear that if they were true
it would ring of culpability.

Like a mad muse was frailty, subterfuge secretly protected what should be left in silence.
Should I have left it silent, like
the part my conscience never played?

Yet held within the grip 
that some good natures keep are
found moments of cynical serenity.
I can hear them now:

At least yours died for sins.  I killed mine
     for lesser things.

 --Mark Zipoli, 2017

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Catamaran Literary Reader publishes "Final People"

"The homeless waif who appears in Mark Zipoli's touching short story Final People lives a life less promising and more Dickensian."  So says the latest issue of the Catamaran Literary Reader, published today and available for your reading pleasure.  
Here's an excerpt:
"She’s like the rain in Los Angeles, he thought, as he stood before his office window and stared out through the venetian blinds. He was watching the measured steps of a blonde 16-year-old girl walking up Gower Street.

 Like the occurrence of rain in L.A., she was measured: The moments of her loss of control were scarce, few, never sure to be expected, unlike so many of her young homeless friends, whose tempers and spirits carried them exposed, vulnerable, angry from one street to the next. Today, as the winter sunlight collapsed over her head and lay upon the parked cars and bone-dry asphalt, she bore the burden of being used to things."

It's only $14.95 and you can buy it directly from their site. 
Click here.