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Books, Chick Flicks, TV

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SL reviews books, movies (chickflicks!), and TV shows, present and past, of special interest to solo women.  Click on the above links, or scroll down to visit all three categories.

(If you have a review to share,  please visit our blog spot or message boards, and offer your opinions.)

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Books We Recommend!

by Lea Lane

When I got my MA in English Lit I had to read more than 100 great works. I was 22, and didn't have much of an idea about the great themes or historical context. I was overwhelmed and pretty clueless.

But the following books changed my life from childhood to the present, for better or worse. These books are not all great, but they all greatly influenced me. They got to me.

Books have been my support since I was a little girl. They have transported me, guided me, entertained and enlightened me. To choose these ten books out of the many I have read (hundreds? thousands?)  I used the non-cognitive theory in Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. I went with what came to mind immediately as I created this list, an action that makes sense to me, and one I have used often in major situations.  So Blink can be considered the bonus eleventh book.

Babar Serieswritten and illustrated by Jean de Brunhoff

The theme may have been benign authoritarianism but the setting for these French children’s books was exotic and captivating. I wasn’t sure where Babar, Arthur, Celeste and all the other elephants lived, and perhaps this was the first inkling that I would become a travel writer --and one of the first inspirations. (I believe the setting was inspired by Tunisia, and eventually I did travel there. I found no elephants, but loads of camels.)

Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

At Nautilus Junior High in Miami Beach, my English teacher, Mrs. Gelber, handed me a paperback book titled Diary of a Young Girl. It was only ten years after Anne Frank’s death, and I was then 13, the age that Anne had been when she was given her diary, on her birthday. I was awestruck and aware that had my grandparents stayed in Europe, they would have been rounded up during the Holocaust.

Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

I was awarded  this book in ninth grade, as winner of a citywide essay contest. The book not only offers magnificent writing about nature and solitude, the fact that I had been awarded it made me realize that I could write. At that time I was feeling pretty sad, so it was a godsend.

A Stone for Danny Fisher by Harold Robbins

Robbins wrote potboilers, but this more serious early novel about a lower-middle class kid who became a boxer was set in the Depression. The kids in junior high (that’s what middle school was called in the 1950s in Miami Beach) were passing around it around as a  “dirty book.” This rite-of-passage paperback tried to be meaningful, but what I learned about was sex, at least from a man’s point of view. GoodbyeClara Barton, Student Nurse.

The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann

Life, death, irony, a setting from the past in the mountains of a far away land, but which reverberated in my own life in flat Miami Beach. This magnificent novel whetted my appetite for literary fiction and influenced my choice of college major and graduate degrees: literature.

Couples by John Updike

Like A Stone for Danny Fisher, this book influenced my understanding of the consequences of sexuality, and helped hasten the end of my first marriage to my high school sweetheart. Updike wrote in so many different forms; I have read just about all of his novels and many of his short stories, essays and poems.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Persig

I understood when I read this philosophical book that I was a hopeless romantic. From that point on I saw myself and others in a new way. It explained to me about why having to work at relationships can be so difficult, and that sometimes a relationship wasn’t going to go anywhere. Another reality check. I later learned that this perennial bestseller was rejected by over 120 publishers. This gave me hope as a writer.

Atonement by Ian McEwan

This book --so superior to the movie --reinvigorated my interest in contemporary novels. McEwan takes huge themes and places them in contemporary settings. He creates great reads that leave you with much to ponder and discuss. McEwan  inspires me as a writer, and I’ve read all of his major novels. 

Day by Day by Chaim Stern

This wise and gentle collection of  reflections from literature, philosophy, and religious thought was dedicated to me. The historian Howard Fast called it “a manual for living… an amazing spring of what wisdom we have gained as a people.” Even if the author weren’t my late husband, I would adore this book. I go to it often for solace and understanding, and simply for reassurance that humanity doesn't suck. I hear his voice and the wise words of hundreds of others.

Solo Traveler: Tales and Tips for Great Trips by Me

This book, published five years ago, saved my life. I was in a terrible place, coping with my husband’s death, battling his relatives over his estate, moving out of my house in New York, afraid of losing everything. The book won an award for best travel book of the year from the North American Travel Writers Association. It got me out of bed and into the whirl of media, and created a brand –solo lady – that gave me strength.

Do you have a list of favorites? Add it to our blog spot and we can transfer it over here.

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Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be digested, -- Francis Bacon

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Loving Frank by Nancy

A brilliant first novel based on the true story of genius architect Frank Lloyd Wright and his mistress, Mahmey. This romantic, historical, fascinating look at married lovers who give up much to get much is a page turner that's hard to put down.

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Split: A Memoir of Divorce by Suzanne Finnamore

Wrenching and hilarious, this memoir chronicles the emotional fallout when the author's husband leaves her for another woman. Finnamore recounts the obligatory couple's therapy postmortem, the well-meaning yet infuriating advice from friends to just "let it go," and the cathartic burning of the keepsake wedding invitations and photos on the family barbecue at 3 a.m.

Finnamore, author of a novel about being engaged, Otherwise Engaged, and a novel about pregnancy, The Zygote Chronicles, also wrote about her divorce for Salon.com back in 2002. The New York Times published an excerpt from "Split" in its Modern Love column.

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Atonement by Ian McEwan

Summer, 1935, and thirteen-year old Briony Tallis witnesses the flirtation between her older sister and the son of a servant. The crime that ensues will change all their lives.

You may have seen the movie, but do yourself a favor and read this book if you can. This modern masterpiece of love and war, childhood and class, guilt and forgiveness combines the satisfaction of a superb narrative with all that we have come to expect from this master of English prose.

Atonement: A Novel 

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Age-Defying Fitness: Making the Most of Your Body for the Rest of Your Life  by Dr. Marilyn Moffat

Breakthrough for breakneck solo travelers:  Never-weary, world-traveling Dr. Moffat, PhD Physical Therapist and internationally renown NYU professor, has written an exceptional new book,

Smart, clear and valuable,  Dr. Moffat is firm on one central fact: activity is the antidote to aging.  Each chapter (posture, strength, balance, flexibility and endurance) professionally offers excellent self-assessments, the best exercises, tips for success, and follow-able illustrations. 

And the one ounce gym?  Oh yes, a Thera-Band resist-exerciser accompanies each book, and this band is all the fitness gear you’ll ever need on the road. 

Age Defying Fitness: Making the Most of Your Body for the Rest of Your Life

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Why Do Men Fall Asleep After Sex?

Why Do Men Fall Asleep After Sex? by Mark Leyner and Billy Goldberg, M.D.

Did the mega-bestselling Why Do Men Have Nipples? exhaust your curiosity about stuff odd, icky, kinky, noxious, libidinous, or just plain embarrassing? No, you say? Well, good, because the doctor and his able-bodied buddy are in! Again!

They now take on the differences between the sexes -- those burning questions like: "Why don't men ever listen?" or "Why do women always have to pee?" And of course, " Why do men fall asleep after sex?", plus plenty of others to keep you informed. Full of smart and funny answers to an onslaught of new questions, all in a do-ask-we’ll-tell spirit that entertain and teaches you something at the same time, the book offers the real lowdown on everything everyone wants to know about all things anatomical, medical, sexual, nutritional, animal, and mineral, but would only ask a physician after a few too many . . .

Why Do Men Fall Asleep After Sex?: More Questions You'd Only Ask a Doctor After Your Third Whiskey Sour

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I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman by Nora Ephron

Those of you of a certain age will get the title; the neck is the giveaway, no matter how many Botox, peels, or laser treatments on the face. This humorous, wry collection of essays about getting older and fighting it off resonates to all ages, an honest look at the image writer/screenwriter Ephron lately confronts in the mirror.

She recounts previous tales and also divulges new insights, grievances and gossip — from the tragedy of the empty nest (“Your children are gone, and they were the only people in the house who knew how to use the remote control”) to the tyranny of personal maintenance (“I spend time getting into shape; then something breaks”) to her summer as an intern in the Kennedy White House in 1961, where her only private communication with the president was the word “What?” drowned out by the roar of a helicopter.

Ephron has never been shy about commenting on the indignities in her life, and in Heartburn (later made into a movie) she gets revenge on former hubby, famed Watergate investigative reporter Carl Bernstein, who left her while she was pregnant. Even earlier, a popular essay collection called Crazy Salad: Some Things About Women :featured a lament of her small breasts. Try all these books, for insightful, witty, increasingly wise reading.

I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman

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Friendship: An Exposé by Joseph Epstein

With divorce at about a 50 percent rate, how are close friendships supposed to withstand years of difficulties? How does friendship go from being the blissful, "unalloyed pleasure" of our youths to something difficult and obligatory?

It's a good question, and a great one for Epstein. Over the course of his long and unnervingly prolific career (he's the former editor of The American Scholar, and the author of 17 books and several hundred essays), he has explored such topics as divorce, morality, ambition (in a book by the same name) and envy (ditto). Snobbery, a nifty catalog of snootiness, became a New York Times best seller in 2002.

Here he tackles the many questions surrounding one of the great institutions of our lives. And if he isn't always on the mark, he's always thought-provoking. This is an important book if you want to better understand your friends, and yourself.

Friendship: An Exposé 

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Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

This playful, soulful book covers Elizabeth's travels after a nasty divorce and subsequent love affair. She had been successful in most ways, but hitting thirty, Liz's life began to split apart. She calls herself “the planet’s most affectionate life form" who became “a pathetic mess” and reached the point of "the complete and merciless devaluation of self."

In response, she spends four months each in Italy, India, and Indonesia. (The Three "I'"s). Italian twins, lots of pasta, ashrams, new friends and 30 pounds ensue, and you rarely know what to expect next.

Eat Pray Love is great company for the traveler in all of us, and for the survivor, as well. This is a travel book with a theme of redemption and discovery, providing fun and games along the way. And you may be (happily?) surprised by the ending.

Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia 

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Book Cover The Wife by Meg Wolitzer

 It's rare to find a novel that's crafted beautifully, has depth and significant theme, and is a great read as well. The Wife is just that. Small enough to read in a couple of days (219 pages), that's just what I did. In fact, I couldn't put it down.

The plot revolves around a famous author and his wife, traveling to Finland where he is to receive a prestigious literary prize. On the plane, flying to Helsinki, Joan Castleman states she is going to leave her much-lauded husband.

From there we go back to the beginning of their relationship when he was her (married) English professor at Smith college in the 1950s. Along the way we observe their Greenwich Village years, and watch their lives change, family grow, and his reputation skyrocket. We follow them to the moment of award, and there's a twist that's reason enough to read this little novel.

Wise and candid, with perfect-pitch and a sharp woman's view, this is a witty, surprising book you'll think about long after you finish it.

The Wife: A Novel 

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C'est La Vie : An American Woman Begins a New Life in Paris and--Voila!--Becomes Almost French  C'est La Vie  by Suzy Gershman

If you liked Frances Mayes' Under the Tuscan Sun, about settling into a house in Cortona Italy, and Peter Mayles' A Year in Provence, you might want to check out another changing-my-life-in-another-country memoir. But this one has a decided edge: The city is Paris, a single woman is embarking on her own, without a residence or much idea of how her life will go. And the going gets good indeed, making for a quick read as satisfying as a crusty baguette and a sparkling glass of Dom Perignon.

C'est La Vie  is about a newly widowed, middle-aged woman leaving her college-age son in the States and starting her life over in Paris. Studded throughout the fast-paced narrative are shopping tips, quick-take observations and life-changing revelations. (If Suzy's name sounds familiar, it may be because you've followed her Born to Shop series, for over 20 years. This San Antonio-born gal knows her shopping, knows her world cities, and seems to meet fascinating folks wherever she goes.

In the course of the book she rents, and she seeks, finds and moves into a new apartment. She develops and redevelops friendships, gets a dog, finds romance (not necessarily in order of importance). And she relates her experiences—good and bad, naughty and nice--without a smidgen of hesitation.

Suzy is connected, that's for sure, and knows a bunch of with-it people, from the managing editor of the International Herald Tribune to the super-star chef, Alain Ducasse. All that helps in getting to meet the right types, getting invited to the right parties, and finding the right apartment. And it may turn some readers off. I mean, it's not as easy for most of us. But I found vicarious pleasure in her fantasy escapades, and inspiration in her gutsy risk-taking, even if she is pampered.

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ama Life is Huge! Laughing, Loving and Learning from it All,  by Susan Jeffers

When was the last time you really loved your life? When your baby was born? When you finally got the promotion? The problem is those "big moments" are rare. But there are lots of smaller moments: a perfect cup of coffee, a great haircut, a paid-off credit card, a purring cat curled up on your lap, a warm house, well-stocked fridge. And the fact that you've survived pain and grief and hardship--and even grown from it—can inspire joy.

"I include a story about how I used to hate going to the supermarket," says Jeffers. "But one day I decided to use this dreaded chore to practice the art of 'looking deeply.' And what I saw was absolute, mind-boggling abundance. Look deeply and even the most mundane experience becomes, well, huge."

Jeffers shares fifty bite-sized stories and articles that she's written over the years. Topics cover from September 11th to breast cancer to bratty kids to wrinkles to relationships to the aforementioned supermarket epiphany. All express what happens when you "look deeply" at life--the love, the joy, and the profound lessons that reveal themselves like barely suspected treasures. 

She has sold millions of copies of her seventeen books--translated into thirty-six languages--and The Times U.K. dubbed her "the Queen of Self-Help." If you're into self-improvement, and don't mind frequent exclamations and sweeping statements, you might take a peek. 

Life is Huge!: Laughing, Loving and Learning From It All 

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   Movies -- Chick Flicks, Classics and Independent Films You Might Have Missed and That We Recommend! (Current and DVDs/Videos)

The Blind Side (2009) A feel-good movie. See it for Sandra Bullock's Oscar-winning performance.

Starting Out in the Evening (2007) A magnificent performance by Frank Langella in a quiet, intimate film about a forgotten old novelist who finds inspiration from a young graduate student. If you are interested in writing, literature and dignity of aging, this will work for you.

Persopolis (2007) This animated adaption of a graphic novel is a beautiful, haunting, funny, mostly black-and-white work of art, focused on a girl's coming of age in Iran. See it for the grandmother's comments alone.

Juno (2007) A gem of a film, with sharp writing and direction, about families and love, through the eyes of a precocious, pregnant sixteen-year old. Ellen Page is a marvel as the heroine in this off-beat, feel-good movie.

No Country for Old Men (2007) Violent to the max, gripping, suspenseful and wonderfully acted, this Coen brothers adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's award-winning novel is simply brilliant.

Across the Universe (2007) If you love the Beatles, and love the creativity of The Lion King, and love love, then you will at least really like this Julie Taymor creation.

La Vie en Rose (2007) French singer Edith Piaf's life and music are powerfully portrayed, with grit. The photography is magnificent. The music heartbreaking. Oscar-worthy performance by the lead.

Sicko (2007) Whatever you may have thought about Michael Moore, prepare to be impressed -- and mad/sad. Viewers cheer this film for its powerful exposure of our broken health system.

After the Fall (2206) Julie Christie fans won't want to miss this sad but realistic tale of loss --and love, and dealing with Alzheimers. Set in a Canadian winter, the film is an adaptation of an Alice Munro short story, and is well directed by a young Sarah Polley.

Water (2006) Visually and emotionally stunning, this understated Indian film follows the travails of a seven-year-old widow, condemned to a women's compound in India. A story of love, friendship, and hope, the tale is set in 1938, a time of Mahatma Gandhi and changing mores. The acting is sublime.

Mutual Appreciation (2006) This exceptional, black and white, low-budget independent film won’t save or change your life. But it may make your heart swell. Its aim is modest and true, and it deals with young relationships. Seek it out.

Heading South (2006) Charlotte Rampling plays a 55-year-old single, successful career woman who goes on vacation to get-it-on with a young Haitian. Explores the real-life quandry of solo women of a certain age, their sexual appetites, and the abilility to fill them through travel.

The Family Stone (2006) Every emotion and permutation of family/relationships is explored within this modern family. Strives hard to become a Christmas classic, complete with humor, surprise and pathos, but it's the good acting of Diane Keaton, Sarah Jessica Parker, Claire Danes, Luke Wilson and Craig T. Nelson which keeps it from getting too sentimental.

Transamerica (2006) A solo lady in progress, the main transgender character as portayed by Oscar-nominee Felicity Huffman is touching and wry, and plot surprises keep the action going.

Match Point (2005) Woody Allen's best movie in a long while (no whining) is set in London, with gorgeous settings, beautiful people and great acting. It revolves around a clever love game in both life and tennis.

Must Love Dogs (2005) deals with Internet dating, settling, pressure to have a boyfriend, and the indignities of mature romance. John Cusack and Diane Lane are the featured characters in this comedy, but Christopher Plummer, as the widowed dad, has the more insightful plotline.

North Country (2005) takes place in Minnesota.  A young woman (Charlize Theron) and her two children go there to escape an abusive husband.  She takes a job in the iron mines and has to endure the abuse of male workers. This solo mom gets stronger though, like Norma Rae did in her movie!

Shopgirl (2005)  A lovely movie based on Steve Martin's novella about a young woman who works in the glove department of Saks in Los Angeles. She's a struggling artist, in debt. Martin plays a wealthy older man who seems interested in her while she is also pursued by the unsophisticated man played by Jason Schwartzman. 

The Squid and the Whale (2005) is set in Brooklyn in 1986. The dad (Jeff Daniels) is a professor and author, and his wife (Laura Linney) is a wannabe writer. The marriage is ending, and the father is constantly giving his teenage son inappropriate advice. The mother wants to tell her sons things they don't want or need to hear. Some parts are funny, but mostly it's heartbreaking and thought-provoking. 

Being Julia (2004) Annette Benning is English stage actress Julia, who usually gets what she wants. Set in the early 20th century, and co-starring Jeremy Irons, this movie has one of the great solo-lady exit lines of all times: "I'd rather eat alone."

Million Dollar Baby (2004) Hilary Swark is a tough solo lady who literally fights for her life in a movie that won four Oscars. Clint Eastwood stars and directs in his signature lean, often poetic form, and keeps the sad story from bathos.

Closer (2004) stars Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman and Clive Owen. It's the story of interchangeable relationships between marrieds and singles; of love and betrayal. Adult theme and language, and tough sentiment. But the cast is beautiful.

Love Actually (2003) Follows the lives of eight very different couples in dealing with their love lives in various loosely and interrelated tales, all set during a frantic month before Christmas in London, England. Emma Thompson is especially fine.

Something's Gotta Give (2003) starring Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, Keanu Reeves, and Amanda Peet.  A comedy about an older man who chases, and amazingly catches, very young women. He falls for a smart, attractive woman nearer his own age who is being pursued by a young doctor (Keanu Reeves) who has no trouble at all with her age. Warm and wise, and Keaton is charming.

Bridget Jones's Diary (2001 ) This original is the cutest of the two versions, giving hope to thirty-something chubbettes with verbal skills who want to be pursued by cads like publishing boss Daniel (Hugh Grant) and barrister Marc Darcy (Colin Firth). Rene Zellweiger affects a fine English accent.

Notting Hill (1999 ) Shy London bookdealer (Hugh Grant) enchants and disinchants ultra famous American movie actress (Julia Roberts). Soppily, delightfilly romantic, and both of these beautiful actors have never seemed so real and appealing.

As Good as it Gets (1997) Intelligent writing and direction, plus Jack Nicholson as an obsessive-compulsive curmudgeon, Greg Kinnear as a gay neighbor, Jill the dog as a cute dog, and especially Helen Hunt as a wise, worn waitress who finds well-deserved love, make this a great film.

One Fine Day (1996) The ultimate fantasy movie for solo moms. Imagine picking up George Clooney's kid at school and having to spend the day with GC in NYC? Michelle Pfieffer ain't chopped liver either as the mom, nor are the kids, nor is the music. Light and surprisingly deft.

The Truth About Cats and Dogs (1996) Janeane Garafolo as a short, successful veternarian/radio show host with low self-esteem who asks her six-foot model neighbor (Uma Thurman) to impersonate her when a handsome man wants to actually see her. A backwards takeoff on Cyrano de Bergerac, this relatively unknown film is sweet and touching.

Sleepless in Seattle (1993) Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks play hard to get and keep us guessing till the end in this romantic remake of  An Affair to Remember. Will they meet at the top of the Empire State Building? See both films and compare old/new romanticism.

Groundhog Day (1993) A fantasy movie about second, and third, and fourth chances, etc, etc, and how you can learn from them. Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell shine in this classic love story. One of the great "movie movies" that wouldn't be as effective in any other medium.

Enchanted April (1992) The setting on Italy's coast near Portofino is the star of this charming movie about four independent women and assorted chaps finding themselves in more ways than one, in springtime. Nominated for three Oscars.

Thelma and Louise (1991) This iconic gal-buddy film stars Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis and follows them on an escape out West, with the top down. Funny and sad and entertaining, and the first time people got a good look at Brad Pitt, without his shirt on.

Pretty Woman (1990) A Cinderella tale about a classy hooker (Julia Roberts) and a dreamy rich guy (Richard Gere) in LA. Works best for romantics and true-believers.

Shirley Valentine (1989) A relationship between a British, middle-aged, married woman (Pauline Collins) on her own in the Greek Isles, and a local guy (Tom Conti). A gentle chick flick, which encouraged legions of women to vacation solo looking for a local.  

When Harry Met Sally (1989) Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan meet on a ride from the University of Chicago and we trace their lives, loves and friendship. Fake orgasm scene in a deli worth the price of rental.

Working Girl (1988) Melanie Griffith, Harrison Ford and Sigourney Weaver are a fascinating threesome (not menage a trois) in this sophisticated comedy about solo ladies and their office and love dynamics, set in NYC.

Fatal Attraction (1987) A married man's (Michael Douglas) one night stand comes back to haunt him when that lover (Glen Close) begins to stalk him and his family. Glen's a fearsome thing in this Adrian Lyne thriller. And bunny lovers, beware.

Moonstruck (1987) Cher as a sassy solo gal and Nicholas Cage, as an inarticulate baker, make a reluctant New York couple in this tender love story with magical overtones. 

The Big Chill (1983) The ultimate baby boom nostalgia movie about a reunion of college friends at the funeral of one of their group. Glenn Close, Kevin Kline, William Hurt and a bunch of other chums, a great kitchen scene and an amazing sound track of oldies.

Tootsie (1982) Dustin Hoffman transforms into a really unattractive solo lady and finds out how hard it is, with help from Jessica Lange. Funny, touching and wise.

Kramer vs Kramer (1979) Dustin Hoffman again, Meryl Streep and adorable Justin Henry create a bittersweet threesome pulled apart by divorce.

Annie Hall (1977) Woody Allen as neurotic New Yorker Alvy Singer, and midwesterner Diane Keaton, were a real odd couple when they played an odd couple, in this funny, lovey-dovey classic. Her style here influenced fashion for years.

Two for the Road (1967) Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney (who were having a real off-screen romance at the time), light up the screen in this adult, sophisticated romantic comedy about travels and love through the years, through Europe. Great cinematography and a lush score by Henry Mancini.

Summertime (1955) Another beautiful Hepburn named Katherine stars in this bittersweet romance about a spinster (that's what they used to call us solo ladies back then!) who has an affair with an Italian shopkeeper (Rossano Brazzi) in a gorgeous Venice. Tearful and lovely.

Roman Holiday (1953) Hepburn again, Audrey again, in her very first film role, as a princess masquerading as a commoner with a deliciously unaware Gregory Peck as a journalist along for the day. Scenes of Rome are great, scenes of the leads are great. Directed by the great William Wyler in black and white. So...great.

The African Queen (1951) Hepburn again, Katherine again, along for the ride on a dilapidated riverboat with a grizzly captain played by Humphrey Bogart. Shot on location, and a fascinating portrayal of a conflicted relationship.

All About Eve (1950) Brilliant writing and directing. Bette Davis is at her best as the diva actress whose quiet assistant, played by Ann Baxter, is really out to replace her. As Eve sums it up best, "... a bumpy ride."

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TV We Recommend! (Current -- all Eastern Standard Time -- and Syndicated/DVDs)

Real Time with Bill Maher (HBO, Fridays, 10pm, 11 pm) Current events and comedy with an edge.

Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO, Sundays, 10pm; DVD) Now in its sixth season, this is Seinfeld on steriods. You either love it or don't get it but you should try it! Larry David is one-of-a-kind.

Mad Men (AMC, Thursdays, 10pm) Wonder what corporate life was like in the early 60's? Lots of smoking and macho flirting and bigotry, among other things.Most single women, no matter how smart, were vulnerable assistants in this environment. This fascinating series rings true.

Brothers and Sisters (ABC, Sunday evenings) Sally Field is the matriarch in this ambitious series about a dysfunctional family, including solo-lady siblings played by Calista Flockhart and Rachel Griffiths. If you liked the old series Thirtysomething you'll get hooked on the interpersonal dynamics, good writing and acting here.

Reality Shows (all stations, especially the networks and Bravo, E!, VH1, MTV) Most of these shows are pretty bad, but most feature single women in some way, and man-woman conflicts, and for that reason can be enlightening/fascinating/entertaining. Pick and choose carefully or you may find yourself wasting too much time better spent in almost any other way. The Real Housewives of ...., Project Runway, The Bachelor, The Amazing Race, Survivor, Big Brother and The Apprentice are among the classics.

The New Adventures of Old Christine (CBS, Mondays, 9:30pm) Tony-winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays a divorced working single mother trying to balance rearing an 8-year-old son (Trevor Gagnon), dating, and maintaining a good relationship with her ex-husband (Clark Gregg). Day in and out, Christine struggles to remain plucky in the face of unexpected humiliations.

Lifetime and Oxygen Cable Networks Catering to a female audience over 30, with original stories, replays, talk shows, specials and so-forth, these chick networks are worth checking out.

Oprah (syndication) This numero-uno solo lady is a force. Sometimes her show goes over-the-top but usually hits the mark, bulls-eye. She gets any guest she wants, right away. And she's so positive and chock-full of self-esteem and enthusiams, she's a role model for many of us.

The View (ABC, Weekdays, 11-noon) Whoopie Goldberg, Joy Behar, Elizabeth Hasselbeck, Sherrie Shepard, and Barbara Walters joke, argue, gab, and nab the A-list guests., The result continues to be a mix of ages and viewpoints that zings, with an added jolt of fun and controversy.

Will and Grace (syndication, DVD) Premiered in 1998, this now classic Emmy-award winning comedy of gay Will, and roommate and best friend Grace is among the funniest half-hour sitcom on TV. Slutty, sloshy socialite Karen and self-centered flaming Jack add  to the ensemble. Deborah Messing, who plays Grace, is often compared to Lucille Ball: both beautiful and funny.

Absolutely Fabulous (DVD) This cheeky BBC comedy about two almost-over-the-hill glam girl friends and their assorted loves, acquaintances and families is over-the-top as well. Drinking and nasty comments make for surprising fun, and Ab-Fab is as popular in Britain as Sex in the City is here.  

As Time Goes By (PBS/DVD) Judi Dench radiates in this classy BBC series as the mature lady who lives with her long lost love. A gentle domestic comedy set in England.

Frasier (syndication/DVD) Great writing, great acting, a cute Jack Russell terrier named Eddie and two feisty solo women—Daphne, the housekeeper/ therapist/love interest; and Roz, Frasier's radio producer. The riffs and lines remain laugh-out-loud funny.

Friends (syndication/DVD) Although the four famed friends in NYC go through affairs, marriages, breakups and babies, they still talk like teenagers. Has its moments, but a bit of a fantasy.

Seinfeld (syndication/DVD) Is there a more savvy urban solo lady than Elaine?  Her relationship with Jerry, George, Kramer and the rest of the cast, and her many failed relationships make for classic viewing and lots of identification.

Sex and the City (syndication/DVD) Enjoy the fab four either in the raunchy original on DVD, or in syndication with raunchiest scenes and statements cut. Even censored there's plenty left to give this series more oomph than most. 

Murphy Brown (DVD) Candice Bergen plays a TV superstar with a neurotic housepainter and an office (and life) filled with the politics of being famous, and solo.

The Golden Girls (syndication) Four solo seniors living together in a South Florida house. Ahead of its time in its depiction of older women dating, living independently and having fun. Bea Arthur leads a funny cast, where women rule and raunchy gags fly.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show (syndication/DVD) Mary, Rhoda (Valerie Harper), Mr. Grant (Ed Asner) and the rest of the Minneapolis TV station-set create the first and one of the funniest TV depictions focusing on a thirty-something solo woman. It still holds up.

That Girl (DVD) Marlo Thomas stars as Ann Marie, a wannabe single actress in NYC, with a boyfriend, Donald; family in the northern suburbs; and loads of spunk. Most noteworthy in this perky comedy from the 60s is Marlo's hairstyle, a flip that never flops.


Solo Traveler: Tales and Tips for Great Trips, 1st Edition (Special-Interest Titles)

 

 




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