The Death of Christopher

As "The Sopranos" winds down, Inquirer television critic Jonathan Storm and columnist Karen Heller will chat online with readers about each episode at noon on Mondays (http://go.philly.com/chat). This is an excerpt from their conversation on Monday.

Karen Heller: Excellent episode, didn't you think? So, Chris-tu-pha has gone to meet Adriana in the Pine Barrens in the sky. Were you shocked?

Jonathan Storm: Shocked! Positively shocked. Much more so than that policeman in Casablanca. But, as the episode wound out, not so shocked that Tony killed him.

KH: No, it was like he was looking for an excuse. The entire episode, entitled "Kennedy and Heidi" after the two girls in the car that cause Chris and Tony to swerve, was about Tony's relief at ridding himself of Chris.

Ron Bauman: Shocked at how it happened, at least . . . Tony is so relieved, it almost seemed as if he were ready to quit the whole enterprise.

KH: True. Tony seemed to enjoy it, and then he was furious that he had to mourn like Carm. He called Chris "the biggest blunder of his career" and "a tremendous drag on my emotions," and yet he had loved Chris "as a son," much more so than the perpetual screw-up AJ. . . .

Joey: Loved the episode last night. Two questions: Did anyone think that when Tony was sick in the bathroom, looking up at the ceiling light, that this alluded to the dream sequence last season when he was looking towards the "lighthouse" yet it was really the light in his hospital room? Second, the ending with "I get it now!" and the flash of the sun, your respective takes?

KH: Good points, Joey. Tony was sort of going toward the light. I have this whole theory, possibly for a dissertation thesis, about the Nature vs. Murder theme running through the series. Tony and company always go to the woods, the water, the desert to cleanse their bloody hands, but somehow get dragged back because they can't escape.

JS: I don't know that the bathroom light was particularly significant, except as an indication that the peyote was working. The "I get it" at the end, coming after the "he's dead," when Tony seemed to realize that his luck had completely changed because Christopher was no more - I think it might mean that Tony is going to eliminate, in one way or another, all the drags on his life that his job entails.

A Pair of Literary Stars

From Frank Wilson's Books, Inq.

The other night, I introduced Elmore Leonard at the library. What a cool guy. I pray I'm in his shape when I am nearing - as he is - birthday No. 82. He didn't read from his latest novel. He just told stories about writing, why he stopped doing screenplays - too many people have a say in what you're doing - what a pleasure it is just to write what you feel like, and how you have to hear the characters talking. He explained that it's his characters who tell the story, that he has to work through them because - as he put it - he doesn't have the words to do the telling for them. He was laid back, down-to-earth, wry, sly, and - as I already said - just plain cool.

The Montgomery [Auditorium] holds, I think, about 300 people. It was pretty much filled for Elmore's appearance at 7. Most of Elmore's fans left when he did, but a few stuck around, including yours truly, to see the next author on the bill: Chuck Palahniuk. At least twice as many people as the auditorium could hold came to hear him. So there was a 20-minute delay while they set up audio for people to hear him in the lobby.

He put on quite a show. He would toss a bridal bouquet (yes, you read that right) to everyone who asked him a question. He read a couple a stories and some fan letters (the letters sounded like Palahniuk stories). He brings to his often-gruesome fiction an engaging, rather gentle manner, somewhat like a slightly deranged Mr. Rogers. His fans love him and they were all young.. . . When Chuck announced that he was going to read one his more notorious stories, "Guts," the audience cheered, the way they would if a rock star said he was going to perform a legendary hit. [Apparently, something like 900 people showed up.]