I fondly remember, mostly, the 1988 Super Bowl. I called in sick to my office in Shibuya, and secured a 750ml bottle of white tequila and a two-liter jug of Diet Coke. I don’t remember what teams played that day, but I had the game on my TV with the SAP decoder giving me the American color commentary. So, for hours that morning my little apartment in Yushima was a haven of boozed up football stupidness.
(I lived at AD. Homes, #402, 3-28-18 Yushima, Bunkyo-ku Tokyo 113. Note the H.R. Giger poster on the wall. I still have it.)
A gorgeous old fellow I encountered at the Plumbers, Steamfitters, and Refrigeration Fitters Local 467 hall in Burlingame, California during a political rally for a Democratic Party candidate in the upcoming 2016 primary election for San Mateo County supervisor.
Those who read know what I am speaking of when I say a book has sneaked into my heart…those who do not read…have my sympathies….
Rivers Parting by Shirley Barker (image courtesy Amazon)
I read -rather, I reread – a book over the holiday break. It is a book that I mentioned in conjunction with an essay on a much more successful book, a book that I found a combination of pretentiousness and mediocre writing. As a contrast to that book, the much ballyhooed dreck Cold Mountain, I used the book, a historical novel about colonial New Hampshire called Rivers Partingas an example of a historical novel that is both well written and that does not pretend to false grandeur.
I first read the novel about 40 years ago ( I have shared the background about how I came to possess a copy of this work in the Cold Mountain essay linked above) and I have read it a half dozen times since. What brings me back to this novel, that even I would grudgingly admit is a typical example of the middle-brow literature that enjoyed great popularity through the middle third of the last century? The same things that attract me so often to the highest brow literature: engrossing characterization and memorable writing. Continue reading →
Jane Kirkpatrick’s historical novel A Sweetness to the Soul does a fine job of giving the reader historical information about Oregon pioneers in the second half of the 20th century; it struggles, however, with whether it wants to be a novel or history….
A Sweetness to the Soul by Jane Kirkpatrick (image courtesy Goodreads)
The first book from the 2016 reading list is a historical novel from one of our many bookshelves, a book that my Carol asked me to read. A Sweetness to the Soul details the lives of an Oregon pioneer couple during the latter half of the 19th century. As with most historical novels it is long (though it covers only the lifetime of one generation) and it offers a mix of historical fact and fiction. As one would expect with a novel set in the 19th century West, Native Americans, Chinese immigrants, and Hispanics play significant roles in the narrative. Interestingly, since this novel relies on historical accuracy, there is almost none of the “traditional” sort of violence one associates with Westerns. There are, however, the sorts of natural disasters one expects for pioneers living in a wilderness: forest fires, floods, and blizzards.
(Dedicated to Edgar Allan Poe, some 207 years removed from the day of his birth.)
Almost a year ago, I drove into Cypress Lawn Cemetery in Colma, California. I was running an errand in the area, and I like cemeteries so visiting one just for fun is something I am naturally inclined to do. I didn’t really know what to do with these photographs until I thought commemorating Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday this year in a monochromatically macabre fashion seemed like a good idea.
An old PSA from the sixties told us that reading was “fun!-damental” – for me, despite whatever other demands tug at my time, reading is absolute necessity….
Most dogs do not wear glasses when they read (image courtesy Reading Stock Photos and Images)
As I have written recently, my reading time has been somewhat curtailed. I have some new administrative responsibilities with the university where I teach (and my latest book to finish) and so have made the decision to shorten my reading list. I suspect I have cut the list too drastically, but better to be cautious than to overreach, I think. I also want to leave plenty of space for books I am asked to review. Then, too, I hope that I’ll be asked to review some books. :-)
So here in all its glorious brevity is a kinda sorta eclectic list of books I’ll be reading this year. As you’d expect and despite my best intentions, it’s literary fiction heavy. But it has some variety – and as the year goes on, there’ll likely be some additions. Stay tuned… Continue reading →
John Hairr’s North Carolina Rivers is part reference book, part history, part guidebook. What it is not is particularly engaging….
North Carolina Rivers by John Hairr (image courtesy Goodreads)
While I haven’t completed my book list for 2016, I will say a couple of things about it for those who have any interest in such things: it will be considerably shorter (12 books – to allow room for the numerous reviews I am asked to do and to allow me some writing time for completing my latest book), and it will focus on no particular area as the 2015 reading list did.
That said, we begin 2016 with a book I picked randomly from one of our many groaning bookshelves. In an effort to get away from my penchant for reading fiction, particularly literary fiction, I chose what I thought would be an interesting read for a dedicated fly angler: North Carolina Rivers: Facts, Legends, and Lore by John Hairr.
Hairr’s book might be thought of as part reference book, as part guide book, as part informal history of the rivers – and the river systems in North Carolina. It is trying to be all these things, perhaps, that causes North Carolina Rivers to be problematic for readers. Continue reading →
The “Arson Rebellion”: justice and due process matters whether you’re rural and white or urban and black
image courtesy of heavy.com
Let me tell you a story about Teddy Roosevelt. As a young man, he lived in the Dakota territory, hunting, ranching, watching the American bison disappear, and resolving to preserve the land and its bounty from a “class that always holds sway during the raw youth of a frontier community, and the putting down of which is the first step toward decent government.” One day, three such men stole his boat, the only one on the river, while he was hunting mountain lions. He and his two companions built another boat, pursued the thieves downriver, captured them, and then marched them three hundred miles to Dickinson and turned them over to the sheriff. During this pursuit of justice, he also managed to read Anna Karenina, musing in his 1888 book Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail that “my surroundings were quite gray enough to harmonize well with Tolstoy.”
It’s good to be a white domestic terrorist in the United States.
Armed self-proclaimed “militia members” have seized control of the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon. Gun-toting individuals from a dozen or more states have been showing up in the small town since November, when two convicted arsonists had their too-lenient sentences revoked in favor of federally-mandated longer minimums.
The patriots terrorists, whose leaders include Ryan and Ammon Bundy, sons of scofflaw Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, and internet media producer Pete Santilli, claim to have 100-150 followers (although that number is heavily disputed and may be only 10% of what is claimed). Continue reading →
Early Wednesday a.m., six masked men with guns robbed 24 year-old professional athlete Cleanthony Early as he was leaving a birthday party at a strip club in New York. One robber shot him in the knee, which presumably was intended to end his career but didn’t, as somehow the shooter missed hitting anything important.
On the face of it, it’s not a very remarkable story.
Cleanthony Early was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Well, young men are stupid. When I was a young man I put myself in any number of extremely wrong places, that in hindsight could have resulted in me either getting badly hurt or incarcerated for a long time. To paraphrase a popular commercial, that’s what young men do.
Noted sociopath and PharmaDoucheBro Shkreli spent 2015 redefining what it means to be an asshole, upsets GOP presidential frontrunner Trump.
You’ve all known an asshole — a rude, arrogant, contemptuous person. Assholes are irritating. Assholes are the bad breath of personalities. A reasonable person’s reaction to the presence of an asshole is Get the fuck away from me, asshole.
The New Southern Gentleman tries to use the methods of what is called “dirty realism” to examine a very different sort of character: the privileged upper class Southerner. It succeeds in doing that – it fails in igniting a meaningful discussion about how little difference there is between lower class Southerners and those whom those Southerners see as their “Betters.”
The New Southern Gentleman by Jim Booth (image courtesy of Read North Carolina Novels)
As we end 2015 – and as I prepare to change my approach to my infamous reading lists project (mainly due to circumstances beyond my control) – I have decided to indulge myself by writing an essay about my first book – the novel The New Southern Gentleman. I have wanted to write about NSG for a long time (the novel appeared in 2002), but two factors have deterred me:
1) I am terrible at that thing so valued on the Interwebs called self-promotion. Publicly discussing my work is uncomfortable for me unless I am in a forum to which I have been invited for that express purpose. I am happy to discuss the works of others, reluctant to discuss my own. This is not the path to fame and fortune, dear reader. Avoid it if you can.
2) In the Age of Social Media, I doubt seriously that anything I have to say will make any impression on anyone other than family, friends, and my colleagues at the blogs (here and here) where I write about books and writing. This is the truth about social media: social media are primarily vehicles for those who crave and demand attention for – well, sometimes it seems for every act they engage in, every belief they hold dear, every idea they agree/disagree with. They are more like party conversations than anything else.
Again, as you may have discerned from #1, that is not I.
Still, the urge to discuss my work has welled up within me strongly enough to make me write this essay. I ask your indulgence. I’ll get back to touting other writers in my next outing. Continue reading →
Dear GOP candidates: have you ever even met a Syrian? Well here you go…
I don’t want to make you feel bad, really, I don’t, but if you oppose the relocation of Syrian refugees to safe havens within the United States you’re a fucking idiot. As a nation of refugees and immigrants, it is our creed and our sacred duty to accept and embrace, rather than reject, the tired, the poor, and the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The current wave of Syrians fleeing the terror and violence in their home country certainly qualify on at least two of those three checklist points.
As a foreign-born American myself, whose mother came to the U.S. in 1964 but didn’t become a citizen until 1977, it rankles the shit out of me that the GOP morons running for president don’t have any coherent nor compassionate strategies for taking Syrian newcomers into our society. And I bet none of them has ever even met anyone from Syria.
So this short picture story is for them, and anyone else who thinks ‘Syrian’ and sees ISIS and terrorists instead of a human face in their feeble little xenophobic American brains…
Next to thehotel in Pismo Beach where my wife and I stayed in early January, 2015, there was an impressive liquor store called Shell Beach Liquor & Deli. The selection of booze behind the counter was a modest sampler of all the alcohol, soft drink, and junk food snack options that were available in the place.
But more interesting than the store’s inventory was this fellow Mikha’il, who also answered to Mike, a Syrian man who came to California in 2004 to escape the increasingly oppressive rule of Bashar al-Assad.
Racism is the single most defining political issue in the history of America, after all.
Jamelle Bouie, Slate’s chief political correspondent, has penned an analysis of the role racism plays in the success of the Donald Trump campaign – and just in time, as the latest CNN poll shows Trump surging to a 21 percentage point lead over his closest competition (39% to Ted Cruz’s 18%).
Nothing wrong with analyses of voter racism. Nothing at all. But, check the subhed:
Ummm. I mean, isn’t this sort of like asking if you’re a little warm because the house is on fire? I’m not being snarky here. Seriously, is there anybody out there for whom this isn’t about the most obvious observation of the whole election season? Continue reading →
Your little friends are right: There is no Santa Claus.
Why someone who is 8 years old still believes in this claptrap is something you should take up with your pediatric psychiatrist. Maybe he needs to switch up your meds.
I’m pretty sure you wrote to me because you were hoping I’d say Santa exists, just like the editor of the New York Sun told you. Let’s get one thing straight: That guy’s a drunk and his paper’s a rag. We sell a hundred times as many papers in this town as he does.
He says, “Your friends have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age.” (Remember, this guy has a Little Bo Peep desk ornament.) Continue reading →