These Heroic, Happy Dead, a collection of short stories by Luke Mogelson, could very easily come from the veterans I meet each day as they struggle toThese Heroic, Happy Dead, a collection of short stories by Luke Mogelson, could very easily come from the veterans I meet each day as they struggle to overcome addiction. Their stories, like those told by Mogelson, share the tangible pungent haunting of past battles, as well as painful tattoos, etched on the soul by seeing comrades brutally destroyed. Their stories not only lack a happy ending, they often have no ending at all. Likewise, the stories in These Heroic, Happy Dead often have no distinct end, and Mogelson’s use of this ambiguity is quite powerful. ...more
Like many folks I THOUGHT I was familiar with H.G. Wells, only to realize that what I was familiar with was Disney and Hollywood's familiarity with H.Like many folks I THOUGHT I was familiar with H.G. Wells, only to realize that what I was familiar with was Disney and Hollywood's familiarity with H.G. Wells. I had never even heard of The World Set Free until I picked it up. Early on I had to double check to see if I was reading fiction or not. Wells' ability to accurately peer into the future is eery. But at other times, his place in the space/time continuum is clearly visible. Pilots of biplanes carry atomic bombs in the cockpit, and toss to the earth by hand, as though they were apple cores. They communicate with one another via the "wireless apparatus." The book also has an odd combination of utopia and dystopia in conflict with one another fighting for dominance. Regardless, it was an enjoyable and captivating read. ...more
It’s as though divine providence chose the time when Go Set A Watchman would be published. Despite the progress that has been made, and our aspirationIt’s as though divine providence chose the time when Go Set A Watchman would be published. Despite the progress that has been made, and our aspirations as a nation to fulfil Dr. King’s dream, race remains one of America’s central and most heated issues. Enter Harper Lee, the artist and Oracle who created the 20th-century's greatest icon for white southern redemption - Atticus Finch.
Harper Lee's writing is incredible in its authenticity, the reader is quickly a part of Scout’s visit home. We stand with Scout as she discovers that Atticus is not exactly who she believed him to be, his heart not open equally to all God’s children like she originally believed. All manner of evil conspiracy has been imagined as an explanation for this newly evident malignancy in the character of Atticus Finch. Some have gone so far as to accuse Harper Lee of at best senility, and at worst greed.
Jean Louise, not Atticus, created the most tangible discomfort I felt. “extravagant with her pity, and complacent in her snug world,” is Harper Lee’s most accurate and condemning description of Scout. It is painful to the point of tears to hear Scout ask Calpurnia, “why are you doing this to me” after Jean Louise recognizes Calpurnia’s "formal manners" usually reserved to address regular white folk, but never those she loved. Calpurnia is in the rawest place of grief, having just lost a loved one when Scout is so callous and self-absorbed.
The irony of our concern over Atticus Finch’s reputation, this great paragon of tolerance and hope, becomes sad and sickening when viewed against the reality of these last months with its hatred, murder, and fear. Yet many scream, how dare you treat this fictional icon we hold dear with such contempt. I liked Harper Lee’s perspective, “Prejudice, a dirty word, and faith, a clean one, have something in common: they both begin where reason ends.”
Ferguson, Baltimore, Charleston, Chicago and so many other cities and towns remind us of the distance between stated care and concern we have for one another, and the action that converts concern into compassion and love. Harper Lee just pointed out where we are on the map, one more attempt to help us keep from getting lost, that's all.
I was excited to read Garth Stein’s A Sudden Light after the first of his novels I read, The Art of Racing in the Rain, involved such a poignant storyI was excited to read Garth Stein’s A Sudden Light after the first of his novels I read, The Art of Racing in the Rain, involved such a poignant story witnessed through the eyes of a pure-hearted family dog. But A Sudden Light only made it too hard to see.
Several generations of a family whose wealth and power was a byproduct of the board foot yields locked in the ancient forests of the great northwest, battled even in the afterlife in the war of consumption versus conservation. On top of that, one of the great uncles playing the Glinda, Good Witch of the North equivalent, wanting nothing more than to reclaim the family’s cosmic honor by returning the estate to it’s original natural unmolested state, is gay. This fact offered some juxtaposition between the generations but seemed to distract from the generational tension rather than accentuate it.
The other annoying interruption, more frustrating than a Jehovah's Witness during the middle of supper, were the well-known phrases that would appear from time to time, and remind me of other writings. The most disruptive being “not a creature was stirring”. Though light years from any kind of plagiarism, each phrase made me blink. Sometimes a blink is all you need to miss a sudden light, like the shooting star that excites a friend on a summer’s night but is gone before you can turn your head.
I know this isn't a very positive review, and I find myself liking A Sudden Light a bit less as I get further from the story. But these issues may be nothing more than the ever more frequent mumblings I utter as midlife drives me to share a theater box with Statler and Waldorf. It certainly will not keep me from reading more Garth Stein in the not too distant future. ...more
I don't know that I have ever actually read A Christmas Carol, but I'm so glad I did today. It is a very short read and delightful in every way. WhenI don't know that I have ever actually read A Christmas Carol, but I'm so glad I did today. It is a very short read and delightful in every way. When the ghost of Christmas Past shows up in your world, I highly recommend taking his hand and go on the Christmas journey he and the other spirits offer. Merry Christmas! ...more
Billy Budd was on the list of 16 books recommended by Ernest Hemingway when he answered a question by a young author to be regarding the best books toBilly Budd was on the list of 16 books recommended by Ernest Hemingway when he answered a question by a young author to be regarding the best books to read to learn the literary craft. I had read Moby-Dick and Typee, which remains my favorite, in a 19th-century novel class when I was at Carson Newman, but that was the end of my Melvillian experience. I had forgotten how Melville's flavor of Victorian prose can sound so pompous, and yet at the same time, at least in moments, magically unveil truth. Unlike other works of Melville, it is quite short. It was discovered and published in 1924 long after his death. For those whose taste run towards the formal and proper, and even for those who relish more coarse fare, Billy Budd assuages the literary thirst of one's soul....more
Banal is a word I find incredibly irritating to the point that it leaves me no polite expression other than to say it pisses me off. It is a cheap hanBanal is a word I find incredibly irritating to the point that it leaves me no polite expression other than to say it pisses me off. It is a cheap hand grenade for any who wish to be dismissive of the lessers cluttering their world, and in Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook appears the default perception of Anna, the book’s narrator.
However, it is quickly apparent that Anna is jousting with madness, and now what was a mundane sifting through the world’s major philosophies and their followers has become a desperate groping for reality and survival. It is what does not allow the banal arrogance of Anna and her world to be abandoned.
The Golden Notebook is reputedly among the canon that comprises the feminist manifesto, but I’m ignorant of it’s precepts at seems like merely another intellectually well reasoned manner of distinguishing us and them, whoever they and we are. What I do find interesting is that Anna’s attempts at expressing her understanding of truth inevitably gets mired in the fact that in certain aspects all truth is frightening, ugly, dangerous, and leaves one with no where to turn. It is the truth.
Anna and her friends spend a fair amount of time in distinguishing between communists, reds, socialists, those close enough to the truth to be taken seriously, and everyone else. Among the serious enlightened, it must be determined who are true believers and frauds, as well as acknowledging the American and European varieties of each. Thus how can one from any free society be a true believer unless they support the Soviet, and how can one support the Soviet knowing that they have killed millions of their own “workers”, and lie to them daily in order to hide the very truth they claim to profess.
Anna’s hand-wringing replicates our own more vital problem. How do we find peace and a place of our own in a world so ugly as to be filled with child rapers, mass murders, and tyrants in search of greed and power? This is not the real question, only a polite mask and safety net to protect us from the much more dangerous questions. What if I am one of these people? How can I not be one if, seeing their carnage, I do nothing? How can I survive when the choices seem to be consumed by a world I can not change, or by not seeking to change it, become the most despicable truth. A bystander.
I have no idea why I chose to read Lessing’s The Golden Notebook. I suspect I was interested when I read about her recent death. Regardless, I’m glad I did. ...more
If you combined Dr. Ruth, Douglas Adams, and the lyrical names of the Spanish characters, you would no doubt find yourself in a tale as wonderful as "If you combined Dr. Ruth, Douglas Adams, and the lyrical names of the Spanish characters, you would no doubt find yourself in a tale as wonderful as "Love in the Time of Cholera. ...more
This was my first encounter with David Foster Wallace, and one of inspiration, which is to say its impact will be further endeavors with the author’sThis was my first encounter with David Foster Wallace, and one of inspiration, which is to say its impact will be further endeavors with the author’s writing. If a technical manual , a Woody Alan shorty, and a white paper on the metallurgical attributes of lead were combined, a David Foster Wallace story would be the result. ...more
I've never been successful when it came to reading Joyce, having tried and failed with Ulysses multiple times. Although I was really only interested iI've never been successful when it came to reading Joyce, having tried and failed with Ulysses multiple times. Although I was really only interested in reading it so I could throw a bone to my ego. Since Dubliners is 100 this year, and I have never read it, I thought now was a good time. I didn't even know it was a collection of stories until I finished the first one. Dubliners was a short read, a quick read, and a lyrical read. At times I felt a connection with the story even though I it's meaning was unclear to me at the time. The enjoyment was not the story per se, but simply the fulfillment of partying in the words of James Joyce. Next up... Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. It will be 100 in 2016....more
Reading Cormac McCarthy is often trying to cross a familiar, busy, four way intersection with when the lights aren’t working. There is a mixture of thReading Cormac McCarthy is often trying to cross a familiar, busy, four way intersection with when the lights aren’t working. There is a mixture of the ordinary daily banal with a sense of surprise and danger. No quotation marks, and other grammar ticks make the reading feel strange and unfamiliar. This sense of never quite feeling comfortable is almost another character in McCarthy’s Child of God.
Ballard, the main character, draws sympathy, and even admiration as a homeless man working to care for himself as best he can. This is quickly followed by revulsion as he violates humanity. The story then seems fueled by the question of whether Ballard is insane or evil. Neither description offers shelter, and in each there is a place where one can see themselves. To my mind this is what makes Child of God so powerful. ...more
Guinness & Gefilte Fish was difficult to read, but not due to the usual mixture of dyslexia and attention deficit that brings disorder to all my rGuinness & Gefilte Fish was difficult to read, but not due to the usual mixture of dyslexia and attention deficit that brings disorder to all my reading. It was difficult because the author is one of the strangely large number of people I know* who turned out to be writers. (* “Know” in this context meaning at some point in our lives had we passed in a hall I would have said “Hey, insert the name of the writer here”, and they would have had said hey, Lane.) Recalling the writer as an older attractive blonde high school and college lass brings a different perspective than one might normally expect when reading about the heroine’s prenuptial pink heart shaped pubic topiary, but that wasn’t actually what made the read difficult. The all too real hope and fear and pain and joy of two folks trying to reconcile their love with their beliefs, and families, and lives made it difficult. It was difficult because those emotions were so tangible, and no escape was offered except to continue through that discomfort. John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is another book that for me creates such genuine and at times uncomfortable emotions. Unlike Of Mice and Men, there remains hope that strength and love will endure. It’s not easy, but it is worth the read....more