In an effort to write less and say more, I have taken to using the Twitter format (@bluemonk63). Along the way, I have found several others doing theIn an effort to write less and say more, I have taken to using the Twitter format (@bluemonk63). Along the way, I have found several others doing the same thing, precious few of them well.
In 140 And Counting,Joanne Merriam has collected 141 pieces of microlit: tiny poems and very short stories previous published in her webzine 7X20. I had expected to find some clever little lines, the sort of thing one thinks is funny or poignant the first time it is read and tedious after the third posting. However, nearly all of them are worth reading over and over.
What should appeal to the average reader is that most of the poems will not read like the haiku so many dislike because it seems to say nothing quickly. These poems, for the most part, are well crafted and thoughtful. The best of these caused me to stop and replay them in my mind.
The stories here also work like good poems, jabbing at the senses, the heart, and the mind like a dagger making quick work of our preconceived notions about fiction. Don't be surprised if you find yourself chuckling one minute and gasping the next.
A handful of the selections didn't work for me, but there were very few of these. And when I read over them a second time, I couldn't help thinking they would work for someone, that what didn't immediately resonate with me might well spark something in another reader.
Chances are you have not heard of any of the authors in 140 and Counting. But I hope you will have before too long. Joanne Merriam has collected some terrific pieces which well represent a genre that needs to be taken seriously....more
A Christmas Story is probably my favorite holiday movie, so it is with some trepidation that I finally got myself to start Jean Shepherd's book, on whA Christmas Story is probably my favorite holiday movie, so it is with some trepidation that I finally got myself to start Jean Shepherd's book, on which much of the film is based. I try to keep away from comparisons of books and movies. They are different art forms, and so should be judged separately. And since only about three and a half chapters from this book are actually in the movie, that distinction seems even more important.
But I cannot help but make a couple of notes. For me, the movie is a funnier experience. Part of the movie's charm is Shepherd's narration, deadpan and filled with hysterical description and hyperbole. For those sections of In God We Trust that are dramatized, however, Shepherd sometimes tells more than shows. Oddly, the book as a whole is not like this. Many of the stories here are told with rich and delightful details, much like what we see and hear in the film.
In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash is a collection of remembrances held together by the narrator (Ralph) as a grown man visiting his old hometown and spending the day sitting in the bar talking to the proprietor, his old friend, Flick. Ralph has escaped the industrial crumbling town to live and work in New York. As the day keeps going (and many beers have been drunk), Ralph goes over a variety of incidents, including his quest for the Red Ryder BB Gun, his father's "special award," his first fishing trip with the Old Man, a funny marching band story. Along the way we see Ralph's triumphs and embarrassments as well as a mostly warm picture of life during the Depression. (The images of angry women throwing gravy boats and Ralph trying to explain The Decameron of Boccaccio still make me laugh out loud.)
Shepherd's semi-autobiographical book is a satisfying read. Don't expect the movie. However, like the film, the book reminds us of our own stories and friendships. Expect to be entertained and to remember a few things....more
Despite its flaws (particularly preaching at the end that is out of keeping with the narrative), The Jungle is a book that should be read by every AmeDespite its flaws (particularly preaching at the end that is out of keeping with the narrative), The Jungle is a book that should be read by every American. Most who talk about the book focus on the horrible conditions and practices of the meatpacking industry, and particularly since this takes place at the turn of the twentieth century, they pretty much stop there. One might get the impression that having been instrumental in the creation of what eventually became the Food and Drug Administration, The Jungle has done its job and should be relegated to the dusty shelves of history. But that would be wrong. Sinclair's novel is every bit as timely today as it was a century ago.
We might assume that because of the FDA, food is safer and the industries that bring that food to our tables are less corrupt than in 1906. However, books such as Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation demonstrate otherwise. Yet there is more to the novel than an expose of the industry.
The story of Jurgis Rudkis is one in which we see the evils of unchecked capitalism and greed and how they work to rob an honest, working man of physical and emotional life, his dignity, his morality, and eventually: hope. We do not get a lesson in how bad luck can bring a man and his family to soul crushing poverty. We see the machinations that bring that poverty and perpetuate it, destroying everything human in its path, with nothing to stop it.
This book needs to be read now because there is something of Jurgis Rudkis (or one of his ill-fated family) is every working American. Only the players and some of the schemes have changed. Many like to believe we live in a country were we can do and be anything if we work hard enough, but the poor know better. The plight of the "wage slave" has only been obscured by an a obese and television soaked nation.
Upton Sinclair famously stated about The Jungle, "I aimed at the public's heart and by accident I hit it in the stomach." If we do not want history to repeat itself, I suggest we read this book with our hearts and our minds....more
This novel is about two boys who are sexually abused and plot together to kill the men who are molesting them. In addition to the victims and the perpThis novel is about two boys who are sexually abused and plot together to kill the men who are molesting them. In addition to the victims and the perpetrators, we meet the mother of one of the boys and the teacher who knows something is wrong, but doesn't have the evidence to prove it. Sounds like an engaging story.
And for the most part, it is. If These Trees Could Talk is very interesting, though not really groundbreaking. It doesn't have to be unique to be a good book. Readers will be very interested in the characters and will keep wanting to know what happens next. But sadly, this is not as strong a novel as it could have been.
While overall, the story reads fine, it contains too much prose that, for lack of a better word, needs revision. There is needless repetition, sentences that lack life or punch, and lazy description where the author opts to refer to television shows rather than really describe. Those problems are not on every page, but appear frequently enough to put me off. There are also a few moments where the narrator inserts information or a mini-sermon, pulling the reader right out of the story instead of adding to it.
As I said, the novel is readable and interesting for the most part, and I think that most who finish it will find the twist at the end something to think about. (I'm not sure I care for it, but am willing to admit that my feelings may be a matter of my personal tastes rather than a flaw in the story itself.) Smith is at least trying to tell an important tale here, and he gives us perspectives that we might easily dismiss....more
I so enjoyed reading this book. Jimmie Rae Murphy is one ornery and likable gal with a "junking obsession," and her adventure to find a friend's killeI so enjoyed reading this book. Jimmie Rae Murphy is one ornery and likable gal with a "junking obsession," and her adventure to find a friend's killer takes her many different places estate sales (where she would have gone anyway), gas station bathrooms, the apartment of her ex-husband's new lover,and quite possibly into the arms of a mysterious and handsome stranger. Jimmie Rae can't seem to get away from danger, even in the seemingly mundane world she thought she lived in. First Monday Murder is a romping good mystery. I look forward to more. ...more
Redemption and family are two themes in John Grisham's novels, and we certainly have both here. One story in Calico Joe involves a bitter, aging pitchRedemption and family are two themes in John Grisham's novels, and we certainly have both here. One story in Calico Joe involves a bitter, aging pitcher and the rising star whose career is ruined with one beanball. The other involves the same bitter man and his failure as a father. The story moves from first person to third and back in forth in time, between the son and his trip to see his dying father and the events leading up to the awful game. This can be a little confusing, but I got used to it pretty quickly. (I never did get quite used to the verb tense shifts though.)
On certainly does not have to be a baseball fan to appreciate the history of the game, which Grisham clearly knows and loves, or to enjoy reading about these people. The narrator is as interesting a character as Calico Joe, Warren Tracy, and Clarence Rook, though not as dynamic as one might expect. But that is not necessarily a flaw.
I fully expect this novel to be made into a movie, and when it is, I hope it is handled by a bright and creative director instead of getting turned into a Hallmark presentation. Otherwise much of the real grit of the issues addressed in Calico Joe are likely to be lost, and that would be a shame....more