Richard Seltzer's Blog: Richard Seltzer

April 9, 2021

New Shakespeare Novel

I just finished first draft of my novel
The Bard of Eastport, a Celebration of Shakespeare. That's my second Shakespeare novel. My first, Shakespeare's Twin Sister, will be published by All Things That Matter Press.

Publishers interested in this one should contact me immediately while it's still available :-)
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Published on April 09, 2021 06:08

March 15, 2021

Short videos of me reading my stories and excerpts from my novels

I'm having fun posting short videosont youtube of me reading stories and excerpts from my novels.
I enjoy getting the instant gratification of feedback rather than waiting years until a book is published.
You might enjoy doing something like that. It's quick, easy, and free.

You can see my complete playlist (63 short videos as of today) here (44) Stories and Other Stuff by Richard Seltzer - YouTube
My favorite story is The Princess Tango (44) The Princess Tango by Richard Seltzer - YouTube
You might also enjoy the chapter The Library from my book The Lizard of Oz (44) The Lizard of Oz by Richard Seltzer, Chapter 7 The Library - YouTube
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Published on March 15, 2021 11:18

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Klara and the Sun Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From the start, everything feels peculiar.

Klara, the main character, never addresses anyone as "you." She always uses the person's name, even when addressing someone directly. And though she is perceptive in her analysis of what she sees, the scope of what she can see is limited to the store she is in and the street seen through a store window. Cumulatively that becomes eerie.

Her movements inside the store are controlled by the store manager, and she is not free to leave the store. She has or believes she has a special relationship with the Sun, which is her source of energy and health. She is hoping that someone will buy her.

It becomes increasingly clear that she is a robot intended to serve as a companion to a child. None of this is said explicitly because what matters is not the facts, which could be summarized in a paragraph, but rather the perspective which is revelatory and unsettling.

Ishiguro shows us mankind in the future seen through a robot's eyes. And the central question is not what will happen to the human and robot characters, but rather whether there is any important difference between a robot and a human. Could a well-designed and well-trained robot take the place of a hum? If a child died, could its robot companion fill in for it and continue its life? At the very end, Klara, the boot, concludes that the answer is no.

"Mr. Capaldi believed there was nothing special inside Josie that couldn't be continued. He told the Mother he'd searched and searched and found nothing like that. But I believe now he was searching in the wrong place. There was something very special, but it wasn't inside Josie. It was inside those who loved her. That's why I think now Mr. Capaldi was wrong and I wouldn't have succeeded. So I'm glad I decided as I did." p. 302

It's a blessing that Ishiguro is well-known and revered. If this were his first novel, agents and editors would never have read past the first few pages and this marvelous book would never have been published.

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Published on March 15, 2021 10:11

March 4, 2021

Videos now available

I have posted at Youtube videos of me reading some of my stories as well as excerpts from my novels Nevermind, Beyond the 4th Door, and Parallel Lives. Many of the stories are romantic. Others are childlike (for adults as well as children).
Please take a look and enjoy.
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Published on March 04, 2021 10:57

February 21, 2021

If on a winter's night a traveler by Calvino

If on a Winter's Night a Traveler If on a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Intriguing. Confusing. Inspiring.
My favorite quote,
"The novel I would most like to read at this moment ... should have as its driving force only the desire to narrate, to pile stories on stories, without trying to impose a philosophy of life on you, simply allowin you to observe its own growth, like a tree, an entangling, as if of branches and leaves..."

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Published on February 21, 2021 16:59

February 13, 2021

The Origins and Development of Classical Hinduism by Basham

The Origins and Development of Classical Hinduism The Origins and Development of Classical Hinduism by A.L. Basham

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Helpful. But not helpful enough.
This book focuses on the historical development of Hinduism.
Along the way there is some explanation of the concepts and beliefs, but not enough for a raw beginner like me.
The chapters dealing with the distant past and the archaeological record were more readable then the later chapters. After once having introduced a term/concept, the author uses it as a basis for introducing new ones, then uses those to introduce still more. By the end I was hopelessly lost.

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Published on February 13, 2021 15:21

February 11, 2021

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

The Penelopiad The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A fun and funny take on the Odyssey, told by Penelope in Hades, long after her death. There she can see and talk to the other characters from the story, gleaning new facts and new perspectives. The tone is playful, with creative twists on what readers of the original probably presumed.

Some memorable phrases, to give a sense of the flavor of this unique novel:
[Menelaus] "was thick as a brick and had the manners of a stump." p. 77
"Helen should have been kept in a locked trunk in a dark cellar because she was poison on legs." p. 79
"Odysseus had been in a fight with a giant one-eyed Cyclops, said some; no, it was only a one-eyed tavern keeper, said another, and the fight was over non-payment of the bill." p. 83
[Circe] had "fallen in love with him and was feeding him unheard-of delicacies prepared by her own immortal hands, and the two of them made love deliriously every night; no, said others, it was just an expensie whotehouse, and he was sponging off the Madam." pp. 83-84
"Then she'd slip off to take a dip in the palace fountain, or she'd vanish for days to tell jokes with the dolphins and play tricks on clams." pp. 86-87
"Siens -- half-bird, half-woman -- who enticed men to their island and then ate them, though he'd tied himself to the mast so he could listen to their irresistable singing without jumping overboard. No, siad another, it was a high-class Sicilian knocking shop -- the courtesans there were known for their musical talents and their fancy feathered outfits." p. 91
"Desire does not die with the body," siad Helen. "only the ability to satisfy it." p. 155
"Consider us pure symbol. We're no more real than money." p. 168

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Published on February 11, 2021 11:24

February 6, 2021

The Ramayana (William Buck translation/adaptaion)

Ramayana Ramayana by William Buck

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not understanding Hindu myth or religion, I have no right to judge this work. I can only speak of the my experience of it, in this very accessible and readable translation.

To me, it was fantasy, world-creating on a grand scale. Gods and demons and humans and intelligent animals who are like cartoon characters. There are no rules, or the rules can change at any moment. Anything can happen, regardless of physics, chemistry, geology, or common sense. An army of monkeys and bears with superpowers and equipped with magical devices. Impossible situations resolved by deus ex machina time after time. "Monkeys have bridged the sea, and stones float for them unfairly, against the natural laws, and what never yet happened in the world has happened here!" p. 307
"When everyone was aboard, that huge chariot arose with a great noise like fireworks and waterfalls, then silently high in the sky he turned north in a wide climbing curve, carrying Sita who had been lost and found again, and two mortal men, and five demons and twenty-three million monkeys and bears sitting there at their pleasure in the free-flying gardens, facing the fresh morning wind as if they owned the world." p. 373

It begins at the "beginning of Time" and talks of "the destruction preceding creation." Gods take the form of humans and other creatures. Death sometimes, like in a videogame, leads to another life. And at other times, Death is a character, like any other, capable of assuming many forms.

The style often makes the obscure and imaginary seem tangible.
"took a staff, went outside an struck the ground of heaven hard." p. 23
"fled wounded and burning in grief don to safety int he underworlds beneath the sea, through a door under Ocean." p. 25
"the huge aerial mind-driven chariot" p. 27
"the three brothers sat contemplating the absolute immensity of Life." p. 29
"there stood before Ravana his full-grown son Meghanada, like fire released from hiding in fuel, set free to burn." p. 31
"That flowery chariot... dipped down into Yana's kingdom like a rain of jewels." p. 38
"he saw Kikeyi lying like one illusion spread out to capture another" p. 68
"Ravana [who had ten heads] hung down his heads and wept for a long time."
"He wrapped himself in illusion and spread enchantment around himself with a wae or his arm, and vanished." p. 309

Some of the imagery is striking.
"The great grey elephants of Ayodhya wept as wild elephants weep when one of their Kings is captured in the forest." p. 102
"There were puzzles with essential parts missing and loaded dicee and heartbreak and many first loves lost." p. 296
"Like a mirror gleaming through from within a black velvet bag, we may sometimes glimpse Reality shining here and there when it takes us unawares." p. 306
"and shiny gold bracelets winking like fireflies in the dusk fast approaching." p. 331
"Ravana loaded a hundred tough horn-tipped bows as hard to stretch as the mind" p. 340
"swift as thought Rama shot his arrows" p. 347
"If one wished to hear stories of past times he could speak with an old sword about ancient battles, or hear the old tales told by the trees and stones." p. 390
"Flames burst like blood from the stricken stars." p. 395
"I'll go alive to heaven for awhile, and rest and tend the cow of wishes in her peaceful pasture." p. 424

There are well-stated nuggets of wisdom.
"the brighter the light the blacker the shadows" p. 65
"Time is hidden from you, charioteer. You can only see his work, not him." p. 75
"war in within us, it's nothing outside." p. 144
"All is truly forever chance and change" p. 306
"all the universe is but a sign to be read rightly, colors and forms are only put here to speak to us; and all is spirit, there is nothing else in existence." p. 394
"Even this body is not mine, this I am not. It is no part of me." p. 418

There are peculiar statements presumed to be fact, such as
"they were all twenty-five years old, the eternal age of heaven."

In this ancient text there are also strange foreshadowings of modern science. For instance, a surprisingly accurate view of Earth from outer space.
"we would fly so high that we saw below us all the world like a picture, clear as your face in a mirror. We saw Earth herself turning in space with a strange whirring noise like a firebrand swept quickly thorough the air." p. 211
As well as hints of evolution, as when Hanuman the monkey says to a human, "We are your forefathers." p. 315
And a giant hovercraft, a chariot "like a small city, lightly riding just off the ground" p. 370

If you have the time to wade through 430 pages of rambling story with no links to Western literature or any other story you are likely to have read before, taking place in a world with no ground rules, in which the ground itself might suddenly disappear, give this a try and enjoy the ride.

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Published on February 06, 2021 11:51

February 2, 2021

Immediacy in Fiction by Richard Seltzer

Reality consists not just of what has happened and what will happen, but also of what might have happened before and could happen next. In the present, there is a cloud of probabilities (as in quantum physics) that will be resolved when a decision is made or an action is taken. This reminds me of chess (Think Like a Grandmaster by Kotov) where after every move a new set of candidate next moves is revealed in a branching pattern. In my favorite novels, every moment is enriched by such a cloud of potential (as you make very clear). A moment seen from the perspective of someone who sees those possibilities is much more interesting and complex than the single narrow path of events that is evident when looking back at what actually happened. Readers should feel like they are present as events unfold and decisions are made.

I strive for that kind of immediacy in my novels. the difference between reading contemporary news reports and letters and reading a history book which is written teleologically, in full knowledge of what happened next and hence only paying attention to what led to the outcome
I want to feel the immediacy of events as they unfold, the narrative power of anticipation. What characters expect and what they fear loom large as they live through events.
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Published on February 02, 2021 09:17

January 30, 2021

Regarding Penelope by Nancy Felson

Regarding Penelope: From Character to Poetics Regarding Penelope: From Character to Poetics by Nancy Felson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Iliad and Odyssey were miracles. There was nothing at all like them ever before or for hundreds of years after. The insights in Regarding Penelope deepen my appreciation for The Odyssey and prompt me to want to read and enjoy it again and again.

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Published on January 30, 2021 09:02

Richard Seltzer

Richard    Seltzer
Here I post thoughts, memories, stories, essays, jokes -- anything that strikes my fancy. This meant to be idiosyncratic and fun. I welcome feedback and suggestions.

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