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Category — Books

The Public Library – Better than Sliced Bread

As I’ve noted elsewhere, I love books. I have lots of books. Last year I nursed a fantasy that I would be able to give away most of my books but I wasn’t able to follow through on that goal. I have been able to use the library to avoid buying as many new books as I used to buy. This year I’ve bought a few comic/graphic novel books and a cook book or two. That’s pretty good. I feel like I’ve built a dam and it’s holding.

I’ve also been intent on dumping cable. For the ten years I was in California, I didn’t have cable. I signed up here and I was able to see everything I hadn’t seen in about 7-9 months. After that, it was the constant irritation of turning on the TV and seeing infomercials on more channels than original programming. Most of the original programming was Law and Order of various flavors. Why pay for a slime ball company like Comcast or any of the others to pipe an endless stream of screaming infomercials into your home? I cut cable to absolute minimum. I’ve bought an antenna to cut them off completely but I haven’t had time to risk my life installing it.

The other thing I did was join Netflix. Netflix is wonderful. I can watch anything at any time and it’s all stuff that I want to watch. Why doesn’t everyone dump cable and sign with Netflix? It’s pure joy.

Finally, I also pick up media from the library and that’s sort of the point to this rant. Our library has a great collection of DVDs and VHS but they charged for them. The fee was $2 which made them more expensive than Netflix. I picked up a VHS tape at the library today and they’ve stopped charging for the older VHS movies. That’s so fantastic. I know several struggling families that can’t afford even basic 15 channel cable that rely upon the library for most of their entertainment. It’s great to live in a city with a library like ours.

If you haven’t visited your library recently, try visiting on-line. You may find a whole world of free just down the street.

September 13, 2008   No Comments

My Great Fear

August 25, 2008   No Comments

Kafka’s Papers

Heres a head’s up about an article in today’s New York Times on the state of Kafka’s papers. This is a famous literary tale. Kafka instructed that his papers be burned after his death and, naturally, that wasn’t done. Max Brod took them with him to Israel in 1939. The papers have been in private hands since Kafka’s death. Unfinished books have emerged from the treasure over the years but the papers have been closely guarded, first by Max, and later by his secretary/lover, Esther Hoffe. Ester lived 101 years and her heirs may be ready share the papers with the world. Read the story in the New York Times.

August 18, 2008   No Comments

Padre Pio – Better than Live Bait

The post I made about Padre Pio, the soon to be sainted fraud, is almost as popular as the Mash Cone. For all the pitiful Pio followers, I wanted to make a plug for a great book by Joe Nickell. It’s called “Looking for a Miracle” and it’s available from Amazon. Nickell is a great writer and his books are a pleasure to read. Besides, who doesn’t want to learn how to make their own weeping madonna statue?

June 11, 2008   2 Comments

Curious Turpitude

Someone left a strange comment on the previous turpitude post. It wasn’t an off the cuff comment but a long carefully written comment full of links to pages supporting the text. The IP address traced to High Wycombe which has little meaning to me except a company I worked for once upon a time bought something there, closed it down and generally messed with the folks working there. Methinks that Sebastian or one of his publishing minions is searching the web for anything about “moral turpitude” and posting the same comment. You can’t blame them. It’s great press to help sell books.

March 22, 2008   No Comments

Moral Turpitude

The morality police in the US of A are at it again. You know who they are? They’re like the religious police in Saudi Arabia. This week they barred Sebastian Horsley from entering the country for a book tour for “moral turpitude.” From the CBC:

British writer Sebastian Horsley has been denied entry to the U.S. upon arriving at Newark Liberty International Airport to promote Dandy in the Underworld, his memoir of sex and drugs.

The flamboyant, 45-year-old author said Thursday that he was refused entry on grounds of “moral terpitude,” after being questioned for eight hours by border officials at the New Jersey airport.

“They knew more about me than I did,” Horsley said from his London home. “They said, ‘We know you’re a heroin addict, we know you’re a crack addict, we know you’re involved in prostitution.’”

Dandy in the Underworld details Horsley’s years in the demi-monde of drugs and prostitutes, and his own heavy drug use. It was published in Britain last year by Sceptre, an imprint of Hodder Headline, to good reviews. The Independent newspaper said the book “entertains as much as it revolts, is as tender as it is shocking.”

If this is the way the Dept. of Homeland Security is going to protect our borders, I’m all for it as long as they apply the same policy to everyone trying to enter our country. This seems like our best chance to keep Dick Cheney from re-entering the USA. If anyone is guilty of “moral turpitude”, it’s Dick “Eagle Eye” Cheney.

March 20, 2008   No Comments

Doris Lessing Wins Nobel for Literature

Saint Eyebeat's Eyes and Doris Lessing's EyesShe finally won. What took so long?

I’m not a die-hard fan of Lessing‘s writing but I’m glad she won. She’s something that is vanishing from literature. She’s the self-educated writer. That’s what this post is really about but I should talk about Doris first.

If you do nothing else with the news of Lessing’s prize, you should do a google image search. She’ll be 88 this month and her face over the decades is well documented. It’s the stranger in the mirror that we all deal with as we age. She has rather close-set eyes as I do, I wonder if I’m seeing myself in a few decades.

Doris Lessing Time Machine

The second thing you should do with this news is read Lessing’s own comments on winning. The BBC has some great quotes. This is one that I liked:

She recalled that, in the 1960s, “they sent one of their minions especially to tell me they didn’t like me at the Nobel Prize and I would never get it”.

“So now they’ve decided they’re going to give it to me. So why? I mean, why do they like me any better now than they did then?”

They like you now, Doris, because they’re less frightened now.

Lessing ran away from home and never graduated from high school. She’s a great example of the self-taught writer and intellectual. She was never ruined by university. We need more writers like her. If I see, on a dust jacket, that an author is a graduate of a literature program, especially an MFA grad, I will drop the book like I was jabbed with a cattle prod. Most of these people have nothing to say. They’ve been tied up in knots and parrot nonsense for cracker crumbs. They make me cringe. That’s the rant that Doris sparked. I think it must be something that Lessing has thought about herself. Here’s something Doris said:

I don’t know much about creative writing programs. But they’re not telling the truth if they don’t teach, one, that writing is hard work, and, two, that you have to give up a great deal of life, your personal life, to be a writer.

If you want to learn more about Doris Lessing who seems determined to speak the truth whether they like it or not in Stockholm or any place else, pick up a copy of Doris Lessing: Time Bites. And, if you are a cat lover like Doris Lessing you might want to read Particularily Cats and Rufus but beware it is not all gushing love and admiration.

Doris Lessing and Cat Pal

If a fish is the movement of water embodied, given shape, then cat is a diagram and pattern of subtle air – Doris Lessing
“Particularly Cats”

October 11, 2007   No Comments

Robot Dreams – Sara Varon

Sara VaronSara Varon’s new book, Robot Dreams, is finally here. I don’t have a copy yet but I wanted to promote it. Few comic artists will make you feel better than Sara Varon. Her first book, Sweaterweather, was a joy. She followed with her first children’s book, Chicken and Cat. It captured the same joys of doing simple things with a friend. Robot Dreams appears to continue with that theme. You can see a sampling of Robot Dreams here.

For those living in the mid-south, you’ll be able enjoy Sara in person. She’s tentatively planning on attending the Southern Festival of Books. This is one of the premier book festivals in the country. It’s Oct. 12-14 in Nashville, TN. Be there or be square.

September 12, 2007   No Comments

Turning the Pages from the BBC

I’ve always sketched and I’ve always keep a sketch notebook with me. This has become a trendy thing to do nowadays. It makes me cringe. When I see another popular article on the subject, I want to burn my notebooks. I have nearly all of them from age 10. It’s also been one of my most closely guarded secrets. I keep past notebooks in a safety deposit box away from prying eyes. There’s nothing very interesting in them like most sketch books but I feel better keeping them under lock and key. Despite this eccentricity, I like looking at other people’s sketchbooks. Crazy, isn’t it? I developed this fascination as I’m sure many people have when I was a child and first saw Leonardo’s notebooks. The message I got was that ideas have value and are worth keeping.

The BBC has a great webpage for notebook/sketchbook voyeurs. It’s called Turning the Pages and it allows you to look at books page by page. Blake’s notebook is there and I found it a very interesting volume. Portions of Leonardo’s notebooks are there as well. Finally, the original hand-printed Alice in Wonderland is there. Don’t miss it.

September 10, 2007   No Comments

Madeleine L’Engle is Gone

What a sad day! It was just announced that Madeleine L’Engle is dead. She was a marvelous writer. From the New York Times:

Ms. L’Engle (pronounced LENG-el) was best known for her children’s classic, “A Wrinkle in Time,” which won the John Newbery Award as the best children’s book of 1963. By 2004, it had sold more than 6 million copies, was in its 67th printing and was still selling 15,000 copies a year.

Her works — poetry, plays, autobiography and books on prayer — were deeply, quixotically personal. But it was in her vivid children’s characters that readers most clearly glimpsed her passionate search for the questions that mattered most. She sometimes spoke of her writing as if she were taking dictation from her subconscious.

September 7, 2007   No Comments