It’s Deja Vu All Over Again: TREE OF SMOKE by Denis Johnson, a Review (of sorts)

As I sit and watch the surreal press conference between Trump and Putin after their so-called historic summit, where, after recently treating our allies like dog shit, Trump behaves like a sycophantic lapdog to a murderous dictator who wants nothing more than to destroy and subjugate the U.S. of America in retribution for how the U.S. of America destroyed and subjugated his beloved U.S.S.R., I am reminded of how I felt, or better yet, how my fuzzy, nightmarish memories leave me feeling from the surreal and tumultuous times in the U.S. of America during the late-Sixties through the mid-Seventies, you know, the era of national madness beginning with the Tet Offensive through the Watergate break-ins and subsequent hearings to Nixon’s humiliating yet palliative resignation and ending with America’s humiliating yet palliative retreat from South Vietnam.

Continue reading “It’s Deja Vu All Over Again: TREE OF SMOKE by Denis Johnson, a Review (of sorts)”

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The Lullaby Effect of Carter & Lovecraft versus When Nietzsche Wept

I’m only a so-so fan of HP Lovecraft. I guess I’ve read as much of him as I have more out of a sense of allegiance to the horror genre than a sense of loyalty to his literary acuity.

Which is why I was somewhat surprised when I found myself selecting Jonathan L. Howard’s CARTER & LOVECRAFT the other night when cruising my Overdrive app looking for an audiobook fix for which to fall asleep to…

Which, to me, is the primary purpose of audiobooks – literary lullabies.

And most of the audiobooks I listen to do a great job of it.

In fact, they do such a great job of it that most audiobooks I listen to, I don’t finish because each night I always have to go back to the last point in the book I can remember before drifting off to sleep the night before, which is, more often than not, only a minute or two after I started listening.

And the books I do manage to get through before the loan ends I often only remember in sketchy patches…

Continue reading “The Lullaby Effect of Carter & Lovecraft versus When Nietzsche Wept”

Slowing Down the Synapses

Or, Speeding Up the Reviews

Not the primary reason but one of the reasons I decided back in April to take a hiatus from the web was because I wanted to give my brain a break from all the nonsensical chatter that was cluttering it so.

I have been having what I collectively call chemo brain issues for quite some time so I thought it may do me some good to lay off for a while all the hyper-clicking and attention-span deflating skim-reading that the web so sweetly and successfully induces us into doing and which studies have told us is altering our brain and its ability to focus on and process information.

To counter what seemed to me to be my lack of focus and ability to process effectively process information (perhaps less a result from all my web time and more a result from all the chemo and prednisone I used to be strung out on years ago (and, in the case of chemo, which I still take daily dose addiction of)), I decided to turned off the web for a while.

Which, for the most part, I did surprisingly enough.

To fill the time I no longer spent on the web, much of which had been dedicated to this blog, I mobilized the pen and cracked open the books pretty hard.

Continue reading “Slowing Down the Synapses”

A First-Rate Fish Tale of a Thriller: USA, Inc. – A Review

BOOK | FICTION | THRILLER
USA, Inc. (A Mike Wardman Novel: Book 1)
by Larry Kahaner

RATING: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
 

When acclaimed and prolific author, investigative journalist, and private investigator Larry Kahaner reached out to me to see if I would be interested in receiving a copy of his latest thriller, USA, Inc. (A Mike Wardman Novel: Book 1), I was at first skeptical, for the last two books that I read that were pitched to me as “thrillers” – one which I reviewed here and, the other, because I won’t review here any book that I cannot honestly give at least a Three-Star rating, I wouldn’t review – turned out to be less like thrillers and more like romance novels.

However, I was intrigued by Larry’s proposal after checking out his impressive bio; and then, after reading the book’s synopsis and preview, I was hooked, completely, and quickly wrote back to him to accept his kind offer.

And I’m truly grateful that I did because I found in Larry’s book a Five-Star Story that is fresh, fast, topical, and, yes, quite thrilling to read.

Literary fiction is my natural space for my literary endeavors; mostly, because I find they instruct me about life in ways foreign or less apparent to my way of living and thinking, often while set in surreal, nightmarish environments completely alien to my own. And the literature I like best (Kafka) instructs without the pedantry (Dickens) and overbearing, lifelike details (Balzac) that I look to literature to escape from in the first place…and which I too often find in genre fiction.
Continue reading “A First-Rate Fish Tale of a Thriller: USA, Inc. – A Review”

I was going to review Hemingway’s A MOVEABLE FEAST, but…

…I am knee deep (I’m pretty tall dude so that’s pretty darn deep) into so much stuff* — stuff being formatting my two latest books HOW NOT TO DIE and SHORT VERSES & OTHER CURSES into print editions; setting up the logistics for the film adaptation of my short story “Leave” (fundraiser announcement soon – that’s right, I’m looking at you); adapting my novel THE SEA TRIALS OF AN UNFORTUNATE SAILOR into a screenplay (so that I’ll have it to shop around when I go out to LA to work on “Leave”); and of course the latest WIP — that I’v given up on it.

If it matters, I do feel quite guilty about it…

In fact, I feel quite guilty about not publishing much at all around here lately.

Publish or perish, an all that…

But, as a consolation for my quitting on this review, I recently read this interesting read from the Paris Review, which kind of (but far from exactly) reflects my thoughts on my relationship with Hemingway, and I offer it as a very nice, if not nicer, substitute.

In addition to discussing things such as my relationship with the Big Papa, I also had good intention (and we all know what the path to hell is paved with) to compare and contrast Hemingway’s view of Fitzgerald and Paris in the Twenties as found in his memoir with the beat up protagonist in Fitzgerald’s short story (perhaps a view similar to one he had of himself) “Babylon Revisited” (one of the best short stories ever put to paper).

I probably would have giddily gushed a bit about Woody’s “Midnight In Paris,” too…

However, because of all the stuff presented above and the nice PR essay, I lost my head of steam for it all and this is as far as I got/am getting with it…


The Romance versus the Reality of Hemingway’s Paris of the “Lost Generation”

BOOK | NON-FICTION | MEMOIR
A MOVEABLE FEAST
by Ernest Hemingway

RATING: ★ ★ ★ ★

Ernest Hemingway
If you want to see what I think Hemingway and other authors would like as clowns, click here.

 

The memoir >>

The short story >>

~~~~

Rating System:
★ = Unreadable
★ ★ = Poor Read
★ ★ ★ = Average Read
★ ★ ★ ★ = Outstanding Read
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ = Exceptional Read

That’s it. That’s alls I gots…

Pretty lame, I know; but what can say other than that the offer I presented in my “Hey Reader, What’s Your Angle?” post still stands. I’m still looking for good reviews to read, and perhaps reblog, that illustrate your reading and critiquing strategy… a bonus now for me would be ones that discuss Hemingway and/or Fitzgerald.

Can a brother get a link or two to a review, or what?


 

*Isn’t it funny how I’m always whining about how much I have to do, yet I somehow still found the time to promote inform you about all the stuff I have to do? Weird.

 
 

An Introduction to Author MB Bissett

In my last post “Hey Reader, What’s Your Angle,” I invited you all to share a link to a book that you’ve reviewed that provides some insight, via your writing, as to how you apply your critical thinking strategy towards the books you read.

I’m so happy that MB BLISSETT was kind/brave enough to take me up on the offer; for, not only did he introduce me to THE FEVER by Meg Abbott with his interesting and insightful review of her work, he introduced me to a new eclectic world of creativity and intellect that can be found all throughout his website.

After reading his review that I introduce here, I strongly urge you to then head straight to his About page as it is most interesting and entertaining – I read it and I feel a strong kinship with his outlook toward writing and his literary taste.

Comments are closed here so that you can share your thoughts directly with MB at his website.

MB Blissett

the-fever

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs posits that when base needs are met, then your desires become more refined. Which usually means that your fears probably work on the same level. If you’re not risking death every single time that you give birth, then you’re worried that they will live to be healthy adults and when they’re healthy adolescents, you’re worried about any number of factors. Within the haunted house of parenthood and adolescence, Megan Abbott knows where the ghosts live and shows them to you.

The Fever ably captures the beauty and passion, the terror, the contradictory desire for freedom and privacy, the secrets that women keep from themselves and one another. She uses social media and how it intertwines and defines the worlds of young people subtly and effectively. In the iconography of the modern world, the online video is the sermon, the blowing of the whistle or in this…

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Hey Reader, What’s Your Angle?

Probably the most influential and impactive course I took during my college years (and for me, “college years” do not mean four coming-out-years of raucous partying and occasional studying, it means thirteen long and tedious years of night school, transferring to this college or that college depending on where the military assigned me, and all of which were completely dependent upon the sacrifice and commitment from my lovely and loving wife) was a Literary Theory and Schools of Criticism (or something to that effect) course while attending Tidewater Community College in Chesapeake, Virginia, oh so long ago.

It was this course, taught by an instructor mild in manner but powerful in purpose and ability whose name I sadly cannot remember, in which I was instructed and inspired to become an active reader — a reader who brings to a book not just a desire to be entertained, but desires to seek within the work deeper and hidden meanings, as well as to impose upon the work a personal agenda.

I quickly learned that being an active reader by itself takes more than a little bit of effort; but being an active reader with an angle, so to speak, is an exhaustive work out.

No really… thinking burns significant calories, my friend. Ergo, the harder you think, the more calories you burn, ergo once more… the more exhaustive – and rewarding – workout you have. Don’t believe me ask the Google God.

Anyway…

If you aren’t aware, I happen to be an excessively white, less-than-excessively (nowadays, anyway) WASPy kind of dude who was socialized as a youth in and by an excessively white and WASPy home, church, school, television, books, etc. kind of way. And one thing about us white, WASPy dudes — and if you are not a white, WASPy dude you probably understand this much better than we ever will — is that we have a very strong tendency to see the world through rose-colored glasses.

I mean, come on, the industrialized world we now live in pretty much has grown out of the minds of past and present white, WASPy dudes so why wouldn’t all the rest of us white, WASPy dudes think all life is just grand and peachy keen, right?

Anyway… we can have a much longer discussion about the pros and cons of white, WASPy worldviews later, but the point about it here is, when it came to being an active reader with an agenda, well, I just didn’t have one to inherently apply to the literature I was reading, since most of the literature I was reading came from the minds of those with worldviews similar to mine.

Can you dig?

Which is why the book the course was based upon was so important to the success of the class, and why, even today, it continues to be so important to me.

This is the 5th Edition. My copy of the book is an old, beat up 2nd Edition

Long story short – kind of: The book provides a survey of all the major schools of literary criticism and the coursework involved reading short stories and having to critique them by applying the various critical schools. This, of course, meant that yours truly here had to think, read, and react to the work not like a staid white, WASPy dude that I was and, much to much of the world’s dismay, still am, but as a Deconstructionist, or, gasp, a Marxist or even, deeper gasp… a Feminist!

Needless to say, I survived the severe disruption to my cozy worldview. But I didn’t just survive it, I thrived from it. It really opened my eyes to all the many ways – good and not so good – works of literature can and are interpreted and understood by those with worldviews quite dissimilar to mine.

I’ve come to find that life is much more thoughtful and clear and understanding once those rose-colored glasses were removed and seen as others without them see it.

Yeah…

So, I ask you, Dear Reader, what’s your angle?

Are you an active reader?

Do you bring an agenda to a body of literary work when reading it?

My guess is most of us don’t because being an active reader is tough work.

Even though I intend to go into a body of work with purpose, I more often than not find myself being a “casual reader,” a reader easily lured into passivity by the cozy confines of verisimilitude, until I’m wrapped up – held hostage – by the telling of a good story. And once I finally am able to break free from the stories grasp, I’ll have to go back and try once again to read critically what I had just read mindlessly.

As Kurt Vonnegut so wisely, and often, said: So it goes…

However, if you, Dear Reader, are an active reader with an agenda, or even if you are not, I’d like to know about it. Drop me a line in the comment section and let me know about your reading strategy, or lack thereof.

And if you are a book reviewer with an agenda, please provide links to some of your work. I would love to read it and, perhaps, reblog it here to share with others.

Cool?

Write [and Read] on!

 
 

What’s On Your Bookshelf?

So, I just created a new page called “Writing Resources” where I’ve listed all the books in my library that I consider as resources critical to my self as a writer. Check it out – hopefully you’ll find some use out of it. And I’m always looking for new books to further my development so hopefully you’ll visit the page and post in the comments section resources you find critical to the development of your own writing self.

Out of all the books listed on the page, this inspiring little book, without a doubt, has had the most influence on me as a writer.
 

 
 

A Review of Short Verses & Other Curses by Paul Xylinides of theliteraryreader

I am very proud and honored to have received such a warm review from the great Paul Xylinides of the theliteraryreader (theliteraryreader.com).

As you may be aware, Paul’s work is not unfamiliar to this site, as his THE WILD HORSES OF HIROSHIMA is reviewed here and is my favorite Indie Author read to date.

I strongly encourage you – it’s for your own good, believe me – to visit with Paul at both his literary review site and at his author site paulxylinides.com to check out the intellectually intriguing work he does. Make sure you follow his sites so you don’t miss out in the future.

To read my review of THE WILD HORSES OF HIROSHIMA, click here.

To read more of Paul’s writing found on this site, enter “paul xylinides” in the search box.

theliteraryreader

Short Verses

Review

of

Kurt Brindley’s

Short Verses & Other Curses
(Haiku, Senryū, & Other Poetic, Artistic, & Photographic Miscellany)

by

Paul Xylinides

paul_picture_03

A Warrior Poet’s Hard-Won Epiphanies

Self-made and/or naturally insight-endowed, Kurt Brindley has the soul of a poet; further, he has the soul of a warrior poet. He makes passing reference to the martial tradition that has also been a part of his life in the poem “If I Were A Samurai:”


I would know

when to bow
and when to ignore
when to speak
and when to be silent

when to eat
and when to fast
when to think
and when to meditate
when to advance
and when to hold
when to strike
and when to parry
when to kill
and when to die

All writers — the serious and the not-so-much — inevitably find themselves in a battle, as often as not Biblical in proportions, for the human…

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