As I discussed in my last post, I’ve embarked on an effort to memorize stuff that interests me. I’m finding that the more I memorize stuff, the easier is to memorize and retain new stuff.
So as I just finished up memorizing the poem Invictus, I decided to go large and take on the grandest, and perhaps greatest, of all letters penned on behalf of these United States, The Declaration of Independence.
Yeah, maybe I am getting a little cocky/in over my head taking on such a significant body of work — significant as in packed with meaning, and, especially, significant as in packed with a lot of words. One-thousand, four-hundred and fifty-eight of them to be exact.
I have whined a lot here in the past, and I mean a lot… no, really… a lot, about how screwy my brain has become ever since I caught the leukemia bug nearly a decade ago and was deluged with excessive amounts of chemo.
Not to mention I still take a daily dose of the stuff as a prophylactic so I don’t come down with that nasty little bug ever again.
Anyway, long story short — I have developed some pretty heavy duty vestibular issues and other funky brain-related stuff as a result, so for the past little while I’ve been working on various techniques and exercises to try to strengthen the ol’ noggin up a bit.
Carla Hayden was sworn in as the 14th Librarian of Congress on September 14, 2016. Hayden, the first woman and the first African American to lead the national library, was nominated to the position by President Barack Obama on February 24, 2016, and her nomination was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on July 13… [MORE]
I am learning so much from the wonderful members of WRITE EDIT WRITE, our private facebook group for writers and readers. For example, this fantastic post by Author Kathy Cecala I am reblogging for your convenience and possible instruction here.
Are any of you participating in or even aware of this KINDLE SCOUT thingy? If so, what are your thoughts, I wonder.
Let me know. And please check out Kathy’s article and then go visit her Scout page and nominate her book!
Last week I announced that we were starting a private Facebook group for Writers and Readers called WRITE EDIT WRITE. Well I am happy to say that we have had a great response to the announcement and our group includes a growing host of active and creative members. And while we’re still getting situated and figuring things out, we have held our very first WEW CHALLENGE, a challenge where members were asked to post a 250-word or less flash fiction or flash essay. I am again happy to say we had a fantastic response, with the following selection being representative of the fine writing being exhibited by all.
To read all the submissions, visit here.
To learn more about the private group, visit here.
Please check out the writing and stop by the authors’ websites to show them your support.
Tussling with the dog. That was Jasmine’s story, this time. The scar would dissipate in a week, she knew. It did hurt. This was so unfair, yet, all too familiar.
Driving to work, Jasmine noticed she’d inadvertently put on one navy blue shoe and one black. An understandable mistake; they were almost identical, and those colors were close. I wonder if anyone will notice? She realized the light had turned. I sure don’t need a ticket.
To her left was the post office. Darn, I forgot that electric bill. Rick will lose it. Do I go back? She worried it might make her late, yet she didn’t need one more fight about the mail.
Her thoughts drifted to the invitation that had arrived the week before, for her ten year high school reunion. Of course, with a four month old baby and a full-time job, she hadn’t seriously considered. Still, she had thought of going.
“You just want to see all your old boyfriends! You wench!” Rick had screamed, holding the baby in his arms.
“No, Rick, don’t worry, I don’t need to go.” That’s how it always went. Keeping the peace. When she never received any in return.
Abruptly, she pulled into the post office. “I need a post office box,” she announced to the clerk. JUST for me.
With receipt of the key, she found the assigned box. It was cool inside. She imagined fitting inside of it, this doorway to distant places.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
Seriously folks, if you love classic literature and love to listen to classic voice actors, you need to check out Bob Neufeld’s grand body of work.
Seriously folks, I’ve been a fan of Neufeld’s ever since I found him at the beginning of my First Commitment to Emerson (yes, that’s still a thing – stay tuned).
Seriously folks, I just finished Neufeld’s reading of a Heart of Darkness and I’ve never experienced the book so deeply and movingly. More to follow on this reading.
Seriously folks, go to his page, load up your Kindle with all books Neufeld has narrated, and spend your summer, like intend to, listening to the greatest literature being read by one great voice actor.
So, instead of using the time to write like I always wish I had upon realizing that the morning has passed, I usually spend my mornings reading stuff off the web. I start with the news but end up flitting around the data pond like a water bug. A highly caffeinated water bug.
So, yeah, coffee in hand I settle into “the chair,” aka “the command center,” and begin a dereliction of my writing duties with sleepy anticipation. First I fire up my NPR One app so that I can have the settling drone of my favorite morning voices lulling me with all the day’s tragedies in the background, then I fire up my MSN News app. It’s pure awesomeness. What I like best about it is that it’s always feeding New York Times articles and they don’t count against the ten free articles I am allowed monthly. Yes, alas, I am too cheap to pay for a NYT subscription, which, of course, further promotes quality journalism’s fast march to death.
From that point on, your guess is as good as mine as to where I will end up…
Admittedly, mindless flitting can lead me to some highly dangerous and corrupting places.
So, because I can think of nothing better to post about right now (surely not because I assume you were wondering), here is a very quick cut of what a typical morning of mine looks like.
I have a tailored section in my MSN News app that pulls in everything “literature” related. Pretty handy. This morning it pulled in this article:
Despite the philosophical questions, Wood’s book is not really a metaphysical inquiry so much as a reflection on inquiry in writing. “The Why? question is a refusal to accept death,” he argues, and storytelling itself is almost a satanic act of rebellion given that the “ability to see the whole of a life is godlike.” By playing God, he argues, “we also work against God, hurl down the script, refuse the terms of the drama, appalled by the meaninglessness and ephemerality of existence.”
Interesting article; though I’m not sure it answered the question why fiction and criticism matter. Probably missed it since I’m constantly flitting around the internet which is causing my brain to unlearn its ability to learn.
But from the article, I did discover this by Thomas De Quincy:
Here I pause for one moment, to exhort the reader never to pay any attention to his understanding, when it stands in opposition to any other faculty of his mind. The mere understanding, however useful and indispensable, is the meanest faculty in the human mind, and the most to be distrusted; and yet the great majority of people trust to nothing else, which may do for ordinary life, but not for philosophical purposes.
A rather awesome essay; as is evident, I’m certain, even from the selected quote above.
So, yeah, after reading the De Quincy essay, can you guess where I’m flitting off to next?
Yup, you got it…
Off I go for a reread of this, which should easily take me to the end of the morning…
And the beginning of my dereliction of writing regrets.
After you download and read all of my books and stories and write raving reviews of them at any bookstore you can find all throughout the internet land, I highly recommend you download the Overdrive app. It’s a great way to read ebooks and, what I like best about it, listen to audiobooks for free, all while supporting your local library…or whatever library for which you happen to have a valid library card.
It’s a piece of carrot cake to use. Just download it to your phone, create your account, search for your library, plug in your library card number and both presto and voila, you’ll be reading or listening to books in no time.
And if you’re not into the whole smartphone thingy, you can do it all online right here.
And speaking of libraries, if you haven’t already – and I’m pretty sure you already have – how about petitioning your library to stock my books?
While I had resolved myself to reading Emerson deeply, I had not expected to find myself meditating and reflecting so deeply on individual passages of his writing. I assumed it would be more like me reading an essay and write a summary essay in response. However, what I find is that his writing is so powerful so frequently that I am just as frequently compelled to expression from it; which is why you find my written responses to my reading so focused on and specific to only single passages or even just a sentence or two.
I mean, you Brits are so awesome with your English all proper-like…
It’s like getting a little bit of Downton Abbey delivered right to my inbox.
Speaking of Downton Abbey, what’s up with that show? I mean, is it some secret Brit MI6 diversion of a programme encoded with mind altering signals that make us fixate like drooling subservient servants on this most unlikely of a stuffy hit so they can go about putting their Empire of Old back in order without our realizing it?
I mean, I cannot get enough of this show…
And I’m not even sure why.
But I am sure of the massive irony in it all, all us oh so democratic and ultra egalitarian Americans lusting over one of the most autocratic and subservient ways of existence.
Well, lusting after the “upstairs” lifestyle, anyway.
Why would we want to lust after the “downstairs” way of life? It’s pretty much how most of us are already living.
No, we want to be lords and ladies…
We want to be kings and queens…
Come on. Admit it.
You’d wear that crown in a royal heartbeat.
I mean who wouldn’t want to be king and/or queen of his or/and her castle. And I’m not only speaking metaphorically here either.
All bow down before King Kurt!
Has a nice ring to it…
Just yesterday I was checking out the wonderful site of author M-R, and she has a beautiful post that shows a black-and-white photo of castle ruins somewhere in France as a representation of an expression of abandonment. It’s just a short post but it moved me and got me to thinking about how much more wonderful a place the US would be if we had our own ancient castles and castle ruins.
Heck, I don’t even know what Amazon US says when it “dispatches” an order to me…
Obviously, if I can’t recall it, it’s nothing as noteworthy and awesome as “dispatched.”
Probably something like, “Hey pal, did you just order something from us? Yeah, well, see here’s the thing. It just got shipped out…”
I don’t know…
I mean, I love my land and my people and all, but sometimes we can be a little rough around the edges, if you know what I mean.
For I am the fortunate Reader who has just set himself off on the path of what looks to be a very interesting and exciting literary journey.
Congratulations are also in order to all of you, everyone, both Authors and Readers, who took the time and had the consideration to either submit their book for the selection and review process or who conscientiously looked over each of the submissions and offered their highly selective choice(s), in the form of a “Like,” of which impressed them the most. Because that’s really what this is all about. Not so much what book I choose and review, but on all of us participating in this Indie Revolution that’s going on all around us, this technological declaration of independence. We can be part of the movement by supporting each other through the purchase of Indie Books and, most importantly, by reviewing the Indie books you buy. I look at this similar to the movement to buy local. The more you buy local, the more you support your community; and the more you support your community, the more your community grows and prospers and ultimately makes the world, near and far, a much better place for all of us.
Yeah, I’m a little bit passionate about all of this. Truly I am.
This is an exciting time for Art in all its facets.
And finally, and equally important, if not mostly, congratulations to Melissa, for she has truly written what looks to be a very compelling book of fun and adventure.
But before we take a look at her book, let’s refresh ourselves with the guidelines, as limited as they were, that this Selection & Review thing is operating under. Here is a cut from the the solicitation announcement:
Tell us a little bit about both your book and your writing self in the comments section. You know, a short synopsis of the story and a short Author bio. Include just enough stuff, and no more, that you think I’ll need to be compelled to tab right out of my cozy little site and rush off to find your ode to literary perfection.
Not much to it, really. But enough, evidently, to illicit a wonderful response of Authors looking to showcase their unique and special writing talents.
And that makes me very happy.
So here is Melissa’s response, her pitch, to our call for her ode to literary perfection:
I was so drawn in by your post, and the humorous, yet generous offer to read MY book (you were talking to me, right?), I just had to respond. So…onto the sales pitch.
A few years ago, after listening to my brother (a soldier) talk about the camaraderie among his troop, and all the fun and interesting things they get up to (the jibes, the antics, the general merriment), a few good men (ha ha) began to form in my head. A team, if you will, of the best of the best. They are all ex-military, and came together to form a security agency. I’ve always loved thrillers, particularly crime thrillers, so I put them through their paces and set them free to explore the world I created for them.
My latest release, Hands of Evil, is the second in the Morgan and Fairchild series. The team are called upon by a local murder investigation team, when a serial killer starts picking off interpreters. A particularly unpleasant person, who removes his victims hands after their death.
It’s not as gruesome as it sounds, or certainly not as graphic!
Thanks for the opportunity to tell you more about my work :-)
Here’s the link:
Yeah, I know exactly what you’re thinking and I totally agree…
I don’t think it is necessary, or helpful, for me to go through a list of why I didn’t choose the other submissions.
What I will say is, based upon the guidelines we laid out, she did exactly what was needed to be done, and that was to compel me to want to read it.
And so did many of the other submissions. I really would like to read many, if not all, the books and stories. And who knows, maybe I will.
However, in my view, Melissa had all the elements of a successful proposal. She had a great pitch, she had a big cut of her book cover…and even just a quick glance around my site will tell you, even as verbose as I may be, I am a very visual guy. And, in addition to a successful pitch here, she has a wonderful website, professional as well as inviting, and a fully fleshed out Author’s Page at Amazon.
Yeah, I agree…
Quite the winning package.
Which is why her package of a pitch and proposal was my selection.
How about we all head right on over to Melissa’s website and offer her our congratulations in person, and take a look around a bit while we’re there:
But it’s not over for you all. I hope and expect that you will look through the list of submissions and pick a book to read. And after you read it, review it, both on your website and at Amazon, at a minimum. And if you do that for me, for all of us, then the Literary Gods will look down upon you with great favor. And, in addition, if it’s a review that focuses less on what’s wrong with the book and more on what you learned from the book, then let me know, because I just might like to share it here with all the occasional readers and friends who stop by.
Will we do this again? I don’t know. I hope so. If you think we should, please leave a comment on this post to show your support for future Selections & Reviews. I would really appreciate knowing who is interested.
And stay tuned for my review. I may have mentioned that I’m a bit of a slow poke reader so I am not about to predict when it will be up. But I’ll let you know.