Book Report: A Question of Accuracy by Arthur G. Razzell and K.G.O. Watts (1964)

Book coverBack in December, I was talking to an engineer, and I said that my FitBit was precise, but not necessarily accurate, when it gave me 250 steps’ credit for sitting on a bar stool and speaking expressively. The engineer was impressed that I knew the difference being that I have an English degree and all. So when I saw this book on the sale cart or in the sale room at Hooked on Books in January, I bought it, even though I figured it might be a kid’s book. As a matter of fact, it is a kid’s book, but it’s a discussion of the philosophical aspects of accuracy.

That is, the book talks about the different aspects of what sorts of measurements are “good enough” for the task at hand and how you can always improve accuracy with better instruments. It also talks a little about the challenges of accurately representing measurements (the problem with maps, for example, which are flat representations of a sphere). And the book also mentioned the Mackinac Bridge, which was fitting since we were vacationing in Michigan at the time and I drove over that very bridge a couple days later.

So, yeah, the book reading has been kind of light this year; I’ve been starting a lot of long books and not finishing even the short books I’ve started. I’m not even at forty books and the year is almost half over, but you can see I’m taking drastic steps. Namely, reading a bunch of children’s books (see also Crosshairs) on vacation. It’s just as well that I read a couple short children’s books because the remainder of my vacation was taken up with a fitting title.

Book Report: Crosshairs by R.P. Vogt (2013)

Book coverFull disclosure: when I moved from a nice suburb and good school district to the trailer park in the middle of my seventh grade year, “R.P.” was the kid assigned to be my friend to help me get around North Jefferson Middle School in Murphy, Missouri. He was a smart kid. I was a smart kid. I’d like to think we were numbers 1 and 2 in the smarts for our seventh grade class, but I might be giving myself far too much credit. By the time we finished high school, I certainly dropped a couple points in the rankings because I didn’t put any effort into my schooling, and he did. But I digress. We go way back, and when I saw he had a book, I ordered it.

This is a young adult novel about a boy (about my kids’ age) who gets to go hunting with his father, uncles, and cousins for the first time. While he’s there, he finds one of his cousins stealing from other family members, and the book deals with the fallout of that including a run in with a local hood. It’s a short book (120 pages) with none of the cartoons that are rife in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid or “James Patterson”‘s Middle School series. I’m not sure how much the book captures the zeitgeist of contemporary middle schoolers, but my oldest has expressed interest in the book, so I suppose he’ll let me know. The questions the lad has about honoring your word and doing what’s right in spite of your word are real and tangible concerns for a young man, and thematically the book works.

So I enjoyed it well enough. But I’m probably giving some weight to being pleased that someone I knew wrote a pretty good book. And, quite likely, has sold more copies of this one book than I’ve sold of all three of my books. Curses, R.P. wins again!

Book Report: The Sword of Genghis Kahn by James Dark (1967)

Book coverIf you only read one Australian spy thriller featuring a Mongolian mad scientist’s plot to take over the world with a metal-melting satellite, this should be it! Of course, I’m not sure where you would be if you wanted to read two such books, as this probably is the only one. But it’s a series book, so you could easily find other things like it to read.

Well, I’ve pretty much given it all away here: Mark Hood, an operative for a trans-national spy agency (which operates freely in the Soviet Union as well as the West because all parties agree to give this group, Intertrust, the ability to ferret out nuclear proliferation concerns). In this book, a strange phenomenon–weapon?–destroys a Japanese fishing fleet and damages a U.S. destroyer, drawing the attention of Intertrust and its dashing hero. Additionally, scientists are disappearing–being kidnapped?–, and hero travels to the Soviet Union to protect a similar scientist only to find the scientist has been snatched away just before Hood and his associate arrive. The agency provides them cover to travel to China, and they discover the kidnapped scientist aboard a train with a beautiful young Asian woman who’s delivering the scientist to Mongolia and her father, a distant descendant of Genghis Khan, who has discovered the treasure of Khan and used it to finance a solar-lensing satellite that can target anywhere on the planet with a heat ray.

Yeah, it’s complicated.

The book is written in a British style. The prose is polished and the story moves along, but it’s a little dry and at a distance. So it’s not that thrilling. The plot, though–outlandish. Somehow the combination of the outlandish plot with the sedate language doesn’t work for me. But it is definitely the best Australian spy thriller I’ll read this year.

(For a review on the first book in the series, Come Die with Me, see Glorious Trash.)

Good Book Hunting, June 10-14, 2018: Michigan

Well, as you might know, gentle reader, when we go on vacation, we tend to find used bookstores in the area to browse. Unfortunately, on our trip last week to Michigan, we found the book stores are few and far between in that corner of the state.

We only hit a couple of these: Horizon Books in Traverse City and Island Bookstore on Mackinac Island. We tried to hit the local place in Boyne City, but it was closed every time we drove by.

As we packed to leave, my beautiful wife talked about how hard it was to pack because of all the books I got. How heavy everything was. And so on. But, know this, gentle reader, these are the books I got:

Basically, some local history books:

  • We Live On Mackinac Island, a school fundraiser
  • Mackinac Island: 350 Years of History
  • Murder at Cherokee Point, a locally set mystery novel, and part of a series. Mackinac Island, if you go buy the number of murder mystery series set there is a very violent place. In addition to this author’s three books, I also saw cozies spun off of bicycling and fudge.
  • All Our Yesterdays, a history of the Traverse City area that shares a title with a Robert B. Parker non-series book I enjoyed
  • Mackinac Island: Its History In Pictures

Five books. And one Ideals magazine.

You know what weighed a bunch? Complete sets of clothing I had to buy because United Airlines “Bulk Out”ed my baggage because it stuffed too many people on my flight, which is why I’ll avoid United Airlines in the future.

You know what I like? Driving vacations. To places where there are many used bookstores that are not an hour away.

This Montaigne Is Aging Nicely

I’ve reached an age where decades are a drop in the sink beneath the mirror in which my face suddenly sags. You know, a couple years ago (six being “a couple,” where ten is “a few”), I started a category on this blog called DeRooneyfication, which covers projects I’ve completed after the passage of time. It’s not a very big category, sadly, as so many projects remain incomplete.

But what’s rather striking to me today is the copy of Montaigne’s essays atop my dresser.

You know when I set it there?

I carried that book on one of my trips to Kansas City the beginning of last summer. I read a couple of the essays in the beginning, and then I laid the book aside for later reading.

And a year has passed. I’ve moved the book to dust (infrequently), but it’s been atop my dresser for a full year. It sits there with the rotating cast of carry books that I put in my gym bag when I make my (infrequent) trips to the martial arts school, (weekly, mostly) trips to church where I can read the book over the Sunday School hour, or to various sports practices where I sit in the bleachers while my child or children run around. A book of poems that I take out to read on the deck sometimes at night joins the stack. But the Montaigne? That’s been a year.

I don’t know what it says that books that I pluck from my shelves to read sometime languish on side tables or dressers for years before I pick them back up or, in a fit of cleansing, put them back on the to-read shelves. But a year.

The vertigo of passing time that I get from these realizations might explain why I don’t open my nightstand drawer. Within it, a couple of poetry books I started to read to my children when they were very young, when I would read poetry to them while they played their toddler games, reside. Pablo Neruda and Ogden Nash en media res. I haven’t lived in this house for a decade (yet), but these books might make it a decade in the nightstand before I find them or before an estate sale appraiser looks them over and marks them fifty cents.

Book Report: The Long Good Boy by Carol Lea Benjamin (2001)

Book coverAfter reading a book about magickal cats who solve crimes, it only seemed fitting to turn to this book, which I just bought in March, which features a private investigator (Rachel Alexander) and her pit bull (Dash) who solve crimes. Dash, it should be noted, does not talk. Also, note I read an omnibus edition of a couple earlier books in this series in 2009.

At any rate. In this book, Rachel is hired by a trio of transvestite hookers to investigate the murder of one of their colleagues in the meat-packing district of New York City. She finds that a manager of a local meat plant was murdered around the same time, so she wants a look into the files of the plant. She spends many pages teaching a dachshund belonging to one of the prostitutes to unlock a bathroom window so she can break in and fax files to her home line. The meat plant might be tied up in mob activity. The plant’s assistant manager, who was passed over for the job when the murdered manager was hired, is a frequent client of the prostitutes, including the one who was murdered.

Much of the book is spent in chasing down or set pieces that don’t really amount to much. The whole plant break in thing takes a long time, and then Rachel is outfitted as a hooker and spends a couple nights on the streets for no real reason other than to explore the experience, and then in the last third of the book, she finds out not so much that family secrets are involved and a couple of failed police stings, and then the book wraps up in a rather abbreviated and confusing climax.

Still, it was an enjoyable read. The pacing was good, even when it was going nowhere. I liked it enough to maybe pick up another the next time I find it for a buck.

Robert B. Parker created the Sunny Randall series to be adapted by Hollywood for Helen Hunt, or so I heard. I wonder why this series hasn’t been optioned?

Also, as a side note, the topic matter and discussion of transvestite and pre-operative transgenders: Although this book is sensitive for 2001, how insensitive is it in 2018? If the chronically offended read old books, perhaps we would know. And the answer, likely: INTOLERABLY!

(Also, if you’re interested, here’s my book report on the book whose title is the source of this book’s title: The Long Goodbye.)

Book Report: I Hate Ann Coulter by “Unanimous” (2006)

Book coverWhat a mean-spirited, insipid little book this is.

Of course, with a title like I Hate Ann Coulter!, what would I expect? Probably something akin to Rush Limbaugh Is A Big, Fat Idiot by Al Franken, which is also floating around on the shelves somewhere here.

I’ve not been a fan of Coulter. The only book of hers I’ve reviewed here was Godless, although I might have read one of her earlier books before this blog–although it’s hard to imagine any life before this blog. I know she was kind of popular with the early blogosphere, but I don’t think I’ve seen anything linking to her in quite some time. Her books are quite incendiary, with a bunch of name calling and near-nastiness that’s supposed to be humorous as she makes her points.

But that differs from this book, where nastiness is the point, and the author or authors do nothing but lay into Coulter’s looks and whatnot. They insinuate she’s a man. You know, the kind of thing that in the year 2018 would be doubleplus ungoodthink, but only if not targeted to Ann Coulter, apparently.

The times when they bother to attack her credibility as a commentator, they mock Coulter’s points that time has borne out. Such as:

Ann makes the wonderfully deranged contention in Godless that a liberal, when questioned, “might turn violent–much like the practicioners of Islam, the Religion of Peace, who ransacked Danish embassies worldwide because a Danish newspaper published cartoons of Mohammed.”

Well, we’ve seen an uptick in political violence from the left in the intervening years, ainna?

Or the stunning ignorance on offhanded display, such as an assertion in a quiz to see if you’re like Ann:

6. Does it bother you as a Christian that Jesus never kicked anyone’s ass?

Seriously, kids? Have you never heard this story?

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!”

You’re refuting Coulter’s point about liberals being, well, Godless by demonstrating a relatively common story from the Bible.

My goodness, I cannot believe I read this. Well, no, I can. I read anything, and this little stroll through the gutter did not take me very long, fortunately, and my book count this year needs some padding.

I would recommend you not bother. Go visit Twitter if this is your thing. No doubt the author(s) of this book have a sweet feed somewhere over there where they DESTROY and OWN conservative commentators all day long.

Book Report: Little Orphant Annie and Other Poems by James Whitcomb Riley (1994)

Book coverIt took me a couple tries to get through this book. A couple years ago, I stuck it in my gym bag as my carry book, and I read it at the martial arts school before class. I even read the first poem, “Little Orphant Annie”, to my children, and they were interested in the Gobble-uns at gits you eff you don’t watch out.

But I ran into an excerpt from “A Child’s Home–Long Ago”. This particular excerpt runs six pages. Which, in retrospect, is not very long, but I’m not generally a fan of long poems (the longest in Coffee House Memories, “Homecoming ’93: A Collage”, runs five pages, but it’s narrative). The long ones that really choke me are the ones written by the Romantic poets, where it’s ten pages of landscape. Brothers and sisters, I prefer paintings that have people in them, and I sure tooting need something more than a litany of flowers if a poem is going to be more than twelve lines. The excerpt of “A Child’s Home–Long Ago” starts out landscapy, with a description of the home, and I must have abandoned it before it got to describing the children and the other people they interacted with long ago. It got better, and I made it through the poem and the book.

James Whitcomb Riley rose to infamy by penning a counterfeit Poe poem, but he managed to make do on his own as a journalist and writer. His poems make great use of the vernacular, as the refrain of “Little Orphant Annie” proves out, which makes reading the poems a little fun. He’s got a good sense of rhythm and does tell little stores in some of his poems, which makes them more engaging than mere word pictures. I ding the Romantics again because I’ve started reading Keats and Shelley, who wrote only, what, sixty or seventy years before Riley, but whose poems read much older. Or perhaps Riley’s just read that younger.

Riley, relative unknown in the 21st century, must have punched quite above his weight in the pop culture of the day, though. The title poem of this collection spawned comics in the papers and a musical play made into a movie several times. Raggedy Ann dolls, which were popular up into my childhood, were named for the poems “Little Orphant Annie” and “Raggedy Man”. Crazy. You don’t get many toys or comics named after Maya Angelou or David Clewell poems these days, ainna?

So I enjoyed the book and wouldn’t mind getting my hands on a more comprehensive volume sometime. This book is a little Dover Thrift Edition, which was what we had instead of inexpensive POD and Kindle versions of classic works back in the old days. For a buck, you could get a collection of classic poems or a longer work that had fallen out of copyright. They’re still available, apparently, for just a couple bucks. Dover in the 1990s must have been the Walter J. Black of its time, with its minting money in classics and in clip art books. Like book clubs of classics, though, its main time of success must have been limited.

Book Report: Cat Fear No Evil by Shirley Rosseau Murphy (2004)

Book coverI read an earlier fantasy novel (The Catswold Portal) wherein a portal leads to a world of shapeshifters who can turn into cats and their relatives above ground. In researching the author, I learned she also had a mystery series with a talking cat. The Joe Grey series. This is one of the books, the ninth in the series, published 12 years after The Catswold Portal. And instead of looking like the latter was a standalone book, some of the mythos from it are creeping in.

At any rate: Joe Grey nominally belonds to a guy who lives in a small town in California, and Joe has been helping the police solve crimes because he and a couple other cats in the area can talk and reason like humans. In this case, they look into a case of identity theft and some very particular burglaries up and down the coast where a specific collectible item was taken while many other valuables are left behind. Then, a bad cat from previous books comes around without his former human accomplice. With whom is the giant black tom working now?

That’s the setup, and as the book goes on, we discover there’s a shapeshifting cat woman in the stories as well as lore, mysterious jewelry, and research done at the Cat Museum. So perhaps the series started out independent of the fantastic elements from The Catswold Portal, but by book 9, they’re working into the mythos.

The book carries a lot of series business, with subplots unrelated to the main plot of this book but continuing the story arcs of people in the books. And the writing is not high fantastic as the pure fantasy novel, but it has tendencies to be especially lush in places. Particularly in the description of what everyone is wearing in every scene.

There’s a lot of jump cutting and time shifting in the book, where one scene picks up a little earlier from the last but from a different person’s perspective. This narrative style combined with the series business and the overdone descriptions and conversations make this book longer than it should be, but if you’re really into the series and the characters, perhaps it’s just what you want.

But it’s not really what I’m looking for in genre fiction, so I’ll probably leave it alone. Unless I find a trove of them at a book sale, cheap. In which case I will forget my reservations and buy them for a time when I don’t remember that I didn’t like book 9. Maybe reading them in order would build it up more. I dunno.

Book Report: Pocket Quips by Robert C. Savage (1986)

Book coverThis book is a small collection of quips, anecdotes, and aphorisms collected by a pastor, presumably for sprinking in sermons and whatnot. As such, it’s chock full of faith-based meditations, brief meditations, on grace, hope, love, and morality, but it also has some secular bits, too. It’s not Poor Richard’s Almanack, but it’s not supposed to be. It’s a step up from Hallmark compilations, but that’s it.

Strangely enough, though, the Grain of Salt (GoS, a term I shall use henceforth) is high, as one of his entries on Kindergarten is “(A child’s definition.) Kindergarten is ‘a garden full of children.'” Maybe not everyone is from Milwaukee, where the first kindergarten was formed/held/enschooled, or fluent in German, but kindergarten literally means the children’s garden. I used to say this in a dramatic voice when dropping my children off when my youngest was in kindergarten.

Man, that was a long time ago.

Book Report: The Beauty of Gesture by Catherine David (1994)

Book coverThe subtitle of this book is The Invisible Keyboard of Piano and T’ai Chi, and it’s a mindful meditation on, well, being mindful. The author is an expert pianist and long time t’ai chi practitioner who explains the subtleties in each that one gains through experience and through focusing very hard on every aspect of each action involved in either. Or in everything we do. Then we can improve upon the subtleties to get closer to impossible perfection in music or kata.

The style of the book is very meditative, often poetic in its prose, and a bit meandering. I suppose that the process of reading the book, much like the process of writing it, was to be enjoyed for its own sake qua reading. Not just to glean the message from terse prose. However, it meandered a little much for my particular taste. A little richer and deeper than more contemporary mindfulness reading, it doesn’t linger too much in one’s consciousness with a definitive message that sticks.

I actually completed the book two weeks ago, but I haven’t written a report on it because I wanted to say something deeper about it, but most of it’s fallen away but the impressions I’ve left above. I’ve approached the book as someone who’s studied martial arts for a couple of years (how good I am at them depends upon your perspective–if you see what I’m doing right, I might be okay, but if you focus on where I need to improve in those subtleties–I’m not very good at all) and I’ve just started guitar lessons with my martial-arts-gleaned appreciation and patience for gradual, subtle improvement over a long period of time (longer than a couple of months, anyway). But I really don’t have much to add. Be mindful, I guess.

Oh, and on a trivial note: This book was my carry book for a while until I set it on my chairside table to finish it off, and I replaced it with Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (no longer my carry book, but now on my chairside table to finish off). As I finished this book, I found a reference to the Pirsig book. So thematically, they share something in common, and David knows it.

Book Report: The Best of Wheat and A Little Chaff by Leah Lathrom (?)

The Best of Wheat title page

Instead of the cover of the book, I’ve posted here the title page of it, which includes a photo of the author. A brief preface tells you about her life, and it reads like it was put together by her preacher. Born in the 1800s, Mrs. Lathrom grew up in parts of the Middle West (and lived in a sod house for a time), married, raised some kids, and then went blind. As she did so, she wrote poems. Most of these are from later in her life. She dedicates some to family members to celebrate their graduation or to memorialize them. Many are of her relationship with God and hoping to inspire others to get to know Him.

Overall, some good moments, but the real strength of them comes from the fact that normal people, especially older women, expressed themselves in poetry and shared them with others (see also Ideals magazine). Clearly, we’ve lost something in transitioning from ordering thoughts in lines and rhymes to putting a little text on a picture.

At any rate, it did take me a couple runs to get through the volume. I had it on the table for football game browsing, but that tailed off. I had it on my dresser for evening reading-on-the-deck-at-sunset sessions. But what finally helped me push through it was bringing it along with a fairly dense carry book (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance) to my boys’ basketball practice. Two carry books might become my new standard practice. Maybe a little cart with a couple dozen selections that I can wheel wherever I go.

Oh, and one more thing about this book: I went looking for a link online, and I learned there is also a Volume II.

Book Report: Iroshi by Cary Osborne (1995)

Book coverI bought this book a couple weeks ago with the others in the trilogy and got right on it. It’s a short book (216 pages, which is short for modern books, and I do tend to think of this pre-turn-of-the-century book as modern), so it wasn’t daunting as far as reading it (sometimes, I admit, I pick up a book and think, do I really want to spend the next couple of weeks reading this?).

All right, then. The book is about a swordswoman trained in Kendo and some other martial arts. The book starts with her arriving at an out-of-the-way planet and looking for ruins, and then it delves into her past in flashbacks: She’s from a poor family whose father abandoned the them, she went to Earth, the nominal center of a fraying empire, to study with a master. The master was attacked by ninjas as the result of an old mysterious conflict, and when he could teach her no more, he sent her on her way with a sword, and she became a mercenary and a bit of a legend. Now, she finds ruins and finds the spirits of an alien race, and they offer to ‘join’ with her in building a guild to help humanity keep from destroying itself.

Then we fast forward ten years, and the guild is established, and she heads back to Earth to keep the government from moving its seat to the planet with the ruins. There, she discovers the old master’s quarrel was with his own sons whom he disowned because they got involved in organized crime. And they begin their final assaults. Which Iroshi defeats, and part one of the three books ends.

It’s a rather scattershot affair. It’s broken into several parts, with the first being her search for the temple punctuated by flashbacks; then, Part II jumps ten years into the future when she’s been building up this guild of fighters (called the Glaive). There’s sword-fighting, there’s politicking and intrigue, there’s a brief reunion with her father, and then there’s a large ninja assault and some space battles. I don’t think it hangs together all that well.

And it’s the beginning of a trilogy.

I’ll have to jump on the other two books soon so I can sort of remember what’s going on in them and because it’s probably not something I’ll return to after a couple of years with any eager anticipation.

Book Report: Vendetta in Venice Mack Bolan/The Executioner #117 (1988)

Book coverI decided to break up the serious reading with my first Mack Bolan book of the year. It’s been almost six months since Vietnam Fallout. This book, the 117th in the series, is only four later, but their increased girth means they’re no longer quick reads to pick up when I’m in between other lengthier works. They are the lengthier works.

In this book, Hal Brognola is in Amsterdam for a conference when he goes on a bit of a walkabout and ends up getting mistaken for a customer in a person smuggling ring. He taps Mack Bolan to investigate it. Bolan does and discovers it’s really one guy, mostly, and some time later he breaks it up and gets the girl.

The book differs from other characterizations of Bolan–instead of a hypercompetent wish fulfillment protagonist, Bolan here comes off as bit less competent and not necessarily even the driver of the action. He’s more passive, and there’s 250 pages of stuff happening to Bolan. The book only finishes up in Venice, so the title is a bit odd (but is alliterative).

I’d like to think I’m going to read more than two Bolan books this year–I have 72 in the Executioner and related titles to read–but unless they start getting better in the average, I might not. Especially at my galacial pace this year.

Book Report: Well, Duh: Our Stupid World, and Welcome To It by Bob Fenster (2004)

Book coverI read this Internet listicle of a book while sitting in various bleachers while my child or children practiced basketball. This has proven to be my most focused reading time of late, which is why I’ve not yet read twenty books this year, and given the locale, it’s not suited for particularly heavy reading. So Internet listicles in print fills that “I want to be reading something, but now I’m distracted” void.

This book is a collection of stories and bulleted lists about people doing stupid things. What do I remember from it? Only that you cannot trust a word of it, as it recounts the Rutherford B. Hayes knocks the telephone story that I know is not true. You know, in books of trivia, the authors sometimes insert incorrect trivia to try to catch people who violate their copyrights. I doubt this is the case here: instead, it’s just a collection of stories the author heard on the Internet.

So it killed some time for me, but that’s about it.

Good Book Hunting, May 1, 2018: ABC Books

You would think that, given that we’ve just passed through the semi-annual book sales for the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library and the Friends of the Christian County Library, that I would not need to go to a book store any time soon.

Oh, but no.

We like to include gift cards in the thank-you notes we compel our children to write for their various teachers and coaches at the end of the year (or sport season, which for track and field falls at the end of the school year). Our go-to gift card for the last couple of years has been ABC Books because the owners are members of our church and are not pups like that kid at Hooked on Books.

So we went for our semi-annual gift card purchase, and since the owners are downsizing the store because part of their store was apparently below the water table and flooded whenever anyone in the vicinity wept. Which is good for us, because it meant $2 books on select titles as they cleared inventory.

Of which I partook.

The Eastern philosophy and Makers of the Modern Theological Mind books I tend to buy this particular location were not on sale (and, to be honest, I’m not sure where to find them in the reshuffled store). But I did get:

  • Twenty Years at Hull House by Jane Addams. Fun fact: When I was a senior in high school, I killed it in our Western Civ class’s chapter review version of Jeopardy! I beat everyone easily without much effort. So when it came time for a Civics Bee, everyone thought I would do well. They provided us with a book to review on history and the stuff they would quiz us on, and I probably opened it, but I was cocky, and I did not study it at all. My first question was on Hane Addams, and I bombed it. But I’m more sure of what she stood for since then. But I’ve not read her book. Until fourteen years from now, when I rediscover this on my to-read shelves.
  • A Nostalgic Almanac by Edna Hont, a reminiscence of life on a Midwest farm. The kind of books I like to read and clearly like more to buy to read later.
  • Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon, a more recent humorous memoir or something.
  • Travels in a Donkey Trap by Daisy Baker. The flaps indicate it’s about an elderly rural woman who bought a donkey and cart for commuting in the 1960s or 1970s.

The cost of the books: $8. The cost of the gift cards? Well, we won’t go into that. Getting some of the school staff to visit ABC Books, which is a bit out of the way for southern Springfieldians? Priceless.

Book Report: And Eternity by Piers Anthony (1990)

Book coverIn my book report on Job: A Comedy of Justice, I said:

You know, trying to weave actual theological entities into fantasy novels is most often a real mess (see also Anthony’s Incarnations of Immortality series, the for-a-while-last, but now penultimate, book dealing with God somehow–I’ve not made it through that particular volume).

Didn’t you once write a short play set in Heaven with God drinking at a bar? That wasn’t fantasy. That was supposed to be funny. But probably only was to a certain small set of collegiate drama writers, wherein that set might have been exactly one. Given how my humorous plays sell in real life probably proves the point.

At any rate, I picked this book up again and tried to power through it. The last time I got a little caught up feeling squicky with the age of consent philosophical treatise culminating in sex with an underage girl bit along with not remembering what was going on in the series business (apparently, I read the preceding volume, For Love of Evil before I started this blog, so it was some time ago indeed). Between those two factors, I put this volume down and went onto other things. But with the reading of Job, I thought it might be part of a brief theme. Not outlier sex practices, though: more “Actual theological entities in fiction.”

This book deals with the (I assume) long-running series business of a plot to unseat God by Satan. I assume it’s series business. To be honest, I read the first three or four books in the series in the middle 1990s, the fifth book a couple years later, and the sixth sometime around the turn of the century (but apparently before I began the blog–was there such a time? Was it real?).

In this book, a ghost companion of Orb, the incarnation of Nature (Book 5, read twenty years ago) and the consort of Satan (Book 6, read fifteen years ago) who is also married to Orb (Book 5 or 6, but I’ve forgotten which) has been tasked to watch over a woman who was tied to Chronos (Book 2, which I read ca 1994) who is saddened when her baby dies. She commits suicide, and starts to sink to Hell until the companion of Orb (Jolie) catches her and keeps her from descending. The incarnation of Night (Nox, book 8 which was published in this century) snatches up the soul of the child and will return it to the distraught mother if she (Orlene) completes a quest. The two spirits inhabit the body of the aforementioned teen girl, an addicted prostitute whose mother is important to fighting Satan’s plot because MacGuffin. The now-trio must complete the quest, which is to collect something from every other incarnation.

So they do, and they must visit every incarnation in its native habitat to secure the gift, and work toward maybe thwarting Satan’s plot or identifying a candidate to replace God in case Satan’s plan gets that far. I saw the ultimate twist pretty early in the goings on in my second go-round with the book, so the eventual denoument (there really wasn’t much of a climax) didn’t surprise me much.

It wrapped up the series except for, as it became evident, the final incarnation Nox. But I’m not sure how much I liked the final books over the first couple of them. But perhaps my pleasant recollection of those book is colored by the pleasant recollection of those years themselves more than the books themselves.

Good Book Hunting, April 28, 2018: The Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library Book Sale

Well, I did it again. I returned to the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County semi-annual book sale on Half Price Day and went through the better books section seeking more bargain-like books.

And, honestly, I mostly looked for audio courses like those produced by The Teaching Company. And boy howdy did I find them. In the past, they’ve been priced at twenty or thirty dollars, and I could get them for half that. But this time, they were originally marked ten bucks, so I got them for five dollars each.

Here are the stacks:

The Teaching Company courses include:

  • Psychology of Human Behavior
  • The Lives of Great Christians
  • Algebra I
  • Luther: Gospel, Law, and Reformation
  • Geometry (by James Noggle)
  • A Day’s Read

Books include:

  • Milton’s Minor Poems
  • The Murder of Lidice by Edna St. Vincent Millay
  • Brush Up On Your Classics by Michael Macrone
  • The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and illustrated by Frederic Remington
  • The Literature Lover’s Book of Lists by Judie H. Strouf
  • Under the Sunday Tree Paintings by Mr. Amos Ferguson/Poems by Eloise Greenfield
  • Guitar 2, a book about guitar techniques and whatnot
  • Miles Davis: Sketch Orks, a music book for trumpet for my youngest or my beautiful wife, both of whom play trumpet

Records include:

  • Black Satin by the George Shearing Quintet and Orchestra
  • The Chick Correa Elektric Band
  • Handel Sonatas for Recorder, Op.1
  • Time Further Out The Dave Brubeck Quartet
  • Boots Randolph Plays 12 Monstrous Hits

The records were cheap, too (a buck or two each after the price was halved). Overall, the prices were more affordable than I remember. Which is good.

The pickings were less books than things to listen to, but that’s alright. I have plenty to read until the next sales.

I’m Also A Murderous, Grotesque Monster

An empowering meme from Facebook:

You know, if you see a quote from Shelley, it’s probably from Frankenstein. And, odds are, if it sounds remotely ’empowering,’ it’s either Frankenstein’s monster or Frankenstein in the throes of his hubristic feeling of power in making the monster.

This is a lot like posting a gun-loving quote from author William S. Burroughs, who shot his wife.

File this under the unread write. Or meme, which is, sadly, the modern equivalent.

Read This, Not That, Since Modern Readers Have To Choose One

For some reason, Friar delved into a list of books provided by GQ entitled 21 Books You Don’t Have to Read:

We’ve been told all our lives that we can only call ourselves well-read once we’ve read the Great Books. We tried. We got halfway through Infinite Jest and halfway through the SparkNotes on Finnegans Wake. But a few pages into Bleak House, we realized that not all the Great Books have aged well. Some are racist and some are sexist, but most are just really, really boring. So we—and a group of un-boring writers—give you permission to strike these books from the canon. Here’s what you should read instead.

Sounds like the ill-read leading the unread to me, but it does present itself as a book quiz! Here’s the list. I’ve bolded the titles I’ve read:

Old Canon: New, Improved GQ Canon:
Lonesome Dove
by Larry McMurty
The Mountain Lion
by Jean Stafford
The Catcher in the Rye
by J.D. Salinger
Olivia: A Novel
by Dorothy Strachey
Goodbye to All That
by Robert Graves
Dispatches
by Michael Herr
The Old Man and the Sea
by Ernest Hemingway
The Summer Book
by Tove Jannson
The Alchemist
by Paulo Coelho
Near to the Wild Heart
by Clarice Lispector
A Farewell to Arms
by Ernest Hemingway
The Great Fire
by Shirley Hazzard
Blood Meridian
by Cormac McCarthy
The Sisters Brothers
by Patrick deWitt
John Adams
by David McCullough
Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President
by Clarice Millard
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
by Mark Twain
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave
by Frederick Douglass
 
The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll
by Alvaro Mutis
The Ambassadors
by Henry James
The Rise and the Fall of the Third Reich
by William L. Shirer
The Bible
The Notebook
by Agota Kristof
Franny and Zooey
by J.D. Salinger
Death Comes for the Archbishop
by Willa Cather
The Lord of the Rings
by J.R.R. Tolkein
The Earthsea series
by Ursula Le Guin
Dracula
by Bram Stoker
Angels
by Denis Johnson
Catch-22
by Joseph Heller
The American Granddaughter
by Inaam Kachachi
Life
by Keith Richards
The Worst Journey in the World
by Apsley Cherry-Garrard
Freedom
by Jonathan Franzen
Too Loud a Solitude
by Bohumil Hrabal
Gravity’s Rainbow
by Thomas Pynchon
Inherent Vice
by Thomas Pynchon
Slaughterhouse Five
by Kurt Vonnegut
Veronica
by Mary Gaitskill
Gulliver’s Travels
by Jonathan Swift
The Life and Opinions of Tristan Shandy, Gentleman
by Laurence Stern

Of the entire list, the books that I have not yet read but might someday includes Dracula and maybe some Pynchon (although I think the title I have on my to-read shelves is The Crying of Lot 49). The rest of it? Meh, the kind of thing you already find on college syllabi these days.

But to call them canon–even some of those on the left side of the list–presupposes that anyone will give a flying fish about them in a couple of decades. Which I doubt.