Book Report: A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller (1955, 1988?)

Book coverWell, gentle reader, I asked in my Good Book Hunting post from this weekend if you could guess which of the books I would read first from the stack.

It was this play, and maybe I should actually make a point of buying plays to read in hotel rooms when I travel; you might remember (but if not, the blog is semi-forever) that I read The Marriage of Bette and Boo in a hotel room right after I bought it in Leavenworth, Kansas at a book store that might be named Half Price Books but is also possibly not related to the book store I visited this weekend. It definitely had a different vibe.

I’ve read The Death of a Salesman, but apparently not in the last 19 years or since I’ve started reporting on books on this blog. This play, which premiered in the middle 50s, deals with a family of Italians in a tenement in New York City: A husband, his wife, and their niece. When they agree to shelter the wife’s cousins, illegal immigrants from Italy, everything goes awry. One of the brothers is a hard worker on the docks with the husband, but the other brother, who does not even look Italian, likes to sing, has home skills like sewing, and starts dating the young niece. The husband doesn’t like it because the boy is different and perhaps because he has romantic feelings for her himself, or at least does not want to let her grow up. Things come to a head when the husband calls the immigration authorities to remove the men.

I have to wonder if it was a bit anachronistic in the 1950s, hearkening back to a past from that point in time. A fairly simple play, not very clever but very serious in its indictments of tradition and the patriarchy.

You know, back in college, I read David Ball’s Backwards and Forewords, and one thing still sticks with me: He said that every character in every scene has his or her own agenda, his or her own goal, and that you should have that in mind when writing every scene. The characters in this play seem a little thin: I cannot figure out, really, what the wife wants, or the older of the cousins wants aside from the broadest of strokes. I read it, and I get a sense that the playwright had a story to tell and maybe at a bit of sacrifice of real characters.

At any rate, not bad, but not great. It’s not what Miller was known for.

Which reminds me: The author has an introduction to this play written for this edition, thirty years from its original run. As is my wont, I did not read it before I read the play, and I should remember to read it now that I have read it.

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Book Report: Star Trek 7 by James Blish (1972)

Book coverSo, apparently, as I worked my way through this set of books eighteen years ago, my book report for Star Trek 7 was the first one where I enumerated the episodes that were included in the book. So I’ve already done that in a previous post, but I’m going to do it again.

I was speculating that the most popular and recognized episodes would be included in the first volumes of the series, as Blish was not working in series order but rather worked a bit off of what fans wanted. But in this seventh volume, we’re still getting recognizeable episodes. Well, episodes I recognize anyway.

The book contains:

  • “Who Mourns for Adonais?”, the one where a giant hand in space grabs the Enterprise, and they find an ancient Earth god who wants followers again and who woos a crewwoman. C’mon, man, that’s one you remember, ainna?
  • “The Changeling”, where an old lost and damaged probe merged with some alien technology and confused its programming to elimination of imperfect life. Kirk has to do one of his logic tricks to shut down the computer (which he also does in a Harry Mudd episode). You might recognize the plot because it was recycled into Star Trek: The Motion Picture (and a bit of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home). I’d like to point out it’s been a whole week since I’ve seen <an allusion to this episode elsewhere.
  • “The Paradise Syndrome”, another one of the Enterprise finds a simple native culture who needs help of a forgotten alien technology (very similar to “The Apple” in Star Trek 6). In this one, Kirk loses his memory after interacting with it and lives a bit of another life while the Enterprise limps back to the planet on impulse power.
  • “Metamorphosis”, where the Enterprise away team are brought to be companions of the lone survivor of a wreck who has befriended an alien intelligence that provides his needs–and when he said he needed companions, the alien brought the Enterprise. The character here is Zefrim Cochrane, who is seen again in Star Trek: First Contact.
  • “The Deadly Years”, where the Enterprise visits a planet where the young humans have aged–and the away team starts aging as well, just in time for a confrontation with Romulans. In 2005, I equated this episode with an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where this happens to Dr. Pulaski, but 18 years later, I cannot remember that episode. Which is a testament either to the staying power of the orginal series or to the fact that I periodically revisit it.
  • “Elaan of Troyius”, where the Enterprise is sent to pick up a woman who is to marry into the ruling family of a rival planet to end years of warfare, but she’s a brat, and the women’s tears enthrall men, and she enthralls Kirk, but his duty makes him stronger than her tears.

So a quick read, the book equivalent of catching one of these episodes (well, all of them, actually) on television and continuing to watch it. A bit like brief binge watching, I guess. I have a couple more of these on my to-read shelves, and by the time I finish them, I will have almost the full set (apparently, I lack 12). Maybe I will look to complete the set. Afterwards and into next year, perhaps I will get into Alan Dean Foster’s adaptations of the animated series. Or maybe it will be back to men’s adventure fiction. But for the nonce, the old school science fiction, including the Asimov and even the Bradbury are what I need right now.

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Book Report: I Sing The Body Electric! by Ray Bradbury (1969, 1971)

Book coverI actually started reading this before I started Nine Tomorrows by Isaac Asimov; after finishing another book, probably Red Snow and Death Had Yellow Eyes, I hit the stacks and the hardback Asimov collection caught my eye, so I read it instead of completing this collection, which underwhelmed me.

First and foremost, it is not a collection of science fiction stories. It seemed like the book was only a third science fiction, but a review makes it clear that it was not that little. The book contains:

  • “The Kilimanjaro Device”, wherein a stranger in a time-traveling truck is seeking Ernest Hemingway, hoping to help him to a better death (the plane crash in Africa) than the one Hemingway eventually got.
     
  • “The Terrible Conflagration Up At The Place”, wherein a group of locals decide to burn the lord’s house, but when they find him there, he convinces them in a roundabout fashion to not by asking that they keep the treasures and heirlooms safe after the house burns.
     
  • “Tomorrow’s Child”, wherein a couple discover that new birthing technology has trapped their baby in another dimension–he only appears weirdly in this one–and although scientist cannot solve the problem yet, they can send the parents to join the child.
     
  • “The Women”, wherein a man and his wife are at the beach, and something in the water calls the man, and the wife knows and tries to keep him from going into the water.
     
  • “The Inspired Chicken Motel”, wherein a Depression I-era family stays at a motel with a chicken with the gift of prophecy, and the chicken gives them hope.
     
  • “Downwind from Gettysburg”, wherein an actor named Booth shoots an animatronic Lincoln.
     
  • “Yes, We’ll Gather At The River”, wherein the owners of buildings along main street on the highway spend the last night before the authorities open the new highway that bypasses their town.
     
  • “The Cold Wind and the Warm”, wherein strangers visit an Irish town and inspire the locals to look at things differently.
     
  • “Night Call, Collect”, an old man left on Mars as a young man after the rest of the population returned to Earth to fight in the atomic war keeps getting phone calls that he programmed into the system to keep himself company. After decades, he hates it.
     
  • “The Haunting of the New”, wherein a wealthy but decadent woman invites a frequent visitor to the debaucheries at her manor because it burned, and she reconstructed it completely the same, but this new manor does not want the orgies to continue.
     
  • “I Sing The Body Electric”, wherein a recently widowed man orders a robotic grandmother for his children, to help take care of them and to tutor them.
     
  • “The Tombing Day”, wherein a town has to move the graves in a cemetary because the highway is coming through, so a woman has the coffin of a man, her beau, who died 60 years ago, brought to her house. She discovers his body perfectly preserved at 23, and she laments her own aging.
     
  • “Any Friend of Nicholas Nickleby’s Is a Friend of Mine”, wherein a conman lodging in a boarding house on the prairie pretends to be Charles Dickens and pretends to write the author’s works using his photographic memory. Even after the ruse is discovered, a boy in the house wants to believe.
     
  • “Heavy-Set”, wherein a mother worries about her 30-year-old son who is still at home and who avoids most social interactions even though people and girls invite him places–with incest only hinted at. Just kidding! It’s more than a hint–it’s the twist at the end of the story.
     
  • “The Man in the Rorschach Suit”, wherein a psychologist finds a learned professor purportedly dead on a bus wearing a special shirt. The not-dead research psychologist asks people what they see in his shirt.
     
  • “Henry the Ninth”, wherein climate change (global cooling–remember, this was the end of the world for most of the middle 20th century, child) has driven the population of Great Britain south except for one man who wants to remain.
     
  • “The Lost City of Mars”, wherein a rich man takes an eclectic party on a yacht to search for the Lost City of Mars. They find it, and many are sorry they did.
     
  • “Christus Apollo”, a poem about space travel as the eighth day of creation.

So it has seven science fiction short stories (out of 18 total works), two of which are set on Mars and could have been in The Martian Chronicles but might have been written too late. Include the “weird” stories with a fantastic element, and you get another one or two. The others are contemporary or historical fiction that appeared in mainstream magazines. I have to guess fans of Bradbury’s science fiction would have been disappointed, but perhaps by 1969, they had realized that he was not a science fiction writer by that time but a writer who sometimes wrote science fiction. Personally, I wonder if he punched above his weight in scientific circles based on a couple of early bestsellers (The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451).

He did have all the right opinions, though, compared to Asimov, who escaped the Soviet Union, and Heinlein, who was something else. In “I Sing The Body Electric”, for example, the robot grandmother has a chance to rant about cars being bad and guns being bad. In the early part of this century, gentle reader, we had a term “Sucker punch” for that moment in a book where an author dropped in a little homily about a progressive talking point. Strange, we don’t talk about that a decade or fifteen years later–I guess we presume that is just a feature of contemporary fiction.

There’s also a bit where the grandmother sez (only a page after the anti-automobile sermon):

Tell me how you would like to be: kind, loving, considerate, well-balanced, humane… and let me run ahead on the path to explore those ways to be just that. In the darkness ahead, turn me as a lamp in all directions. I can guide your feet.

This seems an allusion to the biblical (Psalm 119:105, given here in the King James Version which features italics not found in the NIV):

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Coupled with the last poem where technological advance supplants God, and I think we’ve found another who thinks technology (and expertise) will somehow overcome human nature. Which has not proven to be the case.

When I read The Illustrated Man 12 years ago(!), I was similarly unimpressed.

I don’t think I have a lot of Bradbury floating on the to-read shelves, fortunately.

But the list of books also available in the back:

… reminded me I had started working my way through the James Blish Star Trek books earlier this year. I’d probably better hop onto that if I’m going to finish before football season brings monographs and chapbooks and the Christmas season brings the obligatory Christmas novel.

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Good Book Hunting, September 3, 2022: Half Price Books, Overland Park, Kansas

So we had a little time to kill after going to the Kansas City Renaissance Festival for a bit on Saturday. As we were booked to stay in Overland Park, Kansas, a city of 200,000 people, I hoped we would find some used book stores. But only one, and to be honest, I confused the number (1/2) with Books-a-Million, the national chain (I was only 999,999.5 off, which is within political polling’s margin of error). But it is a used book store, a higher-priced used book store that looks like it might cater a bit to the university trade (a lot of textbookish titles in theology and philosophy).

I looked mostly in the clearance section in the back, and I bought a few things.

I got:

  • Bendigo Shafter by Louis L’Amour since I did not find it at ABC Books last week.
  • The Second Shift by Arlie Russell Hochschild. Looks to be a sociological textbook about work/life balance originally from 1989.
  • The Science of Happiness by Ryuho Okawa. Given that the subtitle is 10 Principles for Manifesting Your Divine Nature, one can expect this to be a Buddhist apologetic or mindfulness tract more than science.
  • A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller, a play.
  • Breath! You Are Alive by Thich Nhat Hanh. A modern Buddhist sutra.
  • Stay Alive All Your Life by Norman Vincent Peale, a modern Christian Buddhist sutra.
  • Descartes’ Error by Antonio R. Damasio. Subtitled Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain, it looks to be a commentary on dualism. Given that it has “The Human Brain” in the title, one wonders if the author feels the error is in not being materialist.
  • The Art of Strategy: A New Translation of Sun Tzu’s Classic The Art of War by R. L. Wing. It’s been a while since I’ve read a translation of The Art of War. Given this is a 1988 translation by a translator whose name is Wing, we will take it with a grain of salt.
  • A The Teaching Company course on CDs, Great Scientific Ideas that Changed the World by Professor Steven L. Goldman. Gentle reader, this course was $3 for 36 lectures. I won’t see this good of a deal in a couple of weeks at the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library book sale. Whose half-price day falls on the same day that I will be climbing 110 stories of steps. So I might not make it to the book sale, and what would I lose? A couple (dozen) records, a couple of monographs to browse during football games, a couple audio books and courses I won’t listen to because I’m not driving anywhere these days, and a couple of chapbooks…. Alright, alright, alright, you have convinced me to go!

All right, gentle reader, you know me well enough by now. Even though I brought a book (one!) for my overnight trip, you can probably guess which book I started (and finished) in Kansas over the weekend. Which was it?

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Book Report: Nine Tomorrows by Isaac Asimov (1959)

Book coverI bought this book fourteen years ago during an especially gluttonous trip to a book sale not long after my youngest was born. It would have been the autumn after my mother’s diagnosis and but, what, four months before her death? Eleven months before our move to Springfield? A long time ago, to be sure, but sometimes (often) books languish on the to-read shelves for decades. I got 94 books that weekend, and I wondered if this was the first of that lot that I read. Apparently not, as I have already read:

I also started Linda Chavez’s Betrayal for one of the library reading challenges this year in the Hispanic author category, but I didn’t get too far into it because the early 2000s concern about the power of unions in politics seems a little quaint now.

So, at any rate, this book collects nine short stories from Asimov’s magazine work in the 1950s. We’ve got:

  • “I Just Make Them Up, See!”, a poem about where he gets his ideas.
  • “Profession”, wherein future humans get tested for professions and get instantly trained for them, but one young man is told he cannot be taught this way, so he goes to a special home where the residents learn from books. Later, he learns that this is not without status, but has the highest status of all, as he can think creatively.
  • “The Feeling of Power”–in the far future, a lowly technician has a weird hobby–doing math by hand–and he is brought before the elites who do not believe that a mere human can replicate the magic of computers. The story was very familiar to me, and I thought that I might have recently read it. Well, when you get to my age, recently can be 8 years ago.
  • “The Dying Night”, a murder mystery wherein one of a trio of astronomers who have been stationed off-planet has killed an old classmate who apparently learned the secret of teleportation.
  • “I’m in Marsport Without Hilda” wherein a secret agent of sorts is on Mars without his wife. He plans an assignation with a local woman, but he’s roped into an assignment looking into drug-running.
  • “The Gentle Vultures”–a spacefaring race that generally swoops in to help societies after their nuclear wars in exchange for tribute grows frustrated as Earth’s nuclear war has not occurred.
  • “All the Troubles of the World”, a young boy is sent on a series of tasks ultimately designed to destroy the super-powerful computer, and the ultimate planner who almost leads him to success turns out to be the computer itself.
  • “Spell My Name with an S”–a scientist goes to see a “numerologist” to become successful, and the numerologist suggests he spell his name with an S–which leads to a series of investigations and events that averts a nuclear war and leads to a plumb professor position.
  • “The Last Question”, wherein mankind asks Multivac and its successors how to reverse entropy, and the far-evolved computer ultimately does. I’d read this story as a young man, and I’ve remembered the last twist since then.
  • “The Ugly Little Boy”, wherein a company has learned to create a stasis field that can grab something from the past and maintain it in the present. They demonstrate by grabbing a neanderthal child, and they bring in a nurse to help with the child. Over time, as their funding and success grows, the boy becomes less important to the company.
  • “Rejection Slips”, a poem about rejection slips. I bet my collection dwarfs Dr. Asimov’s.

So great classic science fiction. A lot of worry about nuclear annihilation that we don’t tend to fear as much since the 1980s. But imaginative and quick to read.

I marked a couple of things. The first was the main character in “Profession” is named George, and it mentioned that he grew out of “Jaw-jee” and into the monosyllabic “George,” which made me think about how I pronounce the name. I guess it’s a dipthong, eeor, and technically that’s one syllable, but it feels like it should be two.

In “I’m In Marsport Without Hilda”, I got an allusion:

Of course, the one I wanted might be the first one I touched. One chance out of three. I’d have one out and only God can make a three.

That’s a pun based on the movie Groundhog Day. Asimov was so future-sighted, he made an allusion to a film that would be made forty years in the future!

Just kidding. It’s from a Joyce Kilmer poem, as I am sure you remember.

I liked the book, and, man, am I reading the science fiction short stories this year or what (the rest are the James Blish Star Trek books, but still).

And please remind me, if anyone were to ask me whom I would invite to dinner if I could invite anyone living or dead to dinner, that after my departed family, I should choose Isaac Asimov.

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Book Report: Red Snow and Death Had Yellow Eyes by Lester Dent (2011)

Book coverI picked this book up in June in Baraboo, Wisconsin. It contains two Doc Savage stories from the eponymous magazines from 1935 and 1944 respectively.

In The Red Snow, a strange phenomenon, a very localized red snow, completely vaporizes anyone caught in it, and a series of important chemists, engineers, and whatnot get caught in it. Savage is in Florida coincidentally, but gets drawn into investigating it when he’s framed for murder. He discovers foreign agents sowing discord before a planned invasion.

In Death Had Yellow Eyes, Savage investigates the strange disappearance of one of his associates, and is forced into working from the shadows as he is framed for a bank robbery. He discovers foreign agents using an invisibility cloak to sow discord. I forget if it preceded a planned invasion that Doc Savage averted.

Originally, they were novellas in a monthly, then quarterly, pulp magazine, so they’re kind of like precursors to the men’s adventure novels from the 1960s and 1970s (and beyond) that I often read–a house name (Kenneth Robeson) with an editor and outlines provided. Most were written by one man, Lester Dent, but sometimes other people contributed. As I come from a pre-computer age, the stories don’t seem that anachronistic to me, but I wonder how they would play with younger audiences today. Perhaps not too bad if they read anything from the Before Times.

Doc Savage is a polymath and a bit of a Mary Sue, but he does get knocked on the head a time or two.

So they’re quick enough reads, a bit of light adventure fiction, but one does not see the magazines nor the eventual reprintings of the stories in paperback (from the 1960s to the early 1980s) in the wild. Or I do not–but, as I said, I don’t tend to go into “the wild” (book sales) as often as I did in the St. Louis area, and when I do, the book sales are big enough that I focus on areas other than mass market paperbacks. So maybe the world is rife with them, but they’re outside my field of view. Perhaps I will remember to take a look at ABC Books or the upcoming fall Friends of the Library book sale. But probably not.

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Good Book Hunting, August 27, 2022: ABC Books

ABC Books hosted James R. Wilder, whose books are set near where I went to high school. I bought the first three books last June right after our De Soto vacation. I read the first, Terror Near Town, earlier this year, but I haven’t gotten to the others yet. Which comes to a total of three more (and the author mentioned he is 8,000 words into the fifth). So perhaps I’d better pick up the pace.

At any rate, look at this:

I got Wilder’s latest, Murder at the Morse Mill, and two Louis L’Amour paperbacks–The Lonesome Gods and Last of the Breed (ABC Books did not have Bendigo Shafter, and I forgot that I predicted Conhager would be one of the first L’Amour books I picked up.

I brought my youngest son with me, and he had an ABC Books gift card from Christmas, but he was not interested in buying a book for himself. So he applied it to my purchase, which means I spent less than $10 at ABC Books.

That has never happened before, and is unlikely to happen again.

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Book Report: A Trail of Memories: The Quotations of Louis L’Amour Compile By Angelique L’Amour (1988)

Book coverWhere the heck did I get this book? A quick search of Good Book Hunting posts does not yield a result. It does not have an ABC Books sticker. It does not have a price penciled on the first page which might indicate another used book store. I certainly did not buy it new as a sixteen-year-old. So I must have picked it up at a garage sale. Perhaps this year’s Lutherans for Life garage sale–I don’t see a Good Book Hunting post for that particular sale this summer, which might mean it was one of a couple books I might have picked up. Without a picture, I have no memory.

At any rate, this book is a what it says: A group of quotations, from a line in length to a couple of paragraphs, grouped in topics like Life, Opportunity, Hard Work, Family and Home, Women, Indians, Honor, the Law, and Justice, and Yondering and Dreaming.

The quotations all share a common flavor and theme, of course: The stoic Western hero on the frontier, skeptical of the soft Eastern ways, manly but not afraid to love and nurture in family ways, which includes education and discipline. It seems like some of the quotations are repeated in different chapters/topics, but it might be because they are so similar–or perhaps they repeat; I did not go back to check. Even though they’re genre and they deal with Men, someone not familiar with genre or prehistoric (that is, pre-social media) writings might be surprised at how in-touch the Western hero was with the environment and how much he respected Indians (that is, Indigenous Peoples, as the current lexicon goes, with its expiration date later in the decade).

Although Louis L’Amour had 101 books in print when this book appeared (maybe just 100, as the book list includes this volume), the quotes are taken from what seems to be a handful of them. But it did help me narrow down which of his books I would most like to read: Bendigo Shafter, The Lonesome Gods, and maybe Conhager. I have read a couple of Zane Grey books, but no L’Amour. And the country was crazy with them in the olden days–I suspect they both had their book clubs in the 1980s. I would say that “I haven’t seen them in the wild,” but let’s be honest: My “in the wild” these days is the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library book sale and ABC Books for the most part, and I tend to skip over the Western and/or fiction sections entirely. In earlier days, with smaller book sales, I would be more likely to breeze over the paperback and/or fiction sections where I might see these titles. Perhaps I’ll wander over to the Western section next month at the library book sale to look for these titles.

So a nice thing to read whilst reading other books with longer narratives or themes. Something to spend a few minutes on out on the patio, petting the newly outdoor cat at sunset, staring down the raccoons who are not afraid of humans and want the remainder of the day’s cat food. And then to pick up later.

I did flag a couple of quotations for quick comment.
Continue reading “Book Report: A Trail of Memories: The Quotations of Louis L’Amour Compile By Angelique L’Amour (1988)”

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Not in the Nogglestead Library, They Won’t Won’t

Lileks talks about a subsite he has yet to publish Books that will never be read again:

Today’s subsite that never made it online: it’s actually stuff I got a few weeks ago. Books that will never be read again. You can’t throw them away, though. You can give them away, perhaps to a thrift store, and hope they find a good home. You fan the pages so they see light again for the first time in 70 years. You google them and find a few on Etsy or eBay.

Not in the Nogglestead library; I intend to read all my old books. The exceptions are books I’ve already read or that I have in newer editions as reading copies or sets.

Why, I even have From Gold to Grey on my side table. I should get back to that again sometime, but the elaborate Victorian page design, examples of which you see in the Lileks, makes it difficult to read during football games or when you’re easily distracted–which are the opposites of the times when I tend to pick up poetry–when I want to read a little bit at a time.

But, yeah, I hope to read those books someday. Interspersed with my other aspirational planned reading, including the Summa Theologiae and The History of Civilization. So, probably never. But I cannot say definitively never. Which is optimism for me.

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Book Report: The Big Bad Book of Bill Murray by Robert Schnackenberg (2015)

Book coverI bought this book for $10 at Rublecon last month because it’s BFM, man. Its subtitle says A Critical Appreciation of the World’s Finest Actor, which is a bit of hyperbole, of course, but the book is not so much a critical appreciation of Murray’s work, but rather an encyclopedia of alphabetical entries about movies and shows he has appeared in along with topics on his relationships with other people, including his wives and his family. Interspersed with the encyclopedia entries, we get stories about Murray’s hijinks crashing parties and spontaneous appearances with normal people.

So we agree that Groundhog Day and Lost In Translation are amongst his best films, but I disagree with the book about The Man Who Knew Too Little–I think that’s a funny movie, and I not only saw it in the theaters, but I’ve watched it many times since then on home media. I am quite a bit behind on Murray films–I mean, I’ve never seen The Razor’s Edge or Quick Change, for example, not to mention most of the Wes Anderson collaborations (although I did see The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, again, in the theaters).

The book also portrays Murray as a complex individual. Although it has its moments of homerism (such as the subtitle), some of the disputes and fallings out he’s had, not to mention a couple of bad divorces, and a reputation of being difficult (Dan Ackroyd called him The Murricane because of his mercurial nature). I mean, I guess anyone who’s been paying attention to Murray as a celebrity probably knows all this. But I somehow haven’t paid attention even though I like his work.

So a pleasant read in between chapters of other things I’m kinda reading, which really means they’re just stacking up on the table beside my reading chair. Informative. And I’m kind of pleased as well that I have so many Bill Murray films yet to see.

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Book Report: Serenity: The Official Visual Companion by Joss Whedon (2005)

Book coverThis book completes the four books I bought at Calvin’s Books the last time I went there. I was afraid that they were closing, as the Firefly books were only three dollars each, but they were not that inexpensive because they were closing. But they closed never the less.

At any rate, I read the Firefly scripts in Firefly: The Official Companion Volume One and Firefly: The Official Companion Volume Two last summer and Firefly: Still Flying in January (when I thought it might count as a collection of short stories for the library’s Winter Reading Challenge, but it’s not really).

So this book means the end of the road unless I find some of the comic books or the recent novels cheap. So I am a little sad to come to this end. I’m sure some of that is mixed in with missing Calvin’s Books as well, although I need more books like I need more sunny days without rain here at Nogglestead.

So: It’s the shooting script for the film Serenity. As a reminder, this film came out three years after the television series, so if you watched them altogether as we did, you’ll notice things. Jewel Staite, for example, lost some weight (she said she had to eat a bunch to keep at Kaylee weight for the series in one of the previous books). And they played the characters a little different, and it was cut without some of the humor and playfulness of the television series. So the tone was a lot darker–although it might have been more in the acting and editing than the scripting. And they try to answer a lot of the questions from the television series in a fashion that’s disappointing, not on the Lost scale, but still

The book also has some inside looks at the making of the film, as the previous book does, but having read Star Trek Memories earlier in the year, I notice quite a difference in tone in the descriptions of making the film, even the nitty gritty technical aspects of it. In Star Trek Memories, making a television show is a more blue collar affair, with discussions about hitting budgets and physically doing the work, whereas these books are more about artistic vision, and the people who worked on the show take themselves very seriously. Perhaps it’s a difference in the elapsed time between the books and the television show/movie they depict (26 years have elapsed between Star Trek and its book, whereas these books came out within a couple of years). Maybe it’s a generational shift between the movie makers or between the fandoms. I dunno.

The book talks about a possible movie franchise, but that did not pan out. Maybe killing a couple of the main characters and tweely solving all the mysteries will dim that prospect for you–at least in the Star Trek movies, they only got into the habit of blowing up the ship every movie.

But, you know what? It’s been almost twenty years. Maybe it’s time for a reboot.

As I said, I was a bit sad to come to the end of the books, so I started re-watching the television series. Time will tell if I make it through again and if I watch Serenity. I invited my boys to watch, but they were not interested. So I guess I should stop making allusions to the show since perhaps nobody younger than forty-something will get it or even care.

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Book Report: Zen in the Martial Arts by Joe Hyams (1979, 1982)

Book coverI bought this book a couple weeks ago at ABC Books when I made the first of my recent runs on the martial arts section. I read it on a recent business trip to Chicago, and I really enjoyed it.

It’s not a long book–133 pages, and the chapters are short, generally a page or two story or anecdote from martial arts training and a bit of a lesson. The Zen it goes into is not the ontological Buddhism nor the practice of completely emptying oneself to escape the futility of life. Rather, it’s more geared to what we would later call mindfulness, with lessons on being present in the moment fully and in flowing. So good reminders.

And let’s talk a moment about the author. I had no idea who Joe Hyams was, but look at his Wikipedia entry. Born in 1923, served in World War II (Purple Heart and Bronze Star), worked for Stars and Stripes, went into newspaperin’, was sent to Mexico to cover illegal immigration (is that still a thing?), wrote a blockbuster story, was given some time off in Los Angeles as a reward and was told–perhaps jokingly–to interview movie stars that he met, and ended up scoring interviews first with Bogart and then his co-stars, became a full time entertainment columnist, studied martial arts as a student with Bruce Lee and then took lessons from Bruce Lee, studied several martial arts disciplines, wrote stars’ biographies, travelled with his wife Elke….

Jeez, the guy is Hemingway: The Next Generation, but without the legacy of novels.

So, yeah, the book has a lot of stories about Bruce Lee teaching this guy lessons. But they’re good lessons. And I really enjoyed the book. If I can remember to and if I’m not overwhelmed by the sheer weight of the unread books in the Nogglestead library, I should like to read it again. Definitely a better devotional than the Thich Naht Hahn, the Joko Beck, the Pirsig, the Suzuki, or even the forgotten The Zen Way to the Martial Arts.

Oh, and his wife Elke? He married Elke Sommer when she was 24 and he was 41. It’s not often I can turn a book report into a Rule 5 post, but here we are.

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Good Book Hunting, Saturday, August 6, 2022: ABC Books

For the third weekend in a row, ABC Books had a book signing. This time, Marshfield’s Randy H. Greer came in to sign copies of his new book Buff Lamb: Lion of the Ozarks about a lawman in Christian County (which is only a mile and a half south of me; if I take the long route for a walk, run, or bike ride, I nick into Christian County for a little bit of it). I thought the story sounded familiar–I remember reading about this sheriff or one like him in one of my local papers–it turns out, a bit about this book appeared in the Marshfield Mail, where I had likely seen it.

I got a couple of things.

I got:

  • Buff Lamb: Lion of the Ozarks and Echoes of Mercy, Greer’s stories from his days working at the Federal Medical Center, a hospital complex for Federal prison inmates located here in Springfield.
  • Aikido Techniques and Tactices by Gary Bennett, the other aikido book I’d left last week at ABC Books, officially draining the martial arts section again to another book on Tai Chi walking and Raw Combat.
  • Twice a Week Heroes by Danny Miles, stories about fast pitch softball leagues in Springfield. There were a stack of them on the shelf below the martial arts section. I’ll be in a conundrum if Miles shows up at ABC Books soon to sign copies.
  • Poems by Mary Baker Eddy, the Christian Science church founder. A 1918 edition, this would have come out eight years after her death.
  • Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur. A flat-spined collection of poems, but the cover calls Kaur a New York Times Bestseller. So this ain’t no chapbook.
  • 100 Bill Harvey Poems by Bill Harvey. They look to be theologically flavored. But I will end each poem hearing Paul Harvey say, “Good day!”

At any rate, it should give me a couple of handy collections of poetry to read out back in the evening. If I can find them again easily once I move them off of my desk and into the stacks of the Nogglestead library, where books just disappear.

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Book Report: A Lifetime Collection of Poetry by Lucille Christiansen (?)

Book coverThis book bears no copyright date, but some of the poems that are dated come from the late 1960s–and the first is dated 1937 and says it’s the poet’s first poem. So we can assume this is from the 1970s or 1980s–maybe even a little later given that the collection has wingdings between poems that might come from the birth of desktop publishing. Remember, younger readers, desktop publishing referred to being able to lay out your books on your desktop computer for printing, not blogging or e-zines where the work never actually leaves the desktop (which these days includes mobile devices).

The author was a teacher, and perhaps an English teacher, as the poems come in a variety of forms and styles, so it’s clear she liked to noodle with words a bit. The quality varies from simple to some that are actually halfway decent. So it’s a bit of grandmother poetry with a little dash of the cool teacher who might have inspired you to write. Strangely enough, I can’t think of anything in my middle school or high school career where English teachers actually wrote, and my college mentor, such as he was, has published only three or four books in his career.

At any rate, a quick, light read from when poetry was designed to be quick, light reads.

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Book Report: The Pandora Gambit by Levi Samuel (2018)

Book coverWell, it’s been a while since I bought this book–I got it at the last LibraryCon, in 2019. As I might have mentioned, I recognized the author, who under a different pseudonym wrote Dammit Bre!. So I’ve bought at least six of this guy’s books; this is the second, and the first fiction of them I’ve read.

I guess the point was to write a quick bit of fiction blending urban fantasy with Miami Vice. And, you know what? He did it. I’m going off of his author’s notes here, a bit of Piers Anthony’s thing, as I recall, putting author’s notes about the writing of the book and the reaction of fans to his work.

Alright, so, the plot: The olden folk, elves, orcs, and whatnot, have gone to ground and have hidden from us for centuries, but they’ve also participated in the world a bit where their interests are concerned. In the modern day, an operation of their kind goes awry, and one of the elves betrays his fellows in law enforcement, leaving his partner wounded and left for dead, whilst the elf goes off to help distribute a drug that has different effects on the races. It makes orcs into berserkers, and it elevates humans to be able to see through the magic that hides the other folk. The olden folk want to keep the drug off the streets, and that means that an orc has to partner with a human detective to break the drug ring up.

So it’s a quick, fun read. And I’m a bit inspired by Levi Samuel Rickard–he’s banging out these books, and they’re likely getting better (this is only the second of his I’ve read, but I have four fantasy books floating around somewhere). It’s almost enough to inspire me to work on one of the novels I’ve plotted or stubbed out here, but not yet. Perhaps when the boys are out of the house. But most likely not. But I can appreciate the efforts of those who do.

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Book Report: Tae Kwon Do Basics by Keith D. Yates and H. Bryan Robbins (1987)

Book coverI bought this book last Saturday, and it would have been a good bet to guess it would be one of the first that I read.

It helps that this book, like so many from the era, was written for children who were getting into martial arts in what must have been a post-Karate Kid boom–so many of the books I see are from the 1980s or now with fewer selections in between. And it really is the basics, designed as something you can review at home after having seen the things in class (and many of the chapters indicate your instructor will likely show you more examples).

So it’s a book that shows basic moves and basic forms with black and white photos for starting positions and ending positions, but unfortunately, that does not capture the flow in any of them. So if you’re thinking you’re going to learn the actual moves from a book, you’re mistaken–as I was in the 80s, when I checked out at least one book from the library about karate. But it’s like learning a language–you have to do more than read a dictionary (which I’ve also done, trying to learn foreign languages from dictionaries before I understood verb tenses and whatnot).

Still, for me, it’s a nice refresher. And I note, again, that the sparring stance for tae kwon do is a more guarded, hide-behind-the-lead-shoulder posture than the one my school teaches. Which makes me want to ask the kyoshi where he got the stance preference.

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Good Book Hunting, Saturday, July 30, 2022: ABC Books

Wow, has it only been a week since I was last at ABC Books? Oh, but what a week. Perhaps I will go into that later. But after a martial arts class and a shower, I turned my vehicle north again to ABC Books through some badly needed pouring rain to go to another book signing.

I picked up a few things.

In addition to the book signed by the author, I pretty much cleared the rest of her martial arts section out again.

I got:

  • A Three Letter Name by Annie Lisenby, the signing author. She billed it as a “survival romance” which to me sounds like a Hunger Games-influenced work.
  • Small-Circle Ju Jitsu by Wally Jay. I might have mentioned that my martial arts school has a Brazilian Ju Jitsu program, but that I don’t participate because I do not come from a hugging family. But I’ll read about it sometime.
  • Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere: An Illustrated Introduction by A. Westbrook and O. Ratti.
  • The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Karate by Randall G. Hassell and Edmond Otis. We will see about that.
  • Karate-Dō Nyūmon by Gichin Funakoshi. It’s a master introductory text translated from the Japanese. We will see how it compares to the 1980s books.
  • A Beginner’s Guide to Glass Engraving by Seymour Isenberg. I have an set of engraving bits for my rotary tool, and I mean to pick this up again if I ever clean my workbench in the garage off again. Perhaps this autumn.

So this leaves three books in the martial arts section: Another Aikido book, another Tai Chi Walking book, and Raw Combat. Hopefully, they will get more in as I have already begun to read the ones I got last week, and we will get to that by and by.

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Book Report: Unspoken Feelings of a Gentleman by Pierre Alex Jeanty (2014)

Book coverThis book was in the poetry section at ABC Books, but that’s a bit of a misnomer. The author’s bio calls him a social media influencer, and the book reads like a bunch of Instagram posts. Some are a couple paragraphs of prose, and some are “poetry,” although they’re just prose with line breaks.

Thematically, the work is about a man who was sensitive, and then became quite the pick-up artist, but then repented of it and is celibate until he finds his future wife. He talks about an absent father, he apologizes to women he’s wronged, and he encourages them to wait until they find a man worthy of their affection.

I mean, it’s a good message, but I had a complicated relationship with the book. I mean, I’ve known some men who’ve been good with the ladies, my own father and Mike amongst them. And I’ve behaved myself chivalrously and neurotically with women even in my salad days, mostly. So I don’t have much of a score in the scoring department. So when presented with material about a reformed philanderer, I bristled a bit. I’ve always been a good boy; where are my accolades? Eh, not in this world.

Also, when a manipulator says he’s reformed, you can take it to the bank. The river bank.

Still, I hope he’s sincere, and I would have preferred a coda where he has found his soulmate and has been true to her. But I wish him well.

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Book Report: Star Trek 6 by James Blish (1972, 1975)

Book coverYou know, I had almost forgotten that I was working my way through these books earlier this year. So when I was looking at the to-read books in the hallway, I thought, Oh, yeah, and this book provided just what I was looking for: A quick and pleasant read. I mean, I have to get my stats up. I’m only in the 40s in the books read in 2022 list, and it’s almost August. And I’m not sure we’ll have the football package this year for me to browse monographs and chapbooks.

So we’re about half way through the book series which ultimately will include most, if not all, of the episodes of the original Star Trek series turned into short stories by a British author who has presumably seen some of the series even though he had not when he began writing the books–which was about the time the show was on, but this book first appeared in 1972, when the show had been off the air for a couple of years. One has to wonder if the popularity of these books (this 1975 edition was the 10th printing already).

But because we’re halfway through the series, we’re starting to get to the more obscure episodes. This one includes:

  • “The Savage Curtain”, wherein an alien race, hoping to learn more about good and evil, pits crewmembers from the Enterprise, Abraham Lincoln, and other notables against Ghengis Khan and some other violent people.
  • “The Lights of Zetar”, wherein an interstellar brain containing the minds of the survivors of a long-dead alien race seek a human host to live in the real world again.
  • “The Apple”, wherein a paradise-like planet is run by a giant computer whom the child-like natives think is a god.
  • “By Any Other Name”, wherein aliens from a distant galaxy lure the Enterprise to their rescue; they hope to take over the Enterprise and to use it to return home in several hundred years’ travel, but they find that their presence in humanoid bodies gives them humanoid appetites and emotions.
  • “The Cloud Minders”, wherein the Enterprise is sent on an emergency run to a planet that is the sole source for a needed material, only to find that the society is bifurcated between the people who live in the cloud city and the miners who do the work.
  • “The Mark of Gideon”, wherein the Enterprise visits a planet that had avoided contact. Kirk apparently beams to an empty Enterprise that only contains one of the natives, and she’s trying to get infected with a disease that almost killed Kirk in the past because her planet has no germs and the population has remarkable healing powers–so that overpopulation has overcrowded the place, and Kirk’s infected blood can help people die.

I only kind of remembered “The Apple” from my viewing days. Still, a quick, pleasant read with characters I know.

But more interesting is that I am this book’s second owner.

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Good Book Hunting, Saturday, July 23, 2022: ABC Books

On Saturday, after spending an hour in a parking lot helping my oldest master the basics of parallel parking, I had him drive me a half hour to ABC Books and a half hour back to help fill his log book before his driver’s license testing. Also, Mrs. E. had posted about a book signing.

The author signing her books, Shirley Gilmore, is a local to Springfield but who taught in southeast Missouri for 25 years. Her books are set in a fictional town there called Turn Back and feature a ten-year-old girl, Bucky, who moves there with her father from New York City and things happen as they so often do. She has five books in the series and a related one-off, and of course I bought them all. Her books include:

  • Carly Piper and the Mystery of the Ruby Ring
  • Walking the Labyrinth
  • Songs of Three
  • For Such a Time
  • A Turn Back Christmas
  • Tangled Threads

The main characters are Bucky and a group of Sunday school teachers she befriends. Boy, howdy, the first book is 680 pages. I would have some work cut out for me were I to try to get to A Turn Back Christmas as my Christmas novel this year.

I also noted that Mrs. E. topped up her martial arts section for me. I also got:

  • Zen in the Martial Arts by Joe Hyams
  • Karate-Do: My Way of Life by Gichin Funakoshi
  • Tae Kwon Do Basics by Keith D. Yates and H. Bryan Robbins
  • Complete Aikido by Roy Suenaka with Christopher Watson.

Just down the aisle from the martial arts books, I pawed through the music milk crates as I recently discovered I have no books on bass guitar (and I have a bass guitar again). So I picked up two books, Rock Jams and Iron Maiden: Play 8 Songs with Tab and Sound-Alike Audio; a closer look now that I’ve gotten home shows that Rock Jams was misfiled with the guitar books. Ah, well, I guess I will put that upstairs for the trumpet players of Nogglestead.

I did not empty out the martial arts section; I only took about a third. Because there’s another book signing next weekend, and I am being kind enough to give the other ABC Books martial arts book buyers a thin chance at picking them up. Mrs. E. said the others have not been in in a while. I grant them this one chance.

At any rate, the number on the photograph is 195. Hard to imagine that I’ve posted about bulk book buying 195 times, but the sagging and overstuffed bookshelves of Nogglestead indicate this is so.

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