Book Report: The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane by Robert E. Howard (2004)

Book coverI read Robert E. Howard’s Conan novels in 2014 and bought this book in January. Since these are all proceeds from Christmas gift cards at Barnes and Noble, I had to clear the deck for this year’s expected gift card. I can only hope that Barnes and Noble has another Robert E. Howard collection to pick up.

This book collects stories, poems, and fragments of incomplete stories featuring a swashbuckling Puritan having adventures. The character differs from Conan, but the plots and the way they play out really do not. Kane goes to different exotic places, particularly Africa, and encounters fallen and decadent civilizations and has to fight his way out. One of the stories featured a device similar to one in a Conan story–a hidden priest speaking through an idol–but it plays out differently than the Conan story.

The style is rich pulp–the plots are two-fisted, but the prose has some heft. More than an Executioner novel, anyway. I enjoyed reading the fragments even though they would not resolve because the plot and the setup were good on their own.

The Robert E. Howard library series contains a number of other volumes, and I can only hope they’re available at Barnes and Noble after the holiday. Or I’ll have to–gasp!–order them from Barnes and Noble’s Web site.

On the Art of June Wayne

June Wayne bookJune Wayne bookJune Wayne book

This spring, I bought three catalogs of exhibitions of June Wayne tapestries and whatnot. Yesterday, I flipped through them, but I cannot bring myself to count them as books in my annual list. They’re like 35 pages each with a couple images in each book as well as little bits of film strip or negative with other, presumably full color representation of the work.

At any rate, June Wayne was a painter and lithographer know for her tapestries and textures. These three books show a limited range of subject matter, though. The books all show series of prints and paintings based on her fingerprint, an abstract of DNA, and Japanese/Oriental-influenced images of tidal waves.

Perhaps these books only represent a phase of her art, but a lot of her pieces from this time simply repeat with differences the same motifs. Which is kind of dull.

The text within the books, at least the text that is not French but could very well include the French text as far as I know, lauds Wayne as a very important artist. You know, back when I was reviewing art and poetry in print, I tried to say something nice about everything I reviewed. However, I never got to the point of overemphasizing the importance of an artist in the canon. Perhaps I’m just suffering from the recent monographs from minor artists whose work the public has forgotten if it ever knew them.

So worth a glance, but I wouldn’t pay top dollar to hang her stuff in my house. And I don’t feel the need to go see one of her shows.

Book Report: Devil Force The Executioner #135 (1990)

Book coverI was impressed (such as it is) with the previous entry in this series, White Line War, and I liked this book as well.

It doesn’t follow a typical Bolan/Executioner plot, which is nice. In this book, someone is hitting members of a covert ops team from Vietnam known for their savagery. The CIA starts trying to hit those members as well to cover their operations in the war, and members of the teams are looking to kill the person hunting them. Bolan is almost an afterthought as he tries to get to the bottom of it. It turns a convention on its head, as the American servicemembers are the bad guys and a Vietnamese youngster seeking revenge is, if not the good guy, at least a more sympathetic character.

Still, having Bolan kinda fumbling around the main plot instead of just hitting a Mob hard site was nice, but it does end rather abruptly with a quick battle in the jungles of Cambodia kinda truncated a pretty good story.

So I’m not averse to pulling down one of these from the shelf every hundred or so pages of the Dickens novel I’m currently reading at a leisurely pace.

Book Report: Humphrey Bogart: A Hollywood Portrait by Marie Cahill (1992)

Book coverThis is a coffee table book that presents a short biography of Humphrey Bogart, and then kind of steps through his career and filmography with promotional stills and perhaps some candid snaps, but probably less “candid” than posed behind the scenes shots.

It reminds me of how many Bogart movies I have yet to see, and that’s a sad commentary on how many movies I get to watch these days–which is several a year. And that’s not movies I watch in the theaters–that’s total. Yikes.

Perhaps I should watch less football and more black and white movies. Although I would not be able to browse books like this while watching a noir flick.

At any rate, worth your time if you’re a Bogart fan. And I am, as Bogart is the only cinema star whose picture appears on my office wall. If you’re keeping track, only one author (Robert B. Parker) appears on my office walls, but a lot of sports figures (various Packers, Jordan Binnington). For what it’s worth.

Book Report: Vancouver: A Year In Motion (1986)

Book coverThis is the official book of the Vancouver Centennial celebration in 1986, and its schtick is that a series of photographers went out to photograph the city in its centennial year. So it starts in January and runs through December and includes the building and running of the exposition that marks the centennial.

The photos look to have been chosen to illustrate aspects of Vancouver from its economy to its wonderful landscapes, and the book is a little text heavy as it explains how awesome Vancouver is. The amount of text takes away from the images, and the images themselves, as I said, are not chosen for quality or their photographic skill alone.

So this is not an art book.

It is interesting, though, that of all the city-touting photography books (touting cities such as New York, San Francisco, and Detroit), this is the only one to specifically pay homage to the city’s strip clubs, complete with photo of an exotic dancer on a pole. So it has that going for it.

Worth a browse, but it requires some attention. For a coffee table book, it is attention-intensive. So I browsed it during football games not featuring the Packers.

On Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Positive and Count Your Blessings

Book coverThis audiobook is a collection of sort little essays about, well, counting your blessings and finding the bright side of things. It has eleven pieces by eleven authors. One of them is, literally, a woman who enumerates one hundred blessings, so it’s a couple minutes of sentence fragments.

A couple of them seem a little fictionalized. One features a woman coming to college in her forties who collects aluminum cans from the campus garbage for her daily bus fare and sometimes, on good days, her lunch. I look askew at this story, though, because I cannot remember a time when aluminum can prices were high enough that you could pay bus fare with a couple cans picked up. You’d have to fill a bag or so. Even the old automated machines that appeared briefly in grocery stores only gave a penny for two cans, and that was at the height of the market. Another deals with a snow storm where a woman breaks up furniture and keepsakes to burn them to keep warm, and how liberating that is. A lot of wood stuff, especially inexpensive stuff, is made with pine, and that would have been an unpleasant indoor fire indeed.

At any rate, it’s a little like the mindfulness that more la-de-dah people get from their Buddhist and Yoga texts. With a little uncluttering thrown in (ironically). It’s got a Christian bent, and the first three or four items featured divorced (and sometimes multiple divorces) people. I bet they needed some perking up.

Did it make me feel better? It’s not the sort of thing that changes your life in one listening. It’s the sort of thing you should probably steep yourself in to eventually, over the repetition, that can guide you to a better mind set. And it’s not an unpleasant hour or so of drive time.

Good Book Hunting, Saturday, November 2, 2019: ABC Books

ABC Books had another book signing this weekend, so of course we went. Jovanna Schlossenberg, a children’s book author from Kansas City, was signing copies of her first book JoJo Knows RVs, and she was glad to tell me and my oldest son all about it. So I bought two copies: One for my boys and one for my niece’s son who is more within the target age.

I also picked up a couple books. Which is funny: I come up there specifically for the book signings, but I pick up a couple other books before I come back to the table with the author. To cover my true purpose. Also, because I like books.

I got a couple volumes of poetry (Naturally Nappy by Bonnie Lynn Tolson and Collections of Madness by Jane Smith, Asil Nottarts, and Nod Nihin2). I got The Yogi Book by Yogi Berra because I was offended by a St. Louis Post-Distpatch story saying Max Scherzer replaced Berra as the best baseball player from St. Louis. I haven’t read a Yogi Berra book in two years. I also got a small survey book on Nietzsche from the Modern Thinkers series by Van Riessen.

I will probably read the poetry first but might bull through the Nietzsche book since it’s pretty small and not likely to be as dense as actual, you know, Nietzsche.

I also suffered from an awkward, and perhaps even rude, moment. Ms. Schlossenberg was very friendly, effusive, and she shook my hand first thing when I stopped by her table. I shook reflexively, but I remembered that I was coming fresh from a boxing-centric martial arts class, and my hands smelled like the inside of boxing gloves. I.E., nasty. So after she signed both books that I was buying, she extended her hand again, and I said that I didn’t want to shake her hand again. I tried to explain I’d just been boxing, but I’m a middle-aged (at least) man, so that might not have been very clear. So I’m afraid she might think I didn’t want to shake her hand because she was black or something.

Crazy, I know. But it’s the little kind of I didn’t mean it that way that will linger in my conscience in a slightly obsessive way.

Book Report: White Line War The Executioner #134 (1990)

Book coverAfter reviewing my annual reading list (so far) and lamenting how many picture books and poetry books I’ve read, I sat down with a Mack Bolan men’s adventure novel to get some narrative fiction on the list. Which is not saying that I reached high into the qualitysphere.

This is a pretty good entry in the series. An up-and-comer in the Columbian cartels is hoping to take over the crack and cocaine trade on the Eastern seaboard from its Mafia partners. To thwart an interstate law enforcement effort, the Columbian wreaks unrelated havoc along an interstate corridor to distract the cops from the drug trade which draws Bolan’s attention. He then plays the Columbians against the Mafia to disrupt both operations.

It moves along well and doesn’t have any real groaners in it, so it was a nice little bit of two-night reading to help me remind myself that I read real books, too, in addition to picture books and poems. Well, as real of a real book as this is. Perhaps I shall read some literature, too, in the two months remaining in the year.

Book Report: The World of the Polar Bear by Norbert Rosing (2006)

Book coverThis book is my 100th of the year, and it’s not even November. Of course, I look back at what I’ve “read” this year, and it is a lot of artist monographs and poetry collections, so perhaps I should not be so proud.

This book collects a number of astounding photos of arctic wildlife and landscapes focusing on bears. It has a bit of text talking about the arctic seasons and the habits and habitat of polar bears. Amid this text, though, is a bit of allusion to what an arctic nature photographer has to do to get the photographs. Travel far north, hire a competent guide, find signs of animal habitation, and then wait for hours or days to get the shot. And to work with camera equipment not really optimized for subzero temperatures. Frankly, that’s almost as interesting as the photos.

Which are very interesting indeed.

There’s an equipment section at the end for photography buffs to geek out on.

Definitely worth my dollar and couple of hours, although the large form factor of this book displeased my cats who could not sit on my lap whilst I read it and are glad I am done with it.

Book Report: I’m a Stranger Here Myself by Ogden Nash (1938)

Book coverAside from the (then) complete works of Emily Dickinson that I started to read in 1994, this might have been the book that took me the longest to read from beginning to end. I started this book probably nine years ago, back when I read other Ogden Nash collections and other poetry to my toddlers as they played. This would have been one of the last I started reading to them here at Nogglestead before I abandoned the practice. This volume languished in my bedside table and then on my dresser for a year (both book accumulation pointsa>) as I started to read it on the deck in the evenings.

It took me a while to get dialed into Nash again. As I said, it’s been a decade since I’ve read his work in earnest, and I’ve read a bunch of poetry since then, some good, mostly bad, but I found myself only reading a poem or two from this book before getting tired of the schtick. After probably a year of this mostly off and sometimes on reading, I packed the book along on a couple of trips and read it a little more doggedly. So I came to appreciate again the humor and get back into it.

So, if you’re not familiar with Ogden Nash, he wrote wry humorous poetry in the early part of the 20th century focusing on urban topics. He varied line length to a great degree and did some whacky spellings to make rhymes. Once I got back into it, I was amused appropriately.

One of the interesting things, though, is one of the allusions jumped out. From “Locust-Lovers, Attention!” we get this:

It is as fantastic as something out of H.G. Wells or Jules Verne or G.A. Henty
To watch a creature that has been underground ever since it hatched shortly previous to 1920,

I mean, I know of H.G. Wells, and I’ve read Jules Verne. But who is G.A. Henty?

Apparently, he was an adventure novelist from the 19th century who influenced a generation of writers. But he’s all but forgotten today.

Nash refers to Henty in another poem, “And How Is My Little Man Today?”:

Because you feel heroic like a hero out of Alger or Henty,
And a couple of degrees of fever are as stimulating as two drinks and as soporfiric as twenty,

Clearly he influenced Nash if nobody else. But I’ll have to keep an eye out for his work–most likely in the old falling apart books section of the book sales.

I’m not sure if I have any other Nash books scattered amongst the Nogglestead library, but I can tell you that I do not have any others on the book accumulation points. Now, I’ll have to delve into the Neruda that will likely surpass this book as the longest between start and finish since I read a couple of them to my children a decade ago as well.

Good Book Hunting, October 26, 2019: ABC Books

ABC Books had a book signing this weekend, so I made my way up there. I’ve missed a couple over the last couple of months due to travel and other obligations, so I was eager to visit since the proprietrix appreciates that I do.

I only got a couple of books, though.

The author signing books, Larry Wood, was promoting his latest book, Bigamy and Bloodshed, which is a case about a man who becomes involved with a temperance heroine but turns out to have been still married, and he kills his earlier wife.

I was familiar with the story, as I had read about it somewhere, and I asked him if he’d excerpted it elsewhere. It turns out I read about it in his earlier book Wicked Springfield, Missouri.

I bought a copy of Bigamy and Bloodshed and another collection called Murder and Mayhem in Missouri as well as a copy of Wicked Springfield Missouri for my boys, one of whom is really into true crime. I also picked up a copy of The Book of Five Rings, a treatise on sword fighting from Japan. I picked up a book called The Martial Artist’s Book of Five Rings, an American commentary on the original work, at a previous trip to ABC Books and told the store manager I’d like to get my hands on a copy of the original. So I was sure to thank him for laying one up for me.

So it’s only three books, but I’m mostly ‘reading’ picture books these days with everything else going on. Hopefully, I will get some time to read books books sometime this year.

Book Report: Colorful Missouri Photographs Selected by Edward King / Introduction by Bill Nunn (1988)

Book coverI got this book two weeks ago, and I got an opportunity to browse it the other night when watching a football game that I was not particularly interested in. So I could pay more attention to the book than to the screen.

It’s a nice collection of middle 80s images from the countryside of Missouri. Most of them are landscapes focusing on the different topographies you can find in this state. It almost made me a little proud of the state in which I have lived for most of my life, a pride that I would prefer to only feel for my home state, thank you. So let that be a testimony about what I think about the book.

So a nice picture book to review. The book collects photos from a variety of photographers, and one of the photos by DIck Kahoe has the photographer’s signature below it. So this is a signed copy, and I spent only a dollar on it. W00t!

Book Report: Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse (1951, ?)

Book coverThe second of the books I bought last weekend is a bit deeper than the first (Mother Goose in the Ozarks). I think this counts as Literature, ainna? Hesse won the Nobel Prize for literature, so all signs indicate yes.

The book covers the journey of an Indian? Nepalese? son of nobility who wants wisdom, so he leaves his family and joins a group of ascetics with a friend. When the ascetics encounter the Buddha–the Siddhartha of the title is not, as it turns out, that guy–the friend joins the Buddhist movement, and Siddhartha goes to town where he encounters a courtesan whose beauty is described in detail and I can only assume foretold Morena Baccarin (who played a courtesan/companion in Firefuly, do I have to inline cite my allusions? Yes, if I want to stay out of trouble with my beautiful wife who might wonder why I brought Morena Baccarin into this discussion out of nowhere). Siddhartha wants her to teach him of love, but she points out that she likes nice things and he’s an ascetic, so he becomes a merchant, dissipates a bit, and then tires of that life and becomes a ferry man where, by listening to the river, he becomes wise. The courtesan becomes a Buddhist, and as she is traveling to pay her respects to the dying Buddha, she comes to the river but dies, leaving Siddhartha with the charge of his son Siddhartha. The willful, formerly pampered boy rankles under his father’s simple lifestyle and runs away. The title Siddartha thinks of searching for him but lets him go.

So I did read it, and I remember the plot better than I do the plots of most Executioner novels I read, certainly.

At any rate, it reads a little like an Existentialist novel in reverse (see The Fall for example.) The narrator comes from a position of comfort but has a bit of mental disquiet as he hungers for wisdom pursuing knowledge. A series of events occur leading him to question everything, and he finds peace. Existentialist novels start from a sense of peace where things shatter that peace and lead to a new understanding. Or maybe it’s exactly like an Existentialist novel. I certainly put it in the genre as I read it, but the Wikipedia entry argues that it’s really a Buddist novel.

Or perhaps they’re very close to one another, Buddhism and Existentialism.

No, that’s not it. In this book, Siddhartha has been taught that reality is an illusion, and he learns instead about the unity of all. In Sartre’s Nausea, the protagonist learns that reality is an illusion. So, yes, backwards.

At any rate, a quick and engaging read. The volume I have does not say who the translator is, but the prose is very lyrical, with lots of prepositional phrases. Which, sadly, is how I’ve found myself writing these days. And I don’t have a translator to credit or blame for it.

So perhaps I’ll find Steppenwolf somehwere and pick it up, too.

Book Report: Mother Goose in the Ozarks by Ray Wood (1938, 1983)

Book coverAs I accurately predicted on Sunday, I read this book first of the ones I picked up. I have so little time to read these days that monographs and twee little books are about all I can get read in a timely fashion.

This book is a 1983 reprint of the 1938 original, a sticker on the cover informs us, and it is an illustrated collection of what might have passed for nursery rhymes in the Ozarks around the turn of the twentieth century. The perface tells us about the author and the history of the rhymes in this collection which later appeared elsewhere (we’ll get to that in a minute). H. L. Mencken had nice words to say about it when it was published.

The little rhymes in it are a bit twee and facile, but I’m coming to them from a position where Mother Goose and the European nursery rhymes are wisdom received at a young age. Perhaps if I were exposed to these rhymes in my youth and Mother Goose as an adult, I’d have the completely opposite reaction. So, some were amusing, but most were just rhymes for children to recite because nobody had television or radios yet.

One thing that modern audiences would zot onto is the use of perjoratives for blacks. A couple of the rhymes involve accusing a black person of something or just denigraating a black person, but that loses a bit of context that a lot of people mentioned in these rhymes are not represented in the best light. The book also disparages Irish people and other individuals. Face it, if you’re in a nursery rhyme, you’re not doing to well. But modern scholars and readers have their own biases and focii, so that’s what they would see first. Not that I’m defending the viewpoint; only that I can read something like it and say, “That’s not right,” where modern arbiters might not let me read it at all because they don’t trust my judgment.

Some things sounded familiar, though, such as:

Chicken in th’ bread-pan
Pickin’ up th’ dough
Granny will your dog bite?
No, child, no.

Where have I heard that before?

Also, this one learned me the source of an expression that was a fabled book and then a major motion picture:

William tremble-toe is a good fisherman
Catches hens–puts them in pens
Some lay eggs–some lay none
Wire, briar, limberlock, three geese in a flock
One flew east, one flew west
One flew over the cuckoo’s nest.

The nursery rhyme listed as the source of the title in Wikipedia differs, though.

Another features a character asking for his jimmy-john. I wondered if he wanted a sandwich, but after a little research which was mainly trying to formulate a search query that would return me something other than information about the restaurant chain, I discovered this probably refers to a whiskey jug.

At any rate, a quick read. A little educational, as it taught me the things I mentioned above. But it would be doubleplus ungoodthink to many who would then not learn what else it might have to teach.

Good Book Hunting, Saturday, October 12, 2019: Friends of the Christian County Library Book Sale

So yesterday, we headed down to Ozark for the semi-annual Friends of the Christian County Library book sale, and it was only when we got to the library in Ozark and saw an emptyish parking lot and the shades drawn on the meeting room that I remembered that the Friends of the Christian County Library has started shifting one of the two sales to the Nixa branch. Which we did not pass as we drove through Nixa to get to Ozark. As a matter of fact, we have never been to the new flagship of the Christian County library, which turns out to be a larger and nicer facility. Which meant they could spread out about the same number of books over slightly more floor space.

At any rate, it was half price day, which meant I got a bunch for a little.

I got:

  • Double Star, a Robert Heinlein juvie that earned me a book sale friend. Another guy saw it and asked where I got it; I mentioned it was mixed in, and that there were not others, or I would have them in my hands. He told me of the collection he’d received as a gift, a trash bag full of classic science fiction, and I envied it. Later, he approached me to offer me the copy of Friday that he’d found, but, come on: The later Heinlein hardbacks are easy to come by. At any rate, I’ll hit this one up sometime; I’d say “Soon,” but I’m surprised to see how many Heinlein books I come across in the library here that I have not yet read.
  • The Merchants’ War by Frederik Pohl. It’s a sequel to an earlier work, but by the time I get to it, I might also have read it. After all, my beautiful wife gave me the sequels to Gateway not long after I read it, and I have not read them yet.
  • 19th Precinct by Christopher Newman. It looks a lot like the paperback police procedurals I ate up as a kid, like the Precinct: Siberia series. So I’ll throw it in the blender.
  • Mother Goose in the Ozarks by Ray Wood. Odds are I’ll read this first of all the things I bought today as it is a short, cartoonish bit of humor.
  • Tales of the Caribbean by Fritz Seyfarth. It looks to be similar to a lot of collections of tales that I have. So why not this one, a saltwater one, contrasted with the freshwater ones in the library already?
  • Mary, Mary by Ed McBain. The title indicates it’s a Matthew Hope novel. I might already own it, as I’ve not really gotten into the Hope series like I did the 87th Precinct series.
  • Two Patrick O’Brian books, The Hundred Days and Blue at the Mizzen. Which I bought in case I don’t have them already, although it has been (cough, cough) ten years since I read Master and Commander and started accumulating the series. Longer than the aforementioned Frederik Pohl series.
  • L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 31. It’s a collection of stories including works by Larry Niven and Orson Scott Card. I foresee a science fiction binge in 2021 or 2022.
  • The Turner Thesis Concerning the Role of the Frontier in American History, a 1956 college textbook of some sort which looked interesting enough to put into the stack.
  • Murder as a Fine Art by David Morrell. I read his novel First Blood and First Blood Part II in 2008, and I’ve been accumulating his books since. Which, if you’re keeping track, is longer than both the O’Brian and Pohl books noted above. Perhaps 2021 or 2022 will see my David Morrell binge instead of or in addition to science fiction.
  • Three Times Three Mystery Omnibus. It’s a large collection that starts off with the novel The Lady in the Lake by Raymond Chandler and includes stories by Gardner, McBain, Christie, and others. But it will only count as one book in my annual total, perhaps in 2030 or so.
  • Marion’s Wall by Jack Finney. I have a couple of books by Jack Finney; I read Time and Again so long ago that it does not appear on this blog. I read a short story of his earlier this year in Stories of Suspense.
  • Christmas Lights by Christine Pisera Naman. This looks to be a Christmas type novel; as you know, I like to read a Christmas novel every year. Hopefully, I won’t lose this one amidst the volumes of the library as I did with a number that I bought last year.
  • Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. Apparently, it’s a serious novel, and it’s about Buddha. I’m surprised I don’t own this already, but I’ve never found it for 50 cents before.
  • The Postman by David Brin. The source for the Kevin Costner movie. I saw the book mentioned on the Internet somewhere recently, and there it was in Nixa. I liked the movie, by the way. Of course, I thought Waterworld wasn’t bad, either. I watched them both back to back, as I mentioned earlier.
  • Endangered Lighthouses by Tim Harrison and Ray Jones. Not so much a browsing book for football games; it appears to be a compendium of lighthouses, their history, and some photos with a page for each entry.
  • Colorful Missouri which is a football browser. The woman counting the books commented on it, and I said I’d likely read the book instead of actually enjoying the fall color.
  • The World of the Polar Bear, also a browser of Arctic photos.
  • Humphrey Bogart: A Hollywood Portrait, which might be a browser or it might not. Regardless, it’s Bogart. The woman counting the books called it “cute,” but that did not dissuade me from purchasing it.
  • Vancouver: A Year in Motion, also a browser akin to city-focused photo books like Detroit, New York, and San Francisco (amongst other examples you can find on this blog).
  • Unsolved Mysteries of the Past, a compendium that I read in 2006. I bought this copy for my oldest son. I wish I could find Mysteries of the Unexplained for him as he’s into that (as I was at his age), but it’s hard to find that book in the wild when you’re looking for it even though it was pretty common when I was not. Probably many of them have been ground into cat litter by now.

I also bought a book of number crosswords for my youngest son and two CDs: Lee Ann Womack’s I Hope You Dance and Rage Against The Machine’s The Battle of Los Angeles. No John Denver, though.

The total for my books and the three books and puzzle that my wife bought: $11.50. I laid out a twenty and then renewed my membership in the Friends of the Christian County Library as I do every book sale, whether I attend once or twice a year.

Which reminds me: I have just lapsed in membership to the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library, and I should consider renewing before I venture up to its (their? our?) book sale next week.

On President Me by Adam Carolla (2014)

Book coverTechnically, this is not a book report, as I listened to the book on CD. So I don’t count it toward the annual reading goal, but I do want to comment on it just to pad out your daily content allotment on this blog.

Adam Carolla, for those of you who might not know, is a comedian with 20+ years experience in the popular culture. He started doing bits in LA in the middle 1990s and scored a radio and later television show called Loveline followed by The Man Show in the late 1990s and has segued into books and a highly popular podcast in the 21st century.

This book presents a fantasy where he is elected President and what he does to the country. The chapters are grouped around Federal departments, and he uses this conceit to group some of his rant tales about hospitals, attending every function in your children’s schools, airports, and other things.

Carolla gets some notoriety for stating relatively plain truths in direct language, contradicting the prevailing orthodoxy of the times. He’s more coarse and vulgar than Dennis Miller and is less learned and erudite, but they cover the same ground at different times and for different audiences/generations.

So I agreed with a lot of the message, but I only got one or two chuckles out of the material. Maybe that’s me. I don’t really laugh at a lot of comedy these days; it’s high form if it even amuses me. Perhaps I’d be different in a comedy club, where the crowd’s reaction would be infectious.

Probably better than reading or listening to a polemic by a more straight-up commentator if only because of the refreshing and authentic fascination with boobies.

Book Report: On the Run by John D. MacDonald (1963)

Book coverOoops, I read it again. I first read this book in 2004, and in reviewing that particular review, I agree, fifteen years later with my earlier assessment.

The story: A young man, on the run from the mob, is found by a private detective working for the young man’s rich grandfather, who is dying and wants to see his progeny again. The grandfather sends his private nurse to retrieve the young man, and they fall in love as they drive from Texas to New England. The grandfather also invites the man’s brother, but the brother is in with the mob, and he comes with a plan to finger his brother for a hitman. Then a single violent night ends some lives and changes others.

I did flag this chapter beginning, though:

THE EXECUTIONER stood at the back of the bar of a roadhouse on Route 5 between Albany and Schendectady, nursing a bottle of ale.

What book am I reading here?

But given the turn of events at the end of the book, which sees a newly wealthy young man seeking violent revenge on the Mob, one wonders if this might be a precursor to the Don Pendleton series. Probably not, but you never know.

Book Report: Don Worth: Photographs 1955-1985 Introduction by Hal Fischer (1986)

Book coverThis is a collection of photographs from a mid- to late-twentieth-century photographer who focused (ba dum tiss) on close-ups of flowers and other flora who then moved into landscapes, male nudes, and still lifes during his career.

The introduction is one of the great artistic criticism sorts rather than the simple bio. Hal Fischer fits Don Worth into the great American tradition of nineteenth century landscape painters and Transcendentalists. So it is on that end of the spectrum of monograph intros, meaningful to serious students of photography but just blather to more casual appreciators of the art.

The photography itself is also a bit of a photography buff’s bag. It deals a lot with textures and shapes within the frame, where the content is important as photography more than telling a story or inviting the viewer to see something other than a photograph. So it’s a bit of modern art in that regard, and the introductory text writer favorably compares Worth to Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, so, yeah.

It doesn’t take you long to browse through it once you get through the introduction.

I know, with the blizzard of monography book reports, you’re wondering exactly how much football I watched this weekend. No more than nine hours. But I’m also watching some college football and playoff baseball. Which means I should make a real effort to get to the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library book sale to pick up more this month.

Book Report: Adolf Dehn Drawings Selected by Virgina Dehn / Introduction by Carl Zigrosser (1971)

Book coverThis collection of drawings’ introduction describes the life and times of Adolf Dehn without getting into the Importance of the artist in the milieu. It talks mostly about how the artist approached his work, which is by sketching a bit and then later interpreting his sketch and memory in the finished sketch.

For Dehn’s work is mostly pen and ink drawings (including some caricature) but also includes some watercolors, although the images in the book are black and white, so I cannot speak to how they would look in color.

However, the line drawings do not appeal to me. I mean, it’s like 2D comic art blended with some Degas or the other bad Impressionist or post-Impressionist influences. I mean, he’s no Matt Hirschfeld, that’s for sure.

Still, worth a browse during a football game just so I can continue to explore what I like and don’t like among the art world and art monographs.

Book Report: Thawed by Gary Bedell (?)

Book coverThis book is an ex-library book from some unstated library that I picked up this spring at the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library book sale. I called it a comic art monograph, but it might be more akin to a self-published sketch book that I tend to avoid buying at local cons.

So, about the artist. He’s local, as I determine by the inclusion of posters advertising music shows in downtown Springfield. The book include some completed comic art that has the fully realized 3D modeling that’s unlike more cartoon-centric art like Rook City or Duel! as well as some other art, some digitally generated, that looks like it could fit into video games. The book also includes some sketches to show the preliminary work before the finished product.

An interesting browse during a football game, to be sure.