Book Report: Within This Center by Robert C. Jones (1976)

Book coverI read this book over a week ago, before my vacation, and just a little after Thin Ice and Other Poems. This, too, is a chapbook, with poems on the right page and photos by the author on the left.

Unfortunately, the printing quality does not do justice to the photographs. The poems are, however, a cut above Thin Ice and Other Poems, with some imagery and fairly clear points–mostly about the cycle of life, with a lot of thematic influence on plants growing and dying and a lot of reliance on colors, especially yellows and greens. But the poems at least have imagery and try to evoke things, although again, I would say the lines are too short, broken too often by line breaks for ponderous pauses.

Of course, I find myself writing fairly run on poetic lines these days, so I can’t really complain too much about the line length. No, wait: This is my blog. I will complain all I want.

So overall middle of the road; average. Which is not something to sneeze at in poetry, given all the bad poetry I read.

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Good Book Hunting, Thursday, June 16, 2022: The Village Booksmith, Baraboo, Wisconsin

As I mentioned, I just completed a week-long trip to Wisconsin, featuring the normal pass through the Milwaukee area to visit my father’s grave and see my grandmother, and then onto the Dells. During one of our days at the Dells, we travelled to Baraboo, Wisconsin, and I was pleased to find that the Village Booksmith is still in business (remember, gentle reader, I visited the book store five years ago on our last trip to Wisconsin.

Well, I bought some things.

So, what did I get?

  • Superkill, the third paperback based on the I Spy television series. You know, I am pretty sure that I have not seen a complete episode; I don’t know why this was not heavily in syndication when I was young, but it was not.
  • We Are Staying by a different Jen Rubin than the blogger. It’s about an electronics store in New York City over the years. I’m not sure why this was selling new at a store in Baraboo. No, wait, scratch that: the author lives in Madison, prolly at the university.
  • Some Freaks by David Mamet, a memoir of sorts.
  • Why We Watch: Killing the Gilligan Within by a teletherapist named Dr. Will Miller. Purportedly about watching television to improve your mental health.
  • Doc Savage: Red Snow and Death Had Yellow Eyes by Kenneth Robeson, two Doc Savage tales reprinted in one large (tall and wide) volume with some end material about Doc Savage and the author.
  • Famous Fantastic Mysteries from June 1953 with Ayn Rand’s Anthem as the cover story. It is listed on Ebay at $165; I paid $35.

Additionally, we have one book in dispute: Charlie Berens’ The Midwest Survival Guide. My oldest, who already talked me into buying him Gestures: The Do’s and Taboos of Body Language Around the World spotted this book after I’d passed by twices. But when he asked me if I would buy it for him, I said I’d buy it for me and he could read it. So where the book ends up remains to be seen.

I did not delve into any of the books yet, and to be honest, looking back at what I bought five years ago, I really have only read Thundering Silence by Thich Nhat Hanh from what I bought then. Well, gentle reader, you know how I operate: Books I buy go in the stacks, exhumed decades later when I’m suddenly in the mood for a book or I’m suddenly reading a bunch of books about a topic, and of course I have another book about it that I bought way back in 2022.

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Book Report: Thin Ice and Other Poems by Marcia Muth (1981)

Book coverI bought this book in April at the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library book sale. In the past, they have bundled chapbooks up five or ten for a buck; however, this year, they did not, so I paid a whole dollar for this book. I picked it up last week when I was not falling asleep quickly enough, and I thought a quick chapbook might take my mind of the troubles my mind invents at eleven o’clock.

So, this book has a copyright date of 1981 but a signature block from 1986, which meant that she was peddling these at least five years after publishing them. The back notes that she has also published another collection of poetry, a book on painting and selling art (specifically kachinas, the native spirit beings in Pueblo cultures), and a book on how to write and sell poetry, fiction, plays, and local history. So she was a pro and no grandma writing poetry, although she might have been a grandmother (although none of the poems really mentions children).

But, about the poetry: Meh. I mean, it’s got some of that look at the poem feel that dominates so much modern art. Self-consciousness that says, this, the poem, is what is meaningful–not that the poem, or the art, wants to draw attention to some meaning beyond itself.

Perhaps I am being to unkind, perhaps I am trying to fit my criticism into my standard template, but nothing here really captures my interest, makes me want to read it out loud, makes me want to read it again, or really makes me feel like I relate to the poem. The title poem is:

I ask questions.
You smile
Shake your head.
“Thin ice,” you say
Silence rests
A wall between us.

That’s it. Most of the poems fall within those line lengths, although some are a couple of lines longer. Some of them have repeating motifs, such as the Gypsy king or referring to the kiva, but mostly they read like the work of someone who felt compelled to write poems every day because one is a poet. Although, to be honest, reading through the complete works of any poet like Keats, Shelley, or maybe even Frost (probably not), one gets a lot of clunkers.

At any rate, I did come away with a couple of new words (kiva, a sacred place for Pueblo Indian rituals, and kachina, a Pueblo Indian spirit–the author does live in New Mexico, you must know, and if you don’t you might miss some of the references). But overall, not impressed.

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Book Report: Nuts About Squirrels by Don H. Corrigan (2019)

Book coverI bought this book last summer on a trip back to the St. Louis area. As I mentioned then, Mr. Corrigan as the editor of the Webster-Kirkwood Times, published at least one of my letters to the editor. So full disclosure on that, not that I pull punches on people who’ve published me (of whom there are very few) or people I meet in person (sorry, again, S.V.).

The subtitle of this book is “The Rodents That Conquered Popular Culture”. So when I started reading it right away during our vacation in De Soto, but I got fifty or so pages in and bogged down. I had expected a light-hearted look at squirrels, but instead, it looked like it was really turning into a serious study of squirrels. So it languished on my chairside table for a year until I decided to clear the table of some books that had been on the table for several years untouched (rest assured, gentle reader, I did leave some books on the table that had been there for several years untouched–I do have stretch goals of reading them sometime in the next couple of years). In the winnowed stack, this book remained, so I picked it up again, starting not from the bookmark but from the beginning.

And on this second pass through, it occurred to me that this is not about squirrels per se; this is a book about how squirrels are portrayed in different media, with each medium having a different take on squirrels, whether they’re cute or a menace, based on the type of thing that sells in that media. So wait a minute–Corrigan is a professor of media at Webster University–is it possible that this is a book about media and is only using squirrels as an example? I felt kind of clever catching on, whether I caught onto the real purpose of the book or not, and it helped me power through.

Although by the end, I wondered if that was really the point. Or if perhaps the author lost the point. Or padded it out with more squirrel stuff.

The early parts of the book:

  • Preface: Mass-Mediated Squirrels, an introduction.
  • Introduction: “Hot” and “Cool” Squirrels, which talks about the types of media (print versus electronic) and whether they favor stories about danger and menace or cool and funny.
  • Squirrels in Children’s Books, which talks about
  • Squirrels Make the Headlines, which talks about newspaper stories where squirrels are portrayed as a menace to homeowners, the electrical grid, and cars.
  • Squirrels for a Television Age, which talks about squirrels on television, especially local news and short segments on national programs where squirrels water ski or are dressed up–amusing and cool.
  • Squirrels in PR and Advertising and also as town mascots–also cool.
  • Movie Madness: Squirrels in Cinema about squirrels in movies, mostly in comedies.
  • Cartoons and Animated Movie Squirrels which deals with cartoon squirrels (not Rocky; he was cool on television).
  • Comics and Video Game Squirrels, especially Squirrel Girl who apparently became an Avenger after I started paying attention.
  • Legendary American Squirrels about squirrels
  • Squirrels in Myth and Folklore, mostly the Norse squirrel who was like a four-footed Loki.
  • Postscript: Squirrels Unlimited which promotes further study of squirrels in media.

So you can see the progression of sorts of squirrels in different media in kind of a historical context of the march of media, but then we get chapters about legendary squirrels, which makes one wonder if it is supposed to be a book on squirrels, and not on the media using the metaphor of squirrels, after all.

At any rate, the illusion or miscomprehension got me through the book. It could have used some editing–some bits are repeated almost verbatim within the same chapter, as though the book might have been different articles with similar material that got stitched together without removing the material repeated in the different source essays.

So kind of an academic book, but I’m not sure which direction its academic study is.

I have some flags in the book; let’s see what struck me as I was reading.

Continue reading “Book Report: Nuts About Squirrels by Don H. Corrigan (2019)”

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Book Report: Tucked Away in a Discarded Scrapbook by S.V. Farnsworth (2022)

Book coverI got this book at S.V. Farnsworth’s book signing at ABC Books in April. As I predicted, I picked this book up first as it’s a collection of short pieces and poems.

The subtitle is “Creative Nonfiction with Poetry”, but the creative nonfiction pieces do not rise to the level of full essays. Instead, they’re more like diary entries and/or writing exercises, some poetic musings on incidents or elements of her life, but not necessarily things abstracted enough to draw the reader in so that the reader says, “Oh, yeah, me, too.”

For example, we get glimpses and allusions to abusive men her mother dated, and we get glimpses of the author’s younger years, whether getting ready to go to engineering school or serving as a missionary in Korea or ending up at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, where the author lives now. But it’s not a autobiographical enough to tell those stories completely, and some of the gaps and questions a reader has–what happened to the engineering track? What was it like in South Korea? are not covered.

The poems, too, were a bit underwhelming, with a nice bit here or there, but nothing that really grabbed me or made me want to read it aloud and feel it in my mouth.

I’m still hopeful that the fiction, of which I have a bunch, will read a little better. Certainly, the prose is not bad, but it really doesn’t get a running start to anywhere. Hopefully, the longer form work will be better.

Sorry, S.V.; however, I totally invite you to pick any of my work and savage it in any medium you favor.

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Book Report: Point Position The Executioner #304 (2004)

Book coverGentle reader, this is the last of the Executioner books on my shelf. Alright, alright, alright: I do still have SuperBolan books, Able Team Books, Stony Man Farm Books, and Phoenix Force books. Still: I got my first Executioner novel in 2007 and read it, Panic in Philly, later that year. I got the books in big chunks: 47 books in the 2011 as a birthday present from my beautiful wife and at the Friends of the Clever Library book sale in 2013. I have not counted, but I have probably read nearly 100 of them from #3 Battle Mask from 1970 to #373 Code of Honor from 2009, which I bought new in the grocery store (and, briefly, was caught up on my Executioner novels until I received the birthday gift that week). So, overall, it’s been a mostly enjoyable experience. But onto this book.

This book comes seven years and 83 books after the previous book on my shelf (Blood and Fire). The books are still 220 pages, but unlike the two previous, the title has no real relevance on the plot or action. Bolan is on the trail of some chemical weapons, and he has to team up with two mercenaries who are out to find and retrieve an even more frightening weapon–a sonic weapon that can immobilize people within its radius and make them forget years of their lives. A couple of set pieces later, and Bolan triumphs, of course.

I flagged a couple of things:

A jab took the man in the chest, the power of Bolan’s forearm and biceps muscles driving his adversary backwards.

C’mon, man, the biceps muscles handle moving things towards the body, not extending the arms. That’s the triceps job. And much of your punches, including jabs, should come from twisting your hips, not just using the arms.

Well, okay, I flagged one thing. But it’s interesting to note that in 2004, the terrorists are all right-wing groups even in Executioner novels. No more Marxists or Communists. Which probably makes this a good place to stop with the Executioner novels. If even the Executioner books start trending toward the political, I might not ever read another piece of fiction from the 21st century. Which is probably not true, but still.

At any rate, the jump ahead seven years from Blood and Fire to 2004 saw great changes in my life. In the interim, I had gotten married and gotten started in a career in technology–and I’d even made my mostly final move to quality assurance from technical writing. In a couple of months, I would start my own company to bill as a consultant, something I’ve done for the most part since. And in short order, my aunt would pass away, leading me and my beautiful wife to consider having a family, which, clearly, we have (and we’re almost done with these days). Of course, I’ll be going back to other series in the Bolanverse, so I’ll still get to relive the time in my life where I was when the book was fresh. I don’t do this with normal books, but with the Bolan books, I have. Probably due to the monthly subscription nature of the series.

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Book Report: Mr. Obvious by James Lileks (1995)

Book coverSo I ordered this book from Amazon a while back because although I have read some of his nonfiction (most recently Fresh Lies in 2011(?!) and Mommy Knows Worst in 2005, when this blog was fresh and new–although I have read The Gallery of Regrettable Food and Interior Desecrations before I was book reporting), I have not delved into his fiction.

According to his Wikipedia entry, Lileks has four books of fiction: Falling Up The Stairs from 1988, which precedes this book and has the same characters, so this book alludes to that book; this book, from 1995; and then two books released exclusively electronically, Graveyard Special in 2012 and The Casablanca Tango in 2014. I have on the Internet and reading Lileks for a long time, so I remember when he was talking about writing and releasing those books, and it seems more recent than eight to ten years. But when you get to a certain age, a decade was just a little while ago.

So this book is the second book featuring local newspaper columnist Jonathan Simpson, formerly of a big city daily but now writing food columns for the local free weekly (see book #1 for details). After doing a radio spot with a local personality whose ratings are in free-fall, Simpson is hit by a bullet meant for the radio talker. After being in a coma for three months, he starts looking for the assailant. Well, sort of: He can’t actually walk, so he’s around people who kind of investigate and who carry him or push him in a wheelchair for a while. Meanwhile, he deals with the large house that fell into his lap (see book #1) and a potential love interest with alopecia.

I started reading the book thinking it was great. The writing is pure Lileks, with the digressions into different learned subjects and amusing metaphors. But I got about one hundred pages in, and I realized that the protagonist wasn’t really leading the action–things were happening to him. About page 150, he starts taking some agency, but the plot was kind of convoluted and the story-pacing was slow. The whole exercise was a platform for Lileks to, well, Lileks. Overall, his blog The Bleat and columns are better sized for that.

So I was a little disappointed with it, ultimately. I will probably pick up the first of the two books (and by pick up, I mean order from Amazon since they’re not thick on the ground around here) as well as his other nonfiction from the era. But I am impressed that Lileks had a big publishing contract in the 1980s and 1990s. I mean, wow, okay. One might think his career arcked downward early–his biggest book publishing and syndication came before the turn of the century–but I hope he doesn’t think that. After all, I enjoy his columns in The National Review and The Bleat every day.

And even with four novels to his credit, he’s several ahead of me.

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Book Report: The Old and the Beautiful by the residents of Arrow Senior Living (2020)

Book coverLast year, gentle reader, you might remember I read a collection of poetry written by residents of one or more nursing homes in the Beverly Enterprises (A Bend in the Road). Well, this year, as you might know, my mother-in-law moved into senior housing not too far from Nogglestead, and it turns out that two years ago, during the recent-malingering-unpleasantness of 2020, the residents there wrote a book of their own. Well, sort of: as my mother-in-law says, it was mostly the residence director of some sort and a resident, a professional writer, with some suggestions by other residents.

At any rate, the story is a soap-opera-style melodrama at a senior living facility. A mysterious count, complete with cape, comes, and secrets start spilling out about administrators and some of the residents. The chapters are short and punchy, and they end with cliffhangers as though they’re episodes of a soap opera. Unfortunately, the book itself acts only as a season of a soap opera, so most of the things within are not actually resolved, which leaves room for the next season and more intrigues.

As I understand it, they’ve begun work on the second book. Which will be interesting to see now that my mother-in-law, a former English teacher, is on site. One wonders whether she will collaborate closely with the current writer…. or take it over. Probably the former–she’s mellowed.

So an amusing read, but probably most interesting if you have a personal connection to the home of the writers.

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Book Report: Blood and Fire The Executioner #221 (1997)

Book coverWell, well, well: This is the second Executioner novel I’ve read in a row where the title is meaningful (the first was Tiger Stalk). One of the characters in the book uses “blood and fire” as a bit of an epithet. Spoiler alert: As his name is not Bolan, it’s Bolan fire and the speaker’s blood.

So some new Jamaican custom drugs are flooding the east coast, and when the usual law enforcement moves in, they make some minor busts, but cannot move up the chain because someone in law enforcement is tipping them off. So the feds turn to Bolan, who, along with a trustworthy agent, runs some unannounced operations which lead to a Swiss syndicate’s chemical plant in Jamaica. So the set pieces include operations in the US and on the Caribbean island.

And, you know what? It was a pretty good book. It checks in at the now-standard 220 pages (well, then-standard), but it moves along well. It makes me almost sad or nostalgic that I have but one more entry in the series–which is just as well–I read a contemporary Bolan book, and it was longer and again bloated. Some of the 220-pagers seemed bloated when the 160-page authors were padding them out, but the last couple fill those pages without fat. On the other hand, any book over 300 pages can’t really be punchy, and that’s what I prefer in my men’s adventure fiction.

I did tag a couple things that seemed odd.

A figure partially showed itself around the corner at the end of the passage, leading with a nickel-plated shotgun.

A nickel-plated shotgun? I have never heard of such a thing. Handguns, surely. But I guess they exist; I just did a search for them and found them online. So I’m learning something new instead of trying to teach something to an author who might be long-dead.

Also, remember what I said about “no padding”? Well, I see clearly that the author likes the rhythm of prepositional phrase strings. Which I use a lot myself. Which others (*cough, cough* Strunk) would probably call “padding.”

“How far do you figure?”

Grimaldi looked back. “Two klicks, two-and-a-half, maybe.”

The soldier took out a pair of gloves and a D-ring from his kit bag. He slung the bag, attached the ring to his belt, then clipped it around the rope. Lastly, he pulled on the gloves. “Meet me back here in half an hour,” he told the pilot, then he kicked out of the helicopter door.

Once again, someone lacks a sense of scale; I remember dinging Lee Child for pacing issues.

So say a 5 kilometer round trip. Even if Bolan runs six minute miles, that’s almost 20 minutes in transit time to and fro. And six minute miles tend to be run on a track, not in the jungle. So this would be a very speedy reconnaissance indeed.

Eh, you know what? In the best of these books, like this one, the little things, the inaccuracies, are a fun little find, but not debilitating to the plot or the adventure. In some, like a pondrous Jack Reacher book, though, they provide the second tap, the coup de grâce, to the enjoyment.

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Mix?

How to mix books into your home décor.

As you might guess, gentle reader, we don’t have much room at Nogglestead for décor because of all the books.

You might also assume that, when shopping for a home as we have done from time to time over the past couple of decades, we give series consideration to interior wall space where we can put our bookshelves. An open floor plan is not for us.

But if you’re a bibliophile, do not click the link and read about interior designers talking about books as mere objects of color and texture and not, you know, books.

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Book Report: In the Valley of Yesterday by Jeane K. Harvey (2020)

Book coverWhen blog and Internet friend Blogodidact mentioned his mother wrote a book, of course I rushed right in and ordered it. Thankfully, his mother was not in a touring production of a Broadway musical or local revival. As I have mentioned, I buy my friends’ (and, apparently, their parents’) books and music, which is about ten bucks a pop. I once supported someone I knew in musical theatre, and tickets for the four of us were $120 or so. So thank goodness for the greater ambition of original works. Of course, I would not say this in real life to the fellow who starred in Jesus Christ Superstar, as his “a pop” has been known to sideline me from martial arts classes for months. But, where was I?

Oh, yes: This book falls right into my wheelhouse of small-town personal and historical memoirs, except that instead of some unknown person writing about growing up in Missouri or the Ozarks, we get stories of growing up in the San Fernando Valley in the 1930s and 1940s (and beyond a bit). The author’s father is a studio art director, but when Great Depression I hits (I’m numbering them, as I expect Great Depression II: Candlelight Bugaloo to come any day now), he buys some property in the valley, and the family sets up a ranch with small animals to tide them over. So you’ve got stories about managing animals and construction interspersed with celebrities popping in (Alberto Vargas pops over for an artist group paint session, for example). Eventually, the father gets another job with the studios and works on a number of known films with Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne, and others. In most of those anecdotes, the celebrities don’t drop by, but we get the stories related from the father’s perspective, sort of.

So I really liked the book because, as I mentioned, it has the flavor of a rural memoir with the injection of the old-time movie business. Which is not to say that I did not tag a couple quibbles, which I did, but I will tuck them under the fold so that only Van and his family have to see them.
Continue reading “Book Report: In the Valley of Yesterday by Jeane K. Harvey (2020)”

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Good Book Hunting, Saturday, April 30, 2022: The Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library Book Sale and ABC Books

As I mentioned Friday, I stopped at the Friends of the Springfield Greene-County Library book sale to pick through records and dollar poetry books and at ABC Books for gift cards for teachers. I held you in suspense as to whether I would return on Saturday to go through the Better Books section when the Better Books and whatnot would be half price and ABC Books would hold a book signing.

To be honest, I stopped at ABC Books on Friday because I was unsure whether I would return to the north side of Springfield on Saturday, as many things could preclude my return trip. But after a rare appearance on a Saturday morning at the dojo, I went home, cleaned myself up, and pointed my little truck northward. I actually took the highway route all the way around Springfield; I think it saved a couple of minutes, but the view was less interesting.

So, yes, I did get some books.

I got a single record from the Better Books section which was down to two partially full crates: Lady Godiva by Peter and Gordon because PWOC (Pretty Woman on Cover). First, I thought it might be some musical sound recording. Then, I thought it was that one song you hear on the radio. Oh, but no, that’s “Lady Madonna” by the Beatles:

Apparently Peter and Gordon’s song has a sixties folk flavor:

You know, the genre I don’t actually like. Ah, well, it was a dollar.

I got some audio books/audio courses just in time for a long drive to Wisconsin this summer:

  • Mathematical Decision Making
  • Critical Business Skills for Success
  • Behavioral Economics
  • A History of European Art
  • Reagan: The Life by H.W. Brands

I shall probably pack Reagan, Critical Business Skills for Success, and A History of European Art for the ride as the look as though they’ll be the least likely to put me to sleep. And I’m glad that I got to reload the audio content a bit since the John Dewey entry in the Giants of Philosophy series has been riding unheeded in the truck for a while, replaced in the cassette player by a warped Iron Maiden cassette from the 1980s. Property of my beautiful wife, but by the laws of the state of Missouri, it’s half mine now.

And the books include:

  • Childe Harold’s Pilgramage by Lord Byron, an 1847 edition, for $2.50. The spine is a bit banged up, but I’ve got it wrapped in mylar to protect it. Clearly not a reading copy.
  • The Pillars of Society, a play in four acts, in an 1890 paper cover edition. Not too bad of shape considering it’s a paperback. For $2.50.
  • Mine The Harvest by Edna St. Vincent Millay, a stated first edition from 1954, a posthumous collection. With a dust jacket. For $1. As you know, gentle reader, Millay is my favorite poet, and this is a steal.
  • Blood Relatives by Ed McBain. Apparently, I already own this book–I wrote a book report on it in 2006, so I will have to see if this is a better copy. It’s so rare to find mid-career McBain in the wild, even in used bookstores, these days so I snapped it up for $1.
  • Three books from Lloyd C. Douglas, Doctor Hudson’s Secret Journal, White Banners, and Disputed Passage. They’re matching Colliers editions, and I paid $1.50 each for them. I liked his Home for Christmas when I read it as my Christmas novel in 2011. The fact that he had a set of matched Colliers books meant that he was quite something in the 1930s–I mean, I have some Steinbeck in similar editions. But Douglas would seem to be mostly forgotten now. Maybe not by people who read Karen Kingsbury novels, though.
  • Options by O. Henry, a 1909 edition of short stories. For $1, for crying out loud.
  • The Saint Meets His Match by Leslie Charteris. I recognized the logo on the front of the book, the mark of the Saint. I have only read a couple in the series. Fun fact: The Saint has been portrayed in visual media by Roger Moore and by Van Kilmer. Also $1.
  • The Sky Is The Limit, the autobiography of Ralph K. Manley as told to and written by Susie Knust. The story of a paratrooper in World War II. Signed by Manley. $1.50!
  • Fish Tales and Scales by Jean Elizabeth Ford. A signed copy of small reminiscences and tales from the 1940s–probably as told by relatives to the author. Local interest, and $1.
  • Girlfriends and Wives, a collection of poetry by Robert Wallace. $1. Signed by the author.
  • Two books by local author Todd Parnell, The Buffalo, Ben, and Me and Privilege and Privation. Apparently, I bought a copy of Privilege and Privation at the May 2021 Friends of the Library Book Sale. Man, I really should get all of my books into a database, not just the books I have read. But my current database is wheezing under its load already–it’s got an Access DB back-end, so it’s not designed for big data sets. Also, it is 22 years old. But modern, Web-based databases have subscription pricing, and I’m kind of cheap and would prefer to have my own data in my own hands. So perhaps I will have to write something of my own. And I’ll have to find which copy of Privilege and Privation to keep. This one is signed, but the other is also probably signed. These were $1.50 each.
  • The Lego Power Functions Idea Book: Machines and Mechanisms by Yoshihito Isogawa. I bought this for my youngest son, but who knows what he will do with it. He has a phone now.
  • Fine Books: Pleasures and Treasures by Alan G. Thomas. Kind of a history and picture book of, well, books. $1.50.
  • Electricity for All: The Story of Ozark Electric Cooperative, 1937-2012 by Jim McCarty. Ozark is my electric coop, and this will be a fascinating look at electricity getting rolled out to this area in living memory.
  • Fantin-Latour by Michelle Verrier, a monograph of an artist who looks like he focused a lot on still lifes with flowers. It looks to be mostly images after a little introduction, perfect for browsing during football games, although I am not sure we will watch much football in the autumn.
    $1.00.
  • Style in MotionL Munkacsi Photographs of the ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s by Nancy White and Jogn Esten. C’mon, man, it’s got Fred Astaire on the cover. Everything else is gravy. It looks to be mostly actual photographs of the era and little text. Good for browsing during a football game, but, well. I paid a whopping $2.50 for it.

So, all told, I spent less than fifty dollars at the book sale, and the biggest bunch of that was on the audio courses.

Then, I stopped by ABC Books for the book signing. When I approached the table, S.V. Farnsworth asked if I’d come to see her, and I said I had, and that I’d missed her last time. “Oh, you’re that guy,” she said. Apparently, she’s got an alert set up that notifies her of mentions of her name on the Internet, and she was alerted with the post from last November when I said I’d missed her book signing or my post on Friday talking about maybe going to see her today. So when I said I’d take one of each, she pointed out that I already own Hard Start: Mars Intrigue. Ah, but not a signed copy, I responded.

So I got her six available books:

  • Hard Start: Mars Intrigue. Now that I have two copies, I will be twice as likely to read it soon.
  • Woman of the Stone, first book in the Modutan Empire series. Fantasy, it would seem.
  • Monarch in the Flames, the second book of the series. One presumes at least four books if the elements in the title indicate.
  • A Rare Connection, an Inspirational Romantic Suspense book.
  • Tucked Away in a Discolored Scrapbook, a collection of creative nonfiction and poetry.
  • Seasons of the Four States, an anthology she edited.

Odds are that I will read either Hard Start or Tucked Away in a Distant Corner first amongst them.

I also asked Mrs. E. if they wrapped books in Mylar as a service, and she said they did for $1.50 a book. So I immediately had them wrap the Edna St. Vincent Millay book and the Ed McBain book to protect the dust jackets. They have rolls of special Mylar with paper designed to brace and protect dust jackets and not clear Mylar, so she made a little sleeve for the Lord Byron book; however, when I got home, I cut the paper from it and had enough to make one of my sloppy wrappers for a book.

So, overall, I spent under a hundred dollars at the book sale both days. Believe it or not, this is actually responsible behavior on my part.

Which is good, as I am again back to stacks of books atop the stacks of books on my to-read shelves. I mean, I once wrote an article talking about hiding the halberd on my office wall on business video calls, but I don’t have to worry about that any more as books are stacked in front of it. And I have not yet built more record shelving to hold recent acquisitions, where recent = in the last two years.

So, I am fortunate that it is about six months until the next book sale. My next trip to ABC Books, not so much.

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Good Book Hunting, Friday, April 29, 2022: The Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library and ABC Books

Today, I took a trip to the north side of Springfield for the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County library book sale, ostensibly to look at the dollar records, but I also picked up a few books and videos from the dollar books section. As I was already up in that area, I also stopped at ABC Books to pick up gift cards for thank-you notes for teachers, but I picked up a couple books there–and told an employee, the son of friends, that he should go door-to-door looking for books for the martial arts section.

Although I hope to return tomorrow to visit the Better Books section and prowl amidst the art monographs and audio courses, I might not make it back–consider this a cliffhanger! And if I do, ABC Books is hosting another book signing with S.V. Farnsworth, so I might swing by there again–as you might remember, gentle reader, I missed Farnsworth when she was at ABC Books last December.

At any rate, today, I got:

  • The 4-Hour Body, an audiobook from Timothy Ferris, author of several books my beautiful wife has liked. I think I have The Tools of Titans in book form around here somewhere.
  • A Night at the Opera, a Marx Brothers movie. As you might recall, gentle reader, I watched Horse Feathers and Duck Soup last November.
  • The Caine Mutiny with Bogart, where he is not the protagonist but is Captain Queeg. I saw this in high school and not since.
  • Swing Shift with Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. The film that started it all for them? I haven’t seen it.
  • Twelve O’Clock High, a war picture with Gregory Peck.
  • Where Water Comes Together With Other Water, poems by Raymond Carver. I was just telling someone, probably my wife, that Carver, known more for his short stories, taught my university fiction professor and advisor. Mid-to-late century modern short stories, which explains why she and you have not heard of them.
  • The Loser’s End by William Heyliger, a young adult novel from 1937 about a young man who goes into steel construction and becomes good at it and a successful businessman. Kind of like The Fountainhead without, one would assume, the rough sex.
  • Two volumes from a Mark Twain set that includes The Gilded Age, The American Claimant, and Pudd’nhead Wilson.
  • Pensées, by Blaise Pascal, which I have not read. This one has a Used sticker on it, marking it as a textbook–one wonders if it’s highlighted inside. Yes.
  • Lifetime Collection of Poetry by Lucille Christiansen, a chapbook.
  • Within This Center: Poems and Images by Robert C. Jones, also a chapbook.
  • Thin Ice and Other Poems by Marcia Muth, ibid chapbook.
  • Pioneer Proverbs: Wit and Wisdom from Early America, a saddle-stitched little book.
  • Unspoken: Feelings of a Gentleman, poems by Pierre Alex Jeanty. He has three or four such volumes at ABC Books. Hopefully, they’re good.
  • Road Atlas: Prose & Other Poems by Campbell McGrath.

The Friends book sale did not bundle several chapbooks for a dollar as in years past; I had to pay full price for each. Still, I only spent a combined $35 on all media at the book sale along with $20-something at ABC Books. Almost frugal.

Although tomorrow is half-price day. I might be able to convince my wife to come along to help me carry, and it might be in the Better Book section where I go nuts.

It was strange, too–so many times, I have dragged my boys up there with the promise of a Five Guys burger after, and I have had to hustle before they went into full boredom revolt. Today, though, I did not have them, and I was in and out in under an hour. Part of that, I suspect, is the paucity of records to paw through–less than a third of what it has been some years–and that I really only look at the media and the poetry sections in the dollar book section. Also, I wanted to hurry home as I have other things to do. Like this blog post.

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Another Book Hunter Heard From

At Ace of Spades HQ, Perfesser Squirrel, who has taken over the Sunday Morning Book Thread after OregonMuse, PBUH, posts some recent book acquisitions:

I had a major book haul this week. The university library in which I work (but I do not work for) had a book sale. Managed to walk away with 20 books for the low, low price of $11. Not too shabby.
Here is my haul:
* The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination edited by John Joseph Adams
* Downtiming the Night Side by Jack L. Chalker
* Lord of the Silent Kingdom by Glen Cook
* Surrender to the Will of the Night by Glen Cook
* Working God’s Mischief by Glen Cook
* Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia
* Monster Hunter Vendetta by Larry Correia
* Monster Hunter Alpha by Larry Correia
* Star Wars: The Joiner King by Troy Denning (side note: I ordered this on Amazon several weeks ago, but it never arrived. According to the tracking number, it got lost in Delaware, so maybe it was left on FJB’s doorstep. But it only cost me $0.50 for the replacement!)
* The Dreaming Void by Peter F. Hamilton
* The Temporal Void by Peter F. Hamilton
* The Abyss Beyond Dreams by Peter F. Hamilton
* Gentlemen Takes a Chance by Sara H. Hoyt
* Lost in Translation by Wil McCarthy
* To Crush the Moon by Wil McCarthy
* Wellstone by Wil McCarthy
* Galactic North by Alastair Reynolds
* On the Steele Breeze by Alastair Reynolds
* The Mammoth Book of Steampunk edited by Sean Wallace
* Book of the New Sun Volume 1: Shadow and Claw by Gene Wolfe

A Jack Chalker book I had not heard of as well as three of Correia’s Monster Hunter series and a Hoyt novel? Not bad indeed.

The Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library book sale is this week, gentle reader. I shall probably go on a weekday to prowl the dollar records and maybe on Saturday for half price day. I don’t tend to roam the fiction sections much, but you never can tell.

Watch this space for Good Book Hunting and Good Album Hunting posts in the coming days.

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Book Report: The Samurai: The Philosophy of Victory by Robert T. Samuel (2004)

Book coverI bought this book last summer in Berryville, Arkansas. Whilst I am bogged down and bored with the children’s book I’m reading, I have been looking for various other things to read between chapters, and I settled on this volume, especially as I recently succumbed to latent nipponphilia when listening to Understanding Japan: A Cultural History.

However, this is a Barnes and Noble book, so it’s more of a coffee book akin to Samurai Warriors than an actual history. It is lavishly illustrated, which unfortunately often means watermarking images behind the text that make it hard to read in spots, and its text relies heavily on Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai and The Book of Five Rings, texts which Professor Ravina tut-tuts because they’re written a bit anachronistically.

At any rate, it collects some aspirational material about how to live like a samurai, the warrior code and whatnot, interspersed with some stories and legends of samurai. Unfortunately, many of the non-Hagakure and Five Rings sources are unattributed, so one cannot look for those source materials for further reading.

So a bit thick for a simple browse, and not detailed enough for real study. But, I suppose, if you’re looking for a bit of self-help in how to live well, you could do worse.

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Book Report: Tiger Stalk The Executioner #220 (1997)

Book coverI thought this might be the first of the Executioner novels I’ve read this year, but apparently I read Terror Intent to start the year. Which proves, I suppose, either how forgettable the later Executioner novels are or perhaps how long ago January was from now in my mind.

At any rate, this book is a rare artifact in the Executioner series in that the title kinda refers to the plot: Mack Bolan goes to Sri Lanka to find an American diplomat held by the Tamil Tigers. C’mon, man, if you’re of colonoscopy age like me, you cannot read Sri Lanka without a muddy British accent and pronouncing it Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon, can you?

Spoiler alert: Mack Bolan does not beat any shopkeepers to death with their own shoes, although this book was written long enough after the film came out that the author could have inserted such a scene. Or perhaps dropped in a Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon for us. But no.

So Mack Bolan meets up with an intelligence counterpart who is playing all three ends against the middle: the government of Sri Lanka, the Tamil Tigers, and the Americans–I have not done the calculations to determine exactly what number of agent that makes her. She’s ostensibly in the service of India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), but she’s sleeping with the head of one of the factions of the Tigers. So when I read Pergelator yesterday, and he mentions RAW in terms of a film he watched, I was all like oh, of course I know what that is. So these books have some small educational value.

Bolan, like my middle school (and high school) Dungeons and Dragons group, does not use the encumbrance rules. Check this out:

A large canvas carryall at his feet contained more gear, including extra clips for the Uzi, as well as for the Beretta and Desert Eagle. Additionally, a 5.56mm M-16 A-2 assault rifle, fitted with an M-203 single-shot grenade launcher, lay beside a small radio transceiver to send messages to the fishing boat waiting in a port in India just across from Palk Strait. An assortment of M-40 and 40mm fragmentation and incendiary grenades, C-4 plastic explosive, miniaturized detonators, trip triggers and timers, and three compact missile-launching LAW 80s completed the portable armory.

He’s carries this bag various places, but it’s well over a hundred pounds of equipment easily, so he should not be carrying it with one hand. I don’t know how big of a carryall that is, but that’s a lot of weight and cubic dimension for a single bag. But I can’t talk. It was not uncommon for my fighters to go into a dungeon with a 10′ pole, 50′ of rope, carrying a pole axe, two handed sword, long bow, and food and water for a week (plus whatever loot we found).

A serviceable book in the series, torn from the headlines of 1997–and the civil war in Sri Lanka, which began in 1983, would last until 2009.

So maybe one can learn things even from these men’s adventure paperbacks from time to time.

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Book Report: True Tales From Dickerson Park Zoo by Mike Crocker (2022)

Book coverWell, it only took me a week to read this book–I bought it at ABC Books a week ago Saturday, and it was a nice book to intersperse with my reading of The Red Badge of Courage.

The book is a series of very short stories–most of them are only a couple of paragraphs long, but they’re not broken into individual chapters–dealing with animals and zookeeping and talking a bit about the evolution of zookeepery over the last fifty years, from the concrete cages of the 1970s–heaven help me, but I kind of remember those kinds of exhibits at the Milwaukee Public Zoo when I was but a kid and Chandar, the white tiger, was there–to the more lavish and proper habitat that you see these days.

Crocker specialized in snakes, so a lot of the stories deal with the slithering fellows, but many of the anecdotes that do not feature snakes indicate how dangerous it is to work at a zoo.

I did flag a bit in the book:

One weekend day in the early ’80s, I got a phone call about a lion loose on North Glenstone in Springfield. I think people had called 911 to report spotting a lion. At that time, I lived not far from the location, perhaps a two-minute drive. By coincidence, another zookeeper, Terry Letterman, was at my house.

Terry and I jumped into a vehicle and headed to the location, which was a motel just south of the intersection of Glenstone and Kearney, on the west side of the road. By the time we got there, animal control had already caught the cat and had it in one of the holding units in their truck. It was an African lion, about one-third grown by my estimate, and weighed perhaps seventy-five to one hundred pounds.

The animal was not aggressive. Animal control drove to the zoo with Terry and me following behind. Once we arrived, animal control let the cat out. I straddled the lion, grabbed it by the scruff of the neck, and walked it into a stall in a building located in the southwest corner of the zoo property.

It didn’t take long to locate the owners. They were traveling through Springfield with the cat and had stopped at a motel at the corner of Glenstone and Kearney. They left to eat, and while they were gone the lion got out of its crate and wandered into the swimming pool next door. I’m sure this caused a bit of panic as the people evacuated the pool area.

That motel has been in the news recently as it was closed, and the corner slated for redevelopment, but squatters on the property had caught bits of it on fire in March, and it was torn down while I was reading this book.

I passed the property several times recently as it’s just north of ABC Books.

Also, I could have stopped the quote with the mention of the motel, but I finished out the story to give you a sense of how long the individual anecdotes are. Not especially detailed; more spoken history written down than anything else.

So a quick and amusing read. As I mentioned, this is the second copy of the book that we have at Nogglestead–my beautiful wife got a copy first, and she read bits of it to me, so when I saw that the author was going to be at ABC Books, I made sure to go up there and get my own signed copy.

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Book Report: The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane (1895, 1983)

Book coverI am going to go out on a limb here and say that the text comes from the 1895 publication of this book; in 1982, Norton came out with a longer version based on Crane’s “original manuscript,” and I doubt they would have shared that copyright with Reader’s Digest the same year (the Reader’s Digest The World’s Best Readers edition came out in 1982, and mine is a second printing from 1983). Not that it matters except for purists. But I am throwing it out there because I read the Wikipedia article.

At any rate, this was my first reading of this book. I understand, or at least my beautiful wife told me, that some people read this book in elementary school, or perhaps their mothers’ wombs, but I came to it late, and I am pretty sure that I have mentioned once or twice that I confused this book with Where The Red Fern Grows because they both have the word Red in the title. So, alright: Even though I came from an era where they read novels in school, the schools I attended did not read either of the red books. Nor The Little Red Book, which they might teach in TikTok form to modern students, but that’s neither here nor there. Also, that might remind me of a story, although I don’t need much reminding as it’s recent, but perhaps I will tell it someday.

Where was I? Oh, yes. This is a Civil War book about a young man who goes to the war over the objections of his mother, who does a bunch of marching and bivouacking and thinking, and when he encounters battle for the first time, he gets caught up in a disorderly retreat, and he runs away. He spends a couple of days out of the fray, running then meeting up with a rearward march of the wounded, and he gets a bang on the head which he presents as his war wound to have taken him out of battle. Then, he returns to his unit, and they have a battle, and then they’re ordered to a charge he knows is a distraction which is expected to lead to many casualties, he performs well, and he does not die.

Um, spoiler alert retroactively.

I had a bit of trouble with this book because I’m from the 21st century (well, I am from the 20th century, but I’ve been here in the 21st a long time now). As I read it, I kind of expected that the main character would die and/or the book would veer into anti-war or anti-patriotism, but it doesn’t take a more modern turn. Instead, it tries to re-create what it was like in the Civil War even though it was written twenty years later by a man born after the war.

The prose is a bit purple. And red. And yellow. You don’t go more than a few sentences in dry spots where a color is not mentioned, and the prose is measured for its own sake, not the service of the plot. So it was a bit denser of a read than a thriller or genre book, but not as dense as Georgian prose or self-indulgent high literature.

So not one of my favorite books, but I’m glad to have read it as it offers some light classical literature amid this year’s children books and Star Trek short storification collections.

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Book Report: John D. MacDonald: A Checklist of Collectible Editions & Translations by David G. MacLean (1987)

Book coverI bought this little chapbook at ABC Books a couple weeks ago, and when I went back earlier this month and bought a book by Gregory McDonald, I mentioned that Gregory McDonald was one of the big three MacDonald/McDonalds–the other were Ross MacDonald and John D. MacDonald (I said, gesturing to a Travis McGee novel stacked and ready for pricing behind the register). I then told Mrs. E. that I had recently bought a price guide for John D. MacDonald books, this very book–and then I realized I had bought it at ABC Books a couple of weeks earlier, albeit when she was not there.

So. This is a 32-page, saddle-stitched, typeset with a typewriter booklet from 1987, probably not long after MacDonald’s death (at a different hospital in Milwaukee than the hospital where Heather Graham and I were born–he is buried in Milwaukee, and I never visited even though I have been a fan since he was interred). It lists first editions, including first foreign editions in some cases, and prices circa 1987.

How do the prices stack up to modern prices? The Brass Cupcake, his first novel in paperback from 1950, is listed in the book at $40 including notes on a recent sale. You can find it on Ebay from between $30 to $250, and there’s a hardcover edition at $1250 (which is a hardback reprinting of the paperback). So your mileage may vary.

As I have mentioned, gentle reader, I’m a bit afraid of eventually running out of John D. MacDonald books to read. So this book gave me an opprortunity to audit my collection using the Wikipedia entry for John D. MacDonald’s bibliography, the archives of this blog, and my seriously overburdened inexpensive, turn-of-the-century book library software. The shocking results are below the fold.
Continue reading “Book Report: John D. MacDonald: A Checklist of Collectible Editions & Translations by David G. MacLean (1987)”

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Book Report: The Dark Side of CX by Michael G. Bartlett (2022)

Book coverI bought this book new on Amazon when a local tech group mentioned it. I kind of thought that CX (customer experience) would be something akin to UX (User Experience) which deals with UI (User Interface) which is the parts of the computer program that users actually tap, type, and click on. Each step up the chain is a bit of an abstraction that allows the consultants to sell it a bit more to audiences who are further up in the management chain. Pardon me, do I sound a little cynical? Or maybe envious of the cool consultants?

So CX is actually customer/client experience, which blends marketing, sales, and customer support into a single concept about which one can draw some lessons. He breaks the failures into two categories: Goal friction, where the problem prevents the customer from achieving a goal, and Social Friction, which makes the customer feel bad or socially diminished.

The book uses the Russian term priyome, which is a term for a pattern and an action leading to advantage from recognizing the pattern. He gives them cute names like “Pass the Parcel” and “Without a Paddle,” explains the pattern/archetype a bit, and then how to solve or avoid the problem.

A lot of this seems like common sense, especially if you’ve had any retail or customer service experience, but this is 2022, man. What was common sense in 1990 might be the lost wisdom of the ancients by now.

The book is kind of structured like The Gorilla Mindset in that it interrupts its main flow–in this case the priyomes–with interviews with experts and digressions on company culture (but nothing on juice products advertised on the podcast!).

So it made for a quick, light read that really doesn’t offer much I can apply directly to my day-to-day, but it’s something to go into the hopper for future recombination with my ideas.

And I felt a little gratified by an invitation to a forthcoming webinar that confuses CX with UX:

Improving the Mobile Customer Experience Through Scriptless Automation

Let’s face it, mobile automation is difficult. You can’t rely solely on coordinates or xpaths to make it work. Yet so many automation products do, resulting in flaky test scripts and a maintenance nightmare. If a test script fails, it can lead to reduced customer satisfaction and retention, or worse—it can be seen as a reflection of your brand. This need to keep users happy while maintaining app performance can seem impossible, but there is a solution: scriptless test automation.

This is testing the user interface, not the end-to-end customer experience Bartlett envisions. I wonder whether this term and abbreviation are not tightly locked down yet.

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