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Since we’re getting close to Halloween, I thought I should talk about my novel, Dusty Waters, A Ghost Story because it is a ghost story of a literary sort—I always wanted to write a ghost story. So I did.

The makings for the book boiled around in my brain for a very long time and I finally started writing it down in that sweet spot of creativity around 2001-2002—so, she was a long time in the making, but there are parts of her that were created in my imagination when I was quite a young little sponge running around during endless summer days doing the usual kid stuff and making up stories to tell my friends was part of my something to do, my mind was busy, busier than my body! I’d always begin with my hand to my heart swearing it was true! And from there I did my duty as a storyteller, usually pissing off my friends because I suckered them into believing the long elaborate lie that I just told (it’s just a story you guys, sheesh!) My little ghost story, “Dusty Waters” is partly built upon the stories that I used to tell my friends on those summer nights spent trespassing on the porch of an empty house we fondly called “The Witches House”, smoking cigarettes and giggling ourselves silly…even running off screaming into the night once because the story I was telling just became too intense—something about a baby buried in the basement "…and her ghostly cries could be heard to this day" and perfectly timed (I couldn’t have planned it if I tried), a baby in the house next door started to have a good cry about a crappy diaper—OMG it was hi-lar-ious! We ran and ran and ran—I never forgot it. Once I began to write the book I made a home for the smaller stories in a larger story, the ghosts, the house, the girl born at the tail end of the baby boom generation, growing up with a war on the six o’clock news, the hippies at Woodstock (one of them happened to be her sister, she had a dirty, stinky good time, she returned home with stories and songs to share) and her brother’s guitar that she learned to pick songs from the strings, so a folksinger was born.
The book is a ghost story. I’m compelled to challenge any misunderstanding that anyone may have about my intentions to call it such. Yes, it is more than a ghost story, it’s not all about the ‘boo-factor’ of scary ghosts; it is a ghost story that is about life as much as it is about death and the afterlife. In life there are scarier things than ghosts, and most of the time, it’s the living who are scary—the dead are beyond the living, some are poor souls caught in their final moments, and some have chosen to remain where they are in the existence in between here and moving on to wait, to watch, to witness.
The ghost story is the story that is not going to be told in the official “biography” of Dusty Waters being written by her childhood friend Katharine Tierney. Dusty Water’s has the gift to see them (or is it a curse?) She has a healthy respect for them, she has the right to be annoyed that they pester her with their existence; at times she is in danger of losing her mind because of their constant presence—that for me is a scary idea. Part of her ‘growing up’ is making peace with this ability, trying to understand them—their ‘why’, their ‘how come’. Her eventual intervention to help them move on by resolving the things that have haunted them beyond their physical existence is a gift that only someone with a brave heart can step in with an extended hand. It is a book about belief—whether it is belief in the existence of ghosts or God—in the end, it is imperative to believe in one’s self.
This ghost story is also about the ghosts of the past, history is what haunts us in subtle ways, the war in Vietnam has haunted us, the present day echoes are metaphorical spirits, poltergeists shaking their fingers, clanking chains of memory, only some of us are willing to take notice, see the parallels and try to make a difference—while there are the naysayers who declare there are no such thing as ghosts.
With all said here, I’ll never apologize for misleading anyone into their own expectations. John Steinbeck said it best of all when he was writing East of Eden: “It will not be what anyone expects and so the expecters will not like it. And until it gets to people who don’t expect anything and are just willing to go along with the story, no one is likely to like this book.”
Goodness knows, when I started writing Dusty Waters, A Ghost Story I had no idea where it was going, self-doubts raged and waned throughout the process, every writer goes through this, and I made peace with it. I’ve put her out there to be read—there is a commitment in reading a book, more than looking at a picture that I made. To the ones who have already read it, I say “Thank you!” I really do appreciate it. If you haven’t read it yet, please feel free to take her for a test drive to see if you like what you read through the available samples via Goodreads and Amazon—she’s a different girl.
That’s it for now.
No wait…here’s a bit of novel trivia—Dusty’s birthday is on Halloween.
And…another bit of trivia—the photo for the book cover is from the Fox Sister’s homestead site in Hydesville, NY that I took back in the late 1980’s before it was torn down.
Okay, now I’m done.

Since we’re getting close to Halloween, I thought I should talk about my novel, Dusty Waters, A Ghost Story because it is a ghost story of a literary sort—I always wanted to write a ghost story. So I did.

The makings for the book boiled around in my brain for a very long time and I finally started writing it down in that sweet spot of creativity around 2001-2002—so, she was a long time in the making, but there are parts of her that were created in my imagination when I was quite a young little sponge running around during endless summer days doing the usual kid stuff and making up stories to tell my friends was part of my something to do, my mind was busy, busier than my body! I’d always begin with my hand to my heart swearing it was true! And from there I did my duty as a storyteller, usually pissing off my friends because I suckered them into believing the long elaborate lie that I just told (it’s just a story you guys, sheesh!) My little ghost story, “Dusty Waters” is partly built upon the stories that I used to tell my friends on those summer nights spent trespassing on the porch of an empty house we fondly called “The Witches House”, smoking cigarettes and giggling ourselves silly…even running off screaming into the night once because the story I was telling just became too intense—something about a baby buried in the basement "…and her ghostly cries could be heard to this day" and perfectly timed (I couldn’t have planned it if I tried), a baby in the house next door started to have a good cry about a crappy diaper—OMG it was hi-lar-ious! We ran and ran and ran—I never forgot it. Once I began to write the book I made a home for the smaller stories in a larger story, the ghosts, the house, the girl born at the tail end of the baby boom generation, growing up with a war on the six o’clock news, the hippies at Woodstock (one of them happened to be her sister, she had a dirty, stinky good time, she returned home with stories and songs to share) and her brother’s guitar that she learned to pick songs from the strings, so a folksinger was born.

The book is a ghost story. I’m compelled to challenge any misunderstanding that anyone may have about my intentions to call it such. Yes, it is more than a ghost story, it’s not all about the ‘boo-factor’ of scary ghosts; it is a ghost story that is about life as much as it is about death and the afterlife. In life there are scarier things than ghosts, and most of the time, it’s the living who are scary—the dead are beyond the living, some are poor souls caught in their final moments, and some have chosen to remain where they are in the existence in between here and moving on to wait, to watch, to witness.

The ghost story is the story that is not going to be told in the official “biography” of Dusty Waters being written by her childhood friend Katharine Tierney. Dusty Water’s has the gift to see them (or is it a curse?) She has a healthy respect for them, she has the right to be annoyed that they pester her with their existence; at times she is in danger of losing her mind because of their constant presence—that for me is a scary idea. Part of her ‘growing up’ is making peace with this ability, trying to understand them—their ‘why’, their ‘how come’. Her eventual intervention to help them move on by resolving the things that have haunted them beyond their physical existence is a gift that only someone with a brave heart can step in with an extended hand. It is a book about belief—whether it is belief in the existence of ghosts or God—in the end, it is imperative to believe in one’s self.

This ghost story is also about the ghosts of the past, history is what haunts us in subtle ways, the war in Vietnam has haunted us, the present day echoes are metaphorical spirits, poltergeists shaking their fingers, clanking chains of memory, only some of us are willing to take notice, see the parallels and try to make a difference—while there are the naysayers who declare there are no such thing as ghosts.

With all said here, I’ll never apologize for misleading anyone into their own expectations. John Steinbeck said it best of all when he was writing East of Eden: “It will not be what anyone expects and so the expecters will not like it. And until it gets to people who don’t expect anything and are just willing to go along with the story, no one is likely to like this book.”

Goodness knows, when I started writing Dusty Waters, A Ghost Story I had no idea where it was going, self-doubts raged and waned throughout the process, every writer goes through this, and I made peace with it. I’ve put her out there to be read—there is a commitment in reading a book, more than looking at a picture that I made. To the ones who have already read it, I say “Thank you!” I really do appreciate it. If you haven’t read it yet, please feel free to take her for a test drive to see if you like what you read through the available samples via Goodreads and Amazon—she’s a different girl.

That’s it for now.

No wait…here’s a bit of novel trivia—Dusty’s birthday is on Halloween.

And…another bit of trivia—the photo for the book cover is from the Fox Sister’s homestead site in Hydesville, NY that I took back in the late 1980’s before it was torn down.

Okay, now I’m done.

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Every now and then I am asked about where I get my ideas for my books or what inspired me to write a book…I can go on and on about inspiration just because it’s such a vast landscape of ideas - the ones that get used and the ones that don’t get used, but are waiting their turn… so for this, I tried to narrow it down to one book…
The Fractured Hues of White Light (Field Stone Press, 2010) has its origins from a paper about Autism that I wrote for a child psychology class in college. Because the subject was so remarkable, I wrote a poem and included it in the paper, which my professor liked quite a bit, but whatever, it was something that stuck with me (heck if I know where the paper is, but the poem, I still have, and I find it every time I clean my desk.) I let the idea of autism roll around in my noggin for years—YEARS—1981-ish until the year 2000 when I started scribbling the first notes about a high-functioning autistic young woman. It all started with a conversation—most of my books come from this sort of bantering back and forth between characters, at first with no names, no identity—just a conversation. From that fragment of talk, I developed the characters, Samantha and Guthrie Ryder. Samantha is an artist with a special talent for copying the greatest hits of art history only in miniature. As a result, she became the subject of ‘human interest’ stories, locally, and then nationally. I know, it’s a strange thing to achieve recognition for—she’s aware of the absurdity of it. From the time she was a little kid, her father exploited her talent to make money, she concluded early on that if rich people are stupid enough to lay out thousands of dollars to pay for a miniature copy of Van Gogh’s Starry Night painted by some little kid they see as some kind of idiot savant, then why not? Every time she’s commissioned to paint “repeats” such as the Mona Lisa, she makes it smaller than the last time she made it (she imagines it will be the size of a postage stamp someday.) Changing the size slightly makes it “different” enough so she doesn’t get bored making it. It seems she has a good life, but the crux is what she’s missing—she wants to paint something of her own. In the first drafts, the original conversation between Samantha and Guthrie was partially about this (and many other things, some of them silly) while they’re on a journey out west. Why were they out there, where did they come from, and what their relationship is supposed to be became a study about the meaning of love. How does an autistic woman express that emotion? Not that well—tho’ she tries very hard to express her feelings. Her obsessive-compulsive fixations cause an emotional upheaval that is overwhelming not only for her, but also for the recipient of her attention. Her sketchbooks are filled with the portraits of the people in her life who she loves, Lenore (her mother), Whitley (her father), Helena (her half-sister), Guthrie (who is her step-brother from her father’s previous marriage), and her friend, Sylvester. The quirk to her autism is her keen observation of faces and expressions—while she may not respond appropriately to the emotions of others, she’s studying them all the time, and is conscious of what is conveyed by an individual’s expressions. Often, the portraits become entangled in a mesh of pencil lines—random marks made and followed and will go on to the next page filling the paper edge to edge—these drawings are her natural self-expression, but because she’s never been encouraged to focus on making art from her own ideas, she doesn’t see their importance. These issues were the basic backbone of the book, the rest evolved over time. The strangest things happen while writing a book—a whole lot of “unexpected” emerges from the fertile ground of the primary source of the story. It always amazes me where the original idea takes me, it all seems so simple at first, then there’s this beautiful sense of wonder that occurs as pieces fall into place, I go with the flow because it feels right—it’s truly magical how it happens. This book turned out to be a bigger, far more complex story than I initially imagined, and there were times I feared I took on something too big. It surprises me that I wrote it in that “I really wrote this book!” sort of way. I’m a little bit partial to The Fractured Hues of White Light—I think “she’s” my favorite novel because it was so challenging to write it.

Every now and then I am asked about where I get my ideas for my books or what inspired me to write a book…I can go on and on about inspiration just because it’s such a vast landscape of ideas - the ones that get used and the ones that don’t get used, but are waiting their turn… so for this, I tried to narrow it down to one book…

The Fractured Hues of White Light (Field Stone Press, 2010) has its origins from a paper about Autism that I wrote for a child psychology class in college. Because the subject was so remarkable, I wrote a poem and included it in the paper, which my professor liked quite a bit, but whatever, it was something that stuck with me (heck if I know where the paper is, but the poem, I still have, and I find it every time I clean my desk.)

I let the idea of autism roll around in my noggin for years—YEARS—1981-ish until the year 2000 when I started scribbling the first notes about a high-functioning autistic young woman. It all started with a conversation—most of my books come from this sort of bantering back and forth between characters, at first with no names, no identity—just a conversation. From that fragment of talk, I developed the characters, Samantha and Guthrie Ryder.

Samantha is an artist with a special talent for copying the greatest hits of art history only in miniature. As a result, she became the subject of ‘human interest’ stories, locally, and then nationally. I know, it’s a strange thing to achieve recognition for—she’s aware of the absurdity of it. From the time she was a little kid, her father exploited her talent to make money, she concluded early on that if rich people are stupid enough to lay out thousands of dollars to pay for a miniature copy of Van Gogh’s Starry Night painted by some little kid they see as some kind of idiot savant, then why not? Every time she’s commissioned to paint “repeats” such as the Mona Lisa, she makes it smaller than the last time she made it (she imagines it will be the size of a postage stamp someday.) Changing the size slightly makes it “different” enough so she doesn’t get bored making it.

It seems she has a good life, but the crux is what she’s missing—she wants to paint something of her own. In the first drafts, the original conversation between Samantha and Guthrie was partially about this (and many other things, some of them silly) while they’re on a journey out west. Why were they out there, where did they come from, and what their relationship is supposed to be became a study about the meaning of love. How does an autistic woman express that emotion? Not that well—tho’ she tries very hard to express her feelings. Her obsessive-compulsive fixations cause an emotional upheaval that is overwhelming not only for her, but also for the recipient of her attention. Her sketchbooks are filled with the portraits of the people in her life who she loves, Lenore (her mother), Whitley (her father), Helena (her half-sister), Guthrie (who is her step-brother from her father’s previous marriage), and her friend, Sylvester. The quirk to her autism is her keen observation of faces and expressions—while she may not respond appropriately to the emotions of others, she’s studying them all the time, and is conscious of what is conveyed by an individual’s expressions. Often, the portraits become entangled in a mesh of pencil lines—random marks made and followed and will go on to the next page filling the paper edge to edge—these drawings are her natural self-expression, but because she’s never been encouraged to focus on making art from her own ideas, she doesn’t see their importance.

These issues were the basic backbone of the book, the rest evolved over time. The strangest things happen while writing a book—a whole lot of “unexpected” emerges from the fertile ground of the primary source of the story. It always amazes me where the original idea takes me, it all seems so simple at first, then there’s this beautiful sense of wonder that occurs as pieces fall into place, I go with the flow because it feels right—it’s truly magical how it happens. This book turned out to be a bigger, far more complex story than I initially imagined, and there were times I feared I took on something too big. It surprises me that I wrote it in that “I really wrote this book!” sort of way. I’m a little bit partial to The Fractured Hues of White Light—I think “she’s” my favorite novel because it was so challenging to write it.

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My thoughts regarding Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut…I’ve been meaning to read this one for a very long time cuz I do love reading Vonnegut for a dose of something different, so I’m just getting around to it…I loved it. No surprise that.
(The first line of first page.) All this happened, more or less.
So it goes. Fatalist, but not defeatist. You have to laugh at yourself or you’d cry your eyes out if you didn’t…am I wrong? 
Vonnegut, what a quirky guy, he was our late end of the 20th Century Mark Twain—the biting humor can make my eyes water—if only I could be so adroit in my observations of the world—I try, really I do. I just love his way of telling it like it is and then going over the edge of reality into aliens and time traveling. Was it all about PSTD—surviving as a POW in Germany during the bombing of Dresden is nightmarish enough—why not?
 Whatever, sometimes a writer has to do what a writer has to do to tell the story, making up shit as we go along, and throw in a few aliens to make a point— 
So it goes—this phrase occurs 106 times (Don’t be silly, I didn’t count them, I discovered that bit ‘o trivial trivia on the internet.) There were times I wanted to run screaming into the night only because he’s right. And it’s because he’s right and has the audacity to bite the reader in the nose one time too many with truths in disguise of fiction that this book is very often “banned” for its being indecent, anti-Christian—irreverent in its relevance, if that makes any sense. Banning books because of their content makes no sense to me whatsoever—(come on, ban one of my books!) Just that it is still considered controversial sings its impertinence to be timeless. Individuals (or groups) who initiate the banning of certain books are insecure in their beliefs and just can’t stand someone else having an opinion that goes against their grain—get a hold of yourself. Please. It’s only a book—a book for goodness sake—not just any book—shhh, listen, hear the words? It’s Slaughterhouse-Five.
 So it goes.

My thoughts regarding Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut…I’ve been meaning to read this one for a very long time cuz I do love reading Vonnegut for a dose of something different, so I’m just getting around to it…I loved it. No surprise that.

(The first line of first page.) All this happened, more or less.

So it goes. Fatalist, but not defeatist. You have to laugh at yourself or you’d cry your eyes out if you didn’t…am I wrong?

Vonnegut, what a quirky guy, he was our late end of the 20th Century Mark Twain—the biting humor can make my eyes water—if only I could be so adroit in my observations of the world—I try, really I do. I just love his way of telling it like it is and then going over the edge of reality into aliens and time traveling. Was it all about PSTD—surviving as a POW in Germany during the bombing of Dresden is nightmarish enough—why not?

 Whatever, sometimes a writer has to do what a writer has to do to tell the story, making up shit as we go along, and throw in a few aliens to make a point—

So it goes—this phrase occurs 106 times (Don’t be silly, I didn’t count them, I discovered that bit ‘o trivial trivia on the internet.) There were times I wanted to run screaming into the night only because he’s right. And it’s because he’s right and has the audacity to bite the reader in the nose one time too many with truths in disguise of fiction that this book is very often “banned” for its being indecent, anti-Christian—irreverent in its relevance, if that makes any sense. Banning books because of their content makes no sense to me whatsoever—(come on, ban one of my books!) Just that it is still considered controversial sings its impertinence to be timeless. Individuals (or groups) who initiate the banning of certain books are insecure in their beliefs and just can’t stand someone else having an opinion that goes against their grain—get a hold of yourself. Please. It’s only a book—a book for goodness sake—not just any book—shhh, listen, hear the words? It’s Slaughterhouse-Five.

 So it goes.

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My thoughts after reading Waiting for the Barbarians by J. M. Coetzee


The Barbarians are us—how many times do the people with power go out to the wilderness and feel compelled to conquer and dominate—and then dare to torture and humiliate innocent people—and then—only then—when it happens to them (justly deserved, what goes around comes around, baby), they are appalled by the cruelty that humans are capable of when unchecked—the rule of law and justice ignored.
Waiting for the Barbarians is a simple story—yet with incredible depth that will shake you to your core—you’d have to be heartless not to be moved. I flinched a great deal—immersed in sadness—the writing is gorgeous—there is beauty in ugliness when it’s done right.  The Magistrate of an outpost of an unnamed land that is part of the simply named Empire, the world is obviously described by its landscape—the oasis, the desert, the lake, the reeds, the mountains—the people mostly unnamed, the girl, the child, the grandson of the cook—of course the cook, only Colonel Joll, an official from the Third Bureau of the Civil Guard from the Capital, is named. He’s the bad guy you see—made bad ass because his main feature happens to be the sunglasses he wears—the obstructed view into his eyes makes him unnerving and the reference to how these new inventions prevent wrinkles around the eyes. He’s arrogant and vain, never a good sign. The main character, referred to only as the Magistrate, is an elder, he knows the people, the town, this land, he has an interest in culture and artifacts found in the ruins, and he has an understanding of the aboriginals and the nomad “barbarians” that no one from the Capital could possibly comprehend as they do not share in the experience. The Magistrate soon finds himself a victim of his knowledge, of his experience, of his interests, and of his serenity. He is accused of disloyalty—treason. The human spirit can be broken and the body abused beyond recognition, yet life goes on in spite of pain, in spite of horrors that no human should have to ever endure.
It seemed troubling to me to be reading this book while the world we live in is currently so full of unrest, Ukraine, Syria, Palestine, Israel, Iraq, our border with Mexico is a landscape of human struggle, and within our own United States—an Empire in its own right with far reaching influence all over the world—there is unrest in a Missouri community called Ferguson in which a white police officer shot and killed a black teenager one summer night—initially because he was walking in the middle of the street, drawing attention to himself—a senseless death. No matter what he had allegedly done before or during the incident that wound up taking his life, Michael Brown did not deserve to die like that—not like that. No one does.
The Barbarians are us—humans consciously do harm to another human being if they feel it is just—justice. Justice is blind—and sometimes, she looks the other way when she catches a glimpse from under the blindfold—the rule of law manipulated by those in power. It’s terrifying because the power can shift and suddenly the good guys are bad guys and the ones formerly known as bad guys are the good guys, and suddenly, life is not so simple. The Barbarians are at the gate—it depends on who you are, who the “barbarians” are in your eyes—in your mind.
First I get lies, you see—this is what happens—first lies, then pressure, then more lies, then more pressure, then the break, then more pressure, then the truth…Pain is truth; all else is subject to doubt…The Empire does not require that its servants love each other, merely that they perform their duty. P. 6
I am a country magistrate, a responsible official in the service of the Empire, serving out my days on this lazy frontier, waiting to retire…When I pass away I hope to merit three lines of small print in the Imperial gazette. I have not asked for more than a quiet life in quiet times. P. 9
The space about us here is merely space, no meaner or grander than the space above the shacks and tenements and temples and offices of the capital. Space is space, life is life, everywhere the same. P. 18
I know somewhat too much; and from this knowledge, once one has been infected, there seems to be no recovering. I ought never to have taken my lantern to see what was going on in the hut by the granary. On the other hand, there was no way, once I had picked up the lantern, for me to put it down again. The knot loops in upon itself; I cannot find the end. P. 23

My thoughts after reading Waiting for the Barbarians by J. M. Coetzee

The Barbarians are us—how many times do the people with power go out to the wilderness and feel compelled to conquer and dominate—and then dare to torture and humiliate innocent people—and then—only then—when it happens to them (justly deserved, what goes around comes around, baby), they are appalled by the cruelty that humans are capable of when unchecked—the rule of law and justice ignored.

Waiting for the Barbarians is a simple story—yet with incredible depth that will shake you to your core—you’d have to be heartless not to be moved. I flinched a great deal—immersed in sadness—the writing is gorgeous—there is beauty in ugliness when it’s done right.  The Magistrate of an outpost of an unnamed land that is part of the simply named Empire, the world is obviously described by its landscape—the oasis, the desert, the lake, the reeds, the mountains—the people mostly unnamed, the girl, the child, the grandson of the cook—of course the cook, only Colonel Joll, an official from the Third Bureau of the Civil Guard from the Capital, is named. He’s the bad guy you see—made bad ass because his main feature happens to be the sunglasses he wears—the obstructed view into his eyes makes him unnerving and the reference to how these new inventions prevent wrinkles around the eyes. He’s arrogant and vain, never a good sign. The main character, referred to only as the Magistrate, is an elder, he knows the people, the town, this land, he has an interest in culture and artifacts found in the ruins, and he has an understanding of the aboriginals and the nomad “barbarians” that no one from the Capital could possibly comprehend as they do not share in the experience. The Magistrate soon finds himself a victim of his knowledge, of his experience, of his interests, and of his serenity. He is accused of disloyalty—treason. The human spirit can be broken and the body abused beyond recognition, yet life goes on in spite of pain, in spite of horrors that no human should have to ever endure.

It seemed troubling to me to be reading this book while the world we live in is currently so full of unrest, Ukraine, Syria, Palestine, Israel, Iraq, our border with Mexico is a landscape of human struggle, and within our own United States—an Empire in its own right with far reaching influence all over the world—there is unrest in a Missouri community called Ferguson in which a white police officer shot and killed a black teenager one summer night—initially because he was walking in the middle of the street, drawing attention to himself—a senseless death. No matter what he had allegedly done before or during the incident that wound up taking his life, Michael Brown did not deserve to die like that—not like that. No one does.

The Barbarians are us—humans consciously do harm to another human being if they feel it is just—justice. Justice is blind—and sometimes, she looks the other way when she catches a glimpse from under the blindfold—the rule of law manipulated by those in power. It’s terrifying because the power can shift and suddenly the good guys are bad guys and the ones formerly known as bad guys are the good guys, and suddenly, life is not so simple. The Barbarians are at the gate—it depends on who you are, who the “barbarians” are in your eyes—in your mind.

First I get lies, you see—this is what happens—first lies, then pressure, then more lies, then more pressure, then the break, then more pressure, then the truthPain is truth; all else is subject to doubt…The Empire does not require that its servants love each other, merely that they perform their duty. P. 6

I am a country magistrate, a responsible official in the service of the Empire, serving out my days on this lazy frontier, waiting to retire…When I pass away I hope to merit three lines of small print in the Imperial gazette. I have not asked for more than a quiet life in quiet times. P. 9

The space about us here is merely space, no meaner or grander than the space above the shacks and tenements and temples and offices of the capital. Space is space, life is life, everywhere the same. P. 18

I know somewhat too much; and from this knowledge, once one has been infected, there seems to be no recovering. I ought never to have taken my lantern to see what was going on in the hut by the granary. On the other hand, there was no way, once I had picked up the lantern, for me to put it down again. The knot loops in upon itself; I cannot find the end. P. 23

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My thoughts about Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
Invisible Cities is full of a poetic sense of place—presented as Marco Polo’s detailed accounts about cities in Kublai Kahn’s crumbling empire—I see them as I read them, each chapter contains truths gleaned from the observations of the human experience. It is a book of layers—intricate, sedimentary points of view—cities constructed of the ephemeral and ethereal –cities and memory, cities and desire, and signs, and names—thin cities, trading cities, continuous cities, hidden cities—cities and eyes, cities and the sky, cities and the dead—lyrical and imaginative. Each peopled with the living and dead, rich and poor, happy or sad, and each person experiences life based on what they have going on within their own skin. The details are extraordinary and lovely—even the ugly is tenderly described, there can be beauty in ugliness if you tell it right.
John Gardner called Calvino a Fabulist—one of the best—I have to agree, he knew how to tell a good story or depending on the way you look at it—a darn good lie. Kublai Kahn called out Marco Polo at one point none too happy about being fed bullshit—Marco Polo calmly and ever so politely told him to shut the fuck up and listen—or not. He didn’t have to tell him anything, he could go anywhere to tell his stories, so the Great Khan let him continue as they mused together about their own existence and perused maps of the world as they knew it—or not. (Yes, it can make your head hurt thinking about it.)
Goodness knows many stories are truths fed through veins full of the blood of lies. Calvino trespasses beyond the conventional telling of a story, running headlong into meadows and streets of metaphysical experiences—the uncertainty of existence, the limitations of reality do make it seem pointless at times, yet the whimsy of exploring outside the usual parameters and delving into the imagination is a beautiful thing if you can grasp it—hold on tight—you are now a mental traveler, step off the sidewalk, walk in the grass—enjoy the view, it is profound standing on the cliff edge of the things you never seen before—or thought. The intensity of Calvino’s writing is for dreamers who are awake—more awake than others—sometimes too much knowledge paralyzes our natural innocence—even as I read, I heard voices of naysayers squawking , “No, that’s not how it is—where it is—what it is—where are you going with this? Come on, man, knock me over the head with the truth of what was…” Sometimes reading a good book is about trust. I have learned to step into a Calvino book as if ignorant of everything, and simply believed—there is more joy this way.  A good writer is a master of telling yarns. A yarn—I always loved that term—imagining that a story is a big ball of yarn, twisted and pulled, some layers tight, some loose, overlapping every which way, burying the beginning, but the end is loose and likely to come unraveled if not tucked in neatly or already attached to the knitting needle—taking shape. A ball of yarn—a novel in the making.
…Isidora, therefore, is the city of his dreams: with one difference. The dreamed-of city contained him as a young man; he arrives at Isidora in his old age. In the square there is a wall where the old men sit and watch the young go by; he is seated in a row with them. Desires are already memories.—Page 8
It is the mood of the beholder which gives the city of Zemrude its form. If you go by whistling, your nose a-tilt behind the whistle, you will know it from below: window sills, flapping curtains, fountains. If you walk along hanging your head, your nails dug into the palms of your hands, your gaze will be held on the ground, in the gutters, the manhole covers, the fish scales, wastepaper. You cannot say that one aspect of the city is truer than the other…—Page 66
In Raissa, life is not happy. People wring their hands as they walk in the streets, curse the crying children, lean on the railings over the river and press their fists to their temples…Inside the houses it is worse, and you do not have to enter to learn this: in the summer the windows resound with quarrels and broken dishes…And yet, in Raissa, at every moment there is a child in a window who laughs seeing a dog that has jumped on a shed to bite into a piece of polenta dropped by a stonemason who has shouted from the top of the scaffolding, “Darling, let me dip into it,” to a young serving maid…Also in Raissa, city of sadness, there runs an invisible thread that binds one living being to another for a moment, then unravels, then is stretched again between moving points as it draws new and rapid patterns so that at every second the unhappy city contains a happy city unaware of its own existence. –these four pieces are smatterings from pages 148-149.
In Beersheba’s beliefs there is an element of truth and one of error. It is true that the city is accompanied by two projections of itself, one celestial and one infernal; but the citizens are mistaken about their consistency…This is the celestial city, and in its heavens long-tailed comets fly past, released to rotate in space from the only free and happy action of the citizens of Beersheba, a city which, only when it shits, is not miserly, calculating, greedy.—these two pieces are from pages 112-113
From my words you will have reached the conclusion that the real Berenice is a temporal succession of different cities, alternately just and unjust. But what I wanted to warn you about is something else: all the future Berenices are already present in this instant, wrapped one within the other, confined, crammed, inextricable.—Page 163
I could fiddle around with more quotes from dog-eared pages, but I will stop here—I highly recommend this book and Calvino’s other works just because they are good for you—for us to read and enjoy them for what they are—he has left this world behind, but he left us with these beautiful treasures. What a gift he was given, and what a gift he gave to us.

My thoughts about Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

Invisible Cities is full of a poetic sense of place—presented as Marco Polo’s detailed accounts about cities in Kublai Kahn’s crumbling empire—I see them as I read them, each chapter contains truths gleaned from the observations of the human experience. It is a book of layers—intricate, sedimentary points of view—cities constructed of the ephemeral and ethereal –cities and memory, cities and desire, and signs, and names—thin cities, trading cities, continuous cities, hidden cities—cities and eyes, cities and the sky, cities and the dead—lyrical and imaginative. Each peopled with the living and dead, rich and poor, happy or sad, and each person experiences life based on what they have going on within their own skin. The details are extraordinary and lovely—even the ugly is tenderly described, there can be beauty in ugliness if you tell it right.

John Gardner called Calvino a Fabulist—one of the best—I have to agree, he knew how to tell a good story or depending on the way you look at it—a darn good lie. Kublai Kahn called out Marco Polo at one point none too happy about being fed bullshit—Marco Polo calmly and ever so politely told him to shut the fuck up and listen—or not. He didn’t have to tell him anything, he could go anywhere to tell his stories, so the Great Khan let him continue as they mused together about their own existence and perused maps of the world as they knew it—or not. (Yes, it can make your head hurt thinking about it.)

Goodness knows many stories are truths fed through veins full of the blood of lies. Calvino trespasses beyond the conventional telling of a story, running headlong into meadows and streets of metaphysical experiences—the uncertainty of existence, the limitations of reality do make it seem pointless at times, yet the whimsy of exploring outside the usual parameters and delving into the imagination is a beautiful thing if you can grasp it—hold on tight—you are now a mental traveler, step off the sidewalk, walk in the grass—enjoy the view, it is profound standing on the cliff edge of the things you never seen before—or thought. The intensity of Calvino’s writing is for dreamers who are awake—more awake than others—sometimes too much knowledge paralyzes our natural innocence—even as I read, I heard voices of naysayers squawking , “No, that’s not how it is—where it is—what it is—where are you going with this? Come on, man, knock me over the head with the truth of what was…” Sometimes reading a good book is about trust. I have learned to step into a Calvino book as if ignorant of everything, and simply believed—there is more joy this way.  A good writer is a master of telling yarns. A yarn—I always loved that term—imagining that a story is a big ball of yarn, twisted and pulled, some layers tight, some loose, overlapping every which way, burying the beginning, but the end is loose and likely to come unraveled if not tucked in neatly or already attached to the knitting needle—taking shape. A ball of yarn—a novel in the making.

…Isidora, therefore, is the city of his dreams: with one difference. The dreamed-of city contained him as a young man; he arrives at Isidora in his old age. In the square there is a wall where the old men sit and watch the young go by; he is seated in a row with them. Desires are already memories.—Page 8

It is the mood of the beholder which gives the city of Zemrude its form. If you go by whistling, your nose a-tilt behind the whistle, you will know it from below: window sills, flapping curtains, fountains. If you walk along hanging your head, your nails dug into the palms of your hands, your gaze will be held on the ground, in the gutters, the manhole covers, the fish scales, wastepaper. You cannot say that one aspect of the city is truer than the other…—Page 66

In Raissa, life is not happy. People wring their hands as they walk in the streets, curse the crying children, lean on the railings over the river and press their fists to their temples…Inside the houses it is worse, and you do not have to enter to learn this: in the summer the windows resound with quarrels and broken dishes…And yet, in Raissa, at every moment there is a child in a window who laughs seeing a dog that has jumped on a shed to bite into a piece of polenta dropped by a stonemason who has shouted from the top of the scaffolding, “Darling, let me dip into it,” to a young serving maid…Also in Raissa, city of sadness, there runs an invisible thread that binds one living being to another for a moment, then unravels, then is stretched again between moving points as it draws new and rapid patterns so that at every second the unhappy city contains a happy city unaware of its own existence. –these four pieces are smatterings from pages 148-149.

In Beersheba’s beliefs there is an element of truth and one of error. It is true that the city is accompanied by two projections of itself, one celestial and one infernal; but the citizens are mistaken about their consistency…This is the celestial city, and in its heavens long-tailed comets fly past, released to rotate in space from the only free and happy action of the citizens of Beersheba, a city which, only when it shits, is not miserly, calculating, greedy.—these two pieces are from pages 112-113

From my words you will have reached the conclusion that the real Berenice is a temporal succession of different cities, alternately just and unjust. But what I wanted to warn you about is something else: all the future Berenices are already present in this instant, wrapped one within the other, confined, crammed, inextricable.—Page 163

I could fiddle around with more quotes from dog-eared pages, but I will stop here—I highly recommend this book and Calvino’s other works just because they are good for you—for us to read and enjoy them for what they are—he has left this world behind, but he left us with these beautiful treasures. What a gift he was given, and what a gift he gave to us.

Photo
My thoughts about Bone by Fae Myenne Ng
We were a family of three girls. By Chinese standards, that wasn’t lucky. In Chinatown, everyone knew our story. Outsiders jerked their chins, looked at us, shook their heads. We heard things. (p. 1)
Ona, the middle daughter, jumped off the Nam. Leila, her older sister, journeys backwards in her memory about what happened in Salmon Alley, trying to grasp the why—how come? The story is told in a manner that is like a non-linear slide through time, reading the past through Lei’s recollections—or perhaps, the book is in order if it is read starting with the last chapter, I only think of this because Chinese is read back to front/ right to left, if this was intentional, it is an provocative element for telling the story. Either way—it is unsettling to arrive at the beginning of the next chapter and realize it isn’t the continuation of the one previous (which some readers have complained that it’s annoying—I’m flexible as a reader so I’m not likely to get too ruffled over such things, I caught on quick that it is meant to be so.) This is how I experienced the book—life is befuddling—we muddle through, some of us do a little better than others, but not everyone leaves this world unscathed—not everyone has the coping skills to handle most of the shit that life slings at us, much of our time is spent dwelling on what happened to get us to HERE, the present. The past is our bones, our foundation—for good or bad. Our minds wander and trip through memories of a bunch of shit we cannot change—we live with it and move on to the new version of normal.
To have a sister (or daughter) commit suicide is an unthinkable loss—that has to be one of the harshest losses for a family to endure. For the loved ones, there is no answer why, not really. For Ona to suddenly make the choice to end her life—there was no time to think about how taking her life will affect those left behind—chances are, if she did think of it, she wouldn’t have jumped. Who knows how many times she was on the edge before she finally stepped off. No one knew, no one had a clue, no one expected it. She’s gone and all that’s left are questions. The whole family struggles with explanation and understanding—they are two distinct constructs of comprehension—one is a revelation, the other a perception—the explanation would be painful if Ona herself documented her reasons in a note—something concrete that could be pointed to THERE, the reason, but there is no explanation. The understanding—this is a sympathetic discovery that each of them must face on their own terms as individuals. The family is left with tatters of old world superstitions such as the bones of Leon’s “paper father” that have not been put to rest in China as promised or it is a punishment for Mah’s infidelity. Family strife/ family love—families travel on journeys both pleasant and unpleasant—it is part of the human experience.
Here’s another bone for the gossipmongers…(p. 1)
I must note here, the symbolic meaning of bones—mortality (of course) and then there are our skeletons in the closet—but it is truth as in the truest part of ourselves that are lasting, our bones will last long after our flesh is gone. Our bones are the memories that we leave behind.
“To bones.”
“Bones,” I repeated. This was a funny that got sad, and knowing it, I kept laughing… (page 30)

“Bones are sweeter than you know,” she [Mah] always said…”Clean bones…no waste.” (page 31)

Bone is spare—concise language, it is sad and sweet, it’s beautiful.

My thoughts about Bone by Fae Myenne Ng

We were a family of three girls. By Chinese standards, that wasn’t lucky. In Chinatown, everyone knew our story. Outsiders jerked their chins, looked at us, shook their heads. We heard things. (p. 1)

Ona, the middle daughter, jumped off the Nam. Leila, her older sister, journeys backwards in her memory about what happened in Salmon Alley, trying to grasp the why—how come? The story is told in a manner that is like a non-linear slide through time, reading the past through Lei’s recollections—or perhaps, the book is in order if it is read starting with the last chapter, I only think of this because Chinese is read back to front/ right to left, if this was intentional, it is an provocative element for telling the story. Either way—it is unsettling to arrive at the beginning of the next chapter and realize it isn’t the continuation of the one previous (which some readers have complained that it’s annoying—I’m flexible as a reader so I’m not likely to get too ruffled over such things, I caught on quick that it is meant to be so.) This is how I experienced the book—life is befuddling—we muddle through, some of us do a little better than others, but not everyone leaves this world unscathed—not everyone has the coping skills to handle most of the shit that life slings at us, much of our time is spent dwelling on what happened to get us to HERE, the present. The past is our bones, our foundation—for good or bad. Our minds wander and trip through memories of a bunch of shit we cannot change—we live with it and move on to the new version of normal.

To have a sister (or daughter) commit suicide is an unthinkable loss—that has to be one of the harshest losses for a family to endure. For the loved ones, there is no answer why, not really. For Ona to suddenly make the choice to end her life—there was no time to think about how taking her life will affect those left behind—chances are, if she did think of it, she wouldn’t have jumped. Who knows how many times she was on the edge before she finally stepped off. No one knew, no one had a clue, no one expected it. She’s gone and all that’s left are questions. The whole family struggles with explanation and understanding—they are two distinct constructs of comprehension—one is a revelation, the other a perception—the explanation would be painful if Ona herself documented her reasons in a note—something concrete that could be pointed to THERE, the reason, but there is no explanation. The understanding—this is a sympathetic discovery that each of them must face on their own terms as individuals. The family is left with tatters of old world superstitions such as the bones of Leon’s “paper father” that have not been put to rest in China as promised or it is a punishment for Mah’s infidelity. Family strife/ family love—families travel on journeys both pleasant and unpleasant—it is part of the human experience.

Here’s another bone for the gossipmongers…(p. 1)

I must note here, the symbolic meaning of bones—mortality (of course) and then there are our skeletons in the closet—but it is truth as in the truest part of ourselves that are lasting, our bones will last long after our flesh is gone. Our bones are the memories that we leave behind.

“To bones.”

“Bones,” I repeated. This was a funny that got sad, and knowing it, I kept laughing… (page 30)

“Bones are sweeter than you know,” she [Mah] always said…”Clean bones…no waste.” (page 31)

Bone is spare—concise language, it is sad and sweet, it’s beautiful.

Photo
Yup, this is my little book…independently published in 2009, Dusty Waters, A Ghost Story is an interesting girl… Occasionally I will “channel” my character, Dusty Waters, the guitar slinging folksinger born in the  bookend years of the Boomer Generation…so last night, I wrote a poe-em in the vein of her righteous indignation…I call it The F-Bomb and it goes like this:


Bitch—and I call you “Bitch” with affection, ya dig?
Let me tell you this—this bit of wisdom—
when you reach fifty-two years old
you will have seen, heard, and experienced enough
things to make you drop an F-bomb before 9AM,
maybe earlier than that, depending on what it is. I swear,
ever since Watergate, I can spit nails, and I was just
a youngin’ then—so imagine what I must spit now since
9/11, right? Don’t get me started on that noise—I swear
my head can just about pop off my body sometimes—I’m
sorry to say, it hasn’t gotten better. I’m sorry for you cuz
shit is fucked up and stuff, so by the time you’re
fifty-two years old, I can’t imagine—I’ll be long gone by then,
moved on to my next thing—while you are stuck here with the
mess of life, such as it is. Let me warn you, you are more vulnerable
as you get older—it isn’t just age or illness that takes you out,
it’s the young who unwittingly come in and take from you
everything you’ve worked so hard for all your adult life—
twenty-five or thirty years of experience—service—
easily undermined by someone so new they squeak when
you run your finger down ‘em—not that I’m complaining or anything,
Bitch—I’ll tell you now, I’d rather die with my boots on than sitting
behind a desk being a ‘point n’ click’ despot with nothing
better to do than shrug their shoulders, roll their eyes,
crinkle up their nose, make excuses, and become argumentative
when they can’t answer a fucking question. My question. 
Fuck it anyway—it’s not important. I’ve worked hard all my life—
I have kicked ass as a one-woman army—and I have lived a good one
in spite of the downs that can outnumber the ups on any given day.
Life is precarious enough, so, fuck people like that—they are negligible
debris in the grand scheme of things. Seriously. It doesn’t matter.
Don’t dwell on the negative—grab onto the positive and hold on tight.
In my fifty-two years, I’ve known that what matters is
my corner of the world, my family, and my home are my wealth.
Bitch, I do hope you can have a place to call home—
a patch of the world of your own—your own mind.
Know thyself—as they say—ya dig?
From one bitch to another, be good to yourself.
Be strong. Be yourself. Love and love hard—yourself,
your family, your home. Be at peace.
Drop an F-bomb as needed so your head
doesn’t pop off your body—trust me on this—no one will
show up to wash your mouth out with soap.

LJWR-8/1/2014

Yup, this is my little book…independently published in 2009, Dusty Waters, A Ghost Story is an interesting girl… Occasionally I will “channel” my character, Dusty Waters, the guitar slinging folksinger born in the  bookend years of the Boomer Generation…so last night, I wrote a poe-em in the vein of her righteous indignation…I call it The F-Bomb and it goes like this:

Bitch—and I call you “Bitch” with affection, ya dig?

Let me tell you this—this bit of wisdom—

when you reach fifty-two years old

you will have seen, heard, and experienced enough

things to make you drop an F-bomb before 9AM,

maybe earlier than that, depending on what it is. I swear,

ever since Watergate, I can spit nails, and I was just

a youngin’ then—so imagine what I must spit now since

9/11, right? Don’t get me started on that noise—I swear

my head can just about pop off my body sometimes—I’m

sorry to say, it hasn’t gotten better. I’m sorry for you cuz

shit is fucked up and stuff, so by the time you’re

fifty-two years old, I can’t imagine—I’ll be long gone by then,

moved on to my next thing—while you are stuck here with the

mess of life, such as it is. Let me warn you, you are more vulnerable

as you get older—it isn’t just age or illness that takes you out,

it’s the young who unwittingly come in and take from you

everything you’ve worked so hard for all your adult life—

twenty-five or thirty years of experience—service—

easily undermined by someone so new they squeak when

you run your finger down ‘em—not that I’m complaining or anything,

Bitch—I’ll tell you now, I’d rather die with my boots on than sitting

behind a desk being a ‘point n’ click’ despot with nothing

better to do than shrug their shoulders, roll their eyes,

crinkle up their nose, make excuses, and become argumentative

when they can’t answer a fucking question. My question.

Fuck it anyway—it’s not important. I’ve worked hard all my life—

I have kicked ass as a one-woman army—and I have lived a good one

in spite of the downs that can outnumber the ups on any given day.

Life is precarious enough, so, fuck people like that—they are negligible

debris in the grand scheme of things. Seriously. It doesn’t matter.

Don’t dwell on the negative—grab onto the positive and hold on tight.

In my fifty-two years, I’ve known that what matters is

my corner of the world, my family, and my home are my wealth.

Bitch, I do hope you can have a place to call home—

a patch of the world of your own—your own mind.

Know thyself—as they say—ya dig?

From one bitch to another, be good to yourself.

Be strong. Be yourself. Love and love hard—yourself,

your family, your home. Be at peace.

Drop an F-bomb as needed so your head

doesn’t pop off your body—trust me on this—no one will

show up to wash your mouth out with soap.

LJWR-8/1/2014

Photo
The Grandmother Tree, 7/27/2014 
She stands in our front yard like a greeter…grand old lady tree, I dug out this old poem that I wrote many years ago, and polished it up a little, it’s still a work in progress…I’m sure it will continue to change in the next few days…
The Yggdrasil
 See it—silhouetted against the cloudless sky—
its posture resembles the mythical
Yggdrasil. The old tree stands alone,
forever green, its mammoth girth a pillar of
the universe—a warden—a sentinel of time.
Its sheltering branches and nurturing roots
take hold of insatiable imaginations on a
summer afternoon. Shade on a hot day—
hours spent playing beneath dew drenched leaves.
Imagine! The curvature of this low branch, becomes
a dragon’s long sinewy body—that one
forked above are the crowning antlers of
a proud stag—and there, this other one
soars wide to become an eagle’s wingspan, the
leaves are feathers ruffled by the wind; its
fierce eye the remaining knot of a lost limb.
Volumes of stories invented—plots founded on
countless summer afternoons spent there. Its
lichen-dressed bark scraped clean
by restless sneakers clambering upward—
nooks and crannies, the hand and foot holds,
and small places to hide and dream.
The ground is matted with twigs and leaves,
gnarled roots exposed, the soil worn to a
fine powder from seasons of feet running
round and round, the perfect chairs for
weary bottoms, a rest stop
along the way home, a good place for reading
a book picked out from the library. Look here,
the keloid scars formed by the timeless
names of lovers—hearts with arrows—
fleeting memories carved into resilient flesh—
the trunk twisted with the stretchmarks of life.
We grow—the tree grows. Time to go home—
see you tomorrow—maybe. Years of
tomorrows, seasons pass, storms do their damage—
the tree compensates—slow deliberation, determination.
Shimmering light and shadows, dapples—
a constant reminder of time.
Summer must have a tree such as this
to remember—a home base for poetry later.
 LJWR-8/1/2014

The Grandmother Tree, 7/27/2014

She stands in our front yard like a greeter…grand old lady tree, I dug out this old poem that I wrote many years ago, and polished it up a little, it’s still a work in progress…I’m sure it will continue to change in the next few days…

The Yggdrasil

 See it—silhouetted against the cloudless sky—

its posture resembles the mythical

Yggdrasil. The old tree stands alone,

forever green, its mammoth girth a pillar of

the universe—a warden—a sentinel of time.

Its sheltering branches and nurturing roots

take hold of insatiable imaginations on a

summer afternoon. Shade on a hot day—

hours spent playing beneath dew drenched leaves.

Imagine! The curvature of this low branch, becomes

a dragon’s long sinewy body—that one

forked above are the crowning antlers of

a proud stag—and there, this other one

soars wide to become an eagle’s wingspan, the

leaves are feathers ruffled by the wind; its

fierce eye the remaining knot of a lost limb.

Volumes of stories invented—plots founded on

countless summer afternoons spent there. Its

lichen-dressed bark scraped clean

by restless sneakers clambering upward—

nooks and crannies, the hand and foot holds,

and small places to hide and dream.

The ground is matted with twigs and leaves,

gnarled roots exposed, the soil worn to a

fine powder from seasons of feet running

round and round, the perfect chairs for

weary bottoms, a rest stop

along the way home, a good place for reading

a book picked out from the library. Look here,

the keloid scars formed by the timeless

names of lovers—hearts with arrows—

fleeting memories carved into resilient flesh—

the trunk twisted with the stretchmarks of life.

We grow—the tree grows. Time to go home—

see you tomorrow—maybe. Years of

tomorrows, seasons pass, storms do their damage—

the tree compensates—slow deliberation, determination.

Shimmering light and shadows, dapples—

a constant reminder of time.

Summer must have a tree such as this

to remember—a home base for poetry later.

 LJWR-8/1/2014

Photoset

My thoughts about Wolf Solent by John Cowper Powys

Powys is one of the greatest novelists that not everybody knows about—I always make an effort to press him upon receptive readers—I’m a believer, a bookish zealot—I’m always more than happy to spread the word of literary awesomeness, I do realize that not every reader is going to dig Powys. Books by Powys have a knack to haunt a reader long after they’re done. His writing is magical, beautiful, rhapsodic, breathtaking, meandering, timeless—very dense classic prose. He’s in the company of Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Proust, Hardy, D. H. Lawrence—Powys (dubbed by some as the Anti-Hemingway—which I find funny, I love “Papa” too—he is his own writing beast, Powys is another unique species of writer.) He’s a writer’s writer. With the generous spirit of Shakespearean shrewdness, he evokes an aged skepticism of everything, and yet a youthful gullibility about everything—it’s all very enchanting and lovely, and far too good to miss. In this contemporary world of instant gratification, it would be far too easy to neglect this master storyteller, and it would be a shame to forget him just because his writing is out of fashion.

One of the things that makes a Powys novel like Wolf Solent special is how he lays down a historical foundation that is based on legends. In all legends, there’s a grain of truth—the old hills and dells, moors and coastlines of Wales and England (in particular) have a history and mythology that have deep roots in the lives of the people who live within the covers of his books. The people—they are many and varied, the beautiful and ugly of humanity are all well represented. Pagans and Christians—philosophy and superstition overlap and separate—mingling and repelling—they co-exist with a feigned ignorance or have the willingness to overlook “the matter” out of politeness, and more times than not, they are blatant with their venom—gossiping the next chance meeting with an ear waiting to listen—creating their own legends from the bits of truth of what was muddied by their own perceptions. There’s an intensity of life that is palatable; life is complicated, yet it’s simple. The density of the writing is so absorbing, that’s what makes it so dang fascinating—he creates a sense of place and time, textured and sensual—decadent (in the best sense of the term.) The thing I love so much about his writing is that I have to be on my toes through all of it—my brain is slowly dining on every word, savoring every last bit to the end. I found it hard to put the book down some nights—and I was haunted by it until I picked it up again.

Wolf walks a lot (like the character Porius in another Powys novel of that name)—here, there, and everywhere—if I were his wife, Gerda, I would’ve slapped him silly for his random acts of disappearing—“Where the Hell have you been Mr. Solent? I gave you up as dead in a ditch somewhere along the road—get in here, sit, and have your tea.” (As it is long before the convenience of cell phones, give the nearest lad a ha’penny and have him run a message home at least! Ah, but he doesn’t think of doing that until near the end of the book.) I can’t blame Gerda at all for feeling as she did, a young wife finding herself married to this peculiar, distracted, but mostly harmless fool. He mentally wandered in a self-absorbed state, what he called “sinking into his soul”, also known as his “mythology” a secret name for his secret habit of daydreaming—it is a carryover from childhood that appalled his mother, but his father encouraged. Daydreams are a beautiful thing to have access to—they feed the creative mind all sorts of goodies, but it can be detrimental for an adult to go about in a fantasy world. Absentmindedness is quaint to a point, after a while, people can become pretty annoyed when your distracted manner is no longer entertaining as you are causing inconvenience—one day you have your head in the clouds, the next day it changes to having your head firmly stuck up your ass (there’s a time and place for everything, you see.) Wolf’s walking seems directionless, yet he follows his nose like a canine; examining his internal world and then becoming suddenly enamored by the world outside of himself— the verdant curve of a hill, the muddy stillness of a pond, the blue of the sky, and the golden meadow brimming with buttercups; body and soul, dreams and realities, within and without, life and death, good and evil—his thoughts often veering over the edge into the supernatural. The dead and buried (in particular, his father and the young Redfern) live on in memories and imaginings—laughing at the arrogance of the living.

Truth be told, the fool needed to grow up and get ahold of himself. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Wolf and his ‘mythology’, he cracked me up quite often—from the beginning, he got sacked from his teaching job in London for his “malice-dance” in which he just went off on an inappropriate verbal jaunt that had nothing to do with teaching History to the boys in his charge…

“He was telling his pupils quietly about Dean Swift; and all of a sudden some mental screen or lid or dam in his own mind completely collapsed and he found himself pouring forth a torrent of wild, indecent invectives upon every aspect of modern civilization.”p.2

This is the prevailing attitude throughout the book—he has something eating at him.

“He felt as though, with aeroplanes spying down upon every retreat like ubiquitous vultures, with the lanes invaded by iron-clad motors like colossal beetles, with no sea, no lake, no river, free from throbbing, thudding engines, the one thing most precious of all in the world was being steadily assassinated.” P.3

I agreed with him on most things, yet there were times I found his obsessive waffling over the flirtatious and sexy Gerda and the solemn and thoughtful Christie to be comical, bordering on absurd—he wanted his cake and eat it until it made him sick. The reality of Wolf’s life is invading and destroying his ‘mythology’—the being in a rut, teaching history to boys at the school for thirty years just irks him to no end—he longs to have financial independence to allow him to live comfortably and to have freedom. I certainly didn’t want to see him lose that lovely imaginativeness that was natural—instinctive, nigh innocent (yet not entirely), but it was clear that his behavior was becoming a concern by those who knew him. It isn’t every day that your father-in-law (a monument maker) indicates his concern by saying:

“Tis no comfort,” he remarked, “though I be the man I be for cossetting they jealous dead, to think that ‘in a time and half a time,’ as Scripture says, I’ll be chipping “Rest in the Lord” on me wone son-in-law’s moniment. But since us be talking snug and quiet, mister, on this sorrowful theme”—Mr. Torp’s voice assumed his undertaker’s tone, which long usage had rendered totally different from his normal one—“’twould be a mighty help, mister, to I, for a day to come, if ye’d gie us a tip as to what word—out of Book or out of plain speech—ye’d like best for I to put above ‘ee?” p. 466

As he moped around on his many walks, at times considering that maybe he should go drown himself in Lenty Pond as alluded by those who believed it to be his destiny, (I seriously felt concerned that he would!) I wished I could’ve advised him—“You should write a book of your own—you really need to.” If anything could possibly reset and settle his mind, it would be that—writing clears the decks of a busy mind that wanders. Writing is one of our most intimate acts of creativity, it can center one and it can unravel one—one can be rattled to the core by the act of writing, sometimes there’s nothing more startling than to write down the thoughts that haunt you to the point of something comparable to madness. Eventually, it does work out those bothersome bugs and gives focus. Then it’s nigh terrifying to share one’s own words on paper with anyone else because they are so personal—private. For example, when Wolf reads Christie’s writing that she had hidden away, she was pissed when she found out—his reading it ruined it for her, she wasn’t ready to have anyone read her thoughts. The eccentric poet, Jason Otter, shared his poetry with Wolf on many occasions, but when Wolf suggests that he should send them to London to be published, Jason became angry—feeling certain that the Londoners would laugh at his poetry. Anyway, I can only hope that Wolf came to writing later in life beyond the last page—that’s another thing that I love about this book, there is a sense that life goes on after the book ends. His walk through the meadow of buttercups was the most sublime event—he had changed, “grown up” in a manner of speaking—he may have lost his “mythology”, but he gained a new sight and insight. Once again, he reveled in taking notice of the smallest things such as the beauty of a snail as it went creeping along from a dock-leaf to the boards of the pigsty shed. Accepting the reality—“I am I”—“Forget and enjoy”—“ Endure or escape”—it was his body that saved him—for this, his spirit is grateful.

I simply adored this book and could easily read it again—I have a few bits here from some of the many dog-eared pages, and then I’m done with my wordy testimony…

 “Millions of miles of blue sky; and beyond that, millions of miles of sky that could scarcely be called blue or any other colour—pure  unalloyed emptiness, stretching outwards from where he sat—with his stick and coat opposite him—to no conceivable boundary or end!” p. 10

“Every time the hedge grew low, as they jogged along, every time a gate or a gap interrupted its green undulating rampart, he caught a glimpse of that great valley, gathering the twilight about it as a dying god might gather to his heart the cold, wet ashes of his last holocaust.” P. 25

“Nature was always prolific of signs and omens to his mind; and it had become a custom with him to keep a region of his intelligence alert and passive for a thousand whispers, hints, obscure intimations that came to him in this way. Why was it that a deep, obstinate resistance somewhere in his consciousness opposed itself to such a solution?” p 274

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My thoughts about The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon—it’s a very popular book, so there isn’t much more that I can add to it that hasn’t already been said, but I came away from it feeling good about its epic quality, it has just enough of a Gothic creepy edge to it to make it special—it’s a lovely book, read it, get lost in it, find and absorb all the good from it—and it’s got the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, what more can I ask for as a book lover?
"This is a place of mystery, Daniel, a sanctuary. Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down the pages, its spirit grows and strengthens. This place was already ancient when my father brought me here for the first time, many years ago. Perhaps as old as the city itself. Nobody knows for certain how long it has existed, or who created it. I will tell you what my father told me, though. When a library disappears, or a bookshop closes down, when a book is consigned to oblivion, those of us who know this place, its guardians, make sure that it gets here. In this place, books no longer remembered by anyone, books that are lost in time, live forever, waiting for the day when they will reach a new reader’s hands."  From page 5-6
This is the quote that caught me firmly into the teeth of this book—only because of my own life experience and emotional connection to books put me there. When I walk into antique shops, I go find their corners where there are old books and I search for ones that I must adopt—it always makes me sad to see them languishing, unread—being the imaginative person that I am, I feel these inanimate objects have an essence about them that is in a sense alive—a soul—it is the spirit of the person who wrote them, the person who bought them, the person who read them (loved them.)
I often look at all of the books in our personal library and wonder—“Will I ever get around to reading them again or reading the ones I haven’t read yet?” And then I sometimes go the extra step further to make it worse and wonder, “Who will take care of my books after I’m gone?” (Painful isn’t it?)
 



My thoughts about The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon—it’s a very popular book, so there isn’t much more that I can add to it that hasn’t already been said, but I came away from it feeling good about its epic quality, it has just enough of a Gothic creepy edge to it to make it special—it’s a lovely book, read it, get lost in it, find and absorb all the good from it—and it’s got the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, what more can I ask for as a book lover?

"This is a place of mystery, Daniel, a sanctuary. Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down the pages, its spirit grows and strengthens. This place was already ancient when my father brought me here for the first time, many years ago. Perhaps as old as the city itself. Nobody knows for certain how long it has existed, or who created it. I will tell you what my father told me, though. When a library disappears, or a bookshop closes down, when a book is consigned to oblivion, those of us who know this place, its guardians, make sure that it gets here. In this place, books no longer remembered by anyone, books that are lost in time, live forever, waiting for the day when they will reach a new reader’s hands."  From page 5-6

This is the quote that caught me firmly into the teeth of this book—only because of my own life experience and emotional connection to books put me there. When I walk into antique shops, I go find their corners where there are old books and I search for ones that I must adopt—it always makes me sad to see them languishing, unread—being the imaginative person that I am, I feel these inanimate objects have an essence about them that is in a sense alive—a soul—it is the spirit of the person who wrote them, the person who bought them, the person who read them (loved them.)

I often look at all of the books in our personal library and wonder—“Will I ever get around to reading them again or reading the ones I haven’t read yet?” And then I sometimes go the extra step further to make it worse and wonder, “Who will take care of my books after I’m gone?” (Painful isn’t it?)