Category Archives: book review

Ugly Christmas Sweaters and the Criticizing of Them

In the Midwest

where I spent my childhood and early youth, there is a great tradition of making fun of the exceptionally eye-bonking ski sweaters and Norwegian-middle-layer clothing that dads and grandads are given as presents less often than only neckties.

Yes, they are functional in the land of 100-degree-below-zero wind-chill. And they also work as defenders of your male virginity when you are in college in Iowa. But we make fun of them not out of derision, but of love. These are gifts, after all, that are given on winter birthdays and Christmas because the giver loves you. And the creative criticism of them is given only as a sign of appreciation for what they are truly for.

And if you tried to click on the X’s on this sweater of mine, and it did not immediately close on your screen, that’s because this one has special meaning. I didn’t get this as a Christmas gift. I inherited it from my father who died in November 2020. And it will keep my heart warm now until it falls apart, or until the time comes to pass it on to my own eldest son.

What…

this essay is actually about is the nature of good criticism.

The fact that this one is a red Christmas tree decorated with lawn flamingos is not the actual point. One has to look past the flaws and try to judge the effectiveness of how it achieves… or fails to achieve… its intended purpose… apparently to keep rats and small birds out of your yard… or from within a hundred yards of the thing.

And…

if I were to be offended by the revelation of Santa’s sexy black thong, then the thing to do as a proper critic is not to use my power to condemn it, but not to take up the critique of it at all. I mean, if you are actually offended by the thing, you would not want to offer an opinion that some would take as a challenge.

“What? You are telling me that I can’t like Santa’s sexy black thong? I will not only like it, I will love it! And I will buy one for myself.”


Following…

the philosophy of the uncritical critic, I would only review this green nightmare sweater of a Christmas mutant demon-dog if I really liked it. Of course, since you are seeing a review of it here, it means I am actually quite charmed by the sweater itself, and amused by whatever seventy-plus-year-old grandmama that has the kitsch-defiant attitude that allows her to proudly wear it… even if it was given to her as a gift by a relative she probably doesn’t really like but, never tells them so.

Doing book reviews one after another (as I have been doing for Pubby in order to get reviews on my own books in return) I have done a lot of the uncritical critic bit. Some of the people I have been reviewing the books of should never have tried to write a book in the first place. But do I tell them that? Of course not. If I have taken the trouble to read the whole book, even though it may be horrible, I am not going to pour cold water on their flame. I have done reviews with innumerable editorial suggestions of what would make it a better story, or a better non-fiction book, or children’s book, or poetry book, or self-help book… I have read terrible books of all of these kinds. And I know the authors did not rewrite the books as I suggested. But in my many years as a writing teacher, I have learned well that you must always point out the fledgling writers’ strengths and ask them to build on those. And some will. Besides the points I earn to spend on reviews of Mickian books, that is reward enough.

Ugly Christmas sweaters and the criticizing of them is how American culture works. Being good at negotiating that fact is a critical skill, especially in the Midwest. But nothing compared to having talent in the wearing of them.

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Winsor McCay

One work of comic strip art stands alone as having earned the artist, Winsor McCay, a full-fledged exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.  Little Nemo in Slumberland is a one-of-a-kind achievement in fantasy art.

Winsor McCay lived from his birth in Michigan in 1869 to his finale in Brooklyn in 1934.  In that time he created volumes full of his fine-art pages of full-page color newspaper cartoons, most in the four-color process.  

The New Year’s page 1909

As a boy, he pursued art from very early on, before he was twenty creating paintings turned into advertising and circus posters.  He spent his early manhood doing amazingly detailed half-page political cartoons built around the editorials of Arthur Brisbane,  He then became a staff artist for the Cincinnati Times Star Newspaper, illustrating fires, accidents, meetings, and notable events.  He worked in the newspaper business with American artists like Winslow Homer and Frederick Remington who also developed their art skills through newspaper illustration.  He moved into newspaper comics with numerous series strips that included Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend and Little Nemo in Slumberland.  And he followed that massive amount of work up by becoming the “Father of the Animated Cartoon” with Gertie the Dinosaur, with whom he toured the US giving public performances as illustrated in the silent film below; 

The truly amazing thing about his great volume of work was the intricate detail of every single panel and page.  It represents a fantastic amount of work hours poured into the creation of art with an intense love of drawing.  You can see in the many pages of Little Nemo how great he was as a draftsman, doing architectural renderings that rivaled any gifted architect.  His fantasy artwork rendered the totally unbelievable and the creatively absurd in ways that made them completely believable.

I bought my copy of Nostalgia Press’s Little Nemo collection in the middle 70’s and have studied it more than the Bible in the intervening years.  Winsor McCay taught me many art tricks and design flourishes that I still copy and steal to this very day.

No amount of negative criticism could ever change my faith in the talents of McCay.  But since I have never seen a harsh word written against him, I have to think that problem will never come up.

My only regret is that the wonders of Winsor McCay, being over a hundred years old, will not be appreciated by a more modern generation to whom these glorious cartoon artworks are not generally available. 

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Mickey the Reader

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I like to think that I am different than other readers, that the quirky, insane way I practice reading makes me somehow unique and individual.  But if you have read very much of my goofy little blog, you probably realize already that I am a deeply deluded idiot most of the time.  So let me explain a little about how I go about reading.

  1.  I am basically guilty of reading anything and everything I can get my hands on.  And the stupid internet puts an infinite variety in your hands.  Some of it is toxic and probably will kill me… or land me in jail.  (Does the NSA really care about what Mickey is reading?)
  2. Here is an example of my internet reading this morning;  Diane Ravitch’s Education Blog , An Article from British NaturismRachel Poli’s Article about Fantasy Writing, and Naked Carly Art’s post about creating a painting.  My browser history portrays me at times as some kind of communist brainiac pornography-loving terrorist painter or something.  I hope the NSA is using telepaths to investigate me, because the reasons I look at a lot of this stuff is important.  It is a good thing I don’t write mystery novels so they would be upset down in the NSA break room about my searching out creative ways to kill people.
  3. Besides being Eclectic  with a capital “E”, I am also obsessive.  My daily reading project now is Garrison Keillor’s novel, Lake Wobegon Days.

I only spend about an hour a day reading this novel, but I am totally immersed in it.  I am living inside that book, remembering the characters as real people and talking to them like old friends.  I tried to read that book before and couldn’t make progress because I like so much to listen to Keillor tell stories on A Prairie Home Companion on the radio and it just wasn’t the same entirely in print.  When he tells a story, he pauses a lot.  In fact, that moment when he stops to let you reflect on what he just said is critical to the humor because you have to stop and savor the delicious irony of the scene.  His pauses are funnier than the words.  Man, if he just stood there and didn’t talk at all, you would probably die laughing from it.  So, in order to get into the book, I had to read it with Garrison’s voice in my head, pausing frequently the way he does.  Now the stories of Clarence Bunsen and Pastor Inqvist break me up all over again.  I will soon acquire and read everything he has ever written.  I truly love Garrison Keillor.

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So there is a description of how strange a practicing reader I am.  Think about how you read.  Is the NSA watching you too?  Do you ever read two books at the same time?  Do you read everything and anything in front of you?  If you are self-reflective at all, even if you are not pathological about it the way Mickey is, you may well decide that as strange as my reading habits are, they are probably normal compared to yours.

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Reading Twain for a Lifetime

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I wish to leave no doubt unturned like a stone that might have treasure hidden under it.  I love the works of Samuel L. Clemens, better known as Mark Twain.

I have read and studied his writing for a lifetime, starting with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer which I read for myself in the seventh grade, after seeing the musical movie Tom Sawyer starring Johnny Whittaker as Tom.  I caught a severe passion, more serious than a head-cold, for the wit and wisdom with which Twain crafted a story.  It took me a while to acquire and read more… but I most definitely did.  I took an American Literature course in college that featured Twain, and I read and analyzed The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  I also bought a copy of Pudd’nhead Wilson which I would later devour in the same thoroughly literate and pretentious manner as I had Huck Finn.  Copies of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and The Mysterious Stranger were purchased at the same time, though I didn’t read them cover to cover until later during my years as a middle school English teacher.  I should point out, however, that I read and re-read both of those, Connecticut Yankee winning out by being read three times.  As a teacher, I taught Tom Sawyer as an in-class novel assignment in the time when other teachers thought I was more-or-less crazy for trying to teach a 100-year-old book to mostly Hispanic non-readers.  While the lunatic-inspired experiment was not a total success, it was not a total failure either.  Some kids actually liked having me read parts of it aloud to them, and some borrowed copies of the book to reread it for themselves after we finished as a class.

marktwaindvd2006During my middle-school teaching years I also bought and read copies of The Prince and the Pauper, Roughing It, and Life on the Mississippi.  I would later use a selection from Roughing It as part of a thematic unit on Mark Twain where I used Will Vinton’s glorious clay-mation movie, The Adventures of Mark Twain as a way to painlessly introduce my kids to the notion that Mark Twain was funny and complex and wise.

I have also read and used some of Twain’s most famous short fictions.  “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” and “The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyburg” are both masterpieces of Twain’s keen insight into the human psyche and the goofy and comic corruptions he finds there.

And now, retired old me has most recently read Tom Sawyer Abroad.  And, though it is not one of his finest works, I still love it and am enthralled.  I reviewed it and shared it with you a few days ago.  But I will never be through with Mark Twain.  Not only is there more of him to read, but he has truly been a lifelong friend.

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Tom Sawyer Abroad (Book Review)

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Yep, I read about being an “erronort” traveling in a balloon while sitting in a parking lot in my car.

Believe it or not, I read this entire 100+year-old book in my car while waiting for my daughter and my son in school parking lots.  What a perfectly ironic way to read a soaring imaginary adventure written by Mark Twain and mostly forgotten about by the American reading public.

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My copy of this old book is a 1965 edition published for school libraries of a book written in 1894.  It tells the story of how Tom and Huck and Jim steal a ride on a balloon at a town fair from a somewhat mentally unhinged professor of aeronautical science.  The balloon, which has space-age travel capabilities due to the professor’s insane genius, takes them on an accidental voyage to Africa.

Of course, the insane professor intends to kill them all, because that’s what insane geniuses do after they prove how genius-y they really are.  But as he tries to throw Tom into the Atlantic, he only manages to plunge himself through the sky and down to an unseen fate.  The result being a great adventure for the three friends in the sands of the Sahara.  They face man-eating lions, mummy-making sandstorms, and a chance to land on the head of the Sphinx.

The entire purpose of this book is to demonstrate Twain’s ability to be a satirical stretcher of the truth, telling jokes and lies through the unreliable narrator’s voice of Huck Finn.

Here is a quoted passage from the book to fill up this review with words and maybe explain just a bit what Twain is really doing with this book;

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Notice how I doubled my word count there without typing any of the words myself?  Isn’t the modern age wonderful?

But there you have it.  This book is about escaping every-day newspaper worries.  In a time of Presidential Candidate Donald Trump, global warming, and renewed threats of thermonuclear boo-boos with Russia, this proved to be the perfect book to float away with on an imaginary balloon to Africa.  And the book ends in a flash when Aunt Polly back in Hannibal wants Tom back in time for breakfast.  I really needed to read this book when I picked it up to read it.

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Andre Norton, Sci-Fi Royalty

It began for me in 1977 with this wrap-around cover illustration. I knew there were a lot of this guy’s books on the shelves of the college bookstore along with works by Robert E. Howard, Roger Zelazney, and Theodore Sturgeon. And I knew this guy had also written paperback books under the name “Andrew North”, a name I had seen on the twenty-five cent novels in the drugstore where you could buy the really good pulp fiction novels only slightly used.

I had never before bought one of his books. And the book money I had for the fall quarter at Iowa State was supposed to all go towards the book-list given to me as a Junior-level English major. But the naked kid on the cover had a wired-up collar around his neck. And I had only recently recovered long-suppressed memories of being a victim of a sexual assault. I had to have it. I had to know what that illustration had to do with the story inside.

So, I bought a book that I judged by its cover.

And it was not the wrong thing to do.

The main character was a boy named Jony, the naked boy on the cover of the book. He is taken by alien beings as a study specimen along with his mother, the pregnant woman on the back of the wrap-around illustration. The story starts with Jony in a cage, treated like an animal. His mother, also a study specimen has been mated to a Neanderthal-like humanoid specimen who cannot speak, and she has given birth to twins, a boy, and a girl. They are kept in separate cages by their inhuman captors.

Jony manages a mass escape, taking his mother and his younger siblings with him, and releasing as many of the other study specimens as he can. Luckily they escape onto a very earth-like planet. But unluckily, the mother is in very poor health and dies soon after escaping. Jony is then responsible for his little brother and sister in a wilderness that is not empty of others. Luckily, the others they first run afoul of are the bear-like ursine aliens who share their need to not be recaptured by the zoo-keeper aliens.

It was a perfect novel for me. I identified strongly with the main character, who had been violated in a very personal way by monsters. And then had to build a new life in a world full of potential other-monsters. Andre Norton shared my pain and helped me overcome it.

But she also fooled me big-time. She was not a he.

She was a librarian and editor of pulp fiction who wrote enough sci-fi and fantasy in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s to finally become a full-time author.

She was already on book number 29 when she retired from being a librarian to write full time.

And I would go on to own and read several of her other books, which were good, but never quite lived up to that first one I read. Of course, that may have been because of the timing and circumstance that led me to a book that I actually needed to read. That book set me on the road to recovery from my personal darkness. And it may have sparked in me the need to eventually become a nudist. And more important than that, it may have led me to a lifelong need to teach reading.

Andre Norton was a real writer. And she made me one too. Though I never knew who she really was until after I bought that book because of the picture on the cover. And I never got around to properly thanking her for all of that… Until this very moment.

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Terry Pratchett, the Grand Wizard of Discworld

image borrowed from TVtropes.com

image borrowed from TVtropes.com

I firmly believe that I would never have succeeded as a teacher and never gotten my resolve wrapped around the whole nonsense package of being a published author if I hadn’t picked up a copy of Mort, the first Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett that I ever encountered.  I started reading the book as a veteran dungeon-master at D&D role-playing games and also as a novice teacher having a world of difficulty trying to swim up the waterfalls of Texas education fast enough to avoid the jagged rocks of failure at the bottom.  I was drinking ice tea when I started reading it.  More of that iced tea shot out my nose while reading and laughing than went down my gullet.  I almost put myself in the hospital with goofy guffaws over Death’s apprentice and his comic adventures on a flat world riding through space and time on the backs of four gigantic elephants standing on the back of a gigantic-er turtle swimming through the stars.  Now, I know you have no earthly idea what this paragraph even means, unless you read Terry Pratchett.  And believe me, if you don’t, you have to start.  If you don’t die laughing, you will have discovered what may well be the best humorist to ever put quill pen to scroll and write.  And if you do die laughing, well, there are worse ways to go, believe me.

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Discworld novels are fantasy-satire that make fun of Tolkien and Conan the Barbarian (written by Robert E. Howard, not the barbarian himself) and the whole world of elves and dwarves and heroes and dragons and such.  You don’t even have to love fantasy to like this stuff.  It skewers fantasy with spears of ridiculousness (a fourth level spell from the Dungeons of Comedic Magic for those fellow dungeon masters out there who obsessively keep track of such things).  The humor bleeds over into the realms of high finance, education, theater, English and American politics, and the world as we know it (but failed to see from this angle before… a stand-on-your-head-and-balance-over-a-pit-of-man-eating-goldfish sort of angle).

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Terry Pratchett’s many wonderful books helped me to love what is ugly, because ugly is funny, and if you love something funny for long enough, you understand that there is a place in the world even for goblins and trolls and ogres.  Believe me, that was a critical lesson for a teacher of seventh graders to learn.  I became quite fond of a number of twelve and thirteen year old goblins and trolls because I was able see through the funny parts of their inherent ugliness to the hidden beauty that lies within (yes, I know that sounds like I am still talking about yesterday’s post, but that’s because I am… I never stop blithering about that sort of blather when it comes to the value hidden inside kids).

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I have made it a personal goal to read every book ever written by Terry Pratchett.  And that goal is now within reach because even though he is an incredibly prolific writer, he has passed on within the last year.  He now only has one novel left that hasn’t reached bookstores.  Soon I will only need to read a dozen more of his books to finish his entire catalog of published works.  And I am confident I will learn more lessons about life and love and laughter by reading what is left, and re-reading some of the books in my treasured Terry Pratchett paperback collection.  Talk about your dog-eared tomes of magical mirth-making lore!  I know I will never be the writer he was.  But I can imitate and praise him and maybe extend the wonderful work that he did in life.  This word-wizard is definitely worth any amount of work to acquire and internalize.  Don’t take my convoluted word for it.  Try it yourself.

borrowed from artistsUK.com

borrowed from artistsUK.com

map

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Three Books at Once

No, this isn’t some kind of multiple-book book review.  This is an ungodly silly claim that I can actually read three books at once.  Silly, but true.

Now I don’t claim to be a three-armed mutant with six eyes or anything.  And I am relatively sure I only have one brain.  But, remember, I was a school teacher who could successfully maintain a lesson thread through discussions that were supposed to be about a story by Mark Twain, but ventured off to the left into whether or not donuts were really invented by a guy who piloted a ship and stuck his pastries on the handles of the ships’ wheel, thus making the first donut holes, and then got briefly lost in the woods of a discussion about whether or not there were pirates on the Mississippi River, and who Jean Lafitte really was, and why he was not the barefoot pirate who stole Cap’n Crunch’s cereal, but finally got to the point of what the story was really trying to say.  (How’s that for mastery of the compound sentence?)  (Oh, so you could better?  Really?  You were in my class once, weren’t you.)  I am quite capable of tracking more than one plot at the same time.  And I am not slavishly devoted to finishing one book before I pick up the next.

I like reading things the way I eat a Sunday dinner… a little meatloaf is followed by a fork-full of mashed potatoes, then back to meat, and some green peas after that…  until the whole plate is clean.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson is the meatloaf.  I have read it before, just as I have probably had more meatloaf in my Iowegian/Texican  lifetime than any other meat dish.  It’s pretty much a middle-America thing.  And Treasure Island is the second book I ever read.  So you can understand how easy a re-read would be.  I am reading it mostly while I am sitting in the high school parking lot waiting to pick up the Princess after school is out.

fbofw1Lynn Johnston’s For Better or Worse is also an old friend.  I used to read it in the newspaper practically every day.  I watched those kids grow up and have adventures almost as if they were members of my own family.  So the mashed potatoes part of the meal is easy to digest too.

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So that brings me to the green peas.  Green peas are good for you.  They are filled with niacin and folic acid and other green stuff that makes you healthier, even though when the green peas get mashed a bit and mix together with the potatoes, they look like boogers, and when you are a kid, you really can’t be sure.  Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter wrote this book The Long War together.  And while I love everything Terry Pratchett does, including the book he wrote with Neil Gaiman, I am having a hard time getting into this one.  Parts of it seem disjointed and hard to follow, at least at the beginning.  It takes work to choke down some of it.  Peas and potatoes and boogers, you know.

But this isn’t the first time I have ever read multiple books at the same time.  In fact, I don’t remember the last time I finished a book and the next one wasn’t at least halfway finished too.  So it can be done.  Even by sane people.

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The Literate but Illogical Introvert (Part 2)

I claim to be a literate individual. But, of course, before they let you teach English Language Arts to seventh graders, you have to prove it. They want you to prove you can handle a classroom, and not only can read and write, but can teach seventh graders to do it too… at least to a minimum competency level. After all, the English language in the hands of a hormonal personality-bomb otherwise known as a seventh grade boy or a seventh grade girl, it is a potential weapon of mass destruction.

I set out to become more than merely competently literate in high school. Even then, I wanted to read all the best books ever written and learn to write like that too. In fact, I set myself a quest when I was a junior in high school taking Mr. Sorum’s version of the novel-reading class set out by the Iowa State Board of Education’s curriculum guide as The Modern Novel, a quest to find and read the greatest novel ever written. I started in that class with Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye.

But that fit too easily into the “Modern Novel” thing since it was written in the 60’s and I was reading it in the 70’s. I had to be more illogical than that. So, I also found a book on the Scholastic Book Order form called The Return of the Native, by Thomas Hardy and read that. It was not exactly a modern novel having been written in the 1870’s and was actually a 96-year-old book when I read it. And it was a tragic love story where everybody ends up married to the wrong person and true love was thwarted up until the chapter where there are multiple drownings. I, of course, fell in love with the Reddleman, Diggory Venn (Reddlemen go from farm to farm dipping sheep in the reddle to kill ticks and fleas) who is covered head to toe in red dye from dipping sheep. He is the humble soul who loves the good girl that the bad man wants to marry even though he’s actually in love with the bad woman who wants to marry Clym Yoebright (the returning native of the title) for his family fortune so she can escape the hated heath country. I realized from the first chapter onward that I was supposed to identify with Clym as the main character. But, illogical introvert that I am (and that Diggory also is) I had to identify with the humble Mr. Venn. And guess what? Diggory not only saves Clym from drowning as he lets the bad man and the bad woman visit Neptune the hard way, he also gets to marry the good girl in the end.

Goofy choice for a great book, right? But it is a great book. It is about people who love drama in their lives and live for the wrong things in life getting what they probably deserve while the plodders and reddlemen get the real rewards in the end. Victorian hooberglob, sure… but good hooberglob with vivid characters, an oppressive setting, and a darkly comic look at love, repressed love, evil love, and just plain love in the end.

But I couldn’t go on thinking forever that The Return of the Native was the best novel ever written. I would go on to read some very good Hemingway, some x-rated Heinlein, and a couple of dog stories before I finished that class. (I definitely read more novels than anyone else in that class as most of them were making their book reports from the blurbs on the back of the book and the part they hide inside the front cover rather than actually reading a whole book.)

But then, as a freshman in college, I was introduced to Saul Bellow.

Good god! Why had they been keeping this writer a secret from me?

Humboldt’s Gift was the book we read and discussed in class. It was written the year before we read it and it both won Bellow a Pulitzer and helped him win the Novel Prize for Literature the year after I read and studied it. It is the story of a friendship between writers. The narrator, Charlie Citrine and the Humboldt poet from the title get to know each other in a friendship that spans the decades between the 1930’s and the middle of the 1970’s. But it also convinced me that most great writers and the books they write that become great books are totally obsessed with sex and death. Charlie is mourning in the story about his latest divorce, his new love that his last love is keeping him separated from, the death in an airplane crash of his love before the lady he just divorced, and his own obsession with his own death.

Yes, sex and death. Lesson learned about great books.

And I learned all those lessons again in a book I found at the university book store by Bellow and read on my own. Henderson the Rain King is about a rich and socially powerful man who is seeking the meaning of life and totally dissatisfied with everything he has discovered so far.

He goes on a trip to Africa complete with guide and tourist group only to take off on his own when he gets there, hiring a native guide, visiting a native village, lifting a gigantic stone statue of a god, and accidentally becoming the official Rain King of the Wirari tribe. He then goes into a long period of philosophical discussion with the tribal king, pokes around at learning the meaning of life from an African point of view, and then goes on a lion hunt with the king wherein the king is killed by the lion, making Henderson the new king, the next step up from tribal Rain King.

And then there was William Faulkner.

Yes, the drunken postal clerk who wrote some of what may be the best novels ever written.

Make that some of the best super-wordy novels ever written, long paragraphs and all.

I have read more Faulkner than just The Sound and the Fury. But this is the first Faulkner I read as part of an American Literature class in grad school.

The title of this book is based on the Shakespeare quote from MacBeth’s soliloquy. “…It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury… signifying nothing.” So, this writer can poke fun at himself.

The three main characters of the book, the Compson brothers, are three very different viewpoint characters that take the swirling toilet bowl of stream-of-consciousness narratives about life in Mississippi and show us how meaningless and pointless our lives are. Benjy is the mentally handicapped brother who barely understands anything about the world around him. Jason is the hot-headed brother working in a farm-supply store and constantly fuming about money and class struggles. Quentin is the lucky brother who gets to go to college and mess up his life on a bigger stage than the other two. Caddy is the sister that all three talk and think about, especially when it comes to the tragedy of what actually happens to her. Everything is one big joke to Faulkner, as demonstrated by the scene in the end of the story where Jason (symbolizing Fury) is beating the snot out of his loudly squalling brother Benjy (the Sound.) It almost seems like the entire story is one big set-up for that one final sight-gag.

I have to say, I considered all of these books as potentially the best novel ever written. But none of these were the final choice. And the four books that I intended to add to this discussion weren’t the final choice either, so I had no trouble editing them out as this essay is way too long already. But the fact that I read and loved these books is basically proof that the reading part of being literate I have down. I’ll bet, if you have read this far, that you haven’t read any of these classics. But I don’t bet money. And you probably didn’t even read this far into a big-windy essay like this one. It doesn’t matter. These books exist. I love them. And I am glad I made them part of my little introverted and totally perverted world.

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Filed under autobiography, book reports, book review, humor, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Bad, Bad Mickey

My writing has generated some bad reviews of late. Things I am not sure have very much validity, but are a part of public opinion you have to learn to live with. I recognize as an experienced public school teacher, there are always going to be people who automatically hate you for no reason, and will be motivated enough to find a reason, and even get you fired if they can.

The critics are not going to get me fired in this case, since I am a retired school teacher and no longer teaching. And I live on a pension, not the money I make on my novels (currently between $2.50 and $5.00 a month) so getting them banned from Amazon has no financial consequences.

My book The Baby Werewolf got a two-star review from a lady who claimed to have worked in publishing and editing. She said she hated to give a bad review, but my book was so unprofessional and bad that she had no choice but to recommend that nobody else ever reads it. She said it had too much telling rather than showing, an unprofessional cover, and a story that doesn’t have a coherent plot.

But she also says that my book, a horror comedy, is too creepy. And she qualifies that in that she thinks it’s creepy in ways that a horror story shouldn’t be creepy. She objects to humor involving Sherry Cobble, the nudist character. She says that she has no problem with the idea of nudism, just the way I use it.

So, I think, what it boils down to is she is not so much shaming the novel for being a bad novel, but she is saying that I, as the author, am either too stupid to effectively write a novel like this, or that I am a bad person with evil motives for writing a novel like this. So, she got me! Curses! Foiled again!

I do take note of the fact that this novel has also gotten glowing reviews from some other readers. So, I guess my evil plan worked on them. Whatever that evil plan was supposed to gain me, it must be working more often than it is foiled.

That happened again this week with my novel The Wizard in His Keep. It is due to get a two-star review via Pubby review exchange. I don’t know what the reviewer has found so offensive and wrong about my book, but it must be pretty serious in that Amazon has not yet approved that review after almost a week.

I have a fair amount of confidence as a writer. I have written things that won awards from editors. I have made the final round of judging in a novel-writing contest twice in the last decade. Whatever bad thing they are going to throw at me next, I can take it. There are no writers, even the great ones, that don’t get at least some unfair criticism. It can really hurt when the bad review is one of only eight total reviews. And bad reviews can make me depressed. But, I promise it won’t kill me.

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Filed under book review, horror writing, humor, novel writing, Paffooney