Category Archives: book review

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

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Some books come along telling a story that has to be taken seriously in ways that don’t make sense in any normal way.  The Alchemist is one of those books.

What is an alchemist, after all?

An alchemist uses the medieval forms of the art of chemistry to transmute things, one thing becoming another thing.

Coelho in this book is himself an alchemist of ideas.  He uses this book to transmute one idea into another until he digs deep enough into the pile of ideas to finally transmute words into wisdom.

There is a great deal of wisdom in this book, and I can actually share some of it here without spoiling the story.

Here are a few gemstones of wisdom from the Alchemist’s treasure chest;

“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting…” (p.13)

“It’s the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary; only wise men are able to understand them.” (p.17)

“All things are one.  And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”  (p.24)

“And when he had gone only a short distance, he realized that, while they were erecting the stall, one of them had spoken Arabic and the other Spanish.    And they had understood each other perfectly well.  There must be a language that doesn’t depend on words, the boy thought.” (p.45)

All of these quotes from the book, as you can see, come from the first third of the book.  There are many more treasures to be found in this book.  I should not share them with you here.  Just as the main character of the story learns, you have to do the work for yourself.  But this book is not only an enjoyable read, but a map for how you can execute your own journey towards your “Personal Legend”.  In fact, you may find that the book tells you not only how to go about making a dream come true, but, if you are already on that journey successfully, it tells you what things you are already doing right.

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Father’s Violin (a Pubby review)

One of the most important functions of the Pubby review exchange and other similar review groups is to give some readership to new and deserving books. Especially now during this time of self-published books by the millions, we need to have a way to winnow out the wheat from the chaff. And believe me, there is a lot of chaff out there. (I know that I have warned you before that if I say, “Believe me” in an essay, I am probably lying. But I have read and can testify to some horribly bad and stunningly terrible works of fiction out there. And some of those authors believe their horrible stories are actually great works of art.) And in the Indie Book Industry now, there is a dire need for gate-keeping. Particularly, there is a dire need for someone to identify the good books hidden in the piles of the… um, other stuff.

Father’s Violin is an excellent book needing to be discovered by the reading world. It is a young adult novel that, having worked with young readers for most of four decades, I can guarantee you will appeal to the more intelligent and empathetic readers among them. There is an About the Book section at the end that specifically ties the events of the book to factual accounts of events in Berlin during and immediately after World War II.

Here’s the actual review I posted on Goodreads and Amazon for Pubby;

This is a very moving piece of Young Adult literature. It does make me a little uncomfortable by using a narrative done entirely in the present tense even though it uses numerous flashbacks, but it does a masterful job of painting a picture for the reader of the tragic lives led by orphans in the aftermath of World War II Germany. The setting is well-researched and brings out accurate details like the Nazis’ kidnapping of Aryan-looking children to be raised as future Nazis. But the thing that won my heart was the scene where Hertz plays Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major in the ruined theater on his father’s violin. This is masterful storytelling with vivid characters that you have to root for even when they are forced to experience terrible things. A really great book. You must read it.

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Pubby Reviews

I know that today is supposed to be about novel writing. But once the book is published, the author has to promote it in hopes that it gets read, especially by literate people. Pubby is a review-exchange service that allows you to review other authors’ works in exchange for points that you can then spend on getting books reviewed by other Pubby-participating authors. Sometimes the result is not so good. There are authors out there who really need to go school more before publishing their vanity projects. And some may be capable writers who are really terrible reviewers. But it can also work well. https://app.pubby.co/

Here is an example of a review I did for Pubby and posted both on Goodreads and Amazon;

The Epic Book of World War II Heroes

by Chili Mac Books I really liked it, 4 of 5 stars

This is a well-researched and very entertaining book. The narrator has a voice that seems very authentic and soldier-like. I would give it five stars except for the fact that it needs some serious editing. The author warns us from the start that the language could seem crude, but that is part of being authentic. It is the grammatical errors, confusion of pronouns and their antecedents, incorrect word choice, and metaphors that run too long that make the book hard to understand at key moments in the action. A good editor could turn this book into an excellent high-interest book for middle-school students, especially boys who are otherwise reluctant readers.

So, here is the review I got for Sing Sad Songs with the points I had earned for my reviews. SS1967 apparently uses a number instead of his/her real name.

Top reviews from the United States (Amazon)

SS19675.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Narrative on The Power of Being Unafraid to Feel Your Emotions, Even the Difficult Ones

Reviewed in the United States on May 28, 2021Verified Purchase

Sing Sad Songs, despite the sad narrative elements, is really a book about the celebration of feeling your emotions. It’s about discovering the freedom, and love that is waiting on the other of feeling difficult emotions, despite how hard it might be. The main character, comes from a past of true tragedy, and loss. In order to navigate the emotional waters in front of him, he transmutes his feelings into songs expressing the specific emotions he encounters. It is these songs that not only help pave the way to a new life for him, but help him find resolution within himself about his past, and how he wants to live his life.

The pros are very descriptive, and the story almost reads like a song itself in how it meanders, and explores moods in different settings. A beautiful book for parents unafraid of exploring the reality of difficult emotions with their kids.

Here’s another Pubby review I did on a very short novella, or possibly even short story by C.S. Jones, Overload

Michael Beyer5.0 out of 5 stars Wow!

Reviewed in the United States on May 27, 2021Verified Purchase

This short story is like a punch in the gut. It hits hard with considerable force. The author’s command of detail, carefully crafted paragraphs so well done they come across as effortless, and well-built psychological tension all give this short story a power that is rare even among great works of literature. There is a stark realism to this story that suggests either extensive research or personal experience. I am impressed. I recommend.

This review was on Amazon only because, apparently, Goodreads doesn’t allow short stories to count as books, while Amazon allows scads of them.

Here’s the second most recent review from a Pubby reviewer, this time on my novel, The Baby Werewolf. Laura uses her first name only on her reviews.

Laura5.0 out of 5 stars succeeds on multiple levels

Reviewed in the United States on May 24, 2021Verified Purchase

I really liked this strange little novel. It is a very fast read, but also layered so it would be as good the second time through as the first. There’s an entertaining mix of reality, fantasy and the often off-kilter perspective of an inexperienced teen. The writing is well edited and proofed, the pacing is tight and effective, and the characters endearing.

This review of Pubby and how it is working for me really focusses on the positives. There are negatives too. You have only 4 days to review a book. And we are not all speed readers. Some reviews are done only on the first half of the book And some reviewers don’t read the book at all. They fake a review based on the prior-existing reviews. Some can’t even do that well. The verified purchase notation on the review means you had to pay $1 to $5 for the Kindle e-book. That, over time, makes for loads of expense to the reviewer. And you don’t make back what you put into that. Verified Purchase reviews count more than regular responses. If you get a bad one, it hurts your average even more than a good one helps it.

All in all, I have enjoyed participating in Pubby. But it is work. And it is definitely expensive in time, effort, and money.

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H.P. Lovecraft, The Master of Madness

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When I was but a young teacher, unmarried, and using what free time I had to play role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons and Traveller with students and former students and fatherless boys, I came across a game that really creeped me out.  And it was quite popular with the kids who relied on me to fill their Saturday afternoons with adventure.  It led me on a journey through the darkness to find a fascination with the gruesome, the macabre, and the monstrous.  The Call of Cthulhu game brought me to the doorsteps of Miskatonic University and the perilous portals of the infected fishing village of Innsmouth.  It introduced me to the nightmare world of Howard Phillips Lovecraft.

“H. P. Lovecraft, June 1934” by Lucius B. Truesdell

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Old H.P. is as fascinating a character as any of the people who inhabit his deeply disturbing horror tales.  He was a loner and a “nightbird” but with little social contact in the real world.  He lived a reclusive life that included a rather unsuccessful “contract” marriage to an older woman and supporting himself mostly by burning through his modest inheritance.  As a writer, he got his start by so irritating pulp fiction publishers with his letters-page rants that he was challenged to write something for a contest article, and won a job as a regular contributor to “Weird Tales” pulp magazine.  He was so good that he was offered the editorship of the magazine, but true to form, he turned it down.  He resembled most the dreamer characters who accessed the Dreamlands in various ways, but let their mortal lives wither as they explored unknown continents in the Dreamlands and the Mountains of the Moon.  He created a detailed mythos in his stories about Cthulhu and Deep Ones and the Elder Gods.  He died a pauper, well before his stories received the acclaim they have today.

I have to say that I was so enamored of his stories that I had to read them as fast as I could acquire them from bookstores and libraries all over Texas.  My favorites include, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, The Dunwich Horror, and At the Mountains of Madness.  But reading these stories lost me hour upon hour of sleep, and developed in me a habit of sleeping with the lights on.  In Lovecraft’s fiction, sins of your ancestors hang like thunderheads over your life, and we are punished for original sin.  A man’s fate can be determined before he is born, and events hurl him along towards his appointed doom.  H.P. makes you feel guilty about being alive, and he shakes you to the core with unease about the greater universe we live in, a cold, unfeeling universe that has no love for mankind, and offers no shelter from the horrors of what really goes on beyond the knowing of mortal men.

Loving the stories of H.P. Lovecraft is about deeper things than just loving a good scare.  If you are looking for that in a book, read something by Stephen King.  H.P. will twist the corners of your soul, and make you think deep thoughts to keep your head above water in deep pools of insanity.  I know some of his books belong in yesterday’s post, but we are not talking about happy craziness today.  This is the insanity of catharsis and redemption.

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Books You Should Read If You Desire To Go Happily Insane

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Yesterday I wrote a post about religion that revealed my lack of connection to organized religion (I am still in recovery from fifteen years of trying to be a good Jehovah’s Witness) and my deep connections to God and the Universe and That Which Is Essential.  I feel that it is good evidence for the theory that being too smart, too genius-level know-it-all goofy, is only a step away from sitting in the corner of the asylum with a smile and communicating constantly with Unknown Kadath in his lair in the Mountains of Madness  (a literary allusion to H.P. Lovecraft’s world).  And today I saw a list on Facebook pompously called “100 Books You Should Read If You’re Smart”.  I disagree wholeheartedly with many of the books on that list, and I have actually read about 80 per cent of them.  So it started me thinking… (never a good thing)… about what books I read that led to my current state of being happily mentally ill and beyond the reach of sanity.

2657To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee is the first book on my list.  The Facebook list had no reasons why to argue with, so here are my reasons why.  This book is written from the innocent and intelligent perspective of a little girl, Scout Finch.  It stars her hero father, Atticus Finch, a small-town southern lawyer who has to defend a black man from false charges of rape of a white woman.  This book makes clear what is good in people, like faith and hope and practicality… love of flowers, love of secrets, and the search for meaning in life.  It reveals the secrets of a secretive person like Boo Radley. It also makes clear what is bad in people, like racism, lying, mean-spirited manipulations, lust, and vengeance.  And it shows how the bad can win the day, yet still lose the war.  No intelligent reader who cares about what it means to be human can go without reading this book.

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Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell is the second book on my list.  This is really not one book.  It is a complex puzzle-box of very different stories nested one inside the next and twisted together with common themes and intensely heroic and fallible characters.  Reading this book tears at the hinges between the self and others.  It reveals how our existence ripples and resonates through time and other lives.  It will do serious damage to your conviction that you know what’s what and how the world works.  It liberates you from the time you live in at the moment.

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The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini is the third book on the list.  This will give you an idea of how fragile people truly are, and how devastating a single moment of selfishness can be in a life among the horrors of political change and human lust and greed.  No amount of penance will ever be enough for the main character of this book to make up for what he did to his best and only friend… at least until he realizes that penance is not all there is… and that it is never too late to love.

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The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak is number four.  This book is about an orphan girl, the daughter of an executed communist, living in Nazi Germany in the early 1940’s.  It is a tear-jerker and an extremely hard book to read without learning to love to cry out loud.  Leisel Meminger is haunted by Death in the story.  In fact, Death loves her enough to be the narrator of the story.  It is a book about loving foster parents, finding the perfect boy, and losing him, discovering what it means to face evil and survive… until you no longer can survive… and then what you do after you don’t survive.  It is about how accordion music, being Jewish, and living among monsters can lead to a triumph of the spirit.

Of course, being as blissfully crazy as I am, I have more books on this list.  But being a bit lazy and already well past 500 words… I have to save the rest for another day.

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Fairy Tales and Wishing Wells

If you are on a writer’s journey like I am, you have my sympathy. I am not saying it is not worth it. But if it is going painlessly easy for you, you are not doing it right.

If you are doing it right, you are dredging your soul deeply with a huge jagged-edged bucket to find those small gemstones of truth and life and meaning, and then trying to arrange it all into patterns and genres and stories that are artful enough not to just look like a pile of random rocks. If you do it for a lifetime, you may be lucky enough to create a masterpiece or two, a finely-crafted jeweled creation that dazzles the eye and captures the heart of the reader.

I have always been cursed with high intelligence and a vividly over-active imagination. So, in some sense, I was always destined to be some kind of a fantasy writer with dragons, unicorns, wizards, and such crap dancing in my head, and polluting it by farting rainbows too often. Fiction-writing, by its very nature has to tell a lot of lies to get to the truth. It also has to be, in large parts, autobiographical in nature to be any good. You have to write about what you actually know. Because making stuff up without real-world references will only produce crap that you yourself (meaning you, the writer-you) can only see as mud-brown dhrek.

Therefore, my stories have to be the thing that I label as Surrealism. Many experts would call it that too. It is expressed in highly metaphorical imagery, as in a boy moving in with his father and step-family at a nudist park where everybody is naked most of the time, and the boy sees practically everyone as a faun from Greek myths. (A Field Guide to Fauns) ‘Where a boy loses his whole family in a car accident in France and must rebuild himself in the US with family he has never even met before and he does it by putting on clown paint and singing sad songs, and visiting a dream world inhabited by clowns who might actually be angels. (Sing Sad Songs) Or a girl recovering from the grief of her father’s suicide during a once-in-a-lifetime blizzard where she is saved from snow-ghosts by a magical hobo and runaway orphans from a stranded Trailways bus. (Snow Babies) The reality of these stories depends on a willing suspension of disbelief challenged by a myriad of disparate things thrown together into a kaleidoscope narrative.

I have been thinking deeply about the nature of my own writing experience as I spent most of a year working to promote my books through an online author-review exchange called Pubby during a pandemic unlike anything seen in a century.

The author-review exchange thing has been a very mixed blessing. More than half of the reviews I have gotten on my work are done by authors seeking to earn points for their own books to be reviewed by cheating. They don’t actually try to read the books. Instead, they look at other existing reviews and try to cobble together some lies that don’t show any original thinking and merely parrot what other reviewers have said.

And while some reviews come from reviewers like me who work hard at reading and understanding the book and giving honest reactions that delight me by pointing out the things they actually connected with and understood in my books, other reviewers react with unexplained horror at something they found offensive to their own world view in my books, painting them in harsh terms, in one case even calling the book child-pornography and ridiculing the authors of the good reviews as someone who didn’t understand what they were reading.

But even the bad reviews are a blessing, in that they prove that someone has actually read my books. I cannot explain why that is so important, but it is.

So, hopefully you see now why I am talking about fairy tales. A writer’s journey is hard. It burns your very soul. And you are not very likely to see any rewards but the intangible ones. If you are a fellow writer on your own writer’s journey, well, I sympathize. And I can only wish you well.

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“Oh, no! Not Dr. Seuss!”

“And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” “The Cat’s Quizzer,” “If I Ran the Zoo,” “McElligot’s Pool,” “On Beyond Zebra!” and “Scrambled Eggs Super!”

Apparently, according to conservative-minded friends and cousins on Facebook, evil liberal Democrats are out to cancel and get rid of Dr. Seuss. They are taking seriously the warnings of the good-hearted, common-sense broadcasters at OAN and Fox News and rushing out to buy copies of Cat in the Hat, Horton Hears a Who, Green Eggs and Ham, and Oh, the Places You’ll Go before the communist-leaning book-burning enemies of the people get ahold of them.

I say to this dire warning, “Okay! Great! Buy every wonderful Dr. Seuss book you can get your hands on! That’s the right thing to do!”

But I would be remiss in my duty not to also say, “Don’t spend a thousand dollars on e-Bay to get a copy of And to Think that I Saw It on Mulberry Street.

Let me say this, as a teacher who taught reading skills in all of my thirty-one years as a public school teacher, I always made use of Dr. Seuss books whenever and wherever possible, even reading Fox in Sox aloud to gifted students (and reading those tongue-tying tongue-twizzlers as fast as it is possible to read aloud without wrapping my tongue around my eye teeth and crashing into my molars because I couldn’t see what I was saying.) (Which the kids always found profoundly entertaining.) And I celebrated Dr. Seuss’s birthday every March since that became a thing in 1988.

But I also think that we have to recognize that Theodore Seuss Geisel, Dr. Seuss, is a man from a different time. Some of the tropes and techniques he learned and employed in the 1940s as a political cartoonist and ad illustrator are no longer appropriate in the time of George Floyd and Asians being attacked over the “Wuhan Kung Flu.”

Remember, his cartoon skills were developed back when America was fighting propaganda wars with the Axis powers.

So, in some of his works, he may have been guilty of some outdated thinking and is unintentionally racist in some of the things he cartooned and thought were funny.

And of the books that will no longer be published, I admit that I read and enjoyed If I Ran the Zoo while I was learning to read in the first grade. And I think I read McElligot’s Pool in school in 1965, but I don’t really remember what was down there at the bottom under the protagonist’s fishhook. I looked up a hard-to-find copy of And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street in 2009, and saw that it was not really right for my ESL class at that time. The other three controversial books I haven’t even heard of before this whole thing first outraged Fox News reporters. These six books were not available for purchase from either Barnes and Noble or the Dr. Seuss website before the controversy.

So, I love Dr. Seuss. But I am not worried. Democrats and liberals like me are not trying to do away with Dr. Seuss. In fact, Random House publishers are not even the ones who decided. Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the business that preserves and protects the author’s legacy, announced it would cease sales of these books. So, this is purely editorial in nature and certainly within the rights of Dr. Seuss’s family, friends, and promoters to do.

But by all means, buy up more Dr. Seuss books! Give them to kids you care about! I can’t think of anything I would rather have conservatives, Republicans, and Fox News viewers doing than reading about Horton, the Grinch, Sam-I-Am. and Daisy-head Maisy.

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Why Real Writers Go Mad

Yes, you heard right. (Well, you did if you read the title out loud.) Real writers are subject to madness. I decided this because I found the pattern in real writing that I actually value as good writing.

Case in Point; Ernest Hemingway

The first book of Hemingway that I read in high school was For Whom the Bell Tolls. It is a book about World War One, being an ambulance driver on the battle field, the transformations that combat experiences have on the soul, and trying to deal with the love of a woman, unsuccessfully, while the soul-sucking of recovery from battle is still taking place in your head. The story has a first-person narrator. It is told in a journalistic style that only presents the facts and doesn’t do any of the thinking and feeling for you. It makes the meaning of the story all happen in the reader’s head, as if the writer is not telling you what to think. But he actually is. And doing it masterfully. Of course, it captured me horribly because at the time I read it, the Viet Nam War was winding down, I had a draft number after turning 18 in 1974, and the Khmer Rouge attacked and took control of the SS Mayaguez in May of 1975, threatening to reignite the war and expand it into Cambodia. A wonderful book to read when you are faced with grim reality and the unfolding path to madness before you.

I also read The Sun Also Rises and The Old Man and the Sea while in college as an English Major. I defy you to read either of those books and not see the madness gnawing at the writer.

Ernest Hemingway went mad from the post traumatic struggles he underwent as a consequence of WWI. His life ended when he put a shotgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. Deep depression is a form of madness.

Case in Point; Edgar Allen Poe

Of course, I chose the portraits of these authors on the basis of which ones are the most haunting I could find. Poe’s stare captured here reveals a pair of eyes that have seen the dark depths of his own soul, a horror you can’t compare to anyone else’s except through the words of a writer, because you can’t see into someone else’s soul in any other way. Your eyes weren’t built to do that.

And we all know the kind of stories and poems he wrote. My first encounter with Poe’s writing was either The Black Cat, The Tell-Tale Heart, or the poem, “The Bells“, all of which are deeply disturbing, and all of which I read in the Eighth Grade in Mrs. Erdman’s Class.

Poe became mad due to life-long grinding poverty brought about by foster parents who loved him and had money enough, but were too firmly devoted to the idea that helping someone out financially is a weakness not to be contemplated. His young wife died an early death from lack of funds for things like heat in the winter and food on a daily basis.

We don’t fully know why the madness caused his mysterious death. He may have had rabies when he died. Or it may have been a toxic reaction to large quantities of alcohol. Or he may have died from brain injuries due to an unexplained kidnapping and beating. But what we do know is that he loved certain people passionately and hated certain people passionately through his literary criticism of their writing. In fact, one of the authors he hated may have killed him as a murderous act of revenge.

Case in Point; Charles Dickens

When one thinks of Charles Dickens as a writer, madness is rarely the thing that comes first to mind. He wrote socially-observant comedies that emphasized engaging characters and detailed understandings of the settings and the times. There are a large number of clowns and comic villains in his stories. And his works seem a bit overbalanced against the darkness of the soul.

And yet he has his dark moments. I first read Dickens in Seventh Grade through The Christmas Carol. But Marley’s ghost and his ilk, especially the spectral Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come chilled me to the bone. I wept at the death of Tiny Tim even though it meant the other boys in my class could see me crying and would make me pay a price outside of the classroom.

On my own I went on to read more Dickens, including The Old Curiosity Shop in high school, Nicholas Nickleby, A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield and Great Expectations in college. I further read Oliver Twist while teaching Eighth Grade English. I also read my first author-biography of Charles Dickens, shortly after reading The Old Curiosity Shop.

I soon realized how much of his stories were autobiographical. Wilkins Micawber is a portrait of his own father and his time in the poorhouse. Wackford Squeers and other unflattering depictions of education reflected his own time in British boys’ schools where the odds of being molested by upper classmen were high. And the fact that a beloved young female relative died in his arms when he was barely out of boyhood probably caused the infamous death of the character Little Nell in the final installment of The Old Curiosity Shop.

There is madness in Dickens too. I mean, how can your writing reach the very heights of the Himalayas if it has never experienced the deepest depths of the ocean?

Case in Point; J.D. Salinger

Yes, I read The Catcher in the Rye in high school. It was a right of passage in 1974. It was one of the three books that set me on my lifelong quest to find the best book ever written. (The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy and the Little Prince by Saint-Exupéry are the other two.) It is a book that first captured me by the feelings in the brain with the central image alluded to in the title. Holden Caufield (Salinger later confessed that this narrator was really him) dreamed that he was in a field a rye where children are playing and romping with abandon. Behind Holden is a bottomless cliff. As children occasionally run towards him and the cliff behind him, heedless and not seeing the danger, he decides he must catch them and turn them back the other way. And this is what the book is, Holden’s adventures for the first time in the adult world, experiencing the possible dangers, and then turning the readers around, back into the field of rye.

I of course read Franny and Zooey and Raise High the Roof-Beam, Carpenters afterwards in college. Buddy Glass, who narrates the story of brother Seymour’s suicide, is also an admitted character-identity for Salinger himself.

Has Salinger, too, gone mad? You can ask that about a man who suddenly stopped writing at the height of his success, and then ran away to a small shed in the woods where he wrote mash notes to teenage girls for twenty years?

Final Case in Point; Mickey

And why would I ever think Mickey is mad?

Well… this list is long.

Mickey was sexually assaulted by an older boy at ten. You can see the effects of that in all of his writings, including this one.

He’s fool enough to think he might be a real writer.

When he is in his cartoonist’s head, he portrays himself as a purple mouse. When he’s in his teacher head, he’s Reluctant Rabbit.

He thinks he can recognize great writing when he reads it.

He understands the books of H.P. Lovecraft far too well.

And he seems to recognize that same madness that can be found in Ernest Hemingway, Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, JD Salinger, Mark Twain, Stephen King, Terry Pratchett, and too many more that could also be named… in himself.

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Being Kind to Myself

Paying for reviews is not going well for me. I go to a lot of effort to read and review the works of others. Pubby gives you four days. Four days to read a book that may be as much as 75,000 words. You also find some books to be a mind-numbing slog because many writers are simply not as good as they think they are. But there are ways to cut to the chase and evaluate a book quickly and accurately. It definitely helps if the author follows a recognizable genre pattern, but most of the reviewers on Pubby have never heard of a picaresque novel, and have poor conceptions of what a hero’s journey is, or misunderstand the basic structures in a coming-of-age story. So, you make the review pointed, simple, and give the highest rating you can justify.

But the work I put into the process is not reflected in the reviews I get in return. The last review I got on my book, Snow Babies, was supposed to be a verified purchase review. That means the reviewer is supposed to buy a copy of the e-book. $0.99 is not too much to ask. I spent $3.95 on the last book I reviewed. But the reviewer turned in a review about three hours after taking the assignment and did not buy a copy of the book. It’s a five-star review because the reviewer read the other reviews and all but one of those is five stars. So, I am cheated out of the sale, and I did not get an honest review because it does not take a Sherlock-Holmes brain to figure out, “HE DID NOT READ THE BOOK!”

I need to keep going with Pubby at least for the rest of the year-long subscription I purchased because it does give me a chance to get read. And I am not the only honest reviewer on there who will read all night to get a 75,000-word novel or book read in only four days. And a Kirkus Review costs more than a thousand dollars, and if you get an unlucky choice of semi-insane reviewer, the Kirkus Reputation can be the kiss of death even for a good book.

So, in order to be kind to myself, I may need complain to the powers behind Pubby even though it is a five-star review. We shall see if Pubby and Amazon really accept this review that was not done the way we are directed to do them.

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My Bookish Journey (Finale)

by Maxfield Parrish

Like every real, honest-to-God writer, I am on a journey. Like all the good ones and the great ones, I am compelled to find it…

“What is it?” you ask.

“I don’t know,” I answer. “But I’ll know it when I see it.”

“The answer?” you ask. “The secret to everything? Life, the universe, and everything? The equation that unifies all the theories that physicists instinctively know are all one thing? The treasure that pays for everything?”

Yes. That. The subject of the next book. The next idea. Life after death. The most important answer.

And I honestly believe that once found, then you die. Life is over. You have your meaning and purpose. You are fulfilled. Basically, I am writing and thinking and philosophizing to find the justification I need to accept the end of everything.

Leah Cim Reyeb is me, Michael Beyer written backwards.

And you know what? The scariest thing about this post is that I never intended to write these particular words when I started typing. I was going to complain about the book-review process. It makes me think that, perhaps, I will type one more sentence and then drop dead. But maybe not. I don’t think I’ve found it yet.

The thing I am looking for, however, is not an evil thing. It is merely the end of the story. The need no longer to tell another tale.

When a book closes, it doesn’t cease to exist. My life is like that. It will end. Heck, the entire universe may come to an end, though not in our time. And it will still exist beyond that time. The story will just be over. And other stories that were being told will continue. And new ones by new authors will begin. That is how infinity happens.

I think, though, that the ultimate end of the Bookish Journey lies with the one that receives the tale, the listener, the reader, or the mind that is also pursuing the goal and thinks that what I have to say about it might prove useful to his or her own quest.

I was going to complain about the book reviewer I hired for Catch a Falling Star who wrote a book review for a book by that name that was written by a lady author who was not even remotely me. And I didn’t get my money back on that one. Instead I got a hastily re-done review composed from details on the book jacket so the reviewer didn’t have to actually read my book to make up for his mistake. I was also going to complain about Pubby who only give reviewers four days to read a book, no matter how long or short it is, and how some reviewers don’t actually read the book. They only look at the other reviews on Amazon and compose something from there. Or the review I just got today, where the reviewer didn’t bother to read or buy the book as he was contracted to do, and then gave me a tepid review on a book with no other reviews to go by, and the Amazon sales report proves no one bought a book. So, it is definitely a middling review on a book that the reviewer didn’t read. Those are things I had intended to talk about today.

But, in the course of this essay, I have discovered that I don’t need to talk about those tedious and unimportant things. What matters really depends on what you, Dear Reader, got from this post. The ultimate McGuffin is in your hands. Be careful what you do with it. I believe neither of us is really ready to drop dead.

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