Tag Archives: books

For the Love of Reading!

c360_2017-01-02-10-17-06-058

Yes, I know it looks awkwardly painful to read on the floor in a scroochy position like that, but that was me as a kid.  I was the awkwardest nerd in Wright County, Iowa, when I was a boy.  But Dr. Seuss taught me early on to read and enjoy the imaginary worlds that reading created in my stupid little head.

I don’t remember the first actual book I read, other than to firmly believe it was a Dr. Seuss book like Yertle the Turtle, or Horton Hears a Who!  But I do remember the first chapter book, the first great adventure.  It was The White Stag by Kate Seredy.  It was the Newberry Medal winner published in 1937, and told the mythical journey of Hunor and Magyar, two brothers and leaders of two peoples who are on an epic quest to find the land where they belong by following a magical white stag.

the_white_stag

I was nine when I read and fell in love with that book.  I picked it off Miss Mennenga’s reading shelf because it was a simple red book with a plain red cover (the paper illustrated book cover had long since disintegrated in kids’ hands over time.)  Red was my favorite color.

But I fell in love with the movie version that unfolded in my mind’s eye.  It was when I learned to dive so deeply into a  book that the characters became real to me.

The following year when I was ten the book was Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.  Jim Hawkins was my best friend that year.  That was followed by Rudyard Kipling’s First Jungle Book.  I walked around the jungle with Mowgli and Bagheera the black panther for quite a while after that.

I think it is important to often look back on the beginnings of things.  This is the story of how I became a reader for life.  And it matters now that I am furiously trying to cram in more books of all sorts before the end.  The journey nears completion, and it helps to focus on what goals and what loves I had at the outset.  Will there be reading in Heaven?  I hope so.  Otherwise, truthfully, I may not go.

3 Comments

Filed under autobiography, book review, Dr. Seuss, education, humor, reading, self portrait, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Cheating at Reading

Three years ago I read 100 books during the school year.  I was a reading teacher.  I had piles of classroom books at all reading levels.  I wanted to record the feat on Goodreads, but I hadn’t figured out how to record things properly on the Goodreads website.  I have no record of those books to look back on.

So this year, 2016, I determined that I would read at least thirty books and record that reading on Goodreads.   Unfortunately I reached the beginning of September 17 books behind schedule.

So, I decided to cheat.  I gathered up a bunch of popcorn books… easy reads, books I set aside after reading half or more of the books, and books about drawing.

I also have a few books by comedians that are easy to buzz through because of the unique way that people like George Carlin and Lewis Black think… unfortunately rather close to the demented way I think.

I also read cartoon books and comic books quickly.

So, I have been cheating right along, finishing at least a book a day.  I am now at only 3 books behind schedule.  It probably is not a good thing for a former reading teacher to cheat at reading.  But I am filling up my reading shelf.  I enjoy the books.  And the way Donald Trump manages his businesses and does charity work, I don’t feel the least bit guilty.

Leave a comment

Filed under book reports, humor, reading, strange and wonderful ideas about life, Uncategorized

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.

lasthero

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).

makingmoneycover

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).

a-hatful-of-sky

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 withing 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

12 Comments

Filed under book review, humor, NOVEL WRITING

How To Avoid Dropping Dead Like a Dunderhead

Pony party

 

If it is inevitable that I will surely drop dead some day, and if it is likely that it will come sooner rather than later, then I hope to go out with a bit of style and leave something behind that speaks not only to my own children, but to anybody searching for truth and beauty, people of the future that I will never know who are living beyond the confines of my little life.  What makes me think that I can do it?  Well, I’m a writer… and Mark Twain did it… and I don’t have to be vain or loopy or maniacal or delusional to make the same thing happen.

On this day one-hundred-and-five years ago, April 21, 1910, Mark Twain left the world of the living.  He caught a ride on Halley’s Comet (It deposited him on Earth in 1835, appearing in the sky when he was born, and took him away when it appeared in the sky again in 1910…  He didn’t have to be some kind of suicidal Heaven’s Gate nut to manage that.)  But it wasn’t the comet that showed me the truth… it was his books.   I learned to take a wry view of a complex world that I could do nothing to change and tweak it with intelligence and understanding from the story of racism and justice he left behind in Pudd’nhead Wilson.  I learned the value of ingenuity and opportunity and how to use them properly from A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.  I also learned a profound love and understanding for small town people like me and the people of my little hometown in both The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.   Samuel Clemens, Mr. Mark Twain, left himself behind in stories to speak to the ages.  He spoke to me… directly to my heart, and he had been dead for 46 years before I was even born.  If that’s not magic, I don’t know what is.

 

media.npr.org

media.npr.org

Now, I am not a fool (wait a minute!  I know you have proof to the contrary if you read my blog posts, but I am not an UNINTENTIONAL fool), so I do not think that my words and wisdom are ever going to have any sort of effect on the entire world the way Mark Twain’s have.  I can accept reality.  This whole world is dying and may not long outlive me.  There are a large number of talented fools… er, I mean writers, out there who have put out a number of published good books, and have, like me, made diddly-zero-bupkiss in dollars on the deal.  I have no delusions.  My work is good enough to turn into a best-seller or maybe two, but I do not have the time or the backing to make it happen.  If anything other than obscurity embraces my books, I won’t live to see it.  Only eleven per cent of published authors make a livable wage from writing and I will never be one of them.  But I have ideas that resonate.  I can write in ways that touch the heart (as you may have seen if you have read my post “When Compassion Fails” that was a minor hit with the 1000 Voices Speak For Compassion group).

So, I am satisfied to confess my girly addiction to Barbie Dolls and My Little Pony… talk about cartoons and cartoonists on WordPress… make people giggle a bit… or even guffaw, and put together books that my family will read, and only be mildly embarrassed by, and maybe one day will reach and touch the heart of some boy or girl who really needs to read what I wrote at a time in their lives when it can actually help… the way so many other philosophers, wits, and word-wizards have helped me.  (How’s that for some prime purple-paisley prose?)

5 Comments

Filed under humor, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney

Sanctuary

This is my library, the place where I keep my books.  It is also a place for my doll collection and the Dungeons and Dragons game that I’ve been playing with my kids for more than a decade.  It is a place to read and think and… oh, yeah, there’s an X-Box also.  Well, that’s one way to get the kids to spend time there too.

20150110_134421

I do realize what a jumbled mess it is.  The shelves are all cheap Walmart kits that I built myself.  Some have been damaged over time and travel.  I have rebuilt them, restocked them, and rearranged them time and again.

20150110_134530

This reading nook is currently being used to display parts of my Captain Action collection.  The Captain America costume on the left is my original property from Christmas 1967.  The Steve Canyon costume next to it is an E-bay purchase and a rare find from a decade ago.  Aquaman is a combination.  The mask, trident,conch horn, and swim fins are from my original set from Christmas 1966.  The suit itself had to be replaced from E-Bay because I played with it until it was no more than a mass of frayed thread.  The gloves come from a innovative toy company called Classic Plastick run by Wes McCue.  http://classicplastick.proboards.com/  You may notice cups and junk left by kids in my library.  Cheetos wrappers from food that my daughter the Princess loves are often found crammed in between the books.

20150117_110057 20150117_110116

This alcove is where I store my customized Star Wars’ Twi’leck Barbie which I made myself with acrylic paint, Sculpey plasticine, exacto-knife, and Crazy Glue.  It also is where I store my antique book collection, some of which are a hundred years old or more.  (I have books from my Grandparents’ libraries as well as some from my own childhood.)

Let me show you the Star Wars shelf.  (It is not big enough for all my twelve-inch Star Wars action figures, but… oh, well.

20150110_134509

Here is the back side of the shelf.  (How did topless Mermaid Barbie get in there?)20150110_134644

I also have a corner for the X-Box and the TV it is attached to.  (But Dr. Evil is holding it hostage at this writing.)

20150116_181701

And finally, let me bore you with the fact that the small upstairs bedroom that is now the library does not have enough room to contain all my books.  The library also fills up the upstairs hall and large portion of my bedroom/studio.

20150110_134346

It has been said that my library is as cluttered as my mind is.  But don’t you believe it.  My inner world makes this manifestation in the outer world look Spartan by comparison.

2 Comments

Filed under autobiography, doll collecting, Paffooney, photo paffoonies

Krazy Kat

1138249

I told you before about a cartoonist from ancient ‘Toon Times named Fontaine Fox.  He was a master, and I acknowledge him as one of my greatest inspirations.  But he was not the original master mentor for my teenage ‘Toon Training.  That honor goes to the inestimable George Herriman.  He was the Krazy Kartoonist who died more than a decade before I was born, yet, through his Kreation, Krazy Kat, did more to warp my artistic bent into Krazy Kartooniana Mania than anybody else.  I discovered him first.  I found him through Komic books and the Kard Katalog at the local library.  I own a copy of the book I pictured first in this post.  It is the first Kartoon book I ever bought.  I couldn’t post a picture of my actual book here because I have read it so often in the past forty years that the Kover has Kome off.  It is now more of folder of loose pages than a book.

Herriman KK 1920-12-05 (2)

Krazy Kat is a newspaper Komic strip that ran all around the world from 1913 to 1944.  Comics Journal would rate Krazy Kat as the greatest work of Komic art of the 20th Century.  Art critics hailed it as serious art, and it fits snugly into the surrealist movement of Salvador Dali and others.  It has been cited as a major influence on the work of other artists such as Will Eisner, Charles M. Schulz, Robert Crumb, Art Spiegelman, Bill Watterson, and Chris Ware.

krazy

The centerpiece of the strip is a love triangle.  Krazy Kat the Kharacter is a feline who may be female or may be male but is definitely deeply in love with Ignatz Mouse.  The Krazed rodent hopped up on seriously stinky fromage (cheese to us non-French speakers), is Konstantly throwing bricks at Krazy’s head… obviously out of serious disdain, however, Krazy sees it as a confession of love.  Offisa Pup, the police watchdog, wants to jail the malevolent mouse for battery and protect the precious Kat, whom he obviously loves with an unrequited love.  Explanations are superfluous in the weird world of Krazy Kat.  How can I explain the charm, the humor, the good-natured violence of a strip such as this?  There are echoes of it in Tom and Jerry animated cartoons, but nothing like it really exists anywhere else.  Krazy has her own unique language, a language that you naturally learn to interpret as you read the strip.  Ignatz exhibits psychotic frustrations that he takes out on the world around him in our name, that we might experience hubris at his expense.  And what’s with that mysterious sack of “Tiger Tea” that Krazy carries about and keeps a Klosely guarded “sekrit”?

tigertea_coveronly-300x286

I honestly hope you will give Krazy Kat a thorough “look-see”.  Because if you like Kartoons at all… and it doesn’t have to be the Krazy Kooky love of a seriously overdosed addict like me… you will fall desperately in love with this one.   It is a world of its own, a superbly superfluous abstract anachronism.  It is a surrealist’s dream of fun with puns and tons of buns… or something like that.  Simply put… read it and don’t like it… I dare you!

2 Comments

Filed under art criticism, artists I admire, cartoons

Reading Assignments

Yesterday I revealed that I have no earthly clue how to be a best-selling author with a blog and a brand and all those other things that marketing racketeers keep pettifogging at me about.  I may not know anything about marketing and being an author, but I do know how to be a writer.  I have learned to say things flat out when they are on my mind and I know how to do the two essential things that a writer has to know how to do… I can practice writing every day, and I can read.

If you are one of those few who actually read my blog regularly, you may remember some talk about the classic novel, Tess of the D’Urbervilles.  Believe it or not, I know how to read and understand great books.  You can find me on  Goodreads.com to see some of the wonderful things I have been reading, and to decide if you might like them too.  If you are not on Goodreads already, why not?  That is now your next assignment, young reader.  Oops.   You know what they say, “Old English teachers never die, they just lose their class.”

Today’s little self-imposed book report is about a book that I read my senior year in high school, 1975.  It is called The Other by Thomas Tryon.  It is a book that was made into a movie.  The author is also a Hollywood actor that has been in many films.  He wrote the screenplay for the movie version.  But I have to tell you, the movie pales in comparison to the book itself.  Movies simply cannot give you the rich depth of atmosphere and the delicate psychological nuances that a book can.  Movies show you something.  A book can explain something in detail.  And that is a key difference.

downlotheroad

Michael Beyer‘s review

Dec 22, 14  ·  edit
Read in April, 1975
This is a fascinating book for it’s ornate description of long-ago New England life, and the eerie way old houses and long-gone people can twist and mangle our lives. It is a psychological horror story about twin boys, Niles and Holland Perry. They are polar opposites. Niles is warm and loving. But Holland is distant, cold, and sinister. Their grandmother Ada, a lovely old woman with deep Russian roots, has taught the boys to play an ESP-sort of game, reaching out with their minds to feel what a bird feels, or a squirrel, or a magician to find out how he did a certain disappearing trick. She has no idea that the mind-game will have such a devastating effect on both the twins and ruin so many peoples’ lives. I cannot say more without revealing the magic the author uses to bring this book to a totally unexpected and devastating conclusion. This book is not everyone’s cup of tea… and it may be many readers’ cup of arsenic… but it worked its spell on me. I recommend it if you wish to be chilled to the bone marrow.
Fools
I am reading this book now for the third time.  It is rare that I read a book more than once, because every time through changes your perception of it and risks making you dislike it.  But certain books are immune to that effect.  And I am re-reading it now because I want to closely analyze the techniques he used to create his surprise ending.  There-in lies the reason for this reading assignment that I have given myself.  That is how I roll as a writer.

Leave a comment

Filed under book review, NOVEL WRITING