June 2009

Terry Southern: Blue, Blew, Blu

Getting yourself on the cover of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonley Hearts Club Band wasn’t on the mind of anyone who wound up there. But it’s a good thing Terry Southern did, otherwise it’d be just that much more difficult to explain who he is and or was. Yea, he helped write some Hollywood scripts of films that you’ve probably seen, but he was a novelist, not just a story teller. Of course the stories he told have at least one foot in reality, but that’s really what makes each of his works – filmic or in book form - all the more interesting.

Every Monday Matters By Matt Emerzian and Kelly Bozza

This is such an amazing book for the inspired or need to be inspired.  Every Monday Matters, written by Matthew Emerzian and Kelly Bozza gives you ideas on how to make a difference in your everyday life, starting it off with Monday’s - turning the one day of the week that most people dread into something special.

In this book, they give you examples of things to do every Monday for one year (52 Mondays).  They also inform you on how to get involved in your community and how to make a difference in other people’s lives.  This book is so full of inspiration that after reading it, no matter what day of the week, you’ll want to jump up and start helping. 


In recent months I've noticed an increase in people who want to offer critical, opinionated reviews of books they haven't read, more often than not, in an effort to prevent anyone else reading the book. This is, on the face of it, such an odd idea that many people are surprised it happens.

In praise of... John Steinbeck

One of my heroes died the other day. Lost among all the talk about Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett was the news that Steven Wells, the greatest music journalist of his generation, had passed away. One of the things that made him great was his realization that no matter how much you try to intellectualize a work of art, to explain what makes it good, bad, or mediocre, that really doesn’t have a lot of bearing on whether your audience will actually go out and enjoy it. Rather, he preferred to write about how he reacted to songs, how they made him feel, and tried to express that in a universal way.

And then he cursed a lot.

Loukoum: The Little Prince of Belleville

We've been talking about interesting books from various parts of the world for a while now. Well, this one adds to that list as I mention a book by African author Calixthe Beyala. The story in question is called Loukoum: The Little Prince of Belleville and it has been surrounded by controversy for a while. This is partly due to its topical content and partly due to scandals involving Beyala. Where the former is concerned, the writer paints a rather cynical picture of women in African society as opposed to depiction of females by other African authors. Where the latter is concerned, Beyala has been accused of plagiarism by various folks and thus, her works have been in the limelight for the wrong reasons. I wanted to talk a little bit about the book, why it caught my eye and then mention a few of the controversies about the book.

Bathroom Reading Month

With such a sticky, hot month upon us (at least where I live), what better time is there than to hole up in the bathroom like a terrorist in hiding and get into a book? Here are some ideas for enjoyable bathroom reading. Feel free to keep these reads on top of the towels for easy access, or stack them on the back of the toilet tank for a nice, non-seashell accent.

The Great American Bathroom Book: Full of short summaries of great books, this is good for people who either A. want to be well-read and need to find out what they should read, or B. want to appear well-read and use the summaries for actual reading. There are also author quotes as well as facts and statistics if you’re into reading those.

In praise of... Jilly Cooper

Now, I’m not going to try to convince you that Jilly Cooper is a master of language on a par with Flaubert, or that she does with words what Picasso did with paint; she is, however, a master of her craft, and as such, we should hold her dear and rejoice in what she brings to writing. About a hundred years ago, possibly before the internets was invented, the Icelandic singer and all round sonic adventurer Bjork gave an interview to the NME, a British music paper. In it, she said ‘I don’t want meat and potatoes every day.’ Or words to that effect. It’s been a while, and my memory is not all that it was. In any case, there’s a corollary to this, being that sometimes you want something bland, comforting and easy to make.

"My Stroke of Insight"- a Review

"My Stroke of Insight" has been hot on the NYT best-seller list for a while. The story, in case you are somehow not familiar, is the all-too-true (and ironic) tale of Jill Bolte Taylor, a Harvard-educated brain researcher who had a major stroke, and was not only cognizant enough during the stroke to write about her feelings during the stroke, but to write about them in the context of her life as a brain researcher.

Zorba vs. The Machine

Being born in a portion of the world that felt the hand of an outside government as a source of overarching power, one might figure that this specific fact would have an overbearing influence upon a writer’s craft. That, however, wasn’t the case with Nikos Kazantzakis’ Zorba the Greek. Instead drawing influence from his own travels in addition to his wide and ever shifting political and philosophical ideology, Kazantzakis fused the two with a bit of travelogue to create one of most famous pieces of fiction from the first half of the 20th century.

Classic Novels for Young Girls

Judging from the heated discussions about 'appropriate books', I am guessing that some parents are having a time tough picking the right book for their young girls. While there are a number of varying reasons why certain books have been dumped in the blacklist, I notice that there is one recurring complaint amongst most parents - that some books aimed at younger females lack substance or depth. This could very well be a misconception held by these parents. It could also be a valid argument after being disappointed by modern novels. Whatever the case, I decided to list five of my favorite classic novels that I read as a little kid. These were books that made a strong impression on me.


My Ticket to Fame and Glory: Kindle Romance Writing

I think I'm going to become a Kindle Romance writer.

This is not because I enormously like romance novels or even have a more than adequate skill in the genre: "Geraldo gently ripped the bodice of her dress by the strings and softly pulled her to his bosom. Catherine yearned for his throbbing manhood." is about the best I can do.  I honestly don't know if I know enough euphemisms for body parts or adverbs to tie a rather racy story line together and doubt that I would enjoy reading romance novels as research.

And, no, I have no illusions that I am this generation's Jane Austen, although that would be nice.

It's not because I have a great attraction for the Kindle either. I'm sure it's a great device, but as of yet, I haven't even used one.

Persepolis Offers a Window on the Iranian Revolution

"Persepolis A Story of a Childhood" by Marjane Satrapi is not only a great graphic autobiographical work detailing the Iranian revolution and war with Iraq from an upper-middle class ten-year-old's perspective, but a book containing nuggets of information necessary to understand the recent historical context of today's protests and the subsequent brutality in the streets.

In 1979, Marji's parents are revolting against the Shah of Iran, and Marji, a more than precocious youth, is trying to understand the context of the revolution through historical comic books, her family's legends, and her own over-active imagination. Her story is depicted through simple frames with dialog that carried  from one historical event to the next accompanied by charming narration with a slightly sarcastic tone.

Why ban something topical and relevant?

Have you heard about the right-to-burn-a-book incident? Author Neil Gaiman was talking about a recent development where certain folks were upset/offended by a book in a library. So they declared that they had a right to burn the offensive book. No, this is not in one of those countries fighting for free speech and all that; it's in one of the northern states of USA. To be fair, the fact that there is an ongoing debate is testimony to presence of free speech and rights of man; in a truly repressive nation, the book would probably be banned from all bookshops and libraries by now. Well, the main point of this article is talking about the issue of challenged books.

Review of Pygmy, by Chuck Palahniuk

Each time I read an announcement about an upcoming Chuck Palahniuk novel to be released in the near future, I experience two separate and conflicting reactions at the same time.  I get that little tingle in my stomach, excitement slowly building, that I always used to get when I was a kid when my mother announced that the family would be visiting the local water park the upcoming weekend.  Then I feel a little bit of panic, creeping slowly up my neck, and I am afraid for myself as a Palahniuk fan and for Palahniuk as an author.  Will this next novel be a let down?  What kind of wild and mildly offensive story will he unleash?  Will it, like his compellingly constructed but ultimately disappointing Haunted, end up being violent and amoral purely for the sake of violence and amorality?  Purely for shocks?  Will this novel create in me a need to rethink my position in society; the position of others in society; our obsession with materialism,

Dear Husband,

Joyce Carol Oates is the mistress of the lingering human nature yarn, the disturbing yet delightful, the dark yet real. In her latest installment of short stories, she does not disappoint.

Dear Husband, is a collection of stories about family and relationships, the ties that bind humans together whether they wish to be or not.

The first tale, “Panic,” is sure to resonate with mothers everywhere—as well as husbands who believe their wives are completely different people post-childbirth. “Vigilante” depicts the unsettling way a son shows his love for his mother. “Special” takes on a relationship rarely explored—that of a sister and her “special,” autistic older sister.