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06 Feb

Names, The Nature of Ambiguity, and Other Oddities in the World of Writing

Just got my newest edition of the LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS and there is a piece in it about one Jim Grant, now more commonly known to his book fans as Lee Childs, creator of the Jack Reacher series. I’ve not read any of his stuff, but I have certainly seen the covers and I believe, and, perhaps, a movie with the character. Don’t remember the film at all, which means there was no reason to. Or I’m just old. Prolly both.

I’m in the middle wading the river  of two manuscripts at the moment, which grow in burps and slides and stumbles and such, one them the 11the Grady Service Title and the other a piece set in England in WW 2. The first will no doubt find print. The second? We shall see.

Names seems to capture readers’ attention and I am almost always challenged by readers at various group gropes and reading soirees. When I tell them that the vast majority of the names come directly from UP phone books, their eyes glaze over – yet it’s true. Couple of times a year I get emails from readers asking if a character with the name of X is from X because their uncle/grandfather/brother/whatever was of that name and from that place.  What they want to know is if I am writing about their relative and family. I have to tell them nope, came from a phone book from a different town. This always seems to disappoint. Life, English.

Names though, have a special place in the writer’s zoo verba.

Take, for example, one Jim Grant, “who was a technical director at Granada TV in England, and went to a store in Manchester and bought three A4 pads (the tall ones) and a pencil. This was 1994. He was almost 40 and about to lose his job, thanks to corporate restructuring, which he’d spent two years fighting as a union shop steward. He lost and made a plan to make a living as a novelist, using for models Alistair MacLean the Travis McGee series by John MacDonald. He named his protagonist Franklin, but apparently the name didn’t really take hold in his mind. Thus, came a day in a store as he stretched to a high shelf for an item, and his wife remarked, “If writing doesn’t work out, you can always find work as a ‘reacher.’  Bingo! Jack Franklin became Jack Reacher.

But wait, that’s not all! At same time  Mr. Grant was having doubts about his character name, he also had doubts about his own moniker and a family joke got him thinking. Some years earlier he had chanced to meet a Texan who drove a Renault 5, a model marketed in the U.S. as Le Car, and which the Texan referred to as Lee Car. There after the family used to joke about passing “lee salt” or “lee pepper,” etc, and about looking after “lee child,” and another Bingo moment Jack Reacher and Lee Child were “born!”

Such stories seem archetypal, but there are so many like it from many authors that I have no doubt. Back when The Berkut was in production and nearing publication (my second book) my editor at Random House called and in his most patrician voice declared. We have a problem.”

I sort of felt like an astronaut hearing from Houston. “What?” I asked.

“It’s your…NAME.

“Yah, what ABOUT my name?”

“Random House does NOT publish. JOE’S.”

I couldn’t stop laughing. “Fox pick out whatever name you want. I couldn’t care less. Up till then I had published as Joe T. Heywood. That day I became Joseph NMI Heywood and have remained so ever since. Once considered publishing under my Irish grandmother Mary’s maiden name, Hamill, but decided not to. Someday perhaps.

There’s no question that names are important to stories and life itself, and I’ve no doubt that many authors swimming in the Maximo Flatulenti in the sharp-elbow corners of the Big-L Upper Lit-Ra-Chuh  ice sheet give long and deep thought to selecting just the right one. Me, I take what pops into my head, or which my hand finds at random in the phone rag. Sometimes I make up names, but these occasions are fairly rare. I feel sorry for anyone who is not familiar with Russian or Slave names when they are reading THE BERKUT, and THE DOMINO CONSPIRACY, , but I use only legitimate names in those stories, so it is what it is.  

And it’s not just  what I think of as quasi-exotics that seem to throw folks. Last month I got an email from a fellow who didn’t identify where he was from. His note  read as follows: “Enjoy reading your books. Lots of different characters to try to remember. Only one thing I don’t like: Difficult to pronounce names: Zulderveen, Allerdyce, Pyykkonen, Macofome, Pracie, Scaffidi, etc. Makes it even more difficult to keep track of them. Why so many difficult-to-pronounce names? They don’t seem difficult to me or to most Yoopers, so I had a hard time answering the inquiry.

As you may surmise, I am fascinated by names, and to this end I also keep a growing list of the longest names I encounter in my various reading endeavors. A retired reporter friend of me even gave me four pages of names  collected from his career, names that had caught his attention, for various reasons (largely prurient).

Here’s a short list of the long names on my list:

  • Bibhutibhuswan Bannerjee (Indian author);
  • Florentio V Macadandan (from something I read in the Kalamazoo Gazette long ago);
  • Mihaly Csikszent Mihaly (nickname “Six-Card Mihaly);
  • A gent  by the name of Mike Tyson Schwarzenegger Prodelle.
  • A Brazilian plumber with the long handle of Errol Flynn PaixzoCharlingtonglarvionbeechaknavare dos anjos mendona (chacha).
  • There is Te Rangimario Ngarimu, a female hit-woman (assassin) in Niger;
  • And, Kumkum Sangari, author of The POLITICS OF THE POSSIBLE, and finally,
  • Wanorievyston Carl or Marllon Brnadon Bruno Paully Nelly Mell Oliveira Pereera (or as his friends and intimates call him, a.k.a Peteroswickonicovick. Wah, and Whew (not names…yet).

And MY names are weird?  One name I’ve found sort of alluring recently is that of Calliope Wong, a transgender student refused entrance by the very liberal Smith College. My head swims at the possibilities.

I’d characterize all this as food for thought,  knowing full well it’s sure just some Pablum.

As a note on name collecting, I love Olympic years when team rosters are published for many countries, I love sports roundups, obits, and any sort of news or mag item that features a lot of names. Cemeteries are excellently name collection points. Or randomly open a book or magazine and start writing down the names. And of course the phone book (which they still exist: how long till they got the way of rotary phones?

Let me close on a technicality – (technical fishing translates to flinging a size 26 fly on 7X tippet at a target the size of a FOREVER stamp). This technicality concerns ambiguity in writing, ambiguity being defined as uncertainty or inexactness of meaning in language.

As a generality a writer  usually seeks to eliminate ambiguity, that is, we want what we are writing to come through to the reader exactly (or as close to exactly) as we conceive it, with the same result and reaction if triggers in us.  But ambiguity, like all things human, is not so simple or straightforward. There are times when a writer may want something to be ambiguous and there are lots of possible reasons for this.

But let us concentrate  now solely on ambiguity as it can get in the way of understanding. Critic-poet William Empson speaks of Seven types of Ambiguity which can retard or kerfluffle the chemistry between the printed word and the reader. Here’s Mr. Empson’s list:

  • Metaphor, two things said to be alike, but with different properties;
  • Two or more meanings resolved into one, mostly from trying to use two different metaphors simultaneously;
  • Two ideas connected through context but given in one word simultaneously;
  • Two or more meanings that do not agree but combine to make clear a complicated state of mind in the author. (I might have said in the character, too, but this is Empson’s list, not mine);
  • When the author discovers his idea in the act of writing. (This probably happens to some extent with all of us who make a living with the pen). Here Empson describes a simile that lies halfway between the two statements made by the author;
  • When a statement says nothing and the readers are forced to invent a statement of their own, most likely in conflict with that of the author. (I understand Empson’s point here, but it seems to me you can leave a blank that requires some sort of effort from the reader, perhaps in physical descriptions so that they are putting some sweat equity into the effort and in the process buying in and becoming part of the active process. More on this some other day. Just not that if you look at my main characters you will find almost not detailed descriptions because I want them to look how you want them to in your mind, not see what I see in mine. See, what the character says and does should help you draw him, rather than me providing a word photo. Lots of authors would and do disagree with my approach here); and,
  • Two words that within context are opposites that expose a fundamental division in the author’s mind.]

Empson published these thoughts in 1930 (13 years before I was born)  and provided some of the key spade-work in the formation of the New Criticism school, whose emphasize explication, or “close reading,” of “the work itself.” This approach rejects old historicism’s attention to biographical and sociological matters. Instead, the objective determination as to “how a piece works” can be found through close focus and analysis, rather than through extraneous and erudite special knowledge.  This bears on the fact that the art product is not the artist, but something separate and to try to read biography into what you read or see is a slippery slope to oblivion (wherein dwells eternal confusion).

Sometimes in groups I’ll ask how many there  read and relate to the Bible? Always get several hands. I ask, “Do you believe it, get into it, find it compelling? Nods all around. “Do you know the authors? This always draws blank faces. The authors, of course, are long dead (and the thought-to-be-authors may in some cases not even be the de facto authors) but the point is that the work works. Doesn’t matter who wrote it or why, or even it they knew why they were doing it, only that it obviously worked in some way for them and continues to resonates in some way with readers a couple of millennia later. All that matters between author and reader is what’s on paper. All the rest ranks somewhere between irrelevant and idle baloney, between Entertainment Tonight and This Is Your Life, both rubbish.

Back when I was in J-School at Michigan State we all had to take an Advertising course and in that course we were all given access to something called the “Eureka Process,” which taught us how to prepare and plumb our brains for creative ideas. It was one of the most valuable things I learned in school, and it carried into every career and environment I fell into. More recently (last week) I read Maria Konnikova’s MASTERMIND; HOW TO THINK LIKE SHERLOCK HOLMES. (Viking, 2013). Granted, it’s a hokey kind of title, but it does get one’s attention, which is its intent.  Konnikova writes the “Literally Psyched” Column for SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN. The book is well worth your time and continued thought.

The process she describes so well is a richer and somewhat deep version of the Eureka process and in my opinion a must-read for all writers, teachers, cops, soldiers, engineers, whatever, anyone involved in analysis of problems and trying to find solutions.  The author uses author Doyle and characters Holmes and Watson to illustrate her points. For me it’s useful not just for my own use in seeking information and finding ways to handle it, but for how my characters can go right or wrong in handling information. Interesting read, well worthy my time.

Enough Saturday morning blarney. Lonnie and sister Mary went to see mom Georgie in Niles yesterday and got to see six Blooeys (bluebirds). (Not to be confused with Bloobs– blueberries.)

Here’s a thought offered by Francis Bacon’s translator back around the time that William Shakespeare was about to check out life and, for a couple of centuries anyone’s attention, too. “ Nullem momentum aut temporis segmentum perire et intercidere passus est.” Which is to say, “He suffered no moment, nor fragment of time to pass away unprofitably.”  The man didn’t waste time and his friends and associates knew this and appreciated it. Bacon Accomplished a squat-load in his life and his ethic on time- used is fine guidon for us to  heel to.

By the way, I was an AWFUL Latin student and once desperately changed an F to a B on my report card and got caught. The old man didn’t kick my ass. Thought I wished he had on that occasion.  Oh well. It took four or five more decades to come to love the language, which one historian described as, “Although modern translations do their best to make it all sound fairly lucid, the original Latin wording is often clear from that, the absence of nouns and differentiated pronouns can make it almost impossible to know who is doing what to whom.   I like knowing that still believe that Romans had a knack for pithiness and continue to believe I am very, very lucky to be able to create and write in the English vernacular.

Over. Go Denver. 50 Superbowls? Wow. I still remember the first one, Green Bay 35, K.C. 10. Sorry Rootie.

29 Jan

Book Signing Sessions Loom in Kalamazoo and Gaylord

The for-sure signing is Saturday, April 2,  2016, 2-4 p.m. at Saturn Booksellers in Gaylord.

Tentative at Kazoo Books in Kalamazoo, Friday April 1, 2016, Libby Fischer (Ellie Foreman mysteries) is passing through town and K.B.’s John Wenger (Esquire) is trying to arrange some sort of wing-ding, possibly including a light lunch. Will post more when I know. 

25 Jan

Old-Timey Sunday Afternoon

Not much blogging recently. Too busy with two manuscripts and all that goes with that. The titles are A SPORTING OF SKELETONS (The 11th Woods Cop Mystery) and FIVE GOLD RINGS (Tale of a treasure hunt during World War II).  Lonnie cooked Un poulet rôti avec pommes de terre, les oignons, les carottes, le céleri et les navets, which is to say, a whole dang chicken carcass, and a pile of veggies for an old fashioned Sunday lunch and of course that was a perfect excuse to  crack a bottle of  inexpensived Bourfdeaux. (Yes there is such a thing if you know where to look). I  watched the Broncos upset the Patriots and Jambe Longue’s little sister Mary shared some new in-the-works music from her daughters, Megan and Liz. These were from the the master of four songs from the next collection, which comes out in March. Great stuff. Song titles: “Drive”; “White T-Shirt”;”Big Kids”; and, “That Ghost.” The ladies are wonderfully creative song writers and  riveting performers and growing all the time in their art. “Drive,” says Jambe Longue, may become our travel theme song. Ironic that their collection under the title of DEUX, will be out about a week after my next book, which is called, BUCKULAR DYSTROPHY. Also talked in past two days to my CO friend who came up with the term buckular dystrophy — deer hunters who can’t control their greed. Good to hear his voice. He called me specifically to tell me about a CO who was interviewing someone and as they talked, a tooth fell out of  of the guy’s mouth onto the table. Definitely a moment for a future book. Here are the covers for Megan and Liz in  DEUX, and for BUCKULAR DYSTROPHY.  Both out  in March, be on the lookout, s’il vous plait! Over.

Pub Date is March 1, 2016

Pub Date is March 1, 2016

Pub Date is March 1, 2016

Pub Date is March 1, 2016

02 Jan

2015 Reading List (no special order)

(1)William Sanders. Are We Having Fun Yet? American Indian Fantasy Stories. (2002) [SS]
(2)Scott Russell Sanders. Earth Works: Selected Essays. (2012) [ESS]
(3)Joseph Heywood. Buckular Dystrophy (2015) [Submission Draft]
(4)Sarah Bakewell. How To Live, or A Life of Montaigne: In One Question and Twenty Attempts At An Answer. (2010) [BIOG]
(5)Diane Osen. The Book That Changed My Life: Interviews With National Book Award Winners. (2002) [NF]
(6)Sarah Smith. Chasing Shakespeare. (2003)
(7)Kenn Kaufman. Kingbird Highway. (1997) [NF
(8)Toshihiko Kobayashi. Insight Track – To Become an Internationally- Minded Person (2014) [NF]
(9)Hector St.John De Crevcoeur. Letters From An American Frontier and Sketches of Eighteenth-Century America. (1782) [NF]
(10)Thomas de Quincey. Confessions of an English Opium-Eater and Other Writings. (1821) [NF]
(11) Jose Saramago. The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis. (1984)
(12) Joseph Heywood. Covered Waters. (2015) [NF-Memoir]
(13) Bryan Stevenson. Just Mercy. (2014) [NF]
(14) Robert Shelton. No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan. (1986/2010) [NF]
(15) David Levering Lewis. God’s Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215. (2008) [NF]
(16) Martin Walker. The Resistance Man. (2013)
(17) John Straley. Cold Storage, Alaska. (2014)
(18) Troy Soos. Hunting A Detroit Tiger. (1997/2013)
(19) George Craig, Martha Dow Fehsenfield, Dan Gunn, and Lois More Overbeck. The Letters of Samuel Beckett. 1957-1965. (2014) [NF]
(20) William Alexander. Flirting With French: How a Language Charmed Me, Seduced Me & Nearly Broke My Heart. (2014) [NF]
(21) Cheryl Strayed. Wild. (2013) [NF]
(22) Arturo Perez-Reverte. The Siege. (2013)
(23) Robert Harris. The Fear Index. (2012)
(24) Garrett Epps. American Epic. Reading the U.S. Constitution. (2013) [NF]
(25) Harriet Elinor Smith, Ed. Autobiography of Mark Twain. (2010) [NF]
(26) Adam Gopnik. Paris to the Moon. (2000) [NF]
(27) Philip K. Dick. The Man in the High Castle. (1962)
(28) Philip K. Dick. Confessions of a Crap Artist. (1975)
(29) Philip K. Dick. The Game-Players of Titan. (1963)
(30) William Alexander. Flirting With French: How A Language Charmed Me, Seduced Me & Nearly Broke My Heart. (2014) [NF]
(31) Sarah Blakewell. The English Dane: From King of Iceland to Tasmanian Convict: At Life Of Jorgen Jorgenson. (2005) [NF]
(32) Bob Dylan. Chronicles, Vol I (2005) [NF]
(33) Molly Ivins and Lou Dubose. Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush’s America. (2003) [NF]
(34) MFK Fisher. How To Cook A Wolf. (1942) [NF]
(35) Donald Barthelme. Sixty Stories. (1981) [SS]
(36) S.E. Gontarski, Ed. Samuel Becket: The Complete Short Prose, 1929-1989. (1995) [NF + SS]
(37) Stanislaus Joyce. My Brother’s Keeper. James Joyce’s Early Years. (1958) [NF]
(38) Laura Hildenbrand. Unbroken. (2010) [NF]
(39) John Darnton, Intro. Writers [on Writing]:  Collected Essays from the New York Times. (2001) [NF]
(40) Milan Kundera. The Art of the Novel. (1986) [NF]
(42) Samuel Beckett. More Pricks Than Kicks. (1934/1972) [SS]
(43) C.J. Ackerley and S.E. Gontarski. The Grove Companion to Samuel Beckett:A Reader’s Guide to His Work, Life, and Thoughts. (2004)
(44) Sarah Blakewell. The Smart: The Story of Margaret Caroline Rudd and the Unfortunate Perreau Brothers. (2001) [NF]
(45) Martin Walker. Bruno, CHIEF OF POLICE.(2008)
(46) Martin Walker. The Crowded Grave.(2011)
(47) Jim Harrison. The Boy Who Ran To The Woods. (2000) [Kidlit]
(48) John Gardner. The Art of Fiction. (1981) [NF]
(49) Adam Gopnik. Winter: Five Windows on the Season. (2011) [NF]
(50) Adam Gopnik. Angels and Ages: A Short Book About Darwin, Lincoln, and Modern Life. (2009) [NF]
(51) Emily St.John Mandel. Station Eleven. (2015)
(52) W. Somerset Maugham. A Writer’s Notebook. (1949) [NF]
(53) Phillip Lopate. Against Joie De Vivre: Personal Essays. (1989) [NF]
(54) Alistair Horne. Seven Ages of Paris. (2002) [NF]
(55) Alistair Horne. La Belle France: A Short History. (2004) [NF]
(56) Donald Hall. Life Work. (1993/2003) [NF]
(57) Laurence Stern. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. (1978)
(58) Edward Rutherford. The Princes of Ireland: The Dublin Saga (2004)
(59) Flann O’Brien. The Third Policeman. (1967)
(60) Italo Calvino. Marco Valdo or the Seasons in the City. (1963)
(61) Italo Calvino. The Baron in the Trees. (1957)
(62) William H. Gass. Omensetter’s Luck. (1966)
(63) Thomas Pynchon. Inherent Vice. (2009)
(64) Nicholas Carr. The Glass Cage: Automation and Us (2014) [NF]
(65) John Gardner(Foreward by Raymond Carver) On Becoming a Novelist. (1983) [NF]
(66) Robert Coover. The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waurgh, Prop. (1968)
(67) Donald Hall. Fathers Playing Catch With Sons (Essays on Sport, Mostly Baseball) (1985) [NF]
(68) Edward Dolnick. Down The Great Unknown: John Wesley Powell’s 1869 Journey of Discovery and Tragedy Through the Grand Canyon.(2001) [NF]
(69) Joseph Heywood. Brown Ball. (UNPUBL MS)
(70) Joseph Heywood. Harder Ground. (2025) [SS]
(71) Henry Barbusse. Under Fire. (2010/1916)
(72) Tom Chiarella. Writing Dialogue. (1998)  [NF]
(73) Susan G. Wooldridge. Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life  With Words. (1996) [P]
(74) Alastair Fowler. Literary Names: Personal Names in English Literature. (2012) [NF]
(75) Kenneth Burke. A Grammar of Motives. (1945) [NF]
(76) Ray Bradbury. Bradbnry Speaks: Too Soon From the Cavae, Too Far From the Stars. (2005) [NF]
(77) Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Phenomenology of Perception. (Pre-1923) [NF]
(78) David Brooks. Bobos In Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There. (2000) [NF]
(79) Roger Angell. Once More Around the Park: A Baseball Reader. (1991) [NF]
(80) Roger Angell/ Intro by Richard Ford. Game Time: A Baseball Companion. (2003) [NF]
(81) Christopher Hitchens. Hitch 22: A Memoir. (2010) [NF]
(82) Christopher Hitchens. The Portable Athiest: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliver. (2007) [NF[
(83) Mors Kochanski. Bushcraft: Outdoor Skills and Wilderness Survival. (1987) [NF]
(84) Robert Haight. Emergencies and Spinnerfalls.  (2002) [P]
(85) Robert Haight. Feeding Wild Birds. (2013) [P]
(86) Robert Hicok. The Clumsy Living. (2007) [P]
(87) Dave Dempsy and Jack Dempsey. Ink Trails: Michigan’s Famous and Forgotten Authors. (2012) [NF]
(88)Patrick Robinson. Slider: A Novel. (2002)
(89) Daniella Martin. Edible: An Adventure Into the World of Eating Insects and the Last Great Hope to Save the Planet.  (2014) [NF]
(90) Thomas McGuane. Crow Fair. (2015) [SS]
(91) Stanley Elkin. Van Gogh’s Room At Arles. (1993)
(92) Stanley Elkin. The MacGuffin. (1991)
(93) Stanley Elkin. Cries & Kibitzers, Kibiztzers & Cries. (1965) [SS}
(94) Jim Harrison. The Big Seven: A Faux Mystery. (2015)
(95) Jim Harrison. The Great Leader: A Faux Mystery.  (2011)
(96) Laurence Sterne. The Life and Opinions of Tritram Shandy, Gentleman. (1757)
(97) Michel Faber. The Book of Strange New Things. (2014)
(98) Joseph Heywood. Covered Waters: Tempests of a Nomadic Trouter. (2015) [NF]
(99) Juhani Pallasmaa. The Thinking Hand: Existential and Embodied Wisdom in Architecture. (2009) [NF]
(100) Henry Hitchings.The Secret Life of Words: How English Became English. (2008) [NF]
(101) A. Bartlett Giamatti. The Earthly Paradise and the Renaissance Epic. (1966) [NF]
(102) Joseph Heller. Now and Then: From Coney Island to Here. (1998) [NF]
(103) A. Bartlett Giamatti. Take Time for Paradise: Americans and Their Games. (1989) [NF]
(104) A. Bartlett Giamatti. A Great and Glorious Game. (1998) [NF]
(105) George F. Will. Men At Work: The Craft of Baseball. (1990,2010) [NF]
(106) Clive James. Poetry Notebook: Reflections on the Intensity of Language.(2014) [NF]
(107) Nick Hornby. Fever Pitch. (1992) [NF]
(108) Virginia Woolf. A Writer’s Diary: Being Extracts From the Diary of Virginia Woolf.  [1953] [NF]
(109) Ann Hood. An Ornithologist’s Guide to Life. (2004) [SS]
(110) Franco Moretti. The Way of The World: The Bildungsroman in European Culture. (1987) [NF]
(111) Kevin Smokler. Bookmark Now; Writing in Unreaderly Times.  (2005) [NF]
(112) Jeanette Winterson. Art Objects: Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery. (1995) [NF-Essays]
(113) P.G. Wodehouse. The Code of the Woosters. (1938)
(114) Thomas Pynchon. Crying of Lot 49. (1965)
(115) A. Bartlett Giamatti. A Free and Ordered Space: The Real World of the University. (1976) [NF]
(116) Franco Moretti. Distant Reading. (2013) [NF]
(117) Arthur Koestler. Darkness at Noon. (1940) [NF]
(118) Arthur Koestler. The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man’s Changing Vision of the Universe. (1959) [NF]
(119) David Benioff. City of Thieves. (2008)
(120) Clive James. Cultural Cohesion. (2013) [NF]
(121) John Fortunato. Dark Reservations: A Mystery. (2016)
(122) Philip MacDonald. Dead Police (1933/1985)
(123) Virginia Woolf. The Common Reader. (1925/1953) [E]
(124) Nuala O’Faolain. Almost There: The Onward Journey of a Dublin Woman. (2003) [NF]
(125) Aubrey Williams, Ed. Poetry and Prose of Alexander Pope. (1969) [NF]
(126) Bruce Feiler. Walking The Bible: A Journey By Land Through the Five Books of Moses.(2001) [NF]
(127) Philip Kerr. The Lady from Zagreb. (2015)
(128) Robert Crais. The Monkey’s Raincoat. (1987)
(129) John Christopher. The Death of Grass. (1956/2009)
(130) Nick Rosen. Off The Grid: Inside the Movement for More Space, Less Government, and True Independence in Modern America.(2010) [NF]
(131) Chris Hedges. Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt. (2015) [NF]
(132) Phillip Lopate. Intro. The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present. (1994) [Essays]
(133) Bernd Heinrich. The Homing Instinct. Meaning & Mystery in Animal Migration. (2014) [NF]
(134) Sue Hubbell. Far-Flung Hubbell. (1995) [Essays]
(135) A. Bartlett Giamatti. A Free and Ordered Space: The Real World of the University. (1976) [NF]
(136) Wendell Berry. What Are People For? (1990) [Essays]
(137) Wendell Berry. It All Turns on Affection: The Jefferson Lecture & Other Essays. (2012) [Essays]
(138) Wendell Berry. Our Only World: Ten Essays. (2015) [Essays]
(139) Wendell Berry. The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry. (2002) [Essays]
(140) Irwin Shaw. The Young Lions. (1948)
(141) David Landis Barnhill, Trans, Intro. Basho’s Journey: The Literary Prose of Matsuo Basho. (2005) [Essay and Poems]
(142) Anthony Doerr. All the Light We Cannot See.(2014)
(143) Cynthia Griffin Wolff. Emily Dickinson. (1988) [NF]
(144) Harry Middleton. The Earth is Enough: Growing Up in a World of Flyfishing, Trout, & Old Men. (1989) [NF]
(145) Ian Frazier. Great Plains. (1989) [NF]
(146. Wendell Berry. The Way of Escape and Other Essays. (2005) [NF]
(147) Harry Middleton. Rivers of Memory. (1993) [NF]
(148) Franco Morett. Distant Reading. (2013) [NF]
(149) Stephen Adams. Poetic Designs: And Introduction to Meters, Verse Forms, and Figures of Speech. (2003) [NF]
(150) John Elder. Following the Brush. (1993) [NF]
(151) Chris Ballard. One Shot At Forever. (2012) [NF]
(152) John Feintsten. Where Nobody Knows Your Name: Life in the Minor Leagues of Baseball.(2015) [NF]
(153) Bill Madden. 1954. (2014) [NF]
(154) Cris Laoutaris. Shakespeare and the Countess: The Battle That Gave Birth to the Globe. (2014) [NF]
(155) Kobo Abe. The Woman in the Dunes. (1964)
(156) Harold Bloom. The Daemon Knows: Literary Greatness and the American Sublime. (2015) [NF]
(157) Anthoney Doerr. All the Light We Cannot See. (2014)\
(158) Neal Stephenson. Seven Eyes. (2015)
(159) Tristan Gooley. The Natural Navigator. (2011) [NF]
(160) Harry Middleton. In That Sweet Country: Uncollected Writings of Harry Middleton.  (2010) [NF]
(161) Harry Middleton. The Bright Country: A Fisherman’s Return to Trout, Wild Water, and Himself. (2000) [NF]
(162) David  E. Dirks, Ed. Tenkara Fly Fishing. (2013) [NF]
(163) Tristan Gooley. The Walker’s Guide to Outdoor Clues and Signs (2014) [NF]
(164) William Shakespeare. K.Henry IV with the Humours of Sir John Falstaff. A Tragi-Comedy. Written by Mr. W. Shakespear. (1723)
(165) Matthew Pearl. The Last Bookaneer. (2015)
(166) Tina Packer. Women of Will: Following the Feminine in Shakespeare’s Plays. (2015) [NF]
(167) William Shakespeare. Hamlet.(xxxx)
(168) James R. Siemon. Word Against Word: Shakesperian Utterance. (2002) [NF]
(169) Barry Singer. Churchill Style: The Art of Being Winston Churchill. (2012) [NF]
(170) Michael Holqist, Ed. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays by M.M. Bakhtin. (1981) [NF] [Essays]
(171) Nick Vander Bijo BEM. No. 10 (Inter-Allied) Commando, 1942-45 : Britain’s Secret Commando. (2006) [NF]
(172) Terry Crowdy. SOE Agent: Churchill’s Secret Warriors. (2008) [NF]
(173) Eugene Liptak. OSS 1942-1945: The WW2 Origins of the CIA. (2009) [NF]
(174) Pico Iyer. The Global Soul. Jet Lag, Shopping Malls, and the Search For Home. (2000) [NF] [Essays]
(175) Pico Iyer. Falling Off the Map. Some Lonely Places in the World. (1993) [NF]
(176) Pico Iyer, Intro. Graham Greene: Complete Short Stories. (2005) [SS]
(177) Denis Rigdon. How to Be A Spy. The WW2 SOE Training Manual. (2001) [NF]
(178) Pico Iyer. The Lady and The Monk: Four Seasons in Kyoto. (1991) [NF]
(179) J. Payne Collier. Memoirs of the Principal Actors in the Plays of Shakespeare. (1846) [NF]
(180) Randy Fertel. The Gorilla Man and the Empress of Steak: A New Orleans Family Memoir. (2011) [NF]
(181) Massimo Pigliucce. Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk. (2010) [NF]
(182) U.S. Army, Intro by Rick Atkinson. Instructions for American Servicemen in France During World War II. (1944) (2008) [NF]
(183) Winston S. Churchill. Painting As A Pastime. (1948) (2014) [NF]
(184) Dr. Peter D. Matthews and Maria Bassano. Shakespeare Exhumed: The Bassano Chronicles. (2013) [NF]
(185) Henrik Ibsen, Paul Negri, Ed.  Peer Gynt. (1867) (2003)
(186) T. Lothrop Stoddard. The Rising Tide Against White World Supremecy. (1921) [NF]
(187) Madison Grant. The Passing of the Great Race: The Racial Basis of European History. (1916) [NF]
(188) Henry Ford. The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem.(1920) [NF]
(189) Matthew Pearl. The Last Bookaneer. (2015)
(190) Chris Kyle. American Sniper.(2014) [NF]
(191) Bernd Heinrich. The Homing Instinct: Meaning & Mystery in Animal Migration. (2014) [NF]
(192) Robert Symington. The Nazi Appropriation of Shakespeare: Cultural Politics in the Third Rich. (2005) [NF]
(193) Ladislav R. Hanka. In Pursuit of Birds: A Foray With Field Glasses and Sketchbook. (2014) [NF]
(194) Christophre Tyerman. A History of Harrow School. (2000) [NF]
(195) Patrick Lichfield, Richard Shymansky, with Jim Golland. An Illustrated History of Harrow School. (1988) [NF]
(196) Matthew Stewart. Nature’s God: The Heretical Origins of the American Republic. (2014) [NF]
(197) Tristan Gooley. The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs. (2014) [NF]
(198) Tony Schumacher. The Darkest Hour. (2014)
(199) Tim Parks. Where I’m Reading from: The Changing World of Books. (2015) [NF]
(200) Paolo Bacigalupi. The Windup Girl. (2009)
(201) Paolo Bacigalupi. The Water Knife. (2015)
(202) Elmore Leonard. Charlie Martz and Other Stories: The Unpublished Stories. (2015) [SS]
(203) Fredrick Sjoberg. The Fly Trap. (2014) [NF]
(204) Fredrik Backman. My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You to Tell You She’s Sorry. (2015)
(205) Dan Hampton. The Hunter Killers. (2015) [NF]
(206) Eileen M. Bowlt. Harrow Past. (2000) [NF]
(207) Joseph Heywood. Buckular Dystrophy. (2016) [MS]
(208) Randy Fertel. A Taste For Chaos: The Art of Literary Improvisation. (2015) [NF]
(209) Charles Cumming. A Colder War.(2014)
(210) Christian Holmes. Company Towns of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.(2015) [NF]
(211) Julia Pferdehirt. More Than Petticoats: Remarkable Michigan Women. (2007) [NF]
(212) Hakan Nesser. Woman With Birthmark. (2009)
(213) Harold Bloom. How To Read and Why. (2001) [NF]
(214) Wm. Shakespeare. Henry the Fourth, Part I. [Play]
(215) Wm. Shakespeare. Macbeth. [Play]
(216) Wm. Shakespeare. The Comedy of Errors. [Play]
(217) Wm. Shakespeare. As You Like It. [Play]
(218) Wm. Shakespeare. All’s Well That Ends Well. [Play]
(219) Wm. Shakespeare. The Winter’s Tale. [Play]
(220) Wm. Shakespeare. Hamlet [Play]
(221) Wm. Shakespeare. King Lear [Play]
(222) Bernard Shaw. Man and Superman.[Play]
(223) Hakan Nasser. Mind’s Eye.(2008)
(224) Hakan Nasser. The Inspector and Silence. (2011)
(225) Hakan Nasser. Munster’s Case. (2012)
(226) Harper Lee. Go Set A Watchman. (2015)
(227) Andrea Mays. The Millionaire and the Bard (2015) [NF]
(228) David M. McWilliams. The Pope’s Children: Ireland’s New Elite. (2005) [NF]
(229) Frank Jewett Mather Jr. A History of Italian Painting (1923) [NF]
(230) Joseph Heywood. Buckular Dystrophy. (2016) [Proofs]
(231) David Jones. In Parenthlesis. (1987)
(232) Gabriel Chefallier. Fear: A Novel of World War I (1930)
(233) Joseph Heywood. Covered Waters: Tempests of A Nomadic Trouter (2015) [NF]
(234) Ann Beattie. The State We’re in: Maine Stories. (2015) (SS]
(235) Paolo Bacigulupi. The Water Knife. (2015)
(236) Fredrik Backman. My Grandmother asked Me to Tell You She’s  Sorry (2015)
(237) Svetlana Boym. The Future of Nostalgia (2001) [NF]
(238) Virginia Woolf. Mrs. Dalloway. (1925)
(239) Virginia Woolf. The Second Common Reader. (1932) [NF]
(240) Katharine Rogers, Ed. The Selected Writings of Samuel Johnson. (1981) [NF]
(241) Daniel Defoe. A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain. (1724-27/1971) [NF]
(242) Robert Demott. Steinbeck’s Typerwriter: Essays on His Art. (1996) [NF]
(243) Pico Iyer. The Art of Stillness: Adventures is Going Nowhere. (2014) [NF]
(244) War Department. Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain, 1942) (1942) [NF]
(245) Political Warfare Executive Foreign Office. Instructions For British Servicemen in Germany (1944) [NF]
(246) John Nichols & Earl Nyholm. Ojibwewi-ikidomwinan: An Ojibwa Word Resoource Book. (1979) [NF]
(247) Pico Iyer. The Lady and the Monk: Four Seasons in Kyoto. (1991) [NF]
(248) John Payne Collier. Memoirs of the Principal Actors in the Plays of Shakespeare. (Unk orig/2011) [NF]
(249) Wm Kennedy. Ironweed. (1979)
(250) Joseph Heywood. Buckular Dystrophy. (2016) [Proofs]
(251) John Steinheck. The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights. (1976)
(252) Paul Dickson. War Slang: America’s Fighting Words and Phrases From the Civil War to the Gulf War. (1994) [NF]
(253) U.S. Army. Map Reading and Land Navigation.  (1993) [MF]
(254) K.C. Constantine. Brushback. (1998)
(255) Caldwell B Eggelsteyn, Jr. M.D.  Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease (2007) [NF]
(256) Joseph Heywood. Buckular Dystrophy. (2016) [Proofs]
(257) Sherman Alexie. The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (2007)
(258) Robert Lee. Guiding Elliot. (1997)
(259) Robert Traver. The Jealous Mistress. (1967) [NF]
(260) Robert Traver. Trout Madness: Being A Dissertation of the Symptoms and Pathology of This Incurable Disease By One of Its Victims. (1960) [SS]
(261) Robert Traver. Trout Magic. (1974) [SS]
(262) General Chuck Yeager and Leo Janos. Yeager. (1985) [NF]
(263) John L. Purdy & James Ruppert, Eds. Nothing But the Truth: An Anthology of Native American Literature. (2001) [NF]
(264) Charles Bukowski. On Writing. (2015) [NF]
(265) Bonnie Jo Campbell. Mothers, Tell Your Daughters. (2015) [NF]
(266) William Rosen. The Third Horseman: A Story of Weather, War and the Famine History Forgot. (2014) [NF]
(267) Patrick DeWitt. Under Major Domo. (2015)
(268) Lindsay Faye. The Fatal Flame. (2015)
(269) Roberto Bolano. Woes of A True Policeman. (2012)
(270) Roberto Bolano. Third Reich. (2011)
(271) Theodore H. White and Annalee Jacoby. Thunder Out of China. (1946) [NF]
(272) Elena Ferrante. The Story of the Lost Child. (2015)
(273) Peter Cunningham, Ed. Extracts from the Accounts of the Revels at Court in the Reigns of Queen Elizabeth and King James I. (1842) [NF]
(274) H.E.F. Donohue. Conversations with Nelson Algren (1963) [NF]
(275) John L. Thomas. A Country in the Mind. Wallace Stevens, Bernard DeVoto, History and the American Land (2000) [NF]
(276) T Washington Metcalfe. The Life and Adventures of Aloysius O’Callaghan (1932)
(277) Page Stegner. Ed. The Selected Letters of Wallace Stegner. (2007) [NF]
(278) S. Schoenbaum. Shakespeare’s Lives. (1991) [NF]
(279) Marchette Chute. Shakespeare of London. (1949) [NF]
(280) Colin McGinn. Shakespeare’s Philosophy: Discovering the Meaning Behind the Plays. (2006) [NF]
(281) Ben Rehder. Bum Steer (2005)
(282) Ben Rehder. Stag Party (2014)
(283) Ben Rehder. Gone The Next. (2012)
(284) Rev. N. J. Haplin. Oberon’s Vision in the Midsummer Night’s Dream: Illustrated by a Comparison With Lillie’s Enymion. (1843) [NF]
(285) Michael Delp. Lying in the River’s Dark Bed: The Confluence of the Dead Man and the Mad Angler:  Poems by Michael Delp. (2016) [Proofs] [P]
(286) Franco Moretti. Distant Reading (2013) [NF] [E]
(287) Matthew Stewart. Nature’s God: The Heretical Origins of the American Republic. (2014) [NF]
(288) Michael Dorris & Louise Erdich. The Crown of Columbus. (1991)
(289) Ivor Brown. How Shakespeare Spent the Day. (1963) [NF]
(290) Franco Moretti. Graphs Maps Trees. (2005) [NF]
(291) Peter Turchi. Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer (2004) [NF]
(292) Seppo Jokinen. Wolves and Angels: A Detective Koskinen Mystery (2001)
(293) Guy Davenport. The Geography of Imagination: Forty Essays by Guy Davenport. (1981) [NF] [E]
(294) James Thompson. Snow Angels: An Inspector Vaara Novel. (2009)
(295) Pico Iyer. Falling Off The Map: Some Lonely Places of the World. (1993) [NF]
(296) Franco Moretti. The Way of The World: The Bildungsroman in European Culture. (1987) [NF]
(297) James Thompson. Lucifer’s Tears (2011)
(298) Harry Crews. All We Need of Hell. (1987)
(299) Russell M. Magnagni and Michael T. Marsden, Eds. A Sense of Place: Michigan’s Upper Penisula: Essays in Honor of Wm and Margery Vandament. (1997) [E]
(300) S. C. Gwynne. Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson.(2015) [NF]
(301) John L. Thomas. A Country in the Mind: Wallace Stegner, Bernard DeVoto, History, and the American Land. (2000) [NF]
(302) Georg Lukacs. Lukacs: The Theory of the Novel. (1916,1920/1971/2006) [NF]
(303) James Wood. The Nearest Thing To Life. (2015) [NF]
(304) Stacy Schiff. The Witches: Salem, 1692. (2015) [NF]
(305) Stephen King. The Bazaar of Bad Dreams. (2015) [SS]
(306) Raymond Roussel. How I Wrote Certain of My Books (1995) [NF]
(307) Beryl Markham. West With The Night. (1942/1997) [NF]
(308) William Morris. News From Nowhere. (1890/2001) [NF]
(309) Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. An Indigenous Peoples’History of The United States.(2014) [NF]
(310) Harry Crews. Harry Crews Reader. (1995) [NF +]
(311) Harry Crews. A Feast of Snakes. (1976)
(312) Erik Bledsoe, Ed. Getting Naked With Harry Crews: Interviews. (1999) [NF]
(313) Peter Hoeg. Borderliners. (1994)
(314) Kenneth Tynan. He That Plays the King (1950)
(315) David Wise. Tiger Trap: America’s Secret Spy War With China. (2011) [NF]
(316) Clive James. The Nearest Thing To Life. (2015) [NF]
(317) Ted Cohen. Thinking of Others: On the Talent For Metaphor. (2008) [NF]
(318) Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells, Eds. The Shakespeare Circle: An Alternative Biography. (2015) [NF]
(319) Henry David Thoreau. Walden and Civil Disobedience. (2012) [NF-E]
(320) James Bradley. Flyboys: A True Story of Courage. (2003) [NF]
(321) R.L. Fisher, Ed. Daniel Defoe. Robinson Crusoe (1719/1989)
(322) Spencer Quinn. Dog On It. (2009)
(323) Gerard Genette. Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method. (1980) [NF]
(324) Clark Davis. It Starts With Trouble: William Goyen and the Life of Writing. (2015) [NF]
(325) Sylvain Tesson. The Consolations of the Forest: Alone, in a Cabin on the Siberian Taiga. (2013) [NF]
(326) Denis Donoghue. Metaphor. (2014) [NF]
(327) Ted Cohen. Jokes: Philosophical Thoughts on Joking Matters. (2001) [NF]
(328) A.L. Rowse. William Shakespeare: A Biography. (1963) [NF]
(329) Thomas Wilson. The Arte of Rhetorique. [1553] [NF]
(330) Bruce Chatwin. What Am I Doing Here? (1989) [NF]
(331) James Thompson. Helsinki White. (2012) [NF]
(332) Frans De Wal. The Ape and the Sushi Master: Cultural Reflections of a Primatologist. (2001) [NF]
(333) Clive James. Latest Readings. (2015) [NF-E]
(334) Noam Chomsky. What Kind of Creatures Are We? (2016) [NF]
(335) James Shapiro. The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606. (2015) [NF]
(336) George Lakoff and Mark Johnson. Metaphors We Live By. (1980) [NF]
(337) Bill Bryson. Shakespeare: The World As Stage. (2007) [NF]
(338) David & Ben Crystal. Oxford Illustrated: Shakespeare Dictionary. (2015) [NF]
(339) Marchette Chute. Shakespeare of London. (1949) [NF]
(340) John Kelly. Never Surrender. (2015) [NF]
(341) Paul Johnson. Churchill.(2009) [NF]
(342) Gretchen Rubin. Forty Ways To Look At Winston Churchill. (2004) [NF]
(343) A.N. Wilson. The Elizabethans. (2011) [NF]
21 Dec

Dogs and Other Theological Subjects

French author, Sylvain Tesson, writes in The Consolations of the Forest: Along in a Cabin on the Siberian Taiga (Rizzoli, 2013)

 “I step in to visit V.E. who entrusts two of his twelve dogs to me. Aika is a black female, Bek, a white male. They are four months old. This will bark if bears begin approaching the cabin toward the end of May. I also have a flare gun. If attacked, you just fire at the animal’s paws; the detonation and fireworks usually persuade the bear to buzz off.” This entry is dated April 28, year unknown.

All right, I  fess up to being a sucker for any stories involving dogs, but this French writer has some interesting things to say along the way.  I should not that the featured dogs live outside his cabin.

April 29 – “ Winter is still here. Only the pale face of the lake (Baikal) signals that spring is waiting in the wings. Surrounded by a fairyland, I go fishing. The dogs follow me everywhere, My shadow has become a dog. The two little creatures have placed themselves in my hands. A humanist animal, the dog believe in us. Wherever water seeps onto the ice, lapis-blue reflections bloom on the creamy glaze. The dogs wait patiently by the ice hole. I give them the guts of the three char I catch.

April 30 – The taiga is black. The trees are shedding their snow. Dark patches  appear on the mountains. Aika and Bek rush up outside the window at first light. When two little dogs celebrate your advent in the morning, night takes on a flavor of expectation. A dog’s fidelity demands nothing, not a single duty. Canine love is satisfied with a bone. Dogs? We make them sleep outdoors, talk roughly to them, snap at them, feed them on scraps, and now and then – whap! A kick in the ribs. What we deal out in blows, they give back to us in drooling admiration And suddenly I see why man has made the dog his best friend: this is the poor beast whose submission demands nothing in return, a creature corresponding perfectly to what a man is capable of giving. We’re playing on the lake shore.  Aika has found a deer bone, and I’m throwing it for them. They never tire of bringing it back to me.; they’d keep going till they dropped dead. These masters teach me to inhabit the only country worth being in: the moment. Man’s particular sin is to have lost this frenzy the dog has for retrieving the same bone. For us to be happy, we have to cram our home with dozens of more sophisticated objects. Advertising  urges us to, “Go fetch!’ The dog has admirably solved the problem of desire.”

Good writing from a thoughtful man. The story and the writing will both hold your interest if you are the least interesting in the life of hermits and chosen solitude.

I’ll conclude by sharing a final excerpt: “The dogs twine constantly around my legs; in me they have found someone who responds to their affection. They neither rely on nor delight in their memories. Between longing and regret, there is a spot called the present. Like jugglers who ply their trade standing atop the neck of a bottle, we should train ourselves to believe in that sweet spot. The dogs manage it.

Raining today,  a good day to  methodically scribble notes for stories in  various stages of making, read thoughtful work of others, enjoy the security and warmth of ‘inside.’ Even hermits appreciate this.

Stay dry. Over.

20 Dec

Trois Rivieres

Had a fine signing at Lowry’s Books in Three Rivers yesterday, time for Bonnie Jo Campbell and I to pick each other’s brains and catch-up on the making-stuff-up- writin’-world grind-up. Thanks to Tom Lowry and his fine staff of book warriors  for hosting.

Ish, Ms.Ish.Ms.C and Sir Thomas of Lowry.

Ish, Ms.Ish.Ms.C and Sir Thomas of Lowry.

Sharing a joke

Sharing a joke


Betwixt da book walls.

19 Dec

Friday Night Fights and Other Musings

Last night was Friday: Jambe Longue had shuffled off to bed and left me brain-surfing between the A.W. Rowse bio of Wm Shakespeare and a TV channel called SPIKE (which I had sorta, maybe-kina- heard of, but never watched). But last night they advertised three straight hours of boxing and I just had to take a look see. Having Rowse in hand was my way of reminding myself that my interest in the fighting was merely intellectual and academic, a writer’s raw curiosity.

Uh, not quite. Flashback: my old man and I used to watch the Friday night fights in the way-back- when and he was a genuine and committed follower of boxing, not the puffy kind that we see now, but of a different time when the Rocky Marcianos and Sugar Ray Robinsons regularly visited Madison Square Garden. Sometimes I got to go along. I seem to remember blood splashing from a fighter on the ropes to us three or four rows back, and smelling sweat and cigarettes and booze and analgesics and god knows what else, all blended into a bloody bouquet that a young kid would either inhale or spit up. I inhaled it, thinking at the time that the slop was a holy fluid in a  kind of extreme unction for childhood. For the rest of my life  I’ve been torn between the intricacies of the “sweet science,” and it’s undeniable brutality and long-term body count.  On a rational thought basis, the sport– if that’s what it is — ought to be abolished, but its not.  Neither is smoking so I suppose there should be no surprise. Rather boxing is greatly diminished since the days of yore and thus, last night, I jumped in to watch. Even Shakespeare seemed to have a comment on the doings: Friar Lawrence says to Romeo, “These violent delights have violent ends.” Ya think?

The old man used to preach, “Nobody comes out of a fight unhurt.” It took me only  20-30 years of personal experience to be able to verify his wisdom. I was still having fights in my 40s, at the same time I was wearing a three-piece suit by day and mixing with the civilized parts of society.

I took a swing at a foe in Jackson Heights one day, missed his duck and bob, and stuck my left arm through a door window, therein cutting deep and leaving hanging flesh in three different places from wrist to just behind the elbow. The good news, I pushed the punch all the way through the target. Sort of. The real target had moved (smart kid) and I obliterated a door window pane with a great straight shot. 15-20 stitches seemed a small price to pay. Mom took me across the street for our family doctor to sew me up. I shudder to think how today’s helicopter parents would have reacted to the events. Damn glad I grew up when I did.

So, this strand of boxing DNA mixed up in me and us is truly that: mixed up.   Pretty sure my brothers are infected. But my old man was a big follower of what he (and consequently we) used to call “the fights,” and his close pal Robert J. Bob Thornton was a long-time boxing writer and editor. I assume that the writer and my dad met during their service in World War II, but if I ever knew the genesis, its long forgotten. WhaT I know is that the friendship went on for a long time after that, my dad passing away in 1976 and his friend sometime after that. I remember hearing the man talked about, more than actually seeing him and around our house he was known  primarily as “Thornton.” I assumed the old man was called Heywood in the other household, but this is pure speculation. The old man clearly admired his friend’s journalistic pursuits. Sad he never lived to see his eldest lunk-head publish his first novel, but that’s the way life rolls.

Seems funny now, but I remember bloodier fights on hockey rinks than in boxing rings,

This report is from one Richard Bak,. Posted in DETROIT RED WINGS:

“Whenever I went on the ice against the Rangers,” Howe recalled, “the coach sent  (Lou) Fontinato out. The idea was to work on me and distract me. Once, it cost me because I forgot a valuable bit of advice Ted Lindsay gave me. He said don’t ever drop your stick until the other man does. So we get into one game and Louie says, ‘You want to drop your stick?’ and I said, ‘Hell, yes!’ and I threw it to the ice, and the guy hit me right over the head…about six stitches worth. He nailed me, and I stood there laughing over my stupidity, and Lindsay just shook his head.”

On another occasion Fontinato whacked Howe in the mouth with the butt end of his stick, splitting his lip and loosening his tooth. Fontinato mocked him in the penalty box. “What’s the matter with your lip, Gordie?” he said. Howe vowed it wouldn’t happen again.

“Damned if I didn’t find myself in the same position in our next game,” Howe said. “When he went to hit me, I raised my stick and cross-checked him and damned near cut his ear off. Tit for tat. When he came back to the bench from the dressing room, he was wearing a bandage turban, real funny looking. The crowd threw beer and everything on me. So that was the situation between us when we went into New York to play the Rangers again.”

That evening at Madison Square Garden, Fontinato took a break from reading his press clippings to charge into a fracas involving Red Kelly and Eddie Shack behind New York’s net. Howe, who had intervened on Kelly’s behalf, noticed the blur rushing towards him, recognized it as Fontinato, and ducked a punch aimed at his head. Then, as Howe later described it, “that honker of his was right there, and I drilled it. That first punch was what did it. It broke his nose a little bit.”

Observers recalled Howe grabbing Fontinato’s jersey with his left hand, then using his right hand to deliver a stream of vicious uppercuts–”whop, whop, whop, just like someone chopping wood,” said one player quoted in Life magazine, which devoted three pages to Fontinato’s dismantling. Millions of readers were treated to photos of the humbled Fontinato swathed in bandages. In as violent a half-minute as ever seen inside a prize ring, Howe had broken Fontinato’s nose, dislocated his jaw, and destroyed his ego and reputation.

Note that both combatgants got "major penalites," and returned to the fray.
Note that both combatgants got “major penalites,” and returned to the fray.

Howe’s demolition of the NHL’s top enforcer was all in a night’s work for someone who clearly was in a league all by himself. “There are only four teams in the league,” a rival player said at the time. “Montreal, Toronto, Chicago, and Howe.”

All right,  there always seemed to be more blood in hockey fights than boxing and you are wondering (as I am) where I am making for in this piece.

Thornton was known as the man who shook the hand of John L. (“Himself- I can Lick any Sonfabitch in the House –Sullivan). The story went that Bob’s father took him to a Temperence meeting, Thornton’s paterfamilias and the champ both being reformed tippers. Thornton was at the time a precocious 18 months old and not yet of a weight to qualify for the fights.  Not a lot was made of this claim and it was never disputed. My old man once opined that perhaps John L’s magic had dripped into the kid, at least for a while. Later in his life, Thornton fought 11 bootleg (illegal) fights and won ten straight before getting chopped up so bad in the unlucky 11th that he abandoned boxing gloves for the boxing typewriter.

Have you ever read any of the writing in the old boxing magazines. Fascinating stuff. Think of people strutting around in tuxedos before fights, as if it was a night at the opera. The writing sore of fit the other pretentious posturing.

his is from Richard Labont’s column “Magazines” in the Ottawa Citizen, Nov. 20, 1979: “Blame it on the burden of history. The upstart martial arts magazines, reviewed last week, have no century-long American traditions to maintain; the garish wrestling magazines, reviewed next week, have no pretensions to civility – or to coin the sort of word the late Nat Fleischer would have not blushed about – to gentlemanliness.

And so, among the pages of grainy photos of one boxer pounding another, and the endless lists of disputed divisional rankings and the sound alike stories on bouts between contenders of all weights and skills, there is room for prose like this, in an article headed, Why Ali Must Retire –Now!

The most gruesome elements in magazines about boxing are not the celebrations of the fist-pounding skull, or the anointment of the unbowed over the bloody, what’s hard to take are their thick-eared formality and sticky sentimentality.

Take the contents-page comment in every issue of Boxing Illustrated, for example: ‘Designed to entertain and inform, Boxing Illustrated will please the whole family and serve as an inspiration to aspiring pugilists. We bring you particular insight into the lives of exponents of fistianart, and are devoted to the “Noble Art” in all its forms, professional or amateur. This magazine also emphasizes the sportsmanship, the rigid training discipline and the feats of boxers famed and burgeoning.’

It would be easy to believe that the jowly cigar-chomping gentlemen popping up as the masterminds behind boxing magazines – like Robert Thornton of International Boxing and World Boxing, and Nat Loubet of The Ring – actually to roll their phrases with such pompous grandiloquence. Blame it on the burden of history.

Even Loubet, publisher and editor of The Ring, founded in 1922, and considered the bible of the boxing world – isn’t immune to boxing’s pox of purple prose.

In an editorial on the decline of power of the New York State Boxing Commission, he writes, ‘This dissertation on commission is not with regard to New York alone, because the operation of one state might not seem important. In this case a single state is important because it was the leader for so many years, and, by virtue of the backbone manifested, it gave other lesser state commission the boost they needed to fight those who would usurp their rightful powers, Organizations with no official standing, — with the help of television – have surely been slowly taking over control of boxing, and not for the good.”

That’s the sort of writing which fills the boxing magazines: inbred analysis, and inchoate profiles, and argumentative assertions, all of it steeped in the belief that boxing is the noblest of  all sports, and demands a stumble-bum gentility.

There’s nothing fierce about boxing magazines: It’s too old fashioned a sport.

 I found an Internet piece alleging to report from the September 1977 issue of World Boxing.  Managing Editor Robert J. Thornton wrote, “Sundry promoters and major television interests have limited armchair viewers to a diet of champions, top contenders, and Olympic medal winners vs. stiffs – all the while ignoring bouts that would have recruited thousands (if not millions) of new fans (We can think of Zamora vs Zarate and Palomino vs. Muniz as two sizzlers that were snubbed by the big TV (stations).”

The brain-strands here: Friday night fights, boxing, the not-so-sweet-science, Madison Square Garden, my old man and his pal Thornton, Thornton’s boxing writing career and hockey fights, focusing on Madison Square Garden.  And somehow in my feeble mindloop, Shakespeare feels fully at home with all of the foregoing. Remember, the bard attended the bearbaiting and bullbaiting pits in London, which was a descendant of the Flavian Ampitheater shows, and some kind of predecessor to profession boxing and other spectator sports.

Ah, enough blathe:  We sign books this afternoon in Three Rivers, which will give me a chance to chat with one of my fave writer pals, Bonnie Jo Campbell. Had a notion for a book during last night’s fights: Tweets From Monsters, eg, a chapter on Tweets from Hitler. Whaddya think?


18 Dec

A lesson In Writing, from the Bard Himself.

Shakespeare was a poet, engaged in drama (as opposed to a playwright who dabbled in poetry).  Biographer A.L. Rowse describes it thus: “Here was a poet, first and foremost, at work – though it does not stand in disjunction from the dramatist: As a player (actor) he would know how it sounded; it was designed to vary and try out the effect. We cannot over-estimate the importance of Shakespeare’s being an actor: he learned the exact tone of speech to hold a large and varied audience. Here is the difference between school-rhetoric and the real art of persuasion: engaging the sympathy of the audience.
That Shakespeare was reading the poets and trying his hand at poetry in these formative years we may infer from the fact that from the moment he breaks upon public attention, with plays no less than poems, his verse is fluent, practiced, facile. He was a rhyming poet – and all through his life his natural ear for rhyme, his facility for it, comes cropping up in places where it is not needed, sometimes where it is not wanted, in the middle of blank verse lines as well as at the end.
In this year, 1587 (Rowse calls this the Armada Year) there was a reissue of Arthur Brooke’s Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet, first printed in 1562. It is the basis of Romeo and Juliet, but even earlier various motifs, and incidents appears in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, on of Shakespeare’s earliest comedies.  For the difference between early Elizabethan poetry and what it became by 1590, is also for a borrowing characteristic of Shakespeare all through, let us compare Brooke’s lumbering fourteeners:
The Proverb saith unminded oft are they that are unseen.
And as out of a plank a nail a nail doth drive,
So novel love out of the mind the ancient doth rive.

Wrote Rowse, “For such verses Brooke should have been drowned. (He was going over to serve at Le Havre in 1563). In early Shakespeare, these lines become:

Even as one heat another heat expels,
Or as one nail by strength drives out another,
So the remembrance of my former love
Is by a newer object quite forgotten.

Professor Rowse concludes: This is the difference between someone who is trying to write poetry without any gift for it, and a born poet. The lesson?  It’s not what you start with, or the messy details of how you deal with it, all that matters is what filters through you onto your paper, be it applied in the darkest of ink or mysterious electrons.
Bonnie Jo Campbell and I will be signing books at Lowry's Books in Three Rivers, 2-4 p.m. tomorrow afternoon (Saturday, Dec. 19). Let the snow hold off or pass over our hunched-over forms.  Therefore my age is as a lusty winter/Frosty, but kindly.
15 Dec

Blogging Before Breakfast: “Juliet is the Sun.”

This time of year can induce moods of reflection, for example, what constitutes home? What home isn’t, is a mere house, which in itself is a mere thing. Having spent most of my formative  life in a military family the only house I recall with any familiarity is that of my grandparents in Rhinecliff, New York. The rest, in Jackson Heights, Florence, Naples, Alexandria, Greensboro, Norman, San Antonio, and base housing on  some Air Force bases? Nada. My grandparents’ place was the anchor for our family, a sort of base we touched before and between various military assignments.

Most of the places are blanks in my memory, but I do seem to remember the front door of each place and that seems odd and curious, something a writer might play with as an entry into memory.

Ironically, the woodsy wag Thoreau spends a heap of his words heaping abuse on the practice of home-owning (paraphrase: houses own us, not vice versa) and then he invests an inordinate number of pages describing how he built his own shack and gives us an agonizing accounting of costs, both construction and annual operation of his humble hacienda. He’s as addicted to his place as the people he criticizes.

  I like Thoreau, find some of his writing thought-inducing, but ever since I learned that his mommy did his laundry for the entire two years he spent “living in the woods” I’ve been less than impressed with his thesis and ethical positions on “independence.”

Still, he has some interesting notions, for example, “Books must be read as deliberately and reservedly as they are written.” Having had a classical Ivy League education he casts aspersions on “cheap contemporary literature, by which I think he means, books not needing a deliberate read.

Okay, he’s high-brow by training and inclination. No problem with that. And he’s right about deliberate reading, which nowadays we’re more likely to call close reading and what exactly are we supposed to read so “closely?”

Somewhere in my cobwebby past I had a professor who taught us to dig for a poem’s point or meaning or implications, by focusing on the work’s metaphors. We actually learned to underline all the metaphors we could find and to then use those as a shorthand for extracting meaning from the  work. Like most “methods,” this has limitations, but the focus is right because as James Wood puts it, “metaphor is the language of literature.”

Metaphor, you ask? Think Shakespeare.  Think of the line, “Juliet is the Sun.”

Let’s look to Wood’s words: “Our identification with fictional characters is not a matter of strict identity, but of figurative identification. When we say that A can be seen as B, we don’t posit that A and B  share the same properties, but we suggest that “B” has some property that A can be thought as having, when in fact the property is not literally a property of A.” He adds, “In other words, to return to an earlier phrase, fiction is the game of not quite.”

Great description and for writers the ground of metaphor is something we spend our lives trying to mine in both appropriate and clever ways. Ted Cohen tells us, “It seems obviously true that a metaphor A is B induces me to think of A as B, and this leads to new thoughts about A.” At the heart of every metaphor is mystery and it is the metaphoric pointing in writing that invites and indeed, defines the role of “close reading of texts.”

Tonight is the fifth and final Republican “debate,” and all that comes to mind is the line, “The Donald is a tool.” He’s also right now way up in the national polls, and tool or not (you get to define the thought), it might be worthwhile contemplating what kind of President he might make.

I’ll leave us to contemplate our belly buttons, or the universe of possibilities in those five words.


08 Dec

Booked For Lunch

Booked for Lunch is the title of author lunches at the Gladwin County District Library. Had a fine turnout yesterday and CO Mark Papineau helped me establish the difference between fiction and reality. Also saw my old comrade and friend Frank Bonham and wife Sandy. Frank (Auburn ’65) and I went through undergraduate navigator training together at Mather AFB in 1965-66. Frank ended up in a secret SAC outfit and had a fine 20-year career. Great to see the Bonhams, and all the other folks who showed for the luncheon show. Thanks to Laurel Breault for organizing the soiree.

With CO Mark Papineau

With CO Mark Papineau

Booked for Lunch crowd

Laurel Breault warms up the Booked For Lunch Crowd

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