Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

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I have been revisiting my library lately. Not the local city library, no, no. My personal Library. I’ve let it slide the last few years, listlessly adding a book here or there, but never really paying attention to the garbage I was shelving. There is, it turns out, a great deal of literary yuck adorning my shelves. I have read some really awful stuff. In the wake of the death of one of the last of a great generation of American writers, it’s time to take a hard look at the literati of my generation.

Writers at the end of WWI and WWII took their words seriously. From those serious words we understood the nature of war, hate , destruction and lies. We as readers learned about the complexity and underlying sorrow of love. The horror of fear and it’s effects on those in the vicinity of one suffering it.

Those writing from the eighties onward have rarely offered a glimpse of anything that hasn’t already been imagined. American writers have spent the last thirty years or so whining. Occasionally we come across a rare find of introspection but really there is very little to recommend. I think it’s because we have stopped taking anything seriously. Writers now are less inclined to discuss their words and more inclined to tell you how their book tour went. They are no longer discussing technique and more often talking about money or how the publisher screwed them. They talk in a grandiose fashion about their ‘inspirations’ but refuse or are unable to discuss the mechanics of writing.  It’s become an embarrassment of greed and self aggrandizement.

What gets published is often un-readable. Or readable, but the words leave the reader nothing to hold. Most contemporary American books I have forgotten almost as soon as I put the book down. Unforgivable really. The author has just wasted my time. They’ve left me nothing to think about. Nothing to ponder or consider. I’ve been fed 75,000 words of subtraction stew.  And yes, I could have put the book down and walked away. The sad fact is I never put the book down. It’s rude to the characters, even if they are badly drawn.

Where did our writers go? Where did those with insight and curiosity get off to? My generation spawned American Psycho and Bright Lights, Big City, both acceptable books but not deep books. They may inspire a thin sort of horror but they don’t make us think beyond the moment. Like Faulkner, like Fitzgerald, Like Vonnegut or Salinger.  I suspect those days of deep insight and its communication are gone. We no longer hold the writer in awe because the current American writer is unable to talk about anything outside themselves in depth.

It’s just sad.


It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year


It’s that time again. The smell of new shoes is in the air. The delicate sound of shouting and screaming outside the bedroom window as students line up at 6:45 a.m. to wait for the bus.

They’re going back.

And so am I. Another year of self-abuse and personal flagellation I like to call My Career As a Professional Substitute. This year our district has signed on with a professional contractor, ergo, I get benefits. Yeah! And five separate districts that I am contracted to. Boo! New students. Yeah! New administrators. Boo!

I am actually looking forward to this year. I have put together all of my papers, pencils, lesson plans, notebooks, printables, stickers, paperclips, xanax and vodka. Now all I need are the assignments.

You know how little kids get ready at 4 am for the first day of school and then just sit on the couch waiting for the ok to run to the bus? Yeah, that’s me. Just swinging my feet and waiting to say those magic words:

“If you don’t give me that phone right now I will call security and have you suspended.”

Ah, it’s gong to be a great year. I can feel it.




There is a proposal by some British nit-wittian that ‘alterantive spelling ‘ should be allowed at University level because, clearly, people can’t spell.

I am among the spelling afflicted. However, using tried and true grammar rules will usually, but not always, will get one out of a tight spelling spot.

I’ve have seen student papers at the secondary level that make me want to cry out to the Gods to stop this madness. Spelling is not the problem. The problem is grammar is no longer taught, thank you G.W.

Teachers don’t seem to care that students use phrases like ” he be, she be, then I like said”, and my personal favorite, come across in an English class  which I promptly made the student fix, “and all that shit.” It’s nice to know they can spell George Carlin’s favorite words.

Spelling requires a dictionary. When I was growing up we had eight. They each had grammar rules printed in the back. I before E except after C, unless its an ‘eh’ and in neighbor and weigh. Simple. And woe betide anyone who refused to speak proper grammar around my mother. That earned one a serious a wooden spooning. (Okay, so my mental scars were turned into a career. It works.)

The rambling point is, that if simple grammar rules were taught rather than just phonetics, as is currently the case in elementary schools, people would spell and speak concisely.

I’m sorry, but I don’t buy into the thinking that Ebonics and Text are acceptable standard public languages. They are dialects of English. Dialects shouldn’t be used in formal writing, unless it’s to make a point or highlight a character.

And students should be marked down for being so lazy that they can’t log onto their laptop and look up It’s not like they have to hike to the nearest library anymore. Point and click ye morons.


Death and The Graveyard


So, being a Gaiman fan of potentially embarrassing proportions for my age I am always at his blog. I love this blog. It’s, like Neil, not like other writer’s blogs. Do you think Chabon would post a picture of himself after being walloped by a PVC pipe? No, no he wouldn’t. Gaiman talks about his books and the books of others and offers praise and advice to random posters. (People who post, not flat wall objects, that would be strange). It’s a lot like having a one sided conversation with a friend.

After that long rambling introduction I’d like to point out that here in the U.S. you can win a proof copy of The Graveyard Book here. All you have to do is compose famous last words for three characters: A famous living character, someone who dies stupidly, and yourself.

So gather up all of your creative energies and enter. Aside from the great prize, what could be more fun than to spend an afternoon thinking up death quotes ?

Have fun!


By Tor, I think They’ve Got It


So amid the gas crisis and Obamania something really fantastic has occurred. That’s right is up and running. The official website is now alive and well.

For those of you unfamiliar, is a website of fantasy and science fiction, art and commentary. It worth a visit just to read the new Sci Fi writers and to get a sense of the new directions the genre is taking.

For a limited time (until July 27) one can download all of the books and wallpapers that were offered for free on the other site.

I got this one to use as wall paper for my computer.

So run don’t walk over to the new site to get free e-books and wallpapers from wonderful artists and writers.

Go now, I got nothing left for  you.



And Now For Something A Little Different


I found this article by Michael Chabon in the L.A. Times. Well, found is a little misleading. I stole it from Neil Gaiman’s blog.

The article, which is an excerpt from one of Chabon’s books, is a quixotic look at the nature of entertainment. Particularly in relation to books.

I urge you to read the article not only because it is well written but because it gives one something to think about other than the grocery list of horrors the media serves on a daily basis.

Happy reading.