It’s kind of a mania: this book thing. I’m sure for people who are on their second or third book it’s easier to keep things in balance. But I’m a bundle of obsessive thoughts and impulses, with this debut book of mine. It’s out, it’s actually out. It’s listed. It’s on the market. It can be bought and, interestingly, it can also be sold.
In a week or two I’ll officially announce it. They tell me that timing is critical when it comes to PR. Yes, I must personally promote and PR the book. I don’t have a problem with that except my brain wants to work on PR strategy during the night when I should be sleeping so I get up at 3:30 and eat some Cheerios and turn on my computer and do book stuff until my brain starts to shut down around 6 and I can try some more sleeping but it’s never enough to catch me up and so I end up writing sentences like this. I think I’m losing my grip on reality. Maybe it wasn’t such a solid grip in the first place.
It doesn’t help that I’m reading Postcards From the Edge, and thereby seeing and hearing how messed up brains can get. What a powerful book, by the way.
Wait. I feel a random nap coming on. So I must seize the moment. Before my brain realizes it’s time to start in obsessing again about sundry matters: like the precise date and time to announce my book and the precise wording to use that will strike that perfect balance. You know, that perfect balance between obnoxious and apologetic. Somewhere between gangster and Gandhi.
[[It may be sad and slow to read but The Memory of Old Jack really is a beautifully written, conceived and executed story about more than just Americana — a story about life’s trauma and how the scars never leave. Here are some excerpts.]]
Smiting the edge of the porch sharply with his cane as if to set hard reality on the alert, taking careful sight on the stone steps, he lets himself heavily down. . .
Old Jack goes to his accustomed place at the end of the one of the long tables that is occupied, the three others being bare. Thinking to remove neither his coat nor his cap, he sits down in his chair at the angle at which he has drawn it out from the table, and he keeps his left hand gripped onto the crook of his cane. His attitude thus communicates a most tentative and passing relation to the table and the assembled company. . .
He walks with the effort of a man burdened, a man carrying a great bale or a barrel, who has carried it too far but has not yet found a place convenient to set it down. . .
“Well,” he said, “time will finally make mortals of us all.” And Burley said: “Yes, if we don’t die first.”
“All problems were insignificant compared to Lola saying, ‘I love him.’ With Lola, everything was solvable. She was my independent variable.”
Books are usually copyrighted but this one should be patented. It is a dynamo of satire. An engine of irony. In his 2011 novel Machine Man, Australian writer Max Barry invents and launches a roaring, soaring weapon against runaway technology and corporate tyranny. For fuel he uses existential philosophy, bioethics, and any other kind of ethics you can think of. Love is a secret additive. Who knew? That’s where Lola comes in. While he’s busy designing marvels of modern science that are also instruments of modern destruction, Barry’s protagonist Dr. Charlie Neumann becomes attracted to Lola and the attraction is magnetic: literally, figuratively, allegorically, you name it. It might just be one of the strangest romances of modern literature. But in the reality of the world in which Machine Man lives and works, their love is the least bizarre phenomenon.
Barry’s literary apparatus may be a little wacky, but when it hits its target you smile. And it hits its target dead on. Grab ahold and hang on. It will blow you to pieces.
[Thank you to my daughter and her friend who is an engineer and owns the book, which I borrowed.]
Now I know where the title of Watercolor Paintings’ song “Shower of Stones” came from (see prior post, review of their album When You Move). I had gotten a Shirley Jackson novel at the library. Four pages into The Haunting of Hill House, there it was: a mysterious “shower of stones” that solves the mystery of the title of Watercolor Paintings’ dark and ominous rock classic. Interesting. Then I continued reading the book.
The book is part of a series of horror literature by Penguin Books. It has a very cool, scary cover and black-tipped pages, and a brilliant erudite introduction by the series editor Guillermo Del Toro who just won Best Director and Best Picture for The Shape of Water, and who signed the piece at Thousand Oaks, Ca.
The Haunting of Hill House is a story about exactly that, except the title might be more accurate if the “of” were a “by”. Anyway, Shirley Jackson wrote with the dreaminess and imagination of an adolescent girl and the wit and drollery of a sophisticate. She had a special soul. This story is perfectly gothic, in that the setting and many of the key characters have that strange broken quality. What make the book so fascinating to read are Jackson’s little nuances. I’m not even sure what nuances are but whatever they are, this book’s got ‘em. They will make you smile as you shudder.
I started reading a book by Walter Mosley, whom I had heard about and never read. I liked the style, I liked the dialect, I liked the way he develops his characters. But then a few chapters in, I got turned off—by gratuitous obscenity. By which I mean graphic sexual description or language. And I’m not talking about realistic dialogue by characters who simply use obscene words habitually in their speech. These were sexual episodes described in some detail. It wasn’t the worst I ever read, but it didn’t seem necessary to the plot. Perhaps it was, I’ll never know. But it seemed, in the context of the story, to be thrown in as pure embellishment. For no legitimate reason related to the book as a work of art.
I’ve cast away books by other great writers for the same reason: Philip Roth, John Updike, Martin Amis. Books that are probably terrific but, to me, are spoiled by stuff that seems out of place and purely prurient. It’s unfortunate, it makes me disappointed, whether in those writers or in me I’m not sure.
This is unlike Henry Miller, where sex is graphic and constant, but is treated in a matter-of-fact way without any highlighting and is absolutely essential to the plot, to understanding the character himself. The joys and hard realities of life (including sex, and other primal needs) are what his books are about.
And there are plenty of great writers who manage to tell fine stories without obscenity thrown in simply as a spice. If sex is germane, they manage to tell us all we need, or want, to know in artful ways. Those books I do not put aside. I get to read them to the end.
It was violent. It was about violence. That’s why. And to me Three Billboards is probably the best movie since Crash.
I’m reading Song of Solomon(my daughter recommended it), and here’s something Toni Morrison said about anger, through one of her characters:
“Listen, baby, people do funny things. Specially us. The cards are stacked against us and just trying to stay in the game, stay alive and in the game, makes us do funny things. Things we can’t help. Things that make us hurt one another. We don’t even know why. But look here, don’t carry it inside and don’t give it to nobody else.”
I think the whole country needs Anger Management. I think it should be a required class in high school.