Friday, October 31, 2008

Holiday Budget Tight? Buy Books

GalleyCat reports that the American Booksellers Association is promoting the heck out of books for the upcoming holiday season.

As the ABA's CEO Mark Domnitz put it in a letter to bookstore owners, "it's essential to try to remain proactive rather than reactive" in this economy. He makes several suggestions on how booksellers can cut costs and capitalize on selling a relatively inexpensive product that gives so much for the money.

She sees Things, Singleton Hippie Peace Art

She sees Things(c) Singleton 2008"He watches her,quietly digging her toes into the sand,tracing the hermit crab's trail with her the smile,a polaroid pixie,whimsically painting it's way up her face...He knowsshe knows...She sees things....Old faces inbent trees,Sad eyesin lost marbles found again,Promiseson butterfly wings,Accidental heartson the tea~stained counter top....

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Westward Ho!

George Will and I may not be able to agree upon much else (except maybe that baseball is a pretty cool sport), but we do both like Westerns. A genre that (hopefully) is not dead yet.

(Thanks to Readers Advisor Online)

Friday, October 24, 2008

McBain Produces Compelling 'Transgressions'

Review of TRANSGRESSIONS (Forge Books 2005)
Editor, Ed McBain; multiple authors

In the foreword to TRANSGRESSIONS, Ed McBain says it was a bit of a challenge finding 10 authors to contribute to a collection of crime novellas. I mean, who even writes novellas anymore? Yet somehow, McBain (or Evan Hunter, to use his birth name) was able to do it.

The result is a lengthy--783 pages, to be exact--and ambitious work that will probably stand as one of a kind, perhaps forever, since I doubt anyone else will undertake such a project in the future.

I had originally checked this out of the library because I wanted to read the contribution by Walter Mosley called "Archibald Lawless, Anarchist at Large: Walking the Line." Despite my more limited original intention, I decided instead to start with the first story to see if it agreed with me. It was a humorous crime story by Donald Westlake, who I'd read before and hadn't particularly cottoned to--but this time, I liked him better. Maybe I just like Westlake in smaller doses. Maybe the novella form forced him to get to the point faster, so the plot moved more quickly, engaged me faster. Whatever it was, it convinced me to try the next one, too.

Each story, I'm happy to report, is excellent in its own way. Anne Perry turns in a wonderful suspense tale of a political hostage situation in Ireland--a situation that forces the main character to grow and adapt to the situation, deepening the story to make it more than just the average suspense yarn. Joyce Carol Oates writes a tale of horror and suspense involving mean girls (not usually my favorite plot device, but one that worked for me here) and the tumult they cause others when they victimize an innocent girl. Sharyn McCrumb shows the lurid lengths doctors in the old South were driven to, in order to get bodies for medical students to work on--and the effect it had on one slave's life.

And Walter Mosley--well, I confess, as good as all the other authors were--a stellar combo that also included Ed McBain, Stephen King, John Farris, Jeffery Deaver and Lawrence Block--Mosley's story was still my favorite. Archibald Lawless is a, um, memorable character--intriguing, frightening and encouraging by turns to the protagonist, Felix Orlean, a college student Lawless hires to work as his "scribe," but who ends up unwittingly on the wrong end of a murder investigation. One in which Lawless is somehow involved, yet in which he is able to protect Orlean. They end up in a strange and wonderful relationship that Orlean is not quite sure he wants from the start, leading to a series of peculiar and sometimes deadly events.

I liked this book a lot. The stories all kept me interested, turning the pages. However, I must confess that 10 novellas felt like a lot. Normally, I wouldn't read 10 crime novels in a row--I usually like to mix a bit of mainstream or other genres in with my crime fiction reading. I loved the stories in this book. McBain may have rushed the editing a bit, as I caught several errors throughout, but they're good stories anyway. Nonetheless, I would recommend (unless you're the type that reads nothing but crime fiction) that you read these novellas two or three at a time, with something different in between to "cleanse" the literary "palate."

If it hadn't been a library book, I'd probably have done that.

Rest in Peace, Sweet Friend, Singleton Hippie Art

Rest in Peace,Sweet Friend.(c)Singleton 2008.I see you inaccidental places ataccidental times,a face in the rearviewmirror,laughingin five o'clock traffic...a shadow on the midnightwalls,watching...a reflection in the wishing pond,fleeting, butthere, I swear.....I hear you in the sudden orchestraof unexpected windchimes,the laughter of strangers,the "I know this means something"words to a song

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Book Covers Revisited

Some of these entries to the Bookninja's "literary novel rebranding contest" are flat out hysterical. Enjoy!

This One's Not About Books

Quite clearly, it's not about books . . .

But it's poetry and I like it. And it still feels relevant (dated cultural references notwithstanding), even though it's been almost 40 years since its first release.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Chief Justice Channeling Raymond Chandler?

Oh, you just have to love it. In a dissenting opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts pours on the hardboiled prose, in his discussion of a criminal case. To wit:

"North Philly, May 4, 2001. Officer Sean Devlin, Narcotics Strike Force, was working the morning shift. Undercover surveillance. The neighborhood? Tough as a three dollar steak. Devlin knew. Five years on the beat, nine months with the Strike Force. He'd made fifteen, twenty drug busts in the neighborhood.

"Devlin spotted him: a lone man on the corner. Another approached. Quick exchange of words. Cash handed over; small objects handed back. Each man then quickly on his own way. Devlin knew the guy wasn't buying bus tokens. He radioed a description and Officer Stein picked up the buyer. Sure enough: three bags of crack in the guy's pocket. Head downtown and book him. Just another day at the office."

Priceless--simply priceless.

My thanks to The (New) Legal Writer (citing May it Please the Court) for this one.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Good News About Reading

It's a truism I've never believed: that young people today don't read books. I'm happy to see that author Dave Eggers not only shares my belief that young people read, but has direct experience with them to back it up.

And, in another case of misleading media coverage, check out the headline, then read the story. Okay, you're saying young men don't read books, but a higher percentage of them (46% which, as I recall, is not quite half) read books than read magazines (43%), rent DVDs (33%), go to bars (33%) or go to movies (20%). And, based on these numbers, you claim young men don't like to read books?

Is it just because 69 percent said they can't live without the Internet? Well, that's a useless indicator. I can't live without the Internet these days and I love to read books.

(A tip of the hat to The Reader's Advisor Online for both articles.)

Face Painting, Singleton Hippie Art

Face Painting(c)Singleton 2008SOLDCome on in,drop yourwanna~be'sandlook~at~me'sat the kitchendoor...Hang yourfancy keyson the picket fence,your three piece suiton the arbor,your Big Fish Story on the clothesline....Come on in,butmake it free...I'm nottradin' peacefor nothin'....Colored markers, pencils, ink and a promise I made to myself 30 something years ago....And still believe. Love is free,

Monday, October 13, 2008

Are Geniuses Worth it All? This is the Core of 'Loving Frank'

Review of LOVING FRANK (audiobook 2007) by guest blogger Star Lawrence
Author, Nancy Horan; read by Joyce Bean

When I was 14, I looked up camps in the library and sent an application to an artsy affair called Hill Top in Spring Green, Wisconsin. Turned out it was run by the wife of an architect who'd once been at Frank Lloyd Wright's studio. It had a studio on the premises and was across the road from Taliesin, Wright’s famous house above the Wisconsin River. Wright had died rather recently and the cult of personality raged—we counselors were told never, ever to read THE FOUNTAINHEAD, so of course that is when I read it.

The other day, I picked up the 12-disk reading of LOVING FRANK, seeing only casually that it concerned one of Wright's mistresses', Mamah (May-mah) Borthwick Cheney's, experiences.

About halfway through, it was getting a little chick-booky for me, until my subconscious told me, "Uh-oh, is this the woman who gets murdered on the Taliesin property?" If you don’t know the story—a true one—you can learn it in stages in this book.

The story takes place before women got suffrage in 1920 and is also interesting in that this rather spoiled Oak Park housewife with her maids and nannies runs off to Europe with the dashing Wright, who was quite the ego boy, always broke, swathed in a cape, and madly collecting Japanese prints everywhere he went. He felt genius was license and spent money willy-nilly until even Mamah became alarmed.

As to the reader, Joyce Bean, she does a fine job, but I must confess now for the first time that I prefer male readers. When women try to do the men’s voices all gruff and low, they sound like Shirley Temple being cross. To me, to me!

The book even mentions my Hill Top, which apparently was a Chappaqua camp for adults before being turned over to rich Chicago girls who loved to ride horses. But I do remember seeing the “Shining Brow” Taliesin above us as we swam in the river. And, of course, the dog-eared FOUNTAINHEAD was under my pillow.

Star Lawrence is a health writer and author of the blog HEALTH'Sass.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Girl with the Peace Tattoo, Singleton Hippie Art

The Girl with the Peace Tattoo(C) Singleton 2008She was therein the crowd,Leon Russell on the stage,a barefooted ballerinaflitting over mud puddlesand ice chests,totally free...And behind the pinkcloak of yesterday,she still dances...and every now and then...someone noticesthe tattoo....Sometimes you have to go back,to get it right. 8 1/2 by 11 on cardstock. Colored pencils, ink, markers,

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Indie Booksellers Bowed, but Unbroken

The independent bookstore may be down, but it's not out, according to this essay on the "megalisters"--the online booksellers that sell their wares by the ton, rather than the title.

There's no denying it--I'm as guilty as the next person of taking advantage of the convenience of ordering books online and having them shipped right to me. But there's also no denying that, when I happen upon a mom-and-pop bookstore, I love to go in and browse. Because you never know what you might find.

I think each of these retailers has a rightful place in a book lover's heart. Online sellers, for convenient, targeted purchases, and indie brick-and-mortar stores, for the random treasure hunt.

What say you?

PS -- this weekend, I'll be on the road (or more like up the road, really) in Baltimore at Bouchercon, the big enchilada of mystery conventions.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Nailing the Ineffable about Vietnam in 'Tree of Smoke'

Review of TREE OF SMOKE (audiobook 2007) by guest blogger Star Lawrence
Author, Denis Johnson; read by Will Patton

TREE OF SMOKE, on 18 disks, is by turns elegiac, amped-up, circularly crazy like all wars, and mysterious with, as one character said it, reality pushed so far to the edge it becomes a dream.

Like Apocalypse Now in some ways, TREE OF SMOKE centers on a hard-drinking, philosophical Army colonel-turned-CIA man gone native and his nephew Skip--also CIA, but a more gentle soul and linguist, who gets ensnared in the demonic logic of war and pays the price.

Two brothers from Phoenix are also featured, one who gets kicked out of the Navy and almost straight into the Arizona penal system and the other who keeps re-upping in the Army and descends into the lawless hell of the bush and the tunnels.

The narrator is actor Will Patton, a favorite of mine, whose soft, Southern cadences and subtle dialects both lull and scratch insistently at the subconscious of the listener. I felt like writing him a fan letter after listening to TREE OF SMOKE.

The title, by the way, comes from the Bible and is said to double as a name for an atomic explosion. But it also could be the wavering gray area where the exactitude of reality blends into the forest of nightmares.

Star Lawrence is also a health writer and author of the blog HEALTH'Sass.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Peace is a Paisley Dress, Singleton Hippie Art

Peace is a Paisley Dress(c) Singleton 2008SOLDOctober swing,wooden and crickety,crooked and old...tick~tocking over the gravel driveway...I lean way backand stretch my legs outpointy toed tokiss the skyand swing higher,rock dustpowdering my cheeks,eyes closed.And I remember...The sound of the tirescrunching the gravel...Peek~a~boo smiles...Accidental million mile hello's...And in the wind,my

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Banned Books Week

Banned books--not a good thing, right? Well, the LA Times ran an opinion piece that raises some valid points about the matter.

The Annoyed Librarian also expresses some annoyance about BBW.

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