Explode

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Reading is one mind touching another and creating an explosion.

Where did your mind go after reading that sentence?

That was the explosion.

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Take this book. It’s free. And here’s why

Refuse to be Afraid - printLet me get to the point right away and then circle back: If you want a free, unabridged copy of the best book I’ve written so far, click here.

Eight years ago I was plugging away on my blog, much like today, and noticed I was writing several recurring themes that seemed to resonate with my small but enthusiastic audience of readers: It’s a scary world out there, and a lot of people, from politicians to advertisers and even my chosen field of news media, seemed to be in the business of trying to scare people to death and offering a bogus remedy – maybe a magic pill or some other product, or voting somebody out of office or passing another law – and it usually involved spending money or further reducing the amount of liberty that common folks are allowed. Continue reading →

I have been dying of thirst in the ocean for lack of strange wine

 

Strange Wine girl

Harlan Ellison died the other day, and the world grew more dull. I, of course, never met the man, but when I encountered his words I never failed to learn something, to be entertained, and/or to gain some insight into the human condition.

Oh, enough of that – the man was a hero to anyone who loves to see bullshit called out, grabbed by the throat and humiliated.

And he was, as the blurb on the cover to his collection Strange Wine, asserted, someone who “just could be the best short story writer alive today.” At least until Thursday. Continue reading →

All the wondrous stories

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I love the smell, the feel, the secrets of old paper. Yellowing pages attract me like moth to light – they are a time machine – a glimpse into another era, the significance of the words and images transformed and enhanced by what has come into the world since – a snapshot of a moment filled with promise that we now know whether it was fulfilled.

I love holding old stuff, admiring the work done with old tools I can barely fathom let alone understand how the raw materials became this.

“There are only three stories,” someone said, or was it fewer, or more?

Google The Great and Powerful yields:

“Every story is either The Iliad or The Odyssey.” Perhaps I need to read those again.

A Mr. Booker told the New York Times once that there are seven basic plots. 1. Overcoming the Monster; 2. Rags to Riches; 3. The Quest; 4. Voyage and Return; 5. Rebirth; 6. Comedy; 7. Tragedy.

Leo Tolstoy suggested there are two stories: A man goes on a journey. A stranger comes to town.

Borges said four stories: A love story between two people; a love story among three people; the struggle for power; the voyage.

I say:

There are 7 billion stories, and one: We are born, we live, we die.

Tell me a story, won’t you?

W.B.’s Book Report: Men in War

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The first book I’ve read that was recommended by Haunted Bookshop owner Roger Mifflin, Men in War by Andreas Latzko is a scream of rage and unimaginable pain, a primal scream against the inhumanity that Latzko endured as a soldier of Austria-Hungary on the River Isonzo front against Italy in 1916. If I didn’t understand what men in war have been through, now I have an inkling. The book is a powerful, life-changing experience that I must force myself to read again soon.

Men in War is a novel with six chapters, more accurately described as six short stories, linked mainly by the front and by the unrelenting despair and senselessness of the situation. This is a book that should shake the reader to the core. No wonder the Hitler regime had it burned – it exposes far too much of what the war machine is all about.

“My Comrade (A Diary),” the fourth chapter, is a bomb – a rant of common sense from a man diagnosed as mentally ill because he carries the memories of the men he has seen destroyed by war and he cannot fathom the insanity that did them such harm. It’s a clear peek behind the haunted eyes of those who have seen the same: We see that such memories cannot possibly be compartmentalized or tucked away forgotten. I would guess they can only be endured a best as one can.

Latzko wrote Men in War (Menschen im Krieg) during his rehabilitation from physical and psychic injuries sustained during his service; he served on the Isonzo front during 1916, suffering malaria and then severe shock from a heavy Italian artillery barrage. After eight months in the hospital, he moved to Davos, Switzerland, for further recuperation and rehab, where he wrote the book in 1917.

This is the book that Christopher Morley, through Mifflin, says “was so damned true that the government suppressed it.” One prays Latzko got some relief by letting the words pour out of his fingers. He does a service to humanity by sharing the inhumanity he witnessed and by letting us see and feel the damage done to his heart and soul.

Here is a link to the book at Project Gutenberg.

(Photo: © Andrew Emptage | Dreamstime.com Preserved trench network at Sanctuary Wood near Ypres on the Western Front battlefields of the first world war. Photo taken on March 10, 2010)

W.B.’s Book Report: The Haunted Bookshop

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It’s been a long time since I was as charmed by a reading experience as I was by Christopher Morley’s The Haunted Bookshop. Released in 1919, this book is filled (through bookseller Roger Mifflin) with Morley’s passionate hope that the lessons from the recently completed Great Was would be learned and that humanity would never turn to such senseless brutality to solve its differences again.

Seen through the lens of nearly 100 more years of history, Mifflin seems a trifle naive, especially when he puts his faith in Woodrow Wilson, who is about to embark on a peace conference, but Morley also inject elements that suggest he, too, knows that peace is an elusive goal.

The Haunted Bookshop is a wondrous ode to books and literature. a tremendous manifesto against the silliness and futility of war, and an adequate little mystery and love story. There are dozens of good suggestions for future reading and plenty of sound philosophy and observations about life, living, and what the weary world had just experienced.

I finished this book reluctantly, wanting the story to continue and wishing to have more of the loquacious Roger Mifflin – the good news is there is one previous book in Morley’s quiver about the bookseller who so loved books and peace.

Morley peppers the book with references to other 1919-era books, some familiar to me and many not, so I could spend quite a bit of time tracking them down and seeing for myself what delighted Morley/Mifflin so.

I can’t recommend The Haunted Bookshop enthusiastically enough.

Here is a link to the book at Project Gutenberg.

Books I must seek out: The Haunted Bookshop

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“Like everything else, (Truth) was rationed by the governments. I taught myself to disbelieve half of what I read in the papers. I saw the world clawing itself to shreds in blind rage. I saw hardly any one brave enough to face the brutalizing absurdity as it really was, and describe it. I saw the glutton, the idler, and the fool applauding, while brave and simple men walked in the horrors of hell. The stay-at-home poets turned it to pretty lyrics of glory and sacrifice. Perhaps half a dozen of them have told the truth. Have you read Sassoon? Or Latzko’s Men in War, which was so damned true that the government suppressed it? Humph! Putting Truth on rations!”

“You see those children going down the street to school? Peace lies in their hands. When they are taught in school that war is the most loathsome scourge humanity is subject to, that it smirches and fouls every lovely occupation of the mortal spirit, then there may be some hope for the future. But I’d like to bet they are having it drilled into them that war is a glorious and noble sacrifice.”

Those are two excerpts from a book called The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley, which was not written last year but in 1919, just after the Great War to End All Wars. We’ve seen how that turned out.

Read more about Morley and an extended excerpt at this link:

Roger Mifflin reflects on the Great War