The Ghosts of Writing, Halloween 2017

I’m going through a weird phase right now with my writing  It is affecting my old books, it is affecting my future works, and it is affecting this site. I still get a kick out of reading (from time to time), but there’s a certain sense of pointlessness around the entire endeavor that seems to be growing for me.

Do I write another post trying to inspire you to take on the author mantle? Create a book and get it published? Or do I write another one about the bleak possibilities/reality of the publishing world? Another doom-and-gloom piece about how the publishing world is only about the almighty dollar and self-publishing is no home for literary fiction?

One thing that has been capturing my attention (and I recommend if you have the patience for it) is Alan Moore’s epic novel Jerusalem. It breaks every rule I have known about publishing and literature. It is incredible in its audacity and I am in awe of it and him as an author. It is is long (over 1200 pages in small font long) and it is dense (it assumes that you know what he’s talking about). He does not dumb down anything! I am loving the experience of reading it and strangely it makes me think that it would be fun it to just spent 10 years working on a super crazy long book of my own.

I promise I will do more writing on the site in the future (don’t abandon me yet!), until then I need this break. I need to figure out what I am doing with my current novel and I need to find a way to care more… about everything with writing.

Right now though let’s celebrate some of the work that I think are suitable for Halloween. Here are some great books for a spooky night. These reviews were either done here or on WKAR.

Happy Halloween!

Advertisements

Book Review: The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

the-princess-diaristA new book review today! This time I am taking on the latest (and last) book by Carrie Fisher, The Princess Diarist. A fact that still bums me out.

You can check out my other book reviews (both for WKAR’s Current State and this website) here.

If you would like to check out The Princess Diarist for yourself, you can find it on amazon.com here.

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

I wish I could say that the new book The Princess Diarist is the one that Star Wars fans have been begging for. A real point-by-point behind the scenes story of the making of the original Star Wars trilogy from the perspective of one the members of the original trio. The force would be strong with such a book.

Star WarsI wish I could say that this was even a simple eye witness account of the creative process of creating an entertainment landmark. Watching George Lucas from the sidelines, seeing how the magic got done. An important book, a powerful book. A book that makes us see everything on the screen (and probably memorized) with new eyes.

Sadly, The Princess Diarist, the last book by Carrie Fisher is neither book. This is instead a book about becoming a phenomenal, dealing with it, dealing with it again (this time without drugs and alcohol), and controlling yourself from criticizing the fans in front of you (while taking all of their money). If you are hoping for insights around each of the films, including the latest two, forget it. Continue reading

Book Review: Burr by Gore Vidal

BurrA new book review today! This time I am taking on the classic work of historical fiction, Burr by Gore Vidal. If you love the musical Hamilton, you will love this book.

You can check out my other book reviews (both for WKAR’s Current State and this website) here.

If you want to check out Burr for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here.

Burr by Gore Vidal

Historical fiction is a dangerous genre.

In the wrong hands it can change a person’s perception of a real event or historical figure, tainting the truth for readers and the public. Debates and controversies in our world have been created out of less! But in the right hands it can inspire a reader to see something from a new light, possibly break out of their normal mindset. Easily the most dangerous, and possibly exciting, historical fiction I have ever read is Burr by Gore Vidal. In it, Gore Vidal tries to make a hero out of Aaron Burr, one-time vice president and killer of Alexander Hamilton.

HamiltonI discovered the book when my family (including my kids) became obsessed with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s fantastic musical, Hamilton. While Hamilton puts many of the heroes of the American Revolution in the wonderful glow of the spotlight; Gore Vidal instead adds a lot of filters and a smoke machine. In Burr, Vidal seems to take a glee out of spoiling our history and understanding around the American revolution. This is not your normal 1776.

In Burr, George Washington is an incompetent general more worried about his image and politics as compared to victories. Alexander Hamilton is shady and driven by power. Even French military hero Marquis de Lafayette comes out as a little bit of a buffoon. Only Aaron Burr steps forward as a hero, and possibly the true father of our country.

Aaron Burr is the voice of reason and all of the decisions he makes are for the good of the country. He rarely thinks of his own self-interest, as he weaves each of his plots that he is certain will help grow the new country he loves. Everything seems to make sense from his perspective, but history will never know.

The novel Burr is told through the voice of Charles Schuyler, one of the few fictional characters in it. He spends his time hobnobbing with the political elites, dating questionable women, and meeting with important members of the New York literary circle, including Washington Irving. Charles is determined to write a book on Aaron Burr and is able to get him to open up and share his experiences. It is through those recollections that both the book and the character do not hold back. For Aaron Burr has a strong opinion about everyone in our revolutionary history and few walk out of his recollections unscathed.

I can’t help but imagine Vidal smiling throughout the writing of this book. Most of it seems to be built out of the rumors and gossip of that period as compared to what our historians will focus on. It is because of this fact that I find the book so dangerous. Yet, even I, a fan of nonfiction and Ken Burns documentaries felt a sense of horror and scandalous pleasure in the reading of it.

Even without Vidal’s wonderful writing, Aaron Burr is a fascinating and complicated character just waiting for a novelist’s pen. Besides the duel with Hamilton, he was once tried for treason, was quite the lady’s man, and was almost President of the United States. The question though is he an American hero? Vidal tries to present him as one and I can’t help but think the idea is a little… well… brilliantly dangerous.

Halloween Redux

HalloweenI’m one of those nuts who thinks of Autumn as his favorite time of the years. Maybe this is a last gasp of Marching Band nerdness (Go Vikings!), but I look forward to the falling leaves, the smells, and the sheer panic we feel around our political system every two to four years. Ahhh… Fall.

My kids really want to get more Halloween decorations for our house, but I’ve never been impressed by the market. Usually everything seems plastic and loud. And I’m definitely not the type of guy to have anything giant and inflatable on my lawn. My line about this kind of stuff is Wayne Manor. “What would Alfred allow?” I ask.

The answer is usually not much.

Over the years I’ve written a bit about this holiday, which you can check out below in the links. I’ve also had the pleasure of reviewing some Halloween and horror stories on WKAR Current State. I thought I would include them as well if you are looking for something a little spooky to read this year. Also, they are fun to listen to because in a few of them I try (badly) to do a scary voice. Who doesn’t need a good and embarrassing laugh from time to time?

Boo!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seven Favorite Book Review Discoveries

Books! Everywhere! Books!One of the cool things about doing the book reviews for WKAR’s Current State and this website is when I discover a book or author that might have slipped through the literary cracks if it wasn’t for that review copy in my hand. A little bit of an unexpected treasure. And some publisher just sent it to me? For free? Sweet…

While I don’t love writing a bad review (even though I can have an eerie Dorothy Parker-esque talent for it from time to time), writing a good book review is a lot of fun. Many times, it is difficult for me to edit the review down to the necessary length. I’m gushing about the book, and I want to gush more. It’s a gush-tornado!

Here are seven books I’ve done over the years that I recommend you check out (and the links to my reviews):

 

 

The Classics I’ve Reviewed

Books
So, things have been… distracting.

For the last year, I’ve been working with an agent on my latest novel (which I still can’t talk about here). I really hope we are close to locking down the book soon. Whatever the case, I can easily promise it will be ready before the next book by George R.R. Martin.

Anyway, all of that jazz has distracted me from this website. And it might distract me for a little while to go (including my work on Uses of This World). So until I can find time to write something new here, I’ll be sharing something from time to time. Bear with me, this will all pay off in the long run, I am sure of it.

I’ve had the pleasure on WKAR to review quite a few classics on their morning show Current State. I love classic literature so these were the moments I savored like a great meal. The kind of meals with a half-dozen courses and they give you a nice mint at the end.

I hope you will check out (and enjoy) these reviews:

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany

Yes, I devoured the new Harry Potter book in less than two hours. Here is my review with only MINOR SPOILERS.

On my book review page, you can find the reviews I have done on WKAR as well as reviews I have done on the site over the last three years. Almost 80 different books, contemporary to classic, genre to literary fiction. I hope you will check them out. 

If you are interested in reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (and you sholud be) you can find it on amazon here

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry PotterWhen the war is over and the last battle has been won, we like our heroes to ride off into the sunset. They have earned the peace.  Of course, the snag with that earned peace is that there is nothing more to say. Plain and simple, you need conflict for a story. A hero without an adventure to back him up is just any old normal dude… even when he has a cool lightning bolt scar on his forehead.

After the epic seven years that span the Harry Potter series, our young hero definitely earned a break. He had lost family, friends, and heroes in his quest to destroy the evil he-who-must-not-be-named, Lord Voldemort.  When we last saw Harry he was older, saying goodbye to his two sons on Platform 9 3/4  and watching as they race off to start their own studies at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. To emphasize the story was done, even his scar was just a scar.

Yet, we can’t let our young boy who grew up under the stairs go. We gave him almost twenty years of peace, it’s time for some wizarding action. Wands out! Just released, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling (with John Tiffany and Jack Thorne) is something a little different and still the same. This is the continuing story of our boy wizard and he is dealing with something many parents deal with, a conflicted and jaded teenager. Continue reading

Book Review: LaRose by Louise Erdrich

Today, I wanted to share this book review I didn’t get a chance to do on WKAR’s Current State. It is LaRose by Louise Erdrich.

On my book review page, you can find the reviews I have done on WKAR as well as reviews I have done on the site over the last three years. Almost 80 different books, contemporary to classic, genre to literary fiction. I hope you will check them out. 

If you are interested in reading LaRose you can find it on amazon here

LaRoseSuspending one’s disbelief can sometimes be a little tricky. This is a challenge all storytellers have to confront. For if the reader can’t suspend their disbelief, the story has failed for that reader. If, for example, you can accept magic rings and dragons, J.R.R. Tolkien would be disappointed to know that you won’t like his stories about Middle Earth. Because of my own love of creativity, usually it’s not difficult for me to accept ideas in a story, no matter how radical. Yet, the new novel LaRose by Louise Erdrich really, really tested me.

On a quiet morning, Landreaux Iron thought he shot a deer. What he actually hit was a boy bending over by a dog. This boy turned out to be his nephew, ending his young life. You would imagine that such a tragic incident would lead to a legal thriller, with court cases after court cases debating what Landreaux saw and whether it is manslaughter or not. Yet, that is not the book Erdrich gives us. There are not even any court appearances or charges. Everyone just seems to go on with their lives, and we even see an awkward friendship emerge between the two families. That was the first thing that was hard for me to believe. Continue reading

Book Review: Why We Came to the City by Kristopher Jansma

This is a book I didn’t get a chance to review on WKAR’s Current Strate. And since it is a few month’s since its release it didn’t feel fair keeping it locked away. I hope you enjoy this new book review for Why We Came to the City by Kristopher Jansma. (And if you would like to check out the book for yourself, you can find it on amazon here.)

Why We Came to the CityWhen you are in your twenties, sometimes it can feel like the world is your oyster and ripe with possibilities. This feeling is definitely true for the group of friends that make up the center of Why We Came to the City by Kristopher Jansma. At the beginning of the story, they are sneaking into elite art parties in New York City, complaining about the more successful, and passing out on couches… many times not their own.

At the heart of the story is Irene. She is a young artist with a hidden past. Even her closest friends don’t even know her real name, yet there is something about her that is fascinating to all that meet her. She searches through garbage looking for things for her art, and writes messages in books that she hopes others will find in time. And everyone seems to know her in the Big Apple. Continue reading

New WKAR Book Review: Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen

Current StateOn WKAR’s Current State, I reviewed the new novel by Anna Quindlen. I really enjoyed Miller’s Valley and it’s obvious to me why it is doing so well with the market (and readers).

You can listen to my review here: http://wkar.org/post/book-review-anna-quindlens-millers-valley

If you would rather read my review, you can do so below.

Hey, did you know Current State has a podcast? If you subscribe, you can download episodes and segments (and you can find me every other Thursday). Here is a link to find it on iTunes- https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/wkar-fm-current-state/id594609653?mt=2

If you want to check out Miller’s Valley,  you can find it on amazon here. If you want to check out my other book reviews for WKAR’s Current State, you can do so via links on this pageContinue reading