Snapshots of Decades: A Birthday Blogpost

Super BirthdayTurning 41

It’s my birthday and I am reading Stephen King again.

I do the book reviews for my local NPR station and I knew I would have to take on this very popular author at some point. After a year and a half and over 30 reviews the moment had finally arrived. A copy of his newest novel landed on my porch from his publisher (three weeks before its official release). They want my review. So be it.

I had an aunt growing up that was obsessed with Stephen King. My aunt in some ways was a King creation waiting to happen. She had fiery red hair; a loud, almost shrieking voice; and many of us kids were scared of her. When she got mean, she got really mean. I always did my best to avoid her, never spending the night at her house, trying to avoid being in the same room with her for too long. My aunt would spend her days either on the phone (always complaining), chewing gum or drinking Pepsi (she drank a lot of Pepsi), and reading Stephen King. When I was in 7th grade, she, for some reason, noticed me and gave me a pile of her Stephen King books to read.

I was not impressed and told her as much when I returned the pile a few months later. Rude of me? Yeah, probably.

We spoke even less after that.

Yet, here it is, 28 or so years later and I am once again reading King and I feel like it is a time capsule to that old me, right then. Mainly, it’s because King sounds exactly the same. His voice/prose hasn’t matured, even the plot and characters feel the same as those other books. I’m guessing for many of his fans (including my aunt) it feels like returning to a home.

For me, I see the cobwebs and I wonder why no one has done any cleaning… Continue reading

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My Favorite Literary Oddities

What a weird pictureOn June 11, my new book MAXIMILIAN STANDFORTH AND THE CASE OF THE DANGEROUS DARE will be released via amazon.com in eBook and print. Currently, there is a book giveaway going on for the book on Good Reads which you can enter here.

To help prepare for the release of this odd and playful book, I thought it would be fun to write on some of the influences for the novel.  This week I discuss three writers who gave me the courage to attempt the mad surprises that come in this new novel.

There should be a warning that is given to every future English Major. It should be in bold lettering with a dark-foreboding red hue.

WARNING: This major will impact how you read and enjoy books forever.

We all scamper and leap into becoming English majors because of a love of books, imagining afternoons in classes playfully discussing our new favorite classics. The ultimate book club! Surrounded by like-minded, educated readers debating and then debating some more the next day. All that is missing is the secret handshakes, but a big part of that dream is true… What is glaringly missing in the scenario though is the in-depth analysis that comes along for the ride.

When you are an English major you are taught to deconstruct a book down to its essence, find new ways to interpret a work (maybe related to the author’s biography or the history of the time, etc.); whatever the case, when you are done with a book, it is never the book it once was to you at the start. Over time, this kind of investigation will become part of your reading makeup.

You’ve seen too much! The wizard cannot go back behind the curtain, you know it is a silly old man now! Every book is a future study, even when you don’t mean to do it. And soon you may even begin to forget what it was like to simply open a book and enjoy the tale. Continue reading

Say Hello to Mr. DeVere, I Mean Shakespeare…

The Lord of OxfordI don’t believe in conspiracies.

Some people may think this is kind of lame of me, like I am some kind of party pooper; the dude that doesn’t want to clap his hands to bring Tinkerbell back in Peter Pan. But frankly I don’t think it is in the nature of human beings to keep secrets. Heck, even Deep Throat from Watergate admitted who he was before he died, and that secret only involved three people. We love to tell secrets, and when we were children we each learned (quite easily and quickly) it is always more fun to share a secret than to… keep it.

So aliens, men in black, secret assassinations… yes, at all conspiracies I wag my skeptical finger and say “Nah, nah.” (In a very He-man masculine way, of course).

Yet, I admit I am addicted to one conspiracy, the biggest in literature. The same conspiracy that created doubters out of Mark Twain, Orson Welles, and many others. In many ways, it is a who’s who of readers and lovers of literature; making me feel anything but alone in my little basement filled with notebooks of random facts like a character from The X-Files.

Yes, I am talking about the dreaded Oxford Theory, the Shakespeare Authorship question. The one unjustly pooh-poohed by scholars every time it is brought up. (It doesn’t help that the first person who brought up this theory had the last name of Looney. Yes, you read that right. Looney.)

For those that don’t know Edward DeVere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, supporter of the arts, beloved poet of the queen, may have done more than just survive the back-stabbing courts of his day; he might have also created the greatest catalogue of literature we may ever know. He might have been the pen behind Hamlet, Juliet and Macbeth…

Except he did it in secret, all in secret. And if it is true, it is a conspiracy that would have involved the highest members of the British court, famous writers, publishers, and an entire theater company.

Back up little aliens, now that is a conspiracy! Continue reading

The Happy Anglophile

Union JackIn my next life, I will be British.

I know this is true right down to the fiber of my being.

I will be sophisticated, I will look good in suits, I will enjoy tea and crumpets, I will understand the point of Cricket, and I will have an accent that will add to my wit, not diminish it in the least.

I grew up with a love of the country and when I got married it was only natural that I married a woman whose family is British. Sadly, my wife doesn’t have the accent (she was the only member of the family born in the states), but she still shows hints of it; she perfectly pronounces all of her words and doesn’t have, what I like to think of as the “Michigan slur” that haunts me and many others in my state. (When I was in grad school in Los Angeles you have no idea how many times I was asked to repeat something because of that slur.)

Shirts with the Union Jack, Beatles’ posters on my walls, this adoration for England stems from music to history to, most importantly, books.

Yes, all cultures have great writers to point to, but when you speak of British writers you enter the land of myths and legends for me. These are my Herculeses, my Paul Bunyans.

From Jane Austen’s little villages to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s shadowy moors to Charles Dickens’ cobblestone and dirty London streets, they each had a hand in creating the image that stuck with me of merry ol’ England.  Every major experience I had growing up as a reader involved a British writer, starting with reading Winnie-the-Pooh with my mom (I remember us both laughing hysterically when Piglet was trying to help Pooh capture a Heffalump) through Roald Dahl and then the fantasy realms of Tolkien and Lewis that took my breath away.

And don’t forget, England gave us Shakespeare. Continue reading