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:

 

 

 

 

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For Banned Books Week- A WKAR Review of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Current StateFor Banned Books Week, I decided to do something special for my book review on WKAR’s Current State. This time I am taking on the classic The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, one of the most banned works of fiction out there. I’m really proud of this review, I hope you will check it out.

You can listen to my review online here: http://wkar.org/post/book-review-banned-book-week-mark-twains-adventures-huckleberry-finn-wkar

You can also read my book review below.

This is the second time I have been on WKAR around Banned Books Week. You can listen to my previous commentary here. If you would be interested in hearing/reading more of my NPR book reviews, you can do so via links on this page.

I hope you enjoy my new book review! Continue reading

Non-Ghost Believer

GhostSome people don’t believe, others do, I’m somewhere in the middle but leaning heavily much more to the “no” side. Not a full-time denier but someone who believes he has reality on his side. And I can roll my eyes and yawn with the best of them.

Yes, I may watch the occasional special on a cable channel (I’m not recording them on my DVR or anything), but I would probably turn the channel after getting the gist of the ghost.

“Beheaded… yada yada… tragic lover. Got it. What else is on?”

Consider: If there were ghosts, the south would be filled to the brim with the ghosts of slaves; Germany would be unlivable because of the ghosts from the Holocaust; and every battle field (from Gettysburg to Iwo Jima) would need barriers to keep us living people out. And it would completely change the funeral home business.

I live in a house where someone died. They died in the same room I sleep in each night! Who knows, I might even sleep on the very spot that he took his fated last breath. Yet… I got nothing.

So why is it I can still be scared or hypnotized by the idea of a ghost? Heck, when I saw Paranormal Activity I was up for days, every bump was enough to wake me up fully.

“This is ridiculous, Scott,” I mumbled to myself again and again. “This is absolutely ridiculous. There is no such thing as ghosts. No such thing… What was that noise?!” Continue reading

Where My Head Is At

HeadRandomness from the last few days…

Do both Paul and Ringo dye their hair? They are both in their 70s so the answer is probably yes. My wife also believes Ringo dyes his beard. How does one do that?

Because of the Disney film Tarzan, my kids like to run around in their underwear. I’m still working on my counter-argument to this practice because it is kind of hilarious.

I’ve locked down the Table of Contents for my new nonfiction book Me Stuff. Started with two hundred posts (I’ve done over 520 on this site total), then cut it down to 70. Now I’m ending at 30 or so.

I think Georgia font is pretty friendly. I want a friendly font for Me Stuff, one that says, “Sit down, I have a story to tell.” Continue reading

Five Things I Am Into Right Now, January 2014

SnowflakeThis is the first time I have hated a winter.

When I lived in Los Angeles, I used to complain about the lack of seasons. It threw off my natural clock! I couldn’t feel the shift in the world, in my mood and energy that came with the seasons. And when “winter” did come around in that warm land, I would dream beautiful dreams of perfect white snow.

Now, with this harsh winter, Jack Frost and Suzy Snowflake can both go suck it.

I want warm weather.

I want to lay on a beach and get a sunburn. I want to pretend again that wearing a long sleeve shirt is a “cold” weather day. Oh, LA, I am so sorry. Take me back!

This month’s list has one overlapping theme to all of my selection… They involve things that help distract you when you are stuck inside for long periods of time. Don’t believe me? Check out my first choice! Continue reading

On WKAR: Talking About Banned Books Week

Current StateI did something a little different this week in my appearance on WKAR’s Current State. Instead of sharing a new book review, I decided to take on the idea of Banned Books Week. I try to explain both sides of the issue, and offer my option for tackling “unwanted” books.  I’m pretty proud of this piece, I hope you will check it out.

You can listen to my discussion via this link- http://wkar.org/post/book-review-banned-books-week

If you would rather read my commentary, you can do so below after the jump. And you can learn more about Banned Books Week via a site by the American Library Association (here). Continue reading

Missing My Vonnegut Moment

Listen:

There is a piece of family mythology that I might have made up.

My grandmother was friends with Kurt Vonnegut’s first wife’s college roommate. I know that is not much, but here me out; there is a chance that my favorite writer (the genius behind Slaughterhouse-Five and others works of literary greatness) might have been aware of my family.

Why is this important? Well, in 1999, Kurt Vonnegut released a book of his uncollected short stories (Bagombo Snuff Box). Many of these stories were uncollected for a good reason; being the product of a struggling writer just looking for a sale in the booming short story market of the 1950s. Yet, there is one story in it of particular importance to me.

It is called “The Runaways” and it stars a family named the Southards.

Now, I know there are other Southards out there in the world. Heck, I’ve even found other writers out there with the same name as me (first and last), but with that slight connection, who is to say he might not have remembered meeting my grandmother by chance at that dorm room before a date (and my grandmother was quite the looker then) or had seen her referenced in a letter? Whatever the case, before anyone else does, I am staking my claim:

The great Kurt Vonnegut was inspired to use the name Southard in that story because of my grandmother.

There I typed it, and because it is the internet (and there are no falsehoods on the internet) and Vonnegut is no longer around to argue about it, it must be true.

So it goes. Continue reading

Writing Advice: Never Be Happy

I am never happy with my writing and I consider that a very healthy mindset to have.

I want to forget about past books, destroy old short stories, and hang my head in shame over screenplays. This does not mean I think the work is bad, far from it. It’s just I am always a different writer in a different “place” when I look back at past work, and that old writer who slaved over those chapters or scenes… well… he ain’t in this house anymore, and the new tenant isn’t into it.

In my last writing editorial (“Leave Home“), I discussed some of the pluses and minuses around most writers being introverts. The dangerous fact for writers is introverts like to be in a rut.

A rut is safe.

There are no surprises in a rut.

And for a writer that means genres, characters, scenes, plots, dialogue, expressions, and even favorite words may find their way again and again into “new” works. These ruts are like a warm blanket on a cold winter evening, why would you want to go get out from underneath all that security? (And if you are lucky enough to make actual money off your writing, it makes it that much more difficult.)

Some might find offense in my saying all this, but frankly, the answer to that question in my opinion is the difference between being just a writer and being an author. Continue reading

Writer’s Corner: A Query Letter for Jane Austen

I always seem to be overtaken by a feeling of apprehension whenever I begin to consider the idea of contacting agents and publishers again. To begin with, it’s not like I feel like I am “selling out” myself or my books, but I am definitely doing something that makes me feel a little dirty.

See, when you are writing a book you have all of the best intentions. You want to tell a great story, maybe do something groundbreaking or new in your artform; but when you start to contact agents and publishers you have to forget all of that. The best intentions are fine for writing tables; agents and publishers, typically, want to know the bottom line.

Could this book sell?

More established authors have their name to help sell a new work, but when you are unknown you are a member of the ever-growing faceless mass. And by that I mean, the daily struggling army of want-to-be authors that fight in query letters and e-mails for attention for their work. And that army is growing each year as more and more people graduate from English programs and writing programs, or simply decide they want to write a book… growing and growing… Continue reading

Me, Myself, & Charles Dickens

I’ve always felt a personal connection to Charles Dickens.

For example, I only have a few authors hanging on my walls at home, but he is one of them, right next to Mark Twain (Who, strangely, a lot of visitors think is Albert Einstein… Yes, I secretly judge the people who do that each and every time).

Right from the beginning of my exploration into books, I knew his name. When I was six or so, I remember getting a series of “comic” book adaptations of classic literature. I’m sure you remember these books. Opening any page, on one side would be heavily simplified and edited narrative and on the other will be a black-and-white drawing of what is happening. While as an adult I question whether we should be ruining the surprises and endings of great works of literature for kids in books like that, at the time, I couldn’t get enough of them.

Well, I had dozens of these books when I was a kid and most of them were attributed to Charles Dickens. These books were how I first experienced the madness of Miss Havisham and the “pointed” end of Sydney Carton. Continue reading