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On the dying of time

For all of my life—I am seventy this year—I have been taught and heard all the wrong things about writing, and how to write. I think of this as the John Gardner/David Lodge/E. B. White school of writing—all of them worthy practitioners of the craft, and all of them dead wrong. Dead for sure. As I will be, soon enough. And, in that they have the advantage of some professional success that I do not, the fight would seem to be unfair. Still, I persist with the thought.

These authors, as well as half a hundred others, ranging from Ambrose Bierce to William Zinsser, have indulged themselves in the mud-wallow of explaining what they do and what they do not do and why their methodology is the best, or at least the better. I admit I have not read them all, but I have read some parts of them all and you will find that in large measure they agree—and they are wrong. read more…

The Lincoln Compromise

(Another bit of the novel in progress, A Republic of Books, to be found growing elsewhere on this ethereal site)

Abraham Lincoln, whom I love as if he had been an actual character in my life and a member of my family, is one of the great villains of our history. How did a man as introspective and wise as he was make so great a fundamental error as to go to war as a means to control the political disaster he faced in 1861? This is a mystery only more clouded by the thousand biographies written since. Unfortunately, what is commonly known of Lincoln is hagiography. He has been made a saint of the secular state, yet, he was a deeply religious man and what he did was very much tied to his beliefs. What is made clear by those thousand biographies is that we still do not understand the most important aspects of his thinking, and the questions that remain still beg for more illumination. Too much has not been explained. read more…

Who killed Phidias?

When simple murder is not enough

[and yet another bit from the seemingly never ending novel A Republic of Books, that is the ‘work in progress’, more of which is to be found elsewhere on this ethereal site.]

I once wrote a novel about Phidias. There is almost nothing to know about the man but what you’ll find indirectly in Plutarch’s Lives, written centuries after. He was a sculptor, painter, teacher, warrior. But before him, art was of the stylized sort you will see on urns at the museum with two-dimensional cartoon figures chasing each other on the circumference. After him Aphrodite might step from the pedestal in front of your very eyes and plant a kiss upon your lips. At least, that’s the sort of thing I thought she might do while spending my hours at the Museum of Fine arts as a kid. And a few times afterward as well. Phidias simply changed the world that we might know—all that we could know. read more…

A note on the little I have learned

And that a man might be an island after all.

[Yet another portion of A Republic of Books, more of which can be found elsewhere on this ethereal site.]

I had some reason a few years ago to think about Eden and man’s lost innocence and whatever is the cause of this that we can know. And all that thinking was the making of a book, one of the several that are now lost in the ether file. But let me tell you a little about that.

I once knew a fellow, I’d called him Ethan in the story, who had grown up on the coast of Maine and for much of his youth and early manhood had lived on one of the larger islands there. He was a good fellow, bright, friendly, strong and handsome and naturally charming in his ways. Because employment on the island was limited, Ethan took any job that was offered but more often than not he could be found painting one of the hundred summer homes that city dwellers kept there to have in order to enjoy their own taste of Eden each year, or else rent out to other fortunate families who could afford the price of admission for a week or two in season. But Ethan was also handy with carpentry, plumbing and electrical matters, all things he had learned early in life at the knee of a father, or uncle. Thus, his place in life was set for him like a place at the dinner table. read more…

The seven senses

 

As is so often the case, the Greeks got there first. Perhaps not always exactly or correctly, but at least in spirit. The seven liberal arts, as set out in ancient thought as the keys to education, are grammar, logic, and rhetoric, enhanced by arithmetic, geometry, music, astronomy. Building a home, for instance, might require several of those elements. In ancient Greece, every free person was expected to take part in civic life through the conducting one’s own affairs, which would necessarily require debate, the ability to defend oneself in court (there were no lawyers), serve on juries, and participate in military service.

A missing element in those requirements that I find interesting is the skill of agriculture. My guess is that animal husbandry and the growing of food stuffs was a given—an assumed chore for every person. But this omission troubles me in the same way that most philosophies do: a grand order is envisioned without recognizing the nature of the human beings who must abide by it. We must eat. We must drink. Some philosophies will address one aspect or another of our human traits, but few will propound their tenets based on what is—more usually envisioning what should be. read more…

The Miserables

In our time, as we watch the headless corpse of France flop in the shadow of a spiritual guillotine, it is difficult to imagine an age where Hector Berlioz and Saint-Saens, Bizet, Debussy and Offenbach filled the concert halls; Rostand, Feydeau, Brieux, Claudel, Labiche, de Vigny, and Daudet played upon the stage; the poetry of Musset and Mallarme, Coppee, Baudelaire, Verlaine and Rimbaud, was whispered in the chambers; the stories of De Maupassant, Proust, Sand, Balzac, Dumas, Flaubert, Zola, Verne, and dozens more filled the bookstalls; and in just a single year, the galleries were hung with new work by Cezanne, Monet, Renoir, Manet, Degas, and Gauguin. But it was in the midst of that age of giants that one man stood above and apart, as a poet, a dramatist, and preeminently as a novelist. And it is more difficult now to imagine a life so filled, so wholly well spent that he found hours at the corners to do so much else, and very well indeed—to design furniture, to paint, to become involved in the tumult of politics, to critique the work of others, to edit and to publish, to design theatre sets and homes, and to engage in a private life that alone would consume an average man. Such a character as Victor Hugo easily strikes awe in mere mortals. And, evidently, there is a recent hagiography by David Bellos that concentrates on just one of those protean accomplishments, the creation of Les Miserables. read more…

Latest Blog Posts

On the dying of time

For all of my life—I am seventy this year—I have been taught and heard all the wrong things about writing, and how to write. I think of this as the John Gardner/David Lodge/E. B. White school of writing—all of them worthy practitioners of the craft, and all of them...

The Lincoln Compromise

(Another bit of the novel in progress, A Republic of Books, to be found growing elsewhere on this ethereal site) Abraham Lincoln, whom I love as if he had been an actual character in my life and a member of my family, is one of the great villains of our history. How...

Who killed Phidias?

When simple murder is not enough [and yet another bit from the seemingly never ending novel A Republic of Books, that is the 'work in progress', more of which is to be found elsewhere on this ethereal site.] I once wrote a novel about Phidias. There is almost nothing...

A note on the little I have learned

And that a man might be an island after all. [Yet another portion of A Republic of Books, more of which can be found elsewhere on this ethereal site.] I had some reason a few years ago to think about Eden and man’s lost innocence and whatever is the cause of this that...

The seven senses

  As is so often the case, the Greeks got there first. Perhaps not always exactly or correctly, but at least in spirit. The seven liberal arts, as set out in ancient thought as the keys to education, are grammar, logic, and rhetoric, enhanced by arithmetic, geometry,...

The Miserables

In our time, as we watch the headless corpse of France flop in the shadow of a spiritual guillotine, it is difficult to imagine an age where Hector Berlioz and Saint-Saens, Bizet, Debussy and Offenbach filled the concert halls; Rostand, Feydeau, Brieux, Claudel,...

The Miller’s tale

The two original Mad Max films had a certain intelligence behind them, extrapolating an apocalyptic future from the present. And at minimal cost. They were, like the original Star Wars films, game changers. Post-nuclear holocaust could never be the same. The third in...

Joe Bailey, and the reason for the dog

[Yet another portion of A Republic of Books, more of which can be found elsewhere on this ethereal site.]       Honest cops are a lot like honest reporters. There aren’t many of them around, and they both work for naturally corrupt organizations with political agendas...

Yes and No

There are two kinds of people, those who think there are two kinds of people and those who do not, but of course, the latter group are wrong. The very taxonomy of human being, that state of existence so bullied, bloodied, disparaged, idolized, hated, loved, condoned,...

What’s all this, then?

A preamble to A Republic of Books, portions of which may be found elsewhere on this ethereal site.               There is a wonderful quote from a fabulous movie of long ago, often repeated but seldom fully appreciated: “Oh, no, it wasn’t the airplanes. It was...

The problem is . . .

The problem is that the two major political forces of our age, socialism and capitalism, are rotten to the core. Ostensibly, socialism is the ‘public’ ownership of property and capitalism is the private ownership of property. In practice, neither is true. Capitalism,...

Otto Biedermeier is dead.

My guess is that most of you did not even know he was sick. Sadly, the great filmmaker, Otto Biedermeier has died, and it is perhaps parody that killed him. And it is for that reason alone that his death is the subject of the sudden novel I have just completed. You...

Novels & Novellas Available for Purchase

I Am William McGuire

I Am William McGuire

It’s a bloody Cro-Magnon world.
What’s a Neanderthal to do?

 

A Slepyng Hound to Wake

A Slepyng Hound to Wake

Leaving well enough alone is not good enough at all—not if the reason for a death is to be found in the life that was lost.
Hound

Hound

Henry Sullivan has made a simpler life for himself, finding and selling books. There is little room in it for either love or murder.

 

About

I have been informed by trusted authority that the short quip which I have placed here for the last year or so, by way of biography, lacks gravitas. “Over-paid by others for hyphenated jobs such as lawn-work, snow-shoveling, house-painting, office-boy, dish-washer, warehouse-grunt, table-waiter and hotel night-clerk–I’ve since chosen to be a writer, editor, publisher, and for most of my life, a bookseller, and even managed to occasionally pay myself. Hound is my first published novel.” And so it does. It is hard to be serious about so unserious a subject as oneself. But herewith, and keeping the ‘nasty bits’ (Brit expressions are so brilliant) to myself, I offer then, this ongoing post begun as posts at Small Beer Press. If anyone is interested, from time to time I will add something at the end to bring the epic closer to the present moment.

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