Blog

Smelling guns and firing roses

[ Another tittle from the novel in progress, A Republic of Books, for your consideration ]

‘There are more booby traps in the original Constitution of the United States than in a congress of naked women—not intentional, to my reading, but the by-product of the author’s inexperience, never having done this sort of thing before in public and thus lacking the judgment to avoid such mistakes—including those greater matters such as slavery and women’s suffrage, and the more subtle ones such as the stultifying tenure of incumbency, the easy corruption of public office through ‘pay to play,’ the false front put up by supposed ‘checks and balances’ weighted like a thumb on a butcher’s scale in favor of the Presidency, and the so-called ‘electoral college’ meant to avoid the uneducated stupidity of the mob by preserving the idiocy of the powers that be, each of which have wrecked their own special havoc—but the one we have to fear the most once more, at this particular juncture of our history, when all the others have already played themselves out in the worst way again and again, is the power given to the Supreme Court by itself (at the behest of Chief Justice John Marshall) in 1803, in the case of Marbury vs. Madison. This was an unconstitutional act by every measure, and set the standard for such extracurricular hijinks.’

That was the key element in my blog of that morning. I figured the bit about boobies would raise the appropriate hackles. Nancy Claire appeared in front of me again as I finished correcting the rest of this for posting. read more…

Miss Wheatley

[A tasty new collop that speaks for itself, taken from the work in progress, A Republic of Books]

However, my favorite scene in that book is the encounter between Henry Knox, Phillis Wheatley, and John Peters, her future husband. I liked it so much that I have already written a play from it!

 

Scene: December, 1773. Henry Knox’s London Bookshop. A young black woman, Phillis Wheatley, small in stature and neat in domestic dress, softly enters, and closes the door quietly. She is carrying a package. Henry Knox, behind his counter and doing bookkeeping, pretends not to take notice. A black man, John Peters, as tall as Knox but thin and wearing shabby laborer’s cloths, with a leather apron, is already in the far aisle, stage left, browsing the history books there. The woman slips into the aisle at the far right, and sits on a stool, taking a volume from a lower shelf. read more…

Thoreau Again

 [ Yet another morsel of John Finn to be eaten alone or with the greater meal]

“The thunder had rumbled at my heels all the way, but the shower had passed off in another direction; though if it had not, I half believed that I should get above it. I at length reached the last house but one, where the path to the summit diverged to the right, while the summit itself rose directly in front. But I determined to follow up the valley to its head, and then finding my own route up the steep as the shorter and more adventurous way. I had thought of returning to the house, which was well kept and so nobly placed, the next day, and perhaps remaining a week there if I could find entertainment. Its mistress was a frank and hospitable young woman, who stood before me in a dishabille, busily and unconcernedly combing her long black hair while she kept talking, giving her head the necessary toss with each sweep of the comb, with her lively, sparkling eyes full of interest in that lower world from which I had come, talking all the while as familiarly as if she had known me for years, and reminding me of a cousin of mine. She at first had taken me for a student from Williamstown, for they went by in parties, she said, either riding or waking, almost every pleasant day, and were a pretty wild set of fellows; but they never went by the way I was going.”

It was that short bit, only a small fragment of recollection within the larger work, which had inspired me to write an entire novel about the young Thoreau. I had wanted to know more about that black haired young woman, but the Thoreau of the journal pressed on. read more…

Mr. Chekhov

[a tasty portion from another novel, John Finn, written a while back. It seems to work by itself.]

 

It seems to me that if a novel isn’t about a man and a woman then it ought to be about why it’s not about a man and a woman. I’ve come to this conclusion rather slowly over the years.

Still, even if it’s true, the thought irritates me. It’s a little too pat. Wasn’t this just the kind of thing Chekhov liked to say?

Appropriately, this was what played in my mind as I drove up Interstate 93 toward Lebanon, New Hampshire on Tuesday. I was trying to come to an understanding of the character I had created for my eighteenth century loyalist, Izaak Andrews, without insinuating my own experience into the situation—No, that’s too strong. Insinuation is fine. You have to write what you know. What I did not want was for the situation in my own life to blind my understanding of what might have happened to Izaak. He was becoming a much more sympathetic character than I had originally imagined him to be.

He had lost so much for his beliefs. His home. His country. And he had lost a daughter. read more…

The gateskeeper and the bookman

[A titbit taste of the work in progress A Republic of Books]

In fact, all of this was the very subject of a couple of the novels and a play in the past few years. And it does seem now that my entire life is just a series of imagined events—the small stuff of what I had actually lived as a mere bookseller, all of it book dust really, mixed with my own hemoglobin, laid thin like handmade paper is done and then racked up to dry on the bones of some plot or another that is really only something I have observed in the lives of others and stolen for my own purposes. It seemed that I never found the time to live the adventures I wanted to write about. Or found the courage to. Though some of those stories offered more solace, I think—especially in retrospect—than others; even those that took place in a world that had not yet been. The future imperfect was a useful tense for writing. read more…

Miss Flucker and Mr. Knox

 

[Yet another scrap of a chapter from the unfinished novel in progress A Republic of Books]

 

I wrote that novel just last year. Not so funny the way I always placed my hero’s in their forties. Just a bit of cheap psychology, really. Those were easily my own best years. It was another chance to relive the moments lost and correct the past imperfect.

But that sort of pettiness did not always dictate. I had used the detail about the Hutcheson book before. That kind of continuity is something I want in my work. The details matter. read more…

Latest Blog Posts

Smelling guns and firing roses

[ Another tittle from the novel in progress, A Republic of Books, for your consideration ] ‘There are more booby traps in the original Constitution of the United States than in a congress of naked women—not intentional, to my reading, but the by-product of the...

Miss Wheatley

[A tasty new collop that speaks for itself, taken from the work in progress, A Republic of Books] However, my favorite scene in that book is the encounter between Henry Knox, Phillis Wheatley, and John Peters, her future husband. I liked it so much that I have already...

Thoreau Again

 [ Yet another morsel of John Finn to be eaten alone or with the greater meal] “The thunder had rumbled at my heels all the way, but the shower had passed off in another direction; though if it had not, I half believed that I should get above it. I at length reached...

Mr. Chekhov

[a tasty portion from another novel, John Finn, written a while back. It seems to work by itself.]   It seems to me that if a novel isn’t about a man and a woman then it ought to be about why it’s not about a man and a woman. I’ve come to this conclusion rather...

The gateskeeper and the bookman

[A titbit taste of the work in progress A Republic of Books] In fact, all of this was the very subject of a couple of the novels and a play in the past few years. And it does seem now that my entire life is just a series of imagined events—the small stuff of what I...

Miss Flucker and Mr. Knox

  [Yet another scrap of a chapter from the unfinished novel in progress A Republic of Books]   I wrote that novel just last year. Not so funny the way I always placed my hero’s in their forties. Just a bit of cheap psychology, really. Those were easily my...

Notes in ink on the age of television

The book of my lifetime had only a vague but passing resemblance to those made by the Dutch emigrant to England, Wynken de Worde—like a cousin whose mother might have had extracurricular interests. The paper, the ink, the typography, the binding, and the covers of the...

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 dram 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 taste 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,...

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.

read more...