Act 4: Scene 2 ; the problem with fire

[A revised morsel from A Republic of Books, the novel in progress to be found elsewhere on this ethereal site.]



Act 4: Scene 2

the problem with fire



The bookshop is closed. The lights are low. Deirdre and Michael are sitting down stage, center right, on two stools. A bottle of bourbon is on the floor. They both have glasses in hand.



So, what are we going to do? How do we save the shop?



Well, here’s the problem. The good guys won’t fight dirty because that would only make them bad guys. The bad guys will always fight dirty because that’s who they are anyway. Result—all else being equal—the bad guys often win the battle.



Are you are saying that the good guys have to fight dirty?



No. I’m saying that most of the time, the good guys should not fight at all. read more…

Winkling out the meat of a nut

when the fool is unable to sleep

(Late thoughts from A Republic of Books, the novel in progress, more of which may be scavenged elsewhere on this ethereal site.)


Philosophers have turned away from purpose and became obsessed with means, as with math—a mere tool that becomes an end to itself. I have known many a fellow who collected tools, but built very little, making of themselves first kin to those professors of math who fashion whole philosophies from their calculations, as if the value of things and the purposes of the people who care for them might be determined by a hammer. Tool collectors pore over catalogs and lust for more. They could tell me what the best chisel is for any particular purpose but appear to have no project before them worthy of the device.

“Build a bookshelf,” I say.

“Why that?” they ask.

“To fill it with books,” I suggest.

“I have enough shelves for my books now,” they inform me.

“Then buy more books! And read them! You might discover what it is you should be doing with all those tools.”

But their tools are as much a means for them to finding order in the universe as my books are to me. Perhaps more so, in so far as I cannot tell you what every book I own is good for. And the professor of math only wishes a precision to his quest for order that he thinks is unattainable from the pages of a book—and thus he is wrong. Such order is only necessary for machines. read more…

Love in black and white

In mid-winter, Valentine’s day means Oscar will soon be coming out of the closet to look in the mirror. If he sees himself, it will be a good year at the multiplex. But sometimes you have to look through the thorns on the odorless long-stemmed roses to find anything. If not, there is always Netflix and the great stuff from film history.

A friend posted a frame from the great romantic film, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), and it got me to thinking. The Academy Awards are about to come around and I really don’t give a damn. A sad frame of mind to be in. I love film, but I haven’t watched that particular exercise in poor taste in many years, and not only because of the wanton exhibition of narcissism and repetitious glorification of cynicism, or even the self-righteous politics, but because so few films are simply worthy of my interest, or the twelve bucks! This year, the only movies on the list of best films that I actually saw were Dunkirk and Darkest Hour, and they were both fine, though I liked Darkest Hour more. But there isn’t another nominated that I would watch for free on the telly. read more…

A Republic of Books: Act 3: Scene 3

[The newly commingled portion of the novel and play in progress]

Act 3: Scene 3

Unto an age of Romanticism or, On the Beach


Down stage center. The illumination is bright. A stone wall ranges left to right. Michael and Deirdre settle themselves with their backs to the wall, facing the audience, both wearing baseball caps, sunglasses, shirts and shorts, with their shoes off. They are sitting on a striped blanket. The sloping sand below them is part of a beach. Other people are sitting at either side, but they are mostly in bathing suits.



(Looking to the audience as he might the water)

It’s a fair crowd for June. But the tide’s on its way out, and the water looks cold. No one’s really trying to swim. But at least they’re as near naked as the law allows. Something to look at. When I used to come here on the hottest days back in the early 1970’s, it would be empty. There was an obstacle course of floating Styrofoam, knots of tar, condoms and battered pucks of offal from the sewage plant stretching from the wall here all the way to the mooring buoys.



(Leaning back)

Why did you come at all?



(Leaning back)

Desperation. I grew up near a beach. It was part of my chemistry. read more…

In mythos holt: a venture to the interior

At the loom of history: the sley

The worst and most imminent danger of artificial intelligence is not that it will outstrip the mind of man, any more than we fear a steam locomotive for being more powerful, but that it will be used as a tool by some men to gain advantage over others. That is now the peril we face and it will be thus for the foreseeable future. Almost certainly, unless catastrophe strikes sooner than later, the digital mind of the machine will outstrip the analogue capacity of the maker, but the machine by itself has no purpose other than to facilitate its own activity. A worn part can be replaced. A mistake can be corrected. There is no self-consciousness because there is no inevitable end per se, whereas the most compelling impetus to human activity is life and death. As science fiction has long envisioned, machines like gods are oxymorons. They are morons at the least. They have no reason, only calculation. The admixture of the human element to the machine is the real matter. And this has already begun. How this particular bestiality manifests itself as a present danger to mankind can readily be seen in automation. With the superseding of individual rights by corporations—legal machines themselves with the same lack of self-consciousness that naturally inhibits any artificial intelligence—my own guess is that this time of danger is already well begun. read more…

spell check vs author

How your automatic spelling checker is like a tyrant—an arrogator and a dictator, a control freak, a stickler, a monocrat, a fusspot, a pedant, a faux-purist, an anti-perfectionist, a saboteur, an autarch, a czar, a usurper, a disciplinarian, a despot, a vandal and worse, and why that is so much like big government. read more…

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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.


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



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.