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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 year 1500 were all unlike anything I knew. Nevertheless, those handmade and crafted volumes were true relatives to the pale and near bloodless objects I read—devoured, really—bought and sold, wrote and published myself. And, this now ancient trade of bookmaking might have been my legacy, at least in some alternate universe that I might even write about someday, but in this corporeal and existential world we occupy, my grandchildren will not know the book.

The importance of this is incalculable. Even to the smallest detail. They will not know the pause of the page, the texture even, of manufactured paper, the smell of ink and glue in the gutters, or the feel and weight of a volume in hand. They will not understand the importance of typography in giving comfort to the eye, pleasing the mind, and aiding comprehension, perception and interpretation. That much, and more, to be had before the first word is read! read more…

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 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 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 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 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…

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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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