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…

Knox Books and Moby Dick

at play with words

[A bit of flotsam from the novel in progress, A Republic of Books, more of which may be salvaged from elsewhere on this ethereal site.]


So, about ten years ago, for lack of a more useful or rewarding project, I attempted to write a play set in a bookshop very much like my own, and make use of the little I had learned to entertain an audience with loud farce in the same way Buster Keaton once did in silence. That was my goal, in any case. It seemed to me that much of what I did was funny, or at least humorous and certainly laughable.

Because I have always found it so much easier to be critical than generous, and spend too much time on an average day disparaging some author or another to the detriment of my business, I had entitled my little comedy, Knox Books, assuming anyone would know or care that the great Henry Knox had once operated a bookshop in Boston—it was the play on the homonym of his name that I wanted this time. And there could be little confusion between that effort and my later use of the big man in my play with Phillis Wheatley because no one has read that one either. read more…

Washington defeats the British at the Battle of Bear Mountain

a little known victory retold

[a shrift from the novel in progress, A Republic of Books, more of which can be found elsewhere in this ethereal site]

Given my lack of success, I have been asked more than once why I wanted to write in the first place, much less continue in the effort. Besides the loaded context, there is a certain stupidity inherent to the inquiry that begs to be ignored. I have never known someone who knew exactly why they wanted what they do, other than farmers and those few who take over their father’s business. (Note: we are not culturally advanced enough yet to have as many women following in their mother’s footsteps, but that time will come.) Most people, as I have mentioned before, don’t do what they ever dreamed of doing when they were young, but then again, those who gain some control of their lives often find themselves doing something they like.

Like the many reasons for naming my bookshop what it is, there are at least that many causes for me to write. More than that, I have actually written about those reasons before. But lying in bed the other night and trying to sleep to the rattle of a loose gutter battered by too much rain, I happened to remember one of the best of my excuses. read more…

All My Children are Apples!

but if the tree is on a hill, an apple can roll pretty far

[another bite of the novel in progress, A Republic of Books, more of which may be found elsewhere on this ethereal site]

Of all the many failures for which I hold myself responsible, my children are the most discouraging. They have each taken up one or more of my many faults and grafted them onto their own stem. My complaint might sound similar to that of any parent who has wished the best for his family and then, his best advice discarded, watched helplessly as they sallied forth to their own destinies, but I think my unhappiness is at least somewhat deepened by the degree of separation, even when they are in the same room. We love each other, well enough. I have never had any inkling that they do not love me, or their mother, and my own affections have never flagged. But it is a fact that I cannot easily speak with them about any topic closer to our personal lives than the sports results, the places we have gone or would go if we could, eating establishments we have discovered or recollections of all the more mundane things we have done. The present indicative in our own lives is pretty much verboten. Politics is off limits. The news—beyond the reportage of an ongoing catastrophe—is taboo. Philosophy is prohibited. Personal problems (other than medical) are wholly proscribed. And talk of my own work, because it so often transgresses one or more of the above categories, is banned in Boston. read more…

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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.


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.