Essays

About the weather

A recent calculation of the ‘big picture’ in cosmic theory has the universe pulsing in an endless series of entropic expansions and contractions. When things reach a certain maximum (minimum?) of composition and the black holes go ‘pop,’ and disappear, it all starts over again. Nifty. Someone or ones will get a Nobel prize for physics and the world we can know (as opposed to the ones we can’t) will go on: governments will tax and pillage while people try to find some measure of happiness with the part of this universe that is theirs; thugs will rape and kill and wars will be fought over religions both political and metaphysical; and the weather will turn and twist over an Earth we pretend to understand, for reasons we have not yet fathomed.

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What lies beneath

The quiet you’ve heard from this place was just the sound of me lying low.

For about a year and a half I have been writing ‘The knight’s tale, a novel of the future.’ And now it’s done.

Though not quite the largest single work I’ve ever attempted, it is close to that, and easily the most complicated. The story was in fact pulled from a much larger epic first begun in 1976, which has occupied thousands of hours of my life in the years since. Over that time many aspects of the original concept were altered. The natural growth of scientific knowledge forced some of this. But more importantly, I have changed, and thus the way I saw the story I wanted to tell mutated. read more…

Journey Man

Sitting in the cab of a small car, alone for many hours and over many days while traveling cross-country, will produce a lot of rethinking of old problems and the discovery of more than a few new ones. In that enclosed space, I have come to the not so subtle realization that writing (and reading) is very much like traveling. An exploration. In fact I write by question, from inquiry to inquiry, like a journey with no absolute course.

“Why did he do it?”

“Why wouldn’t he?”

“But how?”

I do have a purpose, an ultimate goal, but I tend not to pre-determine its length or breadth until a shape has been conjured out of an accumulation of questions and answers–words chosen one by one for how they illuminate the path ahead. I think it’s the way many writers do it. read more…

What we reap.

The word is not good.

On a recent journey, it was simple enough to find a bookshop in a major city. A few perhaps. A Barnes &  Noble. An independent bookshop. Larger cities might even have two or more. Especially if there is a university close. Perhaps, if the city aspires to a significant intellectual life, you will find a good used bookshop as well. But most American cities today do not have an independent bookshop. A fact. Many do not even have a book chain outlet. The great majority do not have a used bookshop. read more…

Concerning Modern Slavery

The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution states, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” This was adopted in 1865, seventy-four years after the first ten amendments—a full lifetime–and at the cost of far more than the 620,00 lives recently lost in the Civil War.

Slavery, the forcible enslavement of one human being for the purpose of another, is variously defined as bondage, servitude, and thralldom–all aspects of ownership, subjection, control, and captivity.

Now the question arises: what part of this idea, if any, do you not understand today?

Let’s make this personal. Speaking at the safe remove of the third person is a waste of breath and ink or ether. I am personally interested in the answer. What is your difficulty with this Constitutional prohibition on slavery or the definition given here? Do you disagree with it? A part of it? What part is that?

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Tales from the Athenaeum

We can assay the weight and substance of a given work and argue its merits, but essentially the value of the thing is in its power to move us and hold us and remain in our minds long after the event of our first reading. For example, Tarzan of the Apes is a silly work in almost any critical regard except in the way that matters.

When art and craft are brought to a work that has that power to endure, we have the transcendent experience of stepping beyond our petty concerns into other places, in other times, and living larger lives than what we have managed by ourselves.

Not every great work is a Moby Dick, or should be. Not every reader has the stamina, or the need for the quest of a Frodo, or a picaresque journey by raft on the Mississippi. And often enough, the best of our literature is not fiction but memoir–that assembly of fact from memory that bears truth more than history.

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Latest Blog Posts

An open letter to those who might be wondering.

The move from Abington, Massachusetts to Lee, New Hampshire has been better than feared, but perhaps ultimately worse for the simple demonstration of fact that I haven’t the energy, muscle mass, or psychological stamina I once had. There has been an attrition,...

Trifles taken from the alms-basket of words

[a bagatelle from A Republic of Books, a 'novel in progress' to be found elsewhere on this site] By the bye, the category I have chosen for my work is ‘honorificabilitudinitatibus,’ as it is found in Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost, if for no other reason than it...

Consider Cleisthenes

(Oh yes, oh yes. Another potable portion from a chapter of A Republic of Books, the novel in progress to be found elsewhere on this site.) And while we are at it, consider Cleisthenes, the father of Athenian democracy and thus a father to us all, dead and white though...

All slaves are equal but some get to live in the big house.

(Oh yes, another new and potable portion from a chapter, this one  posted with A Republic of Books, the novel in progress to be found elsewhere on this site.) A novel is a flimsy currach indeed in which to set out on a journey such as this. The urgency to remain...

Unto an age of Romanticism, or On the Beach

(Perchance, another potable portion from a chapter of A Republic of Books, the 'novel in progress' to be found elsewhere on this site.)   When I arrived at 5th Street she answered the door with a deeply caught breath, as if she’s been furiously cleaning things up...

Beyond the age of reason, wherein love is lost and found

(A potable portion from a chapter of A Republic of Books, the 'novel in progress' to be found elsewhere on this site.) Has our Thirty Years’ War only just begun, or has it ended long since and the news simply not yet arrived via a slow internet connection? I have...

In an age of enlightenment, the illuminated manuscripts burn brightest

(A potable portion from a chapter of A Republic of Books, the 'novel in progress' to be found elsewhere on this site.) I believe that enlightenment tends to come upon societies in much the same manner as it occurs to an individual. One day you are repeating your...

In ancient mundane

(A new chapter two has been added (interpolated?) to my 'book in progress,' The Republic of Books, to be found elsewhere on this site. In ancient mundane, the beer was swell, the work was sweaty, and the women very very pretty. Here be a potable portion of that, you...

Mistakes have been made

(Yet another potable portion from a chapter, this one newly posted with A Republic of Books, the novel in progress to be found elsewhere on this site.) This then was the economic pressure that weighed on my conscience as I debated what should be done to maintain my...

For Wednesday’s child, perambulation is nearly as healthy as walking

(Yet another potable portion from a chapter, this one recently posted with A Republic of Books, the novel in progress to be found elsewhere on this site.) It was this sense of things then which had taken me to the hardware store to buy a bucket of light green paint....

That I have nothing to say

 This is the matter. The reason I do not call an old friend, perhaps, or care to watch a popular movie, or read a particular book. Each of these things requires a dialogue, and I have nothing to say. You may judge me for being dull as a consequence. Or rude. Likely...

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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