Essays

Neither frangible nor fungible

That some would have you believe your liberties are fragile and must be protected by government, or that you must trade your liberty in one thing to have it in another, is in the very nature of tyrants, despots, and town clerks. Your freedom is your domain, alone. There is no other ruler than yourself. If you choose to trade off some portion of your liberties to another purpose, for instance working in an office for pay, understand that it still exists, however hidden, and is only misplaced. You can no more rid yourself of the responsibility for your freedom than you can willfully stop your breath. Thus, when others assume your rights and act in your name, you must protest, if you can. And if for convenience you remain silent, you betray yourself. You may obey the town clerk to achieve some other purpose, but the freedom you have sacrificed is not extinct—it is simply held in jail by another who holds a gun and that you must obey for the moment in order to survive. Better to survive and breathe another day that you may later reclaim the use of the freedom you have lost. You don’t die for liberty. You live with it. It is yours by birth. It will die with you, so be aware of what you do with it. Liberty is not a right proscribed in an ancient document, but like a body part that will not be severed. It is not misspoken to say that freedom is in your heart, however much it is consigned by your head. It is that central to your being. And if, by circumstance, you are in some way unable to advantage your freedom because of health or age, it is the responsibility of those who care for you to carry out your mandate, if only out of respect for themselves and their own time of weakness. Yet, do not presume to act upon the freedom of others. You act for yourself alone. You may speak in the vernacular, or pose your thoughts in grander speech, yet the meaning is the same. You may live in some forsaken reach of Earth where the daily toil of survival appears to rule your every moment, but nothing is different. Your liberty is there within you, to find and use as best you can. The more freedom you are able to exercise in your life, the happier you will be. If all the liberty you are allowed is to play the flute, then master that, and perhaps it will become the foundation of more. You do what you can and there will be more to do. The deer in the forest understands all of this, as does the hawk and the bear. It is only the human being, so capable of being self-aware, who obfuscates the obvious with dogmas and political faiths. It is only the human being who is capable of rejoicing in their own freedom. So, rejoice!

A guest at the feast of memory

What we all must learn, I suppose, or else loose ourselves completely, is that very little in the world is really about us. My experience fifty years ago at Mark Hopkins College in Brattleboro Vermont was peripheral to that time and place—not secondary or marginal or incidental—but a tangent. It changed my life and the lives of others who went there, but each in our own way.

A week ago, as I drove home in the September twilight from the first and only class reunion, I was alone at a feast of memories. It was a rich two hour meal. But very little of that could have been shared, even if the other two fellows who had gathered with me that day had been in the car as well. Yes, only the three of us. read more…

That’s great! Against banality in it’s prime

I should be ashamed of myself, but I will probably use the word carelessly again this very day. But still, I am ashamed of myself for it. There is not an easier word to use for both what is in fact the best and what is simply terrific, or momentarily special, or even unexpectedly good. And this unfortunate lexi-con comes to mind again whenever I have been called to account for the best in literature.

What is ‘Great Literature,’ which is to say, ‘What makes literature great?’ Such written stuff is often alluded to, without excuse, or explanation. Austen, Homer, Bronte, Hemingway, Eliot, Frost, Cather, Joyce, Melville, Byron, Shelly, et al. But the question ought to be asked, if for no other reason than to define the premises and allow you to recognize other works for what they are. That is unless you like being told what to read—in which case there is no point going further here. read more…

At the postmodern multi-perplex

More screens but still nothing worth knowing

(from the novel in progress A Republic of Books, more of which can be found elsewhere on this ethereal site)

 

What is to be done? It is the question that comes shortly after you have asked, ‘what part do I play?”

And well that you should ask.

What are the chthonic joys of living underground, beneath the heel of the walking dead? The term ‘underground’ is metaphor today, much used and abused, mostly by those who would like to see themselves as some sort of ‘resistance,’ but don’t know what to resist without being told and haven’t the guts for their convictions, without being paid, much less the intelligence to understand the consequences of their resentments. Just about the same as it was in the 1960’s. Many of the slogans are even the same, but with history no longer taught, the latest generation of youth wouldn’t know. read more…

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…

What’s all this, then?

[A post-preamble to A Republic of Books, portions of which may be found elsewhere on this ethereal site.]

 

This is my chance, then, to cast myself in the hero’s role. I’ve been a humble author and bookseller for all these years. (Allow me my hyperbole—at least I’m much humbled.) I don’t run into tall buildings to save women and children while other’s flee. (My knees have never been that strong, but do the women need the saving anymore?) My eyes are not good enough to fly jet planes or hit a fast ball. I sell old books and a few that are new, and write what I cannot sell. And though the writing has been much ignored, it is a witness to what I do and what I’ve done—that is, for sixty-eight years I have done pretty much what suited me. And here, at last, is a chance to do what is arguably better if not best. The argument is not settled. That I have waited until now, when I have so little left to lose, may be some mitigation of your judgment of all this, perhaps. Or that the overwhelming risk of failure at this point makes any effort romantically futile (and possibly planned that way). That I should have done more to prevent what has finally come to pass might cast me into the lower ranks of Dante’s hell, but at least I won’t be letting a good collapse of Western Civilization go waste. There is a story here to be written, and if it transpires that there is no one left to read it, so be it. That is at least consistent with all else. (The whine you hear is not self pity, but the wind in the gears.) I sally forth. My armor is the truth. I have a worthy truck for my steed. My companion is—well, we’ll work that out. read more…

Latest Blog Posts

The Bookseller’s Dilemma

Booksellers are a lot like actors. It is a cliche that actors will too often assume they are capable of the accomplishments of the characters they portray and come to believe that they know what a character actually felt. Booksellers often see themselves as possessing...

The Arrogance

I suppose it is the arrogance that offends me most. Not the stupidity. An individual can be correct and be arrogant and thus offensive. I am usually willing to forgive stupidity because such foolishness comes to me so easily. But stupidity, at least on a case by case...

Neither frangible nor fungible

That some would have you believe your liberties are fragile and must be protected by government, or that you must trade your liberty in one thing to have it in another, is in the very nature of tyrants, despots, and town clerks. Your freedom is your domain, alone....

The Keeper Jones: Weeds in the tall grass

[If you liked the previous posting, here's another from that novel, now renamed The Keeper Jones ]   The fact of the matter was, he did not like people. Simple as that. They were generally mean, smelly, short sighted, lazy, dull, boring and boorish creatures who were...

The Keeper Jones

[A new tidbit that might amuse from an older story to be readied for publication someday soon.]   April flowers: 2317     He usually wore an Irish tweed cap. This singular fact had become something of a trademark among his friends when sitting in on vid conferences....

A guest at the feast of memory

What we all must learn, I suppose, or else loose ourselves completely, is that very little in the world is really about us. My experience fifty years ago at Mark Hopkins College in Brattleboro Vermont was peripheral to that time and place—not secondary or marginal or...

Masha and the Bear

I have been a fairly consistent purveyor of doom for most of my adult life. It has been a regular theme in my daily discourse as well as in much of my work (As my children can attest), coupled with a theme that this catastrophe has been impeding for generations,...

That’s great! Against banality in it’s prime

I should be ashamed of myself, but I will probably use the word carelessly again this very day. But still, I am ashamed of myself for it. There is not an easier word to use for both what is in fact the best and what is simply terrific, or momentarily special, or even...

Looking for the sur-prize

Sunday morning: dawn. An article in the UK Guardian concerning the tawdry descent of the Nobel Prize ( https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/jul/17/the-ugly-scandal-that-cancelled-the-nobel-prize-in-literature ) only makes me think of the corresponding degeneration of...

Stories

A friend was recently reading the revised version of John Finn that appears to be making its way into print sooner than later and suggested that a particular chapter might stand on its own. It happens to be one of those I posted first about eight years ago when John...

Rejoice! (if not, read Joyce)

I am told by my betters that I am too negative. Not for the first time, of course. So I have looked again at this ongoing collapse of Western Civilization that surrounds me in the rubble of all that I hold dear—other than family and friends—in the hope of finding some...

In our lost time

  [A portion of the novel A Young Man From Mars, currently being re-written and somewhat available elsewhere in this ethereal site] Recalling any given lecture I am impressed by the fact that Professor Tripp himself was not nearly as kind as his classroom manner...

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…