Archive for the ‘Books in The Bedroom’ Category


AA GILL at Amazon


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Wow, Gill is fearless, sarcastic, really sarcastic, smart, street-wise, worldly, and loving. He was a restaurant/food critic that I discovered on one of Anthony Bourdain’s shows.He has a fantastic personality, and speaks eloquently on the connection between food and…well… everything. Food and politics. Food and nationalism.  Food and love.  Food and diplomacy. Food and philosophy. He’s handsome, fun, intelligent, and dyslexic.

It’s true. He writes about how much work it is for him to get anything written. His penmanship is awful, so he has people to translate his notes for him. He talks about it with refreshing honesty. That’s one of the reasons why he’s my hero.  If he can be a famous writer with dyslexia, what the hell!  Here’s the lesson for all of us who have limitations – you can still control how much you accomplish in spite of them. You can do anything you set your mind to. He’s the proof – if you need more proof.

If you can get hold of a copy ( ( of Paper View: The Best of the Sunday Times Television Columns, this is a great place to start getting a feel for his writing style.  It’s very conversational – like cocktail party banter. Like that part of the party where you’ve been there long enough to get into deeper conversations with some of the more interesting guests. It’s witty in the best sense, emotional, clever, and honest. After I read this book, I immediately bought 3 more and binged on Gill the way people binge on their Netflixfavorites.

Here is Anthony Bourdain and Gill having dinner in Scotland after a day of shooting.

Food critic A.A. Gill and Anthony Bourdain enjoy roast grouse (a funky game bird) at Letterewe Estate in the Scottish Highlands.

Twice on CNN, I’ve tried to record this specific episode. The first time I tried, it was the day of the Florida nightclub shootings. The second time was the evening of another mass shooting a week or so ago. I’m just going to bide my time and keep an eye on the channel for it to rerun.

Greeks party like it’s 193 CE

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This fun little volume is a catalog of the party habits of the ancient Greeks – probably around the first two hundred years of the Common Era.  It’s the single source of “over 10,000 lines of verse” and quotes from around 1000 authors – some familiar: Aristotle, Aristophanes, Euripides, Sophocles, and Homer.*  So many unfamiliar names are quoted or mentioned with lip-smacking, teeth-cracking abundance:

  • Astydamas
  • Theopompus
  • Hellanica
  • Agatharchides
  • Philomides
  • Xenophon
  • Cratinus
  • Thucydides
  • Philippedes
  • Mnesithius
  • Hermippus
  • Dichaearchus
  • Democritus

How funny that my spell-check only recognizes Xenophon, Democritus, and Thucydides out of this list.

The structure of the volume is similar to the Platonic dialogues.  Party guests represent different areas of knowledge or schools of thought.  Musicians talk about music.  Physicians talk about medicine.  Everybody talks gossip and WINE!  There’s wisecracks and sarcasm enough for a Friar’s Club roast.  Some guests represent social classes and some are real people.

Mundane and profane, chatty and catty, cynical and clinical. TLB is painfully detailed (or do I mean painstaking?).  Can you imagine a party where the host is entertaining experts in “every field of knowledge” at his pimped-out crib (to use a pimply adolescent hyperbole)!

From page 18 to about page 39, it’s like an episode of “Bizarre Foods—Ancient Greece.”  The early part of the book also details party protocols. How to entertain soldiers.  How to entertain politicians.  How to prepare seafood.  The temperaments of cooks.  There’s even ancient Greek charcuterie and canapes and bizarre cocktails.  For example, a guest named Nestor prepares some wine for another guest – Machaon – who’s been wounded.  Nestor sprinkles some cheese on the wine and drops an onion in it.  Just like those martinis that have a pearl onion! The cheese? Who can say. Nestor was trying to get him drunk.  Cheese coats your stomach and you can stomach more alcohol that way. Jus’ conjecture here.

At one of Homer’s parties, the women of the house have to bathe the guests.  Ugh! Was that a reality or just wishful thinking on Homer’s part?  (He’s a genius, not an angel.)

P. 63 shows us the words for meals according to Philemon and corroborated by Aeschylus in general terms:

  1. akratisma: early meals; breakfast
  2. ariston: evening meal
  3. hesperisma
  4. deipnon:  second course

Another Aeschylus-related version shows arista as breakfast, deipna as dinners, dorpa as suppers (a third course).

Homer calls the fourth meal deilinon, and it comes between ariston and deipnon.

There’s a bit more, but you can see how nitpicky the telling gets.  The book even goes into who eats sitting down, who eats reclining. nicknames for people who do particular tasks, like carving the meat and serving drinks.

Speaking of drinks! Oh Em Gee the catalogue of wines! How would you like to see a wine list with the type of wine, the region it comes from and it’s health effects. Whether it’s sweet or sour, pure or mixed with water.  Imagine seeing the word “diuretic” with ridiculous regularity when reading the wine list.  The exhaustive catalog even tells you which wines get you drunk fast, and which ones are good for your health.  It’s a looooooong section!  Again —  the word “diuretic” is mentioned A LOT!

I kid you not – a section on almonds and other assorted nuts. Their health benefits, roasted or green, disputed names for nuts; whose nuts are better; different ways of serving and eating nuts.

Water:  where the best water comes from; health benefits of water; water mixed with wine. The word “diuretic” is not mentioned as much as in the wine section.

Fruits and vegetables: where do the best fruits come from; disputed names of fruits; ideal cooking methods for fruits and veg; health benefits.

The last section of Book I (Proton Biblion) covers sea food.  I’m not to that part yet, but if it’s like the other sections, there will be a lot of quotes and nitpicky details.

When it comes to discussing a particular item, like almonds or water, several quotes about the item are reported, so you get a cocktail party perspective on whatever the Alpha-foodies are talking about.  Basically, ancient Greeks making small talk about food and drink, making wisecracks and good-natured insults.  There’s always a know-it-all and a smart-ass.  Everyone tossing in their two cents.  So even though it the text is fragmented, it still flows logically.  It seamlessly flows from one topic to another.  Before you know it, you’ve gone from hosting soldiers in your home to what to do with olive mash once you’ve extracted all the oil.

Now that I’ve got the gist of it, I don’t think I’m going to shell out for the other two volumes.  At the end of the day, it’s an entertaining read. It shows the ancient Greeks were very much like us when we gather over food and drink.

Other posts that mention Loeb Classics:

Nyah-Nyah  Bizarre Foods in Greece

*I am not hyperlinking these names because all you need to do is Google them and you get like a gazillion hits.


Read the Printed Word!

Art & Articles of Faith: Brand and Perugino

Articles of Faith


It’s a good thing that I’m not a religious fanatic because I would probably not have bought this book. (You notice I never mention “borrowed” or “stole” or “never returned to the library”? Every book is mine via purchase or other form of moral acquisition. I’ve  been given books by friends, but you know how it is when you are given books by people who are not great readers of books. They end up being books that I would not write about. “The Best of Shakespeare” or “Emily Dickinson’s Greatest Hits”. Something quite vague.)

“Art The Wrong Way” has a double-entendre. Layer one involves how Brand, an attention-whore of Byzantine proportions, re-Brands Perugino’s painting of Christ and angels with himself (as the Christ figure) surrounded by some talking heads of English soccer. And Britney Spears. As if any of her fans would ever buy this book. Or read. You know, it’s a good thing that he’s a West Ham fan because if he was a Man Utd. or Liverpool or Arsenal fan, then I probably would not take him as seriously. West Ham is a good fringe team – they bounce up and down the chart all season long before ending up in the top 10-15. When you are on the fringe, you see things with a clarity not enjoyed by the popular rich kids who cannot conceive of someone not dying to be them. That said, if I ever see the original of the painting, I’ll never forget that it is a Perugino.

The other layer of entendre involves Brand’s commentary on the sport itself. If you have only ever seen Brand the “entertainer”, you will not recognize the man you see through these pages. He is a good writer. He’s not posh, but his writing is studied, careful, his tone suitably serious – and then he meets David Beckham. Then the jester is back. But the guy knows his team. He knows a goodly amount of soccer history and has seen so much change and the jingoistic bollix that the English game has become. God Bless Him because he gives me hope that I am getting it! So perhaps there is a third layer to that Perugino/prophet-on-high imagery. Reading this book confirms that I am learning what I need to learn, and that I am developing some decent instincts about the game.

“Who the hell takes soccer advice from Russell Oh-What-Daft-Hair-I’ve-Got Brand?” you might say to yourself. Well, who takes advice on politics from a bunch of arrogant, clueless actors? People do have layers. Apparently.



West Ham dodgy business practices re: Carlos Tevez

West Ham Home Page

Pietro Perugino

Laudare Metuam. I Fear Not Praise Nor Colors.

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Juvenal and Persius (Loeb Classical Library)Satirists would probably prefer that you understand more than you laugh.  But laughing is what happens first.  Given time, the understanding might come.  Just not in time to suit the satirist.  The satires of Juvenal, a Latin writer from roughly 120 years into the common era, have a lot in common with some of the more political and angry stand-up comics of today.  Lewis Black comes to mind.  He and Juvenal share a deep frustration and disgust for the behavior of the rich and powerful and the parasites that feed off their “event-glamor”.  They despise stupidity and have little tolerance for foolishness.  Unfortunately for them, (fortunately for their genre)  it abounds. 

Juvenal has the vision of an artist, able to see the components of things as well as the whole.  Satire 1 is a criticism of poetry.  Poetry, he complains, is too namby-pamby because the society that creates it and provides an audience for it is namby-pamby.  Hello!  Such an argument could be used down through history, specifically for academic art.  The Pre-Raphaelites may have made use of this vein of thought.  When society sucks, their art will suck.  If the Academy members are jaded and old-fashioned, guess which type of art will be celebrated. 

Juvenal is cutting in his expressiveness.  He could have been a writer for BLACKADDER!  His sarcasm and disdain are so thick, you could cut them with a …a … disdain-cutting device.


Button 3 (lefty/skinny)

Pompey Party 07: Pressbox to Party Bus

“A Clueless American Sportswriter Seeks Solace in English Soccer.”

A sick-at-home American wants something to read in between bouts of blowing snot projectiles.

It’s a win-win.

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I’m still not sure why, after about four years of this book languishing on my shelf, I picked Chuck Culpepper’s book out of a shoebox and just started reading. It’s not a fast read, although the style is upbeat and uptempo, even jazzy in parts.  It also has a sportswriter’s unique footprint – that is – juggling an astounding bulk of stats. 

Waiting for the end-of-game whistle to blow can be hell. Firstly, because every second of injury time can feel like an hour and many goals are scored in injury time. Second, if one of the teams is Manchester Utd, then you probably have like half an hour of injury time because the officials like to give ManYoo time to win if they aren’t.

“Finally, one of life’s kindest acts occurred: the whistle tweeted, and Portsmouth had a 2-1 win over Liverpool to go with the 2-1 win over Newcastle, the 2-1 win over Manchester United [despite injury time – emphasis added], the 2-1 win over Manchester City, the 2-1 win over Wigan in the FA Cup, and the 2-1 win over West Ham…” (Chapter 32)

If you love soccer from way back, this book has nothing new to teach you, but you should read it anyway because you should at least be positive about converting someone to this sport.  If you don’t like soccer, you still may not after this book.  Even Pat Forde of ESPN (at least he was in 2007) did not jump on the soccer bandwagon. And he’s friends with Culpepper! His quote is at the top of the cover of the paperback: “I’m still not sure I love soccer, but I love this book.”  What a douche!  I don’t know why this struck such a sour note; probably because it’s faint praise.  And everyone knows faint praise is damning. But this is conditional faint praise. Of your friend’s book. Good thing Culpepper made some new friends in England. 

The writing is not super-fantastic.  It’s even a bit amateurish in spots.  I wonder if this is his first book-book.  The back of the book has Culpepper’s pic and says that he’s been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize twice, has written for the LA Times and ESPN Books. (Oooooh, there’s a oxymoron!)  And really, my only grouse is that Culpep makes the classic overcompensation mistake of using “myself” as a direct or indirect object instead of the correct “me”.  Why was that not edited? It’s so obviously incorrect. 

What’s excellent about the book is the fun.  Culpepper sounds like he had a blast following Portsmouth around like a Grateful Dead-head.  Many of the trips were not pleasant. The chapter 17: “The Distinct Horror of Rail Replacement”.  I would have laughed more except I remembered that nightmare Thanksgiving trip from San Marcos, Texas to Laredo in ‘84 via Greyhound Bus. Three university students and about half the population of Tamaulipas (Mexico) trying to get to the border in time to enjoy Thanksgiving at home.  I wish I could say that was the last time  I rode “the Dog”.  Culp also had to endure a few rail replacement traumas.  At least he had good company, and they could all talk about soccer.

Anyhoo—more good stuff.  It was nice to read that Culp endeared himself to many.  He made it a point to write about all the nice people that he met, which is very cool.  Also, he totally got it right in that soccer makes you afraid of numbers; specifically:4,  5, 10, 17, the amount of injury time, and whatever your team’s goal difference happens to be.  For being a sports writer, Culp tells good human stories. He admits in the early chapters that he’s sick of the pretensions of American sports. So much drek.  Soccer has its drek, too, as I noticed not for the first time when Muamba had a heart attack in the middle of the pitch in March.  If I had a nickel for every player that tweeted “really puts things in perspective”, I could pay off my car tomorrow.  I’m sure they sort of probably meant it, but really, it was just a cheap move to not be left out of the action.  To paraphrase Culp: you never really leave high school. 

For the benefit of American sports fans, Culp draws numerous comparisons between soccer and American sports.  NFL has better locker rooms. Away fans are treated like red-headed stepchildren.  College sports is filthy with corruption.  Soccer is filthy with bad-tempered players and managers.  College sports is crawling with exploitative businessmen who have completely forgotten that the players still have to go to class and graduate.  Based on this book, I would put college recruiting practices way above even Big Oil lobbyists for venal greed.  It’s a wonder recruiters are not in jail for contributing to the delinquency of minors. A funny thing to find in a book about soccer.

Some other good bits: Keeper David James is mentioned a lot because he was pretty amazing during the 06-07 season.  Graham Poll is mentioned a lot towards the end of the book because he had a couple of shocking calls that went against Portsmouth. He was pilloried after giving 3 yellows during the Germany ‘06, but since ManYoo was not involved, I didn’t really care other than to feel sorry that he made a mistake in the heat of the moment.  Speaking of heat of the moment, Culp rightly discerned what couple of douchebags are Joey Barton and Cristiano Ronaldo.  He even figured out the Portuguese Diving Team joke about Ronaldo.  Of course, there is his education about soccer in general and Pompey in particular, and his people stories are awesome – honest, a touch too self-deprecating, but never skimping on his praise for fans who stick to their teams no matter what – like the relative you can’t get rid of and who can sometimes be a bit of a screw-up but you still love them.  Oh! and the best chant ever! 

“You’re a town full of seamen!

You’re a town full of seamen!”




Official page of Portsmouth Football Club (“Pompey”)

The Uses of Enchantment: Fairy Tales That Feed

The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning And Importance of Fairy Tales § Bruno Bettelheim

The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales (Vintage)This book attempts to show how fairy stories represent in imaginative form what the process of healthy human development consists of, and how the tales make such development attractive for the child to engage in.”

Usually, I avoid introductions in books because they tend to be a lot of wank.  However, Bettelhem’s intro is actually useful.  It scaffolds the logic for the rest of the book. 

Bettelheim’s experience and research are combined in a scholarly book about fairy tales – specifically, why they are vital to the psychological development of children.  I completely agree that people who pooh-pooh fairy tails as childish nonsense are completely missing the point.  They are designed for children! Hellooo!  Children have a different level of thought patterns from adults. To demonize imaginative stories for being too unrealistic is …well…unrealistic.  Just like literature is dress rehearsal for life (Kelly Gallagher), fairy tales “meet children where they are” psychologically and does the same for them; it shows them in symbolic form, patterns of thought and models of behavior. 

Forsaking fairy tales and other stories of magic and imagination means you lose out on developing your problem-solving skills.  The ability to analogize our dilemmas is, I think, a mechanism that started when we were little and reading stories about escaping from evil giants and outsmarting bears. 

Bettelheim goes in-depth about what fairy tales represent to the mind of the child in transition. Specifically, in stories about young girls where their blood is involved, he suggests that the blood is representative of menstrual blood and the idea that the girl is starting a journey to physical maturity and sex.  Fairy tales seem a safe way to soften the blow for them, to ease their fears about what bleeding means for them.  For boys, he starts with how boys compete with fathers for the attention of a mother, a situation that takes many symbolic forms, often battling giants or beasts (thinly-veiled authority figures).  In both schemas, children who read these stories are applying age-appropriate logic and form to their own feelings and perceptions.  Key word: “age-appropriate”.  B. uses the words “Freudian” and “oedipal” a lot. I’m not convinced those are the best expressions he can use, but he’s the authority. 

In my experience, when I read fairy tales, I didn’t think about those things.  My thoughts were about the surface meanings.  Being rescued, being awakened, travelling, dealing with problematic siblings.  It wasn’t until I was much older that I started to explore the deeper meanings, such as the type Bettelheim writes about.  I had no use for Bettelheim’s depth of thought when I was seven.  It would have meant nothing to me.  When I was twenty-seven, however, I had acquired the intellectual skills that enabled me to appreciate what Bettelheim has to say.

While Bettelheim digs and digs and digs into the psychology of fairy tales, relying much on Freudian psychology, he sees more than a child would.  He understands things about these stories that a child will not understand for a couple more decades.  That makes this book a chore to read sometimes.  Don’t look for any satisfaction from the fairy tales themselves.  He also does a good job of sucking all the fun out of them.  It’s a scholarly book, after all. 

On page 134 of my edition, B. writes, in essence, that if a child does not practice acting out in his/her  mind during childhood, (fantasies of revenge, dispensing justice, going against authority, and various unsavory characteristics) then he/she does not learn to deal with and control those unsavory urges in real life.  They will end up acting out in real life with real-life negative consequences.  Also, folk fairy tales that address the culture of a child are especially valuable for helping a child make sense of the circumstances in which they live.

Children need sensitivity.  Fairy tales offer this.  Life is scary and confusing and unfair.  What purpose does it serve to throw that in the face of a 6-year-old.  They will figure it out by reading imaginative stories, and they will have models of good character to imitate.

This book is good for teachers or anyone who works with children in a professional capacity.  B. is (was?) “an educator and therapist of severely disturbed children”.  That being the case, he has some useful insight into what a good fairy tale should be/have.  

Thumbnail of Bruno Bettelheim

An interesting article on a biography of author Bettelheim from 1997

MY BOOK HOUSE – The Back Story

MY BOOK HOUSE @ The Festering Blurb:

Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books at

THE FIX–a “Burn Notice” Novel

Product Details   THE FIX  §  Tod Goldberg

I’ve been a fan of book tie-ins for about twenty years and I don’t see that changing.  Book tie-ins to movies and tv shows is, I think, a recent development.  I started noticing them around the end of the 80s/early90s.  With the popularity of the film A ROOM WITH A VIEW by E.M. Forster, there was an upswing in film adaptations of 20th century novels.  Forster, Henry James, Jane Austen, John Galsworthy – broke out of the Masterpiece Theatre fishbowl (which was woefully stagnant at the end of the decade).  Kenneth Brannagh brought Shakespeare to the screen with fresh innovations and daring casting choices.  The literature you were obligated to read in school emerged from cliquish public television to populist big screen.  The BRIDESHEAD REVISITED lot of the early 80s lost their cult status.

Publishers were smart to cash in on tie-ins.  Book covers became billboards selling the movie – featuring the lead stars  and the movie’s logo.  The author’s name there as an afterthought on many of them, but I figure, what the hell.  Whatever brings you to great literature – get there however you can, just get there!  The best part about movie tie-ins: THE BOOK IS BETTER THAN THE MOVIE! Sucker!!!

Heh heh.  As far as BURN NOTICE is concerned, literature it ain’t.  What it is, quite simply, is a damn good print version of a television episode.  You hear Michael’s and Sam’s and Fiona’s voices coming through loud and clear from the pages of the story that flows like a swift creek, burbling over smooth rocks, purposefully and relentlessly.  There’s even the voice-over of Michael clueing us in on what’s going on the minds of characters and why people are doing that voodoo that they do so well.  Just like on the tv show.  That is a good tv show tie-in.  It helps that the author Tod Goldberg is a professional writer and assistant professor of creative writing.  He’s done a super job of translating the vivid action of a tv show to the dull newsprint of a mass market paperback – yet – YET – the paperback version is just as vivid (if you’re not a complete turnip) as watching the show.  AND NO COMMERCIALS.  (btw, I looked up Tod Goldberg at UC-Riverside and it does not list him.  The book is two years old, so maybe he’s moved on.There’s three books out so far. See below.  I wish they would have done this with JAG.  There was only two books out for that one.  And where are the NCIS tie-ins??? C’mon, people.  Someone in marketing is not doing their job. {There are some NCIS books by Mel Odom, but they are not related to the tv show.) The JAG books are “JAG #1” (informal title) and “JAG Clean Steel”  The links will take you to but there are sometimes copies available through sellers at  I’ve got two of each! Nice.

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DVD/Season 1

DVD/Season 2

DVD/Season 3

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JAG 2: Clean Steel

The Robert Tine page at Amazon


 The Tod Goldberg page at Amazon

JAG: The Novel Brideshead Revisited Product Details



ANTAEUS was a literary journal that was published from the 1970s to the 1990s.  It contained a variety of college-type literature from around the world. I regret that I never heard of it until recently when I bought a copy at a jumble sale.  The issue was called “Reading As Pleasure”.  The cover shows a Bob Newhart-buttoned-down-mind sort of bloke on the cover reading like he means it.antaeus cover0001

I found more editions for sale at

 Here’s the table of contents from the issue:

Notes on Pleasure.  A collection of quotes about the pleasures of reading.  Probably collected by Daniel Halpern, the editor.


i. “Literature as Pleasure, Pleasure as Literature”. Joyce Carol Oates

ii. “In the Garden of the Word”. Lee Zacharias

iii. “Reading”. Richard Ford

iv. “On Reading”. Guy Davenport

v. “On Rereading”. David Long

vi. “Rereading: Not for Pleasure Alone”. James Purdy


i. “Books”. Joseph Conrad

ii. “The Pleasures of the Freedom to Read”. Josep Skvorecky

iii. “The Revenge of a Mortal Hand”. Stanislaw Baranczak


i. “ Reading Appreciation”. Roy Blount, Jr.

ii. “The Way to Say Pleasure”. Donald Hall

iii. What’s Really Going On”. Gail Godwin

iv. “Poetry, Baseball: The Pleasures of the Text”. Jonathan Holden

v. “Literature and Pleasure: Bridging the Gap”. Madison Smartt Bell

vi. “Reading Philosophy at Night”. Charles Simic


i. “The Pleasures of Reading the Classics in Translation”. James Laughlin

ii. “Literature as Pleasure”. A. L. Rowse

iii. “Nocturnal Habit: On Literary Addiction”. Mary Kinzie

iv. “Sensible Ecstasies”. Calvin Bedient

v. “loving/reading”. William S. Wilson

There’s nothing specifically stated that explains the ordering of the selections. The reader is pretty much left to infer their own rationale – and that’s okay. It’s a pleasure to divi your own criteria, especially when there’s so much material to work with. One of the things I like best about this collection is how the titles are down-to-earth. They’re not scholarly, professional-style article titles like, “Weeding the Chaff: A Brain-Oriented Holistic Approach to Helping Students Decode Their Metacognitive Processes Through Inquiry-Oriented Questioning.” Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

Well, this ain’t that!

This particular issue, Autumn 1987/#59, is full of the beauty that is a reading habit. Beauty in the fullest sense of the word – beauty of spirit, beauty of love, beauty of wholesome pleasure. It is, too, a vindication. It seriously cheeses me off that readers often find themselves having to defend that part of their lives to pig-ignorant philistines who don’t deserve the time it would take to do it. Unfortunately, these are the people that tend to run the mechanisms that provide our daily bread.

There are so many beautiful ideas in these articles. I call them “ideas”, and not “words”, because the wording is just the carton of cereal and the idea is the prize in the cellophane packet in the bottom of the carton.

I wish thee as much pleasure in the reading, as I had in the writing. Francis Quarles. EMBLEMS (This could be my new motto!)

My highlighter went crazy in the entry by Lee Zacharias (I.ii.). She explains the “pleasure of reading by stages.” Stage 1 – reading for entertainment; stage 2 — “to satisfy emotional needs” . Best-selling authors stay well within stages one and two. Stage 3 – “the thrill of honing in on the meaning, the triumph” of discovering the great themes. Number three targets university students. Stage 4 – the recognition and appreciation of texture in writing – “the sine qua non of sensory details.” And I agree wholeheartedly that stage four comes later in life after a lifetime of reading. So it’s very sad that MOST people in their middle ages are still stuck in one and two. They haven’t experienced stage three since they were at uni and they absolutely don’t care or don’t recognize stage four – unless it’s a constant use of macho swear words and, in the case of women, how graphic the love scenes are. Then, and only then, do they care about texture and overall craft. Which leads back to stages one and two and not forward.

To a fifth? Can there be?

What are you willing to accept as good and dismiss as feeble? What are you willing to accept as daring and ambitious, but ignore as tainted? What makes James Joyce’s multitude of dashes okay, but Ivor Biggun’s dashes annoying? This is what I propose for Stage Five: the ability to identify a spectrum of qualities and apply them. Is this not an element of the richness of the reading life? Is this not the reason we spend money on some books and economize on others? The reason we keep and lend? The reason we RE-read! (Try saying that bit fast!)

…and then I finished reading the paragraph…

There is a fifth. Zacharias’s Fifth. “Conscious and legitimate delight”. You love it and you know why. You can explain why. That, too, is a pleasure.

Zacharias then goes for six. “In which all the pleasures unite and the work becomes whole for the reader”. In the end, it’s all about the love.


Meet an Artist:  Lee Zacharias


Geek Love: A Novel


   I read this book once, and that was more than enough.  I don’t buy novels randomly. I always have a rationale.  I bought this one (at Huebner Oaks Borders) because the actor I had a crush on recommended it.  As a novel, it’s got all its novel bases covered: layered conflicts, vivid characters, and psychological damage to a dizzying extent.

There are readers who live for the psychological damage rubbish.  They thrive on suffering – the more cruel the better.  Not me. I’m not one for gratuitous ugliness – at least, not so much since the punk-rock era.  I agree with Nick Hornby.  He wrote, in SONGBOOK I think (don’t quote me), that he didn’t believe that literature had be, essentially, full of misery and miserable bastards to be considered literature.  I agree.  I used to think that for literature to be literary, it had to have tragedy and horrible, soul-destroying depression coupled with access to status and great wealth but no emotional tools to enjoy it.  Case in point: WAR AND PEACE, anything by Allen Ginsberg, Victor Hugo, Anais Nin, Chekov, Kafka…you know what I mean. The kind of literature which presents you with a hundred varieties of misery and fuck-all for happiness.  Happiness isn’t sophisticated.  It’s naive and jejeune and provincial.  Well, allow me to reiterate: misery for misery’s sake is not as interesting as it used to be.  So thank you Nick Hornby for shedding light on a POV that I had hidden in my heart for fear of ridicule.

That said, this is a well-constructed novel, skillfully written, with innovative characters and a daring plot, full of psychological universals, that zig-zags back and forth through time.  But I won’t ever read it again because the characters are one-dimensional, i.e., rotten and/or sad and definitely exploited, and the plot — once the shock and awe has worn off — has nothing useful to offer.  It almost won an award, by the way, so make of that what you will.







On pondering Frank McCourt, who passed away on July 19, Product DetailsI discovered that I had memories of this author despite never having read anything he wrote.  I saw him once on Charlie Rose and liked the show. I saw a documentary on him and heard his voice talking about the experiences that congealed into Angela’s Ashes.  Back in around 2001 or 2002, a student of mine was reading his book in my computer class. Saturday Night Live even had a sketch poking fun at the grinding poverty he depicted in his novel.

Has he written other things? Because AA is the only one I ever hear about.  But given the saucer of water that personifies the mentality of modern media, I’m not surprised.  Frank McCourt has been nowt but a couple of sound bites: Angelas’s Ashes and Pulitzer Prize.

This isn’t sounding like much of a tribute. And there’s a picture of a book cover with a smoking rubber chicken on it.

The tribute has to do with a satire of McCourt written by one Derrick Martin in the book The McSweeney’s Joke Book of Book Jokes.  McCourt taught in public high schools for many years before becoming a famous author.  This bit was the first thing I thought of when I heard McCourt had died.  The bit is funny for lots of reasons, depending on what your experience of Irish people is.  On the surface, it’s funny because it’s so single-minded.  Every teacher has a favorite topic. Apparently, teachers have political leanings as well.  I like it because it’s a brilliant piss-take on McCourt. I don’t know if he had a sense of humor. I don’t know if he would have appreciated what Martin accomplished, but as a teacher, I like it.  As a reader and writer, I like it.  It’s just funny.



by Derrick Martin

Week 1: The Irish

Week 2: Coming to America

Week 3: Marginalizing the Irish people

Week 4: Kicking the bog mud off your boots

Week 5: Ireland

Week 6: My father the Irishman

Week 7: The Italians!? Oh, please!

Week 8: Looking back (on Ireland)


See? Funny!

McCourt, you were not famous for a long time, but you made an impression.  Well done.


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