On Finding a First Printing of All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren

I recently found a first printing of All the King's Men (1946) at a local haunt for $1.29. I had to try not to act all insanely excited when I placed it on the counter by the cash register, irrational paranoia flushing my face and rushing through my veins whispering the cashier might know it's real value and snatch it away from me at the last second, demanding I pay up pronto, Pal, it's true value or ... or never be let inside the basement-bargain store again!

Thankfully, such a sickening scenario did not come to fruition.  But, unfortunately for me, the dust jacket (as you can see above) has seen better days -- nowhere remotely close to mint or near-mint condition -- and it's got those dratted library stickers that leave that godawful residue I can never completely eradicate no matter how persistently and thoroughly I try rubbing it off, and glued-on library checkout card inside also, both of which are automatic value-terminators (or value-termites!), munching away the book's monetary worth in huge chomps, but still, it's a wonderful starter first edition, if I may say so myself.

Abe Book's listings has it going between $20 (for a copy like mine), all the way up to $9,500 for a signed, mint condition copy.  Dream on, Freeque, dream on.

I love the cover artwork -- worth the buck twenty-nine I spent alone -- regardless of the book's meager resale value.


Some Girls: My Life in a Harem by Jillian Lauren

Perhaps it sounds mildly unseemly or misogynistic to admit, but I'll be darned if I haven't been interested in starting up my own harem for quite some time, since adolescence actually, but have lacked, unfortunately, the necessary (and pricey) prerequisites to turn such an, admittedly, crude boyhood fantasy into reality; namely, a Middle Eastern "sultanship" (if there is such a word) and political connections with Big Oil and its automatic entourage of boo-koo bucks and kidnapped babes.

Jillian Lauren's, Some Girls: My Life in a Harem, gave me lots of great ideas, nevertheless, on how -- and more importantly, how not -- to begin (at least "begin" hypothetically speaking), my harem fantasy enterprise.  I'd recommend Some Girls as an excellent resource for any in-the-market, would-be harem owners out there, as it unwittingly itemizes the potential pitfalls and pains-in-the-neck awaiting the prospective harem owner about to embark on, let's face it, a rather tricky-to-justify and, not to mention, illegal, lifestyle venture.

Some Girls: My Life in a Harem was also an inspiring -- at times sordid and a bit twisted (though understandably so) -- story of one brave United States college dropout's riveting escape from a man who makes Hugh Hefner seem a monogamous and faithful family man by comparison, Prince Jefri Bolkiah, and Jillian Lauren's eventual return to freedom.  I recommend reading Lauren's mesmerizing memoir whether you dream of owning your own harem some day or not.



Shopped postures positioned close
so poised, so present
that bright-eyed dimpled boy
I dust him every day
so he remains glossy, spotless
and wonder does anybody notice?
does anybody know? 

Polished pearls for my giggling girls
diamond necklace for the heiress
yes, that's me!
They said I looked arrogant
at first, sitting for the portrait
just relax, they intoned
try to smile
act natural

Golf's golden skin
engulfed their Daddy's grin
what glowing family faces
in the camera's closeup lens

some pictures are worth a thousand lies


Off the Wall: Death in Yosemite by Michael P. Ghiglieri and Charles R. Farabee, Jr.

Off the Wall: Death in Yosemite proves that some people are just too plain clueless (or perhaps unconsciously suicidal) to be allowed access to Yosemite.  Over 900 people have died of unnatural causes in Yosemite National Park since the early twentieth century, the majority of which were completely preventable fatalities had the victims heeded the DANGER and WARNING signs, or even the shouts of incredulous bystanders, typically fellow hikers, who would soon serve as eyewitnesses to horrific yes (and yet spectacular) accidents.

These doomed individuals waded into creeks as little as ten yards upstream of a 500 foot-plus waterfall, past the aforementioned signs and railings designed to save their lives, in order to cool off after a sweaty hike, or to get a better vantage for that perfect photograph to last a lifetime.  But then, in an instant, lost their step on slick rocks in the deceptively swift currents, and seconds later, got sent plummeting into eternity, ejected over the lips of Upper Yosemite, Vernal, or Nevada Falls, while husbands or wives or sons and daughters watched helplessly in horror. Doubtful that was the vacation in Yosemite they'd been planning and had long been dreaming about.

Then there's those who've been struck by lightning on the summit of Half Dome.  Again, signs warn both to leave and not approach the summit plateau area (about 300 acres) should ominous thunderheads appear as they so often do during monsoonal summer afternoons during the peak of tourist season.  But few years go by when somebody doesn't get struck by lightning and die.  One unlucky victim, who survived a lightning strike and was being attended to by rescuers, went into such violent convulsions that he literally convulsed himself out of the rescuer's collective grasp and rolled right off the precipices edge of Half Dome into free fall and an absurd death.

Free fall tends to kill more base jumpers than lightning strike victims.  Base jumpers are the airborne adrenaline junkies who jump illegally off of El Capitan, Glacier Point, and even Half Dome, or other lesser known and not as lofty but always as vertiginous granite spires with a parachute.  They land in Yosemite Valley (when their parachutes actually open) and quickly grab up their expensive gear before it can be confiscated by national park rangers, and high tail it out of sight before Yosemite National Park personnel can catch and arrest them.  One such base jumper evaded multiple Rangers in the Valley during a frenetic chase at sunset, but unfortunately, wasn't able to evade the Grim Reaper.  During the chase, as he attempted his escape, he jumped into the Merced River, a typically tranquil and placid brook that flows serenely through the heart of Yosemite Valley, and drowned.  The base jumper knew how to fly, but not how to swim.

Some people, unlike the base jumpers, leap off of Glacier Point, Half Dome, or El Capitan, without parachutes, as if these glorious natural wonders were suspension bridges or skyscrapers.  Because their bodies literally explode upon impact in extremely difficult to access areas, many of them are simply left where they lie upon impact to become part of the park eternal, immemorial, eventual skeletons sometimes if ever found, have never been identified.  Sad.

Off the Wall: Death in Yosemite documents all of the more mundane, but just as tragic, demises as well.  Such as death-by-snowplow-caused-avalanche on Tioga Pass Road; or the now ubiquitous death one can watch every month on the Discovery Channel in exciting documentaries about mountain climbers who miscalculated their reach or the strength of their gear, and fell.

I think the book should be required reading for every visitor who enters Yosemite National Park.  Might enthrall the average tourist as it enthralled me, every unputdownable page of it, and more importantly (who knows?), might even save a life or two.


Summary Introduction to the Indian Author, Raja Rao

Raja Rao (1909-2006)

A Selection of Rao's novels:

Kanthapura (1938)

E. M. Forster considered it to be the best novel ever written in English by an Indian ... "Not the least of its merits is the picture it gives of life in one of the innumerable villages that are the repositories of India's ancient but living culture ... The novel is political on a superficial level in that it chronicles a revolt against an exploitative plantation manager and the police who support him. But more profoundly, it traces the origins of the revolt more to an awakening of the long-dormant Indian soul than to the activities of the Congress party. One of the young villagers ... undergoes a mystical conversion to Satyagraha, and returns to incite his fellow villagers to civil disobedience. He arouses in them not only a sense of social wrong but, more importantly, a religious fervor which proves to be the true source of their strength against the oppressors."
-- Perry D. Westbrook

The Serpent and the Rope (1960)
The Cat and Shakespeare: A Tale of India (1965)
Comrade Kirillov (1976, the link is a great article, and the book, through Amazon, is available for a paltry $176.79)

Short Stories

The Cow of the Barricades (1947, hard cover copy through Amazon: $325.95)
The Policeman and the Rose (1977, the link is a decent article, and the paperback, again through Amazon, is available for $162.78)

Uncollected Short Story

"Jupiter and Mars," in Pacific Spectator (Stanford), viii, 4, 1954


The Chess Master and His Moves (1978)
Editor, with Iqbal Singh, Changing India (1939)
Editor, with Iqbal Singh, Whither India? (1948)
Editor, Soviet Russia: Some Random Sketches and Impressions (this link is a fantastic blog piece), by Jawaharlal Nehru (1949)

In 1972 Raja Rao commented:

"Starting from the humanitarian and romantic perspective of man in Kanthapura and The Cow of the Barricades -- both deeply influenced by Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy ... I soon came to the metaphysical novel, The Serpent and the Rope and The Cat and Shakespeare, based on the Vedantic conception of illusion and reality. My main interest increasingly is in showing the complexity of the human condition (that is, the reality of man is beyond his person {boldness mine}), and in showing the symbolic construct of any human expression. All words are hierarchic symbols, almost mathematical in precision, on and of the unknown."

Pretty profound comments from Rao. He's on my list of writers to hunt for in my book-hunting rounds.

For Much More on Raja Rao


The Lucifer Gospel by Paul Christopher

(Part IX in my series on fictional works about the devil)

For Satan so loved the World, that he gave his only begotten son ... uh ... oops, wrong Gospel!

The Lucifer Gospel is so unmitigatedly bad, it makes even the worst novel ever, The Da Vinci Code -- the novel it shamelessly rips off royally trying to cash in on the Catholic/Illuminati secret society conspiracy craze -- good.  And that's a bad, diabolically bad thing for a book to do.


Reading Porius with Friends

Hungering for the nourishment of Holy Writ 
sola Scriptura
sacred Literature
we comb
our instincts
our memories w/ rigor
in search of inspiration
sensing something sublime
a substance elemental
w/in the dreams unseen
beyond sleep's precipice
engaged as we are with friends 
wading the streams of Porius

we've embarked the dark corridors
of images fantastic
for the core of the very book!
Weighty tome of adventure
not at all dissimilar
from Jules Verne's famous journey
to the center of the earth
More Prometheus-minded however
the intrepid track we tramp upon

past sites covertly mined
if not granted de facto
by indifferent gods
that phantasmal mottled gold
reflected off the Dee
in the torchlit
Welsh Wilderness
of twilight
in the Year of our Lord 499 A.D.
where we've milled as epic readers
and rendered revelations
of poetry (or hallucinations?)
under the wise and watchful tutelage
of the most adroit (though of Detroit)
man named Porius

learning the legends and myths
of sacred and damnable yore
the whispered heritage of lost Atlantis
and the congress kept with our faithful forebears
the gnostic ancients
in ritual secreted caves
or ensconced creekside with pleasurable aches and pains
sharing many Mysteries by firelight
invoking Mithras in chants
(or by chance?)
page after page after page after page

I'm mesmerized by the odd creative power
conjured in John Cowper Powys' evocative language
a veritable
and vast
Gwyddl-Ffichti forest mass of emotions
by it's ineffable
and inimitable elegance
matched by none save Proust
by it's strange misty radiance
so mystical
we're moved into truths
by being stilled
filled with the Dee's music's leaping and streaking foam
the sounds forever fleeing
though its shhhh-ing waters never leave
again and again and again and again

I'm awed by the godlike paradox
of John Cowper Powys'
ephemeral eternities
fossilized and alive
interpreted into life
by so many elders and dear friends
who've ruminated long
deeply reading
and deeply breathing
the pungent abundance of Porius