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Showing posts from January, 2012

Minimalist Retrospective on a Maximalist Writer, William Gaddis

William Gaddis published his first novel, The Recognitions, that he'd begun in the late 1940s, in 1955.  When the novel fell largely on deaf ears, Gaddis, who'd envisioned a similar blockbuster reception for it that would've allowed him to write full time as was awarded Ralph Ellison with the publication of his first novel, Invisible Man, instead worked as a speechwriter and documentary filmmaker for various companies, including Pfizer International, Eastman Kodak, and IBM, to support his family.

After publishing The Recognitions, Gaddis labored for two decades in obscurity in the business world, observing corporate and capitalist shenanigans up close.  What he witnessed, combined with his deep and abiding disappointment over the apathetic response critics gave his first novel (now considered a masterpiece and one of the greatest novels of the 20th century), further fueled his artistic ambitions and motivated him to write his scathing, National Book Award winning follow up…

The Short Stories of Andrew Stancek

Andrew Stancek is an old friend from LibraryThing (a.k.a. "polutropos") whom I don't hear from as much as I'd certainly like to these days, but he's got a great excuse: he's publishing stories galore!  I'm astounded by Andrew's creative output the last couple of years, but not surprised by his prolific success, considering the quality of his vibrant and compelling prose.

Check out Andrew Stancek's page at Fictionaut, and begin reading the published stories he's collected there.  He may be a self described late starter in writing fiction, but I'd say he's going to be finishing great, as there's not a dud to be found among his blossoming tales.  I wouldn't be surprised at all if there's a short story collection by Andrew being sold in bookstores in the coming year or two.  I'm so pleased to behold all he's done on his page at Fictionaut, and reading his work is a real treat.  I hope the few faithful followers I have h…

Some Civil Rights Please

If any minority ethnic group in the United States suffered the injustice and discrimination that school districts routinely inflict upon children with special needs who sometimes literally don't have a voice to defend themselves, the outcry at large and especially in the media would probably become so great as to serve as some automatic deterrent and prompt immediate investigations.  But since the developmentally disabled are a minority that are generally looked upon as somewhat less than human in our society, few people care generally speaking, except their parents or loved ones, what several public school districts get away with in this uncivil nation of ours.

One such parent of special needs children (okay, my spouse) has a blog, Becoming a Special Needs Advocate, that spotlights strategies and resources for the parent with special needs students facing school district discrimination, and looking to better advocate for them. She recently posted something on the topic I wanted …

Grieving, Reading, Perspective ....

The friend I mentioned in my piece on The Year of Magical Thinkinga week before Christmas right here, ended up outlasting his doctor's and hospice nurse's expectations, and didn't pass away by Christmas, but made it to the new year, barely, dying peacefully the afternoon of January 2nd.  No surprise that he lived longer than anybody predicted.  He was an endearingly stubborn dude.  And strong.  He should've been deceased a year ago, according to his oncologist.  But he fought the cancer hard, battling his illness bravely, only succumbing when it had swarmed into his bones after God knows how many chemo treatments ultimately failed to stop it.

We got to say goodbye to him today at his memorial, and in a few weeks some of us will have the honor of spreading his ashes at one of his favorite scenic overlooks up in the local mountains.

Strange how death drains the life and vitality from not just the dying, but those left behind in its inexorable advance.  Even when it'…

In Belated Defense of Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis

I disagree with Steve Almond's assessment of Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis published in the Boston Globe (Aug. 14, 2005), a novel Almond gleefully labelled as the worst novel he'd ever read.  I don't counter Almond's misinformed diatribe by saying Lunar Park is the best novel ever written, though I'd conclude it's a better book than the sole book of Steve Almond's I've read -- My Life in Heavy Metal -- a generally good book of short stories set in the late 1980s when hair metal briefly ruled radio airwaves -- but a book, nevertheless, I did not like as much as I liked Lunar Park.
Lunar Park is, granted, a work of self-indulgent, probably overly self-involved metafiction, but not embarrassing self-aggrandizement as has been purported by Almond and his anti-Bret Easton Ellis lit-crit ilk out to tar and feather yet again contemporary literature's Lucifer (every time Ellis publishes a book his devout haters come out of the woodwork like roaches protes…

Asking a Good Bookseller Friend of Mine, Becky, of The Book Frog, if She'd Ever Read any Steve Erickson

Have you ever read Steve Erickson?

What a mysterious and mystical marvel of a man -- or at least Steve Erickson, the writer -- he is. You should see what your bro, Tom Pynchon, wrote about his first novel, Days Between Stations, the one I'm deep into right now.  Pynchon has blurbed several of Erickson's novels -- and that's a feat unto itself.

Here's how Pynchon blurbed Erickson's first published novel:

"Steve Erickson has that rare and luminous gift for reporting back from the nocturnal side of reality, along with an engagingly romantic attitude and the fierce imaginative energy of a born storyteller.  It is good news when any of these qualities appear in a writer -- to find them all together in a first novelist is reason to break out the champagne and hors-d'oeuvres."
~ Thomas Pynchon (1985)

After having read so many interviews with Steve Erickson over the past month, and in talking to Alex Austin, who once worked with him at Westways (a surprisingly c…