Friday, March 31, 2006

Splash du Jour: Friday

Writing for children is bloody difficult; books for children are as complex as their adult counterparts, and they should therefore be accorded the same respect.
-- Mark Haddon

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Lines: A Poem


Do not like ruled paper.
Give me the blank white page.
Do not want lines.
Much moreso do open spaces
Appeal to the thinker in me.
Would sooner write through them
Than on. The lines I mean.
Whiteness. So if I veer, I veer.
Untracked snow for highway.
It is cold to explore. To write
Is to make my own lines.

© Ciprianowords Inc. 2006

Splash du Jour: Thursday

Just as a new scientific discovery manifests something that was already latent in the order of nature, and at the same time is logically related to the total structure of the existing science, so the new poem manifests something that was already latent in the order of words.
-- Northrop Frye

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Mission of Mercy

So Eli and I are at work today.
Picture three very large warehouses, if you will. These are joined to each other by little doorways, ceilings are about 35 feet high, and two of the warehouses are filled with miles of steel racking [shelving] upon which sit thousands and thousands of boxes.
The third warehouse is even more exciting than these first two.
It is filled with pallets of boxes, no shelving.
I can guarantee you that if there existed any contest entitled, “Quest-For-The-Most-Boring-Three-Warehouses- Ever-To-Be-Joined-Together-By-Little-Doorways© ,” the place where I work would win, hands down.
So it is late afternoon and Eli and I are working in this place, in Warehouse #2, the middle one.
All of a sudden I hear a chirping sound, and a bird flies through the air, and I yell to Eli, “Look at the bird. Look at the bird.”
But by the time he looked up it was gone. These three seconds have been the most exciting of the entire day, and now they are over. [From 8 till 5, we seriously welcome any signs of outside life].
Soon the bird flies by, far above our heads. Chirping.
I say to Eli, “That poor thing is gonna die in this hellhole.” [I was secretly hoping that he might want to join with me in a rescue attempt.]
“Open the roll-up door,” he says, and so we begin our Mission of Mercy.
I roll up the door and the warehouse is flooded with avian-salvific light. However, the door does not stay up on its own [it’s busted] and because I have to hold it, my arms extended, the bird is scared and will not fly down and out.
So we decided to open the doors to the 3rd warehouse and see if the thing will fly in there [where the roll-up door actually works].
Soon the bird, a sparrow, is flying around in Warehouse #3, and I roll up the door to the blue sky outside.
Where does the bird decide to fly?
To the very extreme opposite end of the place!

So Eli and I start running around like lunatics, trying to shoo the thing out the door.
Each of us are actually giving the bird REASONS as to why it should seriously consider flying out the damn door!
Finally, it gives us one last look, and then, as if it was merely some sort of afterthought… as if it was wondering why we were in such an uproar over nothing, it swooped through the opening.
Free, free at last.
Eli and I let out a whoop and high-fived each other.
[Warehouse guys! They are easily excited!]

Story is not quite over.
Not even five minutes later, I am back in Warehouse #1, retrieving some orders from the computer.
I look up just as a bird flits past me, and again, is off on some kind of erratic flight path all over the least humanly-accessible regions.
I go over to the normal entrance door and open it. Light floods in.
But again, I have to hold the door open, it swings shut on its own, so the wary sparrow keeps swooping down, and then chickening out.
I peer in.
It peers out.
I talk to it.
It says nothing. Just tilts its head like they do.
So, I got behind the door. And just waited.
Soon [amazing how other living things have this innate fear of us, huh?]… the bird launched out on its flight of faith and was gone. Flew right past my head, and shot straight upwards, into the sky.

Now, here is the crazy thing.
I have worked at that boring building for over seven years. In all that time I have never encountered a trapped bird in the place.
But today…. twice?
It seems to me very strange. Very suspicious. I wonder if there is some message in it.
I needed to work off some bad karma? My “good deed” account was in bad shape, so Fate sent me two birds to rescue?
All I know is this. I think Eli and I did the right thing.
I think that our Mission of Mercy today will help us, I really do, if we ever find ourselves in purgatory.
It’s got to count for at least a few days grace!

[By the way, Eli did not believe me when I told him about the second bird.]


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

That extraordinary writer of stories about the “Christ-haunted” American South, Flannery O’Connor, was frequently asked why her people and plots were so often outlandish, even grotesque.
She answered, “To the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind you have to draw large and startling figures.”

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, March 27, 2006

A Fantastic 4-Footed Fable

The Golden Ass by Lucius Apuleius [ca.124 - ca.170 A.D.]
What a great book.
I thought only cats were supposed to have nine lives, but this donkey has at least that many.
This book is great fun, I couldn't put it down for too long, and it is incredible that something written so long ago (18 centuries) can be so accessible, captivating, and hilarious to a modern reader. The events in The Golden Ass resemble the ribald, bawdy exuberance of The Decameron, and no doubt Boccaccio was somewhat inspired by the writings of Apuleius. [As was Salman Rushdie in The Satanic Verses].
According to the introduction, the adjective "golden" in the title implies "the ass par excellence," or "the best of all stories about an ass." The story follows the misadventures of Lucius, an enterprising young man who gets far too close to the world of magic, is transformed into a donkey and is constantly thwarted in his attempt to procure the antidote to his assness. It's human mind trapped in donkey bawdy! He had intended to become an owl, as his girlfriend did before him. Together they would then escape the city, and be together… but he drinks the wrong potion and then spends the whole novel trying to transmorgrify into something more decent than an ass.
Totally imaginative, classically written, hilarious fun. As a writer, Apuleius was literally MILLENNIUMS ahead of his time!
[NOTE: There are several translations available. I read the Robert Graves one, as shown here.]

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Judith: A Classic...

Brian Moore is one of my favorite novelists of all time.
I would guesstimate [is that a word? If it isn't, it should be...] I've read a dozen or so, of his novels. He was an amazing [Irish/Canadian] author.
Tonight I am re-thinking his 1955 book, The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne.
After cranking out a string of pot-boiler thrillers, Judith Hearne was Moore's debut venture into the world of the serious novel. Here he sought to depict the epic, cosmic conflicts that are under the surface of the most seemingly ordinary of lives. He set it squarely in 1950's Belfast, where he was raised as one of the Catholic minority. He hated Belfast, calling it a "claustrophobic, provincial backwater... trapped in the nightmare of history" and plagued equally with Protestant self-righteousness and Catholic repressiveness. All of these sentiments find their way into this, his first literary novel.
Judith, convent-raised, unmarried, and forty-something, moves into Mrs. Rice's boarding house on Camden Street. It is her sixth relocation in the last few years. [We find out why later.]
She teaches piano and embroidery to an ever diminishing handful of students, has very few possessions, and fewer social attachments. In fact, her only social involvement is tea with the O'Neill family on Sunday afternoons. Only later do we find how one-sided even this relationship is. The O'Neills secretly dread her visits.
We are soon to sense the brooding cloud of narrowness, plainness, loneliness, and ignorance that hovers over this poor soul. Moore captures it. Even her physical frame, he says, is "plain as a cheap clothes rack."
To sustain herself she lives in a world of religious faith and imagination... or illusion. She daydreams, and surrounds herself with iconic totems from her uneventful past. And she has a secret vice that isn't revealed until almost midway in the novel. She's a(n) _____! (I won't say).
The novel revolves around Judith's interactions with the many other residents of Mrs. Rice's home. Because of Judith's long repressed desires and vivid imagination, she is quick to assume that Mr. Madden's attentions will lead to a splendid marriage. But in their mutually illusive worlds they are both nursing dissimilar motives as regards each other. And meanwhile, Judith is being horribly set up for a total spiritual/emotional breakdown by a certain nefarious Iago-like presence in the home. As a result of her mounting disappointments she questions (abandons?) her religious faith, and is led in increasing measure to wallow in her secret vice... the real "passion" of Judith Hearne. And it is indeed, partaken in abject loneliness. Even the Church, represented by the tactless Father Quigley, rejects her cry for help. He heaps penitence and guilt where forgiveness and grace are needed.
This novel is brilliant in its portrayal of a woman at the very outer limits of disillusionment. Trapped by the passage of time.
In the end, she looks in the mirror and smiles a costly smile. It has cost her the illusion, the pretence, and the ill-founded faith of all her years.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Splash du Jour: Friday

Today is the birthday of a truly great man. The English poet, artist, designer, typographer and socialist, William Morris.
His fantasy tale The Well At The World’s End is one of the best stories I have ever read.
Morris was amazingly gifted, and possessed such a wide range of talents. His exquisite artistry knew no bounds. To the left is one of his tapestry designs. He created furniture, designed books, wallpapers, stained glass, weavings of every imagination. He celebrated “beauty for its own sake.”

Morris said:
A man at work, making something which he feels will exist because he is working at it and wills it, is exercising the energies of his mind and soul as well as of his body. Memory and imagination help him as he works. Not only his own thoughts, but the thoughts of the men of past ages guide his hands; and, as part of the human race, he creates. If we work thus we shall be men, and our days will be happy and eventful.
-- William Morris

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Splash du Jour: Thursday

The metaphor of the king as the shepherd of his people goes back to ancient Egypt. Perhaps the use of this particular convention is due to the fact that, being stupid, affectionate, gregarious, and easily stampeded, the societies formed by sheep are most like human ones.
-- Northrop Frye

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

A child-like man is not a man whose development has been arrested; on the contrary, he is a man who has given himself a chance of continuing to develop long after most adults have muffled themselves in the cocoon of middle-aged habit and convention.
-- Aldous Huxley (1894–1963) –

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Each chapter, a life.

The book is Children in the Holocaust and World War II: Their Secret Diaries. Edited by Laurel Holliday.
It is a chilling, moving, important account of 23 youth and youngsters trying to understand the hatred and violence that engulfs their previously peaceful lives. The average age of the writers is around 13-14 years.
For many of these children, these excerpts represent their final plea to the surviving world, fully understanding that they will not be a part of that world. Writing became their last and sometimes only form of resistance.
I found the very last entry of the unknown brother and sister in the Lodz ghetto to be especially moving. Without access to any other paper, the boy scrawled his diary entries into the margins of an old French novel. After the war was over, a next door neighbor returned to the wreckage of the house, and found the book with the boy's notes in it.
If any one of us actually knew any one of those who wrote these diaries... if any one of them were a member of our own families, we would naturally value even one of their retrieved pages far above all of the other books we own, would we not?

Well, as I read this book I realized many times that just because I did not personally know any of these children does not really diminish the inherent importance of any one of their pages... these children were all known and loved by their own families and friends. They should have been loved by those who were then acting as their mortal enemies, but sadly, they were not.
Some of these entries depict deprivations and describe atrocities that are near impossible for most of us today to imagine.
Some would avoid the book on account of this, and that is understandable. We can go to horror novels to be deliberately horrified in a fictional sense, but it seems morbid to turn to non-fiction for the same results.
But we must remember that we do not read non-fiction for the same reasons that we read fiction. We read non-fiction, not to dwell on or glory in horror, but to LEARN something about ourselves and others. There is an old saying, "To dwell on history is to lose an eye; to ignore it is to lose both of them."
Laurel Holliday has here edited a book which should not be ignored.


Splash du Jour: Tuesday

Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.
-- C.S. Lewis

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Just speakin' my mind...

Hey, can we talk?
My human here, he's got this new blogpage.
I know, he has already told most of you about it, but see, he walks around here and mumbles stuff... something like he thinks no one sort of seen his previous advertisment and whatever, so, I've pretty much had enough of it.
I'm not kiddin' ya.
The guy is making me hack up!
I've had to take matters into my own paws, as it were!
Go visit his other page.
It's called godpuddle, of all things.
It's about some sort of spiritual razamatazz malarkey.
Pretty much a big waste of time... but HUMOR him. [It's what I do all the time, he buys it!]
Just pop in over there and maybe I can get sleep, if he ever shuts up about it already....

Thank you,
Jack Ragdoll

Splash du Jour: Monday

... Can anything be more ridiculous than that a man should have the right to kill me because he lives on the other side of the water, and because his ruler has a quarrel with mine, though I have none with him?...
-- Blaise Pascal, Pensées 293,294 --

Have a great Monday!

Sunday, March 19, 2006


Today, actually by the end of today, after thinking about this a bit more, I want to arrive at one of the two following conclusions. Either:
1) I wash my clothes way too much.
2) Other people do not wash theirs enough.

See, here is the thing. I am sitting at Starbucks and observing a constant flow of humanity around me. Including people out on the street. But let’s stay indoors, and focus on those that have come in from the cold, for a cup of coffee.
Are you with me?
OK, I have noticed this, [the thing I am going to describe for you now], I have noticed it for YEARS, it’s not that I just discovered it today or anything, but finally I am going to write about it.

Salt stains.
I understand “salt stainage” in general, I do. In the wintertime, the roads are all salted up by our way overpaid municipal folks to melt the snow and ice, it’s all about tire traction!
Occasionally, one’s shoes may get a bit stained up, white with what looks like calcium deposit or something. Like your shoes have a milk mustache.
OK, THAT I totally understand. When I notice it on any of my shoes, I pretty much clean it up immediately, because it looks sort of grody. Am I right?
But, will someone please explain to me how people can walk around with salt stains halfway up their pants?
Like all over the bottom half of their jeans, almost to the knee at times?
It is absolutely incredible.
And they are everywhere, I’ve just seen a whole bunch of examples of it walking around here.
I am not even talking about salt stains down around the ankle area.
No, that would be quite minor.
I am referring to the higher-up type of heavy-duty ADVANCED stainage!

My question is this.
Where in the hell are these people walking?
Are they deliberately wading through some sort of salt pits on their way here?
Is there some special area where people go to receive these stains? On purpose, like?
How can they even possibly get salt stains up that high?

I walk around in the downtown area almost constantly, winter and springtime…. slush season… I am out there, and never in my lifetime have I ever gotten salt stains all over my jeans like this.
But if I did…. if I DID somehow get my pants all salt-stained, I would immediately WASH THEM!
[Now I am ready to introduce the second phase of my consternation…]

Today is an absolutely freezing day.
Point being, THERE IS NO SLUSH!
The roads are not even being salted today!
Today is slushless!
This can mean only one thing.
The people I am observing today have all received their salt stainage long ago! Like, way on OTHER DAYS, and it is obvious from some of the sedimentary layers and variant levels of multiple stainage evidence, that they’ve been stained repeatedly, on different days.
Then, the persons have gone on to wear the same clothes without washing them.

The realization of this is sort of boggling my mind here.

I myself, if even a drop of coffee accidentally falls onto my lap, I wash those jeans before wearing them again.
And yet, here are people, casually walking around, with enough grimy sodium on their clothing to cure a side of pork!

I simply do not understand.
My conclusion is pending…


Friday, March 17, 2006

Splash du Jour: Friday

"Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us."
-- The character Mary Bennett in Jane Austen’s, Pride and Prejudice –

Have a great Friday!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Splash du Jour: Thursday

That lust for books which rages in the breast like a demon, and which cannot be stilled save by the frequent and plentiful acquisition of books. This passion is more common, and more powerful, than most people suppose. Book Lovers are thought by unbookish people to be gentle and unworldly, and perhaps a few of them are so. But there are others who will lie and scheme and steal to get books as wildly and unconscionably as the dope-taker in pursuit of his drug. They may not want the books to read immediately, or at all; they want them to possess, to range on their shelves, to have at command. They want books as a Turk is thought to want concubines-not to be hastily deflowered, but to be kept at their master's call, and enjoyed more often in thought than in reality.
-- Robertson Davies

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Essential Reading

I have just finished a magnificently good novel.
The Child In Time, by Ian McEwan. It’s the seventh McEwan book I have read and he never ceases to amaze me, but this one was exceptionally good.
It is a story that works on so many levels… overall it is somewhat of a psychological-thriller/love-romance thing. It is bracketed with intensely fever-pitch emotionally charged opening and closing chapters, with some really magical magical realism interspersed throughout the body of the story.
Stephen Lewis is a writer of children’s books. Successful. Happily married. Tickety-boo!
One sunny morning he trots off to the supermarket with his three-year old daughter, Kate. Later, at the checkout line, in a flash, in an instant, she is gone.
[Don’t worry, I will say no more along these lines… will not spoil the story for you, but even the jacket-blurb will tell you as much as I have just revealed….]
This is only Chapter One!
I have rarely read anything so real. So vividly drawn my heart raced, I was frantic, and I am not even the parent of a child.
What will happen to Stephen’s marriage as a result of this loss? Or to his career as a writer? How will Stephen and his wife Julie cope, as the Kateless years begin to unravel around them?
Will Kate ever be found? The possibilities are endless, and McEwan keeps the inner tension equally endless. It is amazing what McEwan is able to do with the last few pages of the book. [Don’t peek. DO NOT peek].
It is a hauntingly good read.
A journey to the very depths of profound grief. Rising towards hope.
You know how sometimes you finish a novel and you set it down and you are a bit underwhelmed, and you regret having spent that much time to be rewarded with just that final disappointed sigh? [Same thing happens at movies, when the credits start rolling and you stare at the screen and think “What?”]
Well, when I set down The Child In Time, just last evening, my thoughts were more like, “Wow! That was seriously gut-wrenchingly worthwhile.”
This is one of his best.
McEwan is definitely one of the very best authors out there.


Splash du Jour: Wednesday

All good and true book-lovers practice the pleasing and improving avocation of reading in bed....
No book can be appreciated until it has been slept with and dreamed over.

-- Eugene Field, Love Affairs of a Bibliomaniac (1896) –

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful, that’s what matters to me.”
-- Steve Jobs, Apple and Pixar CEO –

“Being the poorest man in the cemetery will probably be my lot. Going to bed at night and dreaming of being able to afford my next Mac laptop, that’s what matters to me.”
-- Cipriano, Bookpuddle CEO –

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, March 13, 2006


Hello Dear Readers:
It may not interest very many of the normal readers of bookpuddle..... BUT... if you are abnormal
enough, you may be interested in checking out another blogpage I have recently launched.
It's called godpuddle, and you may want to begin with the first posting, entitled Introduction.

[You will know in about 3 or 4 seconds if it is anything that may be of interest to you.]

All the best.

Splash du Jour: Monday

Some words from my favorite musician….
I always used to look at books and wonder how anybody could come up with so many words. But my divorce and then falling in love with somebody else has released in me an ability to write in other ways apart from songs.
-- Roger Waters –

Have a great Monday!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

A Kid Thinks It Through

A Kid Thinks It Through

I’m watching the pond
and the frog jumps in;
The splash, the ripples
Was it water or frog
that made the sound?
And I sat on the shore
and thunk.

A little of both? That
doesn’t seem right…
It’s got to be one or
the other.
And all of this thinkin’
is hurtin’ my brain, so
I guess it’s a question
for mother.

I ask her, she tells me
it’s hard to explain;
“You’re better off asking
your dad…”
He says, “There are things
in this life we can know
while others, we can’t

I walked away kicking
a stone in the dirt…
thinkin’ grown-ups don’t know
about stuff.
Yet, not that they’re dumb
or stupid as such
but it’s just they don’t think
long enough…

For back at the shore
I figured it out, as
“kerplunk” went the rocks
that I hurled.
And I giggled to think
that a kid and a frog
could’ve silenced the whole
adult world.

© Ciprianowords Inc. 2006

Friday, March 10, 2006

Splash du Jour: Friday

"Take most people, they're crazy about cars. They worry if they get a little scratch on them, and they're always talking about how many miles they get to a gallon, and if they get a brand-new car already they start thinking about trading it in for one that's even newer. I don't even like old cars. I mean they don't even interest me. I'd rather have a goddam horse. A horse is at least human, for God's sake."
-- Holden Caulfield, in Ch.17 of J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher In The Rye”

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

My Latest Poetic Effort


i would like to watch a stream descend
its babbling course between mountains
before ever a human eye was in a head
and whether you choose the book of ge
nesis or darwin as your text surely the
re was such a time in history for no dou
bt the inanimate came first either way.
secondly to hear the first bird clear its
throat and sing would be nice and whe
ther you believe in god or not it is just a
nother way of saying that being around
when existence started happening woul
d be something i am totally interested in.

© Ciprianowords Inc. 2006

Splash du Jour: Thursday

The very essence of literature is the war between emotion and intellect, between life and death. When literature becomes too intellectual - when it begins to ignore the passions, the emotions - it becomes sterile, silly, and actually without substance.
-- Isaac Bashevis Singer (1904-1991) –

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Here it is...

OK, in all seriousness now, here it is.
This is the bookstore I want.
Shakespeare and Company, in Paris France.
And I am not kidding.
I want to own this Parisian bookstore.
Here is a neat virtual tour of the place.
Be sure to click on the "the current mouser" feature in the lefthand sidebar, and you can see the resident cat!

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

-- The Prayer of Bookpuddle --

Dear God:
All I want is a little bookstore like this. I want to own it, I mean.
Just like this one in the picture would be fine.
Inside I would like to have two resident [declawed] cats, named Tolstoy and Flaubert.
Plus, towards the back of the place, a little coffee area, where lyricless ambient music plays and there are comfortable chairs. [Is this too much to ask? Is it?]

It will just be called “Bookstore”. That’s good enough. I think I’m done.
No, wait. I want it to be a lucrative venture. I want the quaintness and the cuteness and all,
but I would sort of also like to make a bit of a killing at the same time.

[Is this too much to ask? Is it?]
Please see what you can do!

Your Humble Servant
Cipriano Bookpuddle

Have a great Wednesday, y’all!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

Well, I guess I did NOT disappear.
But a whole bunch of other people did.
The Copperfield show was excellent. I really liked it.

He says:
There are many different modes of creating wonder--psychology, misdirection, suggestion. A magician must find out what people are drawn to--what colors, what numbers, what shapes--so that you can kind of get a general idea of what people want to see. We’re kind of in the same business as advertisers, because we give people what they want to see, but on our terms. It’s hard to give an example without revealing secrets.
The Internet has made that job more difficult. Today, we’re in a world of so much communication, and we can find anything anywhere. How do I as a magician combat that? I’ve had to come up with four or five methods for each illusion, which is part of the reason that it takes me two years to come up with my illusions. So if somebody is mean spirited enough to try to expose what I’m doing and to give the audience a look behind the curtain, it doesn’t create a real problem.
What I’ll do is keep the illusion, but change the method or how I deliver it.
After all, my job is not to reveal a secret, but to create wonder--not to demystify, but to continue to mystify.
-- David Copperfield -- Excerpted from an interview with Lacey Rose on Oct. 11, 2005.

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, March 06, 2006

My Last Blog Ever?

Umm... just to let you all know, I am just getting ready here to go out to a David Copperfield show. [Not the Dickens character. The magician guy, excuse me... ILLUSIONIST].
See, the last time I saw Copperfield was about five years ago, and that show's finale involved the total disappearance of about 25 randomly picked audience members.
They literally disappeared. Never to return! I am an eye witness.
So, I am just saying it ahead of time.... if you never see anything on bookpuddle from this day forward, it's because Copperfield made me vanish.
Banished me to whatever planet is filled with his former victims!
Just letting you know.
And if this is the last time you hear from me, I just want to say it's been great getting to know so many of you.

Au revoir....

[I will now go and fill Jack's food dish up real good, in case he has to fend for himself....]

Splash du Jour: Monday

Happy Birthday to 1982 Nobel Prize Winner in Literature…
Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Born in Aracataca, Columbia on March 6th, 1928.
“...human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.”
-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I soooooo believe that to be true!

Have a great Monday!

Saturday, March 04, 2006

"Sleepers" That Keep You Awake!

I’m sure you would all agree with me that there are some books out there that are not very well-known, but yet once you read them you just think, “My God, what a fascinating book. Why is it not more popular? Why are not more people reading so-and-so?” etc.
I refer to these type of books [and in some cases, these authors], as “sleepers”.
That is, they’ve been on no best-seller lists, the authors are often very obscure… the books have never been held up to the camera on Oprah’s show, and yet, they are hidden gems, seemingly unaware of even themselves.
Demure treasures, rewarding anyone who cracks them open, who wakes them up.
I am thinking of this topic because I feel that I have just finished one of these type of books, last night.
It’s called The Book of Revelation, by Rupert Thomson.
Published by Bloomsbury in 1999, and Knopf in 2000, The Book of Revelation is the fictional story of the abduction, confinement, and subsequent gang-raping a la physical mutilation of a famous ballet dancer in Amsterdam, Holland. [I specify “Holland” because of course, our first inclination is to think of Amsterdam, Saskatchewan, in Canada… a hamlet of about 5 or 6 hundred hard-working Ukrainian farm-folk, known world-wide for their production of cabbagerolls and ballet-superstars!]
OK, so, in all seriousness now… this ballet-dancer is walking to the store one afternoon and is suddenly approached by three hooded [fully cloaked] characters in an alleyway. A needle comes out of nowhere, instantly the dancer is anaesthetized, and hauled off to a [there is no other word for it]… a sex dungeon of sorts.
Shackled to the floor from every limb, the dancer awakens to find the door in the corner of the room opening, and the abductors entering the room to begin their season of sexual torment and “fun.” [So far, sounds sort of like some run-of-the-mill Bret Easton Ellis “sicko” novel for sicko-men, right?]
Hah! Guess again!
The dancer in the story is a man.
His captors are three women.
And so it is that for the next eighteen days and nights these dames definitely have their way with him. Their [ahem…] fertile imagination seems to know no bounds!
There is nearly infinitely more to the story than this aspect of it. The confinement section occupies less than the first half of the book. The real bulk of the story involves the way that this event affects the dancer, upon his release. Nothing emerges unscathed. His former relationships, his career itself, his own sexual behavior, all has undergone change.
His life becomes a quest to bring a sense of closure to what happened. And this can only be done, it seems to him, if he finds his captors again. Confronts them.
His search begins…

What an amazingly well-written story. What a bizarre theme. And yet not so bizarre, really [perhaps].
All in all, it is a real sleeper. And Rupert Thomson proves here that he is an author worthy of the recognition of an Ian McEwan or a J.M. Coetzee.

Here are a few more “sleeper” books and/or authors that I have happened to discover over the past few years. These books are sleepers that will keep you awake, and all of them are, in my opinion, worthy of a far greater readership than they have been afforded.

The Ash Garden, by Dennis Bock.
Some Things That Stay, by Sarah Willis.
Slammerkin, by Emma Donoghue.
The Doctor’s Wife, The Great Victorian Collection, and An Answer From Limbo, all by Brian Moore.
Celestial Navigation, by Anne Tyler.
Leaning, Leaning Over Water, by Frances Itani
The Underpainter, by Jane Urquhart.
Identity, by Milan Kundera
Dream Stuff, by David Malouf.
The Gormenghast Trilogy, by Mervyn Peake.

Click on the “comments” button and tell me of any sleepers that have awakened you!


Friday, March 03, 2006


I really do not like workbooks.
You know what I mean?
OK, well, I think that the condition is a direct result of my incredibly impractical nature.
I am a theorist. I thrive on idea.
I like idea, and ideas.
Give me the idea, and leave me alone!
When it comes to non-fictional books [and I read a lot of these] I like for the page to be filled with text…. the odd picture here and there is fine, as are graphs and explanatory tables and whatnot else.
But as soon as I see any area where I am supposed to answer questions and sort of respond to the book by actually writing in it [and isn’t this pretty much what a workbook is?]…. I hate it.
I am serious. I will flip through a book in a store, one that may have caught my interest with its cover and title and topic. But when I open it up and see blank spaces, meant for me or whoever else to fill in with our own stupid answers?
I am turned off.
Perhaps it has to do with my general abhorrence of marginalia of all kinds.

This workbookaphobia extends even to those situations where I find myself almost forced to have to write in a book.
Let’s say my wife and I are attending a seminar. [Even though I am not married at all, let’s just say this. Work with me here…]
OK…. so Michelle and I [and yes, her maiden name was Pfeiffer]… we are sitting there at a Dr. Phil seminar entitled “Having Even Way More Sex Than You Even Wanted To Have! ©” and of course, balanced on our knees are the requisite workbooks to fill out while we listen.
I can’t do it.
I never could.
The truth is, I have no problem writing all sort of crazy stuff in those blanks. I have no problem with answering the things deliberately wrongly and then tilting the book toward Michelle so that she can read it and see how dang witty [and adorable] I am.
I have no problem drawing pictures all over the place and doodling on every square inch of the thing. I have no qualms about literally ruining the workbook…. but I simply cannot take the workbook seriously.
I just can’t.

I wonder if there is such a thing as a Workbookaphobia For Dummies© book.
I wonder if it is bursting with blanks to fill out on every page.

Splash du Jour: Friday

“We read deeply for varied reasons, most of them familiar: that we cannot know enough people profoundly enough; that we need to know ourselves better; that we require knowledge, not just of self and others, but of the way things are.”
-- Harold Bloom

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Of Fear and Tragical Inkling...

I have just finished reading Joan Didion’s memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking.
I think the thing is a beaut.
For those who may not be familiar with Joan Didion [as I also was not], she is a California-born novelist/journalist/essayist, now living in New York.
The “Year” in the title refers to the time frame between late December, 2003 and New Year’s Eve 2004. And the “Magical Thinking” well, that is the way in which the author found herself reacting to the tragic events of that year.
In a sense, the term could mean “disbelief.”

First, Joan’s daughter Quintana falls gravely ill, just before Christmas of 2003. She is placed on life-support. On Dec.30th, Joan and her husband of forty years, John Gregory Dunne, (himself a writer) return from the hospital and sit down to dinner.
Suddenly, almost in mid-sentence, John is not only dying, but dead.
No amount of foreknowledge [John has a pacemaker installed in his chest, and a lengthy history of heart problems] could have prepared Joan Didion for the disorientation that was to characterize her life from this point onward.
As she put it, she would come to know all about “the shallowness of sanity.”
Four weeks later, Quintana makes a recovery, and is released from hospital. The funeral for her father John, which has been put off till now, takes place. And the very next day….. no, I will not tell you what happens the very next day… you will simply have to read the book to find out.
But what happens is tragic, and mind-numbingly agonizing to even read, much less fathom that the author lived it.
You may ask, “Why should we read such stuff, then?”
My answer would be, “Because!”
It is life. This stuff is what life is all about.

Even in its brightest moments, [all of which would be found in its many digressions and recollections] I would not describe this book as an uplifting read, but at the same time, it is far from defeatist, in tone. There is nothing “let’s-just-lay-down-and-die-then” about it! And that’s what makes it such an important book, I think.
We see a woman’s profound love for husband and daughter and self. We see her desire for the family to be whole. And we see all of these things rubbed raw. Rubbed out, even. Threatened and challenged. We see her surviving.
We see the fear of going on, alone.
We see the guilt that wracks her as she imagines there may have been things she could have done to prevent certain events. We see her sort of mystically obsessed about whether her husband may have subconsciously known that he would die when he did. Did he have the tragical inkling?
She repeats to herself a refrain attributed to the Chanson de Roland, where Gawain says, “I tell you that I shall not live two days.”
Gawain ended up being right. Did her husband also know the time of his own passing on?
This sets off in her an obsession with the intricate details surrounding his death, and it is an entire year that passes [The Year of Magical Thinking] before she realizes she is trying to find out the impossible.
It is a very well-crafted book. Having said that, is it something to give someone in order to help them through their own time of grieving?
I think not. Perhaps it could be, but I think it is written in such a cathartic fashion that “helping someone else out” was not really the modus operandi of the author. After all, the concluding sentiment is.… “No eye is on the sparrow.”

Mourning of this magnitude creates by way of its own silent mystery a vortex of impossible, unanswerable questions, and intelligent readers do well to eschew the type of pat answers offered in so many books on grief and grieving.
The beauty (to me) of Didion’s is that it does not even offer tough, complicated ones.
It just says what is. And was.


Splash du Jour: Thursday

Bookpuddle Confession #612…
“I just absolutely love this kid.”

Doing the movies and meeting the people, and I like the stories of the movies. I like names a lot, too. When I do an audition, there is a script and it has a first page that has the names of all the characters. I'm like, "Let me see that real quick, I wanna see what my name is gonna be".
-- Dakota Fanning

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

"Life being very short, and the quiet hours of it few,
we ought to waste none of them in reading valueless books".
-- John Ruskin --

Have a great Wednesday!