Archives for category: books

This article is an old book and old movie lover’s dream. Names like Woolf, Dickens, Forster, and Bronte are scattered throughout, like beautiful, slow burning leaves flavoring autumn with their timeless scent. Their related books are the crispness in the air. Mr. Rochester and Jane Eyre, Mrs. Ramsey, her family and their guests, Mr. Wilcox and his younger bride overshadowed by his late wife…these are the people of some of my favorite literary treasures. They all leave their footprints preserved in this article, along with the houses that serve, in their way, as characters as well. Some of the houses that inspired stories like Howards End, Rebecca, and Jane Eyre are described in a way that brings back memories of reading the novels and wanting to read them again. My favorite segment is about Talland House that inspired Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. There’s a black and white picture of the actual house that makes me wish I was in Cornwall, so I could photograph it myself and perhaps look to the lighthouse from the garden. Some of the article’s descriptions evoke imagery from the books or scenes from screen adaptations. Reading it is a mental tour through cherished places brought to life by authors with often surprising connections to their characters’ homes. 

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/jul/29/pemberley-manderley-howards-end-real-building-fictional-houses?CMP=twt_gu

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​I woke up this morning to the news that author Colin Dexter has died. His career has the distinction of leading me to a favorite author I’ve never read. I intend to remedy that at some point, because he was the creator of a most wonderful character…Inspector Morse. 

Morse is the kind of character who makes you roll your eyes, even as you wait breathlessly for him to do something brilliant, whether it be professionally or personally. The man has layers. Many, many of them. Among the deepest is a kind, compassionate, and even romantic heart. A keen detective, the prickly bachelor works diligently to keep Oxford safe from an alarming number of murders. His difficult nature is softened by his love of literature and the classical music he blasts gleefully while flying along the narrow twists and turns of British life in his classic Jag. 

Morse is a Renaissance man wrapped in a curmudgeon, and viewers who fall in love with him despite his glaringly obvious shortcomings owe their devotion to two people. One is the uniquely talented  actor who portrayed him, John Thaw. The other is his creator Colin Dexter. Sometimes author and character and actor meet in a way that causes magic to spring forth from the TV screen. Morse is a wonderful, if unlikely, example of this feat. 

At first I was devastated by the final episode of the series, The Remorseful Day, wishing desperately it had ended earlier, when Morse went up the hotel steps, arm in arm with love at last. He’d waited so long for true, joyous love, why couldn’t he have ridden off into the sunset, as it were? Because, along with the heartbreak of that remorseful day, we finally got to truly see the depth of the sweetness, loyalty, and, yes, even love, he is capable of, in his final moments with his long suffering sergeant, Lewis. We also learned the secret he’d been carrying for far too long, when the extent of that innate loyalty extended toward a friend and colleague was finally revealed. What a man he was. And what a writer was Colin Dexter!

My favorite moment from the entire series:

Inspector Morse, The Remorseful Day, Ensanguining the Skies Scene

Anyone who’s read my musings here for any length of time will have noticed that I’m interested in a very wide variety of topics. That interest in just about everything started when reading classics like Treasure Island and A Tale of Two Cities as a kid. It spread, as opportunities for travel grew as an adult, and became pretty much a cofoundation of my life with writing once telling stories decided to become my life. Today, TV, movies, and the internet, along with books, feed my voracious appetite for information. What better time for an information junkie to be on the planet than during our great Information Age?

Two of my particular sources of fascination have long been medical science and ocean travel. Sailing ships and their adventures are attractive for their drama and romance. The concept of transferring navigating the globe in vessels of canvas and wood lends itself perfectly to extrapolation into space. Trade the canvas and wood for titanium and transparent aluminum, and you’ve hitched your wagon to Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek, though he used the analogy of a wagon train traveling the great unknown. Some of us are born adventurers, whose passion for the stuff of myth and dreams leads us to explore space in our minds and on paper…and for some lucky few, in real life. As writers of science fiction, we may invent diseases horrific and space born, but none may be more horrific or devastating than the one I just read about in this National Geographic article.

Often I don’t eat very much at all or enough fruits and vegetables. If left to my natural appetite, I eat one carb heavy meal a day, with a little grazing on the side. I have had the habit of making jokes about it, saying something like: “Time to eat a salad or some fruit. Don’t want to give myself scurvy!” After reading this article, I don’t think I’ll be quite so quick to make light of such a terrible illness.

I’ve known about scurvy since ninth grade general science. Rickets too, which led to a similar joke, because I don’t like to drink milk. The very idea of scurvy carried a slight air of mystery and romance, because of its connection to sailing expeditions. Ninth grade children weren’t informed in their textbooks of just what it did to the human body. Now that I’ve been enlightened, all traces of romance and mystery have disappeared. All that’s left is an education on an obscure medical crisis that was also absolute tragedy.

Some of my favorite fiction to write involves medical backdrops. I have a feeling a space faring version of scurvy now lurks in my futuristic writing future. Anything can be expanded on, tangented from, and transferred to space. Scurvy included, though it’s going to be hard to “improve” on this very real horror from our earthbound past.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/01/scurvy-disease-discovery-jonathan-lamb/?google_editors_picks=true

This article is a real eye opener, giving rare insight into how much money a bestselling author may make and the dire straits they may be in anyway. It’s all too easy to look at the the potential success of a novel or memoire, with starry eyes and dreams of fame and fortune, but we don’t often come across a successful author talking openly about hard times. Cheryl Strayed does just that here. I haven’t read her books, but I did see the excellent movie adaptation of Wild. I was shocked and dismayed to learn that what seems like a lot of money just helped pull her out of financial quicksand, much of it acrued while writing her books. Her entire situation was actually downright scary. It’s a wonderful thing to dream of a bright future, especially for authors who live on dreams more than money much of the time, but it’s also valuable to know the harsh reality some authors face. On the off chance of attaining great success, it would be very wise to heed the cautionary tale that was part of Cheryl Strayed’s real life.

Ever drawn to Victoriana, as a writer I was particularly interested in this article about the lives of Victorian writers. Apparently, the writing life dragged a comet tail of hardship in its wake in Dickens’ time, just as it has done since writers started telling stories. It’s difficult to believe that Dickens had no formal education. His writing is as evocative and often heartbreaking today, as it was when he first set pen to paper. Somehow I find it easier to imagine Brontes working as governesses, fitting in their writing as the demands of caring for children not their own allowed. For as long as I’ve been a reader, I’ve found myself imagining favorite authors’ lives, as they gathered ideas and started putting together their famous plots. Articles like this one make that more vivid, and also make me admire them all the more.

​Well, that explains it. 

Okay, not really. I’m not quite the poster child for modern day bibliomania. This article certainly resonated, though. 

I love books. Unabashedly. Unequivocally. Sometimes unreal-ly. 

Most of my paper paramours are fiction, after all.

Growing up in a rural area, where the school library was more like a closet, was both a blessing and a curse. Once book fever hit me as a teen, I was able to blaze through most of the available books that appealed to me in any way. I devoured the typical books about girls and their horses, romance novels, and westerns. Things slowed down a bit, once I resorted to the available classics. The Bronte sisters and Dickens will slow most readers’ roll along the lines of printed words, at least until they find their feet, so to speak. Eventually, I bought up the meager supply of paperbacks available locally, and supplemented my voracious intake with Shakespeare from my high school literature text book. A sympathetic library lady, who sporadically made piles of books magically appear through the gift of a visiting bookmobile, was my eventual hero.

Fast forward to learning that growing up did not mean abandoning books. In fact, the desire to read increased exponentially to the more broad availability of material that came to me in my travels. And wherever I  went, I found used book stores and library sales. Yes. I graduated to collecting. 
Early on, I could buy, cull, purge, buy…an endless loop of words. Eventually, I developed areas of interest and found myself reading and owning hundreds of books. I love the way they look, feel, and of course smell. Holding a brand new book for a reverent moment, then cracking it open for the first the is a distinctive pleasure, as is hefting an antique Hamlet, caressing its time worn cover, and reading its time tested words.

There was one occasion when I think I almost crossed over to the dark side of true bibliomania. Long ago, in a library far, far away there was no used book sale. There was just me, perusing the stacks, and finding a long sought after book that I desperately wanted. For a moment…a single flash of obsessive compulsive book lust overcame me and in that flash I contemplated stealing the book. I literally mean a flash. The thought crossed my mind, then, aghast, I dropped the book as if it was the Hope Diamond and I was a recovered jewel thief. A hasty exit and no other such experience, ever. But that tiny incident makes me acutely sensitive to the dangers of obsession and the way the drive for acquisition can taint the most innocent of souls. 

So, I have sympathy and empathy and any other appropriate “athy” emotion for the bibliomaniacs of yore. Especially at the moment. I’m going through my books, and trying very hard to cull and purge and donate. It’s hard. I love having my beloved books lined up on shelves, always at the reading ready, always there to remind me of some fantastic voyage into an author’s mind. I’ve finally come to realize that owning a book I didn’t really like, just to have it for my collection, isn’t what a true book lover’s collection is all about. That is about finding what you love, keeping it, and treasuring it. Much like any other relationship.

The vital key is to drop a book into the donation pile, when I know I don’t really want it for anything other than the art of possession. When a truly unwanted book even gives off the most vague of “My precious…” vibes, it’s time to drop kick it into a volcano and go watch a movie from my gigantic DVD collection…sigh.

Bookstores keep disappearing, so it’s becoming more and more difficult to find a book or magazine I’m published in, on physical shelves. It was worth the effort to see “my” Analog on display at Books-a-Million.

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I’m not sure a word has been invented to adequately describe how cool the first sight of the cover is. It’s like instant Christmas.

Here’s a different view…because Analog.

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I managed to put my phone away, after these two shots, but I stood there for a bit longer, basking.

A happy moment, for a thrilled author.