Friday, June 8, 2018

A Sailor of Austria by John Biggins

I began reading "A Sailor of Austria" last night.  It's dictated by this guy who's 100 years and six months old, and he's in a nursing home run by nuns in England.  The Queen sends a personal letter to everyone who lives to be 100.  But not to this guy, because he doesn't have his birth certificate.

He fought in both world wars, commanding submarines, and did all sorts of interesting stuff over his life.  But no birth certificate?  No letter from the Queen.

He asks his doctor to give him his death certificate in advance so he will have some proof that he exists.

It struck a chord with me.  I've had tons of problems related to my birth certificate over the years.  I still don't have an acceptable birth certificate even though I was born in the Bronx, NY a few years ago; so my Nevada drivers license is restricted...I can't board a plane or enter a government building.

My kind of book.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Q-Anon and Eye The Spy

Q-Anon posted on May 22nd  then nothing until a few words yesterday.  In between, the slack was picked up by a poster named Eye The Spy.  ETS says everything will come to a head on June 11th.  It appears that ETS was actually shot on June 4th.  The attached video shows this guy in a hospital bed, continuing to communicate.  Interesting.

"Eye The Spy" is supposedly an FBI agent.  One of the good guys.  Says he was shot while protecting an asset.  Who knows.  Didn't show his face, but showed his neck and a bit of torso under his hospital gown.  Guy has a very intricate tattoo along his neck and down his shoulder and chest.  Anyone who knows him could identify him easy.  I don't like tattoos, but this was some really fine work.

 I pretty much gave up on following Q-Anon, but I'm interested again, and I'll hang on until June 11th.  June 11th is the acid test.  If nothing big happens on June 11th, I'm sending my Q-Anon T-shirts back to Amazon.

Monday, June 4, 2018

A Nickel here a nickel there

I'm reading a book..."Who We Are and Where We Came From"... Author is an expert on the human genome.  Says he has examined the genomes of American Indians all the way down to the tip of South America, and he found that American Indians are more closely related to Southern Europeans (French & Italians) than they are to Asians.

Hard to believe.  But I remember reading that the guy who was used as the model for the Indian on the face of the Buffalo nickel was actually Italian.  So I went to Wikipedia to check it out.  Wikipedia has a whole different story about various Indian chiefs who claim they were used as the model for the Indian on the nickel.  But (big error) Wikipedia said that the famous Buffalo nickel with the buffalo having only 3 legs, was coined in 1937.  I know for a fact this nickel was coined at the Denver Mint in 1936.

Millions of young numismatists have probably read the Wiki article and they're searching for 1937 nickels and checking the reverse for the buffalo with only 3 (or 3.5) legs.  Their young lives are being wasted.  They should be checking the nickels dated 1936 with a D (for the Denver mint.)

Anyway, I don't know where my coin book is, so I can't find out if the model for the nickel was an Italian or not.  Maybe the Indian with the tear running down his face because of the trash in the Hudson River was the Italian guy, and I mixed them up.


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Tough Times In "The Tunnel"

Amazon refused to publish my "review" of William H. Gass's "The Tunnel."  I wonder why?

Maybe "Good?"

I bought the paperback of 'The Tunnel' from Amazon and I received it about a week ago. The front cover had smudged fingerprints on it and one of the pages was dog eared. I used to sell books, and there is no way I would consider this a new book. So I requested an exchange. I just received my exchange copy. The exchange copy has no fingerprints. But otherwise it looks like it has been kicking around for years despite the fact that it was only printed recently (in 2014.) The fore edges are dirty. The front cover has two small tears at the top edge which carry over onto the first few pages of the book, giving the pages a dented appearance.

So I am now sitting here trying to decide which of these two copies to send back to Amazon. I think the copy with the fingerprint smudges annoys me the most. So I guess I'll return that copy. As a bookseller I would never have rated either of these books as "New" or even "Very Good" copies.

I suppose Amazon rejected the above because it's not really a review of the book but rather a review of Amazon.  Nice to know they actually read stuff though.

I don't expect to read "The Tunnel" anytime soon, but Amazon's action may have changed my mind. If you want some laughs, go to the Amazon site and read the 1-star reviews of 'The Tunnel.'  I recently read some of Gass's writing and found it a bit of a slog at first but eventually enjoyable.  I shall take a peek into "The Tunnel" and see what comes out.


I have begun reading The Tunnel.  So far, so good.  Quite good, in fact.  The book goes on for more than 600 pages so it will be some time before I can write an actual review.  I have only read nine pages; but I feel I have already got my money's worth...Gass is an amazing writer.

I have placed the two books that I received from Amazon side-by-side flat on my desk.  The replacement book sits about 1/16th of an inch higher than the book marred by fingerprints, clearly indicating that the replacement book has been previously read.

So, I have changed my mind.  I will keep the book with the fingerprints smeared on the cover; and I'll return the replacement copy to Amazon.  If the book cover were glossy paper I would probably be able to remove the paw-prints.  However, the book cover is made of a more porous paper and I don't intend to remove the toe prints anytime soon.  Perhaps they shall grow on me.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Gates of Vienna part 2

The author of yesterday's article in "Gates of Vienna" made a correction because of my comment.  The author's original words are there about the six white births in the USA per hour, but then he says "this can't be true, because..." and he gives some stats from 2010 showing 54% of births in the USA were non-hispanic whites.  

Gates of Vienna says the author made changes because of comments from readers.  I didn't see anyone but me questioning the author's statistics.  However, perhaps others exposed the author's error after I had.  It really doesn't matter.  Only truth matters.  And humor.

I am very pleased because I like the Gates of Vienna website very much.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Gates of Vienna

Gates of Vienna is a website I go to a lot.  I just read an article there with what you might call an agenda.  In the article it said, "Every hour in the USA 147 Latinos are born, 41 blacks are born and 6 whites...blah blah blah."  

I knew this was b.s., so I wrote a comment which so far they have not taken down...

In the above article it states: “Noting that there are 147 Latinos, 41 Blacks and six Whites born every hour in the United States,…blah blah blah”
 When I read this I said, “Nah. No way. I’m pretty sure there’s more than six white kids born every hour in my apartment building alone,”
So I checked.

 The official birth numbers by race for the year 2014 in the USA are: White (non-Hispanic) 2,146,482. Black (non-Hispanic) 589,016. Hispanic…914,116.
Gates of Vienna is one of my favorite websites.  Lots of great information there that you won't find elsewhere.  But be careful.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Book of Evidence

Novels which win the Man-Booker Prize have never been my cup-of-tea.  But I keep reading them wondering if my taste in books shall change.

This Everyman’s Library edition of two novels by John Banville is my latest attempt at self-enlightenment.  “The Sea”, winner of the Man-Booker prize, comes second in this volume.  I glanced at “The Sea”, but I decided that the author and publisher had put the other novel first for good reason, and so I decided to read their first choice first.  I have read “The Book of Evidence” slowly and with much reflection.  I have not yet read “The Sea” but I shall add to this review when I have finished that book. 

There are words which I like and other words which I dislike.  One of the latter is “chiaroscuro”.  I discovered this word when I was about thirteen years old, and I thought it was wonderful, but in the intervening years it has begun to annoy me.  It seems a phony word.  I can only recall it being used to good effect once or twice…the best use of it being when some author referred to someone’s “chiaroscuro parentage.”  Unfortunately, I forget the source of that little gem; but otherwise the word just rubs me wrong for whatever reason, and when I come across the chiaroscuro word in a book I usually toss that book away and find another book to read. 

John Banville uses the word chiaroscuro but I did not toss his book aside because he also uses so many other words which I really like but rarely see in print.  Take, for instance, the word “mewl”…as in “The seabirds mewled and swooped…” (which is actually from page one of Banville’s “The Sea”.)  Isn’t mewl a lovely word?  I am certain “mewl” has regal parentage.  It was wonderful to see that word again.  I could tell you of the other lovely words the author uses but I do not wish to ruin your fun.

“Redux” is another word I detest.  It’s as phony as the day is long.  Banville doesn’t use the word ‘redux’ but it was brought to mind by the Chronology which Banville provides at the beginning of this volume.  The chronology is quite interesting.  It begins with 1945, the year of the author’s birth, and it reminds us of what was happening internationally over the years since 1945 and of what books the author was reading through those years.

There is no mention of Homer’s Iliad or of Tolstoy’s War & Peace in Banville’s chronology, although I am sure the list of books is not comprehensive.  But one wonders why some authors are included here:  John Updike?  Not my cup of tea.  And Updike’s books are mentioned five or six times over the years!  This is the very same Updike who had the effrontery to use the terrible word ‘Redux’ in the very title of one of his books.  Egad.  Oh well, we learn from the chronology that Banville was taught by the Christian Brothers; perhaps that explains it.  Or perhaps Rabbit Angstrom was just too accepting of American government, American religion, American morals etc., for my tastes.

Freddie Montgomery, the protagonist of ‘The Book of Evidence’, is not so accepting of the government, religions, and rules and regulations presented to him by life as was Updike’s protagonist Rabbit Angstrom.  It’s not that Freddie Montgomery is a rebel…not in a million years would Freddie think of overthrowing a government or quarreling with a theologian.  It’s just that it all doesn’t make sense to Freddie.  Freddie doesn’t ‘connect’ to this stuff the way most of us do.  It all seems rather arbitrary to Freddie.  Other characters in the book have the same outlook…Freddie’s eventual wife, and Freddie’s eventual wife’s girlfriend and Freddie, for example, all find themselves in bed together at one point without much planning or forethought…it just sorta happens and they go along with the flow.  

At one point Freddie kills a woman for whom he has no animus, for whom, in fact, Freddie has no particular feelings at all.  No planning is involved; it just sorta happens.  (Freddie has stolen a painting which he feels is rightfully his, and this unfortunate maid was a witness.) And afterwards, Freddie doesn’t feel any particular feelings of guilt, but instead rather pictures his situation as that of a character in a crime novel who is on the run from the police.  Meanwhile, he goes about his day-to-day alcoholic peregrinations during which office-parties happen, unexpected sex happens, he talks to his mom, he recalls details of “between-you-and-me,-kid” adventures he shared with his father when he was young, which he later learned everyone knew about, etc.

And all this takes place in the form of a written document Freddie prepares for the court, not in explanation of his actions (which even Freddie can’t explain,) but rather informing the court of what life was like for Freddie leading up to the killing of the woman, and how (although he fully admits his guilt,) it appears to Freddie that the laws of the land are not exactly part of the same universe in which Freddie resides….that the laws of the land are rather arbitrary…which is the reason, for instance, that Freddie feels no remorse.

I have no sympathy for Freddie.  I doubt that any reader will have sympathy for Freddie.  But there is something curiously familiar about the way Freddie thinks and feels.  Don’t we all from time to time feel like Freddy?  At least a teeny bit?  It may disturb you.

The Book of Evidence is very well written.  Many lovely words await you word lovers out there.  But because Freddie is such a pathetic case, the novel itself is tough to love.  I give it 4 stars.  Eventually, I will read the second novel ‘The Sea’ and I will add a few words about “The Sea” which won the Man-Booker Prize.  Another word I detest is 'eschew.'  I may write a book one day and entitle it 'Chiaroscuro Eschewed Redux.'  It should win a Pulitzer at the very least.