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.

First Place

Tonight I moved into 1st place in one of my fantasy baseball money leagues.  A  team named Virasoro Blocks had been in the lead like forever.  I checked out the owner of the Virasoro Blocks team, and I found that he has won several money leagues in the past.  

I knew that Virasoro was the name of a mathematician who among other things, invented his own system of algebra; so I'm guessing that the guy who owns the Virasoro Blocks team is a math or physics guy. I'm now ahead of him by 1/2 of a point. 

I was a bit surprised when I saw my team in first place because I had been sitting in 3rd place about 4 points behind Virasoro Blocks.  Then Duda hit 3 home runs today and 4 of my pitchers won their games, and somebody stole a base, and voila...I was in first place!  I never even saw my team listed in 2nd place.

Mike Trout hasn't played since Sunday but my Trout team has been doing okay without him.  We got out of 6th place and we are now solidly in 5th, a half-point out of 4th.  Some of my other teams are also moving well but have ground to make up.

Meanwhile, the Astros beat the Angels again and the Astros are alone in 1st place.  They didn't get Cole Hamels.  Maybe they have a shot at Price? (David Price; not Vincent.)  I live near Vegas and I made a bet that the Astros would win the A.L. Pennant.  I got odds of 25-1.

Ah, life at the top!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Is Your Son A Young Black Man?

I was having coffee at home one morning and my doorbell rang.  A chubby, but fairly attractive blond woman was at my at my door.  She asked if she could speak to my son.

Well, I live in Henderson, Nevada, and my son lives in Staten Island, New York, so I was a bit confused by her question.

The woman then hemmed and hawed a bit and said "If you don't mind my asking, is your son a young black man?"

Now I was even more confused.  "Ya know..." I said, "the last time I saw my son he was a white kid, but things are so crazy these days...who knows?  Maybe now he's black.  Maybe he changed his name from Stephen to Stephanie for all I know.  Ya want me to phone my son and ask him?  He lives in Staten Island."

Well, as it turned out, the blond woman was a cab driver.  She had driven this young black fellow from Las Vegas to my address in Henderson and he had asked her to wait a minute in my driveway while he went into the house to get money from his father.

I felt terrible for the woman.  I felt bad about my earlier cavalier attitude in her plight; but I'm a naturally funny guy and I suppose it couldn't be helped.

The young black man in question had done the woman out of a seventy-four dollar fare.  And who knows how big a tip he might have left her?  Well, I had driven a cab for a couple of years in New York City myself and I can tell you from experience that the tip would have been non-existent.  That's just the way it is.

Well, long story short, it turns out the young black fella had catapulted himself over my backyard fence, and then over my backyard wall, and he had run off.  My neighbors had seen him.  I hadn't seen a thing.  It's not easy to jump my fence.  Young fella may be training for the Olympics.

Well, I felt bad for the taxi driver, but what was I to do?  At the time I couldn't afford to give her the seventy-four bucks although I did wish I could.

A few months later there was a banging at my door.  As I opened my door a young white man had turned from my door and was running toward the front of my house.  I went to my front room and looked out the window.  His taxi-cab was whipping out of my driveway in hot pursuit.

Friday, July 10, 2015

I'm Not Dead Yet

Jeez!  I have been so friggin' busy I have let my blog fall into neglect.  To the 220 people who checked these pages in my absence I offer my sincere apology.

Fantasy Baseball:  I have 6 teams going in money leagues.  Two of my teams are in 3rd place in their respective leagues.  One team is in 4th place, and one team is in 5th place.  I think my 5th place team has the best shot at winning decent money when the season rolls to a close.  Another of my teams is in 6th place and is rapidly rising.

But that's only FIVE TEAMS! I hear someone say.

True that.  In the rilly, rilly, BIG money league, my team is in 15th (and LAST) place!

I offer no excuses although I have plenty.  Not only am I in 15th place...my 15th place team is miles behind the team in 14th place!  The team in 14th place has 59 points while my team has a lowly 36 points.

But never say die!  Okay...so I'm not going to win the big money league; but I am determined to finish with a ranking better than 15th.

Other Matters (than Fantasy Baseball):  Plenty to say on the world situation.  Maybe next time.