Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Blues: Seven Days, Five Books, Some Other Stuff

I closed the door of my classroom approximately 168 hours ago, and it will remain shut (barring trips back for reference material) until August 26. Since the door closed I've hosted one barbecue, attended one wedding, attended one Makers of Manchester meeting, met one Rhodes Scholar for a beer, spent three days in curriculum-development workshops for a new Freshman Writing class, shared one KC’s Rib Shack platter with my wife, slept about fifty hours, started breaking in a new messenger bag, played three hours of (mostly losing) poker, watched three episodes of The X Files, wrote a couple of thousand new words of fiction, plowed through the new Rolling Stone and Poets & Writers, and read five books.
I feel pretty good about the week, but I have a mixed reaction to the books.

Book one was Joe Hill’s latest, NOS4A2. I stood in line for this one, and got Joe’s signature during a reading he did at Barnes & Noble. There’s some pretty good writing in here, and the author does some fun stuff that requires you to read EVERY page of the book to get the whole story. However, it’s probably my least favorite Hill project so far. It feels a lot like his dad’s (Steven Kings) leftovers. Magic car (and bike and motorcycle): Check. Magic disabled person with all the answers: Check (M-O-O-N, that spells ‘over-used trope.’) Magic power that gives its user a headache: Check.  Scary old guy who uses magic car for nefarious purposes: Check.  Mr. Hill has done better.
Book two was Walter Mosley’s This Year You Write Your Novel. I all ready wrote a novel, and I’m working on more, but I pick up books like this all the time (used). Mosley’s book is short, pithy, and warm. It feels like he’s standing over your shoulder whispering good advice and encouragement in your ear.
Book three was Raymond Carver: An Oral Biography. Ray Carver was a master short-story writer who died of lung cancer in 1988 at age 50.  This bio, penned by Carver pal Sam Halpert, collects musings and memories of Carver’s life offered by his literary pals. It’s arranged chronologically, from Carver’s early days, to his drunken “Bad Raymond” period, to his recovery and rebirth. Good stuff.
Book four was Diary of a Teenage Superhero by Darrell Pitt. It was free and downloaded to my Kindle.  It’s the intro to a series (the next hit will cost you) and not a bad way to spend some time. The premise is interesting and the writing is pretty sharp and clean. It helps if you like superheroes.
Book five was Microstyle: The Art of Writing Little by Christopher Johnson. It’s all about cramming powerful ideas into a small amount of text; think Tweets or ad slogans or six-word memoirs. The book’s divided up into chapters on wordplay and structure and is probably worth a looksee for wordsmiths and marketing types.
On to the next 168 hours.

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