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BIBLIOGRIND

Adventures in Writing, Reading & Book Culture

Archive for A Commonplace Book

“The Brooklyn Follies” by Paul Auster

The “follies” Auster refers to are those human foibles that “Uncle Nathan” has witness, heard of, or otherwise committed himself throughout his life. He’s nearing sixty, is in cancer remission, and newly divorced from his wife and estranged from his only daughter. But Nathan has a healthy attitude towards life, and the follies which he is compiling get a boost as the story of Nathan and his nephew, Tom, as their lives suddenly become intertwined.

The story moves quickly, and pleasantly. This is not a typical Auster novel, his deep intrigue and illusory themes/characters/endings. All that you read in THE BROOKLYN FOLLIES is exactly is what’s on the page. I wasn’t disappointed, but hadn’t expected such a light read from Auster. If you’re on the beach, in a car, out back on the hammock, it’s a good read.

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My new novel is now on sale: “Max, the blind guy” is the story of Max and Greta Ruth, their 40-year relationship, and all the demons that show up as they find that life rarely goes according to plan. This book is available in print at Amazon.com and the digital edition is available as a serialized novel — 12 parts, published every fourth week. Come by MarkBeyer : Author to read an excerpt that you won’t find at on-line bookshops.

What Beauty was published in 2012. It’s a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

The Village Wit (2010) is a humorous and sometimes dark odyssey through village life, love’s fall, sexual politics, and that place where memory and modern love intersect. Read an excerpt here. This book is also available as an ebook.

A John Fowles novella: The Ebony Tower

John Fowles, best known for The French Lieutenant’s Woman and The Magus, has some stirring stories in his collection “The Ebony Tower” … from which this short extract comes. Fowles, as I have learned, is wonderfully gifted in giving the reader both deep insight of humanity while simultaneously keeping the story moving forward.

Here, in the novella “The Ebony Tower”, an aging painter replies to the age-old question between men, “Women in your prime were just as horny as they are now, ain’t they, pops?” :

“I thought the girls of the ‘twenties were rather dazzling.” [says David]

The stick was raised in genially outraged contradiction.

“Absolute piffle, my dear man. No idea. Spent half your life getting their legs open. Other half wishing you hadn’t. Either that. Catching the clap off some tart. Dog’s life. Don’t know how we stood it.”

But David was unconvinced, and knew he was meant to be. The old man regretted nothing at heart; or only the impossible, another life.

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My newest novel is “Max, the blind guy” — the story of Max and Greta Ruth, their 40-year relationship, and all the demons that show up as they find that life rarely goes according to plan. This new novel will be published on June 5, 2015.

What Beauty was published in 2012. It’s a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

The Village Wit (2010) is a humorous and sometimes dark odyssey through village life, love’s fall, sexual politics, and that place where memory and modern love intersect. Read an excerpt here. This book is also available as an ebook.

Reading V.S. Naipaul

I first read Vidiadahr Naipaul in 1982, in a Lit class at Illinois State University, taught by Prof Stan Renner, who, I’ve only recently learned, passed away last year. Prof Renner liked to introduce authors to his lit students. We read “Guerrillas” and I didn’t understand it, frankly. A few years later I read “A House for Mr Biswas” and found that writing was a way of understanding my world, how to notice people in my neighborhood, friends, family, work relationships, and to see how unusual and profound people can be developed as characters.

Reading Mr Biswas for the third time recently, I was no less amazed at how much Naipaul gets from story out of a short scene. He can tell almost everything one needs to know about one part of a character in just a few sentences. And then he does this over and over and over, yet without ever being repetitive.

“Tara came out gravely from the kitchen, embraced Mr Biswas and wept for so long that he began to feel, with sadness and a deep sense of loss, that he really was married, that in some irrevocable way he had changed. She undid the knot at the end of her veil and took out a twenty-dollar note. He objected for a little, then took it.”
— V.S. Naipaul, A HOUSE FOR MR BISWAS

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What Beauty is my newest novel, a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

The Village Wit (2010) is a humorous and sometimes dark odyssey through village life, love’s fall, sexual politics, and that place where memory and modern love intersect. Read an excerpt here. This book is also available as an ebook.

“Tender” manners

“There’s too much good manner,” he said on the way back to Gstaad in the smooth sleigh.

“Well, I think that’s nice,” said Baby.

“No, it isn’t,” he insisted to the anonymous bundle of fur. “Good manners are an admission that everybody is so tender that they have to be handled with gloves. Now, human respect—you don’t call a man a coward or a liar lightly, but if you spend your life sparing people’s feelings and feeding their vanity, you get so you can’t distinguish what SHOULD be respected in them.”

– F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Tender is the Night”

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What Beauty is my newest novel, a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

The Village Wit (2010) is a humorous and sometimes dark odyssey through village life, love’s fall, sexual politics, and that place where memory and modern love intersect. Read an excerpt here. This book is also available as an ebook.

 

In the Hand of Dante by Nick Tosches

“Turns of speech,” said he, “conceal mediocre affections: as if the fullness of the soul might not sometimes overflow in the emptiest of metaphors, since no one, ever, can give the exact measurements of his needs, nor of his conceptions, nor of his sufferings, and the human word is like an outworn, battered timbal upon which we beat out melodies fit for making bears dance when we are trying to move the stars to pity.” – Nick Tosches, “In the Hand of Dante”

A thoroughly strange book, and highly unusual (though not unique) way of telling the story: different voices using divergent methods to bring off auras, effects, and manipulation.

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What Beauty is my newest novel, a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

The Village Wit (2010) is a humorous and sometimes dark odyssey through village life, love’s fall, sexual politics, and that place where memory and modern love intersect. Read an excerpt here. This book is also available as an ebook.

From THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY by Will Durant

THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY (Voltaire and the French Enlightenment)
Diderot,Dennis“Belief in God, said Diderot, is bound up with submission to autocracy; the two rise and fall together; and ‘men will never be free till the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.’ ” — Will Durant

Reading Will Durant — The Story of Philosophy

Will Durant is adept at explaining the major themes, virtues, and faults of history’s great philosophers. He also puts their ideas in great context to what history has seen (and used from philosophy) and where it is in the present context (at least until the late 50s, when this book was last issued, with updates.

Oddly enough, of the three greatest ancient Greek philosophers — Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle — one of them wasn’t Greek, and two of them advocated benevolent dictatorships or communism, BUT NOT DEMOCRACY. Rule by the mob mentality was about the most insane thing Plato and Aristotle could imagine.

february 20, 2013

“Logic means  the art and method of correct thinking. […] Nothing is so dull as logic, and nothing so important.”

“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation: we do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have these because we have acted rightly; ‘these virtues are formed in the man by his doing the actions’; we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”

– Will Durant, “The Story of Philosophy”

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What Beauty is my newest novel, a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

The Village Wit (2010) is a humorous and sometimes dark odyssey through village life, love’s fall, sexual politics, and that place where memory and modern love intersect. Read an excerpt here. This book is also available as an ebook.

Reading Margaret Atwood: ALIAS GRACE

I’ve had this book on my shelf for over a year, where it found itself buried under other books. It was suggested that I read Atwood, as it had been a while since the last. Now I wonder why it’s been so long:

january 18, 2013

“Then it was time for the keepers, and our walk out through the gate, Ah Grace, out for your promenade with your two beaus, ain’t you the lucky one. Oh no, we’re the lucky ones, we’re the lucky boys ourselves, with such a morsel on our arms, says the one. What do you say Grace, says the other, let’s just nip up a side alley, into a back stable, down on the hay, it won’t take long if you lie still, and quicker yet if you wriggle about. Or why lie down at all, says the one, back her up against the wall and heave-ho and hoist the petticoats, it’s a quick jump standing up, as long as your knees don’t give out on you; come Grace, just give us the word and we’re your lads, one as good as the other and why settle for one when there’s two standing ready? Standing ready all the time, here, give us a hand and  you can test the truth of it. Nor we won’t charge you a penny neither, says the other, what’s a good time between old friends?”

– Margaret Atwood, “Alias Grace”

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What Beauty is my newest novel, a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

The Village Wit (2010) is a humorous and sometimes dark odyssey through village life, love’s fall, sexual politics, and that place where memory and modern love intersect. Read an excerpt here. This book is also available as an ebook.

A Note on “Work” at the Start of a New Year

At the start of a new year (lower case!) I’ve been thinking about “work” and its definitions and all that its connotations entail. Back in the summer of ’11 I read de Botton’s “The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work” and was, at first, put off by his narrative style, and then I became engrossed with it. Why the change? He took the idea of work to give us basic concepts based on numerous professions. This provided a balance to his investigation, which is about what we do and how it’s done, rather than how it makes us feel (or worse, for a book, How we SHOULD feel).

july 18, 2011

“There are few jobs in which years’ worth of labour can be viewed in a quick scan of four walls and even fewer opportunities granted to us to gather all our intelligence and sensitivity in a single place. Our exertions generally find no enduring physical correlatives. We are diluted in gigantic intangible collective projects, which leave us wondering what we did last year and, more profoundly, where we have gone and quite what we have amounted to. We confront our lost energies in the pathos of the retirement party.”

– Alain de Botton, “The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work” (“painting”)

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What Beauty is my newest novel, a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

The Village Wit (2010) is a humorous and sometimes dark odyssey through village life, love’s fall, sexual politics, and that place where memory and modern love intersect. Read an excerpt here. This book is also available as an ebook.

“The Gospel According to Jesus Christ” by Jose Saramago

I underlined these few sentences from Saramago’s fantastical (and ironical) view of Jesus’ life. This book marks the second time Saramago used his particular narrative style. One might call it peculiar, but only the first five pages. Then you wonder why all books aren’t written this way.

january, 2005

“I’ll bet if we met the devil and he allowed us to open him up, we might be surprised to find God jumping out. Pastor still liked to provoke Jesus with these outrageous remarks. Jesus had gradually learned that the best way to deal with this was ignore it and say nothing. For Pastor might have gone even further, suggesting that on opening up God one might find the devil inside.”

. . .

“Smiling at this renewal of the world, they bare rotten teeth, but it’s the thought that counts.”

– José Saragamo, “The Gospel According to Jesus Christ”

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What Beauty is my newest novel, a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

The Village Wit (2010) is a humorous and sometimes dark odyssey through village life, love’s fall, sexual politics, and that place where memory and modern love intersect. Read an excerpt here. This book is also available as an ebook.

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