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BIBLIOGRIND

Adventures in Writing, Reading & Book Culture

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.

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.

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.

Reading Dante … on a walk w/Michelangelo

I own a copy of “The Book of Great Conversations” (ed. Louis Biancolli), a great collection of famous “recorded” conversations from history. Ever wonder what Casanova said to Voltaire when they met? Here’s one of their conversations (“argue for the necessity of superstition among the masses”). Did you know Wagner and Rossini exchanged thoughts on “music of the future”? And for you fantasists, how about H.G. Wells sitting down with “Uncle Joe” Stalin (“I am more to the left than you, Mr Stalin.”)?

This volume, I’m sure, can be scrounged from one of the used-book or antiquarian sites, and you won’t be disappointed. One conversation that struck me as particularly poignant, from both the standpoint of the participants and the subject, was Michelangelo’s conversation with his friend, Donato, a man of letters of some quality, and also a Florentine (but now in exile in Rome). They would often meet on the street while on an afternoon walk. On this particular day, in 1546, they began to talk about Dante’s “Inferno” and the argument (objected to by Donato) “was Dante right to consign Brutus and Cassius to Hell for Murdering Julius Caesar?”  Michelangelo took the positive standpoint, that the murderers deserved Hell, and he explains why ….

may 20, 2006

“Michelangelo: How do you know Dante did not feel that Brutus and Cassius did wrong in killing Caesar? Don’t you know how much ruin and misery came into the world as a result of his death? Don’t you see what a calamitous succession of emperors followed him? Would it not have been better if he had lived and carried out his ideas?

Donato: The one idea he had was to be called ‘King.’

Michelangelo: I grant you that. But wasn’t that a lesser evil than what followed? How do you know that Caesar would not in time have tired of ruling and like Sulla restored freedom to the country and reconstituted the Republic? Now, if by continuing to live, he had done that, would not Brutus and Cassius have committed a great wrong in killing him? It is an act of great presumption to set out to kill the head of a state, whether he be just or unjust, for no one knows for certain what good can come of his death, and there is always the hope that some good can come of his remaining alive. For that reason I am considerably annoyed by people who believe that there can be no good unless it begins with some act of evil—that is, with a few deaths. They don’t understand that times change, that unforeseen developments may arise, and that men get tired and change their minds. Out of all that it often happens— without anybody ardently hoping and striving and risking his life for it—that the very good will come about which many have thought desirable….”

– “Was Dante Right to Consign Brutus and Cassius to Hell for Murdering Julius Caesar?”, The Book of Great Conversations, ed. Louis Biancolli

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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.