Succumb to the Beat Surrender

From Obscurity to Infamy to Nothingness
Ruminations on a Lost Love

As tortured paths go, any road that begins in the working-class precincts of the northeastern United States and ends with a Nobel laureate in the Rhineland may be in a class by itself. There’s a through-line, though, I Continue reading

The Rage of Man and Beast

Beowulf
Unknown, trans. by David Wright

As a good example of a Myers-Briggs NTP, I’m forever conceiving grand projects, the greatest number of which fail to come to fruition.

Close readers will note my attempt to sidestep the responsibilities of agency through use of the passive voice. I suppose that makes me a sometimes scoundrel. This Continue reading

Pictures of Matchstick Men

A Box of Matches
Nicholson Baker

It happened gradually, starting sometime. after I
turned 40.

Always an early riser–always being defined as since age 12 or so when my dad helpfully taught me to get up on my own to deliver the Sunday Long Island Press by grabbing the mattress handles and dumping me in a heap–I started Continue reading

Just Looking for Another Girl

A New-England Tale
Catherine Maria Sedgwick

The first street I lived on in the Bronx ran parallel to one of the longer ones in the borough. Each was named for a luminary. Mine was named after the shipbuilder William Henry Webb, whose Institute of Naval Architecture once sat at the foot of it before decamping, as my family did a few years later, for Long Island.

The longer lane, from which mine broke off and later ran back into, was Sedgwick Avenue. Starting at the Harlem River it stretches north until Van Cortlandt Park keeps it from Continue reading

Take My Hand and I’ll Lead Ya

Candide and Other Stories
Voltaire

I spend too much time on Twitter. That’s not an unusual statement and I suspect that like many other people who might find themselves nodding in agreement I’m not alone in being able to rationalize the time I do spend.

Here’s one such attempt: when there, I indulge in an ongoing discussion about books with a better read, Continue reading

I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink

Pick-Up
(Crime Novels: American Noir of the 1950s, A Library of America Volume)
Charles Willeford

While you’d be forgiven for not remembering why I put this multi-title volume down, I can’t. Part of me thinks such behavior would be more understandable if the book contained works of a single author. I can even offer proof: one of the several Henry James volumes from the Library of America sits across the room, daring me to pick it up Continue reading

Going Up The Country

Cry The Beloved Country
Alan Paton

Last I looked, Earth was a pretty good-sized planet. Lots of water, sure, but seven continents, six of them habitable and populated. Plenty of cultural diversity if you put a little effort into looking.

Maybe making the effort is too much to ask. Or maybe there’s some truth to the idea that the engines of our Continue reading

Missin’ Like a Cuckoo Brain

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Ken Kesey

This is not my first encounter with this book. The classics, the things you’re supposed to read when you’re young because you’ll never take the time to read them later in life, those I avoid until they turn up in this space.

Kesey, though,  suffers from the opposite problem with me. There he is,  smack dab in the middle of the great Continue reading

The Pain of the Scars That Won’t Heal

The Book of Daniel
E.L. Doctorow

I grabbed this book as I walked out the door for what, to date, is only the second Jersey shore vacation I’ve ever taken. During the first, way back in 1976, I heard a priest (my mom didn’t believe in suspending Catholic rules) deliver a sermon built around E.L.Doctorow‘s recently Continue reading

Let Me Take a Ride

Echo Park
Michael Connelly

Here’s a puzzle I have no intention of solving: the dust jacket of my copy of this book bears a discounted price label from Barnes & Noble. No surprise, I regularly prowl the remainder bins and Sales Annex looking for bargains.

What’s surprising is that the book itself has all the markings of a library volume–acquisition date stamp, ‘property of’ stamp, even an indication it has been Continue reading