October 20, 2014

THE BOGEY CLOSE

With Halloween approaching, here’s a cozy tale for bedtime from Of Darkness and Light, a book that’s been making people sleep with the light on since 1989.

October 13, 2014
J. David Osborne reviews Kill Your Self: Life After Ego

And finally, I’d like to talk a little about Dogo Barry Graham’s wonderful, eye-opening Kill Your Self: Life After Ego. In the spirit of a book that is all about losing the self, and working to curb suffering by muting the ego, I’m going to make this review all about me. As of late I’ve found it increasingly difficult to let go of my anger. It’s always been a problem, that I tend to see and expect the worst from people. After reading this book, I realized that, as is typically the case, it all stems from a problem with myself. Or rather, the story I tell my self about myself.

Graham uses quick, succinct aphorisms to move the book along, never dwelling on one thought or the other. I’ve always enjoyed this about zen writing, in that even whilst explaining a koan or a deep subject, the writer typically just expresses the question in the clearest way possible, once, and then dips out. After that it’s up to you. It’s something you’re supposed to think about, and the process of thinking is the solution in and of itself.

This book is packed with a-ha moments. I reflected a lot upon reading it. In particular, I enjoyed the passage about the fishing boat, in which the owner of said vessel takes his newly-painted baby out on the water on a foggy day. Another boat bumps into his, and he turns around and starts yelling, only to find the other boat empty. The boat is always empty, but we bring our stories to it, the story that goddammit this drunk motherfucker is out here not watching where he’s going or goddammit I just got this painted and of course it gets fucked up…no. These are all stories we’re making up as we go along, all stories designed to make us the protagonist of our lives, the put-upon, the only one who “gets it.” After awhile, this becomes easier than breathing. The boat is always empty, until we fill it with our own bullshit.

The book is presented in a “take-it-or-leave-it” style. It isn’t preachy. It doesn’t want you to do this or that. It just is. And it’s so refreshing. Couldn’t recommend it more.

October 12, 2014
Full of Days: new book by Bart Lessard

I’ve written before that Bart Lessard is one of my favorite contemporary writers. His latest book, Full of Days, might be his best.

Mildred Dephane is a duty nurse working graveyard shift on a hospice ward. For nine years she has slept through the daylight. But a mysterious new patient—a failing, helpless man over a hundred years old—shocks her awake as he begins to describe crimes that have gone unpunished for a lifetime.

September 18, 2014
Hoping that Scotland makes my early writing redundant

My first four books are set in the desperate, desolate Scotland I was born into. I hope that today Scotland will vote to make these books historical documents.

September 12, 2014
daishinstephenson:

homeless man sleeping

Daishin Stephenson and I are planning a book together, photos by her and text by me.

daishinstephenson:

homeless man sleeping

Daishin Stephenson and I are planning a book together, photos by her and text by me.

September 12, 2014
Clay Shirky explains that book availabilility is a class issue

It’s easy to see this as same old, same old, of course. Richer people in fancier cities have nicer things — surprise! — but given recent technology, those limits could be fixed. Demand can now create supply, in the form of ebooks and print on demand, making books into a different sort of commodity. No book need ever be out of stock, or out of print, anywhere in the world. It used to be that if you were OK with the residents of Podunk having inferior access to books than people in Brooklyn, you were just a realist about the difficulties of making and shipping physical stuff. Now if you’re OK with that, you’re kind of an asshole. In the twenty-first century, not being able to correctly stock or distribute a product whose main ingredient is information suggests a degree of technical and managerial incompetence indistinguishable from active malice.

September 9, 2014
W.R. Burnett—The Iron Man Who Chose to Rust by Barry Graham

My latest column for The Big Click…

Contemporary writers and readers of serious crime fiction, meet the grandfather you never knew—W.R. Burnett. Born in 1899, he single-handedly invented narrative forms that would be thought of as innovative when other writers used them into the 21st Century.

September 8, 2014
Dead End Follies: review of When it All Comes Down to Dust

I know the word compassion might be alien to you, or synonymous of something bland and selfless, but Barry Graham has a keen understanding of its true meaning, and clever ways to display in in several passages of WHEN IT ALL COMES DOWN TO DUST. People are complicated things that aren’t defined by a single choice they make, but who keep defining themselves by choices they make everyday. Therefore judging them on a single choice is not only limiting them, but it’s also limiting you. Barry Graham illustrates that point brilliantly and dramatically in the storyline of Frank, but also in a more quiet and subtle way through Laura’s story. One of the hidden themes of WHEN IT ALL COMES DOWN TO DUST is the complexity of human potential. It’s a novel that’s melancholic in surface, but compassionate and earnest beyond the surface.

September 3, 2014
mulhollandbooks:

xgosiax:

[X]

Stephen King with his bounty of Jim Thompson paperbacks. We reissued all 25 titles in Thompson’s backlist last month. Now’s the perfect time to try a Thompson…or to try all the Thompsons!

One of my favorite authors with the books of another. 

mulhollandbooks:

xgosiax:

[X]

Stephen King with his bounty of Jim Thompson paperbacks. We reissued all 25 titles in Thompson’s backlist last month. Now’s the perfect time to try a Thompson…or to try all the Thompsons!

One of my favorite authors with the books of another. 

(via ruckawriter)

August 31, 2014
A Brief Eulogy for Charles Bowden

image

I’m trying to think of something to say about my friend Chuck Bowden—in my opinion the greatest U.S. nonfiction writer of his generation—who died in his sleep yesterday afternoon.

I’ve already said some of it to The Arizona Republic and to my friend Michael Kiefer, whose articles can be read by clicking on the links, and I said a little bit in a column I wrote in 1997, when I first met Bowden. So I guess all that’s left to say is personal.

Bowden was the biggest influence on how I write nonfiction. Along with that influence, he was a breathtakingly kind, supportive friend and mentor. He recommended me to the editors of national magazines, and, sometimes, when he was offered work he didn’t have the time or inclination to do, he would ask me if I was interested. He was just as supportive of many other writers, even though he stated that writers were “worthless scum,” including himself.

He took friendship as seriously as his writing, with equal artistry and attention to detail; he was a fine cook, and when I was coming for dinner he would ask me in advance what he had cooked the last time I had visited, so he could do something different this time. Reading his books probably made me a better writer, and his friendship certainly made me a better man.

He declared:

I speak for the mongrel, the mestizo, the half-breed, the bastard, the alley-cat, the cur, the hybrid, the mule, the whore, the unforeseen strain that pounds against all the safe and disgusting doors. I speak for vitality, rough edges, torn fences, broken walls, wild rivers, sweat-soaked sheets. Who would want a world left mumbling to itself, a perfect garden with the dreaded outside, the fabled Other held at bay and the neat rows of cultures and genes safe behind some hedgerow?

Bowden risked his life to give voice to the voiceless. He said things no one else did, and he said them better than anyone else could. He was as much a prophet as a reporter, and his death is a loss to all who know the importance of bearing witness.

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