Brandywine Books
Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Moore Feedback: Book & Film

The publisher of Michael Moore's Stupid White Men released Tuesday what may be a mirror image of it. Michael Moore Is A Big Fat Stupid White Man, by David T. Hardy and Jason Clarke. The publisher, Regan Books, an imprint of HarperCollins, asks, "How large of an impact do [Moore's] incendiary, ill-founded polemics have on the growing community that follows him with near-religious devotion?" Hardy and Clarke claim to approach that question, if not answer it.

As you can guess, they attempt to lay bare Moore's half-truths, rumor-mongering, and hypocrisy. In a book excerpt from the HarperCollins website, Hardy and Clarke write to Moore directly: "Your propensity for altering reality served you well in your break into TV. Of course, you had to go to work for NBC, and then Fox Broadcasting -- two of the world's largest corporate media conglomerates -- but you seemed oddly unperturbed by the hypocrisy. Had you forgotten so quickly that rallying against the scourge of corporations is what made you famous?"

Dude, Where's My Country? was published by Warner Books, and HarperCollins is part of Rupert Murdock's media empire. That would be Big Media, wouldn't it? Isn't it odd that Moore isn't standing on his principles? Perhaps this is one of the places where character doesn't matter.

In related news, Moore's film has drawn a good crowd in its opening days; but already he seems to have forgotten one of his core principles. has a story on an article on the film industry website, They quote: "Box Office Mojo asked Michael Moore and company to comment for this story, but they wanted to screen the questions in advance. As policy, Box Office Mojo does not conduct interviews under such circumstances, so there will be no comment from them."

So, they ask, "The master of the guerilla interview and his company are suddenly unwilling to do interviews without all questions up front? Combined with Moore's lame threats to sue for libel anyone who unfairly criticizes the film, it seems like Moore is intent on combining radical filmmaking with a Fox News legal department sensibility."

Regarding that film, Box Office Mojo states:
Moore implies that the enemy is not militant Islam or Iraq; it is Bush, an inept and bumbling president who keeps himself in power with his color-coded terror alerts that trick Americans into thinking the nation is at risk of annihilation. The fact that Bush is simultaneously portrayed as a fool and as a master strategist of power is one of Moore's many contradictions.

Fahrenheit 9/11 doesn't ask why America was attacked, and it barely acknowledges that 9/11, the worst single attack on America in history, was an act of war. What happened on that date -- and its causes -- are conspicuously absent from Moore’s movie. There is not a single frame of the act that is the reason for Moore’s movie: passenger planes hijacked by religious fundamentalists crashing into the Twin Towers. But Moore makes sure to display any collateral damage at the hands of Americans. Ultimately, Fahrenheit 9/11 is propaganda for the converted.

Novel Discusses President Bush's Assassination

[by way of World]London's Independent reports that Minimalist Author Nicholson Baker's novel, Checkpoint, describes two characters who plot to "assassinate President George Bush."

"They don't actually do the deed, or even attempt it, but the book is - according to early snippets - replete with deep-seated anger and elegantly nasty epithets hurled at both the President and his cabinet."

Baker's previous works establish his minimalist credentials. They focus on "mundane activities as riding an escalator, tying one's shoelaces and weeding. Only Vox (1995) raised any eyebrows because it dealt with the topic of phone sex."

Should we understand this angry new novel, to be released one day prior to the Republican National Convention by Knopf, the same publisher of Clinton's memoirs, as another shrill voice from a liberal class desperate to regain dominance in the national discussion or the governmental reigns? Or is this the pinned-up emotion of all minimalists? Whatever it is, it contradicts historian and popular author Paul Johnson, who said Bush is cut from the same cloth as Margaret Thatcher. "Bush Junior is far more intelligent than his image or the press suggest. And he is 100 per cent trustworthy. He is also a much stronger man than Bush senior," says Johnson.
Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Must Be a New York/D.C. Thing

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 23: Chagrin Falls bookstore owner Jim Lewis mostly chuckled Tuesday at the hype as TV showed hordes scrambling for copies of Bill Clinton's newly released autobiography, "My Life," in New York and Washington, D.C.

"You have to have a copy in D.C. It's required," he said.

As for his store, the Fireside Bookshop, "I stocked 2,500 copies, and they sold out by noon," he said earnestly. "And you can expect the same honesty from me that you can expect from Bill Clinton."

In fact, by noon, Lewis had not sold one of his shop's 20 copies, and he intended to cancel the 30 additional copies on order.
The Plain Dealer's review of the memoir may sound more pleasantly intoned; but the book is quite long, and you may have heard or read enough about it already. So, I'll give you the gist from Book Editor Karen Sandstrom. "Alternately entertaining and maddening, gregarious and calculated, My Life isn't quite the great book Clinton confesses he has long hoped to write. But it just might be the perfect representation of the man himself."
That's Not What It Means! You're Inutilizing the English Language!
I was thinking about writing a post on irritating words and how many philology hobbyists have lists of words they can't stand; but I ran across this paragraph in The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language over on that excellent website,
Viewed in retrospect, controversies over usage usually seem incomprehensibly trivial. It is hard for us to fathom why Swift should have railed against the shortening of mobile vulgus to mob, why Benjamin Franklin should have written to Noah Webster complaining about the use of improve to mean “ameliorate,” or why Victorian grammarians should have engaged in acrimonious exchanges over whether the possessive of one should be one’s or his. Even comparatively recent controversies have a quaint air about them: most people under 50 would be hard-put to understand what in the world critics of the 1960s had in mind when they described the verb contact as an “abomination” and a “lubricious barbarism.”
I say, you've probably got to down quite a lot of fish to build the brain power to understand that sort of nonsense, what?

Seriously, usage arguments are interesting to me, but I wonder why I don't have a revulsion for certain words like these folks. Maybe that's one reason I'll never be a strong writer; but maybe God didn't write me that way.
Saturday, June 26, 2004

What Kind of Book Person Are You?

[by way of Foothills] Kevin at Collected Miscellany has published this list of fun questions, which my wife and I will dutifully answer.

1) What is your favorite type of bookstore?
A. A large chain that is well lit, stuffed full of books, and has a café.
B. A dark, rather dusty, used bookstore full of mysterious and vaguely organized books.
C. A local independent bookstore that has books by local authors and coffee.

I choose C, though I like the other two also. The C option is the most vague, so it could be a dark store, full of bookish atmosphere, or a spacey, well-lit store. Regardless, my favorite store will likely have good coffee available. Does it matter that my favorite local bookstore sells used or previously enjoyed books?

My sweet wife wants to vote for B, but is feeling the pull of my argument for C. She doesn't drink coffee, if you're wondering. It's a wedge in our family life.

2) What would excite you more?
A. A brand new book by your favorite author.
B. Finding a classic you've been wanting to read.
C. Receiving a free book from a friend in the mail.

B. I haven't read anywhere near what I want to. My wife (voting B) is horrified by the thought of C. You could receive something like "365 Happy Thoughts for Women" for Pete's sake. Stop the madness!

3) What's your favorite format?
A. Novel
B. Short story
C. Poetry

I vote A, though I love "bee" and enjoy "sea." Wife: A. More to enjoy.

4) Favorite format, part II.
A. Contemporary fiction.
B. Classic novels.
C. Genre (mystery, espionage, etc.)

B. See question #2. The wife agrees.

5) Favorite format, part III (none of the above) Fiction or non?
A. Almost entirely fiction.
B. Almost entirely non-fiction.
C. A mix of both.

We vote A, seeing that it allows for some non-fiction to sneak into the tent.

6) Does the design and condition of the book matter?
A. Yes, I love a well designed book and keep mine in mint condition.
B. No, the words are what matter.
C. Yes and no, I appreciate good design and treat my books with respect but I am not obsessive about it.

C. I appreciate book design, fonts, cover art, illustrations (for certain books). I want to keep them in good condition, but try to remember that worry profits me nothing. The wife gives the thumbs up on C as well. (I won't mention the cheap Spencer collection which is falling apart.)

7) On average how many books do you read a month?
A. I am lucky to read one.
B. I am dedicated. I read 4 or 5.
C. I am a fiend. I read 10 or more!

A. I don't read quickly. My precious wife is a B, who reads while the "small thing that has no words" nurses.

8) Do you prefer to own or borrow?
A. There is a particular joy in owning a book. I have a large library.
B. Why spend money when you can read it for free? I use the public library.
C. Different tools for different job. I do both.

I prefer to own for the very reason you give, but I'm trying to wean myself in favor of the good libraries nearby. Wife: C. You should own only the books you want to read more than once..

9) Where do you get (the majority) your book news?
A. Newspapers.
B. Magazines.
D. Blogs.

Blogs and my own internet research, unless what you mean in A and B includes online editions. I get nothing from TV. Some radio. Occasional helium balloon. My dear wife gets her news from her devoted husband. (and who could ask for more?)

10) Are books a professional obsession?
A. Yes, I work in the field (writer, reviewer, publisher, teacher, etc.).
B. No, I do it for fun.
C. Kinda, I write the occasional review but have a regular job outside of books.

We vote B. I haven't gotten paid for any of it yet. Don't foresee it.

New Christian Fiction Contest from World Magazine and WestBow

World Magazine has redesigned their website, announced their annual book issue, and launched a short story contest with WestBow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson. The WORLDview Fiction Contest for stories written from a Christian worldview intends to unearth new talent with the potential for broad appeal. Perhaps that means that the Christian Fiction isle is only a secondary target. Deadline is August 31 for a complete story in 1,500 words or less. The prizes are World subscriptions and $100 of books. The grand prize will have a trip to Nashville, TN arranged for discussion of a publishing contract. The five story judges are authors Bret Lott, Ted Dekker, Lauren Winner, Angela Hunt, and Janie B. Cheaney. Contest rules are posted on the World Magazine website, which also has a form for submitting entries and agreeing to the rules.

Progress: The Pilgrim Comes Full Circle

From World's current cover story, "Truth and Fiction," by Gene Edward Veith
Christian fiction has become a genre unto itself, filled with clichés, conventions, and pop-culture imitations. And yet, Christian authors were once the giants of literature, writing about all of life from a Christian worldview and using their art to influence the imagination of the whole civilization. What writers, publishers, and readers need today is not just Christian fiction but fiction informed by a Christian worldview, with the potential to break through once again into the wider culture.

Some 45 percent of all trade books sold today in the United States are fiction. Although Christian writers were the great pioneers of literature, for awhile evangelicals, both authors and readers, lost interest in fiction. But this has been changing. Fiction is the second-biggest-selling category for Christian publishers, just after "Christian living," making up 15 percent to 20 percent of all their sales.

Lately, Christian authors and publishers have been imitating the pop culture, with its formulas and conventions, rather than creating genuine literary art. But Christian writers and Christian readers are growing in their tastes and in what they are capable of writing and reading. Though for awhile Christian novels were only read by Christian readers, the barriers that ghettoized explicitly evangelical books have been coming down. . . .

Talented Christian writers [have been] finding success with publishing companies that were secular but that allowed them to express their faith in terms of their art: Walt Wangerin (The Book of the Dun Cow); Frederic Buechner (Brendan); Larry Woiwode (Beyond the Bedroom Wall); Jan Karon (The Mitford series); Leif Enger (Peace Like a River); Bret Lott (Jewel). Not to mention Christian authors who became sure-fire bestsellers who wrote more popular fare that was not explicitly religious, but nevertheless allowed their worldview to shine through (John Grisham, The Firm; Tom Clancy, The Hunt for Red October). Christian publishers wanted to attract writers like that. Lately, some talented new authors have emerged from Christian circles, and now Christian publishers are more inclined to turn them loose.

WestBow’s experiment: Thomas Nelson is the biggest Christian publisher. Moreover, it is the ninth-biggest publisher of every kind in the world. Currently, over half of its sales are in the general marketplace. The company has just launched a new fiction division, WestBow Press.

Allen Arnold, the head of WestBow, told WORLD that "the days of traditional Christian fiction are over." His plans are to publish authors who write from a distinctly Christian worldview but whose works go beyond the typical formulas and have the potential to reach beyond the typical Christian marketplace to have an impact on the culture as a whole. "We don’t publish Christian fiction," he said. "We publish fiction from a Christian worldview." He wants to free Christian authors, who often feel constrained by secular publishers to tone down their faith and who feel constrained by Christian publishers who will not let them tell their stories.
Briefly: I'm glad to report that blogs4God has linked to Brandywine Books. blogs4God - a Semi-Definitive List of Christian Blogs I feel all warm and squishy now.
Friday, June 25, 2004
Henke on Keyes
[From Author Roxanne Henke's website] "The Courage to Write by Ralph Keyes
I get a lot of letters (and phone calls) and people who approach me after speaking engagements and book signings saying, 'I'd like to write someday.'

I used to say that, too. A lot. When I started contemplating the idea of actually writing a BOOK, I quickly realized there was more to it than simply putting words on paper. There was also a HUGE obstacle to overcome. F-E-A-R. What if after all that dreaming I had nothing to say? What if I couldn't write a book, after all?

I wish I'd had 'The Courage to Write,' by Ralph Keyes back then. The subtitle of the book: 'How Writers Transcend Fear' was exactly what I needed. How comforting to know that almost ALL writers are afraid. It's okay to be afraid. The point is...write anyway. Read it...then write!"

"Those that are fools, let them use their talents."

[from 8:46 a.m. on the World Magazine Blog]:
"Was Shakespeare a woman? For 150 years, some people have just not been able to accept that William Shakespeare, the greatest writer in the English language, was a middle class entrepreneur from a small town without a university education. Surely the true author of those immortal plays must have hailed from the nobility. Never mind that almost ALL good authors have been from the middle class, that the nobility of his time seldom soiled themselves with literature, and that the university-educated writers of his time always wrote imitations of the ancient Greeks, rather than the realistic, break-all-the-classical-unity-rules, medieval-influenced drama that Shakespeare did. First, the dry-as-dust scientist Bacon was proposed as the true author. Lately, the candidate has been the Earl of Oxford. But now, a new possibility is being proposed: Mary Sidney, the Countess of Pembroke. . . .

Mary Sidney is, indeed, an important figure in literary history. She was extremely talented and she has been unjustly overlooked. She was the sister of Sir Philip Sidney. She collaborated with her more famous brother to write an early prose fantasy called 'Arcadia'. She also wrote an excellent translation of the Psalms into rhyming verse, experimenting with different poetic forms for every Psalm in a way that proved very influential to arguably the greatest evangelical poet, George Herbert. But if you read her writings and then read Shakespeare's writings, you can see that they are nothing alike."
This reminds me of a joke my college English professor said he told during his oral doctorate exam at UT-Knoxville. He said he thought he saw a bit of levity in the professors, so he ventured to joke that Shakespeare actually translated the King James Bible, the evidence for which could found in Psalms 44 and 46 where the words "shake" and "spear" could be found. They didn't laugh. He may have even steps on some toes, but what can you do when serious scholarship lampoons itself?
Quote: [by way of Jared at Thinklings]: "We degrade Providence too much by attributing our ideas to it out of annoyance at being unable to understand it." Fyodor Dostoyevsky - The Idiot
Thursday, June 24, 2004

Becoming Olivia, by Roxanne Henke

This novel follows the characters in After Anne, though it's third in the "Coming Home to Brewster" series. (That series label smacks of marketing to me. It seems to say, "Did you feel at home in Mitford? Well, have we got a story for you!")

The first person narrative switches between Olivia, 40-ish, and her teenaged daughter, Emily, similar to the narrative flow in After Anne. It recounts Olivia's struggle with depression and Emily's struggle to understand her as well as appeal to her high school peers.

In the first story, Olivia is a capable, strong woman, and her friendship with Anne broke down defenses she didn't know she had erected. She had felt in control and fought for that emotional strength, but in this story, she comes to grips with her frailty. Wrestling with clinical depression changed her family's lives and her doctor's life. She learned to share her pain with those around her, building bridges in those relationships where walls had been before.

These observations come second-hand. My wife read this one and is telling me about it. She says Henke writes well, unlike some other writers she's read recently from the Christian fiction isle. She also says these two stories about Olivia feel more real than those she's read from the Mitford series. They deal with deeper issues and emotions, she says, not the always pleasant, never too difficult stuff from Father Tim's town.
Historical Novelist Taken by Sham Etymology
In a Word Detective column from last year, Evan Morris responds to a question about the phrase "cuts no ice with me."
Ed Nather, Austin, Texas, states: I encountered an explanation in a novel by Patrick O'Brian, in which one of the characters ascribed it to an Iroquois saying which he rendered as "cuzno ais mizme," and which he said meant "I don't believe you." The work is fiction, of course, but O'Brian got a lot of other stuff right in his novels. Can you verify if this origin is correct or not?

Not even close. I am rather surprised that Mr. O'Brian, whose seafaring novels are rightly celebrated for their authenticity, would have fallen for this turkey of a theory. Please tell me that the character who espouses this nonsense is later eaten by a walrus.

"It cuts no ice with me" means that something makes no difference or does not influence the speaker's feelings on the matter. For example, your protestations that you were only picking up some throat lozenges for your poor sick goldfish will probably "cut no ice" with the traffic cop writing you a ticket for double-parking. . . .

It is possible, according to some authorities, that "cuts no ice" originally referred to an ice-skater so inept that his or her skates, at least metaphorically, didn't even cut the surface of the ice. Other sources trace the phrase to the days of block ice cut from ponds and used for refrigeration, in which case "to cut no ice" would, at least among ice-cutters, mean to be useless or ineffectual.

My own suspicion is that "cut no ice," while it may have originally been inspired by the cutting of block ice, from the beginning played on "ice" as a metaphor for indifference or stubbornness. Thus, to say that something "cuts no ice with me" would be to say that it does not "cut through" my cold determination to do something.
There's more where that comes from, so if it wets your whistle, tolle lege.
Monday, June 21, 2004
As If It Needs to Be Said
Former President Clinton's memoir will be available tomorrow, perhaps within minutes of publishing this post. I've read that Clinton wishes he could have done more on some policy issues he champions. I would understand that coming from anyone; but that isn't his legacy. His legacy is tied up in the first question everyone seems to ask or hope to avoid when they think of him in a new light. What about . . . you know? From the Boston Globe today:
"It's a great soap opera, a steamy tale, and steamy tales sell," says Peter Osnos, publisher of PublicAffairs Books. "Clinton is our most colorful and, in many ways, most compelling public figure -- flawed but immensely attractive. There's a great story there. As president, Bill Clinton was a remarkable political figure and a very bad boy."

[Historian Douglas Brinkley, author of "The Unfinished Journey: Jimmy Carter Beyond the White House."] agrees. "How does he deal with Paula Jones, Monica Lewinsky? Sex is a big seller, and, with the exception of the Kennedy White House, the sex life of no other administration has captured the public imagination."
Sad and true.
Unhand Me, You Cur, Or I Shall Write a Book about You!
A co-worker directed my attention to this story on about spectators at the Battle of Bull Run. In short, several Washington residents, politicians and Union supporters, congregated near the battlefield to watch the first major battle of the civil War. They thought the Yankees would rout the Rebels and put on a good show to boot. Many arrived to watch early in the morning and after several hours ventured closer to get a better view, never thinking they could be killed or captured themselves. In the late afternoon, the Confederate army had the Union on the run, and spectator Alfred Ely, congressman from New York, didn't feel the turning of the tide until he could not swim against it. Ely was discovered hiding in the woods by men from Colonel E.B. Cash's South Carolina regiment. They took him to the Colonel, who threatened to blow his head of immediately.
The junior officers quickly interceded: "Colonel, Colonel, you must not shoot that pistol, he is our prisoner." Still enraged, Cash grudgingly stashed his pistol, and the South Carolinians hustled Ely to the rear. He would spend the next six months in a Richmond prison, a political prize tormented all the while by his captors. (Once released, Ely would do the thoroughly American thing and write a best-selling book about his ordeal.)
You may be able to see a copy of Ely's book here, if someone else doesn't get it first.
Saturday, June 19, 2004
OpinionJournal - Peggy Noonan: "We need a new environmental movement--a musical conservation movement aimed at saving and preserving the old songs. The rivers and mountains and plains are so beautiful and need saving. But what have you lost if you lose the sound of your ancestors' souls singing? Even more, I think."
Tuesday, June 15, 2004
I Hate When Popcorn Oil Gets on My Pages
We all know the book is bound to be better than the film adaptation of it, and that film-based books are bound to be awful. But have you ever seen an original film which left you thinking, "I wonder if a book of the same story would be better"? I vaguely remember thinking this about some movie, but I can't remember more than that. Not the movie or the gist of the story. What about you? Have you ever thought this?

I know. You're first response will be that you've seen maybe a dozen movies which were not based on a book. Usually, original films are visually based, using the medium well to tell the story from scratch. But films can easily fail to communicate the inner selves in those dramatic characters, and maybe you've felt that in something you've seen. Did you walk away from a film asking yourself what characters were thinking or that you wished you could have understood the inner conflict more?

Update: For reference, here's a list of over 1,000 movies which were based on books, short stories, or plays from the Mid-Continent Public Library in Independence, Missouri.
"Here's the Bible for Widowed People Over 80 who Live in Florida"
A west coast newspaper, The Christian Post, has an article on the plethora of audience-targeted Bibles and Bible paraphrases. Critics think zealous marketing drives publishers to reprint a translation or paraphrase of that Most Timeless Text to the extent of cheapening it.
Some say the market is at a saturation point as publishers produce dozens of Bibles targeted to specific demographic groups. Today different Bibles targeted only to men, to women, and even to babies are available at the bookstores. One publisher contemplated a Bible for Elvis fans, Patterson said.

The number of Bibles targeted to specific demographic groups is growing. A "Refuel"-style "biblezine" for women, called "Becoming," will be published in June whereas man’s Bible, called "Every Man’s Bible" is already available through Tyndale House Publishers of Carol Stream, Ill. In March, Christian publisher Zondervan released "The Discovery Study Bible," with more than 750 "culture clues," footnotes that explain ancient customs to provide insight for modern readers.

"We're going to get ... to the point of, here's the Bible for widowed people over 80 who live in Florida," said Arie C. Leder, professor of the Old Testament at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Mich.
In Space, You Can't Order Fries
World's blog is talking about science fiction in light of a new hall of fame and museum in Seattle. Click and materialize.
Monday, June 14, 2004
Robert Olen Butler on Research and Truth
Author Robert Olen Butler talks to Atlantic Monthly reporter Jessica Murphy on his book, Had a Good Time, in an article published Monday. Below, I've quoted small part where he talks about reading O. Henry for research.
Atl: Do you find it helpful to read not only about the period but also books from the period?

Butler: Sure. For this book I went back and read probably a hundred of O. Henry's short stories. There's a lot of dreck among his work, but there are a dozen just wonderful stories that I rediscovered. I'd forgotten what a wonderful storyteller O. Henry was. And he was particularly terrific with the quotidian details. He was a reporter and he tended to record those things carefully—the fact, for example, that apartment houses in New York City in 1906 had bells, and that you could ring a bell from downstairs to get into a building. In historical fiction, when you move a character through the day-to-day tasks, you run into these kinds of problems. He arrives at an apartment building and wants to go up to see somebody. How does he do it? If I had needed that detail—that's one I never used—I would have learned it by reading an O. Henry story. So O. Henry provided me with some of the basic details of life in New York at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Atl: How do you make sure the details are essential to the character and not just period props?

It's easy to get seduced by that. But that's where your instincts as an artist come into play. All works of fiction are built around a character who yearns, and if you're in touch with what the character is yearning for, then every detail is filtered through that emotional center. That will guide you as to which details are appropriate and which aren't.
Earlier in the interview, Butler states a framework for using history and research in a story. "The most important thing to get right is the universal human truth of the situation. What you cannot do is subordinate that to a more surface, factual kind of truth. If you read Shakespeare's history plays you'll see that he was quite ready to play fast and loose with history in order to throw a spotlight on the larger universal human truths."
Author Ernest C. Reisinger Dies, 84
On May 31, "a leading figure in the revival of Reformation theology and Puritan literature" died in Cape Coral, Florida at age 84. Ernest Reisinger published several books through Banner of Truth and P&R Publishing, including What Shall We Think of ‘The Carnal Christian?’ in 1978 and The Law and the Gospel in 1987. "In addition," according to this Banner of Truth article, "he had a much valued behind-the-scenes ministry in the encouragement of other authors, including James Packer, Arnold Dallimore, Walter Chantry, Sinclair Ferguson, David Calhoun, and Tom Ascol."

Reisinger was the Associate Editor of The Founders’ Journal, which is "Committed to Historic Southern Baptist Principles" until his death.
Most Often Checked Words
Merrium-Webster Online asked users to submit their favorite words. The result? A top ten list.

2004 Top Ten Favorite Words

While I had nothing to do with this list, I am pleased to see one of my favorite words, plethora, on this list. I reminds me of fun college days.

In college, we would interpret some common phrases literally for their quirky humor. For example, we may respond to someone's statement, "Well, you say that now," which carries all the weight of disbelief intonally, not literally. The words themselves are quite true. Yes, the person said whatever just now; but the tone of voice suggests that once reality settles in, the person will change his mind. And now that I've explained it, it isn't funny.
Saturday, June 12, 2004
Today's "Get Fuzzy"
Read today's cartoon. "Get Fuzzy" goes philosophical today, defining truth as "not making stuff up." I love it.
Friday, June 11, 2004
Y'all is the Right Word for Every Occasion
[By way of World] The word y'all as the plural of you is increasing in popularity. Some of us have known it to be a strong word for years. I think it's a great word, both Southern and proper. No other pluralization of you is acceptable, classy, proper, or good'enough to recommend to respectible people.
from Melville's Moby Dick
"The whale, like all things that are mighty, wears a false brow to the common world. If you unload his skull of its spermy heaps and then take a rear view of its rear end, which is the high end, you will be struck by its resemblance to the human skull, beheld in the same situation, and from the same point of view. Indeed, place this reversed skull (scaled down to the human magnitude) among a plate of men's skulls, and you would involuntarily confound it with them; and remarking the depressions on one part of its summit, in phrenological phrase you would say --This man had no self-esteem, and no veneration."
A Best Read List
[By way of Bookninja] Press Release: A trade magazine has begun to track which books people are borrowing from libraries. "'It's never been done before, despite obviously being a more accurate way to measure demand for both fiction and nonfiction books that people actually want to read,' according to Francine Fialkoff, Editor of the 128-year-old Library Journal." The first list ran this month.
Wednesday, June 09, 2004
The Sixth Dark Tower Has Come
USA Today reports on Stephen King's The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah, released yesterday, and they reveal a plot twist deep in the book. I won't reveal that here. In fact, I won't link to it either. But here are a few lines from that article about the Dark Tower series.
The series has three inspirations: J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, Robert Browning's narrative poem Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came, and Sergio Leone's "gonzo Western," as King calls it, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

It borrows characters from other novels by King, including Pere Callahan, a ruined priest, who in Book 5, Wolves of the Calla, happens upon King's novel Salem's Lot, in which he's a character.

"Damn it," Callahan says. "I'm a REAL PERSON!"
The Politics of Book People
In an AP report on the BookExpo last week, Hillel Italie writes, "Tom Clancy, the novelist and political conservative, declared in a recent interview that Ronald Reagan would 'always be my president.' But for many in the publishing community, which wrapped up its annual convention Sunday, their president remains Bill Clinton." Lower in the article, Italie cites examples of the liberal persuasion.
Introducing Clinton on Thursday, publisher Sonny Mehta of Alfred A. Knopf inspired loud cheers when he wondered if Clinton would still be president were he permitted to serve a third term. The head of the Association of American Publishers, Pat Schroeder, was once one of the most liberal members of Congress. Teicher of the American Booksellers Association worked under another leading Congressional liberal, former Rep. Richard Ottinger of New York.

When C-SPAN host Brian Lamb took an informal poll at a Saturday lunch gathering, the vote was overwhelmingly for Sen. John Kerry, the Democrat's presumptive nominee.
It seems to be a general assumption that most people in the book industry are politically liberal. Do you agree in general? Why do you think it's true?
Tuesday, June 08, 2004
No BookFest in Seattle
Seattle has a new library, but not a book festival. According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, money was the main reason the organizing committee cancelled this years festival. They couldn't raise the funds to throw it all together, among other things. "Bookfest, which has never paid authors to appear, turned into a gathering of Northwest writers as a result. But Northwest authors make regular free appearances in Seattle throughout the year."
Excerpt: Michael Reagan on Learning to Love His Father
From yesterday's "Inside Beltway" column by John McCaslin, an excerpt from his upcoming book on Capitol Hill stories.
"You know," Michael [Reagan] said, "I used to wonder about my relationship with my dad. It was so often easy just to sit back and say to myself, 'You know, Dad has never once hugged me,' or 'Dad has never told me before that he loves me.'
"And all of a sudden one day, I woke up and asked myself, 'When was the last time I hugged my dad, told him that I loved him?' I had never hugged my dad, yet here I was mad because he had never hugged me. So when dad got out of office in 1989, I made a promise to myself that every time I saw him, I was going to give him a hug hello, or a hug goodbye, or a hug on both ends — just do that and show him how much I care.
"And so I did, the first time when dad came down to San Diego to do my radio show in 1989, just after his book came out. And the first time he was a little startled by it. He obviously wasn't used to it. His generation was not used to men hugging one another. Frankly, he was a little taken aback by it.
"But what's happened over the years is that dad actually now looks forward to these moments. He's always standing at the door, waiting for a hug, when I arrive or when I leave. And especially at this point of his life with Alzheimer's. While he can't carry on normal conversations, and while he may not have the memory to recall certain things about my life ... what's interesting is that when I get up and get ready to leave the house, he's at that door, with his arms open, waiting for that hug."
He was quiet for a moment.
"Other things he might not be able to remember," Michael said, "but he remembers that."
This was taken from the column which excerpts McCaslin's book, Inside The Beltway : Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation’s Capital, which is due out in August.
Monday, June 07, 2004
Noonan's Tribute to Reagan
Peggy Noonan's column in the Wall Street Journal is the wonderful tribute to Ronald Reagan. He was the subject of her book, When Character Was King, and he employed her as his special assistant from 1984-86. Read the column here, excerpts below.
Ronald, nicknamed Dutch, read fiction. He liked stories of young men battling for the good and true. A story he wrote in college had a hero arriving home from the war and first thing calling his girl. Someone else answered. Who is calling? "Tell her it's the president," he said. He wrote that when he was 20 years old. . . .

He wanted to be an artist, a cartoonist, a writer. Then he wanted to be a sportscaster on radio, and talked his way in. Then he wanted to be an actor. He went to Hollywood, became a star, did work that he loved and married Jane Wyman, a more gifted actor than he. . . .

The long education began. He studied communism, read Marx, read the Founders and the conservative philosophers from Burke to Burnham. He began to tug right. The Democratic Party and his industry continued to turn left. There was a parting.

A word on his intellectual reflexes. Ronald Reagan was not a cynic--he did not assume the worst about people. But he was a skeptic; he knew who we are. He did not think that people with great degrees or great success were necessarily smart, for instance. He had no interest in credentialism. He once told me an economist was a fellow with a Phi Beta Kappa key on one end of his chain and no watch on the other. That's why they never know what time it is. He didn't say this with asperity, but with mirth. . . .

When I pressed him once, a few years out of the presidency, to say what he thought the meaning of his presidency was, he answered, reluctantly, that it might be fairly said that he "advanced the boundaries of freedom in a world more at peace with itself." And so he did. And what could be bigger than that?
Our Reagan Critics Are Temporarily Closet-Bound
James Lileks may have everything that needs to be said about the journalists, anchors, and pundits who are praising Reagan now, but have not for years and won't after several days. "We didn’t hate Reagan; we viewed him with indulgent contempt, since he was so obviously out of his depth. I mean, please: an actor? 'The people have spoken, the idiots,' I wrote in my journal after he was elected in 1980"

Lileks was young then. Now he's wiser. "What you don’t know when you’re 22 could fill a book," he concludes. "If you write that book when you’re 44, you haven’t learned a thing."
Re: A Great President
Terry Teachout reminds us of an entry about Reagan's letter-writing he wrote in September.
[A] lot of people [are] unaware that Ronald Reagan was the most prolific presidential correspondent of modern times. I’m not talking about the kind of "letter" produced in batch lots by a team of secretaries equipped with autopens, either. Of the 1,100 letters in this 934-page book, some 80% were written by hand, another 15% dictated. . . . On paper, Reagan was unselfconscious, fluent, surprisingly candid, and rarely eloquent—most of his best-remembered speeches were written by other people, and I doubt that anything in Reagan: A Life in Letters will make it into the next edition of Bartlett’s. . . .

I can’t help but wonder how the next generation of biographers will approach the next generation of subjects, now that e-mail has essentially replaced snail mail (and now that public officials are routinely warned not to keep diaries for fear that they’ll be subpoenaed in court cases). I wonder, too, whether there will ever again be so self-revealing a politician as Ronald Reagan, though that seems an odd word to use about a man whose colleagues all found him difficult to know.
Speaking of Mr. Reagan's letters, I bought his book of love letters for my sweet wife a couple years ago. I Love You, Ronnie is a warm, enjoyable featurette of a romantic life. I recommend it to lovers and Reagan admirers.
Saturday, June 05, 2004
Stars and Stripes, a poem
My brother-in-law, Matthew Cummings, writes poetry when he isn't teaching grade school or studying or enjoying his newly acquired wife, my wife's sister. For some time, I've wanted to read and possibly publish some of his writing on Brandywine Books. I now have a submission. Feel free to criticize, remark, or praise in the space provided.

Stars and Stripes
America, land of the free, home of the
brave new cheesesteak eaters and t.v.
guzzlers, I love you though you have kicked
my tushkie a dozen good times,
diced me with your razor strainers,
hurled me against the ropes, ka-pow, ka-pow,
and I have fallen with bloody nose only
to rise again and keep walking
your streets, sidewalks, and food aisles.
In your colleges the professors drone
of justice, integrity, and truth, but try being just
in law/politics/education or the Big Apple for that matter
and see how long that lasts before a pink slip, subpoena,
or list of death-threats lies in your hand.
America, I love you (though) you have shown me
crooked cops and politicians, plates of soggy food
and naive pacifists, for I have flown your blue sky
and know it, at least, cannot be bought or sold,
and that it covers more trees than decrepit city halls.
So it's my bet the good guys will win, the wheel of history
turn again and again, and the price of freedom burn,
cleansing you of sin.
Friday, June 04, 2004
BookExpo Coverage
Mark Sarvas of "The Elegant Variation" attended the BEA this week with Ron Hogan of He writes about it here and elsewhere on his blog.
Used Books Website to Offer New Books
{By way of The Literary Saloon] Abebooks, a prominent network for used booksellers, is now offering new books. In today's press release, "Hannes Blum, CEO and president of Abebooks explains, 'Recent studies show a meaningful shift in how people are buying and selling new and used books online. We sell 20,000 books a day and 97% of our customers buy new books as well as used. The number one reason people visit Abebooks is selection. By welcoming new books, Abebooks will become the best place to buy any book online.'" will not segregate new and used books to portions of their site. Both types will appear together in a title or author search.

How will this affect Perhaps the online retailer which seems to want to be the one stop shop of every customer will lose the hearts of readers as it pursues those of electronics, games, music, jewelry, appliance, and bric-a-brac shoppers.
Happy Anniversary, Armavirumque!
The New Criterion magazine's blog, Armavirumque, was launched a year ago Saturday. To celebrate, they are holding a blogfest and blog drive. If you aren't familiar with this blog, the writers describe themselves this way: "In the Aeneid, the Roman poet Virgil sang of 'arms and a man.' Month in and month out, The New Criterion expounds with great clarity and wit on the art, culture, and political controversies of our times. With postings of reviews, essays, links, recs, and news, Armavirumque seeks to continue this mission in accordance with the timetable of the digital age."

This weekend, why don't you check out Armavirumque and see what the fuss is about. And tell your congressman to support The New Criterion too. He'll be glad you did.
Thursday, June 03, 2004
[By way of Bunnie] In case you are wondering, Akshay Buddiga, 13, from Mountain Ridge Middle School, Colorado Springs, CO, correctly spelled this word in round 13 of the National Spelling Bee. I had not seen that word before, though I suppose it's a natural one. It means something related to Scheherazade, the sultan's wife who saves her neck from the axe by telling the sultan incomplete stories over 1,001 nights, finishing one and starting another each night.

If it's correct to say it this way, Akshay lost in Round 14 on the word "schwarmerei," which is a German word meaning "excessive or unwholesome sentiment." Webster can help you with the pronunciation, if you wish for help.

David Tidmarsh, 14, from Edison Intermediate Center, South Bend, IN, spelled "gaminerie" in Round 14 and "autochthonous" in Round 15 to win.

And I ran spell-check on this post before publishing. Thank you. You're too kind. Anyone would have done the same in my shoes.
Spirituality & Leadership, by Alan E. Nelson
Lately, we’ve heard a lot of talk about leadership, probably because the world needs good leaders in the midst of rapid change. Columnist and Author Alan Nelson says we do need leaders, spiritual leaders who direct primarily from a strong character, not from their position. Leadership is like a chess game in the modern world, Nelson says, and leaders are both players and pieces. They have unique strengths and weaknesses and while they must plan ahead, the complex playing field changes with each move.

In his book, Spirituality & Leadership: Harnessing the Wisdom, Guidance, and Power of the Soul, Nelson explains his terms and answers a long list of questions. "Leadership is a social relationship in which people allow individuals to influence them toward intentional change," he writes. Spirituality is that metaphysical dimension which relates to God and the soul, a dimension which includes everyone. So in combining the two, he says, "Spiritual leaders rely on God, lead to serve, take risks out of faith rather than ego, and listen to the Sprit regarding timing, decisions, and relationship issues."

"Because of the inherent conflicts between leading and being authentically spiritual, few genuine spiritual leaders exist," he observes. "The temptations of strong leaders and the process of leadership are often the opposite of what makes a person spiritual." But it can be done, if the leader will yield himself to God.

The book is organized for skipping around. Each chapter loosely groups several questions, helping you find the sections which interest you most. It easily accommodates group discussions with a moderator who has read it through. Nelson addresses 57 questions, including:
Wednesday, June 02, 2004
Who Are You Calling 'Undiscovered'?
[By way of Jared] A few days ago, Joe Carter of The Evangelical Outpost wrote about bloggers being offered publisher representation. He calls it "The Myth of the Discovered Blogger." He thinks there probably is a handful of undiscovered talent and skill out there, but on the whole, bloggers who know publishing insiders are the ones who will publish printed material. He links to that New Yorker article you may have seen elsewhere, and makes this interesting statement. "Other than Glen Reynolds, you’ve probably never even heard of the sites listed" in the New Yorker article, those being "the blogs Hit & Run, The Black Table, Dong Resin, Zulkey, Low Culture, Lindsayism, Megnut, Maud Newton, MemeFirst, Old Hag, PressThink, I Keep a Diary, Buzz Machine, Engadget, and Eurotrash."

"Never heard of those blogs," eh? I guess it’s all a matter of where you live in the blogosphere. I’ve heard of and read from six of them, though three of them only once. Maud Newton is not a discovered blogger, though she may be undiscovered by some publishers and agents. She’s one of the stars in the literary/art blogospheric firmament. She responds to New Yonkers article with irritation.

It appears some bloggers aren't waiting to be discovered. The Cubicle Dweller has self-published entries from his blog through in a book called, "Raised by Penguins." He says that with this book readers will be able to take his blog to the bathroom.

I can't vouch for the Cube, but I think John Bruce has the better idea for merging book and blog. He's serializing a novel called Killer App, currently in part 46. I don't know whether you must start at the beginning, but I hear the beginning is often a Very Good Place to Start.

I want to serialize a story here someday--when I grow up.
CC Blog: Seen Elsewhere
Stephany Aulenback wrote the following in a guest post for Maud Newton, Friday, May 28.
This week a couple of clueless articles having to do with a startling new phenomenon called 'blogging' appeared in The New Yorker and The New York Times. I have a suggestion for the doddering editors of these venerable old media institutions. Perhaps next week they could publish articles announcing that there are these things called PAPER and PENS and that some people use the PENS to write things down on the PAPER. And even though a few of the people who use the PENS to write things down on the PAPER may eventually write down things that will be published -- however ill-advisedly -- in NEWSPAPERS, MAGAZINES, or BOOKS, the people who use the PAPER and PENS are very dim, narcissistic people who mistakenly believe they have the right to write things down and to show them to others. It is unhealthy when many ordinary people start to write things down and then show them to others! Writing things down and showing them to others could give these dim, narcissistic people pleasure and a sense of community. There is even a dangerous -- but admittedly slight -- possibility that a large number of ordinary people writing things down and showing them to one another could eventually lead to the development of something actually resembling a democracy! It is important for the public to remember that writing things down and showing others what you have written is only for people who work for venerable old media institutions! Anyone else who does so is pretty much the same as a drug addict!
William Manchester Died Yesterday, 82
Author and Historian William Manchester has died at home in Middletown, CT. He was 82.

The LA Times quotes biographer Douglas Brinkley on Manchester, saying he "was a 'conscious literary stylist' who realized that history was like telling stories in front of a roaring fire. 'He understood that there's nothing wrong with writing history as being a page-turner,' Brinkley said."
Manchester lived to write. A pipe-smoking, bookish man given to reading German history for relaxation, he was fond of quoting his friend and mentor Mencken, who said, "Writing does for me what milking does for a cow."

Manchester's two published Churchill volumes joined a crowded field of some 650 biographies of Britain's wartime prime minister, but many believe Manchester's books stand out from the rest.

"In terms of writing, he's in a class by himself," said Richard Langworth, editor of Finest Hour, the quarterly journal of the Churchill Centre in Washington, D.C. "People that don't ordinarily read history will pick up William Manchester and read him cover to cover," said Langworth. "He was a great writer, a great stylist."

In a 2001 interview for the Palm Beach Post, a stroke-weakened Manchester talked about the unfinished final volume of his Churchill trilogy, his regret over never having written a memoir of growing up in Springfield, and the danger of political correctness, which he called "a poisoner of language" that "makes for bad history, bad thinking."

But there was a recurring theme as he talked, one that dominated his dreams at night. "I miss my wife," he said several times during the interview. She is buried in a wooded Middletown cemetery above the Connecticut River.

"That's where I'm going," Manchester said. "A simple tombstone. Name, date of birth, date of death. My brother-in-law asked if I want a military funeral. No. I did my part. I fought. I was a Marine, and a good one. But that's not who I am. I'm a writer. Eighteen books. I did my part there, too."
In this Reuters story, Little, Brown and Co. publishers declared their intention to have Palm Beach Post writer Paul Reid help Manchester complete Churchill trilogy only two weeks ago. A spokesman for the publisher said, "Everyone at Little, Brown is deeply saddened by the passing of this great writer."
Tuesday, June 01, 2004
When did the Queen Become the Most Powerful Piece in Chess?
This afternoon, I was thinking about Alan Nelson's leadership metaphor that leaders in the modern world are like chess players and pieces, unique in ability, equal in weakness, and responsible for the direction of the team. Nelson's thought struck another one in me. Why is the queen the most powerful player on the board? If previous centuries have been so dominated by patriarchy, why would the game designer place a powerful queen in what would become the greatest strategy game on earth? I thought this, turned to my Google toolbar, and behold, a book has been written on this subject.

Birth of the Chess Queen: A History, by Marilyn Yalom, came to us last month from HarperCollins. The publisher reports, "In India, Persia, and the Arab lands, where the game was first played, a general, or vizier (chief counselor to the king), occupied the square where the queen now stands. Not until the year 1000, two hundred years after Arab conquerors brought chess to southern Europe, did a chess queen appear on the board. Initially she was the weakest piece, moving only one square at a time on the diagonal, yet by 1497, during the reign of Isabella of Castile, the chess queen had become the formidable force she is today."

Publisher's Weekly says, "Yalom introduces readers to significant queens, empresses and countesses as she traces the spread of chess across Europe. With anecdotes, art, legends and literature, she shows how the chess queen became 'the quintessential metaphor for female power in the Western world.' Yalom offers an outstanding glimpse at chess as a courting ritual: 'The chess queen and the cult of love grew up together and formed a symbiotic relationship, each feeding on the other.'"

Amazon Reviewer Eric Lyman doesn't think Yalom supports her arguments enough for skeptical reader like him. He says, "She writes that the queen was able to give the vizier the boot thanks to the rising status of women in medieval Europe, the same period when the Virgin Mary started to play more than a bit role in the church's teachings. Ms. Yalom comes up with other examples to support the idea, some well known and some less well known. . . . But while I found this role call of powerful and iconoclastic women interesting, I was ultimately unconvinced by her argument. These women spanned too long a period and were too dissimilar to appear to be any more than fascinating historical anomalies, which is just what I think the queen chess piece is likely to be."
BookExpo This Week
The BookExpo America, describing itself as the primier event of the Book Industry, swells in Chicago from June 3-6. Former President Clinton will throw out the keynote address.

Apparently, opportunists are harvesting advanced reader copies, freebies from publishers hoping to spark interest, and selling them on E-bay. Being the honest citizen I am, I've never thought of this.
What's Your Summer Reading?
So, the powers that be and those who would-be are talking about summer reading again. What would you suggest to the English-speaking world? To make your answers the most accurate, what book or books do you plan read in the next few months? Could it be The Full Cupboard of Life, by Alexander McCall Smith? Maybe the thriller which is supposedly smarter than The DaVinci Code, The Rule of Four, by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason? Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, which may be Oprah's best pick yet?

My best answer may be Growing Up on the Edge of the World, by Phil Callaway, because I'm reading it now. It fits the summer read profile for being a light, fun book, and though it isn't a riot like Wodehouse's books, it is funny. I'll post a review when I finish it. I haven't decided what other fiction I will read, though now that I see Oprah has recommended Anna Karenina, I may finally get around to reading that work. I'll keep you informed, up-to-date, in the know as it were with my "current reading" list on the right side of this page. But what about you? What will you read?
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