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Archive for the ‘Literature’ Category

What book did you recently read that satisfied you so much that you just HAD to recommend it to your friends who read?
My answer is “The Bottoms” by Joe R Lansdale
A thriller with echoes of William Faulkner and Harper Lee, The Bottoms is classic American storytelling in its truest, darkest, and more affecting form.
Its 1933 in East Texas and the Depression lingers in the air like a slow moving storm. When a young Harry Collins and his little sister stumble across the body of a black woman who has been savagely mutilated and left to die in the bottoms of the Sabine River, their small town is instantly charged with tension. When a second body turns up, this time of a white woman, there is little Harry can do from stopping his Klan neighbors from lynching an innocent black man. Together with his younger sister, Harry sets out to discover who the real killer is, and to do so they will search for a truth that resides far deeper than any river or skin color.

BAD PARENTS Appalling parents abound in The Goldfinch – particularly fathers. Larry Decker and Mr Pavlikovsky compete for the worst father award, both beating their sons whilst failing to nurture or even feed them. Hobie’s father is a sadistic bully who forces his son to work for him without pay. Welty’s father abandons his son and his daughter as one is disabled and the other illegitimate.
Note: Miserable families have distinct strains, often caused by bad fathers. Tartt gets it!  Tolstoy recognized that happy families are much alike, but miserable ones have distinct factors that give rise to and exacerbate the misery.

You won’t believe some of the language Truman uses. Cant print what’s in the snippet below.. Funny how Amazon let a typo get by.

“Soon after we were married, I discovered there was a fine reason why her eyes had such a marvelous moronic serenity. She was a moron. Or damn near. Certainly she wasn’t playing with a full deck. Good old humorless hulking Hulga, yet so dainty and mincingly clean—housewifey.”

Hilarious! Truman’s wit & sharp tongue make this a fun read.Kitty has claws!

“I wish I could dash downstairs and find a bus, the Magic Mushroom Express, a chartered torpedo that would rocket me to the end of the line, zoom me all the way to that halcyon discotheque: Father Flanagan’s Nigger Queen Kosher Café.”

Another quote I like “”A blond, and how!—his skin had the golden oleo gleam that comes from long Cherry Grove weekends. Yet, overall, he seemed decidedly moldy—a sort of suntanned Uriah Heep. “Yes?” he inquired in a voice that crawled coolly through the air like an exhalation of mentholated smoke.”
I finished it and gave it three stars out of four. If you don’t know these celebrities, it isn’t engaging, but I stuck it out because I like his style of writing, and he can sure read people! I did look up the identities of the characters (Wikipedia), and it made a lot more sense, but most of these people are long dead and not too relevant today.


What inspired Donna Tartt to write “The Goldfinch.

The Inspiration for The Goldfinch   Tartt’s initial idea to begin her novel with an explosion in an art gallery was inspired by a terrorist attack in 2000. The destruction of sixth century Buddhist carvings at Bamiyan in Afghanistan by Islamic fundamentalists prompted the idea of writing about terrorism and the destruction of art.

You simply must read “The Goldfinch.” Vanity Fair doesn’t speak for all of us

Then, there are some serious critics who just plain don’t like “The Goldfinch.”


I finally read the first of the 28 Tom Swift novels that I bought from Amazon for Kindle in 2012. “Tom Swift and His Motor Cycle.” It takes you back in time to the ’30s, and has everything a boy could want in a story. Action, adventure, villains, plots, conspiracies, etc.
I recommend this if, like me, you grew up after Tom Swift books were popular. I grew up on the Hardy Boys and Bamba the Jungle Boy.
Thanks to my good friend Drew Hevle for recommending this fine collection.
Included in this 2,401 page collection (for Kindle) are:
Tom Swift and His Motor Cycle
Tom Swift and His Motor Boat
Tom Swift and His Airship
Tom Swift and His Submarine Boat
Tom Swift and His Electric Runabout
Tom Swift and His Wireless Message
Tom Swift Among the Diamond Makers
Tom Swift in the Caves of Ice
Tom Swift and His Sky Racer
Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle
Tom Swift in the City of Gold
Tom Swift and His Air Glider
Tom Swift in Captivity
Tom Swift and His Wizard Camera
Tom Swift and His Great Searchlight
Tom Swift and His Giant Cannon
Tom Swift and His Photo Telephone
Tom Swift and His Aerial Warship
Tom Swift and His Big Tunnel
Tom Swift In the Land of Wonders
Tom Swift and His War Tank
Tom Swift and His Air Scout
Tom Swift and His Undersea Search
Tom Swift Among the Fire Fighters
Tom Swift and His Electric Locomotive
Tom Swift and His Giant Telescope
Tom Swift and the Electronic Hydrolung
Tom Swift and the Visitor from Planet X

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, as documented in the Hebrew Bible, angels are said to have free will. Without free will, how could there be fallen angels. In Islam, angels do not have free will, but are eternally faithful to God. It seems to me fertile ground for all sorts of fictional musings! Further, with free will, we need not think of demons as 100% bad and angels as 100% good. So, there could be a confluence of sorts between members of the good/evil teams. What do you think?

Salon Magazine’s Cary Tennis wrote in the October 13, 2011 issue titled “No, I can’t edit your manuscript for free.”

Cary writes about books for a living, so people think he’d love to critique their prose.

This was just what I needed to be prompted to write a blog entry on the subject. I read a lot, and am a member of  a book club (reading group) that really doesn’t have a name, but we do have a website the Facebook page” href=”″>as well as a Google Blog at .

Among ourselves, we speak of “the bookclub” in referring to our group. We’ve been meeting since 1989, usually on Thursday nights once a month (loosely followed).

In a typical month I get three requests for critiques, reviews, testimonials, etc.  I have  a full-time job, and am amazed to think that authors really think a complete stranger is going to spend a few hours to read their book and to write a review or critique as a courtesy (no compensation).

“Angry Books Writer”  wrote to Cary (Salon’s ‘Advice Columnist’ and wrote, in part,  “But, even if I had the knowledge they seek, why should I use it to benefit them? Reading and editing a manuscript would take a helluva long time. What’s more, it’s work, work that other people get paid for.

Cary advised the exact same strategy that I came up with. If someone asks you to do something you don’t have time to do, charge money for it so that it can realize a higher place in the hierarchy of your “to do” list. I figured out how much I make on an hourly basis, tacked on 30% (remember, this is overtime!) , estimated the time required, and gave a quote.

Nobody that I’ve sent a quote to has chosen to respond, and that is just fine by me. In my off time, I like to work out at the gym, go to salad bars on the weekend, go shopping, improve my house, and take care of my 110 gallon aquarium when I’m not working on web pages or participating in Facebook and Twitter, and reading multiple topics of interest.

If “they” do not feel the expense is justified, why would I feel the time and effort is justified?

When somebody asks you if you would do this kind of work for them, tell the person that you do occasionally take on such projects, in a selective way, and here is your hourly rate. And see what happens.




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This book was given to me by a coworker who is from Wales and is very knowledgeable about the US Civil War. Nathaniel Starbuck is the son of a Boston preacher who finds himself about to be tarred and feathered while in Virginia. He is rescued by a man with a grandiose view of himself, and the Confederacy. Nate finds himself enmeshed in a web of relationships that propels him into the midst of the conflict, and he fights reluctantly, but bravely. In the end, he substantially adds to the successful routing of the Yankees by the brave Southern Freedom Fighters at the battle of Manassas (aka Bull Run). This is the first book in the “Nate Starbuck” series that consists of four books: Rebel, Copperhead, Battle Flag, and Bloody Ground.
I am grateful to Norm for giving me this book, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, being on my father’s side, deeply rooted in the Old South. In fact, I’m a direct descendant of a Confederate officer. More . . . Louis Hemmi – Houston, Texas 10/1/2011

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This was the most delicious literary treat of 2011 for me. I had read Mr. Smith’s first novel, a brilliant debut, “Child 44,” and instantly put him on my list of authors whose future work will be required reading for me.
While “Child 44” was about solving murders and Russia in the Stalinist era, so “The Secret Speech” is set against a backdrop of Kruschev’s repudiation of Stalin shortly after his death.

While “Child 44” involved stories about those denounced by the state, and sent to prison camps in the gulags, “The Secret Speech” finds great human stories about the repatriation of political and other prisoners from the gulags back into Russia. This involves the notorious ‘Vory” who are the Russian gangsters, living outside the law, but not immune to the politics of the day.

In short, for character development, brilliant storytelling, and keeping the reader interested and involved, you can’t find many writers Tom Rob Smith’s equal.

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Southern writers are men and women who have so enchanted, scolded, entertained, educated, and so amazed us that I am in awe of them, their stories, and their life experiences.

Some of their stories are influenced by the prurient, such as adultery and excesses including drinking and gambling; however they manage to make their characters who fall prey to these vices endearing to us. They reveal the kinds of circumstances and motivations that make all this fit together. Take for example Tennessee Williams. Prurience is in all his stories in abundance – from Blanche in Streetcar Named Desire to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. If you knew my family, you’d know that they could have been the inspiration for that Hot Tin Roof story.

Big Daddy was like my great grandfather — a man larger than life; he could have inspired Tom Wolfe to write of “A Man in Full.” But, my parents turned out like his children — Bo and his wife (played by Elizabeth Taylor in a film adaptation with Burl Ives and Paul Newman). High hopes and shattered dreams — I’ve seen it all firsthand in real life, and even more so in Southern fiction. It’s no wonder I’m fascinated by this genre. For me, it’s not just a form of writing, but reflection of the society I grew up with.

In the books, I admire the heroes, while in my life, I admire those who saved me from being stifled like a weed under black plastic. They gave me their morals, their values, the strength of their intellect, and the high expectations that made me try to be better than I would have been otherwise. Disappointment is no stranger to us, though our poverty is a genteel one. We can sip tea made in a solid silver teapot, but not have any idea what we’re going to do in order to fill a $300  prescription.

I think Thomas Wolfe (no relation to Thomas Wolfe) was one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century, though he only lived 37 years. His “Look Homeward Angel” is so beautiful that I read it once and so loved it that I re-read it to appreciate his writing which was largely autobiographical. It’s rare that I do that since there is always so much I long to have the time to read. W.O. Gantt in his stories is  a rascal in his own way, and the boundless love he has for his children, and the zest for life he enjoys are truly remarkable. His wife Elizabeth is a perfect foil, being a very pragmatic woman. Southern literature is full of strong women — yet they are wise enough to remain feminine despite their strength and mental acumen. I fell in love with the protagonist, Eugene. The whole of  Look Homeward,  Angel show us who Thomas Wolfe was as a child and young man. His ability to gain admittance to Harvard University and his later experiences  in Europe were all remarkable, and true!

In my book club,, we have decided on a topic of “books by Southern Writers.” We know who the Southern writers are, and I thought I’d take a stab at defining what it great and good and different about their writing. It’s impossible to discuss Southern writing without looking at the history of the South.

More emphasis on the Gothic and the  supernatural  in a casual manner.  The term “Gothic” is used by me to denote the storytelling tradition of the Goths. From these came tales of vampires, werewolves, witches and other things that delighted and frightened children for centuries.

There were two other story telling influences — the Celtic and the African. Given all this, it shouldn’t have surprised anyone that Rock ‘n Roll came out of the South.

Southerners are more likely to see their religion as a central part of their lives and certainly their communities. Southerners are in touch with their piety, but also their vices. There’s a sort of wildness about this land. Another thing that strikes me is that unlike our northern cousins, we don’t hide our ‘eccentrics’  in attics or mental hospitals. We put them on the porch and let ‘em rock. We say good morning to them when they take their imaginary dog for a walk by the courthouse (Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil) or seek the counsel of a friend long dead. I sometimes shout at my personal ghost — his name usually, so as not to forget that there are indeed some things that one simply does not get over despite the relentless march of time.  As I see the middle-age (if I live to be 104!) paunch, the graying eyebrows, and the other reminders of what is to come, I think sometimes that my ghost had the right idea to exit stage right and be remembered as he was in his prime.

The influence of immigrants is not strong in Southern writing. Most immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries landed and were processed up North, and they pretty much stayed up their, believing that the South was an odd place and believed the Anglos’ prejudices about Southern attitudes, accents, and way of life. The way thousands of these immigrants were pressed into military service of the Union against the freedom-loving Southerners was just shameful.

Southerners have a lot of pride, perhaps to the point of hubris, and a feeling of being special (i.e., perhaps at least a little better overall for being taught the value of courtesy) from our Yankee cousins.

People in the South tend to enjoy words and embrace orality (the history of oral tradition), only too glad to breathe new life into old stories by setting them down to paper. We do so get a kick out of our natural talent for having a ‘linguistic flair.’

Here’s an example from my own family:

The Toast

As told by Gene Wilkinson of Roswell, Georgia. April, 2003 to his wife’s grandson, Louis Latimer Hemmi.

“My uncle Jim, from West Point, Georgia went to the World’s Fair held in Saint Louis during the latter part of the nineteenth century (ed. note—closed Dec 21, 1904). The way he told it, he came on to a group of Civil War veterans – South and Yankee vets.”

A Northerner held his glass high and proposed the following toast.

“Here’s to the golden eagle,
this wonderful bird of prey.
She feeds on Northern harvests
and dumps on Southern clay.”

A Confederate vet made his rebuttal toast;

“Here’s to dear old Dixie
that land so fair and rich
She needs no turds from
your goddamned birds
you Yankee son of a bitch.”

The English language does indeed evolve wherever it is spoken, and the South is no exception. The American Heritage dictionary does a good job of etymology, and is deserving of praise for noting that words such as ‘tump’ are “chiefly Southern” or “chiefly northern” for “you’se” or “lawr.”

I’d love to hear from you? What do you find special about the South?

Louis Hemmi – Houston, Texas

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