Monday, March 2, 2015

BLURBS


"Younger writers are always looking for "blurbs," one of the few words that sounds exactly as awful as the crime it's describing." Brian K. Vaughan, Saga, volume 3.

Friday, February 27, 2015

SOCCER JOEY

This was taken when Joey was about 5 and playing soccer at Trenholm.

Monday, February 16, 2015

HULSE'S BLACK MOUNTAIN

I don't often post reviews that I already put on Goodreads, but in this case I thought the book is worthy of added exposure.

At year's end, S. M. Hulse's Black River better be on the annual list of best debut novels. Simple as that. An amazing achievement for a writer, even if it wasn't their first, and any author would be proud to have written this story. Not only is the English beautiful and the story nuanced, but the delivery is at times mesmerizing. She refused to take the easy road, delivering subtle twists and riding down paths that perhaps the reader may not want to follow but that make the story stronger. Not once did I feel that the dialogue from any of the characters seemed out of place or inconsistent. Even the few stretches of the story told from the protagonist's wife's point of view (and all one can do is nod your head in acknowledgement of her feelings) strengthen the whole. If I could assign it 4.5 on the GR scale, I would. Perhaps even a 5. Probably better than any writer I have taken up recently, she captured the intense anger, hurt, sadness, uncertainty held within a basically good, intense man who experienced horrible brutalization and deepest loss, brought to head by an even greater shot to his heart. A difficult, taciturn, laconic, god-fearing man, who once was a master fiddle player, Wesley Carver struggles with his strained relationship with his now-grown stepson, place in a changed world, memories of the worst day of his life, attempt to reach out to a troubled soul. . . losses and experiences that would unmoor almost any person. Even when there is awful symmetry in the narrative, it doesn't seem forced or contrived. This is not an easy read, as one will wrestle with questions of faith, familial conflict, fury, and forgiveness. There are some paths the overly sensitive may not want to tread. People who have been bullied, incarcerated or served as corrections officers, suffered from the inexplicable actions of others, lived through the passing of loved ones may have to put the book down at times. Right from the start she sends the reader down a melancholy trail. And yet, when finished, you realize you have read what might be a small masterpiece---definitely a superior piece of art---and I encourage you to read this book. If there are weaknesses (and what effort doesn't), I didn't readily see them. A few paragraphs, in my opinion, were damned near personal and perfect.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

TROOP 324

The boys spent two Saturdays gathering food for Harvest Hope Foodbank under the banner of Scouting for Food, and with basically six scouts gathered around 900 pounds, resulting in nearly 1100 meals for the needy; the cub scouts were not far behind, with around 800 pounds. Pretty impressive. Joey and Chimo are standing behind Batman, and I am peeking over the gathered group.

Friday, February 13, 2015

HIV/AIDS HISTORY

Last night at the Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections in Thomas Cooper Library I attended the official opening of an exhibit I rather not have expected to ever be attempted here in this bastion of conservatism, South Carolina, but there it was, a nice collection of books, pamphlets, posters, magazines, ephemera and other materials relating to HIV/AIDS activism. Dr. Ed Maddon, who I have known mostly as a poet (first laureate of Columbia) and collector, gave the opening remarks for HIV/AIDS IN AMERICA: THE FIRST DECADE. I knew of him when I first began studying at the University of South Carolina, but only peripherally, when a small group of conservative history students were engaged in a bit of nastiness toward Ed, an episode I'd rather forget because of its ugliness. The first time I ever really chatted with him, well after having been out of academe, was when I sold him a small collection of sixties/seventies chapbooks from Dr. Bruccoli's collection at the annual book festival. Since then I have run into him a few times at readings. It seems so far in the past, but the outbreak of the disease colored my life, as it did so many, changing attitudes and behavior and taking away so many people, even some of my friends. It changed America, an perhaps even changed the way people thought about and related to populations that were usually left in the shadows, shunned. It is a nice collection (thank goodness it is archived and preserved as part of a larger collection held by the university) and worth perusing; I had the feeling that the curators purposely downplayed the more negative aspects of conservative hatred, and went with a more positive approach, highlighting memoirs, prevention activism, and the efforts of individuals and organizations to combat the disease as well as support the victims. I encourage people to visit the exhibit.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

GIFT

For my recent birthday Chimo gave me a bear bowl, apparently originally made for Father's Day, but it somehow got left at school, and when he recovered it after the summer, he put it away for February to roll around. A nice piece. You can see he has very good sense of proportion, also seen in his drawings. Both my guys have some artistic talent. Maybe I should call it the "Papa Bear" bowl.

Friday, February 6, 2015

MELANCHOLIA

I suffer from a strange condition, one I wonder anyone else similarly experiences. The first time I recall ever feeling it was at my high-school graduation, as I gazed at the gathering crowd in old Curtis Hixon Auditorium in Tampa in 1978, and thought about the end of my public-school years, when I was struck by a fierce constriction in my chest, a squeezing that was physically painful and mortifying, combined with an overwhelming sadness. It didn't last long, but it was strange and troubling, and I quickly threw it off. I experienced it again at my college graduation, and lesser occurrences while attending similar ceremonies for family and friends. I thought, for sure, it must be some aversion to these events. Then, it started happening in response to certain songs (such as Harry Chapin's Cat's in the Cradle and Bread's The Diary). It also seemed to hit me, with varying pain and discomfort, at certain movies (such as Tom Hank's Philadelphia) or television shows, especially when a long series that I enjoyed was coming to an end, and often in the final episode if they chose to utilize flashbacks. Sometimes I react so strongly to them that I have to stop watching, or skip over a portion in order to miss only a little of the finale. I am usually able to complete shows (as I now watch most of my television series on dvd), but just as often I am forced to sit up, or get up and walk around, and frequently I will read for about an hour, which seems to calm me. I have even, when struck particularly hard, taken a Xanax. It happened again last night, a not-so-terrible one this time thankfully, with the closing episode of True Blood, a show that stumbled a bit in its last seasons, but whose characters and story lines I have enjoyed. I think it may be that I suffer from situation depression (the worst of which was my two-year episode after the death of my mother), and these types of events or entertainment trigger minor episodes of the condition, or melancholia. Of course, that could be me just self diagnosing, and since it doesn't seem potentially fatal I will continue to enjoy my shows and just be careful in the end. That being said, I am going to miss the Bon Temps crowd (even though it seemed they were not too engaged in the late seasons, perhaps tired with the show and wanting to get it over).