In Which the Gecko Barks About Books

A Cub Scout Reading and Writing Merit Badge. I was never a scout -- or a Weblo *snigger* -- but if I was, I would have had this badge.A Life Less Ordinary? Check. But It’s Books and Writing That Float My Boat

I suppose I have lead a life less ordinary – not a fantastic life, or one worthy of particular note, no — not the stuff of books. But I’ve taken roads less traveled that have taken me far away from my MidWestern, suburban American roots. Such is the life of a journalist with a penchant for wanderlust, I suppose.

Nevertheless, at the end of the day, when left to my own devices, two of the things I like to do are read books and write about books, which one can do anywhere. Perhaps I should have minored in journalism and majored in English back in college — fewer reporter’s notebooks and more books.

But then it’s journalism that set me on those Bobby Frost paths less traveled (a metaphor I’ve employed befor). I sometimes wonder if it was my experiences as a journalist that gave me wanderlust, or was it an inherently restless nature that was subsequently fed/exacerbated by writing gigs? I suspect the latter. Maybe it was a book that I read as an impressionable child.

*cough* Tolkien *cough*

In any event I do know – unless we assume the depressing idea of fate and predestination – that were it not for my travel experiences as a journalist — namely a month spent in China — I doubt I would have ever pursued a career in teaching ESL as a means of living abroad. Whether that continues to develop into some sort of second career, or not, remains to be seen. But if it does, it will always be an offshoot of my first career in a very direct way.

I need to find a faux pen and ink drawing of a keyboard; I think that would be a more apt symbol than ye olde feathered quill and ink. But I suppose it’s irrelevant at this point; I do what I do. And lately, in my free time, as the quadriceps tendon snafu settles down, that’s been reading and writing (but no arithmetic) — reading books and writing about books.

I don’t want to repeat myself too much though; let it suffice to say that Barking Book Reviews has gotten a lot of attention from me as of late; most recently it was to review the latest from one of my favorites: The Drowning Girl: A Memoir, by Caitlín R. Kiernan.

Consequently, Barking Book Reviews has been getting some interesting attention from without, which you can read about on my quote-unquote professional site.

As I note there, where will it lead, if anywhere? And to what end? I don’t know. But here’s to hoping it continues to be unexpected and a bit out of the ordinary.

“I’m quite illiterate, but I read a lot.”

I’m sick of just liking people. I wish to God I could meet somebody I could respect.

J. D. Salinger: 1919-2010. Say hello to Somerset Maugham, would you?And so you die, and the world is left just a little more wanting than it was before, or so I feel — even though you were in this world but not really of it, I suspect. Strange that I should be so saddened by the death of someone that I never met, who wrote a handful of books and short stories before I was born. But like so many youths, you spoke to me through Holden — here was someone who wasn’t phony (to use Holden’s term); here was someone who actually understood. In a world overwhelmed with bullshit, here was a sliver of truth. And unlike so many youths who go on to acquiesce to or otherwise be absorbed by the seemingly inherent phoniness of adulthood and maturity, you carried the banner until your death at 91. You retreated in the face of overwhelming odds to your “cabin in the west” much like Holden yearned to do, choosing solitude over surrender. You fought the good fight in your own way until the end; for this, I salute you.

It was a very stupid thing to do, I’ll admit, but I hardly didn’t even know I was doing it.

You never sold the movie rights to Catcher in the Rye; never let it be raped and ransacked by Hollywood. You never let it be cheapened for the quick, easy money. You never sold it out — cliché, I know, but nevertheless for this I am ever thankful (unlike myself and so many others, you learned from your mistakes). So I shudder to think what might happen to your creation now that you are gone. Who will protect Holden from the phonies now? Who will pick up your banner now that you have dropped it?

I recall your daughter writing a nasty memoir suggesting that you were an awful father; I never read it, but suspect that you probably were. That doesn’t change the esteem I have for you as an author. I wonder if your survivors are already talking to Hollywood about the film rights to your work; the thought both saddens and angers me to no end. I take solace in the fact that your works won’t be in the public domain until 2080, long after I’ll be dead myself. If you were smart — and I suspect you were — then Holden is safe for the next 70 years, at least, whatever your heirs might do.

Goddam money. It always ends up making you blue as hell.

If they do defile your work while there is still breath in my lungs, I for one will not see it; Holden will forever remain as he is pictured in my mind’s eye. And since I find myself here in Sai Gon at the moment — you’d be amused to know that I should be studying this morning, but instead I’m sitting in a cafe wasting time writing this — I will burn a joss stick in your honor this evening. Perhaps I will even make an impromptu altar to you, if I can find an illegal, xeroxed copy of Catcher In the Rye mixed in between copies of Lonely Planet Thailand and the latest Dan Brown defecations that can be found among the “book” sellers (and hookers and pimps and “masseurs” and drug dealers and motorbike taxi drivers oh my!) that haunt Pham Ngu Lau by night. These two things are the least I can do for someone that gave me such a gift as Catcher.

J.D. Salinger 1919-2010

An artist’s only concern is to shoot for some kind of perfection, and on his own terms, not anyone else’s.

Interstitial Chevette

the cover of William Gibson's All Tomorrow's PartiesThe wind tugs at her hair, longer now than when she lived here, and a feeling that she can’t name comes like something she has always known, and she has no interest climbing farther, because she knows now that the home she remembers is no longer there. Only its shell, humming in the wind, where once she lay wrapped in blankets, smelling machinist’s grease and coffee and fresh-cut wood.

Where, it comes to her, she was sometimes happy, in the sense of being somehow complete, and ready for what another day might bring.

And knows she is no longer that, and that while she was, she scarcely knew it.

William Gibson, All Tomorrow’s Parties

And it was ever thus. We can never go home again. We must keep moving.