Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Just Showing Up

Occasionally I've been asked to read a book and write a review about it Whenever that happens I'm flattered, but also a little hesitant. I have this feeling readers appreciate a book review when it finds fault with the writer and what he or she has created. It seems to me, sometimes, that a reviewer is not doing critical thinking about the book at hand, unless he can somehow find fault with it or at least make suggestions for improvement. I think I've done maybe six or eight reviews and I can't recall finding anything to publicly complain about in any of those books. In the first place I don't feel as though I have the right to criticize another writer's creation. His world and my world are different and there's no way I'm going to be able to put myself inside his head and have different thoughts. For me writing a review is a chance to tell what the book is about and indicate why someone besides me might want to make the effort to read it. Usually there are some good reasons. I'm especially fond of reviewing a new writer's first book. I see it as a chance to be encouraging and perhaps draw some readers to the new book. We joke around these days about some of the lousy work ethics we experience in the market place, and we note that ninety percent of succeeding at a job is just in showing up. For that reason alone the new writer deserves to hear some priase, because he has "showed up." And when your writing fiction, poetry, history, and non-fiction just showing up takes courage. Courage and persistance and determination. I know because I've done it. I was very lucky when someone reviewed my book and wrote favorably about it. They were kind with their remarks and gave the book a nice endorsement. Now I try to return that favor. I've reviewed other books that are antiques. Books that have gathered dust for years on a shelf or in a cardboard box and its been my good fortune to unearth the book and discover it again. That's fun also. To write a review about some long forgotten or minor book and try to convince people it might be worth reading again. Sometimes its surprising how current some old works are and how they too have something valuable to say about our lives today. There's more then enough angst, anger and rage in the world these days. Popular TV "reality" shows make a virtue out of voting people "off the island." Drivers honk their horns and flash hand singles at other drivers out of some mistaken idea that they may be better drivers or know more then the person in front. Audiences shout cat calls and hoots when a non-descript person steps out on to the glaring stage. People have drawn an impression of that person before they've even heard her speak or sing. I think that's as true in entertainment as it is in schools and in business. So you won't read any critical rants or diatribes about books from me. I figure we're all in this together and there's room in the lifeboat for everyone.

Friday, April 10, 2009


"Facebook" everyone says. You got to be on Facebook. Do I? I replied somewhat cynically. How come? Everybody's there, they tell me. You should be too. It's the latest thing. Oh Really? Hmmm. Well maybe they're right. After all I am a computer neanderthal. I thought figuring out how to post this blog was pretty advanced. Well, lets see. I guess if I go on Facebook lots of people will be able to see me and and then I'll be able to see them. It's Social networking, they say. I suppose so. But when I was boy social networking would have been the local Grange and the party telephone line. Everyone knew everyone else's "ring" and would listen in. The soaps were on the radio so the party line provided another form of entertainment especially for the farm wife having a little rest and a cup of tea after putting up her jellies. When a child came up missing at supper time it was an easy matter to pick up the phone and ask if anyone had seen the boy and if they had to send him home. Uncle Mont and Mr. Towle both raised some cattle and they shared vet expenses when it came time for insemination. Sometimes this took a little bit of coordination to set the right day and time and where would the vet go first, so Mont would ring up Mr. Towle to talk about the cattle business. But before launching into the matter at hand, Mont would clear his throat and loudly announce into the mouthpiece that he and Mr. Towle were about to discuss breeding, and maybe the ladies would like to hang up. Mont would have a satisfied look on his face as he would hear the various clicks on the line as the prim farm wives hung up and left him and Mr. Towle to discuss the finer aspects of cattle breeding. I don't know how we did it so many years ago, but people knew their neighbors even those a few miles away. And they knew who had which jobs and where they worked and who their kids were. We recognized everyone's car or truck when we passed
them on the road. Grandfather ran a successful service station and towing business
in town and he used the one telephone in their house. There was no phone in the shop. But somehow he got by. He received the calls he needed to get, he had plenty of cars to work on, and he made a living. Heck even when I was at the university the dorms were so decedent as to have a pay phone on every floor. Imagine. Usually down at one end of the hall. There were no phones in the rooms. Nor TV's or computers for that matter. When the phone rang someone nearby would pick it up and then yell out "Hey Bud its for you." Somehow we lived and prospered and I don't think the quality of our education suffered much. Social networking on campus meant hanging out at the student union. So I don't know. Is Facebook something new and different? Or is it just another incarnation of what we've always done? If Facebook weren't here would we still be listening in on the party line and would we know our neighbors just as well?