Friday, May 29th, vacation day.
Friday, June 6, Forgotten non-fiction books.
Find a list all forgotten books here.
Michael J. Solender is a freelance writer based in Charlotte, NC. He writes a weekly Neighborhoods column for the Charlotte Observer and is a contributor to Charlotte ViewPoint. His fiction has appeared online at 6S, Powder Burn Flash, A Twist of Noir, Flashshot and Dogzplot (soon). He blogs here: http://notfromhereareyou.blogspot.com/
Ethical Responsibility in the Blogosphere
David Wallace’s One Nation Under Blog challenges political bloggers toAndy Henion can see Canada from his backyard, making him an expert in foreign relations. He recently stopped chewing his nails after his four-year-old daughter picked up the habit. He thoroughly enjoys muffins and R.E.M. and dogs that jump and slobber on him (fuck all that behavior training). His work has appeared in Hobart and Spork and Plots with Guns and, most of all, The Jargon
embrace a higher standard in cyberspace.
The cacophony of political ads that assaulted network and cable television
viewers in the waning days of the 2008 election was mind-numbing even for
the most interested undecided voter. One after another, the candidates and
their surrogates pummeled viewers with their message, often offering
contradictory claims and viewpoints.
Consumers of political perspective who turn to the internet, more
specifically the blogosphere, for their sustenance have no assurance that
anything they read is factually accurate, verifiable or even from an
identifiable or credible source.
One Nation Under Blog (Brown Books Publishing Group), written by U.S.
Department of Homeland Security Advisory Council member and 3 term former
mayor of Sugar Land, Texas, David Wallace, takes dead aim at irresponsible
blogging. While not an advocate of regulating online freedom of speech,
Wallace builds a solid argument for injecting a code of conduct and ethical
responsibility into this exploding forum of information exchange and
Wallace shares first-hand experience of what unscrupulous bloggers can do to
reputations and how difficult it can be for those, even with means and
resources, to combat the negative and often vitriolic imagery created by
political enemies and those with axes to grind. He stays emotionally above
the fray as he recounts his 2006 attempt to get his name placed on the
ballot for the 22nd Congressional District, replacing retiring Congressman,
Though Wallace provides a detailed accounting of this experience and the
theatre that is Texas politics, complete with rebuttal response to several
charges issues against him, the treatment receives a mere dozen or so pages
and is not at all the focus of his work. Important context is provided
however, and the reader can better understand both Wallace’s motivation and
an underlying message of his book: Everyone has an agenda. One Nation Under
Blog deftly builds the case for a bloggers code of conduct by using
arguments that are grounded in fairness, a moral high ground, and plain and
simple journalistic standards.
Wallace lays his foundation by providing a basic primer on the history of
political blogging. Crediting the infamous Drudge Report, one of the
earliest political blogs, with the exposure of the Clinton-Lewinsky affair,
Wallace cites example after example of the growing influence this medium
plays in the never-ending 24 hour news cycle. Of particular note is the
recounting of the significant impact bloggers played in the downfall of
former House Speaker, Trent Lott, after the Washington Post downplayed his
seemingly racist comments at a gathering of well wishers for Strom Thurmond.
Far from mere outlets for unreported scandals, political blogs have played a
tremendous role in grass roots uses and garnering wide-spread candidate
support, particularly with fund raising efforts. Wallace’s treatment of
Howard Dean’s 2004 success through campaigns blogs make it easy to see why
President Obama so fully exploited this avenue in the 2008 presidential
Wallace employs a persuasive literary device in outlining his case for
civility, fairness in reporting, and do-no-harm approach to blogging. A
significant portion of his book is devoted to super-imposing the blogosphere
upon the Founding Fathers and other historically significant politicians in
U.S. History (including FDR, JFK and LBJ) and supposing how they may have
faired under the intense 24/7 glare of cyberspace.
He uses actual quotes and statements made by and about our earliest public
servants and modifies them into the forum of a contemporary blog on the
Internet. Each anecdote underscores one or more pillars in Wallace’s
proposed bloggers code of conduct.
Recognizing that unfettered conversational speech provides the very element
that makes blogging unique and a dynamic forum for political dialogue,
Wallace acknowledges that this can be the underlying Achilles heel of the
political blog if not held to more universal standard. Personal
responsibility, fact verification, blog monitoring for unacceptable content,
refusing to allow for harassing, stalking or threatening of others,
copyright infringement, and privacy violation all make it into Wallace’s
common sense code.
The irony of political railing against special interest groups is that each
and every one of us has our own special interests and perspective on a
myriad of issues that impact the citizenry. Perusing for outlets that share
our world view is nothing new and technology has made it both facile and
anonymous. Respect and civility however should not be casualties of our
insatiable need for our perspectives to be heard. One Nation Under Blog
eloquently makes this case.
GOD IS A BULLET, Boston Teran
About a decade ago I took a chance on a crime novel called God is a Bullet, the first offering from a guy named Boston Teran. The premise seemed interesting if over the top: A strai
Not even close. In fact, to this day Bullet remains one of the top five or six crime books I’ve read.
It’s not perfect. Teran gets carried away with description. The story occasionally drifts towar
d the melodramatic. At times, it's forced.
But Teran is so gifted it’s easy to overlook these flaws. He has a style all his own (and how many writers can you really say that about?). He’s a master at mood and atmosphere. His description of violence is so authentic and spot-on, you’ll grimace. His prose is driving, savage, yet still, almost, poetic.
I’ve read two of his subsequent offerings—Never Count Out the Dead and The Prince of Deadly Weapons—and found them lacking the debut’s raw intensity. But I’ll stick with Teran, hoping he returns to his former glory. Despite its flaws, Bullet is that good.
Kathryn Magendie is the co-editor of The Rose and the Thorn Literary Ezine. She is also the author of TENDER GRACES (Bellebooks). Visit her at Madden’s MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/kerrymadden
THE BOOK OF FRED, by ABBY BARDI
In Abby Bardi’s The Book of Fred, at times I felt as if I were lost in a room of fun-house mirrors, but in that deliciously entertaining way those wavery-reflectors have of making us see ourselves and the world about us in a different way, and sometimes in a way that isn’t flattering—for through the first person accounts of Bardi’s main characters: Mary Fred, Alice, Heather, and Uncle Roy, we see perspectives of lives filled with desire, addiction, pain, loss, loneliness, bewilderment, betrayal, and finally, hope. Abby Bardi handles delicate issues with a light touch, but not so light one does not deeply feel each of her character’s voices in a whole and unique way.
When Mary Fred’s fundamentalist religion parents refuse medical treatment to their children, and two of her brothers die of treatable maladies, Mary Fred becomes a foster child and is sent to live with Alice, her daughter Heather, and Uncle Roy. Mary Fred has never been allowed to watch television, never worn any clothing that is not plain and brown, never read a book other than “The Book of Fred,” and further, believes that “the Lackers” (everyone who is not a “Fredian”) are doomed to a fiery end, while the Fredians will be spirited away to an everlasting garden of wonders.
Meanwhile, Uncle Roy holds a terrible secret tight, Alice tries to please everyone but herself and is unwilling to move on from her past, Heather pretends not to care about anyone or anything but herself and television, and Mary Fred struggles with her beliefs against the teasing pull of American Pop Culture. This “Family of Misfits” learns that things are not always as they seem, and that love, trust, sacrifice, and family are sometimes hard-won, but more beautifully, happiness and peace can come in unexpected and surprising ways. (As an aside, I would have liked to know what happened to Mary Fred’s remaining brothers, “The Littles,” but was mostly satisfied to know that she would try to find them later, for I understood that things were as they needed to be for the book without going into too many “tangents.” Still, I did wonder.)
There are passages and phrases in the book that made me nod my head and smile, or say, “Yes! She’s got it…” Bardi’s writing is hopeful, fresh, and quite good. I appreciate how each character struggles to remain locked in their own “status quo,” but with Mary Fred as the catalyst, Alice, Heather, Uncle Roy, and Mary Fred herself, at last find their way to redemption. The ending left me with a sigh, for I liked the main characters (although, I did enjoy Mary Fred and Uncle Roy’s voices the most), and wished them well— Abby Bardi's The Book of Fred did not disappoint me in that regard.
Ed Gorman writes crime and western novels. He is most recently the author of SLEEPING DOGS.
Forgotten Books: Corkscrew by Dashiell Hammett
Because it likely appeared as a "magazine novel, complete-in-this-issue," I'm taking certain liberties here with the definition of "novel" but so be it. Corkscrew is a novelette (in pulp terms) or a short novel (in literary terms). It was written at the time when hardboiled detective fiction was sometimes cast as western fiction. Black Mask thrived on this fusion early on. One of Hammett's best stories, "The Killing of Dan Odams," is in fact a western.
Corkscrew is the name of a lawless town in Arizona early in the last century. There aren't many farmers here because farmers are afraid to settle here given the violence.
Corkscrew has telephones and automobiles but it is otherwise of the old west. Our man was sent here undercover by his detective agency to try and resolve the town's chief problems one of which, timely given today's politics, what to do about all the illegals crossing into the United States. He will be the new deputy sheriff, the real sheriff being elsewhere. But the man who sent for him told everybody that he was coming and when to expect him. Some undercover. Hammett uses wry bits of business throughout this long story and they give it the bite of real life. Sometimes humor makes things sound truer than melodrama, at least for me.
The first set-piece is one of Hammett's finest moments, an extended and bitter poker game in which Slim Vogel and Mark Nesbit try to close each other out. Hammett gets everything just right--the men standing around the table, the other card players dropping out just so they can watch the rivalry and the escalating name calling between the two players. At first the names land like punches but there are so many of them and they come so quickly that Hammett slyly turns them into a comic comment on machismo. Monty Python later did something very much like this with in the insult-hurling Frenchman on the battlement.
The heart of the story is a murder mystery that is one of Hammett's trickiest puzzles. He hits us wham-bam with two murders in just a few pages and so we have to recalculate everything we've assumed previously. The prose is impeccable. Sometimes Hammett is a little too spare for me but here he's giving us this strange, dusty little town in careful, vivid detail.
This is one of those pieces of work that you can both enjoy and admire. You just stand back and look at a master do his work.
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