Archive for April, 2014

AND SO IT GOES KURT VONNEGUT: A LIFE by CHARLES SHIELDS

If you’ve read Slaughterhouse – Five: A Children’s Crusade and enjoyed the hell out of it as I did, you owe it to yourself to read this biography and get to know the man behind the work. Reading about Vonnegut’s life and his journey on the rocky road to fame gives you a background into the birth of his novels and will encourage you to read more. I plan to seek out Breakfast of Champions and Cat’s Cradle to my to-read list. One event described in the book that deeply affected Vonnegut’s family life was the death of his brother-in-law in 1958 and I have a vivid memory of that tragic accident for I visited the site shortly after it happened. A train bound for New York was about to cross the Newark-Bayonne Bridge over the Newark Bay. The bridge was open for a passing barge, and as the train approached to open bridge the engineer suffered a heart attack. The fireman tried to stop the train but couldn’t. Two engines and three passenger cars plunged into the bay with the loss of 47 lives. I still recall pictures published in Life magazine taken while the cars were being raised from the water with bodies hanging from the windows. Published photos were more graphic back then. Perhaps it was the next day when, after school, I walked to the local library annex, one of my favorite places. I was eleven. The library was a short distance from school and it feels like kids had more freedom then, even in a rough town like Newark you were able to wander on your own. After settling in, my sister found me and said my family was outside in our car and that I should come along. They were heading for the train wreck. As were approached the bridge there were cars parked all along the road. Coming upon the scene I remember one car still dangling from the track and partially in the water. Everything else was still submerged. Sorry for the digression. Vonnegut’s brother-in-law’s wife, the writer’s sister, died the same day and Vonnegut wound up supporting their four sons. I took a little detour with the above memory, but once again, this is a biography worth reading.

April 22, 2014 at 6:06 pm Leave a comment

LOOKING OVER YOUR SHOULDER

Even though I now own a tablet and laptop I still lack, in my total acceptance of technology, a device most of society deems ‘life essential’.  I have yet to adopt the cell phone.

I constantly hear references to Bluetooth.  This sounds to me like the name of a character the late great Soupy Sales would have created.  My younger readers will need to reference their grandparents about the meaning of this, I am sure.  Bluetooth is the stimulus for this article.

In the March 31st edition of Time magazine I ran across an article ‘Nowhere To Hide’ concerning Bluetooth technology and the cell phone.

One aspect developed concerns museums and involves providing information sent to you while you gaze at a piece of art. This I think would be helpful.  The article goes on to discuss how, while in a department or grocery store, and trying to decide what to buy you’re sent coupons via your phone for the product you are contemplating.

The question I pose is this: Where does the benefit stop and manipulation begin?

Some might ask, “What the hell does this have to do with writing?”

Writers track the changes in society through their work, changes that are so ingrained in our daily life that we no longer give them a second thought.  We also attempt to predict future trends good or bad, consider George Orwell.

All of the above comes from my observations along with a healthy dose of resisting change.  That’s my cross to bear.  I was recently thinking of the late nineteenth century, what I would have been like if I had lived during the birth of the telephone and electric lighting.  Would I be the last one, alone, reading by candle light?

April 10, 2014 at 4:00 am 1 comment

VISIONS OF GERARD BY JACK KEROUAC

If you’ve never read anything by Kerouac do yourself a favor – begin with On the Road and work your way through his works.

I’ve read a few of his books, but that was some time ago.  I’ve now reentered Kerouac’s world with Visions of Gerard.  It’s the first book in his series, The Duluoz Legend, and I guess I’m now along for the ride.  The series is fourteen books long with Dr. Sax as the next in line and I’m lucky enough to own a copy I bought years ago.

But first, back to Visions of Gerard.  This short novel is on long stream of thought with a story line of the narrator’s brother’s death woven in.  I’m not an authority, but I don’t think there is anyone currently using this technique.

To be in the mind of Jack Kerouac would be as if you were the silver ball in a pinball machine.  You know you’re on the move but not sure of the destination.

April 7, 2014 at 9:19 pm Leave a comment


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