It is important to have elders. One of mine is Ray Bradbury.
He was one of the best science fiction writers that ever lived. Countless short stories, television scripts, plays, and books flowed from his pen. He also had a love of life few had, or will ever, match.
This shines through in a book of his called Zen in the Art of Writing. It is the best book about writing anyone can read. Oftentimes such work can fall into dull introspection, cynicism, and tactics; Bradbury doesn’t waste his time with any of these things. He is unabashedly in love with writing and wants you to be too. Continue reading
Walden Two is a novel about an intentional society, or what we’d call a commune, based on scientific principles.
Its writer, B.F. Skinner, supposed that people could thrive while living communally. He wrote this book in an attempt to rewrite all our current social rules about work, love, and play.
I was at the dinner table last night discussing it with my folks and my fiancee. It was a good discussion.
What surprised me was that my folks knew about Walden Two. Though the book was written in the fifties, it really found its footing in the late sixties and early seventies, when they were growing up. There was a lot of talk about experimental ways of living during that time. People knew there was something wrong with society and sought new ways of living. They experimented. They asked the question “How is it that we should live?”
Something stuck in my craw during that conversation.
The room was regal for the Midwest.
There were plaques and awards on the walls, and shelves full of unread books. A typewriter sat on the desk, the newest, best, and lightest model, given to him by the local paper on the day of his mayoral victory. Tobacco smoke lingered, thanks to all the cigars stuffed into the ashtray. The moonlight was bled away by the incandescent bulbs that were installed only a few years ago, after the boys came back from France.
“It’s Roosevelt, I’m telling you.” The mayor took a long, nervous drink at the seat of his desk. “He gets elected, and he gives these fucking Communists ideas,” he said as he set the glass down. He poured himself another with the decanter on the desk. Sweat was pouring through his collar, which was loose. “Why can’t they just go to work like everybody else?”
The chief of police sat across from him, uncomfortable but buttoned up. His back was ramrod straight. “Mister mayor, it’s dynamite out there. You got to bring them both to the table.”
The mayor looked up at the ceiling, like he were trying to find God. “I told you, we don’t need anybody at any tables.” He stabbed his finger at the chief on the beat of his words. “Your boys need to disperse the crowd.”
The mayor glowered. “Mister Mayor will do fine.”
“Mister mayor, I told you before” said the chief as he swallowed. “We’re not strikebreakers.” Continue reading
It is not funny that a man should be killed, but it is sometimes funny that a man should be killed for so little…
– Raymond Chandler, The Simple Art of Murder
In Cold Blood is one of the best books I’ve ever read.
I got the audio book from my library yesterday. I am just beginning, but I am already hooked. It’s one of those books you can’t put down.
The story, as you might already know, is about a murder. Specifically, the murder of four people, the four brutal members of the Clutter family in unassuming Holcomb, Kansas.
That is not a spoiler. They tell you right on the cover.
Nobody would ever think of In Cold Blood as a mystery, but that’s really what Capote has crafted here. In a traditional mystery, a reader doesn’t really know if the mystery will be solved, who is going to die, that sort of thing. But In Cold Blood is not that, and never claimed to be that. Instead, Capote is relying on something else.
The suspense that the book created in a single word: why? Continue reading
Raymond Chandler was not the most prolific of writers. He only started publishing in his forties, after losing a job in the oil industry thanks to the perils of being an artist, which are eerily similar to being a drunk.
He remains, however, one of the most brilliant writers of the 20th Century. The iconic private detective Phillip Marlowe was his creation; anytime you see a private detective in a trench coat, talking about ‘dames,’ and drinking, you’re looking at the cultural contribution of Mr. Chandler.
His taste in food, much like his writing, were simple and direct. ‘Cooked well and fast’ were his prerogatives. Every scrap of his writing reads that way, spiced with the acerbic wit that made Marlowe famous. Continue reading