Book Marks

Julian Lennon writes children’s book on the importance of saving the environment. He’s also considering writing his memoir.

Seven books that deserve sequels.

S.E. Hinton muses on The Outsider’s 50th anniversary.

Amanda Palmer reads feminist poem about the importance of science (and written by her hubby Neil Gaiman).

Sadly, we have lost two talented writers in the past week —Robert Pirsig and Benjamin J. Barber.

Syrian refugee Bana al Abed writing memoir at seven-years-old

In modern Orwellian times, W.H. Auden is very relevant.

Singer/Songwriter Natalie Merchant to release 10 CD box of poems in June.

No, this is not from the Onion. The ultimate rude man, Bill O’Reilly, is set to publish a book on manners for children.

This website is a good source for those of you who want to write for film and TV.

 

Book Review: A Boy Named Shel by Lisa Rogak

As a child I adored Shel Silverstein’s books, The Giving Tree and Where the Sidewalk Ends, among others having a special place in my heart. In fact, I think I treasure them now more than I did when I was a little girl. I always had an inkling Silverstein did more than write children’s books and my inkling proved true when I read Lisa Rogak’s biography A Boy Named Shel.

To call Silverstein a Renaissance man is putting it mildly. Not only was he a prolific children’s author, he was also a cartoonist, singer/songwriter, screenwriter and playwright. He also led a rather interesting personal life.

Born to a Jewish family and raised in Chicago, Silverstein attended Chicago School of the Fine Arts but was soon drafted into the Army. While in the Army Silverstein began to draw cartoons and later, once he returned to Chicago, he drew and published cartoons for several magazines.

But it is after he began to get his cartoons in Playboy when Silverstein’s multi-layered career really began to shine and lead to greater success. He also began to write songs, mostly of a folk variety and formed his own folk group. But one of his most famous songs is the country/novelty song “A Boy Named Sue,” which became a huge hit for the late Johnny Cash. Silverstein’s songs were also sung by Judy Collins, Dr. Hook, Marianne Faithfull and Emmylou Harris. Silverstein co-wrote many songs with Kris Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings, both remained lifelong friends with Silverstein.

Silverstein also wrote a great deal of scripts for the stage, film and television at times co-writing scripts with others, including David Mamet. One of the most popular television programs Silverstein wrote for is the Generation X classic “Free to Be…You and Me.”

Professional success led to personal success, especially when it came to the ladies. To put it bluntly, Silverstein was a playa, and many of his experiences as a playa were due not only to his success, but to him hanging out a great deal at the Playboy Mansion. Despite being a bit of a man ho, many of his carnal conquests remember him fondly for when he was with a woman he really made her feel special and he was often honest with them, claiming he was not the type to settle down.

Still, Silverstein did have children, a daughter and a son, and though he loved them he wasn’t exactly the ideal father. And as I read A Boy Named Shel, I learned as much as Silverstein was revered by the children who read his books, his relationship with children (both is own and those of his friends) could be described as complicated.

In fact, complicated pretty much sums up Silverstein as a human being and a creative individual. At times he was a total bon vivant, the life of the party. At times, he was very reticent and private. He was meticulous when it came to his writing and drawing, but often dressed like a homeless person. When it came to his children he experienced both tragedy and triumph. He could be both kind and cruel.

And other tidbits I learned about Silverstein included eschewing driving after being in a bad car accident. He was nominated for an Oscar. He wrote travelogues and was quite the globetrotter. And he lived all over the country.

All of this living in one life should have made A Boy Named Shel a scintillating read; but as I kept reading this book, especially as I neared the end, I found myself bored. Rogak writing style is dull and lacks a certain punch that keeps you wanting to learn more and more. She is way too repetitive and dry, which I soon found rather insulting to Silverstein’s legendary legacy and his output as a truly original artist that entertained audiences for decades and continues to entertain nearly twenty years after Silverstein’s death. Perhaps, this book would have served better as an article. In the end I just mourned that Silverstein never wrote his own memoir.  Now that would have been a book.

Still, I am grateful I learned more about Shel Silverstein. I will never stop loving those children’s books that delighted me as a bookish little girl, and am now inspired by Silverstein’s creative output to sharpen myself as a Renaissance woman. Perhaps, if you read A Boy Named Shel and connect with his work
, you, too will feel inspired.

Book Club: Poetry

Several weeks ago I came up with a new idea for this blog I call Book Club. Book Club is where I ask my readers and friends their opinions when it comes to books, writing, authors, and writing. Because April is National Poetry Month I asked a few of my friends to answer a few questions regarding poetry. Here are the initial questions I asked:

  1. What does poetry mean to you?
  2. Who are your favorite poets and why? Name some of you favorite poems and why? (Links or copies of these poems would be greatly appreciated)
  3. Have you ever written poetry? Why or why not? (You can share your original poetry if you want to)
  4. Anything else you would like to add?

The first to answer are my friends Nora and Tari, and here are their very interesting answers in their very own words (nothing edited by me). 

NORA

  1. What does poetry mean to you?

Poetry is very meaningful to me.  It is where all the wordsmiths come together to shine.  It is like the “Auto Show of Literature.”  I call it the Auto Show because basically, you see cars every day, ordinary cars, rusty cars, different brands, these cars are not extraordinary, just useful and functional.  Then you get invited to the “Auto Show”… and the cars there are shiny, luxurious, top- of- the-line in design and function, futuristic, out-of-worldly, gorgeous colors, every detail is amazing and breathtaking!  That is how I view poetry … amazing and breathtaking.

  1. Who are your favorite poets and why? Name some of your favorite poems and why? (Links or copies of these poems would be greatly appreciated)

What I like about most poetry and poets is that there is a very human and urgent need to use words to describe universal feelings and expressions.   Poets are usually ordinary folks who take an extraordinary “look” at what everyone knows and wants.  That’s why the meaning of most poems doesn’t feel dated.

Some of my favorite poets are:

Charles Bukowski:  If you ever wanted to feel “cool” and bask in the sun of “loser-dom” without actually living the pain, Bukowski is your man.  He puts you right there and you see the details of the life of the loner, the drunk, the misfit, the bored, the angry, the sad, and you love his poems for the accuracy and you kinda hate and despise him too.  He’s disgusting to you, but you are grateful to him because you get to live through him without gettingyour hands dirty.  He creates a small beauty in all of his muck.

Here is Bukowski’s poem about his daughter.  It’s called, “Marina.”

Marina

************

majestic, magic

infinite

my little girl is

sun

on the carpet –

out the door

picking a flower, ha!,

an old man,

battle-wrecked,

emerges from his

chair

and she looks at me

but only sees

love,

ha!, and I become

quick with the world

and love right back,

just like I was meant

to do.

Bobby Sands:  (Irish Republican soldier who died in 1981 from hunger in jail after 66 days of starving.  He was protesting against the oppressive British forces who refused to recognize him as a political prisoner, instead of a common criminal).

Bobby Sands is a total romantic character for me.  I used to read his writing when I was a younger girl.  I didn’t really know the particulars or could personally relate to the circumstances of his plight as an IRA soldier, but I could definitely relate to his feelings of being oppressed and confined and written off.  Plus, his need to express himself forced him, in his prison cell, to write on little bits of toilet paper with a pen that he had to hide in one of his personal body cavities.  That is a strong statement on the human need to be heard and what a person would do in order to be heard!

Here is one of my favorite poems of his called “Modern Times”:

It is said we live in modern times,

In the civilized year of ‘seventy-nine,

But when I look around, all I see,

Is modern torture, pain, and hypocrisy.

 

In modern times little children die,

They starve to death, but who dares ask why?

And little girls without attire,

Run screaming, napalmed, through the night alive.

 

And while fat dictators sit upon their thrones,

Young children bury their parents’ bones,

And secret police in the dead of night,

Electrocute the naked woman out of sight.

 

In the gutter lies the black man, dead,

And where the oil flows blackest, the street runs red,

And there was He who was born and came to be,

But lived and died without liberty.

 

As the bureaucrats, speculators and presidents alike,

Pin on their dirty, stinking, happy smiles tonight,

The lonely prisoner will cry out from within his tomb,

And tomorrow’s wretch will leave its mother’s womb!

  1. Have you ever written poetry? Why or why not? (You can share your original poetry if you want to)

Only recently have I tried to write poetry, so it is a brand new skill for me.  I think it never occurred to me to write it before was because of the way it was taught to me as a young student.  I got the impression that poetry could only be written by people who were real writers or English majors, people who were scholarly and knew all the meters and rules of poetry.  And all the poems we read were about love and they rhymed and used Old English or vocabulary that I couldn’t relate to or wrap my mind around.  Poetry felt like calligraphy to me, beautiful to look at, but not necessarily useful for us common folks. Poetry was for those who wanted to impress, not express.

The lack of connection to Poetry pushed me towards the “song.”   Song lyrics became more interesting and relevant to me and they were easier to understand. But lately, since songs to me these days involve instrumentation, musical genres and styles, more about persona and marketing, all this complicates the direct communication of words to ears to meaning.  So with the modern day love of rap music and rappers are becoming modern day wordsmiths, the poem is making a comeback.  Today’s poems have to be impactful, though, pointed, and most of all, socially conscious and reflect part of their listeners’ lives.   Today’s poetry readers have to feel like the poet existed in their minds and said it in the way that they would have said it.

TARI

1) Poetry doesn’t seem to have rules. A poet can evoke any emotion by the fewest words, or the most. Poems are valuable to us in that we don’t necessarily need to understand them to ‘get’ them. They are visceral. Poetry is deeply personal, and can be a full-on attack, or a salve, or anything in-between. Poetry speaks to our singular life experiences, and opens our eyes to other’s. It can be brutally soul-baring, and it can be beautiful, all in the same poem.

2) Charles Bukowski and Emily Dickinson. One is raw like an open wound, the other is genteel, cultured. Both are brilliant, both are honest.

3) I don’t have a favorite from Bukowski. I’m electrified, repulsed, enlightened in some way by most of his work. Emily D never really liked titles, so people gave her poems numbers and used the first line as the title. Poem 314: Hope is the Thing With Feathers is by far my favorite. It’s inspirational and full of that very thing. Hope.

4) I have. Let’s just say I won’t make the mistake of thinking I could maybe ever do that again. So bad.

5) I hold poets, I mean really good poets, in the highest esteem. I believe their ability to cast a naked, unjaded eye and lay bare artifice is unparalleled. I wish I had the ability to turn a phrase like they do, to bend words to their will. As a fiction writer, I use words… poets conduct them.Their social commentary can be, and often is, invaluable and necessary, and it is always deeply rooted in humanity and human emotion, from whatever side they approach. I envy them, even as I celebrate them. I wish I could be them.

Book Marks

 

il_570xn-1152807358_en83

How to support authors without spending a dime.

Libraries: Not fans of Trump.

Anais Nin on “embracing the unfamiliar.”

Author book tours aren’t as glamorous and exciting as one might think.

Ivanka Trump won’t go on promo book tour due to “ethical concerns.” Hmm, Ivanka? Ethical concerns? You don’t say.

Fan of the TV show Girls? Then you should read these books.

For the past 50 years, the Poetry Project has been a place of inspiration, support and various resources.

Possible writers’ strike for the WGA (Writer’s Guild of America) and how it will affect the TV and film industry (thanks to my friend Tari for the H/T).

Margaret Atwood reflects on The Handmaid’s Tale and its importance in 2017.

Splash ‘n Dash in offers laundries and libraries to West Chester, PA families.

 

 

 

Taking One for the Team: How to Choose a Husband – And Make Peace With Marriage by Suzanne Venker

When anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly died last year, most people’s reaction was, “I thought that old bat died ages ago.”

As many of you know I wrote a review of the late Schlafly’s book the Flipside of Feminism, a book she wrote with her niece, Gen X anti-feminist Suzanne Venker. After Phyllis shoved off this mortal coil, I thought, “Just who is Suzanne going to use to justify her existence now that she can’t ride her more famous aunt’s taint to shame and bitches?”

Alas, I mustn’t be alarmed. Good old Suzanne will soldier on and continue to throw feminism and women as a whole under the bus via her various articles, appearances on FOX News, her “I’d like to speak to the manager,” hair do and her books. Yep, Suzanne has written other books and I just had to review another one for my beloved readers. Hence, my review of Suzanne’s latest opus, “How to Choose a Husband: And Make Peace with Marriage.

Now this isn’t a typical how to find a man and getting him to marry book you’re likely to find in the self-help section of your favorite book store or through a quick search on Amazon. Nope, in this book Venker goes on a totally tizzy about pop culture, the media, education, the household, careers and the workplace, raising children, confused men, bitchy women and her favorite punching bag, feminism.

How to Choose a Husband has two parts. Part One, named “You Go, Girl” contains four finger wagging chapters—The Naked Emperor, Never Rely on a Man, Slutville and Expectations. Part Two offers a 12-step program on how to find a cash register on legs (oops, a husband) and find the only true worthy life for all women, life as a wife and mother. And if you desire any life beyond a wife and mother, well, you are truly an awful person. These steps include the following:

  1. Live an Examined Life
  2. Get Over Yourself
  3. Return to Femininity
  4. Don’t Rely on Love
  5. Get a Ring. Not a Roommate
  6. Reject the Green Grass Syndrome
  7. Marry the Accountant. Not the Artist
  8. Know Your Body
  9. Accept It: You Can’t Have it All
  10. Decide to Stay
  11. Know God, Know Peace
  12. Learn How to Be a Wife: What Do You Bring to the Table

And in the last tiresome part of How to Choose a Husband, Venker provides a list on the “do’s and don’ts” of being a wife.

In “You Go, Girl, Venker pretty much spews out the same rubbish she (and her late Aunt) used to dismiss feminism, while also dismissing the self-esteem movement, pop culture, getting an education and having a career, and recognizing oneself as being a fully sexual human being. Needless to say, you can just read my review of Venker and Schlafly’s book The Flipside of Feminism to get an idea on how I felt about this part of How to Choose Husband.

And in the second part, Venker’s 12 Step program for finding your Mr. Right (Wing) pretty much is summed up in the chapter titles alone. Once again, I don’t have to go into very much detail other than to say Venker spends quite a bit of this book bitching about her first marriage to a man named Chris that ended in a divorce (and Chris probably thanking his lucky stars he was unshackled from Vengeance, I mean Venker), In fact, by the time I finished this part, I knew more about Chris than I know about Venker’s current husband. Damn it, Suzie Spew, get a grip or therapy or a fucking vibrator! This early marriage is dead and buried and now you claim to be in a happy second marriage.

I also noticed another thing while reading this part. Venker doesn’t seem to realize most women know that marriage is more than just being in love, fertility lessens as one gets older, being married to an accountant is probably a bit more secure than being a starving artist (then again a man can be an accountant and an artist, and an accountant can lose his job just as much as an artist can have a successful career as a graphic designer and paint in his free time), and nobody, including men, have it all. And if you ask me, I think “having it all” is more of a media creation than a component of feminism. I also think most women realize they should be committed to their marriage vows and they should bring good things to a marriage.

However, I must take issue with both returning to femininity and knowing God means knowing peace. On the first part, am I less feminine because, unlike Venker, I identify as a feminist? Or am I more feminine because I have long hair past my shoulders and Venker has short hair? I’m just so confused!!!!

I also deplored her step about knowing peace (in a marriage) means knowing God. Right now I can think of two marriages where the partners are quite secular and their marriages are thriving and very happy. I’d rather throw myself off a bridge than be married hardcore religious types like Josh Duggar or Phil Robertson.

Speaking of reality TV cretins, as much as Venker accuses pop culture of corrupting women’s minds, she wastes no time using pop culture to advance her point. She considers Steve “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man” Harvey is an expert on marriage. Well, I guess he is; he’s on his third. She also thinks Christian Grey from Fifty Shades of Grey is an upstanding guy because he asks, doesn’t demand Anastasia Steel to be his controlled, submissive, and masochistic boo. Well, now that you’ve put it that way, Venker:

Finally, after fully exhausting myself reading Venker’s tome of tantrums we get to the epilogue, Venker’s “dos and donts”, the final don’t telling women, “Don’t bitch, be sweet.”

Hmm, after reading How to Find a Husband, Venker might want to take that advice herself.

 

 

Book Marks: National Library Week 2017

How much do you know about librarians?

Libraries report wait lists for copies of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

Libraries do so much more than we think.

Library code: The language of libraries.

Beautiful home libraries.

How the wealthy could help our libraries.

Signs that show why libraries rock!

The world’s most stunning libraries.

Bookmobiles: Libraries on wheels.

Mental Floss on why libraries mean so much.