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review 2017-05-22 16:22
A Man for Our Time
Missing a Beat: The Rants and Regrets of Seymour Krim - Mark Cohen,Seymour Krim

Could Seymour Krim make a comeback? Could a little-known holdover from the beat generation, a writer who died nearly 30 years ago, have something new to say to the iPhone generation? Not likely, but for my money the collection of essays in Missing a Beat felt among the most present discussions of celebrity, ambition, envy, doubt, and optimism in modern America that I have read recently.

 

Krim comes across in this collection as a disappointed striver. A writer who came up through the beat generation and kept plugging through the era of New Journalism, but never quite found that pearl Kerouac had promised: “Somewhere along the line I knew there’d be girls, visions, everything.” He is constantly in the shadow of more famous friends — recounted most directly in “Norman Mailer, Get Out of My Head!” — and frustrated in his efforts to achieve the kind of fame/notoriety or the wild adventures everyone around him seemed to be having. But Missing a Beat isn't merely a collection of regrets. What makes Krim's writing meaningful is the way he interrogates his own sense of failure. Why is it that he has to measure himself by Mailer’s fame? What is wrong with being a struggling artist? Isn’t that what he had wanted? How should he measure his own success?

 

In essays like “For My Brothers and Sisters in the Failure Business,” Krim reckons as much with his own expectations and faults as he does with the terms of success society has handed him. Krim recounts how limitless possibilities have led him to chase dream after dream without settling into one place or occupation. He writes about a quiet movement of dreamers like him who have missed out on the middle class comforts of a stable career path — a savings account, a house, a family, a title, a legacy — and must sate themselves on the hope for something new and better tomorrow.

“I’ve published several serious books. I rate an inch in Who’s Who in America. I teach at a so-called respected university. But in that profuse upstairs delicatessen of mine I'm as open to every wild possibility I was at 13, although even I know that the chances of acting them out diminish with each heartbeat.”

Krim wrote “For My Brothers and Sisters in the Failure Business” when he was 51 years old — that’s better than 20 years my senior — and I’m not sure if I should be comforted or very, very worried about that fact. What Krim saw as a freak community of dreamers is just reality for many of us today for whom “careers” at one company have gone the way of the Studebaker. He seems to warn of a future where unfavorable comparisons to the financial success of peers is constant, a future that's easy to imagine as I scroll the vacation photos of my friends on Instagram.

 

In fact much of Krim's writing seems eerily suited to the social media landscape, despite preceding it by decades, a fact I think that makes it only more applicable. Too many writers get hung up on the latest app or feature, sure that society will be redeemed or destroyed by a new filter on Snapchat. Social media may highlight our insecurities, but Krim reminds us that these have been around long before we ever started carrying them around in our pockets.

“You may sometimes think everyone lives in the crotch of the pleasure principle these days except you, but you have company, friend. … It is still your work or role that finally gives you your definition in our society, and the thousands upon thousands of people who I believe are like me are those who have never found the professional skin to fit the riot in their souls.”

“For my Brothers and Sisters in the Failure Business" is a standout, but the same themes carry through many of his essays including “Making It!” and “The American Novel Made Me” without becoming repetitive. Each essay seems to come from a different angle: lack of direction, envy, and ambition, respectively. The writing itself crackles throughout with the energy of the beat generation. He writes in long sentences, each with several parenthetical phrases and catalogs that go to ten items or longer. He deploys slang but sparingly and to good effect. The descriptions are grounded in real sensations using onomatopoeia and analogies to the items and people around him instead of reaching for more academic language (like onomatopoeia). His essays seem always anchored in place, even as zooms out for a wider view, the world is recognizably his.

 

Missing a Beat is a good read for anyone a few years out of school who is starting to rethink their career choices and sometimes Googles “how to work abroad” while at work.

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text 2016-12-02 23:37
2 days left to win 1 of 200 e-book editions of The LOCAL RAG
The Local Rag - Rod Raglin

The LOCAL RAG

All Jim Mitchell wants to do is publish an honest newspaper - and not get killed for doing it.

 

UNTIL DECEMBER 4TH ONLY

Enter to win 1 of 200 e-book editions of The LOCAL RAG at

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and 1 of 2 paperbacks at

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/209419-the-local-rag

The LOCAL RAG (E-book) is FREE ON AMAZON

 

Here's what the reviews are saying...

 

★★★★★ "A very well written media/political thriller. Lots of exciting scenarios, with several twists/turns and a huge set of unique characters to keep track of. This could also make another great political thriller movie, or better yet a mini TV series. A very easy rating of 5 stars."

 

★★★★★"...an engrossing and exciting story that moves quickly. The narrative comes alive because the characters are three dimensional. This is a novel well worth reading. Highly recommended."

 

★★★★★ "Interesting plot, fast-moving story, well-developed characters. Not only well presented but also very realistic. A whole range of characters, with all their good and bad sides. Many twists and turns, not always with a happy ending. Rod Raglin is definitely good at writing and gripping the readers' attention from the very first page. He managed to put so many levels in this book - corruption, drugs, murder, threats, politics. Yet, there is also place for love and friendship. He not only presents his story, he challenges his readers to get actively involved, to start asking questions and reconsidering their own life decisions."

 

★★★★"Raglin’s Local Rag grips us with a dose of reality not seen on most major media. His story highlights the control over the minds of the public by special money factions. Readers have only to see similarities with today."

"...challenges readers with the ethics of seeking justice, money control, and the role of an independent media."

"... hits the reader with the overwhelming forces in our life."

-Tom Pope, Bookpleasures.com

 

 

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review 2016-11-08 19:26
Going beyond an author's famous work
The Lair of the White Worm & The Lady of the Shroud - Bram Stoker

Sometimes you come across a lesser known work by a famous author (especially if they're famous for one work only) and it's astonishing just how different it is from their crowning achievement. This is what happened when I came across two books by Bram Stoker which were collected into one volume. Bram Stoker's name is nearly synonymous with vampire because of Dracula but that was not the only book that he wrote. The introduction to the two books discusses how Dracula eclipsed his later (and earlier) writings and he goes on at length about Stoker's merits as a writer. I give all of this background because if I hadn't already read Dracula then I would be very hard-pressed to do so after reading The Lair of the White Worm and The Lady of the Shroud. It's not that they were the worst books I had ever read but there wasn't anything noteworthy about them and truly it took me far longer to plod through them than I would have liked.

 

In brief, The Lair of the White Worm focuses on a young man named Adam Salton who discovers that he has a relative outside of his native Australia who very much wants to meet him. After arriving, he is drawn into a supernatural melodrama which concerns virtually everyone in the neighborhood. As the title of the book suggests, there is a myth concerning a giant white worm which was thought to once be a dragon that terrorized the land. Myth states that the lair may still house the creature but by this time it may have evolved into a more human shape. Adam and his co-conspirators are charged with discovering if the myth is indeed factual and if so then to destroy the creature before it causes irreversible damage. There's romance (much sped up), intrigue, racial slurs (addressed in the introduction which didn't help), and Drama. Yes, I said Drama. If this was supposed to leave me quaking in my boots then it utterly failed. I didn't find this in the least frightening. However, I did find it incredibly predictable. I'd give it a 4/10 and that's probably being generous.

 

The second book in the collection, The Lady of the Shroud, was somewhat better. For one thing, it was slightly less predictable than The Lair of the White Worm. There were definitely more twists and turns so the danger that the characters faced seemed more ramped up and exciting. There were a few things working against it though. For example, the two main characters were completely without flaws which kept me from fully immersing myself in the story. A giant of a man who is good at every single thing that he does? A woman with stars in her eyes (I am not paraphrasing. This was the description of her eyes every single time.) who merely by a look conveys every emotion that imparts grace and goodness? Besides that, it was most definitely too long. I am convinced that the story could have been told in a much more concise manner. By dragging things out, my interest was eventually strained and I was looking ahead to see how many pages I had left until the end. And that was not in the "oh no I'm nearly finished whatever will I do with my time now?!" kind of way either. I'd say this was probably a 5.5/10.

 

As always, I encourage you to take a look at the book(s) and form your own opinions. It could be that I was expecting too much because Dracula created a precedent of excellence. Ah well!

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2016-08-09 23:37
We're all a little mad
Ten Days in a Mad-House; or, Nellie Bly's Experience on Blackwell's Island. Feigning Insanity in Order to Reveal Asylum Horrors - Nellie Bly

Ten Days in a Mad-House by Nellie Bly was a complete gamble. I saw it as a free download on my Kindle and I snatched it up on a whim. This is the true account of a young female reporter who lied her way into the Women's Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell's Island in New York. Originally published as a series of articles in 1887, Ten Days in a Mad-House is shocking in its stark depiction of how 'insane' women are treated. Nellie describes women who are no more mentally deficient than she herself is (and once inside she asserted again and again her sanity and acted no different than she would had she her freedom). The horrific conditions of the facilities and the demoralizing treatment heaped upon them by the staff at the asylum were startling to say the least (and absolutely disgusting). After reading this small book, I decided to do a little research into Bly and discovered that beyond being an advocate for women's rights she was also an inventor and an adventurer. (She traveled around the world in a record-breaking 72 days!) This was a short little book that packed a big punch due to its subject matter and the passion with which Bly clearly had for improving the situation of those deemed 'mentally insane'. In those days, you could get rid of the unwanted women in your life by simply dropping them off at the asylum and saying they were 'crazy'. The vetting process was nearly nonexistent and any attempt to assert your sanity was dismissed offhand. I recommend this for anyone in the mood for a fast nonfiction book from a voice that is both intelligent and impassioned. 8/10

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2016-06-04 08:07
Investigating America's Vices
Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market - Eric Schlosser

Written the author of Fast Food Nation, this book contains three case studies that each dealing with an area of the black market: marijuana, immigrant workers in the strawberry fields on California, and the hard core porn industry. As one can expect from Schlosser, it is a thoroughly researched and tries to look at these industries in an objective manner, and does not necessarily try to conclude with some left wing conspiracy.

 

Basically there are lots of books that cover the topic of marijuana in the United States and the war on drugs. Being an Australian where possession of small amounts (up to three ounces in some places) is pretty much a misdemeanor that results in a small fine, it is difficult to understand the nature of the war on drugs as it plays out in the United States. In a way the war itself is scary because it has been suggested that if you are caught with even one joint you can be classified as a dealer, locked up, and have all of your possessions confiscated, even before you have been convicted. In a way I believe that this is a really heavy handed approach, particularly since the laws date back to the 1930s, where the Dupont company pushed for the criminalisation of marijuana so that it could dominate the textile industry.

 

Another argument is also that since it is only recently that marijuana has become a popular Anglo-saxon drug (up until the sixties marijuana was predominantly a Mexican pleasure, and its narcotic purposes were only used in cure-all potions made by chemists, who in those days did not necessarily need a license to practice). Unfortunately, it is very difficult to access anything these days on the history of drugs and drug use since many of these documentaries are generally not made, or if they are, do not appear on the mainstream media (unless of course its message is 'Drugs are bad'). In a way, it feels as if marijuana did not exist prior to the sixties, and that modern drugs, such as meth-amphetamine, did not exist until the late 90s (which is not true because allegedly Hitler used it during World War II and also apparently fed it to his troops).

 

It appears however that this book is about the black market and how the black market influences all of our lives. In a way we are all exposed to the black market, whether we smoke pot, or rent dodgy videos from those dodgy video stores that have no windows. This is where the second case study comes into play: illegal immigrants. Schlosser looks at the strawberry growers, but this applies to a lot of industries across the United States (and while it happens in Australia, the fact that we do not have any land borders with poorer nations, we have a lot less illegal immigrants than do the United States). The reason illegal immigrants are so popular is because the laws do not apply to them, so they can be paid under the minimum wage, which means more profits for the business owner, and that they are not affected by the unfair dismissal laws (or any of the other laws that apply to legitimate employees).

 

While the section on the porn industry applies to the black market as well, much of this has more to do with the freedom of speech amendment than it has to do with the black market (even though while the industry was fighting the obscenity laws the profits coming from the porn industry were effectively a part of the black market). Mind you, this section surprised me because I was expecting it to deal with Hugh Heffner or Larry Flynt, but they barely made a mention in this section. I guess the reason is that we are dealing not with what is termed as soft porn (if there is such a thing) but with hard core pornography. Mind you, porn has been around as long as there have been people willing to pay for it (even though before photography, we had to pay for live shows, and then we might as well go to a brothel), however with the advent of film, television, and now the internet, access to it has become a lot easier.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/510725122
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