Category Archives: Books

Taking ownership of words

A block or so away from the Huron Cemetery sits the best bookstore in Kansas City Metro area.   Prosperos.   If you click the link below you can access a lot of photos to explain why it’s the best bookstore hereabouts.

https://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/prosperos-books-kansas-city

https://www.yelp.com/biz/prosperos-books-kansas-city

Run by nice folks…. the sort of place that helps local artists and writers, has local musicians and even the occasional poetry reading.

But guess what!    They published a sticker that proclaimed the store to be the Kansas City Indigenous Bookstore.     And it stirred up a storm of outrage even among the writers and artists who’ve benefited from the store’s support.

The word, ‘indigenous’, which is one anyone can claim if they’re natural, if they’re born here, if they can’t be accused of being from somewhere else they could be sent back to, the word, ‘indigenous’ I was going to say, is now the personal property of a group of people who had ancestors somewhere on the continent before my own ancestors got here a couple of hundred years ago.

And if a bookstore has the brass to call itself ‘natural’, a ‘native bookstore’ of KC, it’s surprising how many people who had ancestors out, say, in Arizona or New Mexico feel themselves being robbed of the meaning of the word.    And are supported by various frizzly headed folks with ancestors more recently arrived [though many probably have no idea when, nor from where ] ….

So, if you dislike seeing this sort of bullying by grabsters of the English language, if you preferred it back when people couldn’t snag a word to hold to their chests and warn off all competition for its use, next time you are in KC, visit Prosperos Book Store.

Go there and buy a book to show how damned independent and ambivalent you are about the building of barbed wire fences around words and a willingness to forsake friends,  to fail to remember favors, to go into righteous battle should anyone trespass on the use of someone else s word.

Old Jules

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Echoes of the past – some books I used to love

In the early 1960s while I was stationed in Korea an officer I worked with dropped a paperback book onto my desk.   “You need to read this.”    The book was The Revolt of Gunner Asch, by Hans Helmut Kirst.     A novel about a young man in the German army during WWII.

I loved that book and it launched me into several years of good reading of other tomes by Hans Helmut Kirst.     Several Gunner Asch sequels, The Night of the Generals, The Officer Factory, The Adventures of Private Faust, The Seventh Day, and the Nights of the Long Knives.

So a while back I decided to try to find those Kirst books to read again before I die.    The 40-or-so libraries in the system here didn’t have it, so I put out a search on Inter Library Loan, came up with The Officer Factory, but none of the others.

The Officer Factory arrived and reinforced my hopes I could find the others somewhere.

Well, they’re out there New and Used on Amazon, but the days of inexpensive reads for used books are long gone.

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=sr_pg_2?rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3Ahans+helmut+kirst&page=2&keywords=hans+helmut+kirst&ie=UTF8&qid=1516206685

I’m thinking I’ll have to wait until my next lifetime to read the rest of those great books.    Don’t know what’s happened to the reading public when libraries don’t carry titles just because they happen to have been written before the librarians were born.

If you happen to be hungry for something to read and have money to spend on books, check out Hans Helmut Kirst ….. you won’t regret it.

Old Jules

Unfinished business

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read.

Most of you probably know that going into a new year with unfinished business is a risky proposition.  There’s no telling what sort of karmic baggage it will carry into your next year to harry you.  But sometimes it just can’t be avoided.

In my case it’s a couple of obvious items.  One being Orphans in the Sky, copyright 1941, Robert Heinlein.  I found it listed in the Johnson County, Kansas, Library and only managed to get it yesterday.  I put in into the que for reading, but unless I get cracking I won’t finish it before midnight.  I’ve only got a chapter to go.  But Heinlein isn’t the only iron in the fire.

A reader here recommended A Pirate of Exquisite Mind, by Diana and Michael Preston.  I only got it from the library the same day as the Heinlein tome, so I’ve been alternating between the two.  The Preston book is biography of William Dampier, who discovered earlier than anyone else that being a scientist and a pirate weren’t mutually exclusive.

I’ll be a while polishing off the Dampier tome, even if I manage to croak the Heinlein before the world slouches into next year.

And as for the Orphans in the Sky, I’ll confess it rattles me somewhat.   One of my favorite all time science fiction books was Starship, by Brian Aldiss.  I’ve read it at least half-dozen times over the years.  The Heinlein book reminded me of it so when I discovered the library doesn’t have it and it’s not available InterLibrary loan I checked Amazon.  And surprised myself by finding a review I wrote about it in 2004:

See this image

Starship Paperback – December 1, 1969

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful

By Jack Purcell on May 8, 2004

Format: Paperback

This book was written long before most readers of this review were born. Maybe that’s the reason this great work of science fiction lies dormant and almost forgotten. The book is absorbing, fires the imagination, is both believable and original. I don’t believe, of all the thousands of books of science fiction I’ve read over half a century, I’ve ever read one similar to this (and few better).
The basic story involves a starship the size of a small city on a voyage lasting hundreds of years. Many generations prior to the time of this plot a cataclysmic event and internal disruptions caused the crew to break into factions and isolate themselves. Thereafter the population forgot itself, what it was, and struggled to survive and understand, by the time of this plot, in a strange world.
If you’d like to discover a ‘new’ old one you’ll treasure and read many times through your life this is a good shot at finding one, while it can still be obtained. Take good care of it.
5.0 out of 5 stars
As good as Aldiss ever got. And it beats Heinlen’s Orphans of the Sky, December 30, 2014
This review is from: Starship (Paperback)
My review of this in 2004 didn’t mention the plot similarity to the 1941 Robert Heinlein tome, Orphans of the Sky. I’ve just finished re-reading the Heinlein book and it gave me a thirst to re-read the Aldiss. I’m searching my books-in-tow for it, but I’ve already checked the library system and haven’t located it. Might have to fork out $1.48 for a used copy of this classic.
I haven’t ordered Starship because I want to check whatever books of mine Jeanne has in her basement, but I might yet have to fork out $1.48 plus shipping and snag a used copy from Amazon.
Reason for my studied lack of haste:
I got the urge to re-read the late Philip Jose Farmer’s series, Riverworld one more time this lifetime.  Put them on hold [Jeanne’s library account] at the library.  Jeanne saw it and tossed all five books down in front of me.  Mine.  The originals from when Farmer first published them in the 1970s.  From her basement.
I have vivid recollections of waiting with baited breath for next sequels on these.  So there they are, more unfinished business trying to anchor me here in 2014.
Old Jules

The Implosion Conspiracy – Louis Nizer – How the USSR got the Atomic Bomb

I noticed someone found the blog about the conspiracy to sell the atomic bomb to the Rooskies by Louis Nizer. Caused me to read it over again, then to decide I’d enjoy actually checking it out of a library for another time through it. What I said about it in the February 2012 blog entry surprised me. I remember almost none of it. Jack

So Far From Heaven

When Louis Nizer penned The Implosion Conspiracyit might be said enough time had passed to provide perspective.  Two decades had passed since the trial and execution of the Rosenbergs rocked the nation.  Nizer disliked Communists, asserted he’d refuse to defend one in his profession as a defense attorney.  However, he wrote a lengthy analysis of the trial, the transcripts, testimonies, the individuals involved in an even-handed manner that wouldn’t have been possible during the Commie craze days of the events.

Basic events leading to the trial:  The US was developing the atomic bomb at Los Alamos, New Mexico during the late stages of WWII.  The information was being shared with the US Ally, Britain, but kept secret from the US Ally, the USSR.  Elaborate security measures were in place to assure the developments remained the exclusive property of the US and British governments.  Elaborate almost beyond description, devised by the US military…

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Ship of Theseus by VM Straka aka S by JJ Abrams and Doug Dorst

Hi readers.  Maybe you’ve been hearing about a book, S, by JJ Abrams and Doug Dorst.

Jeanne tossed it aside last night with a frustrated sigh.  Which was okay by me.  When she brought S home from the library a couple of weeks ago I had a look, examined the acompanying envelope full of notes, whiz wheels, maps, you name it.  I thumbed through the pages of Ship of Theseus enough to think someone had abused a book unmercifully and unforgiveably.  And when she and another library lady claimed Ship of Theseus isn’t a real book I didn’t believe them.

A quick web search proved me right.  I immediately found a site where VM Straka, his life, and his other books were being discussed in depth.

Sheeze, it required another search after I’d proved myself an idiot to discover it’s all a fake.  A book, Ship of Theseus, as a centerpoint for two imaginary people studying the imaginary author and leaving notes in the margins to one another, following an imaginary mystery about the author and the book.

Well, hell.  I’m the guy who’s read Umberto Eco’s Focault’s Pendulum haf-dozen times and loved it.  I’m almost unique on the planet Earth in that regard.  And I’m the guy who chased the Lost Adams Diggings through half the archives and dusty old books and microfilms pertaining to the 19th Century.

I smiled secretly to myself, knowing I’ve read The Eyre Affair and that entire Tuesday Next series by Jasper Fforde and would read more in an eyeblink, if I couldn’t find a heartbeat to read them in.  And I’ve read all, I think, of the Terry Pratchett Discworld novels and loved them without exception.  Read Filip Jose Farmer’s Riverworld series and loved it.  S wasn’t going to throw me any curves.

So I earmarked S in my mind as something I’d do when Jeanne finished it.  And last night when she declared it’s not her bag I smiled to myself and prepared to chase some devils and ghosts through the nights of the living dead I’ve noticed myself having of late.

This morning I picked it up, deciding to start by reading Ship of Theseus and ignoring the notes for a starter.  Tried, but I was continually distracted by the notes.  Because the notes in the margins are one hell of a lot more interesting and better written than the crappy novel they’re written in the margins of.

Probably Doug Doirst and JJ Abrams need to send their ideas off to Umberto Eco if they ever want to try this again.  Eco knows how to write a book.

Old Jules

2010 Space Odyssey Two – Arthur C. Clarke

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read.

2014 is a good year to read 2010 Space Odyssey Two so’s to help get a better perspective when you read 2061 Odyssey Three.  I’ve got 2001 Space Odyssey sitting over there asking itself why I haven’t re-read it, prior to launching into 2010.  I haven’t confided to it that it’s just too damned far off the mark and leaves me pondering whether it was pure BS.  I was a bit distracted in 2001 because of Y2K, but I’m inclined to think 2001 Space Odyssey and 1984 by George Orwell might have shared some chronological disorders.

Anyway, Clarke’s 2010, published in 1982, at least has briefcase computers.  That’s an encouraging sign.  And although men haven’t ventured beyond the moon, nor even as far as the moon in a longish while, they’re back to discussing the possibility of going to Mars, or maybe an asteroid or comet.  Humanity decided somewhere back in the late-1970s that the moon wasn’t worth the price of admission.  They’ve shot a lot of rocketships at it, set of a bomb trying to find water, but the moon has proved to be more profitable as an abstraction than a reality.  Heck, people have made more money off the moon singing, recording, writing songs about it than they’ve managed to do sending rocketships to it.  Even movies.  There’s been more money made from movies about the moon and about people going to the moon, than from people actually doing it.

So while 2010 Odyssey Two is a fun, interesting and imaginative read by a fine author, it doesn’t recommend itself well under comparisons to reality as we mostly believe we’ve experienced it, or know of other humans experiencing it.

Planet of the Apes is a lot more accurate in that regard.  I don’t know how the hell Planet of the Apes managed to happen right here under our noses without me noticing it before.  But hell, there it is.  Spang spread out all over the planet.  Russian apes killing wossname, Ukraine apes, Syrian apes killing other Syrian apes, Iraq apes, Israel apes killing Palestine apes, Chinese apes killing India Indian apes, African apes killing other African apes, and US apes indiscriminately killing all but Israeli ones.  Which establishes who the real Chosen apes are.

Arthur C. Clarke should have anticipated Planet of the Apes and written about it.  Then he wouldn’t have to be consigned to the Nostradamus and George Orwell stream of close-but-no-cigar prognostications.

Old Jules

 

Jasper Fforde – The Fourth Bear

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read, despite the fact none of you ever take my advice about authors and books.  I’d be disappointed in you if I didn’t know you probably wouldn’t have liked them anyway.

For instance, Balzac’s Droll Stories, you’ll probably recall, I told you was the funniest book I’ve ever read.  Told you where you can download it free on wossname, gutenberg.org website.  And I’ll go to my grave confident not a damned one of you bothered to have a look.

So when I tell you about Jasper Fforde I can do it with a high level of confidence I could say anything and not get caught in a lie.

I first told you about The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde, along with The Well of Lost Plots, and maybe some others in that series.  I’ve managed to actually get a few people to try some of those and nobody liked them.  Gave some the books free.  Poof!  Not a, “Hey!  Funny, intriguing book.”  Nothing.

Jeanne likes Jasper Fforde.  Might well be she introduced me to his works.  Shows how the coincidence coordinators are always at work.  Two people, the only two in Christiandom who’d enjoy Jasper Fforde, happen to be close friends.  I love those guys, the CCs.

Anyway, The Fourth Bear is a good book I think you’d enjoy if you were ever stuck in a prison cell the way Steve McQueen was in Pappilon and not allowed to talk to anyone for several years, do anything but read the book.  Fforde explains the deep mystery, for instance, of why three bowls of porridge all poured at the same time, are vastly different temperatures.

 Fforde, for the purposes of this book, lands the reader in a world where talking bears are fighting for their rights, trying to become civilized the way Native American tribes tried to become civilized to keep from being slaughtered by whites.  But the bears come at a later time in history, when a larger or more vocal part of sympatric humanity carries some weight. 

Not to say they’re able to pass legislation, THE RIGHT TO KEEP AND ARM BEARS, to allow bears to defend themselves from hunters.  But the do put them on reservations where it’s more difficult to shoot them.

 Fforde’s main character, Detective Jack Spratt, heads the Nursery Crimes Division of a city police department.  Constantly he’s chasing down criminals out of nursery rhymes.  Persons Of Questionable Reality.

But he’s one himself, and from the time his wife died from overeating fat, he’s able to overcome certain behaviors considered compulsive.

This  plot contains a fast moving set of  plot devices involving the Gingerbread Man, various bears, Goldilox, and giant cucumbers responsible for cuclear detonations threatening the bears, the humans, and possibly world peace.

Read it if you’re ever in prison.

Old Jules