Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

When Jon Stewart announced his retirement from “The Daily Show,” I was very disappointed. Jon’s penchant for incisive and relevant analysis wrapped in wit and snark would be a hard mantle to take on. When he announced that Trevor Noah would take the helm in his stead, I was downright unhappy. Noah (I felt) was too young, too green, to fill that spot. The show would founder with this “kid” at the helm.

Noah quickly proved my preconceptions to be unfounded. Though he did bring a more youthful spirit to the show, he also brought a depth of understanding and a global sense of humanity that, albeit different than Stewart’s style and substance, was also an enhancement in many ways. Since those first years, Noah has only improved, and has emerged (in my opinion, at any rate) as a clear-minded observer of American society who is well worth listening to.

That said, when someone suggested I should read his autobiography, I again returned to my prejudice. “Autobiography? He’s just a kid! What could he possibly have to say?”

Silly, silly me.

Trevor Noah’s autobiography, Born a Crime, focuses on his childhood, growing up in South Africa, dealing with apartheid and the effects of that heinous system’s downfall. Told with humor and candor, he shows us, through his experiences, what apartheid intended, what it accomplished, and what it left behind.

Most of us who remember a world with apartheid know that it was definitely a bad thing, a truly evil social construct designed to subjugate a majority population by a tyrannical minority. Likewise, we remember the boycotts, the riots, and the eventual jubilation when that social system was finally dismantled and cast onto the ash-heap. Like Nazism, apartheid was racial and ethnic hatred codified into law on a national level, and we do well to hold them both in similar regard.

But what did I really know about living under it? What did I really know about apartheid’s mechanisms of pressure, or about the myriad tiny rebellions performed by regular folk (of all colors) who lived there?

Nothing, really. Really. Nothing.

This book helped me with that, from Noah’s tales of his mother’s religiosity and recklessness, his father’s legally enforced distance, and the complicated interactions of the government’s often arbitrary assignments of racial class. Through these, Noah illuminates both the absurdity of the system itself and the lasting damage apartheid left in its wake.

More importantly, though, is that in this book, in its stories of an openly and unabashedly racist society, we can see magnified versions of what is currently convulsing America. Our government, our institutions, our law enforcement, and more all carry elements of what was writ large in South Africa’s apartheid, and when you see what the end-state was under that regime, it’s not difficult to see America’s slavery and Jim Crow laws nestled comfortably within it.

However—and I fear I’ve buried the lede here—this book is not a heavy treatise or polemic. Rather, it is a thoroughly enjoyable read filled with unique characters, passion, rebellion, high-jinks, bittersweet romance, danger, growth, wit, and pranks, all told by a self-described “naughty rascal” who, because he really didn’t fit into any of apartheid’s established classes, was able to flit between them, being part of all and part of none, simultaneously insider and outsider both.

Trevor Noah is young, by my benchmarks, but he is not green, and he has a lot to say. I, for one, look forward to reading about the next chapters of his life, and expect I will learn as much about him, about the world, about America, and about myself, as I did with Born a Crime.

k

Read Full Post »

It’s been a tough week for us all, one way or another, and one reason is that it is now obvious that all this . . . [gestures to everything] . . . is not going to end any time soon. In addition, I took my own advice and spent much of the week listening and learning from diverse voices. I’ve been rethinking and reevaluating many long-standing notions of society and America. You might have been doing likewise, and like me, you may have found it both depressing and exhausting.

But this post isn’t about any of that.

This post is about how I’ve been taking a moment here and there to brighten these dark days with a really, really bad book.

After sharing what I previously described as “the worst piece of professionally published fiction I have ever read,” a friend loaned me a book he felt was even worse.

And boy-oh-boy was he right.

It’s a self-published work, so my stance on “Man-Gods From Beyond the Stars” remains unchanged, but while “self-published” is by no means a synonym for “crap,”—I’ve self-published a few works, myself—there is a lot of the latter contained within the former. A whole lot.

And this book, well, it is utter crap.

And it is also absolutely adorable.

Seriously, it’s just adorable. From the mistake in the dedication straight through to the formatting error on the last line, it is chock-a-block with typos, malaprops, misused homophones, and errors of grammar and punctuation. Stylistically, it’s a hot mess. Unwieldy character names abound, used in every line of dialogue and the attached, adverbially enhanced avoidance of the word “said” (e.g., “Not to worry, Gondranth. I’m a trained professional,” stated Ik’nolt greedily). It has (dis)continuity issues that make you flinch and wonder if you’ve just had a minor stroke. And there is So. Much. Telling.

But here’s the thing: it’s just so earnest, so fervent, and so . . . enthusiastic . . . that it’s impossible not to cock your head to the side and say, “Awwww, how sweet.”

I won’t mention the author or title or even the genre here, because my point is not to humiliate the pen that created this trashy treasure. This book is an obvious labor of love, a gift to friends and family, and the author isn’t trying to be famous or “strike it rich” as a bestselling novelist, and isn’t complaining about the heartlessness of the publishing industry. This author just wanted to write a book, an homage to their favorite genre, and share it with others, and I will not make them feel bad about that.

I haven’t, and I won’t read the book in its entirety—frankly, I’m not sure that’s possible—but when I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed by [again, gestures to everything], I will pick it up, open it to a random page, and chuckle at such fervid prose so inexpertly crafted.

We should all be that passionate about something. I’m glad this author found their dream and congratulate them on achieving the goal.

k

Read Full Post »

As a youth, I was not “into” comic books. The reason for this was two-fold.

First, the nearest store that had a rack of comic books was a two-mile walk from my house. Now, a two-mile walk wasn’t unusual for me—I spent all summer and many school-day afternoons with friends up in the hills, trekking miles from our suburban homes—and a gaggle of us would frequently walk or ride our bikes down to that store, but once there, the primary reason came into play: as a kid, I was never given an allowance. (more…)

Read Full Post »

More free books? More free books!

Once more, with feeling.

I’m rounding out these Quarantine eBook Giveaways with three titles.

This time, it’s Volumes 3–5 from The Fallen Cloud Saga, my alternate history set in 19th century America. This will complete your five-book set, and this Thursday thru Monday (May 07–11), they are free.

As always, you don’t need the e-reader; you just need the app. It’s available for free, for PC, Mac, and all smart phones.

Feel free to share with friends, family, enemies.

The Fallen Cloud Saga (Vols 3–5)

Click the links below to visit each book’s page and get your free copy!

The Shadow of the Storm

The Cry of the Wind

Beneath a Wounded Sky

I hope these giveaways have helped you make it through quarantine.

Stay home
Stay healthy
Save lives

k

Read Full Post »

Free books, y’all.

Yip, I’m doing it again. To help you get through your quarantine/stay-at-home time, I’m giving away two more titles.

This time, they’re from The Fallen Cloud Saga, my alternate history set in 19th century America. It’s a five-book set, and tomorrow thru Monday (April 23–27), the first two ebooks in the series are free.

As always, you don’t need the e-reader; you just need the app. It’s available for free, for PC, Mac, and all smart phones.

Feel free to share with friends, family, enemies.

The Fallen Cloud Saga (Vols 1–2)

Click the links below to visit each book’s page and get your free copy!

The Year the Cloud Fell

The Spirit of Thunder

 

Keep checking in for updates and future titles.

Stay home
Stay healthy
Save lives

k

 

Read Full Post »

Hear ye, hear ye.

My second ISO-book-giveaway is now underway. Just my attempt to help folks through their self-isolation. Keep it up, guys! You’re doing great!

This time you can get The Ploughman Chronicles (my high-fantasy duology—biology? Two volume!—series set in 9th c. Brittany). Today thru Sunday, they are free of charge, in Kindle e-book format.

As always, you don’t need the e-reader; you just need the app. It’s available for free, for PC, Mac, and all smart phones.

Feel free to share with friends, family, enemies.

The Ploughman Chronicles

Ploughman’s Son (PC:1)
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0052PJS24

Ploughman King (PC:2)
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0052PJQU8

Keep checking in for updates and future titles.

k

Read Full Post »

What? You thought that just because I posted a book giveaway on Wednesday, there wasn’t going to be a regular post this week? Silly rabbit.

Reading is usually an escape for me, but while in COVID-lockdown, it’s been a challenge. Oh, I can read news articles fine (although I could do with fewer of them), but fiction? I just can’t seem to marshal the requisite mental focus to immerse myself in a novel. My mind is too easily distracted, too easily pulled out of the narrative, and I can only concentrate for twenty or so pages at a time, which frustrates me and compounds the problem.

Last week, though, I thought “Ah, but short stories!” A short story I figured I could handle, so I picked up a collection we’d recently brought home. The Birds and Other Stories, by Daphne du Maurier.

My first introduction to du Maurier’s fiction came via Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rebecca.” It’s a great movie and I recommend it highly, but the novel, ah, the novel! So many interesting and unusual choices in style and structure, with beautiful prose paintings and deep character studies. The book and movie both garnered deserved praise.

But, chances are, your introduction to Daphne came from a different du Maurier/Hitchcock collaboration, specifically “The Birds.” It was with this short story, written circa 1952, that I sat down, in an attempt to get my mind off All Things COVID. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: