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My Thoughts on Cormac McCarthy's "The Road"

The Cover of the Road

I had really conflicted thoughts about this book. As a reader it it had all the hallmarks of greatness - it was a page turner and a quick read. It was really digestible and for someone inspired and moved by tragedies, The Road really delivers.  I felt the last third of the book was rather rushed.  The pacing was strange and I think that was because much of the drama of the setting is conveyed in the beginning where more of the drama of the characters is reflected in the end.  If you liked the Road I suggest the comic series, The Walking Dead.  In the words of Thomas Hobbes, "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short."

As a writer, while I found the language rich and evocative McCarthy takes interesting licence in the grammar and format. The lack of quotation marks was actually refreshing but there were times tense changes and fragment sentences made me wince. It drove me to write a piece in some sort of stark contrast - both complimentary and divergent. You can find it at The Dharma of Don.  Not for the feint of heart, I will say that I am surprised and pleased this book is a best-seller and I look forward the the movie.  I am both hoping and dreading a relentless jaunt through the darkness of human desperation.

I can only hope we carry on the fire.


This book was a joy to read. Aside from one criticism I would highly recommend Johannes Cabal to anyone interested in the macabre. Jonathan Howard brings to the page the tenor of Something Wicked This Way Comes and the wit of Christopher Moore, with a healthy dose of the endearing antics of John Constantine. Tragic and funny this romp through the world of infernal carnies did nothing less than make me scramble to read the next installment, Johannes Cabal: the Detective. Well written with a hint of the grandiose style of carnival barkers and Penny Dreadfuls the exploits of the novel's anti-hero is an easy read, to boot.

There were a few chapters where the approach came off to me as kitchy and didn't add anything to the book. For instance there is a chapter where a child is involved in the character's antics and the author chooses to frame two-thirds of the chapter as a "summer vacation" report in the child's broken english. I think it took "showing" instead of "telling" to an extreme that removed me from the fantasy and made it painfully obvious I was reading a book.

I will definitely come back to this novel in a years time if for no reason than to revisit truly endearing, creepy characters and to share Howard's obvious love for language.

What have I been up to

Well, it's been a while and I am predictably behind on my card research but here are some highlights of some of my writing. Sadly I've not been reading as much as I'd like. Let see if I can change that this week.

Here is where I talk about writing, the process and projects I am working on:

This is where I'll be posting my short stories. I am starting one post a day here. Wish me luck.

This is my traditional blog, talking about social issues and observations.: http://introspectionincarnate.blogspot.com/

Also, check out a cool site called 750 Words. It's really helped motivate me.  I've posted to each of these at least once this week, some twice.

My thoughts on Me Talk Pretty One Day

It took an interminable amount of time to get through this book. Don't misunderstand, it's fantastic. It's imagery and clever, casual way evoked memory and was accompanied by stories told by countless people I had met. Stories told but never so well as Sedaris weaves his yarns.

David Sedaris paints himself unapologetic and without pretense, other than that of a writer who understands his place amidst best sellers. I can't put my finger on the stereotype he fulfills perfectly – sarcastic, critical, worldly, socialistic with an air of humility for his hubris to hide behind. It was a great read and marks Sedaris as a true artist among writers and storytellers. I'd be lying if I didn't find some hope in his stories, a air of ardent intellectualism, simplicity and hard work that turns this simple mans life into the thing that people want to read, the thing people want to hear. The story I Almost Saw This Girl Get Killed is cunningly self referential, exposing how a story well told rarely has to be couched in interesting events. The man can talk about his father hiding food and make it entertainment.

I will say, as a comment on my own aesthetic, I found the second half of the book much funnier than the first. The chapters on him learning French made me laugh out loud and Sedaris's daydreams are pulled right out of my own casual fantasies. Another oddity was revealed to me in my reflection of how I felt about the combination of this work and Persepolis. It was as if there was a brooding subtext to Sedaris's work, mimicked in stark black and white pictorials. I dismiss this as probably happening had I read any two chronological memoirs of people of similar ages.

Even at it's most self-deprecating Me Talk Pretty One Day made me want to walk in Sedaris's shoes, have lived his life. I'm off to spend $2.99 on the This American Life app for the iPhone that my buddy, Jonathan has been plugging.

My Thoughts on Persepolis

Normally I'll see a film before I read the book it's based on. Since the novel is bound to be better I figure why be disappointed by the film? Uncertain if I was going to see the film I went ahead and read Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi.

With no foothold at all on Iranian history, culture or political perspective other than what little I learned in 1979 when 53 hostages were held in the American Embassy by militants, Persepolis was a refreshing look into an otherwise closed world. The hostage situation was a particularly powerful touch point for me. In a small portion of the graphic novel here was a woman retelling the events of 1979 from a completely different point of view. The author and I were at the same stage in our lives and we were reading about and ruminating over the events that were transpiring. Thousands of miles separated us but there was this interesting connection - even if it was created in another century and, albeit, one-sided. Persepolis still makes me feel like Marjane and I are close friends, friends that visit one another and who are asked after the other at family functions.

Part of that connection is forged by the author being a writer revealing her personal history. She's coming at her experiences as an intellectual and I just couldn't help but get sucked into her narrative filled with hope, idealism and her pursuit to educate herself. Although unique Persepolis takes on this Austenian air in black and white.

After having read the book I could not imagine how this would express itself without her illustration. The graphic novel format threatens to wash out the literature of the book, obfuscating well crafted language, but what you may have missed in Satrapi's writing you gain in this expressive medium. A young, heartbroken Marjane lying in a black field, lost, was a powerful image and I'm uncertain one that could have been replicated with only words.

The tale spans over a decade and attempts to help the reader understand complex politics, conflicted religious perspective while navigating the spectrum of human drama. Persepolis takes on a feel of communist testimonials told before hundreds of your comrades but those experiences carry with them a personal stake. Even topics I thought I knew a little about I found elightened and informed through a vivid, critical lense.

Disclaimer about fiction vs reality

*sigh* Let me be perfectly clear that my conversations here in no way reflects my support or condemnation of the use of playing cards and the Tarot in any way other than as a historical reference. For millenia living people have used cards for entertainment and narrative purposes. This series is a reflection of the narrative connection between cards and man. No doubt someone is going to say I cover the topic with too little or too much reverence and to them I say "you're missing the point." To say that merely talking about the cards affects their power then the same can be said for a flag, a gun, a role-playing game, music, or even a cross. Lying on the table those things have no hand in the deaths or well being of others. It's only by man's intervention - righteous, powerful, discerning or delusional as he may be - do these object have any meaning. It is sad I have to mention this yet it is clear some folks still have yet to be able to reason their way out of a paper bag.

We're telling stories here, people.


The Red Joker, Power or Illusion

In thinking about whether I should put the red joker next in my ranking system or at the end provided an interesting challenge. On one hand the Red Joker can represent the Magician, in cartomancy, and such a card belongs as the pinnacle of the artist's hopes. It represents creation, skill in the form of the magus and renaissance diviners aligned it with artisan. However, earlier still the Magician was looked on as a charlatan, a street performer, coming after the fool and before the beggar.

In an occultic perspective I like to see the magus as obvious and affected but filled with potential. A good start. As a trump it can represent a wild card, "an excuse that can be played but cannot win." I like this position in the ranking because it represents false starts. It represents where many get to but nary venture forth.


My thoughts on Bird by Bird

Bird by Bird stands as exemplar of the aphorism of laughter being the best medicine. Anne Lamott connects with the plight and joys of writing and presents it as the most dysfunctional, charming and wise friend you could have. This book will be read again and again. Not because I'm am a writer, but because I am human.

I spend three days a week in coffee shops all over Philadelphia. In the short time it took to devour such poingant prose invariably someone approached me to share what an amazing read her book was.

The many published works on writing I absorb reveal the same wisdoms repackaged - have your own space, take notes on life, publication is not the worthier goal, find a writing group and other ideologies to help writers pick up the quill and do what is most important in the process, just writing. Ms. Lamott does so with such sincerety, conviction, pathos and refreshingly self-depricating humor as to make the very world writers live in a better place.
See that look? That's not anger. That is the look of fucking determination. I am a writer and I said that I would be posting about certain things here so it's high time that I did. Each card listed below has a meaning and a story behind it. I am going to start there. In fact, not only will it be my research of the day it will be my rank. Every book I read, every blog I post to, every story I tell, every game I design and test, and every deadline I meet, I gain in rank. The progression will first advance through suits, left to right on the table below, then progress to the next number. In the meantime, when I can, I will fold said ranks into my stories.

Please, if you see a card rank posted here by all means expand our knowledge and tell me about that card. Don't regurgitate some website (although links are welcome) but tell me something you learned or heard that adds depth to the character of the card. Playing cards, tarot, oracles, systems, anything at all that brings an ordinary deck of cards and my current value as a writer some meaning.

I will start with the black joker. It's my starting rank and demonstrates The Fool in the Tarot, reminds me of the Malkavians in Vampire. Now it has been a very, very long time since I played Vampire but I was always drawn to Malkavians. Not the ones which we referred to as "bunny slipper" Malkavians that just did stuff to be random and silly, rather Malkavians were vampires that had gone insane, not only due to their nature as a vampire but also because their senses were keen and they gained a more broad view of the world. Interesting enough in some tarot the Fool resides not at the end, as in my story, but between the 20th and 21st cards, Judgement and the World.

I believe what drew me to Malkavians was the idea that I knew something they didn't. I had some bit of knowledge that made me smarter or more enlightened than my brethren. Social mediocrity and underestimation were common themes in my past and one I, well, heh, embraced. I can easily say that my most memorable character were Malkavians.

That being said write me something and post it elsewhere and send me the link in a comment here. Tell me about a time you were a fool, or hell, in the spirit of self-deprecation, a time I was a fool. I'll look forward to moving on to another rank.

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All images used are an homage and not intended as a challenge to your hard work. If I've misquoted or misrepresented please let me know and I will corrrect the situation presently. Tarot by Arwen and Malkavian property of While Wolf


A Good Day: In preparation for GenCon

I Find it auspicious that I get tatted on 8-8-08.