On the Bookshelf XXVIII


Black Moon by Kenneth Calhoun
Thoughtful and reminiscent of Matheson at his eerie finest, Black Moon is the story of apocalypse through mass insomnia. Basically: when 90% of the world’s population loses its ability to sleep, everything goes to hell. This is a stunner of a debut. I have my fingers crossed that it ends as well as it has begun.
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
My second time through. If you haven’t read this book, you are committing a crime deserving of punishment. (Sorry, it had to be said. You know it did.)
Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield
A grand, gritty, painstakingly detailed account of the Spartans at Thermopylae. Pressfield is an engaging tale-spinner, and I’m looking forward to rewatching Zach Snyder’s 300 when I’m finished, just to compare.
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
Next to Douglas Wilson’s Wordsmithy, there is no writing book I return to more frequently or with greater relish than this one. Regardless of what you think of his fiction, King is a great writer. We can – and should – learn much from what he’s written here.

What’s on your bookshelf right now?

‘The Agonie’, George Herbert

From The Temple (1633), a compilation of Herbert’s poetry:

Philosophers have measur’d mountains,
Fathom’d the depths of seas, of states, and kings,
Walk’d with a staffe to heav’n, and traced fountains:
But there are two vast, spacious things,
The which to measure it doth more behove:
Yet few there are that sound them; Sinne and Love.

Who would know Sinne, let him repair
Unto mount Olivet; there shall he see
A man so wrung with pains, that all his hair,
His skinne, his garments bloudie be.
Sinne is that presse and vice, which forceth pain
To hunt his cruell food through ev’ry vein.

Who knows not Love, let him assay
And taste that juice, which on the crosse a pike
Did set again abroach; then let him say
If ever he did taste the like.
Love in that liquour sweet and most divine,
Which my God feels as bloud; but I, as wine.

Ryan, Dunst, and Mrs. Tweedy

Kirsten Dunst Offends With Traditional Gender Role Comments in Harper’s Bazaar UK

The 31-year-old cover girl has a more traditional view when it comes to relationships between men and women.

“I feel like the feminine has been a little undervalued,” she told the magazine. “We all have to get our own jobs and make our own money, but staying at home, nurturing, being the mother, cooking – it’s a valuable thing my mom created… 

“And sometimes, you need your knight in shining armor. I’m sorry. You need a man to be a man and a woman to be a woman. That’s how relationships work.”

Judging by the resultant outrage, you’d think she was advocating the murder of unborn children, or defending homosexual sex, or – oh shoot. I forgot. Those kinds of things aren’t really outrageous anymore.

Common sense is, though.

Drop so much as a word in support of traditional roles for men and women, and the Feminist Establishment – armed with a withering hatred of all things feminine – will move heaven, earth, and a few galaxies to let you know of its extreme displeasure. “Somebody’s been a naughty, naughty girl.” (Say this in the voice of Chicken Run’s Mrs. Tweedy to get the full effect.)

And of course, there’s something funny about Erin Gloria Ryan’s comment: “Dunst is not paid to write gender theory so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that she’s kind of dumb about it.”

See, had Dunst said something about the utter uselessness of the human male – “and what a miserable creature he is, too!” – I’m betting Ryan would label her a super smart cookie. I imagine there’d be a line somewhere about the actress possessing a “depth of insight that transcends her career in Hollywood.”

Inspiring, isn’t it?

In Which I Give You Some Very Stupid Advice

You know things have come full circle when you find yourself writing a blog post about the writing of blog posts – which is what I’m doing here. I am writing a short post in praise of long ones. Because brevity bigots are a royal pain in the bee-yoo-double-tee.

And what is a brevity bigot? says you. Fair question, says I. A brevity bigot subscribes to the assumption that good blogging is always a matter of less is more. Always – meaning, “without exception.” In other words, if you can’t say it in five modest paragraphs or less, don’t say it at all.

The reasons for such bigotry are multifarious (a beautiful word, don’t you agree?), but a frequently cited one is this: readers see a giant block of text and they go mad. They can’t handle it. Au fond, they don’t want your words because you wrote too many of them. Congratulations, poophead. You just lost your audience.

Oh well.

They say less is more, but sometimes more is more. There are subjects that require a lengthier exposition than 500 words will allow. Cut what you can cut. Leave the rest. Bloat is bad, but so is cheeseparing. If, after a vigorous application of the scissors, your piece is still of necessity a goodish length, so be it. Don’t be an ass. Put the scissors down.

The advice I just gave you is stupid advice according to many blogging gurus, but forget about them. Do not cramp your style or dull your point to cater to a flock of Twitterized attention spans and text-fed brains. They’re not worth your consideration. Speak your piece – no more, no less – because here’s the thing: the minute a writer doesn’t say what needs to be said because he wants to keep an audience, something inside of him dies.