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Friday, November 29, 2002

Book Review: The Waterfall by Margaret Drabble

In Margaret Drabble's novel The Waterfall, we meet Jane Gray, a woman whose suffering and blessings stem not from action, but from inaction. She prefers boredom over activity, chance over effort, and whatever happens to her over whatever she can make happen. She only falls in love by chance, a corrupt love she never tries to avoid.

Since Jane will not reach for it, love must find her. It watches and waits for her to recover from the birth of her second child. Jane, who drifted into marriage then drove her husband away with her passive disinterest, manages to (unintentionally) attract another man, with whom she falls in love. Their love develops not from a courtship, but from his childlike desire to lie in her warm bed, and from her passive inability to refuse him.

Jane takes us on a journey through her passive experience to an existential awakening. Though it would seem that a character like the one I describe here would prove intolerable, the talented Margaret Drabble makes us want to take the journey with Jane, and makes us want to see Jane finally discarding her passivity.

I consider The Waterfall Drabble's finest novel, and hope that more readers will discover it.

Next week: some blogs I love!

Thursday, November 28, 2002

Angels in (Lubbock, Texas) America.



Tony Kushner’s play Angels in America: Millennium Approaches upsets some people so much that they often work to shut down any theater that produces it. In one case, organizers even tried to block funding to an entire college, just because the theater department there had decided to perform Angels!

This play deals openly and bluntly with the early days of AIDS and the issues surrounding it, focusing largely on gay characters and religious themes. Many people find that unacceptable, but many theater departments see this winner of the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Drama as an important document of American culture that provokes relevant discussions.

In February of 2003, the Texas Tech University Theatre in Lubbock, Texas, will present a production of Angels. Appropriately enough, Tech’s theater department recently produced The Laramie Project, a play about interviews conducted in the town where Matthew Shepard was murdered. I say “appropriately” because references to a local production of Angels play an important part in that drama. I hope Texas Tech University Theatre does as good a job on Angels as The Laramie Project. From past experiences, I think they will.

I’ll have more about Angels, before and after the local production, both here and in Rainbow: Lubbock.

Monday, November 25, 2002

Book review, traffic for your blog.

At Blogcritics.org, John Mudd has just posted a challenging review of The Acorn Gathering. I edited and co-wrote that unusual fiction collection, with all royalties going to cancer cure research.

Click here to read the review.

Bloggers…

If you’ll link to the Amazon.com listing of The Acorn Gathering (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0595227880/) in your links section or within a blog entry, I’ll link back to you on the following high traffic page. You can find details (and some great links) there.

The Acorn Gathering Link Trades

Friday, November 22, 2002

Book review: Rings of Ice by Piers Anthony.

While the writing might not quite match that of Piers Anthony's more recent works, I like that this book stands alone. Too many science fiction and fantasy works today offer subtitles like "Book Two Billion of a Multi-Billion Part Saga in Nine Hundred Stages." If you like high-concept science fiction, then look no further. After rainbows of ice formed around the Earth, they began melting, leaving an unlikely band of people to save themselves and each other. I enjoyed the frequent action sequences, and the growing relationships between the characters. I especially liked how the attitudes toward the transvestite character slowly changed, and how all the survivors learned to work together.

If you like Piers Anthony, you might also like my novel Degranon.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

BookCrossing Benefits Readers and Writers

I keep coming across references to BookCrossing! For those who haven’t heard, BookCrossing is an online and physical book club that encourages people to give away books or “accidentally” leave them places. The books carry labels to help track them, and the people who find them can use the label information to write about the books and share them with others.

For example, Joe buys a copy of Bush at War, reads it and labels it, then leaves it on a park bench or a coffee shop booth. Sue loves Four Blind Mice, so she buys an extra copy, labels it, and gives it to a friend at work. Some people even pass labeled books out at events.

Some writers and publishers hate the whole idea of “freeing” books, as you can see at BookCrossing’s message boards. However, as a writer, I love the idea of more people finding my books, sharing them with others, and writing about them! The buzz they generate sells more books, so that’s hardly a loss for the author or publisher. Besides, someone has to buy a copy to (as BookCrossing says) “release it.” Also, for authors whose publishers don’t supply free review copies, it means someone else provides a review copy! From visiting BookCrossing’s site, I can see that freed books generate reviews, unlike too many of the review copies sent to traditional book reviewers.

If you’re interested in BookCrossing (or already involved with them), please consider buying and “freeing” a copy of The Acorn Gathering: Writers Uniting Against Cancer. I even posted that suggestion at The Acorn Gathering Home Page.

I edited and co-wrote that collection of unusual and often inspiring short stories, with royalties going to cancer cure research. With a program like BookCrossing, many more people would learn about The Acorn Gathering, and help it raise more money for its cause. They could start buying more copies and “freeing” them, for still others to discover. They would also see that they treasure many of the book’s stories; I’ve found that different readers have different favorites in that collection. With a discussion area like at BookCrossing, a lively talk could develop about why some of these stories and authors affect readers so deeply.

Readers can order The Acorn Gathering at most local or online bookstores. They can also preview it online at iUniverse.

Even beyond my work, I love reading books, and I love the idea of people sharing, talking about, and promoting books in general. Please tell others about BookCrossing, or e-mail them a link to this entry.

Monday, November 18, 2002

Movie review: Harry Potter

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets opened to near-record audiences, and deservedly so. Besides a perfect cast, this magical movie blends humor and scares in a wholesome package that all ages can love. Most “family” movies really only appeal to children. But here is one aimed at children that is just as exciting for anyone who loves escapist fare. As with the first movie, my favorite scenes are the scary ones in the forest.

I have to admit that I didn’t like the first movie in the beginning. The Cinderella situation with Harry’s relatives bored me with its familiarity, and director Chris Columbus dragged that part out. However, once Harry arrived at the train station, I fell in love with J. K. Rowling’s fantasy world. In the second film, Columbus uses the family situation to re-introduce us to Harry and his background, but then quickly moves him into a series of amusing and sometimes dark adventures.

I still have too many other books to read to add the Potter books to my reading list, but I certainly look forward to the next movie, and suggest this movie for anyone of any age who wants an entertaining escape!

Saturday, November 16, 2002

Click here to read about my books at the Texas Techsan.

And speaking of West Texas…
Here are 16 reasons to visit Acorn, Texas.

(1) German festival!

(2) The best chicken-fried steak and apple pie this side of Throckmorton!

(3) Close to Lubbock and Amarillo!

(4) Antiques shops and an art gallery!

(5) As far as we can figure, no film students have ever turned up missing here.

(6) Acorn College, and more importantly, Acorn College Football!

(7) How 'bout those sunsets?

(8) Unlike the people in Happy, Texas, we wouldn't mind if you made a movie about us, as long as you gave us lots of money.

(9) A short drive to Roswell, New Mexico.

(10) A short drive from Roswell, New Mexico, if you get tired of the alien hunters.

(11) We’re nothing like West Texans in movies or that ***** Greater Tuna play. (The preceding sentence was edited for a word that made me have to put a quarter in the cuss jar.)

(12) We have a more “normal” name than Shallowater, Levelland, Muleshoe, Throckmorton, or Earth, Texas. We love to brag about our beautiful name.

(13) Though he may deny it and tell us to take this off our Web site, rumor has it that a certain famous West Texan who now lives in D.C. attended a frat party or two here. Maybe he just doesn't remember.

(14) None of our citizens have been on that Survivor TV show or American Idol, but we have a daily Wheel of Fortune Viewers Club, over at the Ice Cream Dream, and you don’t know Fear Factor until you’ve been to Acorn’s Cow Palace on Karoake Night.

(15) According to the latest recount, we still have more marriages than divorces.

(16) Have we mentioned the sunsets?

Learn more at the Acorn, Texas Chamber of Commerce.

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Book review: Harvest The Fire by Poul Anderson.

This science fiction novel is part of a series by Hugo-winning science fiction author Poul Anderson. The storylines here develop from a strong focus on detailed technology that seems completely real-even if the characters seem slightly less real. I wouldn't call it one of my favorite sf books, but I liked it, even without reading the first two books in the trilogy. I also liked the artwork and the book's fast pace.

If you like Poul Anderson, you might also like my novel Degranon.

Monday, November 11, 2002

Book review: Rebel Worlds by Poul Anderson.

I only recently discovered Poul Anderson and plan to read more of his works. Unfortunately, I picked a bad place to start. From his Hugo Award and his many rave reviews, I know he must deserve recognition, but not for this book. He spends most of The Rebel Worlds trying to explain the plot and the different races to the readers, but never really develops much in terms of character or action.

Friday, November 08, 2002

Book review: A Dangerous Thing by Josh Lanyon.

As I mentioned in my review of Lanyon’s first Adrien English book, Fatal Shadows, I usually don’t like mystery novels. But some of them are both witty and exciting, focusing on character development more than the actual crimes. A Dangerous Thing provides a good example of that.

Adrien’s thoughts in response to the other characters often differ from what he really says; otherwise, he would find himself in even more trouble! He is a sarcastic individual, but still lovable!

As with the first novel in this series, Adrien’s passion for writing and for mystery books tie in with the plot. And homophobia again complicates that plot. When this murder investigation begins, he’s in love with a closeted and obviously self-loathing cop, and surrounded by bigoted local law enforcement. Adrien’s health problems make matters worse, along with the fact that he has been accused of murder before.

While I loved Fatal Shadows, I think Lanyon has matured even more as a writer. His prose breezes by, never allowing readers to slow down, but also making them not want to slow down. He describes scenes in intricate details when needed, without boring readers with unneeded details. Also, his knowledge of his genre works smoothly into Adrien’s character, helping Adrien solve the mystery.

This novel should please fans of Fatal Shadows, while also winning Lanyon new readers!

* * *

I’ll have several more reviews over the next few weeks, including a review of a rather long book I’ve just started reading: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About POD Publishing But Didn't Know Who to Ask!!! John F. Harnish wrote that book about print on demanding publishing, how it works, and how it is changing the book market.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Texas Techsan

Texas Techsan, the alumni magazine of Texas Tech University, announced the publication of The Acorn Gathering: Writers Uniting Against Cancer, under Alumni News, in November/December 2002, Volume 55, Number 6.

I received a Ph.D. in English from TTU in 1996. Earlier this year, I edited and co-wrote The Acorn Gathering, with all royalties going to fund cancer research.

Monday, November 04, 2002

DVD Review: Gosford Park

The witty barbs tossed around in Gosford Park could leave a body-count that even Jason Part Two Billion (coming soon, of course) couldn't match. Many viewers will want to see this movie just for a well-dressed, deceitful, and possibly gay character played by Ryan Phillipe, and who can blame them? Phillipe is a handsome and clever actor. But Maggie Smith really makes the movie, with her quiet little insults and her gentle scene-stealing.

The movie is as much about the servants in Gosford Park as about the well-to-do characters who pretend to deserve our attention more. Director Robert Altman brilliantly plays the two sets of characters off each other, toying with their similarities without ignoring the class differences and injustices that keep them apart. Those similarities first become obvious when one of the new arrivals learns that she will be known not by her own name but by the name of the woman she serves.

I wouldn't call this a great comedy, or a great mystery, though it strives to be both. Still, I would call it a great showcase of brilliant acting and clever one-liners. The 1930s period costumes and the character studies make it even more enchanting.