Sex, Death, And Fly Fishing: An Appreciation of John Gierach

…we fall into that class of fishermen who fancy themselves to be poet/philosophers, and from that vantage point we manage to pull off one of the neatest tricks in the sport: the fewer fish we catch the more superior we feel. – John Gierach

Sex, Death, and Fly Fishing by John Gierach (image courtesy Goodreads)

It’s called “the quiet sport” and to those of us who practice it, as I have written about numerous times, perhaps most poetically here, it is part mysticism, part addiction, part that thing which my friends laugh at.  Fly fishing, especially fly fishing for trout, is a complicated, though deceptively simple, activity that involves a good bit of gear, a good bit of luck, a good bit of neurosis. John Gierach’s book of essays, Sex, Death, and Fly Fishing is one of my favorite works on the subject, and, since it’s part of the 2016 reading list, I dove into it immediately after finishing Catherine Heath’s social history of the 70’s and 80’s, Behaving Badly mainly because I am avoiding reading fiction right now as I finish my latest book.

The book is a series of essays that look at those elements of fly fishing that I mentioned above – gear, luck, and neurosis – in about equal parts. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Catherine Heath’s Behaving Badly: the Novel in its Time…

Don’t you think it’s magnificent? A kind of splendid behavior really. A trusting of the future, a daring kind of love. Isn’t it, in a way, splendid? – Catherine Heath

Behaving Badly by Catherine Heath (image courtesy Library Thing)

Catherine Heath is a novelist I stumbled upon through my wife Lea’s interest in and admiration for the actress Judi Dench. In looking around for a present for her (anniversary, Christmas, I forget), I came across a British miniseries called Behaving Badly starring the aformentioned Ms. Dench.

As we watched the miniseries I became interested in finding out more about the author, a British novelist of the 1970’s and 80’s who only developed her career as a novelist in early middle age and who died relatively young (66) of cancer. So I found and bought a copy of the novel Behaving Badly, the work upon which the television show was based.

Having read Heath’s novel, I can offer a couple of observations about which I will elaborate later. The first is that Heath, like most British writers, is deft, witty, and thoughtful. The second is that like any number of fine British writers she may be ignored for long periods. The second of these may actually be a hidden boon to her long term literary reputation. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Book Review: A Rising Tide of People Swept Away by Scott Archer Jones

How will we respond to the children? – Scott Archer Jones

A Rising Tide of People Swept Away (image courtesy Smashwords)

We live in a world of diversity, of change, of  uncertainty. The new novel by Scott Archer Jones, A Rising Tide of People Swept Away, explores what Dr. Johnson might call the “interstial vacuities.” A small boy from  a troubled family, a family part Hispanic, part Anglo, becomes the “adopted” child of a group of troubled people in the Albuquerque Bosque area.  The story of how he is saved while they are lost is the focus of A Rising Tide of People Swept Away.

I think this is a significant book for a couple of reasons. First, it is a novel that addresses what is happening to too many in our country: people who are pawns in the machinations of government working in concert with wealthy forces interested in increasing their wealth do their best to fight back against adds that are so stacked against them they are doomed from the start. Second, and this is the real story and power of Jones’s novel, this is a story of how human love and kindness persist in the face of the forces mentioned in the first reason.  Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bulwer-Lytton and the Art of Bad Writing…

Let the past perish, when it ceases to reflect on its magic mirror  the beautiful magic which is its noblest reality, though perchance though but the shadow of its delusion. – Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Edward Bulwer-Lytton (image courtesy Wikimedia)

It has been a couple of weeks since I last wrote anything. There are explanations – reasons, if you will. None of them will please everyone, but remember what Lincoln said….

Reason #1: I have waded through a large pile of books as a judge for the Florida Authors and Publishers Association annual book awards. This task has some elements comparable to the 12 labors of Hercules.  Part of the task has been like overcoming the Nemean Lion. Part of it has been like pursuing the Hind of Ceryneia. Part of it has been like cleaning the Augean Stables.

Yes, well…

Reason #2: I have started – and stopped (gasps from those who know my “if you start a book, finish it” mantra) a couple of books. Whether this comes as a result of some sort of reading fatigue brought on by #1 or whether it is the result of other causes, I am to learn. And so, it would seem, are you. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Paul Kantner’s Brainchild: A Personal Appreciation of Jefferson Airplane

Life is change/How it differs from the rocks… – Paul Kantner, “Crown of Creation”

Paul Kantner, rock star (image courtesy Wikimedia)

The recent series of rock star deaths  in these first months of 2016 has had me, not unlike many Boomers, pondering how to feel about the passing of my era and its music. I took a stab at explaining how it felt after three major figures – David Bowie, Glen Frey, and Paul Kantner – passed away in quick succession and thought I’d reached a satisfactory, if not satisfying conclusion: rock and roll may not be here to stay.

Writing about those figures who played such an important role in my life was cathartic. Saying goodbye, however painful that process may be, is always a good way to achieve closure. It’s a mature, psychologically and emotionally, response to the sense of loss.

Which is psychobabble, of course. And to which Kantner might say, in his own inimitable fashion, that it “…doesn’t mean shit to a tree.”

We mostly connect to our famous heroes because we admire them, because we desire them, because we want to be them. But once in a while we connect to a writer, an artist, an actor, a musician, because we can sense we’re like them.

I’m a guy like Paul Kantner.  So sending some love to his brainchild Jefferson Airplane feels like a good way to say thanks to him for giving me so much. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Kristin Lavransdatter III: The Cross -To Strive, to Seek… not to Yield…

“So it’s futile to regret a good deed… for the good you have done cannot be taken back; even if all the mountains should fall, it would still stand.” – Sigrid Undset

Kristin Lavransdatter: The Cross (image courtesy Goodreads)

The final volume of Sigrid Undset’s three part saga of medieval Norway, Kristin Lavransdatter, known by its individual title, The Cross, completes the story of its eponymous heroine and ends with her death during the bubonic plague pandemic of what Barbara Tuchman called “the calamitous 14th century.” Having lost her husband, Erland, her friend, brother-in-law, and secret admirer Simon Andresson, and four of her eight beloved sons already, one would expect that she is worn out by life’s heartbreak and suffering. But that is not the case. Kristin’s death comes as a result of her caring for the body of a plague victim after having saved the woman’s child from human sacrifice – an attempt by villagers near the convent where Kristin has become a nun to appease the evil spirit that they believe has brought the pestilence upon them.

Kristin remains to the end, then, Kristin: vibrant, tormented, beautiful, troubled, striving, frustrated.

But we’re ahead of ourselves. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Constance Fenimore Woolson: Miss Grief Misguided…

There’s no gentle way to put this: the best thing Constance Fenimore Woolson could have done for her writing career was keep the hell away from Henry James….

Women Artists, Women Exiles: Miss Grief and Other Stories by Constance Fenimore Woolson (image courtesy Barnes and Noble)

As I mentioned a few posts back in my essay on Constance Fenimore Woolson, I had ordered a copy of Miss Grief and Other Stories through a favorite used book vendor. The edition I bought is not the edition currently being widely reviewed and discussed. It is an equally reliable edition of Woolson’s stories published in the late 1980’s as part of a series called “Women Artists, Women Exiles” from Rutgers University Press.

Having now read Miss Woolson’s stories (though I read “Miss Grief” twice, having found a pdf – they have this thing called the Internet – of the story which I read for my earlier essay on her career and sad end), I can say with assurance that the current furor over her “rediscovery” is justified. She is a fine writer, and her work shows depth of understanding both of the characters and themes that she explores as well as of her personal literary heritage and of literary history.

Tradition and the individual talent I think some guy called it.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment