The Books of Summer

July 2017

Books Bought:

  • Jack of Shadows – Roger Zelazny
  • The Game of Life and How to Play It – Florence Scovel Shinn
  • Your Word is Your Wand – Florence Scovel Shinn
  • The Secret Door to Success – Florence Scovel Shinn
  • The Power of the Spoken Word – Florence Scovel Shinn
  • Arguably – Christopher Hitchens
  • American Fun: Four Centuries of Joyous Revolt – John Beckman
  • The Beauty of Humanity Movement – Camilla Gibb
  • I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to be Your Class President – Josh Lieb
  • Absolutely on Music – Haruki Murakami w/Seiji Ozawa
  • How to Be Like Walt – Pat Williams w/ Jim Denney

Books Read:

  • Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better – Pena Chödrön
  • Ethics – Baruch Spinoza
  • Lone Wolf and Cub, American TPB Vol 15 – Kazuo Koine & Goseki Kojima
  • Schopenhauer – Michael Tanner
  • Jack of Shadows – Roger Zelazny
  • Democracy in America – Alexis de Tocqueville (unfinished…barely started)
  • Annie Get Your Gun – Book by Herbert & Dorothy Fields, Music and lyrics by Irving Berlin
  • Ten Years in the Tub – Nick Hornby (Feb ’04 – Jul ’04)
  • Glengarry Glen Ross – David Mamet

Truth be told, I see this list and I feel it’s misleading. For starters, it really seemed to me that I didn’t read much this month. But that list looks to me like I did. Still, Ten Years and Democracy in America lay unfinished. Schopenhauer and Fail were both small books, and Ethics I read, but didn’t fully understand it. That one may need another read.

And, perhaps I went on a bit of spending spree this month. At least that is what it looks like in the bought section. However, I purchased an ebook containing the four works of Florence Shovel Shinn, who I believe to be a sort of early 20th century mystic, or metaphysics practitioner. She was referenced and credited in Tosha Silver’s book Outrageous Openness, and I decided to give The Game of Life a read, when I can get around to it. The whole shebang was $1.99.

I also have a habit of shopping at the Dollar Tree. This started nearly two years ago, my first time attempting The Artist’s Way program, Julia Cameron’s brainchild on creative reinvigoration. It recommended, as a type of “artist date”, or creative activity to do with, by, & for yourself, that shopping at a dollar store and picking up things that could feed your inner child (or artist) would be beneficial. I like picking through the humble book racks. Over that time, I’ve purchased collected essays of David Foster Wallace; a book on Erasmus; a Vampire Hunter D novella, illustrated by Yoshitaka Amano; and most recently, the following: American Fun, The Beauty of Humanity Movement, and I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil. All for $1! (Each.)

Arguably, Absolutely on Music, and How to be Like Walt, all full price. Though, I do get a discount for being a member at the bookstore.  I’ve been interested in Hitchens for a while, but haven’t read anything of his yet. Similar with Murakami.

Zelazny was also an ebook purchase, on sale at Amazon. I’m always amazed at the circuitous routes my reading habits take, and when I first read something by this author, I had to have barely been a teenager. It was on a trip to Tennessee, and my mom stopped at an outlet store shopping center, somewhere in Georgia I would think. I loved books, there was a used book store, and my mother was both supportive of my reading habit as well as being generally doting.

I spotted A Night in the Lonesome October among the stacks of discounted books. A hardback, the dust cover adorned with who I assumed Dracula, Sherlock Holmes, Frankenstein and his monster, the Wolfman, and a rogue’s gallery of other characters. This particular hardback was illustrated by Gahan Wilson (who I later learned was a frequent contributor to Playboy, his comics being equal parts humorous and frightening). I still have the book, and will read it every two to three years at Halloween.

Neverwhere was my introduction to the work of Neil Gaiman, who quickly became my favorite author. Missing out the on the Sandman comic series until much later (I was given the first two volumes of Annotated Sandman, and quickly delved in a few years ago), I found great joy in Gaiman’s prose style. The second book of his I purchased was Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions. The author provides short explanations of each of the stories, including his comments on Only the End of the World Again: “This story came from a number of things coming together… One of them was the late Roger Zelazny’s book A Night in the Lonesome October, which has tremendous fun with the various stock characters of horror and fantasy…”

In Jack of Shadows, we follow the plight of a powerful entity, whose death, rebirth and subsequent search for vengeance is mostly fun. It was a little slow to get into, but once the resurrected Jack is first imprisoned, it begins to feel like a universe created by Zelazny, where possibility and danger are the usual mise en scène. It also hints of political intrigue, and I believe this to be more social commentary than Lonesome October.

As for the others. First of all, thank God for Pena Chödrön’s book. It isn’t that my reading  selections were unreasonably cumbersome. Though, Tocqueville is a whopping seven hundred pages, and I’m barely past the editor’s preface and author’s introduction. To wit, Spinoza’s book isn’t really large either, but the language carries weight that requires more time and attention. Chödrön just happened to be very readable. And pretty small.

Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better is taken from a commencement speech given in CO, and the ensuing interview that was a result. I’ve studied Buddhism for much of my life, in my exploration of theology and philosophy, particularly Eastern practices. Reading of the resiliency of human spirit, the way we can pick ourselves up after failure, is to Chödrön’s credit. She communicates her message of failing in magnificent ways, and I as a reader felt better about failing, as I have in both my recent and distant past.

Tanner’s rundown on Schopenhauer is also small, but at barely sixty pages it still turned into a three-day read. Mind you, the first two weeks of the month I had some difficulty in sitting down to get into anything, and was frequently distracted, fidgety, or just interested in other occupations. C-SPAN, for one. (Take that at face value, please.)

Again, I have a love affair with philosophical works, and should have gone into more heady practices than working with NASCAR, or fundraising for nonprofits. Not that either of those, or the numerous other jobs I’ve worked, can’t be rewarding or wonderful. But I like thinking about things that don’t have a clear answer.

Tanner didn’t really seem to like Schopenhauer all that much. The author was Lecturer in Philosophy at Cambridge until 1997, and was educated in the Royal Air Force. I’m apt to take him at his word, but I don’t have much of an opinion on the philosopher as a person. His concepts on art are well appreciated, especially by music enthusiasts. I’ll likely delve into more serious research on Schopenhauer in the future.

B.S. Baruch Spinoza. In the reading, I stumbled more than once. I wrote on one page of my journal as I was note taking: “Spinoza is full of shit.” Now, he may or may not be correct in any of his assumptions, but I was having serious difficulty reconciling the flow of his logical arguments. (Love philosophy. Just keep telling myself that I love philosophy.)

I did make some headway with Mr. Spinoza through, and I’ve turned from complete detractor of process to more of a curious doubter. I’m hoping to read through some of his correspondence over the coming months, to try and get a clearer picture of what he was talking about.

The rest was mostly aperitif. Lone Wolf is a comic series that I’ve yet to read in its entirety. I have the collect trade paperbacks, all 28 of them. I’m halfway through. Those unfamiliar with Kazure Okami, I highly recommend it. A wandering ronin traveling with his son; former executioner to the Shogun, and betrayed by the Yagyu clan. Now he seeks his revenge, while working an assassin in feudal Japan.


Mamet’s Glengarry is intensely fun, and the book came in the audio form, from a production done at L.A. Theatre Works. It included such voice talents as Richard Dreyfuss, Richard Schiff, and Joe Mantegna.

Additionally, I sat down to do a read through of Annie Get Your Gun, because I’ll be performing in the show in September. It’ll be my first time on stage in nearly a year, so I’m looking forward to it. This is a musical based on the early romantic endeavors of famous gunslinger Annie Oakley and her to-be husband Frank Butler. I did some early research, to discover that after Oakley died, Butler stopped eating, and joined his wife eighteen days later. How about that?

Expecting a less impressive month for the next post. I’ll be working out of town a lot, and may not have time to read all that I want to. A shame, too, because I’m sure to rack up late fees at the library.






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