Free Copies Of GRAPHIC THE VALLEY Today To The First 75 People Who Respond

 

Novel forthcoming in July, 2013

Tyrus Books is running a flash giveaway of my first novel, Graphic The Valley, today in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the National Parks. The first 75 people who click the link above and contact Tyrus will get a free hard-copy sent to their mailing addresses.

It’s Simple, Really, We Don’t Need Much

StowLakeEugene

My daughter and I were just talking, creating a list of things that make this life incredible, and we realized how many small things were on the list.

Here are ten of the many that we came up with:

  • Dark chocolate
  • Avacados
  • Bright sunlight in winter
  • Red bell peppers
  • Poems
  • Novels
  • Rivers
  • Juniper Trees
  • Sage
  • Coffee

When We’re Wrong About A Book

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At an English department book exchange, I received a memoir I’d never heard of, James Thurber’s 1933 memoir My Life And Hard Times. To be honest, it didn’t look good. It was 86 pages long and filled with very mediocre black and white cartoons. Plus, I was judging the book by its cover, and simply because of that godawful cover, I doubted that I’d ever read it.

But…

I got back from snowshoeing last night, got into warm, dry clothes, cracked the book, and read the opening chapter. And not only was that chapter incredibly well-written, but it was funny. Laugh out loud funny. My daughter and I were sitting next to each other on the floor. She was reading her book and I was reading mine, and I kept laughing so hard that she’d make me read passages aloud to her.

But I still thought the book might not be very good. I thought that the first story might be an aberration. There were still those terribly-drawn comics throughout. There was still that really ugly cover. How could a memoir that presents itself so badly be this good?

And it turns out that I was right about the first chapter. That chapter was an aberration. As good as it was, the first chapter was nowhere near as good as most of the chapters in the book. This memoir was a tiny little collection of brilliant and funny essays. The author (Thurber) sneaks up on you. His self-deprecating methods are subtle but successful. It’s almost as if he doesn’t know what he’s doing in his own writing. Yet he does. There’s mastery here. Mastery throughout.

Also, his father is afraid of automobiles.

His senile grandfather lives in the family’s attic and shoots at police officers.

The family escapes a great flood in 1913.

And Thurber’s story about a family dog is so good that I finished it and immediately started re-reading.

 

 

 

Fall Rock Climbing In Oregon

Rock climbing in the fall in Oregon, on clear, cold, sunny days is about as good as it gets.

The following photos and the Ridgemont Video at the bottom are all filmed by Ben Leroy.

First, check out the color of this fall sky:

Blue Sky Columns

Second, here’s the “Third Column Face Variation”:

Face Variation

Finally, click here for a video of a quick top-rope lap on my favorite finger crack in Oregon.

If you’ve never climbed that crack, you should come do it. Crack climbing doesn’t get a whole lot better than that (I’d stack this one, short pitch against anything I’ve done in Yosemite – and my friend who guides in the Tetons says that he misses The Columns more than anything since he moved to Wyoming).

 

PLACEBO JUNKIES Coming Out This Week From Knopf

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J. C. Carleson’s new book, Placebo Junkies, is coming out this week from Knopf, and I wanted to write a few words about it (avoiding spoilers):

First, this book is well-written. The phrasing is great. The voice is consistent and engaging. For an example, here’s half of a sentence from the first chapter:

” …hold in that razor-blade wetness long enough to find a cup, a bucket, anything to catch it, dammit, and you barely manage to stifle your scream of triumph as you find an empty Snapple bottle in the trash can and fill it with your beautiful, cloudy piss with its faint but unmistakable trace of blood.”

Second, this book is gritty (see example above). The characters, events, and relationships are real, honest, and brutal.

Third, this book will make you think about some big, important social and societal issues. How’s that for a vague promo with no spoilers?

Finally – and maybe most important for a young adult book – you will never be bored while reading this. There wasn’t a single moment when I thought, “Yeah, I’ll just read something else for a while and put this book down.” No, Placebo Junkies has enough of the unexpected to keep a reader going all the way until the end.

William Faulkner Quote On Talent Versus Work

This needs no intro or follow up:

β€œAt one time I thought the most important thing was talent. I think now that β€” the young man or the young woman must possess or teach himself, train himself, in infinite patience, which is to try and to try and to try until it comes right. He must train himself in ruthless intolerance. That is, to throw away anything that is false no matter how much he might love that page or that paragraph. The most important thing is insight, that is … curiosity to wonder, to mull, and to muse why it is that man does what he does. And if you have that, then I don’t think the talent makes much difference, whether you’ve got that or not.”

[Press conference, University of Virginia, May 20, 1957]
― William Faulkner

Time Is Not Linear – Art Inspires Art

Here is my explanation of time – the way that I understand time – with images of art interspersed (great art affecting the way that I think).

First, while writing a novel, I don’t worry about time, not in draft stage. I write any scene that’s important, in any order that I think of it. There’s no order to it at all, only madness. And sometimes I trust that madness and never put those scenes back in what people think of as time order.

The Tree Of Life, 1905, by Gustav Klimpt

The Tree Of Life, 1905, by Gustav Klimt

In my memoir, The End of Boys, time was thematic, meaning that scenes from my life linked to other scenes of any time period based on theme, an overlapping view of my own reality that isn’t based on chronological progression but instead on thematic development of the person. I tried to help the reader by showing time switches in italics, an italic switch being a trick I learned from William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. Kesey studied Faulkner as well, and also used the italic switch in his brilliant Sometimes A Great Notion.

Notary, 1983, by Jean-Michel Basquiat

Notary, 1983, by Jean-Michel Basquiat

Time is Circular. The image I see of time is one of overlapping circles, maybe circles pushing forward, or maybe circles dropping back, but then they might loop around and push forward once again.

I had a friend from El Salvador explain that linear time is a modern way of thinking about time. He said that in the Bible, time was thought of as circular or cyclical, that God is eternal and that the earth is a living series of cycles. THAT is how I like to think of time. This modern push to mechanize and count seconds digitally doesn’t interest me. The theory that all of the world could be on the same exact clock to the nanosecond because of satellites and cell phones is an idea that makes me think of Nazis, a “perfect” sterile image of a Northern European or US technological ideal. But ideals are not interesting to me. Imperfection is interesting to me.

The Tower of Babel, 1563, by Pieter Brueghel

The Tower of Babel, 1563, by Pieter Brueghel

In my work in progress, Too Shattered For Mending (Knopf, 2017), I’ve used present tense for the progression of the current story (in time order) and past tense for interlaced scenes that happened in the past. Again, I don’t worry about any of those old scenes being in order because I trust the intelligence of the reader and know that she’s capable of recognizing chronology or of not needing linear time at all.

Guernica, 1937, by Pablo Picasso

Guernica, 1937, by Pablo Picasso