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Friday, 25 November 2022


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"As a freshman at Dartmouth I was briefly a columnist for The Daily D, at the time the only daily college newspaper in the U.S., or so we were told."

Only if you remove the "daily." The Daily Iowan, where I was assistant publisher at the University of Iowa for a tumultuous year (the year of the Kent State shootings) became a daily in September, 1901. The Daily Texan is actually a pretty huge newspaper, and goes back to 1913 as a daily, which is pretty amazing in its implications (that Texans could read in 1913.)

The "D" is the oldest college newspaper, including its non-daily years. The Yale student newspaper is the oldest daily. Or so I have read.

You missed your calling but cut it in half.

"Every reader has also experienced that feeling of something gone missing from their lives after finishing a good book." As an aspiring novelist, this is the way I felt as my creation came to its end. These were *my* people and I had to let them go, but doing so left me with an empty feeling. What would they do without me? What would I do without them? Having declared my novel complete, what if I later thought of another attribute or scene that should have been included? These feelings lead to a great reluctance to finish writing a novel.

I think a good television series is more relatable to a fiction book. I'll use Justified as an example. The writers did an excellent job with Elmore Leonard's Raylan character as a US Marshall. They fleshed out the characters and story much like Elmore would and had time to do it.

On another note, I liked that John Camp, AKA Sanford brought back a Raylon US Marshall character in a couple of Prey books.

...To Kill a Mockingbird (recently chosen by readers of The New York Times as the best book of the past 125 years) get to be both.

That says as much about the NYT and its readers as it does about To Kill a Mockingbird.

I used to be a huge reader. Then life started happening and I didn't read so much. In retirement I'm trying to read more, and not just photography related books. The current fiction book is The Atlas Six, by Olivie Blake. The non-fiction book I just finished is Capture the Moments, The Pulitzer Prize Photographs, edited by Cyma Rubin, and Eric Newton. HOLY DOODLE! I've seen some of these before, of course, but many were new to me. Some moved me to tears. Even better, the photographs are annotated with a few paragraphs of text about the photo. In the back is a short bio of the photographers. What a gem of a book.

But I think that reading has declined for three reasons. One is that life is much busier now unless you make an effort to simplify, and there just doesn't seem to be the time. The other is that there are so many books! It's a never ending waterfall, all of them crying out to be read, and all too many of them are not worth it, being self published by people who don't know they need an editor. Last, when you've been brought up in a culture where the movie has a jump cut every few seconds, and problems are solved on TV in 45 minutes plus commercials, it's hard to summon the attention span to pay attention to a book for hours.

You certainly do write well.

American Graffiti is one movie that had me in tears on second viewing, quite a long while after the initial take; the tears had little to do with the characters but much to do with my sense of my own, quite different, but equally lost youth. Music is, for me, the most powerful of the arts. La Dolce Vita I’ve watched so often I almost know the script; unfortunately, I’ve reached saturation point and probably won’t watch again. It’s latter day clone, La Grande Bellezza, is another I have watched repeatedly. Italian movies - perhaps I should say Fellini and Antonioni ones, know where to grab my attention. I also enjoyed the Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns quite a lot. Great casting.

Keef’s Life I have read three times. It amazes me how anybody in that scene had the stamina to survive. Though a David Bailey fan, I very much doubt that I’ll read his life story, even though ghosted by the same cat that did the service for Keef. Maybe later…

I struggled through Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance after what seemed like dozens of people told me "You really must read it. It is amazing. I found it amazingly dull and didn't understand the fuss.

I also read the whole Bible twice. Okay, confession, I speed-read some parts that were mind-numbingly boring. It is actually an anthology of writings from around 500-600 years (allegedly 4000, but I'm skeptical about that). I find books about the history of the Bible far more interesting than the Bible itself.

One of my favorite novels is a movie. Forrest Gump. It can be watched at so many levels from silly, challenged Forrest who was picked on his whole life to viewing him as a very special talented human being who did not want a lot out of life except caring for and never abandoning those he cared for. He had no ego and patiently waited for all those who did have egos to wake up. Forrest was both real and at the same time a trip through the challenging years we born in the 50’s had to witness and endure.

Your post was one of the most interesting things I've read in a long time. The point about a book needing to fit your current stage of life and development is so very true. In my mid-teens, I read Frederic Brown's "Martians, Go Home" to be terrifically clever and funny. Sixty years later, I ran across a copy and reread it. Still found it clever but not very funny; my wife put it down after a few pages. One "great book" that we were forced to read in high school was "Ben Hur," one of the dullest novels ever written, not to mention its gaping plot holes...

Students at UT Austin enjoyed reading the Daily Texan newspaper.....daily during the six years I was a student and the three years I was on the faculty in the College of Fine Arts. I'm pretty sure it's still being published daily, but online now.

Amazingly, even the business majors and engineering students were capable of reading back then (1970s-1980s).

I know John will be amazed. We done read good. Y'all.

I did read "A Christmas Carol" the once, but basically my preferred form of that story is the 1951 film with Alastair Sim.
Never read "Don Quixote" (and for a long time thought it was pronounced "quick-soat", culture not being big in the small mining village where I grew up) and mostly know of parodies, references and that musical.

Re-reading books you liked in your past is always a dangerous game. There's always a book you really liked back in the day that, if you read it now, you bounce off and just want to toss it in the recycle bin.

My 102 year old mother in law is legally blind due to macular degeneration. She has a device like a copy stand that has a video camera and a screen and with it she can read by blowing up a page one word at a time.
She spends much of her time reading and she doesn't read junk.
In the last six months she has polished off The Devil in the White City, the Wolf Hall Trilogy and Moby Dick.
She also spends about an hour a day on the good book.
This is her everyday routine broken only when the Packers are on tv.
Go Ethel.
By the way, if you have an interest in Tudor history Hilary Mantels books on Thomas Cromwell are a blast. Also highly recommended is The Succession by George Garrett.

What a great post; it resonated greatly with me, as I've always been a reader. More middle-brow than highbrow, perhaps - I've never been one for the Booker Prize books, for example (though the Hilary Mantel novels were an exception), more the Costa/Whitbread books (sadly, that prize has now been terminated).

The pandemic has been a huge reading opportunity for both my wife and I. We were randomly selected to participate in the UK's Office for National Statistics Covid infection (and antibody) monthly survey, for which we each get a voucher. In our cases almost always a book voucher, so over the last two years we have bought many, many new books and our library shelves are now overflowing.

I agree that authors often have their moment and then are forgotten, or ignored. Who now reads Grahame Greene? - but when I was at school (1960s) he was probably regarded as the UK's greatest living novelist. Perhaps, though, his agonies over faith and fidelity no longer have have the force they had then. Other writers seem never-endingly fresh - my wife recently read Pride and Prejudice for the first time since her school days, and she was surprised at how well it went. Not only does that novel still stand tall, but it has succeeded and continues to succeed in other media and environments - there have been at least two English language films (Keira Knightley has never been better), six TV series on the BBC alone, adaptations to other cultures e.g. Bollywood's Bride and Prejudice, plus some mashups - Pride & Prejudice & Zombies (exactly as it sounds), Lost in Austen (time travel/wish fulfilment - a modern young woman changes places with Elizabeth), Death comes to Pemberley (P&P/Police Procedural), and so on. I've enjoyed many of them.

One thing I hate - Trilogies! These tend to just tell the same story over and over. Some people blame Tolkien for this because Lord of the Rings was first published in 3 volumes, but that was purely because the story was too long for one physical book at the time. Not so today - the latest 'Robert Galbraith' book (actually by JK Rowling) runs to 1100 pages!

Here are a couple of lists of books. First, the BBC's list of 25 Greatest British novels, from 2015:

And more popularly, here's a recent list of the UK's favourite books, from Country Living:

Funny thing about “The Catcher in the Rye.” I’m a late bloomer on almost everything, including that book. I didn’t read it until I was about 30, having avoided it because it’s a “classic.” My experience up to then was largely that classics were as dull as dirt, this based primarily on the classics I had attempted having been bloated Victorian tomes where the writer was clearly paid by the word, evidenced by every thought and action taking at least three times as many words and sentences as needed. (“Verily he undertook his labour and well did he agape the portal” vs. “He opened the door.”)

I confess I knew nothing of TCITR other than its status as “classic” and maybe something about disaffected youth or whatever. So one day when I was about 30, and still somewhat youthy, and in fact highly disaffected (for various reasons) I saw a fresh looking copy in a used book store and I thought maybe it was time to give it a go, it being mercifully short, unlike most of the somnolence-inducing classics that I avoided.

It hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. A combination of my state of mind and my “blank slate” regarding what the book was about caused me to fall into it completely. Rarely have I so “lived” a reading experience as I did with that one.

I have not re-read it, and do not plan to. I’m a different person now, in a different world, so there’s no way a re-read would be anything short of a disappointment.

When I retired, I was graced with the newfound time to focus on my photography, printing, and reading. What I find fascinating is reading books from the 1800’s, the language, the sentence structure, spelling. How the stories are told, what is of importance to call out. This is my reading list over the past six years; a slice of history, anthropology, science, philosophy, art and of course photography. Yes, Don Quixote is on the list. As are the musings of Grizzly Adams, Sarah Winnemucca, Mary Gartside, Talbot, Emerson, Robinson, Captains John Ross and James Clark Ross.


Stay curious,

- Eric

Below is another composition of Riley’s, typically encountered at a funeral service, either as a reading or printed in the program. It can be used for men too, of course, by changing the personal pronouns.

Some will no doubt label the verse sentimental, and its construction antiquated. Even so, many others have found its words comforting during times of grief, and still do.

Adapted from “Away”
by James Whitcomb Riley

I can not say, and I will not say
That she is dead. —She is just away!

With a cheery smile, and a wave of the hand,
She has wandered into an unknown land,
And left us dreaming how very fair
It needs must be, since she lingers there.

And you —O you, who the wildest yearn
For the old-time step and the glad return,—
Think of her faring on, as dear
In the love of There as the love of Here;

When the little brown thrush that harshly chirred
Was dear to her as the mocking bird;
And she pitied as much as a man in pain
A writhing honey bee wet with the rain.—

Think of her still as the same, I say:
She is not dead —she is just away!

"Books are sharks", Neil Gaiman quoting Douglas Adams in his 2015 Douglas Adams memorial lecture.


The immersive way a good book can fire one's imagination, with the reader creating scenes and voices, is wonderful. I tend to read non-fiction rather than novels but should probably read some of the classics (which definitely do *not* include Harry Potter).

My mother is now in her mid-80s and continues to get real pleasure from books and longer articles - from wildlife and nature writing to murder mysteries; having enjoyed the BBC TV series Shetland, she is part way through Ann Cleeves' book series - all ordered by me secondhand online.

"I also enjoyed the Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns quite a lot. Great casting.

Posted by: Rob Campbell "

I read that Leone wanted Charles Bronson for A Fistful of Dollars, but Bronson turned down the part.

Makes sense, at the time, as Bronson was an established Hollywood lead, Leone non-Hollywood and Eastwood an unknown.

"Others you're allowed to not read include Huckleberry Finn . . ."

I go back and forth about HF. It's such a break from Tom Sawyer and all previous American novels that it seems important. Also, as I recall from years ago, a pretty good read.

OTOH, it did change American novels and so many have been written since. My personal improved HF is A Journey to Matecumbe by Robert Lewis Taylor. It's a better novel, treating much the same material.

Taylor was more famous for The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters, his Pulitzer winner and the basis of a TV series. But I prefer A Journey to Matecumbe

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