Charlie's Books

Charlie's Books
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Leave the (political) party. Take the cannoli.

"It always seems impossible until it's done." Nelson Mandela

Right now 6 Stella crime novels are available on Kindle for just $.99 ... Eddie's World has been reprinted and is also available from Stark House Press (Gat Books).

Friday, July 8, 2011

Super Writing ... Two Movies ... and a TK Political Rant ...


There are American writers whose work often inspires me; whether it be literary, genre fiction or theatre pieces. While it most often happens in works that feature dialogue (from George V. Higgins to Arthur Miller to Eugene O’Neill to crazy David Mamet), there are times when the narrative is so well constructed, I am knocked back a few pegs and stand dumbfounded; times when I do not feel inspired, but rather humbled to the point where I have to stop and check myself.

"Why bother?" I’ll say to myself. I can’t do this with a gun to my head. This is what I love to read more than anything else, but I can’t do this. I know I can’t do this. I’ll never be this good.

A day or so passes and my balance returns, but I’m no less impressed with what I’ve read and I accept what I had originally thought (I will never be this good). The power of the prose remains in the back of my head as something to never try from fear of making a fool of myself, and so I hack away at what I know I can do.

Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath did (and does) that to me. Hemingway’s Sun Also Rises and Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road as well. A few contemporary writers do the same for me. A few years ago it was Craig McDonald’s Print the Legend that rocked my world. Last year it was Benjamin Whitmer’s Pike along with Lynn Kostoff’s Late Rain. And now I have Mitch Wieland’s God’s Dogs to set me back a few paces. This is simply brilliant writing; a collection of stories that meld into a novel about a man seeking solace amidst the high desert in view of the Owyhee Mountain Range in Idaho. Ferrell Swan believes his life has been one long string of failures after another. Haunted by a father whose privacy was prime and had built his own safe haven in the basement of their house before ditching his family altogether for a move west, Ferrell’s next visit with his Dad came years later when the body was shipped back to Ohio in a casket.

He’s found some measure of peace in the desert, among nature in all its danger and beauty. He’s particularly fond of coyotes and mustang horses, the hard labor tending to his ranch requires, the beauty of the land and the quiet of the nights. He has neighbors, one who lives beneath the ground and is afraid of his own shadow, another whose married to a woman too young and beautiful to keep satisfied ... too young and beautiful to resist Ferrell’s stepson when he shows up at the start of God’s Dogs, Beware the Pale Horse Comes Riding.

Ferrell’s marriages have fared no better than his luck. He describes the failed marriages as “practices” leading up to the new re-hitching of faded love with his ex-wife, Rilla. She holds a special place in Ferrell’s heart and once the two are reunited again, with Rilla making the adjustment to Ferrell’s self-imposed exile, things flow so much better than either expected ... until there’s a Revolutionary Road moment (when the realism of April Wheeler’s inability to be happy became excruciatingly apparent—when her fix for the moment plan to move to France crumbled by the realities of life). Closer to the end in God’s Dogs it is much less subtle. Rilla is about to leave Ferrell yet again:

Rilla comes out on the porch to sit beside him. “I’m leaving, Ferrell. I don’t belong here anyway. This is your place, your solitude. I was a fool to think you wanted someone around.”

[Ferrell responds] “You’re the one who can’t be happy.”

“I’m just noise to you, an interruption to your days of tranquility and repose.”

Rilla has baggage in the form of son born to another man just a few months after Ferrell entered her life. The baggage, Levon (named for the Elton John song), is wild and unruly and a destructive force to most people anywhere near him. Ferrell is no exception.

Pick a passage from anywhere in the stories (that become the novel) and they are beautiful; one better than the other, none of them weak; all of them engrossing. It is writing so beautiful and poignant it is painful to know there is an ending down the road.

The day after Ferrell Swan turns sixty, entering what he views as the steep downhill slide of his life, his stepson appears at the door. The two haven’t spoken three years running, not since the divorce from the boy’s mother, and Ferrell suspects Levon’s broke or bored or both to be showing up at his door.

The above paragraph sets the stage; the first paragraph of the first story. History brought to the present in two sentences. Further on in the same chapter ...

Ferrell lives on one hundred acres of sagebrush and chaparral, bought for next to nothing when he was teaching high school history in his quaint Ohio hometown. Rilla thought he was crazy at the time and, in point of fact, still does. His land lies eighty miles south-southeast of Boise, in the middle of not much else but the wide curving sky. On the phone Rilla wonders aloud if he’s doing the crazed hermit thing, but he tells her he’s not seen trip-wire vets or hatemongers within a stone’s throw. He doesn’t mention his other neighbor Din Winters, who lives underground.

About to make love under a cold stinging rain, Rilla says: “You don’t just stop, Ferrell, till I say you can, you hear? You don’t just leave me alone in all this fucking space.”

Ferrell tilts his face into the falling rain. He prays he’ll last as long as she needs, beyond her every desire.

I can go on and retype the book but then yous wouldn’t have to read it on your own. I’m over-awed by the author’s ability to render so much emotion in what appear to be effortless strokes of brilliant prose. I’m close to the end and wouldn’t offer a spoiler if I’d finished the book yesterday. It will be a bittersweet ending for me because the writing will have stopped.

If you’re going to take a literary recommendation from this blog, this book is one to jump on.

Staring Out in the Evening ... a great movie (with a great cast) about an aging writer (Frank Langella in a brilliant performance) smitten by an over ambitious (to put it kindly) graduate student writing her thesis on his collective works. There's a troubled relationship with his daughter and her boyfriend lurking in the background, along with his past marriage and how it ended.

Salt of this Sea ... A Palestinian woman born in Brooklyn returns to the land of her parents to reclaim what is rightfully hers by inheritance only to find that Jaffa and all that was there is no longer hers. Heartbreaking and enlightening; a terrific film.

I’m done playing nice with our President (so that’s his badge above), his party and the other group of stupid SOBs on the other side of the political aisle. Two parties, one result = the middle class is screwed and the poor are trampled while the rich bask in their undying patriotic glory.

Why Obama owns this unemployment rate is pretty simple math. Any brain damaged loan shark wouldn’t lend money without setting the rules, (i.e., stipulations as to how the money is to be paid back or, in the case of lending to a gambler {never a good idea}, how the money is to be spent). EXAMPLE for future government giveaways care of the ugly one: We’ll give you $700 billion dollars but you will reinvest half within 90 days, discontinue all outsourcing, reject all bonus requests and dividend payments until a) the loan is fully repaid with interest and b) the national unemployment rate is below 6%. Failure to do any of the above requires you forfeit all personal property and assets within ten days plus at the discretion of the government, your firm will be nationalized.

There aren’t too many morons out there who would hand over cash with no strings attached, never mind $700 billion of someone else’s money (unless, of course, that someone else could do nothing about it; then the money might be lent to friends ... somebody say Goldman Sachs?)

Today started off great. I was up extra early to write and hit the gym. I had a good day on both ends, then came home to hang out with my wife and super dog, Rigoletto (who is still sick but mending, we hope). I spoke to Momma Stella (who remains happy from her Percocet and Oreos) and I was reading the book above at the gym between lifting weights and while on the treadmill, elliptical and bike, and again when I pulled into my driveway for a few minutes (it’s that good a book and the writing is that superb).

Then I log onto my computer and Google news and the first thing I see is this: Dismal jobs report shows unemployment rising to 9.2%. Yesterday I was blowing gaskets all over casa Stella once I returned home from the hospital. Between the $400 dog bill (with no prognosis), cleaning up the blood and crap and vomit all over the place, humidity driving me up the wall, a missing week of workouts with weights and the general angst of being me, I was about to explode when my wife and I were discussing the sorry state of the economy and how our government has left us in the ditch we were supposed to be driving out of since 2008.

So, for Obama's edification, once again: Rule #1: You don’t let the borrower set the terms of the loan.

Rule #2: You certainly don’t TRUST them to do the right thing. I mean, seriously, how the hell do you think they got into the position of needing $700 billion in the first place? Was it really that much of a mystery?

Rule #3: There has to be consequences if the borrower fucks you. Whether they’re delinquent with payments or they don’t do what they agreed to (see Rules #’ed 1 & 2), there have to be consequences. On the street the consequences are pretty obvious, but with the government, maybe something like “nationalization” would serve as an incentive to obeying a stipulation.

Rule #4: Don’t dick around. If you sense you’re being screwed (because the firm you just bailed out just gave themselves record bonuses for fucking up), you’re being screwed. Hit them fast and hit them hard. Very hard. Jail seems appropriate here. Or maybe freezing their personal bank accounts or seizing their personal property. Or that nationalization mentioned above.

With the above in mind, here are the results of a $700 BILLION NO STRINGS ATTACHED BAILOUT: Three years down the road and the unemployment rate continues to climb. Obama came into office with a ton of public support and capital. He squandered it playing professor while he had majorities in both houses. Now his very spineless back is against the wall (and taking the form of those pushing him there). He gave away $700 billion dollars to greedy bastards whose first priority was to reward themselves for bankrupting the economy with record bonuses (sound familiar?). Not only didn’t Obama preclude them from doing so, nowhere in that handout of our cash did Obama (or his party) bother to protect us, the working class. Nowhere did he demand corporate welfare addicts discontinue outsourcing. And when a $38 BILLION tax bill was due from one of the bailed out (CitiGroup), Obama excused the note. He do that for you when you owed taxes the last three years? He didn’t for us.

And then came that eerie silence from the White House when public workers were being stripped of their collective bargaining rights. Somehow that campaign promise about “putting on some comfortable shoes and joining the lines’ was forgotten. He didn’t even have the balls to issue a statement as to why he was ignoring his promise and/or workers rights. Not to mention the statement his best friends (biggest campaign contributors) released last week about laying off 230 New Yorkers while adding "thousands" of jobs overseas.

Yeah, I know, the Republicans would be worse? Sweet Jesus, somebody explain to me how?

But Knucks, if you dump on Obama, isn’t that an endorsement of the Republican Party?

Not in a million years. I’ve had it with both parties, one a pubic hair to the left of the other. George Bush couldn’t dream of accomplishing for his rich friends over eight years what this moron has done for them in just three years. (and George Bush is a certified moron without the power of speech).

I’m having to rant because I’m thinking back to my street days and how a few of us used to make fun of guys lending money on the street that had no business doing so. Morons, jerkoffs, assholes we called them. And that reminds me of this scene from Mean Streets (substitute Obama for Mike but you’ll have to ignore the gun because all Wall Street did to get their money from Obama was ask for it). CLICK on this LINK.

Sure Wall Street paid it back, with money borrowed from Peter (AIG, who Bush bailed out first) to pay Paul (Goldman Sachs) while eliminating any competition that wasn’t in on the deal--those that weren’t deemed “too big to fail” ... and then they were supposed to put some of that money back into the economy for the sake of our jobs. Have fun trying to find it ...

Okay, I’ve been up since very early this morning and need a break now. Momma Stella is snug in her new digs closer to home and I’ll be seeing her domani. Rigoletto is no longer bleeding and has quit puking. Maybe the day can be saved after all ...


If not, it’s the curse, I’m sure of it ...