Monday, February 6, 2012

The Duke Don't Dance - Book Review


Not every book starts perfectly, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." Sometimes you've got to eat your veggies to get desert. I'm still a little hungry for sweets after reading Richard Sharp's The Duke Don't Dance, but I don't expect perfection these days - not on Kindle anyway.



If I never mentioned it, I worked for a publisher once and had to wade through piles and piles of manuscripts every day, but sometimes I found stories written humor, usually unintentional.

One of my favorites was about hunters up in the Pacific Northwest. The narrative explained that finally, after days of searching, the hunters saw several deer hiding up in the trees ahead.  Now this was exciting since I had never seen deer climbing trees, but I don’t hunt them too often.
On the other hand, even Stephen King admits that he once sent out an early copy of one of his books to a friend who admonished him for a section that read, “When springtime came, the local hunters rejoiced in their ability to go out and shoot the peasants.”
Sharp's writing is occasionally funny and irreverent, and for those of us who are new to the dance, plenty to learn about the lives of those who breached not just the 60’s but also Vietnam, Watergate, and the malaise of the ‘80’s. However, there is also a disquieting resentment, perhaps misread as smugness by some, of a generation that eventually asks itself, “Where did we go wrong?”
Dance starts at a wake, as a confusing barrage of characters glimpse the life of their passed friend and ponder their own lives, not unlike “The Big Chill,” without, the undertone of fateful fun. In Dance, they leave the funeral disappointed that their own generation, one thrust deeply into a cleft of time between The Greatest Generation and the Boomer Generation, one overlooked and unappreciated, left behind by nature, time, and popular culture, might be remembered as only a Silent Generation.
Author Sharp refuses to be silent, presenting a multi-protagonist story that mingles the culture, feel, and inertia of post W.W. II America through the 60’s and beyond. Characters are deep and satisfying with proven motivation that Sharp uses to set a leisurely pace, never hurrying at the expense of story.
The book is heavy on narration, with lapses into passive writing, but perhaps that’s the whole back-story. And, as the silent, passive generation lived past 1984 and George Orwell didn’t prove to be the all-seeing, all-knowing man behind the curtain, the wheels just fell off.
Now, with the lug nuts on the wheels tightened by the Boomers it is obvious that no generation has all the answers. Maybe Duke Don’t Dance, but you’ll have to read the book to find the multi-layered reasons why.

Thanks for reading - Al W Moe




Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Million Little Piece - Book Review

I was reading A Million Little Pieces by James Frey this afternoon and I realized that while the author has a serious, life-threatening addiction to drugs and alcohol, I too have a serious addiction. I read, I write, and I am clinically insane according to a fairly smart guy: Albert Einstein.

Einstein said the definition of insanity was "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome." Well, like an addict who spends all their money on drugs, I keep spending mine on housing, food, and student loans. That would be alright, but I'm not living in a nicer home, I'm still hungry every day, and I'm not any smarter. So, I must be insane.

And, I keep writing blogs (here, there, everywhere - at least I'm consistent at my Casino Gambling Blog, and stories and books and I'm still wthout a best seller. Perhaps because I write books that I would like to read instead of what is popular. Bummer.

Anyway, A Million Little Pieces is truly an amazing book, but the truth is that it is a hellish memoir, an all-around gross, terrible story of addiction so strong the author can't even remember a half-dozen years of his youth (his story of recovery starts at age 23). Frey is a total brain-fry by the time he wakes on a plane bound for he does not know where, with a blood soaked shirt, a hole in his cheek, and four missing teeth. Do you think at this point he figures he might need help? Not a chance.

As a true degenerate (ain't we all), he still fights the help that comes his way, insisting he would rather get a crack pipe or a tube of glue than actually try and change his life. Insanity. It's true, just ask Al, he knows.

I had a hard reading the book, but I had a harder time not reading it. I was addicted, felt what is probably no more than 1% of the author's pain, and I endorse the reading of the book by anybody who needs help, has dealt with someone who needs help, or wants an insight into the nightmare that is drug addiction in our world - not their world, just the fine, livable life that is our world.

Beyond that, James Frey brings to light a tiny spark of the humanity that should be offered to any living being that finds itself in trouble, through any act of its own. I'm a more understanding person for reading this book. Compassion must be a virtue or it wouldn't have been so hard for me to gain.

I wonder if he had any trouble promoting his book?

Thanks for reading - Al W Moe