Thursday, January 29, 2015

Off and Away

I sent off a 4500 word essay to the publisher for use as an introduction to a pair of books by W. R. Burnett, author of classics like Little Caesar and The Asphalt Jungle. And a boatload of screenplays. The book info can be seen here.

All of Burnett is great stuff. One of the two Great Essays I may never write is about all dem authors that sold millions and millions of books but are largely forgotten today. On the other hand, as has been said, if you ask the man on the street who [insert your favorite bestselling author here] is, they most likely would not have heard of them. But W. R. Burnett, Richard S. Prather, etc., etc., make me wonder if I see the future of a Stephen King.

The other essay I'd like to write--only because I don't know if anyone else would write it--would be the story of the St. Petersburg boys from the paperback original days. Harry Whittington was born there, and Day Keene had a house on the beach I used to live near, Gil Brewer did much damage to his liver there, Talmage Powell....

Actually, that one should be a full-length book but would require a couple of years' of research. The sooner the better because we've lost all the writers themselves at this point and tracking down firsthand participants grows more difficult every day.

In the meantime, it's on to an editing project, tons of proofreading projects, and last but not least, more work on my next book which is due all too quickly.

Monday, January 26, 2015

New Bloggers

Today for school we are setting up two new blogs, one for my daughter Sabrina and the other for my son, Ricky, aka Ricky Bobby. Sabrina's will be called Rainbow Spots and Ricky's will be Dot-Dot-Dot.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Work in Progress

No, not the book-in-progress kind of work in progress--though that one's out there, set for release later in the year--but as I haven't posted anything in too long, I have a recurring thought with no solution. I thought I'd at least put the "problem" down, and continue to mull over what, if anything, to do.

There comes a point in any bibliophile's life where, as they continue to age, they accumulate more books than they may be able to read. In my case, I read so many books for other people, books as research for various introductions or essays, books to edit, books to proofread, books recommended by friends, that the past few years I very rarely get to choose what book I'm going to read for no other reason than I think it's time to read it--now.

But in the meantime, books continue to dribble in: the next books by favorite authors, next books in a series, books that are new and are compellingly interesting, Library of America subscription volumes....

What do you do?

I lived in libraries as a kid but then I stopped using them because for some reason I developed a strong aversion to reading with a deadline. That's when I started buying books instead of borrowing them with attached due dates.

Buying books quickly became like comfort food; when you're feeling down, you treat yourself to a new book. There's also pressure on some books to pick up that hardcover before it goes out of print and you're forced to paperback or the crapshoot of the used book market (although many times that works out beautifully). So they keep rolling in. The mailman knows your name, the UPS drivers know more, you're on a first name basis with the FedEx drivers.

And before you know it, usually after you're well out of shelf space, you realize you've built something. It's a library of sorts, and also a haven. It's a room full of atmosphere where you can browse for hours on end, taking books down, leafing through them, reading a bit, then putting them back on the shelf. You've created and curate an environment, one in which you can relax, write or create your own work, inhale the wonderful smell of books both old and new, and, just relax.

How important is this? Are people with racks of model cars, carefully painted and decaled to mirror every NASCAR machine of the past decade experiencing the same thing? Stamp and coin collectors--and some rare book collectors, too--must be attracted by the intrinsic worth of what they're collecting. I have some rare books, some with nice autographs, etc. but mostly, it's a collection of all sorts of books of the sort that interest, um, me.

And that's it. Right now I have no shelf space and a garage full of lumber. I am a bibliophile. I am some sort of collector, hopefully somewhere south of HoarderLand. I want to read every book I have, unless of course I start it and it's a throw-across-the-room book--those happen. But what if I don't? What if I can't?

Do I divest? Do I maintain the environment of my library? When my son was nine he asked if he could have all my books when I die. Clearly there's an appeal there, and he's not even a big reader (though I am trying so hard...). One of the sad facts is that if I sold off all the books, they wouldn't bring in nearly as much as was originally spent on them, kind of like buying a new car and turning around and trying to re-sell it. You're going to take a bath financially.

Clearly it's not about the money. It's about the books, baby, the books. And the environment the give, the atmosphere they exist in, the pocket of the world that I control because I've made it with the selection of the thousands of books I've brought into the home. But books are made to be read and circling back to the original question, what does one do when one cannot maintain the pace of reading with the pace of acquisition?

In the future, I don't know. Like I said, I have no answer as of yet. In the meantime, the only thing I can do right now is the obvious: build more shelves.

And then more. And....