Thursday, June 30, 2011

Don't Look Twice but keep your Eyes Wide Open

When I was introduced to James Patterson's work back in 2001 or so, I've come to anxiously await his next release.  Upon reading close to 70 of his books and the different emotions Patterson taps into, I never imagined another author ever duplicating Patterson's way of writing.

Then I read Andrew Gross. In my last read, Don't Look Twice, Gross' style triggers fear, anxiety, suspicion, intrigue, suspense and just a pluck or two of the heart strings and thats all in the first few pages!
Don't Look Twice

Eyes Wide Open: A NovelJust as I have with Patterson, I anxiously await Gross' next release called, Eyes Wide Open  Due out July 12!  You can pre-order right from this site.  Other books by Gross include RecklessThe Blue Zone, The Dark Tide; and Judge & Jury, Lifeguard, 3rd Degree, 2nd Chance and  The Jester, each co-authored with James Patterson.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Harnessing the Infinite Power of Coincidence

Ever have the feeling you've read something and then two days later that particular word, phrase, person place, thing or event presents itself.

Recently, I read Michael Chabon's Wonder Boys and in it, an Underwood Typewriter was mentioned.

Two weeks later, I'm reading Andrew Gross' book, called Don't Look Twice and in it an Underwood typewriter is mentioned; The phrase from the Wizard of Oz,  'we're not in Kansas anymore' is recited in Gross' book and just the day before, I received an email from my cousin who recited the same line.

I chose  Don't Look Twice cause I'm interested and enjoy reading Andrew Gross not because I wanted to see if Underwood typewriters were mentioned;  So out of happenstance or coincidence, things, places, events, words and people we read and hear about or experience first hand are connected. 

This is the first time I've documented such occurrences in my life and I plan on continuing to do so. I've experienced the same phenomenon when doing crossword puzzles. I'll be stuck on a clue, figure it out and move on to the next days puzzle only to find out a day or two later, I read the answer to that particular clue in a book that I'm reading. 

This feeling  happens to all of us, not so much the feeling of deja vu, but more so how occurrences connect to one another.

Deepak Chopra teaches about these experiences and feelings in a program called SynchroDestiny at his wellness and spiritual awakening centers and in his books, Synchrodestiny and The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire: Harnessing the Infinite Power of Coincidence

In short, SynchroDestiny is the ability to take advantage of the possibilities that are the results of these connected occurrences.

The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire: Harnessing the Infinite Power of Coincidence [SPONTANEOUS FULFILLMENT OF]Synchrodestiny

Monday, June 20, 2011

Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn and the N word...

Some 125 years later, Mark Twain still stirs volatile debate..

Last week (6/12) CBS' 60 minutes re-ran a March episode on the topic of  Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Twain's use of  the N Word.  An author/professor, two English teachers from Minnesota  and a co-owner of a small publishing company from Alabama were interviewed for this segment.

The  teachers from Minnesota analyze and educate on the book  from different prospectives, purposely, proudly and by their beliefs.  One, Nora White  discusses the book as it is and says the word out loud to her students  while  another teacher, Karen Morrill examines the book but wouldn't speak the N word aloud during the classroom analysis.

Both teachers make valid points as some of their students see it has harmful, overused and unnecessary, while the others deem it a teaching point. But the teaching methods further the debate.

Randall Williams co-owner and editor of NewSmall books, a small publishing company in Alabama   makes the argument of discussing the topic with the word or without the word. One could leave the book as is and discuss it if comfortable in doing so but by publishing a revised version, which his company has done, now gives educational institutions and readers in general  an alternative. His revised version replaces the N word with  the word slavery.  Is that consider censorship? Although Mr. Williams makes valid points, I disagree with his editing of  Mark Twain. Leave fiction as it is, in its truest form instead of how we'd like or think the fiction to be. And don't ban it, use such literature works as educational vehicles. (Mr. Williams has sold many of the 7,500 copies of his revised version and has plans to continue printing.)

Twain wrote Huck Finn 20 years after the 13th amendment abolished slavery. It's a fact that Twain used the N word over 200 times in the book, one too many times or was Twain simply writing about a time in our history where it was part of our  culture and vernacular and a commonly used word of depiction and not being racist by using it frequently in his book?

Author  David Bradley, a professor at University of Oregon who has been asked by school districts to help discuss the book  makes the claim: get over it.  He has his students say the word several times at the start of the assignment. Get over it, he says, and  let's talk about the book.

He also makes a very good point, its the context with which the word is used.  The word is a teachable moment and as he opines, if you take every word out of a novel that is a teachable moment, you no longer have a teachable moment.

I agree with his interpretation. Each race in our society has it's own phrase or word to describe each other, Japanese, Italians, Caucasian, African, Mexicans, the origins of their slang depictions can also be put to debate.   But as Professor Bradley also raises,  does it seem okay when they're used within each race vs between each race? Bradley uses the example from comedian Jeff Foxworthy who humorously stated, you can't make jokes about a redneck unless you are one.

Remove the N word from Huck Finn and you no longer have Huck Finn as Professor Bradley puts it. I again, agree.Teach or examine the book as is for the purposes of understanding.  I think Twain could be telling a story about a young lad and his friend as they venture down the Mississippi river escaping  their own struggles; telling a story about a time when as part of our culture the word was used and  he's not necessarily making a point or teaching us any lesson about race, slavery or our society. 

Or is he? Did Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) have the clairvoyance to enlighten us on the element of race in our nation knowing that his book would continue to be discussed and argued? Did he take a stance on his own view of racism by writing the book?  One could make the case that it's about friendship, friendship between two people regardless of race or color. Huck Finn may not see race in Jim and only see Jim as a friend. Perhaps Huck teaches us more about race and not seeing prejudice then we think?

Either way, one of the greatest gifts we have is the freedom of speech and of press; freedom of   interpretation and healthy debate. Published in 1885, Huckleberry Finn is still banned in some schools, still debated and examined in our society. Search the Internet and you'll find multitudes of analysis and examination.

Throughout this post, I didn't use race as a way to describe each of those interviewed, for a reason... does one  have to use color  to characterize a person?    I've distinguished them by their profession, perhaps allowing for an unbiased interpretation of my blog.

 If I were to include color or heritage as a description of interviewers in my essay, would your opinion on the topic change based on their race or color?   Does the location in which each of those interviewed reside,  influence your opinion? Minnesota, Alabama and Oregon? Which person do you agree with?  Watch the replay on the web if you so chose, but tell me what you think either before or after you view it.

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Original Unabridged Version

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Tiger Rising...

Yea, the US Open golf, not tennis, tournament started today, but Tiger isn't rising. But what is rising is my interest in local authors.  Kate DiCamillo is a Minnesota author with, Because of Winn-Dixie, The Tale of Despereaux and The Tiger Rising in her portfolio.

The Tiger RisingBecause of Winn-DixieThe Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup and a Spool of Thread

I noticed these books in the nostaglia section of my local Half Price Book store. I sauntered to the cashier where I was pleasantly surprised to hear  Kate worked at Half Price books many years ago. Even nicer, the books purchased were all signed by Kate! With two of her novels made into movies and continuing to write, I doubt we'll see Kate working behind a counter any time soon.

Now I'm not one to read many children's books these days, but I am one to support local authors. Others in my library include Vince Flynn, John Sandford, Steve Thayer, Jon Hassler, Theresa Monsour, Tami Hoag( originally from MN), Chuck Logan, Tim O'Brien, Roslyn Paterson and William Kent Krueger are a few that come to mind. Oh and of course, F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Who are some of your favorite local authors?

Is the truth stranger than fiction? NSA, Verizon and a Broken Window

Back in June of 2011, I blogged about a novel by Jeffery Deaver called, Broken Window.  The recent leak or discovery of  the National Security Administration tracking cell phone calls, records, etc. reminded me of this great thriller. 

Fictitious in nature, Deaver digs into data mining and the consequences of that data if it were to fall into the wrong hands. Every phone call, web search, GPS route and destination and credit card scan is tracked by one company. A very timely read, leaving one to wonder what if?

Out of the many fictional books I've read, this is by far  one of the most intriguing and thought provoking novels leaving the reader to think, think about every phone call, text, tweet, Facebook post made, every credit card scan and web search. Where does all that data go and who's looking at it, and even more importantly, how's it being used!

Highly recommend it. 5 out of 5 bookmark rating!

From June 2011:

Bond James Bond.

I hadn't read Jeffery Deaver in a few years, 07/18/09 to be exact. I'd pick up a book that I hadn't read of his, think about it, then put it down, my uncertainty would then continue. But this week,  I decided to and as I read, The Broken Window, I couldn't understand why I ventured away from his books. Cause he's a great author of suspense and who done it's! 

The Broken Window: A Lincoln Rhyme Novel
In The Broken Window, join Lincoln Rhymes and Amelia Sachs as they dig deep into the world of data mining and personal identification  to solve despicable crimes in Deaver's eighth installment of these extraordinary detectives. Somewhat George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four-esque with a touch of Huxley's Brave New World, The Broken Window raises questions about personal privacy and how much anyone should know.. how safe is your data? Who sees it and what do they do with it?
Brave New World
Nineteen Eighty-Four

Now you may ask, why did I entitle this post, Bond, James Bond. Well the reason is, Jeffery Deaver has been commissioned by the estate of Ian Fleming to continue the James Bond story. His first book, Carte Blanche was released this week. Do you prefer yours shaken or stirred?
Carte Blanche