Book Review: Traveler of Worlds: Conversations With Robert Silverberg by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro

Robert Silverberg was one of the most important writers of science fiction in the late 1960s and early 1970s, during the so-called new wave, when a number of innovators attempted to eschew the genre’s pulp origins and create more literary work.  His beginning as an author, though, was as a prolific hack, churning out novels and stories at an astonishing rate.  In this book he says that in one year he wrote in excess of two million words, the equivalent of about forty genre novels.

By the time I became involved in the science fiction scene, Silverberg was producing first-class work and appearing regularly on awards nomination lists.  His sophisticated prose impressed me deeply.  Some of my favorites were the novels Dying Inside and Book of Skulls and novellas and short stories such as “Nightwings,” “Sundance,” “Good News From the Vatican,” and “Passengers.”  In a field where writers generally have their ups and downs, Silverberg, in the early 70s at least, was consistently excellent.  As a young writer struggling to put viable words on paper, I envied his ability to turn out high quality prose at such a prolific rate.

Although I have encountered a number of the field’s luminaries as my teachers at Clarion West and in more casual settings at conventions and local writers’ gatherings, I have never met Robert Silverberg.  This book allows an intimate glimpse into the man’s career, thoughts, and lifestyle.  It is composed of a series of conversations about various topics held at Silverberg’s home in the San Francisco Bay Area.  It covers a vast array of subjects such as Silverberg’s career, reading interests, library, travel, research, education, political beliefs, opinions on other authors, and reflections on aging.

This book may not be for everyone, as Silverberg is known and read mainly in the science fiction field.  I found it fascinating.  I have always appreciated Silverberg mainly as a short story writer, and in my opinion, he is one of the best there is.  He never broke out into the mainstream the same way that Ray Bradbury or Robert Heinlein did, but within the genre he is considered a master of the craft.  These conversations are casual but lucid, and never dull.  Although each chapter has a particular emphasis, Silverberg and his interviewer glide smoothly from one topic to another, obviously enjoying themselves, and the reader is carried along for the ride.

At the time of the interviews, Silverberg was eighty years old and had retired from writing about ten years previously.  He claims he’d done what he’d set out to do and had no inclination to do more.  It’s the literary world’s loss.  He talks of the retirement of writers, although that has always been a concept that I have been unable to grasp.  Why would anyone want to cease performing such a fascinating task as writing?  But then, I have only written and published about twenty books, while he has written uncounted hundreds.  I suppose there is a point where weariness might set in.  He claims that writers do their best work roughly from the ages of thirty-five to fifty.  If so, I am past my prime, but I don’t feel that way.  At sixty-three, I feel I am just getting started.

Be that as it may, for someone with an interest in the science fiction field, this is a terrific book, and I highly recommend it.  There are far too few books like this available.  I would like to see more such books of interviews with other famous authors.  I hope that this is the beginning of a series.

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Book Review: Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

I would not have thought that a historical novel could work in first person, but Mantel pulls it off.  This book is beautifully written.  Apart from the compelling story, it is wonderful to discover passage after passage, on nearly every page, written in intricate, poetical, yet accessible prose.

The main character is Thomas Cromwell, and Mantel creates of him a superhero of sorts.  At the same time he is an obviously flawed man with singular gifts who somehow manages to ingratiate himself to King Henry of England.  Henry wants to be rid of his wife Elizabeth, who has not given him a male heir, and marry Anne Boleyn.  To bring this about, Cromwell has to help Henry orchestrate a break from the Pope’s authority and the establishment of the Church of England.

The story is gripping from the very first passage, when young Cromwell is severely beaten by his father and decides to leave home.  He spends several years overseas before returning to England and becoming a lawyer.  He first serves the powerful Cardinal Wolsey, and when Wolsey falls into disfavor Henry, recognizing Cromwell’s talents, takes him into his confidence and gives him more and more responsibility.

Wolf Hall has a large cast of characters, and I admit that I was unable to keep some of the secondary ones clear as I read.  There were just too many.  Some of the characters in Henry’s court are very similar to one another, and I found it easy to follow the main story even as minor characters became blurred caricatures in my awareness.

One character, in fact the main character apart from Cromwell, is not even human.  It is England itself: the countryside, the weather, the flora and fauna.  Mantel’s writing becomes exquisitely beautiful when she describes changes of seasons, glimpses of landscape beyond windows, rooms seen in flickering firelight, muddy roads, meandering rivers, rain and snow.  Her prose has great power to evoke images.

It’s a long novel.  Just as some of the secondary characters become confusing to follow on first reading, so do some of the many scenes, especially in the middle sections of the book.  Sometimes it seems that too many things are happening to keep track of.  Additionally, sometimes it’s hard to keep track of who is saying what in the dialog until you understand that whenever Mantel says “he” instead of naming a character when introducing dialog, by default the speech is Cromwell’s.

Despite the occasional confusion with characters, scenes, and dialog, this book is a worthwhile read.  If you persevere through the first few hundred pages, the plot begins to manifest more clearly.  And even if you miss some of the details, you are swept along in a superbly written account of a fascinating era of history.  I would say that it is useful to have some sort of inkling of the historical story before commencing the novel; it will make much more sense.  However, regardless of your historical expertise, you can enjoy this well-written book on its own merits as a novel.

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Book Review: A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition by Ernest Hemingway

I must have read this book decades ago as a young writer.  Certain parts have the ring of familiarity, especially Hemingway’s descriptions of writing in cafes with a notebook and pencil.

It’s a sparse book: a collection of vignettes about his early writing days in Paris.  Much of the material was found in a steamer trunk discovered at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, and Hemingway worked on it and added chapters just before his death.  It has the disjointed feel of an incomplete posthumous collection edited by others.  Still, some of the disparate pieces provide fascinating insight into this energetic, sad, enigmatic writer.

It deals with the time Hemingway lived in Paris with his first wife, when he was trying to get his start as a writer.  The tone is casual, and most of the prose has the trademark Hemingway succinctness.  He writes of his encounters and friendships with Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, Ford Maddox Ford, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and others, and about the joy despite the poverty he and his wife experienced in his struggling early years.

The book brought back a lot of memories of my own struggles as a young writer in Europe and in South Asia – except I was on my own.  Instead of a wife, I had transient affairs from time to time, retaining the freedom of loneliness as I sought my muse.  And although Hemingway writes of supposed poverty, it seems that he and his wife always had funds for fine meals, good wine, and betting at the horseracing track.  My poverty ran along a different, more desperate path, so that I was sometimes literally begging on the streets, as I recount in my own memoir World Without Pain: The Story of a Search.  Mine was more akin to the poverty that Henry Miller describes in his account of his down and out days in Paris, Tropic of Cancer.

The book also called to mind Woody Allen’s brilliant film Midnight in Paris in which a writer goes back in time to the Paris of the 1920s and meets Hemingway and Fitzgerald and Picasso and Stein and Dali and other literary and artistic luminaries.  That era seemed a golden age for writers, but as the movie points out, appreciation for the past is relative, and each period of history has its pros and cons.

One thing that shines through in this slim volume is Hemingway’s dedication to his writing.  He had a work ethic that caused him to put the writing first, no matter what else was going on around.  In contrast, he describes the dissolution of Fitzgerald, who got caught up in parties and alcoholic binges and neglected his work.

There are a lot of gaps in the story, and it would have benefited from some tightening and additions.  Ultimately, Hemingway’s story is a tragic one.  Despite his optimism and determination in the early stages of his career, he succumbed to depression and despair.  He was one hell of a writer, though, and in some passages of this book, that talent shines through.

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Book Review: The Best American Short Stories 2016 Edited by Junot Diaz

In these days of economic austerity I often peruse the new book shelves of the local library rather than book stores for reading material.  On one of those forays I came across this volume.  It’s a hardcover; I didn’t know the series came out in hardcover; I’d always read it before in paperback.  The hardcover is an attractive volume: moderate in size, nice readable typeface, not too long but long enough to have a good selection.

Every year a different guest editor chooses the stories, so of course the focus varies, sometimes radically, from volume to volume.  What constitutes the best is relative to the person doing the selecting, after all; there are no absolutes to go by when passing out awards or places in best of the year volumes.  A glance at the contents of the volumes put out by different publishers in any particular year bears this out: the selections hardly ever match up.

Junot Diaz is an American author originally from the Dominican Republic.  He wrote the sharp, scathing, Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.  If you haven’t read it yet, find a copy and do so; you won’t be disappointed.  Diaz strongly emphasizes stories about minorities and people of color in this year’s anthology, and as a result this overall collection has a vitality that others sometimes lack.

That’s not to say that I liked all the stories.  There are a few, as usual, that leave me wondering how they ever caught an editor’s attention to appear in their original magazines, let alone make it to a best of the year book.

Most of the stories, though, are good, and some are very good.  The two best, in my opinion, are fantasies – the only fantasies in the book.  “The Prospectors” by Karen Russell, tells the story of two young women, thieves and con artists, who find themselves at a party in a resort on a hilltop in Oregon where all the guests but them are dead.  “The Flower” by Louise Erdrich, set in frontier times, is about a young Native American girl whose mother sells her to a cruel white trader for whiskey; when a sympathetic white man helps the girl kill her oppressor and they escape together, the head of the murdered white man hunts them through the wilderness.  Both stories were originally published in the New Yorker, which I applaud for always being editorially open to stories with science fiction and fantasy themes.

Another story that particularly resonates with me is “The Suitcase” by Meron Hadero.  This tells the story of a young woman of Ethiopian ancestry who is visiting relatives in Ethiopia.  She is preparing to leave for the airport, and the relatives have filled her extra suitcase with gifts for loved ones in the United States, but the suitcase is overweight, so they must choose what to take out and what to leave in.  The supposedly surprise ending is fairly obvious early on, but the strength of the story is the juxtaposition of cultures, the dilemmas and confusion often faced by those of dual nationality, and the importance of communication with loved ones who live halfway around the world.  It reminded me of the infrequent times I would visit the States while living many years overseas in Greece.  I would load up my suitcase with gifts to bring to those I was visiting, and load up my suitcase on the way back with items that were unavailable in Greece.

In conclusion, this particular volume has an exuberance not always found in this series thanks to Diaz’s editorial acumen, but don’t expect to like all the stories.  Literary appreciation is, above all, a matter of taste.

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Book Review: Wolf: The Lives of Jack London by James L. Haley

Reading about the life of Jack London had an enormous effect on me when I was a young writer.  Inevitably when I read a new biography of London I compare it with the book that introduced me to him, Jack London: Sailor on Horseback by Irving Stone.  Also inevitably, the biographies I have read since fall short of providing the riveting experience of my first introduction to the author’s life.  Some have given more details and possibly have been better researched, but none has engaged my emotions and empathy as a fellow writer as much.

This one I found by chance while browsing library shelves in the biography section.  It’s not the newest biography of London, but I had never heard of it before so I decided to give it a try.  It’s divided into sections corresponding to various facets of London’s life, such as “The Student,” “The Prospector,” “The Aspiring Writer” and so on.  Such a contrivance cannot, of course, be sharply delineated, and there is overflow of themes from chapter to chapter.

This book is fairly short as far as biographies go.  Although in the introduction the author makes claims to delving deeper and more thoroughly into London’s life than others, in fact it is a fairly swift overview of the main points of the author’s life, skipping over a number of sometimes important details (such as the crucial sale of the short story “An Odyssey of the North” to The Atlantic Monthly early in his career) that other biographers include.  Haley lingers in a few places to give more detailed explanations: for instance, in England when London went underground amidst the poor to research his sociological book The People of the Abyss, but for the most part he merely touches on the main points and then moves swiftly on.  Most of the chapters, such as those on the Klondike, London’s struggles as a young writer, and the journey through the South Pacific aboard his sailing ship the Snark would have benefited by being much, much longer.  In the closing chapters especially, Haley seems in a rush to finish up, and skims over or skips a lot of important information.

Still, the book is readable and interesting, dealing as it does with one of the most charismatic and adventurous writers in American literature.  Jack London never even finished high school.  Determined to be a writer despite the handicaps of his background and environment, he educated himself, learned the basics of how to submit to magazines, and through hard work, talent, and persistence became the most famous and well-paid writer of his time.  Many of his works are as readable now as when they were first published, particularly his short stories, his novella The Call of the Wild, and his autobiographical novel of his struggles as a writer, Martin Eden.  Aspiring writers can learn a lot about short story technique by reading some of his classics such as “The White Silence,” “The Apostate,” and “The Red One.”

In short, this biography is readable, but not as comprehensive as others I’ve read.  And if you’re an aspiring writer and want a torrential rush of inspiration, read Jack London: Sailor on Horseback.

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When the Threat of Violence Rears Its Ugly Head

Perhaps I have become too complacent.  We live in a fairly safe area.  It’s normally fine to walk the streets either during the day or at night; there are rarely questionable characters lurking about.  Walking is important to me.  I have to get away from the computer, stretch my legs, and see the outside world.  It’s not enough to do my three-times-a-week yoga and calisthenics routine, although I am faithful with that as well.  I try to take a walk of at least a mile seven days a week.

I often combine my walk with chores such as shopping or going to the library.  Since there are supermarkets in two different directions it gives me variety.  Yesterday, for instance, I headed for the supermarket that is farther away because I had noticed some items for sale in its weekly flier.  If possible I stick to the side streets in this suburban area, as the air is cleaner and the view is more attractive.

I walk at a steady pace, not too fast and not too slow, keeping my breathing regular.  Since my recent fall when I broke my wrist, I watch out for cracks and other imperfections in the sidewalk or street.  I look at and appreciate everything as I pass: the architecture of the houses, the number of floors, the windows, the porches, the balconies, the paint, the extensions, the yards, the moss or lack of it in the driveways, the yards or gardens and the way they are kept up or neglected, the idiosyncratic decorations, the scattered toys, the political signs, the evergreens towering over all, and in these days before Halloween, the carved pumpkins.  Our neighborhood is replete with greenery, and the houses for the most part are attractive and cozy-looking.

So I take my walk, as usual, and I have just gone under the supermarket overhang and am reaching for a shopping cart when someone comes up behind me and says, “Do I know you?”

I turn.  He’s younger than I am, perhaps about half my age, so he’s not an old classmate from my long-ago school days.  I suppose I might have met him at a writing seminar or science fiction convention, but he doesn’t look familiar.

Plus he has a very unfriendly expression.

I mumble something about not recognizing him.  He replies by saying he lives in one of the houses I recently passed.  I say, “Oh, which one?”  And he says, “None of your business.”

That’s when the alarm bells start going off.  After all, he’s the one that accosted me, not vice-versa.  I was just going about my day.

Then he says, “I see you pass my house a lot.  You look at it.”

Well, okay, I pass by a lot of houses every day, and I look at all of them.  He’s not giving me much to go on.

But then it strikes me: he has been following me, stalking me in a sense, for God knows how many blocks, just because I happened to pass by his house and look at it.  If, indeed, he really does live in a house in the neighborhood, which I’m beginning to have my doubts about.  He had a distinctly malevolent and psychotic expression.  It makes no sense, and it really creeps me out.

Okay, so I went into the supermarket and did my shopping.  He went in too and pretended to shop, or bought one little item to justify his following me into the store.  On the way home I took another route, avoiding the temptation to constantly keep looking behind me but glancing back from time to time to be sure he wasn’t following.  When I got closer to home I increased my surveillance, as I didn’t want him to find out where I lived.  For the next hour or two I would periodically look out my second-floor windows to be sure he wasn’t spying on us.

Maybe I was being excessively paranoid, but I think I will avoid walking along the street in question for now.  He came across as the type of guy who would, the next time he saw me, rush out with a pistol or shotgun to supposedly defend his turf.  Understand: on my walks I never slow down or stop, and I never walk on anyone’s lawn or garden.  I stick strictly to the public sidewalks and roadways.  I’m sure other people take walks in their neighborhoods – I mean, why the hell not?

The experience reminded me that some people have a spirit of violence deep down in their souls, and it’s ready to burst at any time, at the slightest provocation.  I’ve met a lot of people like that on my travels around the world, but I have been lulled into a sense of safety by this normally safe neighborhood we presently live in.  It made me wonder how often such things would happen if I dressed oddly or were a person of color.  Many people because of their appearance have to undergo stark, random, bizarre, unfriendly, and inconsiderate encounters like this on a regular basis.

This world of ours can be fascinating and gorgeous, but it can also be abruptly cruel without warning.  It pays to always be aware and on guard as you enjoy the beauty.

*     *     *

After I wrote the above, I still felt puzzled and disturbed by this incident, but I couldn’t really put it all together until this afternoon.  I’ve started reading (or rather rereading – it all sounds familiar and I’m sure I must have read this several decades ago) A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway’s memoir of his years as a young writer in Paris.  Then it all came back to me.  I realize that I see few other pedestrians when I take my walks here in the neighborhood.  In the States, at least around here, people drive from place to place.  I have lived almost twenty years in Europe, mostly in Greece and Italy but also in the Netherlands and other places.  Europeans are great walkers, great strollers, and they would find it inconceivable that someone would object to pedestrians gazing upon their houses as they passed, or even stopping to admire and comment upon particularly striking aspects of them.  The owner might come out and chat, and both residents and pedestrians would benefit from the experience.  This reluctance and lack of openness to the views of passers-by is a solely American paranoia, and it is a sad one.  That’s not to say all Americans are like this – I have met congenial neighbors on my strolls – but it would never happen, for instance, in Greece.  There the people you pass by would be more likely to invite you in for a coffee or a quick sip of ouzo.

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What Star Trek Means to Me

I recently started re-watching the original Star Trek series on Netflix.  You know, the one with Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock and Bones the doctor, not to mention Scottie, Uhura, Sulu, and the rest of the crew.

It’s been decades since I’ve seen some of the episodes.  In fact, as I watch I realize that I have never seen many of the episodes in color before.  That’s right: when I first discovered the series in 1966 when I was thirteen years old, our family had only a black and white TV, and even in the years to follow, as the series ended and reappeared in syndication, I always watched it in black and white.  My parents didn’t buy a color TV until after I was grown and gone.  It didn’t matter.  The series enthralled me as no other television series ever had.  I was hooked on the adventures of the crew of the Enterprise long before I even understood what science fiction was or had read much of it.  I’d read some Heinlein, sure, but that was about it.

Something about Star Trek ignited my imagination.  Nowadays, in retrospect, some of the plots seem contrived or cliché, but back then the show was all original, breaking new ground.  Gene Roddenberry sought out acclaimed science fiction writers to script some of the episodes.  I still remember, for instance, the first time I watched the episode “The City on the Edge of Forever” by Harlan Ellison.  The ending devastated me.  Many fans consider that episode the high point of the series, but for me there were many high points.

By the time I attended Clarion West with the aspiration of becoming a science fiction writer, Star Trek had already been long cancelled.  I would have loved to have written for it.  Some of my fellow attendees ended up writing for the animated Star Trek based on the original series.

Watching the original Star Trek today, you have to place it in context.  You can’t compare it with these high-budget CGI-ridden modern TV series and films.  Roddenberry was starting from scratch with no precedent, small budgets, no CGI, and unknown actors.  He was confined by studio taboos and regulations, and also by the conservative sensibilities of the TV audiences of the era.  It’s astounding that Star Trek even got off the ground and survived as long as it did.  That it went on to spawn so many other series and films – an entire mega-universe – is all but unbelievable.

For me, Star Trek was the beginning of a life-long interest in speculative fiction in all its forms.  It created a foundation of the fantastic.  When I later discovered the literature of science fiction, Star Trek had already introduced me to many of the concepts with which even the best authors dealt.  Watching Star Trek now is a journey through nostalgia, true – but many of the best episodes still hold up, as long as I don’t study them too closely or compare them with modern more sophisticated parallels.  I’m content to take Star Trek on its own terms and wholeheartedly enjoy it for what it is – and was.

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Book Review: The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-Third Annual Collection Edited by Gardner Dozois

This is a huge doorstopper of a book: almost 700 pages, more than 300,000 words of the editor’s selections of the best short science fiction published in 2015.  Unlike other best of the year editors, Dozois sticks strictly to science fiction.  No fantasy, magic realism, or any of those related genres in this anthology.  Still, with every volume Dozois manages to come up with plenty of good stories, although not all are to my personal taste.

As he does every year, Dozois starts the book with a fascinating and comprehensive look at the year’s accomplishments in science fiction.  This introduction is a monumental achievement and bespeaks a great deal of research.  He doesn’t just cobble his facts together.  The depth of his commentary makes it clear that he has invested a good part of the year in a thorough analysis of the field.  He discusses science fiction book lines, professional magazine markets, semi-pro markets, anthology markets, short story collections, books of interest to the science fiction field, and includes the addresses of the publishers of most of these.  He writes about science fiction films, TV series, conventions, and awards.  He lists and eulogizes science fiction notables and peripheral figures who died in 2015.  Besides all this material, he introduces each individual story with a brief biography of its author.

But it is the stories we come to the book for, and most of them do not disappoint.  Some touched me deeply.  Chief among these was a pair of novellas. “Gypsy” by Carter Scholz is the heartbreaking story of a starship on a desperate mission to escape a decimated Earth and start a new human colony elsewhere, as told by various passengers who wake up from cryogenic sleep at different points in their journey.  “Inhuman Garbage” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch is a murder mystery set on the moon that calls into question the ethics of regarding clones as property.  Many of the shorter stories are exemplary as well.

The thirty-six stories in this book offer plenty of variety, although they lean heavily towards hard science fiction, in which the technology predominates.  In general, the strongest stories are those with coherent plots and characters, and the weaker stories come across as literary exercises rather than plotted stories.  One story that consists of a series of loosely connected vignettes detailing alien oddities I was unable to finish, and one other I slogged through but was glad when it was over.  That’s not bad: only two out of thirty-six that held nothing appealing for me at all.  Much better odds than a mainstream collection I read earlier this year that was supposed to contain some of the best short stories of the last one hundred years.

Although his selections may not always appeal to me, I think that Dozois does the science fiction field a great service in offering this collection year after year.  Every year hundreds if not thousands of science fiction stories are published, and somehow they have to be sorted for readers so that the better ones live on past their initial ephemeral appearances.  The abundance of best of the year volumes ensures that stories appealing to diverse tastes are selected and will live on in private collections and on library shelves, there to be discovered by future readers in search of wonder.

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Book Review: How to Write Like Tolstoy: A Journey Into the Minds of Our Greatest Writers by Richard Cohen

The title of this book, although catchy, is misleading.  Personally, I wouldn’t want to write like Tolstoy anyway.  I am perfectly content to write like John Walters.  Anyway, the author makes no attempt to teach writing or techniques of writing.  Instead, he catalogs how various famous writers dealt with various aspects of writing.  The entire book is taken up with examples of writers’ attitudes towards beginnings and endings of novels, characters, plagiarism, points of view, dialogue, irony, story, prose rhythm, writing about sex, and rewriting.  Again I emphasize: not to teach writing, but rather to entertain.  And the book is entertaining; I’ll give it that, though some sections work far better than others.

The section on storytelling works well, because the author gets down into detail about what constitutes story and the basic plots in fiction.  Other interesting sections include the looks at story beginnings, plagiarism, and writing about sex – although the author spends much more time decrying bad examples than applauding good examples.  It is also fascinating to read what various writers think about revising.  As Cohen emphasizes, there are as many opinions about these various aspects of the writer’s craft as there are writers.  The short chapter on dialogue didn’t do much for me, probably because I recently read Robert McKee’s comprehensive book on dialogue.  Some of the other more esoteric sections, such as those on rhythm and irony in novels, didn’t really have much to say, probably because the subjects are difficult to pin down.

My biggest objection to the material in this book is how the author limits the examples he uses.  He leans heavily on classic writers such as Tolstoy, Austin, Lawrence, Joyce, Hemingway, and a few others.  Some contemporary writers are mentioned in passing, but not many.  Of popular genre writers, Cohen cites only Stephen King and Ray Bradbury.  In the section on sex, he dismisses the contribution of Henry Miller to sexuality in novel writing with a footnote, which to me is an injustice.  If the author had been more open to the wonderful diversity found in fiction, the book would have been much more comprehensive and enjoyable.

Still, it is what it is, and as I said, it is readable and enjoyable.  Too bad about that title though.  Some would-be writers might pick up this book thinking they are getting a how-to volume on the making of epic novels, whereas nothing could be further from the truth.  If this book is instructional to writers at all, it is to show that there is no one way to write, and no definitive rules on what constitutes correctness, let alone excellence, in the various mechanisms that make up a piece of writing.  Perhaps that was the author’s objective all along: to demonstrate the idiosyncrasies of writers, to highlight their individuality and unique ways of approaching their work.  That’s what it did for me, anyway, besides offering a good laugh here and there.  It reinforced the conviction I already hold that once you learn the basic tools of the trade, there is no correct or incorrect way to write.  Writers are individuals, each with his or her unique method of creation.  Writing is a voyage of discovery, as Henry Miller said in his excellent essay “Reflections on Writing.”  It is akin to taking to the open road that Whitman wrote about.  Every writer’s journey is a singular one.  That is the glory of it.

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Writing as a Metaphysical Experience

Metaphysical Final (1)WebCover

My new book, Writing as a Metaphysical Experience, is now available as an e-book at multiple outlets, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple iBooks, and others.  It’s also available as a print edition here.

It’s part memoir, part journal, and part instruction.  Here’s an excerpt from the introduction:

“For me, writing is metaphysical because it is inseparable from who I am and my conception of the universe and my place in it.  My interpretation of writing goes far beyond the definitions of hobby, job, or career – it is rather in the nature of a calling.  It is something that blossoms from within me and, though invisible to instrumentation, is as integrally a part of me as my flesh, bones, and internal organs.  How this transpired and how it manifests itself is the subject of this book.

 This is not a how-to book on writing, although in its course I offer many practical tips and suggestions.  It’s more like a travelogue, a story of the life’s journey on which my writing has led me.”

This writing journey has led me on a decades-long quest from the United States to Europe to the Indian Subcontinent and back in the pursuit of voice, inspiration, and literary excellence.  On the way, I have written and published novels, short story collections, essay collections, memoirs, and numerous individual novellas, novelettes, short stories, and essays.

If the “pursuit of voice, inspiration, and literary excellence” fascinates you, pick up a copy of the book, and you may find that you’re not alone in your creative struggles.  Writing, if pursued with sincerity, is an all-consuming passion.  Although it is not always an easy road to walk, for those who are called to the journey, it is an inevitability.

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