Book Review: Lenin’s Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire by David Remnick

Because the vast empire of the Soviet Union is dead and gone, it’s hard sometimes to remember how pervasive, influential, and terrifying it once was. I grew up during the Cold War, when the ongoing struggle between communism and capitalism as exemplified by Russia and the United States was a fact of life. It screamed at us through novels and films such as the James Bond series, The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, and many other works. Not only that, but it hit the young men of my generation in a personal way through the war in Vietnam and the draft, which had been interpreted to us by those who promoted the war as one more arena in the continuing battle against communism. We saw people like Khrushchev and Brezhnev on the news, and they seemed like ambassadors from another planet. The truth was, though, that these public figures were rulers in a land in which the common people, supposedly in the name of reform but actually to keep the ruling elite in power and privilege, were being enslaved, tortured, and murdered.

Remnick’s book focuses on the last days of the Soviet Union under Gorbachev and the nonviolent revolution that brought about the end of the union, the independence of the various satellite republics, and the democratization of Russia. Its main arc begins around 1985 when Gorbachev initiated perestroika, which means restructuring, and glasnost, which means openness, to bring to light aspects of Soviet history that had been long hidden such as Stalin’s purges of millions of citizens through execution or exile to labor camps. This aroused the ire of right-wing factions of the communist party who were staunch supporters of Stalin and the one-party system of absolute rule. It turned out that most of these people worked to retain the existing system not because they gave a damn what happened to the workers that it was all supposedly for, but rather because they wanted to retain their opulent lifestyles, their luxurious offices, their holiday villas, their private limousines and planes, and other perks that the top men received. Remnick details the fine line that Gorbachev walked, especially in the beginning, to open up the country but at the same time pacify the reactionaries.

As perestroika and glasnost became more prevalent, liberal factions of the media in the country reacted and made brave steps to get the truth out to the common people. Miners and other groups of workers went on strike to protest their squalid work and living situations. The situation escalated until satellite republics broke away from the union and Boris Yeltsin became Russia’s first elected president. Hard liners in the Kremlin, the KGB, and the military attempted one final coup out of desperation; when it failed, Russia and the rest of the countries in the erstwhile Soviet Union had truly become changed lands.

All of this may sound like tedious and boring history, but Remnick brings it to life so that it reads like a fictional political thriller. Remnick, who at the time worked as a reporter for the Washington Post, arrived in Moscow in 1988 with his wife, lived through these tumultuous events, interviewed all the major players, and traveled throughout the country to get perspectives from isolated areas. He earned my respect when he describes that, during a visit to a coal mining region in Siberia, he strapped on equipment and lights and went deep into a dangerous mineshaft so he could see firsthand the horrendous conditions under which the miners worked. I got acute claustrophobia just reading about it.

This book was first published in the early 1990s and won a Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction. It deserved the prize. It’s meticulously researched, full of firsthand information, and very well written. One might suppose that it is irrelevant to our present era, but it isn’t. In fact, as I read it, I had a sense of immediacy and a feeling that governments are volatile entities and things can change fast in national and international politics. Before Gorbachev initiated the changes that brought about the fall of the communist party, the Soviet Union was bankrupt and many of its people were suffering and starving, but very few would have thought it possible that in a few short years, Russia would change on such a massive scale. This book is a great read and highly recommended.

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Book Review: Past Master by R.A. Lafferty

Rafael Aloysius Lafferty, who wrote under the name R.A. Lafferty, was an inescapable presence in the 1960s and 1970s in the science fiction field. It seemed that just about every best of the year or awards anthology I picked up back then had a short story by him in it. He was a writer’s writer; he received praise and acknowledgement as one of the field’s top talents from writers much better known that he was. Now, who recognizes the name anymore? Diehard fans from the era, sure, but his reputation has not been as enduring as others. Perhaps one reason is that his work was so quirky that none of it was ever adapted to film or TV.

I read many of his short stories back then, and some of the classics such as “Narrow Valley” and “Nine Hundred Grandmothers” I have read several times. I never read any of his novels, though, until now. Not for lack of trying. I remember once I asked a Native American friend what books about Native Americans he would recommend, and one title that came up was Okla Hannali by R.A. Lafferty. I tried to find a copy, and then generally searched for some of Lafferty’s other work, short story collections in particular, and I discovered to my chagrin that whatever was available was ridiculously overpriced – and that included not only rare first editions but also new volumes. After he had died, someone had got hold of the rights and priced them out of bounds for most readers. And so they remained for many years; I know, because I would check from time to time. I just perused Amazon’s listings, in fact, and very few of his books are available new, and most of the short story collections that it’s possible to buy new are still heart-attack-inducingly expensive. Most of his work is out of print, and these works are very pricey as well. For instance, the book I am reviewing now, Past Master, is only available used for over forty dollars.

And thus we come to the refreshing wonders of used book vendors. During my recent sojourn at the science fiction convention Norwescon 2018, I was able to obtain a clean, excellent used copy of Past Master for the price of one dollar.

Past Master is Lafferty’s first novel, and it was a finalist for both the Hugo and Nebula awards. It’s a short novel by modern standards, as were many of the finest novels back then. Sometimes I think that modern novels have become bloated with words, with publishers’ marketing departments and readers thinking that the bigger the book, the better it is – but nothing could be further from the truth. When the standard for novels was around fifty to seventy thousand words, they were lean and rich, with not a word misplaced. Now, there often seems to be a lot of padding to get them up to a couple hundred thousand words.

To me, Past Master seems to be a Lafferty short story that ran amok, that maybe started as a shorter work but burst its bounds to accommodate all the wild ideas. It deals with a planet called Astrobe, where society has supposedly been perfected and everyone has health and wealth and everything that they need. The only glitch is that millions of its citizens abandon this ideal society to live in slum cities full of disease and poverty, and the rulers of the planet cannot figure out why. In desperation they send someone back in space and time to Old Earth to collect Thomas More, who they recognize as an expert on utopias, just before he is to be beheaded by the king of England. Their plan is to set More up as president with the title of Past Master, hoping that he can cure the ills that are causing the mass exodus from the perfect world.

I don’t want to give away what this all leads to, because you should really find a copy of this great book for yourself and discover the joys therein. R.A. Lafferty is a master of the absurd, and it can only be hoped that more of his works become available at affordable prices so modern readers can appreciate his singular genius.

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The Egregious Practice of Charging Reading Fees

(This article first appeared on the website of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America on March 26, 2018.)

I am a hybrid author, which means that I self-publish books and also publish short stories in traditional venues. Last night I was engaged in what I call marketing. Several of my stories had come back unsold from magazines and anthologies, and rather than having them sit around, I wanted to send them back out to other possible markets. Most, although not all, of what I write is science fiction, fantasy, magic realism, surrealism, and other types of otherworldly or genre fiction, and so I mainly market to genre publications. However, more and more literature of the fantastic also finds its way into literary and mainstream magazines, so I send stories to those publications as well. Last night I thought: There are a lot of literary magazines out there. Why not do a search and find more literary markets for my work? So I did. And as a result I encountered dismay and frustration. Why? The horrendous and creativity-killing practice of reading fees.

The best magazines do not charge reading fees; they don’t have to. People pay to buy individual copies or subscribe to the magazines because they have quality content. These include the genre magazines as well, such as science fiction, fantasy, and mystery. But middle-level literary magazines, faced with declining readership and financial difficulties, hit on the solution of obtaining their financing from writers instead of readers. When a writer sends a story to an editor or publisher, it’s like an audition. The editor evaluates the piece of writing to determine if it’s a good fit for the magazine. There are many reasons for rejection. Often it’s a lack of writing competence, but it can also be that the story doesn’t fit the theme of the magazine or anthology or the editor just bought a story with a similar idea from someone else. The writer shrugs and sends the story elsewhere. It’s a professional exchange. Making writers pay to submit their stories, though, is nothing less than a scam. It reminds me of Steve Martin in the movie Bowfinger gleefully taking checks from aspiring actresses who want to audition for his film, all the while knowing he has no intention of hiring them.

The sad state of affairs in the field of literary magazines is that a high percentage now charge reading fees. The amounts range from two dollars to five dollars or more, but the average is three dollars. They justify it in all sorts of ways. Some, to avoid the stigma of charging reading fees, call it a handling fee or a software fee. Evidently they haven’t heard that many email services are free. Some, even as they ask it of writers, say outright: This is not a reading fee. Yeah, right. As if calling it by another name makes it all better. Several sites explain that if you were to send the manuscripts by mail you would have to spend at least that much in postage, so send that postage money to them instead. Most modern magazines and anthologies are getting away from postal submissions anyway, both as a money saver and to protect the environment, so that argument doesn’t make any sense.

Unfortunately, some of the magazines I most respected and used to submit to have succumbed to this practice, and as a result, I have had to take them off my list of honest, viable markets. It’s become a trend, and a very unfortunate one. I wonder if they have ever considered alternatives to their gouging of writers. I would prefer that they slightly drop their payments for accepted stories if they can’t afford them. Or have they ever heard of crowdfunding, which is being used successfully by more and more editors of genre anthologies?

Charging reading fees also has a much more sinister effect on magazines and anthologies, but one that editors and publishers would never notice firsthand. It cuts off writers that can’t afford the fees. That would include poverty-stricken artists from the inner city, the disenfranchised, and single parents like myself who spend a large portion of their income on rent and bills. Between novels I write a lot of short stories, and sometimes I have as many as thirty to forty out to market at the same time. There’s no way I could afford to pay reading fees for all those submissions. I hearken back to when I was a young writer who set off on the road to encounter new experiences. I was homeless for years back then and often had no money in my pocket. Why should I not have had the opportunity to submit my work for publication? Do these editors and publishers who finance their magazines through reading fees really want to hear only the voices of the elite? Perhaps that’s why science fiction, fantasy, and other genre works are the most vital, diverse, lively, and attractive forms of fiction out there nowadays, because they welcome submissions from all types of people without charging elitist reading fees to cull out the disadvantaged.

I am reminded of one of my favorite rags-to-riches literary stories: that of Jack London, who returned from the Klondike brimming with ideas and fought to have his stories published despite countless rejections. Can you imagine if he would have had to pay for all those submissions? He never would have had a chance. The publishers who charge reading fees might point out that in those days he had to pay for postage. Sure he did, and it almost killed his literary ambitions because much of the time he couldn’t afford it and had to sacrifice decent clothes and food to be able to send out his work. Why close and lock your gates to struggling writers and demand money payments as the price of admission to the literary world? Some of the world’s greatest writers have produced masterpieces while grappling with extreme financial distress, but why make it harder on writers to achieve their dreams rather than easier? Editors and publishers should be in writers’ corners, encouraging them and helping them make it, not setting up fiscal barriers to oppose them. No wonder these magazines are failing. They attempt to stifle some of the voices who might have the most to say by charging admission to speak in their forums. Thank God for the genre magazines and anthologies as well as the best of the mainstream and literary publications, not to mention self-publishing venues, that have maintained their integrity by making submissions free to all writers.

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Book Review: Report to Greco by Nikos Kazantzakis

I don’t know how many people remember Nikos Kazantzakis nowadays. He’s known mainly for two novels that became acclaimed and controversial movies: Zorba the Greek and The Last Temptation of Christ. When I was a young man obsessed with becoming a writer, I read Zorba the Greek more than once. It was a germinal book for me. I identified with the withdrawn, cautious, timid writer who had to be lured out of his shell by the robust, tempestuous Zorba. I wanted to step out and live life so I could write about it, but it took a lot of effort to get me started. I read The Last Temptation of Christ too, but it didn’t make the same strong impression on me. I couldn’t figure what the fuss was all about. Maybe it was because I was already so fed up with the church at that point.

I hadn’t thought about Kazantzakis in decades, and then Report to Greco popped up on a table at a Seattle Public Library used book sale and I grabbed it on a whim. It’s purportedly his autobiography, but in reality it’s only his autobiography in the way that Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn, and the Rosy Crucifixion trilogy are the autobiographical works of Henry Miller. In other words, kind of but not really. In fact, Henry Miller immediately came to mind as I began to read. Both Miller and Kazantzakis write from the gut and from the emotions. Both use extremely flamboyant and flowery language. Both are blunt in their honesty, and both suddenly go off on intellectual tangents, describing dreams, visions, and other emotional intricacies without warning. Their styles are similar, but there’s one big difference between them: Miller reacts to poverty and hard times with joy, dancing, and sexual liberality. Kazantzakis reacts with angst, despair, and celibacy. Personally, I’ll take Miller any day. I simply couldn’t understand what Kazantzakis was up to sometimes, and why he reacted the way he did.

The book begins with Kazantzakis’s childhood in Crete, goes through his teen years, his studies, and his travels on the Greek mainland and in Italy, Jerusalem, Mount Sinai, Paris, Vienna, Berlin, and Moscow. His main concern is his spiritual odyssey, though, not the countries he is visiting. First he has a long love/hate relationship with the God Jehovah of the Old Testament and with Jesus. When he goes to Paris, he has a torrid infatuation with Nietzsche; he speaks about his discovery of the man’s philosophy as if he has fallen in love and is having an affair. He goes on and on, page after page, describing his feelings and sensations upon abandoning Christ and taking up Nietzsche. To be honest, this got extremely boring after awhile. I kept reading because I wanted to find out if he would eventually describe his beginnings as a writer. And he does, sort of, at the very end of the book when he recounts meeting the character who inspired Zorba. In Vienna, he leaps from Nietzsche to Buddha. In Berlin, he leaps from Buddha to Lenin. Again, it’s hard to understand his frame of mind in embracing Lenin’s dogmas so thoroughly, even though he spends many pages attempting to describe his reasoning. In the end, after numerous adventures, he returns to Crete, holes up alone in a cottage by the sea, and writes.

I don’t quite know how to react to this book. At one point, Kazantzakis is telling anecdotes of his encounters with common people that are so touching they move me to tears. At other points, he goes off into philosophical rants that are irrelevant and annoying. When I took up the book, I supposed that Kazantzakis was like Zorba, full of life and zest and enthusiasm, but as I read I realized that he was actually like the writer who meets Zorba: fearful and isolated and insecure. He writes a lot about fear, especially when he describes himself as a youth, but also on into adulthood. Only the translator does not merely use the word “fear.” The word “terror” comes up over and over, as if practically everything in life terrified Kazantzakis.

The translation, by the way, is a good one as far as I can tell. To really know for sure I’d have to compare it with the original Greek, but I’m not capable of that. I think that Kazantzakis’s mind and spirit come across as he intended.

As I said, I can’t really decide if I should recommend this book or not. It would be a much stronger read if the passages on Nietzsche and Lenin were omitted, but then of course it wouldn’t be complete in describing the writer’s individual journey. In the end, it is what it is, and all I can say is that parts are sublime and parts are very slow. It’s a mixed bag.

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“Dark Mirrors” in Alien Invasion: Short Stories

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I’m pleased to announce that one of my personal favorites among my short stories, “Dark Mirrors,” has just been reprinted in a hardcover anthology with a beautiful embossed cover called Alien Invasion: Short Stories. It’s part of the impressive Gothic Fantasy series by Flametree Publishing, although this particular volume leans heavily towards science fiction rather than fantasy. The book features a mix of classic and contemporary writers. Once again, because the listing is alphabetical, I find myself sandwiched in between literary greats, in this case Voltaire and H.G. Wells.

Here’s the blurb for “Dark Mirrors”:

The people of Earth are losing a war with aliens that they themselves provoked.  Every able-bodied person is being called up to fight, even prisoners; those who refuse are threatened with dismemberment to provide spare parts for wounded soldiers.  A battle-hardened general enters a prison to recruit a woman who refuses to fight, but who may have a most unusual special ability that can turn the tide of the war.

You can also find “Dark Mirrors” as the title story in my collection Dark Mirrors: Dystopian Tales.

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Book Review: Everfair by Nisi Shawl

I’ve come across Nisi Shawl’s short stories from time to time, including one set in the Everfair universe. This is her first novel. In it, she posits an alternate history in which Europeans and Americans purchase a tract of land in the midst of the Congo from King Leopold II of Belgium, intending to set up a new country, a safe haven for African Americans seeking freedom, disenchanted Europeans, Africans of various tribes fleeing King Leopold’s oppressive rule, and other wandering people in search of a homeland. To this, Shawl adds steampunk technology that enables creation of dirigibles that the locals call aircanoes and mechanical prosthetics to replace limbs severed by King Leopold’s mercenaries. The citizens of Everfair also benefit from the supernatural influence of local herbs, enchantments, and spirits. All of this makes for a very compelling and exciting story.

Shawl peoples her imaginary world with a diversity of characters such as African American missionaries, idealistic Europeans, nationalistic Africans, tech-minded East Asians, cunning assassins, and oppressive slaveholders. Rather than stick to the viewpoint of one character, she skips from character to character, at the same time moving forward from a month to a year at a time with each chapter scene. The technique works excellently to propel the story relentlessly onward through this alternate history; at the same time, it allows in-depth exploration of the main characters as they react to ever-changing events.

The novel is told in two parts. Part one deals with the founding of Everfair and increasing antagonism that builds up to a war with Belgium. This first half is by far more action-packed and faster-paced. Part two deals with the aftermath of the war and what happens to the various characters; although absorbing and fascinating, it almost comes across as a sort of extended epilog. However, because Shawl has created characters with so much depth, reader interest in their various fates is strong enough to accommodate the slower pace.

Overall, I find Everfair a great read: wonderfully original in its concept and very well executed. The rapidly evolving chronology of the style suits the material perfectly, allowing extensive character development while simultaneously giving the novel epic proportions by allowing it to cover two decades of history. Shawl takes full advantage of the situation of all these people of various nations and races put together by social and political circumstances to explore the complex relationships that would ensue. Additionally, although Everfair is presented as a utopia of sorts, Shawl acknowledges the cultural and political difficulties of creating and maintaining a utopia when confronted with the realities of pride, nationalism, religious intolerance, narrow-mindedness, greed, and selfishness.

All in all, this is a great novel that works on several levels: as an adventure story, character study, social commentary, and imaginative alternative to the much sadder reality that took place on the African continent. In a way, it’s too bad that we have to pin labels on things such as “science fiction,” “alternate history,” and “steampunk,” and just let a story be a story. All labels aside, this is an excellent story.

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A Second Look: Dark Mirrors: Dystopian Tales

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When it malfunctions, a teacher discovers a microchip implanted within her forehead which was designed to eradicate her free will.  She determines to rescue the orphaned children in her care from a similar fate.

In the aftermath of a conflict in which all adults were killed or driven away by their progeny, children and teens roam the streets of a ruined city.  When they near the age of 21 they must play the ultimate game, snuff sport, to prevent themselves from becoming hated adults.  A lone grown-up who re-enters the city on a mission of reconciliation is captured and put on trial for his life.

The people of Earth are losing a war with aliens that they themselves provoked.  Every able-bodied person is being called up to serve in combat, even prisoners.  A battle-hardened general enters a prison to recruit a woman who refuses to fight, but who may have a most unusual special ability that can turn the tide of the war.

These and other tales offer terrifying glimpses of Earth’s future gone wrong.

From the author’s afterword:  “When I postulate dark futures it is not to get you to despair.  When I hold up dark mirrors before your eyes it is not so that you will see the worst in yourself and do yourself in.  Far from it.  Some of our greatest illuminations come from deep dark prose.  Dark literature is not meant to overwhelm us.  It is meant to purge us, to provide catharsis.  It is a cleansing and purifying process.  We must be aware of the evil within before we can clean it out.”

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Book Review: I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai

This is a wonderful, exciting, amazing, and important book. It’s one of those world-changing special books that rarely comes along. It celebrates freedom, education for all, and women’s rights while at the same time telling a horrendous story of oppression, fear, and violent savagery.

Malala is a Muslim girl from the Swat Valley in Pakistan who became an activist for education for girls and was therefore targeted by the Taliban. When she was fifteen years old, she was riding a school vehicle home with some other students when she was shot in the head. After surgery and intensive care in Peshawar, Rawalpindi, and England, Malala recovered, and at seventeen won the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to promote education for all the world’s children.

The book describes her early life in Swat Valley. Although it was a simple life, Swat was a beautiful place, and she was happy with her family, school, and schoolmates. Her father became a school owner and a strong advocate for education.

Swat Valley truly is, or was, a paradise. I traveled through Pakistan several times in the seventies, from Kabul, Afghanistan, over the Khyber Pass to Peshawar, then to Rawalpindi, Lahore, and on to India. On another journey I passed from Iran to southern Pakistan, across the desert to Quetta, and on up to Islamabad and Lahore. I came close to Swat Valley, and heard from others how idyllic it was, but never had a chance to visit. Hearing Malala’s description of it, I regret the lost opportunity.

In the early years, when Malala was a young child, her family struggled financially but they were happy. Then the Taliban invaded the valley, and things changed. The Pakistan army made sporadic attempts to drive them out but were unsuccessful. Among the Taliban’s strict rules was a ban on education or any other type of freedom for girls and women. They began to bomb schools and murder people who spoke out against them. Malala and her father feared for their lives, but at the same time didn’t want to leave Swat Valley, which was their beloved homeland. As the situation worsened, Malala became more outspoken and won numerous local and national awards for her stand on education. At the same time, the Taliban became more and more threatening.

The book opens with a prologue that describes the shooting, and then backtracks to Malala’s early life in the valley. As you read, you know with dread inevitability what’s coming. It’s heartrending to learn of the great love that the family has for their homeland and then read about how that land is turned into a fear-ridden wasteland by terrorists. The last part of the book describes Malala’s treatment after she is shot. The bullet had entered her face near her left eye and lodged in her shoulder. She was in a coma for a week, and when she awakened she had been transported to England. She had to undergo numerous surgeries to remove pressure from her brain, restore the facial nerves on the left side of her face, and restore hearing in her left ear. Through it all she continued to thank God for the miracle of life and maintained her resolve to fight for education for all.

Sometimes you don’t appreciate what comes easily to you until you hear about someone else who has had to fight for it. Reading this book makes you appreciate what a precious gift education is, and how vital it is that everyone has access to it. As I said: it’s a wonderful book, and I hope that many more people around the world have the opportunity to read it.

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Book Review: No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters by Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula Le Guin was one of my instructors at Clarion West 1973. It’s a shame I don’t remember very much about my Clarion experience; but after all, that was about 45 years ago and I had just turned twenty. I was very naive, and the only thing I knew about writing was that I wanted to do it. No, I had to do it. Clarion West back then benefited me more by the fellowship of other writers than for the specific instruction on how to put together a story. It would be over twenty-five years before I managed to sell any of my fiction.

Back then I read a lot of fiction of what was termed the New Wave: stories that pushed the borders of what was generally accepted during the pulp era. Le Guin was a major voice in the science fiction field. I recall reading her novel The Dispossessed, her novella “The World for World is Forest,” which appeared in the groundbreaking anthology Dangerous Visions, and numerous short stories. Sometimes I didn’t always completely understand her fiction; it was too sophisticated and I wasn’t ready for it. Recently I’ve read several of her novelettes and short stories and have been quite impressed.

Le Guin died recently, which makes No Time to Spare her last book, unless more are released posthumously. It’s a very entertaining collection of essays, originally blog posts, gentle in tone and varying greatly in subject matter. I think the section that I enjoyed the most is the first, in which she talks about what it’s like to grow old. She was in her eighties when she wrote it, and I’m just about to turn 65, but I could identify with her words because in some ways, especially physically, I am beginning to feel my age. I am much more tired than when I was younger, and infirmities take longer to heal. My biggest problem, though, is the feeling that I haven’t really accomplished what I want to with my writing. I’ve done some good work, and editors are starting to buy my short stories more regularly, but though I have published over twenty books, I have few readers. In that, Le Guin and I differ, and I was acutely aware of the difference as I read her essays. She writes from the perspective of great success, multiple awards, and financial ease, while I am still struggling to break out and barely scrape up enough for the rent and bills at the end of each month. I bring all this up because it was going through my mind as I read this book.

The other section of No Time to Spare that was particularly relevant to me was the one on the literary business. In the other parts of the book Le Guin writes about odds and ends of her family and professional life and her relationship with her current cat. In all of it I felt a profoundly informal atmosphere, as if I were sitting with her and chatting about these various subjects over a cup of tea. I don’t know why a cup of tea comes to mind; I usually prefer coffee, but tea seems to fit the ambiance better. That’s the thing about writers: they age and die physically just like anyone else, but we have the ongoing legacy of their words, and when we read them, we can once again awaken the mind and spirit that was stilled. I enjoyed reading this book. It was relaxing, comforting, informative, pleasant, and satisfying.

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A Second Look: After the Rosy-Fingered Dawn: A Memoir of Greece

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Greece has always been regarded as the birthplace of western civilization and a Mediterranean paradise.  In The Iliad and The Odyssey Homer uses the magical epithet rosy-fingered dawn to describe the sunrise over a land of myth, fascination, and mystery.  But when preconceptions and illusions are swept aside, what is Greece really like?

 John Walters has lived in Greece for over fifteen years.  He has hitchhiked over many of its roads; traveled by camper; journeyed by plane, boat, bus, car, taxi, motorcycle, and on foot.  He has lived and worked and raised a family among Greeks.  He offers insight from an intimate perspective on aspects of Greek society and culture of which tourists are unaware.

 Many have visited Greece and afterwards acknowledged that the country has profoundly changed them.  This memoir is for those who feel something special when they think of Greece and Greeks, those for whom Greece holds a special thrall, those who have visited and have their own memories of the place, and those who would like to visit someday and know that when they do they will obtain new insight, new clarity, and will never be the same again.

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