Freakin’ Franzen “Freedom” Frenzy


That honk and clatter  you hear out in the street is the bandwagon rolling by for Jonathan Franzen’s breathlessly awaited new novel, Freedom, his first since his blockbusting The Corrections in 2001.

My own review of the book, which I much enjoyed, will be out in tomorrow’s Dallas Morning News. But if you can’t wait that long, most of the country’s literati can speak of nothing else (hey, I know how to pick ’em),  so check out news and reviews of the Time mag cover boy  here and here. And to make it all even juicier, there’s already an anti-Franzen backlash building up.

So who sez books is dead, huh?


Promises, Promises. . .

. . .is more than just the title of a great Dionne Warwick hit, originally  sung (how many know?)  by Jerry Orbach, later star of TV’s “Law and Order” in “Promises, Promises,” the only Broadway musical ever done by (do you know?) the songwriting team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, they who did an amazing string of great songs for Warwick and others.*

But “Promises, Promises” (recently revived on B’Way, to middling success)  also applies to this blog. I’m about to get over a large hillock of work and soon will  dive back into the blog and recreate, if not improve, its traditional mix of the useful, the whimsical, the politico-cultural, the chin-strokingly provocative, the still-reverent-to-tradition-without-being-too-curmudgeonly, the tales of brushes with the powerful and famous,  and all that other stuff, including the occasional bold questioning of the politically correct.

*Ultimate trivia: Another Warwick hit came from that same musical. Can you name it? If not, edify yourself here.

The Apocalyptic End of Books?

I take second place to none in bemoaning the loss of great bookstores, including the highly touted local Legacy Books, which breathes its last in a few days.  I’ve written  on the precarious state of book culture numerous times, including this KERA/NPR radio commentary.

But, worried as I am about the future of the paper book, I wonder if this comment isn’t just a bit overwrought:

The book is fast becoming the despised Jew of our culture. Der Jude is now Der Book. Hi-tech propogandists tell us that the book is a tree-murdering, space-devouring, inferior form of technology; that society would simply be better-off altogether if we euthanized it even as we begin to carry around, like good little Aryans, whole libraries in our pockets, downloaded on the Uber-Kindle.

Like good little Aryans? Jeez. I don’t have a Kindle and probably won’t get one, but a bit much, perhaps?

That’s from a recent essay in Evergreen magazine, a longtime leftish mag that I didn’t even know was still publishing, and whose mere existence perhaps argues for the sturdiness of the pulp world–unless, as may be the case, Evergreen now exists online only.

At any rate, for one of the direst dire warnings you’ll ever need about the possible passing of the Age of the Book, check it out here.

The 100-Item Challenge

Time for another in this blog’s long series of clutter-busting, self-organizing, ending-the-tyranny-of-clutter entries, borrowed from a blogger named GuyNamedDave, who decided, as he explains, that he wanted to live with no more than 100 belongings.  And here is a Time mag piece about the challenge he issued himself, which is now being taken up by people across the world.

It’s certainly a provocative idea: What if you pared down your possessions to no more than 100 items total? (Of course, that’s an arbitrary number, so pick another if you like–75? 125? 200? Maybe 125,000?)

Interesting challenge, and I think I could pull it off if–if–I could count all my books as one item. And why not?

“Perfect Storm” Engulfs AWOL Blogger

Stressing as I always do quality over quantity, it’s  been very gratifying to me that several dozen thoughtful, interesting  people include my blog among their regular reading sources. When I run into someone I didn’t even know was reading it, as I did the other day, I always feel–well, lousy.Guilty. Irresponsible.  Because as you can see from the past few entries, I just haven’t been offering much lately to those who are kind enough to look in here now and again.

Excuses? I’ve got a few. First,  I was pleasantly caught up in the controlled insanity of acting–in fact, it hit me the other day that from early October 2009 until just a few days ago, I was working in one play or another, four in all, sometimes in overlapping productions. Love it, but it’s a time drain and a brain drain.

At any rate, looks like I’ll have a break from the stage for a few weeks. I auditioned for a plum role in Our Town the other day, hoping to break in at a new theatre,  but (reach for razor blade) it looks like they have found a way to do it without me.

Second, there is work, (which someone–Oscar Wilde?– described as the curse of the drinking class).

Third, it’s been high season in the yard and garden, pulling away time especially on the weekends. (That’s slowing down now as the 100-degree days send a blunt message to all plants: Stop growing and just try to survive.)

Fourth, speaking of curses, I seem to have wrenched my always-rickety back while hacking and sawing some giant fig limbs a couple weeks ago, bringing on a bout of miseries not seen since about 2007. That has necessitated a few probably-futile trips to a chiropractor seeking relief, and at times it’s been tough to sit for long in the office chair, a prerequisite for getting any serious writing done.

And fifth, on a brighter note, I’ m still mulling (God, he’s always mulling!) some changes to the blogging structure which will bring even more added-value for Muse Machine readers. So keep checking back, and thanks for your time.