The Complete Zap Comix and The Complete Basement Tapes:
These are cultural events of inestimable importance.
America’s first President is usually seen as man easy to admire but hard to love. In his public life, and to a great degree in his personal life, he mastered a kind of cordiality without warmth, a modest reserve mixed with a forbidding austerity. He had a genius for silence, for withholding his true feelings, yet when he made up his mind to something he acted with unflinching resolve.
He was a man you underestimated at your own peril.
If you read Ron Chernow’s brilliant recent biography of the man, however,you will find it hard not to love George Washington — and not just for his services to his country. Beneath the artfully crafted facade he presented to the world was a man of deep sentiment and emotion and sensuality, sacrificed over and over again to his sense of honor and duty.
He was not a natural stoic, not a cold self-satisfied prig — he chose service over inclination as a matter of principle, and endured the sacrifices this entailed fully sensible of the pain and personal loss this choice cost him.
Towards the end of his life, after leading the Continental Army to victory over the British Empire, presiding over the creation of the American Constitution, serving wisely and indispensably as the first American President, he wrote a letter to a woman named Sally Fairfax, the wife of a good friend, with whom he’d had an intense and passionate if platonic flirtation in his younger days.
He said that the times he’d spent with her were the happiest of his life. She must have represented all he could have had in this world if he’d been willing to overstep the bounds of propriety, violate his honor, and hers, given up his notions of civic and personal probity, the record of integrity that enabled him to spearhead the creation a new country and bind it into a workable union.
He was not the sort of man to second guess the course he chose, but he was human enough to hold on to a longing for something simpler and sweeter and more enchanting. You have to love him, if only for that.
Well, new to me, at any rate — it was actually published a year ago at Buddies In the Saddle, the blog of Western enthusiast and scholar Ron Scheer, who has recently published the first volume in his study of Western literature How the West Was Written.
It’s a thoughtful and, to me, perceptive review, that gets to the heart of my ambitions for the stories. Here’s part of it:
This is one of those books that came over the transom at BITS. Written by screenwriter and novelist Lloyd Fonvielle, it’s a self-published collection of stories that seem not to have seen the light of day until now. Springing from obscurity, they bear the marks of an inspired imagination, well informed by western movies.
A caveat at the outset, for readers of the traditional western. There’s both a dark and raunchy edge to some of these stories. If they were movies themselves, they would challenge the MPAA reviewers given the job of labeling them with suitable parental warnings. One or two would be candidates for an NC-17 rating.
Themes. The stories take place in a world of shootings, killings, and various frontier atrocities, but the recurring interest in them has to do with relations between men and women. Typically a man of some character finds himself dealing with a woman of equal nerve and grit.
Exploring relations between men and women on the Western frontier in franker and more complex ways strikes me as the great new horizon for writers of Western fiction, and it has certainly been a central concern of my own Western fiction.
For the full review, and to check out Scheer’s valuable site, go here:
Click on the images to enlarge.
I just finished this third volume of Robert Caro’s multi-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson. The fourth volume, The Passage Of Power, is now on its way to me. I’ve tried to make my way through the work slowly, to prolong the pleasure, and so I won’t have such a long wait for the fifth and final volume, which won’t be out for several years, but it’s not working out that way. Caro is just too compulsively readable.
The Years Of Lyndon Johnson is like a vast Victorian novel, on a scale that would have daunted even Dickens (though perhaps not Tolstoy). It bristles with life, with amazing characters and amazing incidents and amazing revelations that compel attention. Indeed, if we didn’t have evidence of Caro’s prodigious and meticulous research, we might easily dismiss his work as fiction.
It’s the most important work about the nation since de Tocqueville‘s Democracy In America — a comprehensive education in American institutions, American aspirations, American delusions, American idealism, American skulduggery. Reading it ought to be considered a civic duty — a thoroughly pleasurable civic duty, like watching fireworks on the 4th Of July.
I’m very amused by the authors who have sided with Hachette in its dispute with Amazon about the pricing of e-books. They want to be left out of the mix, while the two corporations sort out their differences.
Those differences concern a product, books, created by the authors in question. The idea that authors should somehow be above the fray, and suffer no consequences from the fray — because they are artists? — when they and their works are what the fray is all about is either charmingly naive or utterly insane, depending on your point of view.
I’d go with insane.
This book is a genuine delight, witty, sometimes downright funny, learned and informative — a startling eye-opener about what’s really going on in The Lone Star State. Whatever you think you know about Texas is probably wrong, due to the exaggerations of Texans themselves, the animus of pundits elsewhere, and a veritable tsunami of misinformation about the state currently inundating the culture. Erica Grieder will set you right, though, in this very entertaining and illuminating book. Grieder thinks for herself and has a passionate respect for facts, which makes her an oddball among modern journalists and a most refreshing one.
You can buy it here.
To see the review and for book details, go here: