Recommended Weekend Reading

Start with a pint or so of John D. MacDonald‘s Travis McGee, mix in a quarter-cup of Clive Cussler‘s Dirk Pitt and you just might end up with a refreshing drink of Doc Ford. Randy Wayne White's book Ten Thousand Islands

Well, you or I might not, but thankfully Randy Wayne White did. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t some cheap MacDonald knock-off; White’s writing stands on it’s own. Ford, his nutty friend Tomlinson and his Gulfside marina friends fit nicly into the genere, and I could see him knocking back a tall drink with McGee and Meyer.

Get yourself a tall glass of something cold, a comfortable spot to sit, and plenty of time to enjoy another set of fine Florida action-sleuthing.

Accidents and Emergence

I had barely started Steven Johnson‘s 2001 book Emergence last night – indeed I was still in the first two dozen or so pages – when the TV show my wife was watching caught my ear. CrashThe Screen Actors Guild awards show was showing clips from Crash and giving a short description of it’s premise. Set in Los Angeles, the movie apparently brings together people from different backgrounds whose paths ordinarily, though living in the same city, would never cross. Johnson had just mentioned something very similar, through the example of Manchester England which “grew up” with vastly differing classes of people living virtually side-by-side yet not interacting.

The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and SoftwareThis afternoon I got back to the book, and lo there in chapter 2 we come to Los Angeles. “It’s not ‘an encounter with the working class,'” Johnson says to a culturally-oblivious friend, “if you’re gazing down at them from the overpass.” Perhaps, like the people in the movie, his friend really needed an auto accident to bring him in real contact with other dwellers in his city.

Anyway, I don’t know what it means — if anything — that I came across a mention of Crash (which I’d never heard of before last night) while reading Emergence. It may mean nothing at all. Or perhaps it’s part of a larger pattern, one that I just can’t see yet. Either way it’s an interesting book, and I plan on checking out the movie soon.

Steven Johnson Speaks on Everything Bad…

How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us SmarterA while back I wrote about Steven B. Johnson‘s book Everything Bad Is Good For You. Last night an interview with him was shown on the Charlie Rose show, and now it’s available for viewing here (about 45 minutes in).

After you watch the interview, of course I recommend you go read the book. It’s probably available at your local library or bookstore, or just follow the link above to Amazon.

The Dark Tower and Beyond

A few weeks back I read a Stephen King’s The Gunslinger, based on the recommendation of a friend and commented that it was a “fascinating story.”

Big understatement.

Seek thee the tower?When Bryant recommended The Dark Tower series, I joked that he’d be to blame if I couldn’t sleep for a week. I meant that I’d be too spooked to snooze, given my previous history with Stephen King novels. As it turns out, I was barely able to sleep but it had nothing to do with horror – I just couldn’t stop reading. Books 2, 4 and 7 were, in my mind, the best parts of the story. King about lost me as a reader when he went “meta” in book 6, but Bryant told me to hang in there, to “stand and be true,” and all would come together. I’m glad I did.

Back in June of 1970, Stephen King began a tale that ended up some 4080 pages and many years later. He says that there are connections between this epic and all his other books, that “Roland’s world actually contains all the others of my making.” With The Dark Tower, as in so many things, “I’m finished” really means “I’ve just begun.”

Say true. Say thankya. Start with The Gunslinger, you won’t be disappointed.

Recommendations That Ended Well

We may have our differences of opinion but Dave‘s still the Blogfather, having gotten many of us – including me – interested in weblogging with his writing, his offer of EditThisPage, the development of Radio and his enthusiasm in general.

His writing also inspired me to give the Grateful Dead a listen. I’d heard of them of course, and had seen the mobs of fans as they came through Columbia (the Dead often played at Merriweather Post Pavilion) but I never bothered listening to them. My musical taste at the time ran more toward Eddie Van Halen. Today I’m glad to have found that I can visit some of those old concerts that I bypassed years ago. Here’s June 30th, 1985 at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD.

Thanks, Dave.

This week, another friend of mine led me to to yet another late discovery. Several years ago, having never read any of Stephen King‘s books, I asked Diane (a big King fan) which book I should start with; she pointed me to The Shining. I couldn’t get through even the second chapter. It hadn’t yet gotten spooky, but I could tell where it was heading and just couldn’t keep going – my own imagination was giving me the heebee-jeebies. I don’t know, maybe I could now. That experience turned me off from trying any other King books.

Anyway… Bryant got me interested in a (to me, anyway) lesser-known work of King’s, the Dark Tower series. I started volume 1, The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower, Book 1), last night. I couldn’t tell where it was heading and just couldn’t not keep going. Those are both good things, the not knowing and the not being able to stop. Fascinating story.

By the way, even if the story itself was crap – which it’s certainly not – King’s introduction, in the ‘revised and expanded’ edition, is something I’d recommend reading anyway. It’s a great look into the mind of a writer who’s been through a lot and who’s smart enough to know that a young writer can’t just avoid their own share of trials.

Thanks, Bryant.

later: see The Dark Tower and Beyond

much later: I did finally read The Shining in 2012, after seeing the movie (can you believe it took me over 30 years to see The Shining?). It was good; much different from the movie. I think I actually prefer Kubrick’s story to King’s. Heresy, I know.

Johnson on Video Games

“What is the current reigning technological paradigm — combined with both market and public-sector forces — doing to our minds?” Steven Johnson, who I heard interviewed on the radio this afternoon, tackles that in a book that I’m very much looking forward to reading: Everything Bad Is Good for You. I wrote a paper back in high school, Video Games, Benefit or Blight — and then re-wrote it in college. I wish I still had a copy of it around. Here’s Malcolm Gladwell’s review (of Johnson’s book, not my old paper).

I spent Saturday vacationing on Key West, being la…

I spent Saturday vacationing on Key West, being lazy in the hot sun. Well, not really, but I did hang out on the deck (where it was hot enough) and read The Mango Opera. Darn good book, made even better by the fact that I’d just been there a couple of months ago. Corcoran’s description of Alex’s surroundings, the paths he takes and the places he goes took me right back to the island (islands actually, as Alex makes a couple of trips up through the keys to Miami, and even gets to Atlanta once). It was great fun being able to see entire scenes in my mind, in great detail having just been there. Heck, one of the victims is found off the southern end of the old bridge at Bahia Honda, I was on the northern end when I took this picture of our boat moored there.

Here’s an interesting story about Bahia Honda, by the way. If you’ve watched True Lies, you’ve seen the car & harrier chase up seven-mile bridge, ending with the bridge getting blown up. At Bahia Honda there are two bridges, the current one that carries traffic onward to the lower keys, and the old bridge with it’s gap. I’m told that the gap was temporarily repaired, then re-opened for Jamie Lee Curtis’ nick-of-time rescue. True or a local lie legend, it’s a beautiful place to picnic, swim and relax.