January 28, 2011

Everything Is Illuminated ****

I'm not sure where I heard about Everything Is Illuminated, but it was in my Netflix instant queue and The Woman and I watched it tonight after a nice dinner of broiled salmon and sauteed Brussels sprouts. Very interesting, amusing, and moving. Staring Elijah Wood as a current-day Jew on a trip to the Ukraine to find the woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis. Screenplay/directing by Liev Schreiber based on the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer. According to imdb.com, it's the only thing Schreiber has written/directed so far, but very impressive, period, and astounding for a first effort. Visually stylistic and stunning in places. Deft, light touch in story telling and gradual revelation.

January 27, 2011

That Old Cape Magic ***

*** That Old Cape Magic, Richard Russo, 2009

This is why I prefer to read dead prolific guys. I have just officially come to the end of the extant Russo canon. Now what am I supposed to do? Wait for another Russo novel to come out? Ph, wait. There is the short story collection, which I haven't acquired, yet. I guess that's my option, since history predicts several years between Russon novels.

I had a surreal moment while reading this book. In one scene the protagonist looks at the clock on the nightstand and it's 12:07 AM. After reading that sentence, I glanced at my own nightstand alarm clock and it was 12:07 AM. And there was nobody to tell!

The saying is that even a bad Russo novel is better than a good day at work. This was not my favorite, but I really began digging it in the last 50 pages. And then he pulled together all the various threads from earlier, and it felt good. The first 200 weren't bad, but I've enjoyed the early pages of other Russo novels more.

I had the thrill of hearing Russo read a chapter from this novel at the 2009 Texas Book Festival. Later I saw him preside over the first Austin Literary Death Match. Russo is a funny guy, somebody I'm sure it would be a blast to have a drink or five with. I'm thinking I want a Russo vibe for the Muffin Man project. We shall see.

January 22, 2011

Endless Vacation

As some of you know, two of the three novels I'm working on involve suicide tourism. As such, I found this Bloomberg article of interest, pointed out to me by an old friend and avid reader.

January 20, 2011

Void Moon ***

*** Void Moon, Michael Connelly, 2000

Connelly's third non-Bosch novel is the first to tell a story from the perspective of a crook, Cassie Black. Interestingly, law enforcement is almost invisible in this novel, making only token background appearances.

It's a good story, well put together, and Cassie is a very sympathetic character, despite her larcenous ways. I guess it helps that her victims are fairly despicable in their own right. In fact, you're hard pressed to find a good guy. Her partner is a pretty good guy, considering he's a career crook, her parole officer is good, and . . . well, I'm sure I'll think of another one. Give me some time.

I'm still very partial to Harry, but this is still a book worth reading. Have I convinced you to picke up a Connelly book, yet?

January 19, 2011

Muffin Man Draft 2

Leave a comment with an up/down vote. Imagine you're in a bookstore and you picked up this book and read the first page as follows. Would you:

  1. Turn the page.
  2. Put the book back on the shelf.

Note: Draft 2 is history. Now you can read the first 26 pages here.

To get on the list to learn about new novels, send an email to BradNotes@BradWhittington.com.

January 15, 2011

The To-Be-Read Shelf

I took a post-Xmas accounting of my to-be-read shelf. There are 47 books up there, along with the 5 I'm currently reading. It's getting crazy. If I don't buy another book this entire year, I might clear it out. Fat chance.

January 13, 2011

Angels Flight ***

*** Angels Flight, Michael Connelly, 1999

Starting out the year with more goodness from Connelly. Just when you think Bosch's relational tensions had been solved, think again!

I remembered much of this one, but misplaced the ending in my pea brain. However, it was just as good as a re-read as it was the first time. Although I did get a little annoyed (and amused) with the clumsy and not completely accurate explanation of how the internet works by Kiz Rider.

One thing I like about Connelly is how he is not afraid to waylay his running characters. No one is safe in a Harry Bosch novel!

January 12, 2011

January 9, 2011

Who gets to call himself a writer?

A recent post at the Kill Zone blog prompted this post.

In my view, all you have to do to be a writer is to write.

Writer at Dictionary.com

I’ve noticed that many of those who object to that view express their disagreement in terms of how it makes them feel, and particularly in terms of what they perceive in the unworthy claimants to be lack of sufficient motivation, seriousness, or dues paid. They typically draw some subjective finish line that in their mind demonstrates a person has the requisite motivation, seriousness, or pain. A line that they themselves have already crossed, of course.

My view is that writers should take words more seriously. We shouldn’t create arbitrary definitions based on perceived threats to our self-image any more than a lawyer should re-frame a precedent to avoid looking bad during closing arguments.

Do we allow only Jack Nicklaus, Bobby Jones, Arnold Palmer and their ilk to call themselves golfers, or does the guy who plays an occasional 9 and a full 18 on the weekends get to call himself a golfer?

Do we allow only Andres Segovia, Julian Bream, Joe Satriani and their ilk to claim to be guitarists, or does the guy who plays songs in his home for his own enjoyment and to entertain his kids get to call himself a guitarist?

In my humble, but accurate, opinion, anyone who expresses thoughts in the written word is a writer. As writers do, we can affix adjectives to qualify that appellation, such as casual, serious, deluded, professional, regrettable, accomplished, award-winning, best-selling, published, unpublished, or even the admittedly annoying, pre-published.

But we should respect the language, the process and the end result more than to stoop to redefining words based on self interest.

January 8, 2011

Quote from Mike Mason

From The Mystery of Children by Mike Mason:

Children and stories are inseperable because children live stories. Adults live in their heads, relentlessly analyzing. But children experience life directly. To children life is a story in which they are the main character.

Adults, not content simply to be characters, want to be the author of their story. Being part of the story means surrendering control, but we like to think we can control our world, or at least a good chunk of it. At the very least we'd like to control our children!

Children know (or at least better than adults) that they have little control. They know they're not in control of their story, that they are not the author. To a greater or lesser extent, life simply unfolds for them. Only gradually do they enter into the state of self-realization wherein their actions become more conscious and deliberate.

To be a little child is to believe implicitly in good and evil, in heroes and villains, in the invisible, in miracles and mystery, in princess and dragons, in true love and in happy endings. To be a child is to be caught up in pure story, embracing the events of one's life uncritically because one trusts the Author.

January 6, 2011

The Art of Fiction ****

**** The Art of Fiction, John Gardner, 1983

Although I read the excellent On Becoming a Novelist many years back, somehow I missed reading this one through the years. The first thing I read of Gardner was Grendel. It's a short little book from the POV of the monster in Beouwulf, and it will take the top of your head off and spin it around like a buzz saw. I tried reading Nickel Mountain two or three times, but could never get past the second chapter. I'm currently reading a biography of Gardner on the elliptical. Pretty good.

The Art of Fiction is worth re-reading several times. It's not so much of a how-to workbook, although he does get into great detail about writing poetically, down to examining in detail outlining the metrical stress of sentences. It's more of a higher level survey of what and what. Although Gardner was an academic and an expert in medieval literature, and could get pretty highbrow in his analysis and criticism, he quotes from a broad range of works, from Homer to Howard the Duck.

If you're serious about writing, you should read this book.

January 1, 2011

Two firsts on 1/1/11

Remember that post about the guy writing a novel on Twitter? Turns out sections of it were quoted in the press release for the novel. That's one first - never been quoted in a press release before. But the other first is being called a humorist. Wow, I've graduated!

Here's the relevant excerpt:

Novelist and humorist Brad Whittington admits to a fascination with Palmer’s concept. But he’s not sure it will work.

“In my humble (but completely accurate and independently verified) opinion, Adam is stark-raving mad,” Whittington said.

“For me, the thought of putting my first draft out there for public consumption is mind-numbingly, soul-crushingly, spirit-suckingly horrific,” he said. “I’d rather pose nekkid for Field & Stream.”

Full release here.

2010 Reading List

  1. *** Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino & Roger Avary
  2. ** Adventureland, Greg Mattola, August 5, 2007
  3. ** Morality for Beautiful Girls, Alexander McCall Smith, 2002
  4. *** Wodehouse: A Life, Robert McCrum, 2004
  5. *** Two O'Clock Eastern Wartime, John Dunning, 2001
  6. ** In Dubious Battle, John Steinbeck, 1936
  7. *** Good Night, Mr. Holmes, Carole Nelson Douglas, 1990
  8. *** Florence of Arabia, Christopher Buckley, 2004
  9. *** Songwriters on Songwriting, Paul Zollo, 2003
  10. *** Thank You For Smoking, Christopher Buckley, 1994
  11. *** Food, Ogden Nash, 1989
  12. *** Supreme Courtship, Christopher Buckely, 2008
  13. *** Zoo, Ogden Nash, 1987
  14. *** The Overlook, Michael Connelly, 2007
  15. *** Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds, Michael Hauge, 2006
  16. ** Walker Percy: A Life, Patrick Samway, 1997
  17. *** The Beekeeper's Apprentice, Lauren R. King, 1994
  18. *** Velocity, Dean Koontz, 2005
  19. *** Alphabet Juice: The Energies, Gists, and Spirits of Letters, Words, and Combinations Thereof; Their Roots, Bones, Innards, Piths, Pips, and Secret Parts, ... With Examples of Their Usage Foul and Savory, Roy Blount, Jr, 2008
  20. *** The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, 2007
  21. **** Mere Churchianity, Michael Spencer, 2010
  22. *** Wry Martinis, Christopher Buckley, 1997
  23. ** To A God Unknown, John Steinbeck, 1933
  24. ** Passage, Connie Willis, 2001
  25. *** Out Stealing Horses, Per Petterson, 2003
  26. *** Revision & Self-Editing, James Scott Bell, 2008
  27. *** Sh*t My Dad Says, Justin Halpern, 2010
  28. *** The Red Pyramid, Rick Riordan, 2010
  29. *** Rebel Island, Rick Riordan, 2007
  30. *** The Cure, Athol Dickson, 2007
  31. The Blue Umbrella, Mike Mason, 2009
  32. *** Tribes, Seth Godin, 2008
  33. *** Goodbye Hollywood Nobody, Lisa Samson, 2008
  34. *** Mucho Mojo, Joe R Lonsdale, 1994
  35. ** The Furniture of Heaven, Mike Mason, 1989
  36. ** Wonder o' the Wind, Phillip Keller, 1982
  37. *** Mowhawk, Richard Russo, 1986
  38. *** The Scene of the Crime: a writer's guide to crime-scene investigations, Anne Windgate, Ph.D, 1992
  39. ** Freezer Burn, Joe R Lansdale, 1999
  40. * The Island of the Day Before, Umberto Eco, 1994
  41. *** Plot & Structure, James Scott Bell, 2004
  42. *** Don't Point That Thing At Me, Kyril Bonfiglioli, 1972
  43. ** Levi's Will, W. Dale Cramer, 2005
  44. *** Bridge of Sighs, Richard Russo, 2007
  45. ** After You With The Pistol, Kyril Bonfiglioli, 1974
  46. *** The Black Echo, Michael Connelly, 1992
  47. ** Something Nasty in the Woodshed, Kyril Bonfiglioli, 1979
  48. *** The Black Ice, Michael Connelly, 1993
  49. **** The Help, Kathryn Stockett, 2009
  50. *** The Concrete Blond4, Michael Connelly, 1994
  51. *** Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson, 1883
  52. *** The Last Coyote, Michael Connelly, 1995
  53. ** Levi's Will, W. Dale Cramer, 2005
  54. *** The Poet, Michael Connelly, 1996
  55. *** Inbound Marketing, Halligan and Shah, 2009
  56. ** The Road, Cormac McCarthy, 2006
  57. *** Trunk Music, Michael Connelly, 1997
  58. *** Robertson Davies: Man of Myth, Judith Skelton Grant, 1994
  59. *** Champagne for the Soul, Mike Mason, 2003
  60. *** Blood Work, Michael Connelly, 198
  61. *** The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga, 2008
  62. ** The Sign of the Book, John Dunning, 2005
  63. *** The Lost Hero, Rick Riordan, 2010