#writering: Don the Bomb

#writering is a random blog blathering on about writers, books and publishing

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by Beth Wareham of Lisa Hagan Books, an Indy publisher.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of a “literary gathering,” you do not know the wonder of a room of fashion victims trying to beat one another over the heads with words. I listened to two New York Times critics go down for the count over whether France was on the uptick, culturally-speaking, or not.  I got bored, wandered away, and there was Michi, describing a performance piece where monkey brains were consumed. (You should have been around when Art Garfunkel asked Michi out. What a to-do.) It was a party, Michi, and you just made my cheese spread and cracker look unappetizing.  Nothing has more “literary” pathology for study than one of these events. The war is always on and it’s all words.

Enter the man above. When he walks in a room, even those that have not stopped taking for decades shut up.  The very definition of “walk softly and carry a big stick”, “don’t open your mouth unless you have something to say,” and “outsider artist” ooze from this man.  He’s not your plaything or your patsy; he doesn’t perform for the mob. He’s in a leather bomber amongst the bad tweed and sensible shoes. He works his way across the room and all the posers and nattering nabobs part. They know the King of the Jungle when they see him.

Random facts:

*Don DeLillo has never gone online. He sees it as a complete assault on his individuality and his life: He does not know there are ebooks of his work. He may know now, but he didn’t for years.

*He was obsessed with the image of a man falling through space many years before he wrote Falling Man. (He wrote that book using a simple chronology, didn’t like it, and rewrote it starting in the future and backtracking to 9/11. Don’t try that at home, kids.)

*When Underworld was first published, critics received no additional information about the book. How could you capture the 20th Century with a press release? The book, however, is the finest novel about that most violent 100 years in human history.  The last word of the book is very famous.

*His editor and publicist almost came to blows over what kind of condiments Don liked on his sandwich. Silly? You bet. But that’s how ridiculous it gets around this great American novelist. Everyone wants to please him because he is great. Oblivious to all of these machinations, Don DeLillo lives in a part of the atmosphere where we can’t get.

*DeLillo is obsessed with the 1951 MLB playoffs when outfielder Andy Pafko ran to the left field wall and watched Bobby Thomson’s 3-run homer fly over his head. DeLillo opened Underworld with this scene, wrote about the event for Harpers Magazine, and published a novella entitled Pafko at the Wall in 2001.

If you haven’t read the great man’s books, I humbly offer my reading list: White Noise (the first book I read and simply the best with its “airborne toxic event”); Libra, a novel imaging Lee Harvey Oswald on his journey toward a world-shattering act; Falling Man, his novel of 9/11; and finally, a sweeping look at the 20th Century, Underworld.

“A writer’s writer” does not describe him. DeLillo is a law onto himself and will remain so forever.  DeLillo is the consummate individual, a term I think he would like.

Do right by Don DeLillo. Turn off all the gadgets that allow you to read this and sit down with one of his books. Don’t read criticism or look to the opinions of others. Don’t natter with nabobs about him, ever. This read is for you, the one thing that cannot be replicated. Let your particular arrangement of molecules collide with DeLillo’s story and see what comes about.

Because all truth must reside in one individual before it spreads, DeLillo wants you to step up, quit bullshitting and walk the walk. He wants you to read and think, activities in short supply these days. (See references to “the base” in mainstream reporting…)

Yup. That guy is the real damn deal and he’s not letting anyone off the hook. Think for yourself, folks. Read. Stop acting like cows. We are individuals responsible for ourselves and our actions. Anything else is just nattering and nonsense, a series of “literary gatherings” filled with sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Ask DeLillo, he knows.

 

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The Reading Cure

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www.shadowteam.com
/Beth Wareham

Broken brain. You know it. Trauma. Stress. Upheaval. Downheaval. Poor diet. No sleep. Powerlessness. Suffering.

After a certain age, you hit periods of great difficulty in your life: elderly parents, teenage children, health issues, the endless feeling you are an ATM. I have experienced it all.

I’ve tried everything I’ve ever heard of to cure my broken brain: drugs, sleep, drugged sleep, long, island vacations, exercise, sex, pouting and of course, shopping like a Santa Monica housewife.

My behavior continued until my mind began to quiet. In grief terms, that’s years. It’s different for everyone, I’m told. In all aspects. I also got tired of hemorrhaging money for therapists and trainers and MasterCard bills and yogis. I mean, I needed food.

As I worked these problems over, my brain finally coughed up the memory of a lovely older man, a florist from my youth, who used to say ‘Dahlin’, cure for a depression is a good long book. Other books cure being lovesick or being extra nervous about something.” In my mind today, that man was a character out of Winesburg, Ohio.

But think of the wisdom of it: A long book lets you spend a lot of time away from your troubles, testing the oft-quoted “time heals.” A long book usually provides a bunch of characters whose troubles are much worse than yours are. Most triumph at the end, as will you.

Below are my favorite long books, books I started in one frame of mind and ended in another. I hope it works for you as it has worked for me:

 Click on the cover to buy. Proceeds go to E-book Africa

UNDERWORLD BY DON DE LILLO

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This 800+ page novel begins in 1951 and rambles brilliantly through the second half of the 20th Century. Some characters such as Sammy Jr and Dean are real, others are not, but all are haunting. The image of the war planes – hundreds upon hundreds – grounded out and fanned over the Mojave will stick with you for years. I consider a “cool” reader that knows this work and Infinite Jest.

INFINITE JEST BY DAVID FOSTER WALLACE  is huge, hilarious, heartbreaking, part philosophy part language so dazing you need to wear your shades. A new biopic in 2015 may get more people to tumble back into this world. I hope so. I will never forget one character’s passionate soliloquy to the one-hitter. Something bends your mind on virtually every page.

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Politically incorrect, GONE WITH THE WIND BY MARGARET MITCHELL is still a hell of a great big great read and this edition includes Pat Conroy’s magnificent Preface. Scarlett is an incredibly modern woman. You can almost see her in a Valentino gown at an Atlanta deb party giving her rich lawyer husband hell.  This book is an artifact of a world long gone though if you travel down South, you see vestiges of the culture everywhere.

51OzjjUS28L._SL75_51KszqojYtL._SL75_51Ixq9CQkfL._SL75_HILARY MANTEL’S WOLF HALL and BRINGING UP THE BODIES  are historical narratives that show Thomas Cromwell’s rise in Henry the VIII’s court. These books recreate Henry VIIIs world in a way no writing before has captured. The third installment is due out this year. This is true immersion in history in the most entertaining of ways.

As collars got pointy again and pads slid back onto shoulders, the 1980s rose it’s ugly head in fashion. Wall Street has learned little from those dark days of wild money. TOM WOLFE got it so right in BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES, you’ll laugh until you’re pajama bottoms fall off. You’ll also learn in this book about the women of New York who make their living being skinny: You just can’t see much other use for them.

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