Friday, July 20, 2012

The dustbowl was the Dirty Thirties

     I have said that to 'update' works of fiction is often wrong headed, especially when the update is used to rid the work of unfavorable or politically incorrect speech. Updates of Mark Twain come to mind. Other stories such as the Bobbsey Twins had to be updated for a new audience since many of the words, such as magic lamp (for an electrical lamp) would make no sense to a young reader. But the Bobbsey Twins series was updated to a modern time somewhat. Books like Tom Sawyer were left in the past but the past was not really left with it, at least not the part of the book that our modern day reader might find offensive. It is not that I like such language but that the original writing is a window into the past. Twain's beliefs and thoughts come through and we can see into the general society for good and for bad.

      I have a book for you today which in a way is like that - a window into the mind set of the past.

The Dirty Thirties: Tales of the Nineteen Thirties During Which Occurred a Great Drought, a Lengthy Depression and the Era Commonly Called the Dust (Paperback)

by William H. Hull
length 305 pages.

This book is a selection of stories, told in the voice of the person who was interviewed, about what the dustbowl years were like. I loved seeing the different takes on life at that time.  One thing the author did was stay true to the voice of the person so you will find the work strange as it is not 'edited'. Still, I thought the stories were worth it. Here you have the plain truth (?) of the matter, spoken in their own words. And as the people who lived through those years die, we will lose our window to that time. To 'clean up' or edit the book would be to lose the flavor and insight preserved within it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Comedy of Terrors [and giggles]

A Comedy of Terrors
by Graeme Smith
MuseItUp Publishing, 2012 

also available in pdf (non-DRM) and other formats at MuseItUp Publishing

In times of stress, either in wartime, or in economic hard times that create insecurity, we lose that sense of safety we often had as children, and when that happens, one of the first things to go is our sense of humor. We become deadly serious, and frivolity of any sort seems to be out of place. Ironically, it is in exactly those times of stress when we need to get a good laugh, get a bit silly, tip everything upside down and look at ourselves and the world around us from a new, and definitely more capricious angle.

“A Comedy of Terrors” is that rare breed, a fantasy designed to make you laugh. Many fantasies revolve around a hero, but Segorian Anderson is hardly the run-of-the-mill fairy tale hero. In fact, he's the town idiot, with a wide streak of cluelessness that is bound to draw out a few chuckles from even the most jaded reader. This tale has some of the old standards: there's a dragon, a Queen, elves, pixies, trolls, and even dwarfs, but they're all just a bit twisted from the ones in the old stories – oddly enough, that actually makes them more memorable (you'll have to guess which ones have poisoned arrows and love garlic).

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Do As I Say or else..

Knowing too much can often ruin a story. A plot might hinge on one little detail that in your heart you know isn't right, that it can't happen this way, that the science is wrong, or that something else doesn't fit.  We all know about continuity errors and how they can, if they are large enough, jar you out of the story and niggle you for the rest of the book or movie. I'm speaking more about pre-knowledge.  For instance, say the plot hinges on someone driving from Omaha to Denver at top speed.  The author has a car going 145 mph all the way in a car that has a top speed on 120 and our driver arrives in 3 hours. Oops! If you know the road or the car, it is jarring. If it is important that the driver, say beats an airplane due to arrive in less than 3 hours, the whole thing is spoiled - you know too much. Our book choice today had me in fear of this same type of error. In fact, I kept thinking, "Don't let it be that. Don't let it be only that!" I wasted a lot of time since David A. Sterling pulled through with flying colors. He covered all his bases in "Do as I Say", a stunning mystery.  Next time I know to trust him.

Do as I Say
By David A. Sterling
Publisher BookBaby
 Length 274