The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts

Tags:  Book Reviews Non-Fiction
It’s hard to write of a review of Alan Watts’ books because there’s so much in them. It’s like trying to summarize the ocean. Each time I re-read one of his works, I come away with something different. So I’m not going to try to encapsulate all that Watts says. Instead, I’ll just described what impressed me in this reading, using mostly Watts’ own words, since he can express himself better than I can paraphrase him.

You Play the Black and the Red Comes Up by Richard Hallas

Tags:  Book Reviews Fiction Noir
Hallas’ novel opens with Richard Dempsey returning from a long day’s work at the diner to an empty house. Before he enters, he knows from the darkened windows that his wife has left him. Inside, he learns she’s taken their son and the family savings. She says he’ll never find her, but he knows she’s always dreamed of going to Hollywood. This is Oklahoma in the late 1930’s, in the midst of the Great Depression and a crushing years-long drought.

Vernon Subutex One by Virginie Despentes

Tags:  Book Reviews Fiction
I received the UK edition of this book as a gift a few months ago (it won’t be published in the US until later in 2019). I twice tried to start it, and twice put it down after a few pages thinking, “I can’t read this. This reminds me of the most depressing parts of the DC punk scene back the eighties and early nineties, the guys who spent their last dollars on beer instead of heating their apartments.

Night Has a Thousand Eyes by Cornell Woolrich

Tags:  Book Reviews Fiction
Woolrich is a master of suspense and a brilliant writer. I was hoping to like this one more, but unfortunately, I could never fully buy into the story. The book begins with Detective Tom Shawn walking home from work at one A.M. along the river, where he finds a young woman, Jean Reid, about to kill herself. He stops her from jumping and asks her why she wants to end her life when she’s young, wealthy, and beautiful.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Tags:  Book Reviews Fiction
The most disturbing thing about this book is that the vapid, false, and mind-numbing world that the media produces and the population so whole-heartedly consumes is so much like our own. The narrator points out more than once that the government didn’t take the initiative to ban books (and by extension, reflection and depth of thought and experience); the people themselves stopped wanting them. In this world, humanity has rejected its own cultural history and the hard-won wisdom of preceding generations in favor of comfort and isolation.

Awareness by Anothony De Mello

Tags:  Book Reviews Non-Fiction
This book reads like a transcription of talks given before live audiences. The initial chapters read like the joke-filled exhortations of a professional self-help writer, but the book begins to deepen around pages 60-70. De Mello was a Jesuit priest, a trained psychologist, and apparently a devoted student of both Eastern and Western religion. His knowledge is broad and deep, and he has obviously brought great passion to his learning.

The Long Dry by Cynan Jones

Tags:  Book Reviews Fiction
In this extraordinarily beautiful and deep short novel, author Cynan Jones follows four characters through a summer day on a draught-stricken farm in Wales. Gareth begins his day by checking on two cows that are due to give birth. He finds the first one in the barn, kneeling beside her stillborn calf, “lowing sadly and gently.” The second has disappeared, wandered off in the night to god knows where. Gareth sets out to find her, but first:

First Cover for Johnny Manic

Tags:  Johnny Manic Poll
Thanks to my artist/designer wife for this lovely cover. We hope to have this one out in 2019. What is your first impression of the cover? What do you think the book will be about? Leave comments below.

Loose Girl by Kerry Cohen

Tags:  Book Reviews Non Fiction Memoir
Kerry Cohen’s Loose Girl is a memoir of emotional need in which the author recounts the compulsive sexual promiscuity of her teens and twenties and the underlying feelings of loneliness and desperation that drove that behavior. I was friends with a few girls like her during my own teens and twenties, and I had no idea they were feeling any of the things Cohen describes. The value of this book lies exactly there, in her exposure of the underlying feelings and thought patterns that drive the behavior.

Chasing Phil by David Howard

Tags:  Non Fiction Book Reviews Crime
David Howard’s Chasing Phil follows the story of two agents from the FBI’s Gary, Indiana office who go undercover to infiltrate a ring of stunningly audacious and startlingly successful con men in the mid-1970s. When agents Jack Brennan and J.J. Wedick get a tip about a guy who ripped off a pizza store owner with bogus loan papers, they ask permission from their supervisor to go undercover. The idea was to record the con man, Phil Kitzer, making incriminating statements and possibly mentioning the names of other scammers the FBI could pursue.