Last Word Blog
1907 -- Robert A. Heinlein lives (1907-1988). Prolific American
writer, grand master of science fiction. His first stories
appeared in action-adventure pulp magazine "Astounding Science
Fiction" in 1939.
"There is Lovecraft...[Heinlein, Ayn Rand, Tolkien]... who constantly sing the praises of bourgeois virtues & whose villains are thinly disguised working class agitators -- fear of the Mob permeates their rural romances.
To all these & more the working class is a mindless beast which must be controlled or it will savage the world (i.e. bourgeois security)..."
-- Michael Moorcock, "Starship Stormtroopers,"
an essay on SciFi Fascists,
Robert Anson Heinlein
July 7, 1907 - May 8, 1988) was an American science fiction
writer. Often called the "dean of science fiction writers",
he was an influential and controversial author of the genre in his time.
He was one of the first science fiction writers to break into mainstream magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post
in the late 1940s. He was one of the best-selling science fiction novelists for many decades, and he, Isaac Asimov
, and Arthur C. Clarke
are often considered to be the "Big Three" of science fiction authors.
Within the framework of his science fiction stories, Heinlein repeatedly addressed certain social themes: the importance of individual liberty
, the obligation individuals owe to their societies, the influence of organized religion on culture and government, and the tendency of society to repress nonconformist
thought. He also speculated on the influence of space travel on human cultural practices.
Heinlein was named the first Science Fiction Writers Grand Master
He won Hugo Awards
for four of his novels; in addition, fifty years after publication, three of his works were awarded "Retro Hugos
"--awards given retrospectively for works that were published before the Hugo Awards came into existence.
In his fiction, Heinlein coined terms that have become part of the English language, including "grok
" and "waldo
", and speculative fiction
, as well as popularizing the terms like "TANSTAAFL
", "pay it forward
", and space marine
. He also described a modern version of a waterbed
in his novel The Door Into Summer
though he never patented or built one. In the first chapter of the novel "Space Cadet
" he anticipated the cell phone, 35 years before the technology was invented by Motorola.
Several of Heinlein's works have been adapted for film and television.
There is a run of authors that I see as the sorta 'big 4' of modern horror. Stephen King, Peter Straub, Thomas Harris, and Clive Barker. Of these four, Clive Barker has always been the dangerous one. Stephen King, even at his most sickly and cruel never touched the vicious profanity and sacrilege that Barker bathes his writing in. Peter Straub moves with focus and precision, keeping his horrors tight, and in short controlled bursts, ever ascending to the dizzying bacchanal of Barker's flirtations with anthemic depravity. And Thomas Harris, a supreme master of terror and function, makes every move with such baffling conviction and contemplation that his 'Hannibal' trilogy is unrelenting without ever embracing the moist sadosexuality of Barker's best demons. Clive Barker has always aimed for the carnal. With 'Cabal', 'Hellbound Heart', 'Damnation Game' and the varied 'Books of Blood', he wrote from behind a veneer of hyper-sexuality and knuckle-breaking disregard for tact. His characters have been invasive, exploitative, and most of all, cruel.
For the past few books, Barker has seemingly pulled himself away from the carnal death-dreams of his earlier work, and set himself in both young adult, and mild-fantasy novels. Even the character of Harry D'Amore found himself utilized in stories less guttural and viscous, and more charming and even tongue in cheek. With 'The Scarlet Gospels' both of these modes of storytelling, the profane and the winking self-aware, collide. And they collide well. The classic Barker-esque descriptions and situations paired themselves well with the more mature, more flavored prose and dialogue of his later career.
Set as a sequel to Harry's stories, and to 'The Hellbound Heart', peppered with references and moments to 'Coldheart Canyon', 'The Great and Secret Show' and others, this book seems like a last will and testament. As I read through the intoxicating novel, I felt like I was in a graveyard, watching stories, characters, ideas, fragments of Barker himself, being put to rest. Being given endings, traumatic or serene, that are permanent. The climactic swelling of the novel begins almost as soon as the book is opened, and it is sustained skillfully by Barker.
It would have been easy for him to extend this story, make this another massive swollen novel of 600-800 pages plumped with tirades, trails, side-stories, and fragments of other books brought into clearer light... but thankfully Barker instead chose brevity. The most horrifying moments of Barker's career have been found in his shorter fiction. The novellas 'Cabal', and 'The Hellbound Heart' and again, the 'Books of Blood' hold his strongest punches. And so almost as if knowing that, Barker doesnt let this book roll on too long. He keeps it focused, concentrated, condensed. He keeps it pure. And that purity is ghastly.
Another massive strength of this novel is the iconic authority of the Hell Priest (the unlovingly named 'Pinhead') and how Barker plays with it. For example, the novel never explicitly states it, or makes it clear between the two covers, wether it is a sequel to 'The Hellbound Heart', the movies 'Hellraiser' or 'Hellbound: Hellraiser 2', or some amalgam of them both. It simply exists in another time, with our spiked demon at the helm once more. And because through 9 films (yeah, there are a lot of debates to be had about that number, and i'll have them, but this isnt the place) and countless pop culture appropriations and effigies the Hell Priest has become a social power all unto himself. As a result, he needs no introduction, no description no details, and no explanation. He is as much an assumed character as Satan himself is. And any reader of Barker's is already familiar with Harry D'Amore, so again, no introduction is needed. Because there is no need for table-setting or preparation, this book is effective in being a full on 360 page climax. A final action set after a 30 year initial incident.
While the book's ending is surprisingly neat and tidy, I was left wanting more. Not because the story is incomplete, or that the writing is lacking, but because by the end of the novel, our familiar (and new) faces have become weathered and honed. They become, in effect, new characters. Characters I want to explore more heavily. Characters that Barker should be proud of.
This is a phenomenal return of one of my favorite contemporary authors. This is a must-read book for 2015.
POSTED: 03/26/2015 10:51:01 AM CDT
UPDATED: 03/27/2015 09:14:31 AM CDT
Close-up of the very first Little Fee Library, #0001, built by founder Todd Bol in September 2009. (Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi)
Bridging neighborhoods through Little Free Libraries
We see them everywhere. Little Free Libraries that look like miniature barns, chalets, birdhouses, British telephone booths and other fancifully decorated structures.
Inside are all kinds of books -- from romances to car repair -- that people can take without asking permission, checking out or purchasing. They are expected to replace the book with one of their own.
"Our position is that we are a global asset," said Todd Bol, creator of the organization whose motto is, "Take a book, return a book.
In the beginning, Bol and Brooks had no money. They built six Little Libraries on Bol's deck, using wood from an old barn. Neither had woodworking skills, so it took awhile. Thanks to a $1,000 grant from the Chicago Awesome Foundation, they were able to build six more, and the media began to pay attention.
After a story in the Wisconsin State Journal newspaper and a guest appearance on a popular Wisconsin public radio show, requests for Little Libraries came pouring in. (Bol estimates Little Free Library has been written about 11,000 times.)
The New York Times has called Little Free Libraries, or LFL, a global sensation, and the program has been featured on "NBC Nightly News," CNN and National Public Radio as well as appearing in the pages of Parade, Better Homes and Gardens and international fashion magazines. Gwen Briesemeister's documentary "A Small Wooden Box" can be seen on YouTube.
In 2014 alone, about 36 million free books were exchanged by Little Free Library visitors. In 2014, the nonprofit made $1.5 million, 96 percent of which was earned income of sales of little libraries and registrations by stewards of the libraries. The remaining 4 percent was from donations.
Little Free Library now supports four main programs:
-- Little Free Libraries for Small Towns brings LFLs to the 11,000 towns in the U.S. without public libraries.
-- Books Around the Block seeded 55 libraries throughout Minneapolis, leading to the establishment of 250 more by organizations, such as schools and Lions and Rotary clubs. The program also donated 60 Little Libraries to Chicago and 20 to Florida.
-- Friends through the Years is a partnership with the AARP Foundation, which donated $70,000 to encourage intergenerational connections through books, reducing the isolation of older adults.
-- Good Global Neighbors tries to put books into the hands of people everywhere.
Bol is excited about creating Libraries of Understanding for police precincts.
"There are 18,000 police departments in the U.S. through which Little Libraries can bring communities together," said Bol, whose grandfather was North St. Paul's police chief. Earlier this month, he presented a mock-up "check" showing 25 Little Libraries he donated to the police chief in Los Angeles.
These philanthropic initiatives are supported through Little Libraries Give It Forward Team Fund, which gathers donations. Funds also are raised through the sale of 22 different Little Libraries kits, which range from $175 to $350.
"People hear what we are doing, and they offer to help," Bol said, ticking off partnerships with General Mills, car dealer Rudy Luther, Books for Africa, Lutheran Social Services and Coffee House Press among others. National partners include the Library of Congress and First Book, which puts books in the hands of disadvantaged children.
There have been some glitches as Little Free Libraries sprang up in large and small towns. A few municipal governments said the structures violated zoning laws, but politicians don't want to come out against reading and solutions are found.
When that happened in Lincoln, Neb., when a Little Library was too close to the street, Bol donated a Little Library to the mayor so the mayor could show how much he loved the program.
For the "Little Free Library Book," Aldrich interviewed more than 70 Little Library stewards in the U.S. and other countries. Many people are using the Little Libraries for more than book sharing.
For instance, St. Paulite Melanie Peterson-Nafziger has a "lush and tangled garden" on the roof of her library and a community seed exchange in a salvaged drawer.
A recent college graduate in North Carolina used Kickstarter to raise money for a Little Library in Winston-Salem. Across the world in Qatar, a little boy and his father started a Little Library because the boy's friends kept asking to borrow books.
Some inmates at the Prairie du Chien Correctional Institute in Wisconsin build Little Libraries in their building-maintenance and construction class from used, donated or recycled materials.
'WE OWN THE NAME'
In Quartzsite, Ariz., at the sprawling Reader's Oasis bookshop, readers can purchase their books from a man known as the naked bookseller. Also known as Paul Winer or Sweet Pie, the naked bookseller has been selling books for 24 years.
In the 1960s, he was a musician and performer, playing boogie-woogie and blues piano, doing comedy, writing songs that included devil-may-care obscenities. "I was a very outspoken person. I won 68 court cases, including a federal court case," he tells the magazine."I've been naked in public now for 55 years," he tells them. He's not interested in joining a nudist movement, however. He explains: "I went to a nudist park once -- my whole life I've only been to a nudist resort or park once -- and decided that is not where I belong. I'd rather be where there's a variety to people. Once everybody is naked, it's the same as wearing a uniform. They only talk about why they're naked, where they go naked, who they've met naked, where they're going next to be naked. I find that quite boring. It's like going to a tailgate party before a football game -- all people talk about is football. Naked is just the way I'm dressed."
Well... this is a weird one.
A strange, hard to place, weird, weird, weird one.
I am hard-pressed to come up with exactly the right one line description for this book. I guess 'an avant-garde and clinically absurdist look at the terrors of the id' will have to do.
Set in a hypnotically dystopian world where the insane are leading the blinded into a glorious version of Hell, the novel gets to really get its hands dirty and play around with lust and terror. With everyone able to conjure untold pleasures and fears with nothing more than desire, the world falls apart, and our stalwart hero (a hero which, I am convinced, is also suffering from the same delusions, though they refute that assertion consistently) is left to fight through the nightmarish dream-scapes of the crumbling world to find the doctor at the root of it all. A medicinal gatekeeper, if you will.
The writing is eloquent and delightful here, which makes some of the subject matter all the more confounding. While evoking images of sexual depravity and profane violence, the book avoids four letter words and easy descriptions, instead aiming for formality and classy avoidance. Instead of becoming crass and reveling in the orgies of vitriol and bacchanal excess, the book maintains an affected indifference and superiority fitting of our untrustworthy narrator's detached demeanor.
I loved reading this book, and I think anyone with a love of absurdity and minimalist art would as well.
"Today I learned nothing, talked to no one, and after school I wandered to work in such loops and swirls that from a distance the people of earth probably thought I was a wind-up toy."
The moody boy lit-geek in me enjoyed a lot of this novel. It reminded me of sitting up against lockers in halogen-lit hallways in 8th grade, listening to a girl who wanted to grow up to be a fashion designer/poet/traveler/artist/journalist talk about how the book 'The Perks of Being A Wallflower' really 'got' her.
In moments reading this book, I was reminded of a frightening pastiche of adolescent and pre-adolescent feelings of isolation and desperation. 'The Basketball Diaries', 'The Virgin Suicides', and 'Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors' all came to mind. The playful language, the dry dialogue, and the cold situations all mixed fairly well to really evoke a feeling of adolescent hopelessness.
Set in multiple ways and places, the book flirts with dreams, delusions, hospitals, desires, and most of all, hope. These ideas, blended into different settings and locations manage to not come across as routine or even overtly familiar, just, comfortably new, if that makes any sense. The comfort comes from these things all being normal blending, but the newness comes in their presentation.
I felt like the novel lost a bit of steam around two thirds of the way through, but the shrugging and shoe-gazing climax pulled me back in emphatically. Again, in the final act, I was immersed in a feeling of directionless wandering that fit the theme/mood of the novel perfectly. Things felt so barren and unfamiliar, while maintaining such a strong emotional connection.
I liked this book, and I would recommend it to a lot of my friends and fellow authors, but only ones who I think would truly click with it. And I guess that is the biggest hurdle for a novel like this. It isnt 'The Great Gatsby', or 'The Man In The High Castle', it is a specialty focus. This novel just wont click in for a lot of people, and frankly, I dont think it aims to. I think it aims to really find a soft home in the minds of a very few select readers and feelers out there. And from the warm feeling of closure I got in the end, I think I may just be one of those feelers.
This is a good read for some of you, and most of all, it is a good reminder of a lot of feelings for some of us. It reminds me of a lot of things I am beyond now. Or at least away from.