Displaying items by tag: jeff minick

bookOf all the Beat writers of the 1940s and 1950s — Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, John Clellon Holmes, Gary Snyder, and others — it is Jack Kerouac who most fascinates post-millennial readers. His works remain in print; he has inspired several biographies and has served as a central character in different memoirs; his best-known novel, On The Road, was released in 2012 as a movie. Like Hemingway or Fitzgerald, he is one of those American writers whose life often seems larger than his work, a figure of romance, a legend.

op frThe teenage cashier at the grocery store is conversing with a customer. “That’s right,” she says. “The only thing that will work is for civilization to collapse so we can all go back to nature.” Later I encounter a friend at a party, a married woman in her 50s who has just completed an advanced handgun course, has stocked a year’s worth of provisions in her house, and hopes to purchase a farm in a remote area of Madison County. “When everything falls apart,” she had said to me earlier in the year, “I want a place for my family to feel safe.” Seeing her reminds me of a dozen other acquaintances who believe our civilization is teetering on the verge of an apocalypse. Nor is this phenomenon restricted to these mountains: the Internet is rife with bloggers predicting breakdown and widespread disorder, and advocating ways of survival.

bookFor the past 80 years more and more Americans have linked themselves economically to the machinations of the federal government. Having come to depend so heavily on government regulations and monetary entitlements, and by this dependence having subsequently given so much power to Washington, we now rightly credit the government with having the power to bring boom or bust, to change a bad economy to a good one and vice versa, to alleviate the suffering of those caught up in a depression or recession.

bookLet me take a deep breath and see if I can get this out in one long ugly sentence: 

A man has some sort of mental fugue while driving, slams into a another car, and kills two people; his married brother moves into the man’s house while the man is in prison and a mental evaluation unit; the brother sleeps with the man’s wife; the man sneaks out of the institution, returns home, finds his brother in bed with said wife, and bashes in the wife’s head with a table lamp; the authorities send the man away for treatment which includes living in a wilderness prison where he befriends an Israeli terrorist; the brother, whose wife kicks him out of the house, moves into the man’s house and assumes responsibility for his nephew, a 12-year-old who has a village in Africa named after him for work he did there when he was 10, and for his niece, a 10-year-old who is in a sexual relationship with a female teacher in the private school she attends, a relationship which ends when the brother takes some money to keep the affair quiet rather than reporting it to the authorities; the brother himself engages in internet sex, sleeps with a homemaker whose husband knows everything and then with a much younger woman who later abandons her aged parents to the brother’s care; the brother suffers a stroke, but continues to engage in sex. 

bookThink of the times someone has said to you: “You’ll love this book!” This well-intentioned person then shoves a book into your hands and dances off, leaving you gripping a volume, white-knuckled, you are now required to love. Though occasionally you’ll open the book and find yourself surprised by its pleasures, more likely you will read a few lines and sink slowly into the nearest chair as full of lead as Bonnie and Clyde. 

bookWhen I was a child living in Boonville, N.C., a town of 600 people, my mother would load us into the station wagon twice a year — at the start of each new school year and at Christmas — and drive 25 miles to the Sears store in Winston-Salem. That store was dinky by today’s standards, but to me it was a place of enchantment. The parking deck was on the store’s roof, and we would descend the stairs into a palace of delights: the odor of roasted peanuts from the confectionary stand at the bottom of the stairwell; the toys calling to us from the shelves off to the left; the racks and racks of clothes in which my siblings and I, to my mother’s chagrin, played hide-and-seek.

When I was a child living in Boonville, N.C., a town of 600 people, my mother would load us into the station wagon twice a year — at the start of each new school year and at Christmas — and drive 25 miles to the Sears store in Winston-Salem. That store was dinky by today’s standards, but to me it was a place of enchantment. The parking deck was on the store’s roof, and we would descend the stairs into a palace of delights: the odor of roasted peanuts from the confectionary stand at the bottom of the stairwell; the toys calling to us from the shelves off to the left; the racks and racks of clothes in which my siblings and I, to my mother’s chagrin, played hide-and-seek.

bookMark Helprin drives me crazy.

Helprin’s novels — he is the author of A Soldier of the Great War, Freddy and Fredericka, and a half-dozen other works of fiction — remind me of my great-grandmother’s engagement ring, which I took to a jeweler for assessment before giving it to my daughter. The jeweler examined the diamond through her loupe, pronounced the gem chipped and somewhat flawed, then declared that it nonetheless was of excellent value because of its size, its old-fashioned, European cut and its character.

bookIn Creole Belle (ISBN 978-1-4516-4813-3, $27.99), novelist James Lee Burke returns to a territory he now owns in the literary sense: New Orleans, the Gulf, and Southern Louisiana. Dave Robicheaux, ex-drunk, ex-member of the Big Easy’s police department, returns to a world of murder, mayhem, money, and mobsters. He and his best friend and former police partner — the hard-drinking, stand-up private detective Clete Purcel — find themselves battling a host of underworld figures, ranging from low-life sociopaths out to collect a debt from Purcel to corporate villains involved in fraud, kidnapping, torture, and murder.

bookA distracted mother off to the store forgets to shut the door from the kitchen to the garage, puts her car into reverse, and drives over the two-year-old who has followed her into the garage. Late for work, a father intends to take his napping 18-month-old to daycare, receives a call from his boss that he is urgently needed, drives straight to work and comes out at the end of a long, hot day to find his infant dead in his car seat.

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