Friday, December 29, 2017

101 Books, Number 78

78. Martin Eden, 1909, by Jack London (1876–1916)

I read this book in study hall
In high school, long ago.
It was not homework (punishment!)
But pleasure, you should know.

My mom had given me the book—
But I would have to guess
She didn’t think I’d read the thing—
I was a teenaged mess.

But read I did—more fun, you know,
Than doing math and junk.
So on Jack London’s book I dined—
Each day I chewed a chunk.

And I was stunned, I have to say,
At how it all turned out.
I won’t reveal the ending, but
Be sturdy, strong, and stout!

I’d read some London comic books—
White Fang and Sea-Wolf, too.
And certainly that Wild one,* which
Would give me much to do.

But Martin Eden was a thrill
In every sort of way.
Another book that changed me—and
The change remains today.

*in Classics Illustrated editions

Thursday, December 28, 2017

101 Books, Number 79

79: The Golden Summer, 1953, by Daniel Nathan (Frederic Dannay,* 1905–82)

I loved this book—how could I not?
I read the hero’s name—was caught
So easily. Yes, Danny was
His name. I loved that name because …

Oh, please! You surely can relate!
A character so named is bait
For fishy readers; I was hooked—
Or, better, I was really “booked.”

My parents bought it for me when
I was a boy. And (way) back then
I didn’t read a lot. But here
I found a story, very dear.

A boy. A summer. Danny. Wow!
It all seemed like my life somehow.
The tricks he played—his friends and foes—
But—slowly, slowly—Danny grows.

I read it more than once, I’ll say.
(I wished to read it every day.)
And then I lost it (in a move?),
And life went on—a different groove.

An older man, I wished it back.
(You never know what you will lack.)
I found a copy—searched online.
And it arrived: condition—fine.

I read it fast—such memories kept—
And at the end I guess I wept.
Why else were my eyes red and wet?
I must have cried (let’s take a bet!).

I read of Danny with such joy—
For once again, I was a boy.

*co-author of nearly 40 Ellery Queen novels; I didn’t know this until years later

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

101 Books, Number 80

80: Saving the Queen, 1976, by William F. Buckley, Jr. (1925–2008)

I didn’t share his politics—
His rhetoric, his clever tricks—

But all his books re: Blackford Oakes
I drank like yummy Diet Cokes.

He was so clever, Buckley was,
That I enjoyed these books because

Of cleverness, of thrilling style.
He beat some writers—by a mile.

And, tell the truth, I read them all—
Not just the Oakes’ ones—had a ball

Just arguing inside my head
With all the stuff that he had said.

I published in his magazine*—
Am on the cover! (Quite a scene!)

And met him once—a speech he gave.
And now, of course, he’s in his grave.

And discourse now (political)
Is vicious but (I think) so dull.

Civility lies underhill
And shares the grave with Buckley, Bill.

*"Are We Ready for the College Students of 1984?" National Review (November 28, 1979). 1206–08.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

101 Books, Number 81

Favorite Books from Throughout My Life

81. The Iron Mistress, 1951, by Paul I. Wellman (1895–1966)

In boyhood …

I loved books on the Alamo—
I blame it on that Disney show,
That Davy Crockett stuff, you know?

I liked Jim Bowie’s story best—
That awesome knife*—and all the rest.
But Alamo? He failed that test.

This Wellman book I liked a lot—
Some scenes were really steamy … hot.**
A life like mine! (Ha! Ha! Oh, not!)

Well, later on, I learned much more.
About my boyhood gods. His score
Just sank. He traded slaves .. what for?

For money, oh, most certainly.
Who cares if someone else is free?
And so he slipped away from me

Back into mists of history.

*later on I bought one; I still have it in my sock drawer, just in case a home invader tries to steal my SmartWool!
**I read it in high school.

Monday, December 25, 2017

101 Books, Number 82

Favorite Books from Throughout My Life

82: The Great Gatsby, 1925, by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896–1940)

I read this book in college first—
But didn’t see its wonders then.
(I wasn’t what I might have been—
In fact, in ways, I was the worst.)

But later on I taught the text—
About a decade, more or less—
And grew to love it (would you guess?)—
And you can tell what happened next:

I read Fitzgerald’s other books—
I read what he alluded to
In Gatsby. And when all was through,
I dived back in for further looks.

I went to see his home, his grave.
I chased down Zelda’s tale, as well.
I read all bios, truth to tell.
I reveled in what research gave.

I miss that book—miss students … mine.
I loved to see their faces change
When Scott began to rearrange
Their world. Oh, nothing is so fine!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

101 Books, Number 83

Favorite Books from Throughout My Life

83: Things As They Are; or, The Adventures Caleb Williams, 1794 , by William Godwin (1756–1836)

Since Godwin was the father of
Young Mary (she of Frankenstein)—
And because of William Godwin’s love
For Mary Wollstonecraft (a sign

Of wisdom, in my view), I read
His works—did not expect to like
Them (felt I might be bored, then dead)—
But this was great—he dropped the mike!

A deadly secret here revealed—
And then a deadly chase ensues.
And all of this so much appealed
To me—and this was really news.

I read it swiftly, front to back,
And closed it finally with regret.
And read all Godwin—found the knack!—
Yes, dived right in, got soaking wet.

Enjoyed my swim through all his books—
Emerged, yes, dripping with delight.
Was glad I gave them careful looks,
Was glad I’d swum from day to night.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

101 Books, Number 84

Favorite Books from Throughout My Life

84: Another Country, 1962, by James Baldwin (1924–1987)

In college years I read this tale
Blew through my mind—stunning gale.
I’d never read such steamy scenes—
Had not considered what it means.

I’d never read such pages—no.
I’d never gone where I would go
In Baldwin’s work. He was so bold
About it all—and I, not old,

Was learning things on every page—
Of human love, of human rage—
And when I finished, so amazed
At all the trails that he had blazed,

I vowed I’d read more by this man—
And so I did (stuck to the plan).
Amazing how a writer’s work
Can teach you that you’ve been a jerk!

Friday, December 22, 2017

101 Books, Number 85

Favorite Books from Throughout My Life

85: Wild Bill Hickok, 1947, by A. M. Anderson* (?–?)—part of American Adventures Series by Wheeler Publishing

I read most of these books when I was but a kid—
I was glad every time, every time that I did.
I just loved all the Westerns I saw on TV—
All those Western adventures seemed made just for me.

And Wild Bill was a hero—he had his own show!**
(Although much wasn’t true—but then how could I know?)
And those books were aswarm with more fiction than fact—
But I can’t say that I cared (they were so action-packed!).

Though I read later on about fictional things,
It did not really strip me of my reading wings:
So I read every book about heroes out West—
And Wild Bill and his buddies? Well, they were the best!

*All I've discovered so far is that the author was named Anita Melva Anderson. Maybe. I'll keep looking!       
**link to a YouTube video of one of the episodes       

Guy Madison as Wild Bill in
The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok (1951 thru 1958)

Thursday, December 21, 2017

101 Books, Number 86

Favorite Books from Throughout My Life

 86. The Pigman, 1968, by Paul Zindel (1936–2003)

A lot of books I read because
My students loved them so.
And this one was so popular
I gave the thing a go.

And loved it: He so well employed
A dual narration style—
They alternated chapters, did
The girl, the boy awhile.

The tale was of betrayal—but
Not of the cruel kind.
No, this was born of thoughtlessness—
The lack of heart, of mind,

And of imagination—how
Their friend* would feel when he
Discovered what those two had done—
He’d loved them—selflessly.

And so The Pigman is a tale
With such a basic goal—
To show how youngsters need to learn
About the heart, the soul.

*Mr. Pignati, “The Pigman”

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

101 Books, Number 87

Favorite Books from Throughout My Life

87. Cat’s Cradle, 1963, by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (1922–2007)

We share a birthday, Kurt and I*—
Which flatters me (and so I sigh!).
I read this book in ’66–
A college senior—with the picks

Of books for Dr. Ravitz’ class—
A prof whose class I hoped to pass—
Oh, sure, I can exaggerate—
But Dr. Ravitz? He was great.

That book I really just inhaled—
And off I went, and off I sailed
Into the world of Vonnegut,
Who then (no if, no and, no but)

Became a lifetime love of mine—
Though all his books weren’t truly fine.
But this one! Oh! The first I read
Just simply rearranged my head.

I saw such possibility
In fiction then. A change for me.
Ice-9 was great! The end of all!
The sky becoming our own pall.

And yet … I laughed when it was done—
Just so much pleasure so much fun
Mixed in with satire pure and keen—
The sharpest I had ever seen.

*Nov. 11, but he came first—by some 22 years!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

101 Books, Number 88

Favorite Books from Throughout My Life
the actual copy I read
88. Youngblood Hawke, 1961, by Hermon Wouk (1915–)

That’s right—this dude is still on earth—
Still writing books (oh so I hear).
And Wouk has really given birth
To countless books—let’s make that clear.

Caine Mutiny—a famous work—
And others that are not so much.
But be he saint or be he jerk
He’s got, it seems, the Midas Touch.

And Youngblood Hawke? I can’t think why
I read that book so long ago—
But this I know: Those pages fly
When Wouk’s in charge—oh, nothing slow.

The story’s based (a little bit)
On the career of Thomas Wolfe.
And book and film—both were a hit.
(But won’t endure, like Beowulf.*)

I sure that I was still a teen
When I consumed this rapid tale,
Enjoyed the parts that were not “clean”—
Yes, winds of Wouk just filled my sail!

*I know: This is rhyme-cheating. But it’s the best I can do.

Monday, December 18, 2017

101 Books, Number 89

Favorite Books from Throughout My Life

89. The Sot-Weed Factor, 1960, by John Barth (1930–)

Here is my Dy-er Guarantee:
A single sentence and you’ll see
This writer’s gifts, his artistry.

The Sot-Weed Factor—sentence one*:
A twisting, long one (so much fun)—
You’ll be so glad that you’ve begun

This hefty book (oh, yes, it’s long—
But you won’t notice: Like a song
You love you’ll love this—I’m not wrong!).

It twists and turns and entertains
And stuffs such wonder in your brains
That you’ll ignore all reading pains.

I’ve read his books—yes, all of them.
Admired them all—up to the brim.
Have grieved to see his output dim.

*and here it is!

In the last years of the seventeenth century there was to be found among the fops and fools of the London coffee-houses one rangy, gangling flitch called Ebenezer Cooke, more ambitious than talented, and yet more talented than prudent, who, like his friends-in-folly, all of whom were supposed to be educating at Oxford or Cambridge, had found the sound of Mother English more fun to game with than her sense to labor over, and so rather than applying himself to the pains of scholarship, had learned the knack of versifying, and ground out quires of couplets after the fashion of the day, afroth with Joves and Jupiters, aclang with jarring rhymes, and string-taut with similes stretched to the snapping-point.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

101 Books, Number 90

Favorite Books from Throughout My Life

My copy!

90. Shane, 1949, by Jack Schaefer (190791)

I saw the movie*—many times—
Before I got around
To reading Shane—a Western that
I’m so glad that I found.

When I was teaching middle school,
There were a few years when
I taught “The Western” to my class—
It surely was no sin!

I’d always loved that genre—clear
Back when I was a boy.
The TV shows and movies—all
Had brought me so much joy.

And Shane (the film) I loved because
It was so very stark—
The Good Guys, Bad Guys—guns ablaze!—
A message somewhat dark.

The shootout that came near the end—
A classic—every way!
I still get gooseflesh when I think
About that scene today.

I read some other Schaefer books—
And Monte Walsh** was one—
But nothing—nothing—ever matched
That Shane for fear and fun.

*1953, with Alan Ladd (Good Guy), Jack Palance (Bad Guy)

**1963–also a film, 1970, with Lee Marvin and Jack Palance (!)

Trailer for Shane.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

101 Books, Number 91

Favorite Books from Throughout My Life

91. Killing Floor, 1997, by Lee Child (pen name for James D. Grant, 1954–)

Okay, I read those Reacher books—
I’ve read them all (in me: his hooks).
It does not take me very long
To read one through (a ping, a pong).

Jack Reacher’s big and smart and deft—
And when he leaves? Not much is left
Of Bad Guys and their enterprise—
All often under remote skies

In thinly populated spots—
Wyoming, say (connect the dots).
He’s big and really tough to take—
The fools try (and wise men quake).

He’s very tall (unlike Tom Cruise,
And for producers I have news:
Tom’s very wrong to play this part—
C’mon, producers, have a heart!).

I’m reading Midnight Line right now—
Will finish very soon, I trow.
And wait and fret and toss about
Until the next one—soon?—comes out!

Friday, December 15, 2017

101 Books, Number 92

Favorite Books from Throughout My Life

92: Wonder Boys, 1995, by Michael Chabon (1963–)

 It doesn’t happen often, but
I saw the movie first.*
2000 was that special time
I found I had a thirst

For this new writer—and his books.
I read them, first to last.
And was amazed by wit and range—
And by a talent vast.

Well, Wonder Boys—a tale about
Some writers, young and old—
The struggle to put on the page
The things that must be told.

I laughed at some—and winced a bit—
And, okay, maybe wept.
(This is a secret which, of course,
Had better well be kept!)

And Chabon is a younger man—
With much more down the well.
Here’s hoping he can pull out all—
Important tales to tell!

*2000, with Michael Douglas, Robert Downey, Jr., Toby Maguire, Katie Holmes, Frances McDormand  (Link to film trailer.)

Thursday, December 14, 2017

101 Books, Number 93

Favorite Books from Throughout My Life

93: The Story of Ferdinand, 1936, by Munro Leaf (1905–76)

Oh, Ferdinand, you puzzled me
Back in my wishful boyhood days:
You will not fight? Such amity?
No wish to gore? (I’m in a daze!)

You sniffed the flowers, so I read,
And had no real desire to fight.
Oh, not to fight! To sniff instead!?
Well, something really wasn’t right!

Or so my boyhood self declared
While reading this pacific tale.
I later realized he cared
About all lives, what they entail.

So Ferdinand’s a tale of hope—
The hope that we can get along—
Can with all differences cope—
Convert all human scream to song. 

*film is coming out in a few dayslink to trailer