The Blog's Mission

Wikipedia defines a book review as: “a form of literary criticism in which a book is analyzed based on content, style, and merit. A book review can be a primary source opinion piece, summary review or scholarly review”. My mission is to provide the reader with my thoughts on the author’s work whether it’s good, bad, or ugly. I read all genres of books, so some of the reviews may be on hard to find books, or currently out of print. All of my reviews will also be available on Amazon.com. I will write a comment section at the end of each review to provide the reader with some little known facts about the author, or the subject of the book. Every now and then, I’ve had an author email me concerning the reading and reviewing of their work. If an author wants to contact me, you can email me at rohlarik@gmail.com. I would be glad to read, review and comment on any nascent, or experienced writer’s books. If warranted, I like to add a little comedy to accent my reviews, so enjoy!
Thanks, Rick O.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

THE AGE OF MIRACLES


Earth’s rotation is really slowing down! Don’t get alarmed, because it slows down 1.7 milliseconds every 100 years, or so. But in Karen Thompson Walker’s debut novel, the day grew 56 minutes before the scientists even noticed, and when they did a scientist said on TV  “To a certain extent, we can adapt, but if the earth’s rotation continues to slow-and this is just speculation-I’d say we can expect radical changes in the weather.” Adapt to what? This is a novel that proposes a unique event, while at the same time follows the life of our narrator, Julia, through her adolescent years known as the age of miracles. Somehow the author succeeds in uniting these two subjects into a peculiar and unparalleled story. The story did stall about midway, but thankfully it then took off to a interesting, but somewhat heavy-hearted and pessimistic conclusion. Walker’s character development was a little weak, except for Julia and her want-to-be paramour, Seth Moreno. In this reviewer’s mind, these two flaws keep this unusual novel from five stars.
 

The story begins in California at the home of Julia, her mom Helen, her dad Joel, and their two cats. I don’t remember the author ever saying what the family’s last name was, not that it matters. Anyway the TV news broadcast said that the earth’s rotation was slowing down. Helen is very upset; Joel, a baby Doctor, seems unperturbed; and Julia sees it as a way of getting out of soccer practice. In two days, the length of a day is ninety minutes longer. People start getting gravity sickness, because the slowing had altered the gravity and everything was a little more susceptible to the pull of the ground. Julia still has to deal with problems any eleven year old would have, regardless of the earth’s slowing rotation. There is the bully at the bus stop; the on and off friendship with her various girlfriends; and the unrequited love of Seth. Her eighty plus year old grandpa seems to have flipped out, birds start dying off, and bugs start multiplying at a furious pace. And now the day is forty two hours long! People start to hoard food, and grass and plants begin the dying process. The government states on TV that the 24 hour clock has to be observed regardless of the days length. Some people object. They become “the real timers”, who are instantly hated, because “The real-timers made the rest of us uncomfortable. They too often slept while the rest of us worked. They went out when everyone else was asleep.” The day is now forty eight hours long!

The slowing syndrome affected only certain people, Julia’s mom among them. The symptoms could be dizziness, nausea, insomnia, fatigue, fainting, and bleeding of the gums. The day is now fifty six hours long, and growing. Kansas has a first ever earthquake, thousands of whales wash ashore, and California’s famous eucalyptus trees begin to fall. The day is now sixty hours long. Is this just the start of the end, or is it the new beginning? I’m going to have to stop here and you will have to read your own copy of this credible story to find out how it is resolved. I read somewhere that Walker had a astrophysicist read the book before publication to make sure her story was plausible. Her impeccable prose is probably due to her previous work as a book editor for Simon & Schuster . Folks, this is one of 2012’s best, I highly recommend readers of all genres to get behind this novel.

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars.

Comment: I know my review sounds like this novel is another apocalyptic tale of grief, but it is not. I’m not sure what genre this novel falls under. Is it sci-fi? Is it fantasy? Or is it just plain good old American fiction. I think it’s the latter. What does Karen Thompson Walker say about that? “A good story, just like a good sentence, does more than one job at once. That's what literature is: a story that does more than tell a story, a story that manages to reflect in some way the multilayered texture of life itself.” So there you go, it’s just a story! But a pretty good one.

Remember how I said the novel seemed mistake free? Well, Karen says “I like to edit my sentences as I write them. I rearrange a sentence many times before moving on to the next one. For me, that editing process feels like a form of play, like a puzzle that needs solving, and it's one of the most satisfying parts of writing.” Are you listening, Cormac McCarthy? Just kidding. The wonderful thing about literature is the wide variety of writers and styles available to the reader.

Recently, Karen explained to Scotsman.com how the novel got it’s start...”The Age of Miracles began as a short story inspired by the 2004 earthquake in Indonesia. It was so powerful that it knocked the earth’s axis, and shortened the length of a day by a tiny, tiny fraction.
It seemed haunting and creepy, that something we think is so fixed – the sun rises and the sun sets, every day – could change. I didn’t know that could happen. I wanted the cause to be unknown. The fact that the earthquake and tsunami in Japan happened [afterwards] was just a weird coincidence.” She wanted her novel to feel immediate and a little mysterious. The year is unspecified, enhancing the sensation that “this will happen tomorrow, [in] the very near future.” Walker’s goal was a novel that felt logical and plausible, but didn’t distract with technology. So there you go, now you know.

Although I’ve read my fill of apocalyptic novels, I have a few that I still want to read. Both of these books portray events after a nuclear war ( what else? ). Pat Frank’s  Alas, Babylon , published in 1959, is considered a classic; as is, 1961’s Hugo award winner A Canticle for Leibowitz written by Walter M. Miller, Jr. My favorite that I have read is still Larry Niven’s classic story of a wayward comet, Lucifer's Hammer .

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Goblin Night Fever

The author sent me a copy of this novel to review:

According to folklore, goblins are evil spirits that cause mischief and harm. Indigo Lane proves that theory erroneous in this amusing and bewitching self proclaimed children's story. Wait, did Indigo call this a children’s story? Well, I say this novel is way too scary for a topsider child, it maybe okay for a baby trogg, or murkan. Here is what I would do... I would ditch the cartoon cover, and reclassify this book as young adult literature ( 12-18 years old ). In my opinion YA fiction is the hottest genre in literature today. Come on Indigo, you say this is “the first of three planned books in the Underkingdom series”, so lets make this first book a sort of prequel to the ensuing Underkingdom tales. Didn’t J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit just come to the movies as a prequel after The Lord of the Rings ran it’s course? And what about a Mountain Orc look-alike on the book’s cover, instead of a cartoon. Okay, enough advise, I’m just a reviewer. I did enjoy this first effort by Indigo Lane even though my child years are far behind me. There were some flaws; such as, too many supplementary characters with names to remember, and not enough pages to get warm and fuzzy with most of the characters. But was this a valiant effort? Absolutely!

The protagonists in this fantasy are Angelica and Cassandra Klamp, Chen, and our two wonderful goblin’s, Plopbottle and Broodangle. Angelica is a feisty child who loves Eddie Zombie music, while her sister, Cassandra loves schoolwork. Plopbottle is a two foot tall goblin who loves disco music and the fictitious topsider, Johnny Marino. His goblin friend, Broodangle, is a con-man de jour. Angelica and her classmates at Norbury Park School in London are kidnapped by the Underkingdom and dragged into a very deep abyss underground for unknown reasons. The children are separated into three groups: the fat ones go to food heaven; the bullies go to the trogg/ murkan army; and the incorrigibles, like Angelica, are sent to squad 99 doomed to work on dangerous assignments. It seems that the king of the Underkingdom wants to attack his enemy, the Iron Tooth scum, as King Gnarblad labels them.The problem is that the Iron Tooth territory lies under Paris, France. What does the King have in mind? Why is he fattening up 23 kids? Why are the squad 99 kids chained up at night? What is this monstrous machine the children are helping to build? Once the children are underground, the book sizzles. I suggest you grab a copy of this original fantasy ( don’t be dissuaded by the cartoon cover ) and dig in.

Although I said that there were too many characters with names, there were some good sidebar plots. I thought the continuous conflict between Angelica and the Henderson twins was entertaining. The story of the Brotherhood ( Broodangle is a member ) was hilarious and very topsider-like.The Brotherhood’s oath starts off with...”Now repeat after me,I promise to be dishonest. To be crafty, devious, and cunning at all times...” Is that a riot, or what? Lastly, I liked the Dickens-like names used; such as, Hobshanks, Pinchbeak, Bogmilla De Bogg, Garnax, and Ulrik Deathbringer. Some parts of the novel display Indigo Lane as an apprentice writer, and at other times he seems to break free and show the reader his future writer’s acumen and ability. I like this author and I expect that the next Underkingdom novels will show that the author has improved his prose and has further developed this “work in progress.”

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Comment: In my journeys through bookstores, I have noticed an increase in young adult (YA)  books. This was probably started by J.K.Rowling’s rousing success with the Harry Potter series. Rowling has been quoted as saying...” I just write what I wanted to write. I write what amuses me. It’s totally for myself.” Well she amused herself to a fortune in the YA world. Then we have another success story in Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games . She has been quoted as saying...” I don’t write about adolescence. I write about war. For adolescents.” Well said, but it is still YA literature. And now we come to Rick Riordan, YA writer of The Heroes of Olympus series, and the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. Rick Riordan’s advise is...“I tell aspiring writers that you have to find what you MUST write. When you find it, you will know, because the subject matter won’t let you go. It’s not enough to write simply because you think it would be neat to be published. You have to be compelled to write. If you’re not, nothing else that you do matters.” This is good advice for Indigo Lane and his Underkingdom series.

I still can’t get over the fact that so many writers have to publish their own books. I have had many beginning authors send me their novels, and most of them are very good. Why is it so difficult? Llumina Press states...” We know how it feels to get a rejection letter, and how it feels to finally get that book published.  We've been through writer's block, torn our collective hair out trying to find exactly the right words, and suffered over whether to leave our finest phrases in or take them out.” Sometimes I think it’s a matter of luck whether your book gets published, or not. As a matter of fact, what does Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, L. Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics , and Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass have in common? “These are just a few among many famous self-published writers whose works have become Best Sellers. Their works have sold millions of copies because they refused to give up on rejection letters from major publishing houses. After self-publishing their writings their works were subsequently picked up by major publishing houses.”

Monday, March 18, 2013

LIFE of PI


Eeny, meeny, miny, moe, catch a tiger by the toe. If he hollers, let him go, Eeny, meeny, miny, moe. For some reason that children’s rhyme popped into my mind as I started to read this tale of survival. It  involves a 16 year old Indian boy, and a 3 year old, 450 pound Bengal Tiger marooned together on a lifeboat for 227 days in the Pacific Ocean. Wow, what a tale spun by the Man Booker Prize winner, Yann Martel. Oh, I forgot to mention that initially there was also a zebra, a rat, a hyena, and a orangutan on board. You can imagine how long they lasted with a furious tiger aboard. Did I like this novel? Yes, but I’m not sure it was worthy of the “Booker” award. It has the strength of an unusual story, but lacks the strong finish to knock the reader out. I did like Martel’s easy to understand prose, and I also enjoyed the font changes that let the reader know who was narrating the story. It’s a difficult novel to rate because of the long and sometimes tedious middle, and then the seemingly abrupt ending. Yet it was so entertaining. Do you see my dilemma? I must recommend this novel by virtue of it’s original and exhilarating story, even though some say that it was similar to Moacyr Scliar’s Max and the Cats .
 

The first part of the story introduces the reader to our protagonist, Piscine (self changed to Pi, because of people mispronouncing his name as ‘pissing’) Molitor Patel. He lives with his father, mother, and brother Ravi in Pondicherry, India. The family owns a prominent zoo during the turbulent reign of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in the mid 1970s. Pi is going through a confused time in his life were he is unsure if he is a Hindu, a Catholic, or a Muslim. This is one part of the book that I didn’t think was relevant to the story. Anyway, Pi’s father has had enough of India’s politics and decides to sell his wild animals to various zoo’s in America and elsewhere. He boards his family and animals on the Japanese cargo ship, Tsimtsum with the ultimate destination of Canada, and a fresh start in life. But guess what? The ship sinks several days out of port, resulting in the loss of Pi’s family and everybody else, except for Pi and a few animals treading water.

As the ship sinks, Pi has been tossed into a lifeboat by crew members. He sees the tiger ( Richard Parker ) struggling in the water. Pi throws a roped lifebuoy to the tiger and starts to haul him in, and then realizes that he is dragging a wild tiger to his boat! Pi says “ Let go of that lifebuoy, Richard Parker! Let go, I said. I don’t want you here, do you understand? Go somewhere else. Leave me alone. Get lost. Drown! Drown!” Too late, the tiger pulls himself aboard. You might wonder how a tiger got the name Richard Parker. Well, when the tiger was young, he was captured by a hunter named Richard Parker. The hunter saw the tiger drinking a lot of water, so he named him “ Thirsty “. However when they went to the ticket booth for the train ride to the zoo, confusion ran amok, and the names on the tickets got reversed, and the hunter became Thirsty, and the tiger became Richard Parker. At the zoo, Pi’s father thought it was amusing and kept the unusual name for his tiger. Most of the remaining novel is about survival at sea, or man versus beast for seven months on a 26’ by 8’ lifeboat. Who wins? Can Pi train the tiger on the boat? Will the tiger try to eat Pi? Can Pi catch enough food to keep Richard Parker happy? These are a few of the questions that will be answered, as you read this daring fantasy tale. This novel is well worth the effort, I suggest you add it to your books-to-read list.

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Comment: Man versus ocean beast novels have interested all genres of reader for years, not that Richard Parker is an ocean beast. But who can forget the hunt for the white whale in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick , or the Nautilus’s battle with the giant squid in Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea , or Peter Benchley’s modern classic, Jaws . As in Pi’s plight, being shipwrecked has also spawned some classic novels; such as, Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe , shipwrecked on a Caribbean island for 28 years, or Johann Wyss’s Swiss Family Robinson , a family trapped on a deserted island.

Yann Martel has seven published works, and has been involved in three movies. According to Wikipedia, he was influenced by... “Martel has said in a number of interviews that Dante's Divine Comedy is the single most impressive book [he has] ever read. In talking about his most memorable childhood book, he recalls Le Petit Chose  by Alphonse Daudet. He said that he read it when he was ten years old, and it was the first time he found a book so heartbreaking that it moved him to tears.”

And to ponder some notable quotes from Yann Martel: “If we, citizens, do not support our artists, then we sacrifice our imagination on the altar of crude reality and we end up believing in nothing and having worthless dreams.”
From Pi, in the Life of Pi: “I was giving up. I would have given up - if a voice hadn't made itself heard in my heart. The voice said "I will not die. I refuse it. I will make it through this nightmare. I will beat the odds, as great as they are. I have survived so far, miraculously. Now I will turn miracle into routine. The amazing will be seen everyday. I will put in all the hard work necessary. Yes, so long as God is with me, I will not die. Amen.”
And lastly: “I must say a word about fear. It is life's only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unnerving ease. It begins in your mind, always ... so you must fight hard to express it. You must fight hard to shine the light of words upon it. Because if you don't, if your fear becomes a wordless darkness that you avoid, perhaps even manage to forget, you open yourself to further attacks of fear because you never truly fought the opponent who defeated you.”

Monday, March 11, 2013

A HIGHER CALL

My God, what a book! Adam Makos with Larry Alexander bring us this harrowing and chivalrous story of two World War II Air Forces. This is not just a story about an incident involving a German Messerschmitt Bf 109 and a U.S. B-17 Flying Fortress. No, it’s also about both sides fighting with courage and perseverance while maintaining a healthy respect for each other. The German Air Force fighter pilots were not Nazi Party members; in fact, their attitude was a thorn in the side of the German Reichsmarshall Hermann Goering (German spelling). They fought because they had no choice: fly or die.  On page 288, the pilot's attitude is confirmed when Major Hohagen of the German Air Force tells a joke to one of the book’s protagonist, Ace Franz Stigler: “Hitler, Goering, Himmler, and all of their friends are out on a boat at sea, there’s a big storm and their boat sinks! Who’s saved?” Franz knew the joke. “Germany.” If a political officer overheard this joke, by law they both would have been executed. Herr Goering would occasionally slip a political officer into the ranks of the Air Force to get the flavor of the pilots. I extol the effort the authors made to bring the readers this compelling non-fiction Pulitzer Prize worthy story. I know that says a lot, but you haven’t read this book.

The book opens with the story of Franz Stigler, a German Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter pilot, who completed 487 missions by the war’s end and focuses on his time served in North Africa and his service defending Italy and Germany from U.S. and British bombing raids. The reader meets many aces such as Hans-Joachim Marseille, The Star of Africa , and General Adolf Galland, leader of all fighter pilots. Most of the pilots we meet were awarded the Knights Cross (30 or more victories). Bear in mind that you are going to feel empathy for these men, even though they are the enemy. They fought bravely for their country, not for the Nazi Party. They fought with honor and with a knight's chivalry throughout the war. They had a code of ethics similar to the American fighters and bombers: they didn’t shoot a parachuting enemy pilot, nor mistreat them as a POW. Unfortunately, that can’t be said if the SS did the capturing. It’s sad that the typical German citizen hated the German fighter pilot at the end of the war because: ”You didn’t keep the bombs from falling.” That's a pretty sad statement since no one could stop thousands of B-17's dropping bombs every day. The Germans called our monstrous B-17 Flying Fortress "The Four Motors." Each plane rained down a payload of twelve 500 pound bombs.

The second part of the book tells the story of a twenty year old American pilot, 2nd Lt. Charlie Brown (Not of Snoopy’s Red Baron squad). He is a member of the 379th bomber group stationed in England. You are going to like his crew: Al ‘Doc’ Sadok, Robert ‘Andy’ Andrews, and Spencer ‘Pinky’ Luke, to name a few. They get into a now famous incident with Franz Stigler on Charlie’s first bombing raid as a Captain that winds up becoming the title of this book. My definition of "a higher call" is “vacating a duty for a better one" or "it’s God’s wish". I don’t know if the author had my definitions in mind, or not. You might ask, "What is the incident?" Well, I can’t tell you! You'll have to read this wonderful story yourself to find out. By the way, this book doesn’t read like the history that it is; instead, it reads like a novel such as Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts .

The third part of the book deals with Goering’s dissatisfaction with Germany’s famous fighter pilots. He would have liked them executed for treasonous statements, and he accuses them of being cowards, but they are too popular, so he makes them form the JV-44’s unit (the squadron of experts). They are responsible for defending Germany against the massive U.S. bombing raids in the last months of the war. Goering figures that they will die quickly against overwhelming odds. He forgets that these men are legends in their own time: Franz Stigler, Major Gerhard Barkhorn (301 victories!), Col. Luetzow, Oberst Steinhoff, Oberst Roedel, Major Hohagen, Oberst Trautloft, and Hauptmann "The Count" Krupinski. This part of the book was very exciting and sometimes very sad. The rest of the book deals with what happened to these men (German and American) in the ensuing years after the war. Well, like Arte Johnson on the Laugh-In show used to say: “It’s very interesting”. So is this gripping book!

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: Reichsmarshall Goering was an ace fighter for Germany in World War I and joined the Nazi Party in 1922. He spent most of his time stealing art and property from the Jewish people. He was sentenced to hang by the neck at the Nuremberg Trials but took a cyanide pill the night prior to his sentence being carried out. A U.S. private is said to have given Goering the pill hidden in a fountain pen that was smuggled into the prison by a German woman.

After the war, Franz saw the ghosts in his dreams of the Holocaust, the crimes of the minority (the Nazi Party) that had spoiled every German fighting man’s honor. One German pilot spoke for the fighting forces when he wrote, "The atrocities committed under the sign of the Swastika deserve the most severe punishment. The allies ought to leave the criminals to the German fighting soldiers to bring to justice." (pages 348-349.)

Adam Makos is a journalist, historian, and editor of the military magazine Valor. In his fifteen years of work in the military field, Makos has interviewed countless veterans from WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and present-day wars. In the bibliography section of the book, Adam states that "It’s important to note that Franz Stigler flew 487 combat missions during WWII, and Charlie Brown flew 29. Both men had documented the time, date, and place of every mission in their logbooks, but only Charlie’s logbook survived the war. In May 1945, American interrogators seized Franz’s logbook and it was never seen again."

And finally, I thought the part in the book about the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) was a real eye-opener for this reviewer. Only 1,074 women passed the flying courses that allowed them to pick up and deliver all sorts of military planes from the factory to the bases.The character in the book was Marjorie Ketcham, who had a budding relationship with Lt. Charlie Brown until he was transferred to England. According to Wikipedia, “They flew sixty million miles of operational flights from aircraft factories to ports of embarkation and military training bases. They also towed targets for live anti-aircraft artillery practice, simulated strafing missions, and transported cargo. Women in these roles flew almost every type of aircraft flown by the USAAF during World War II. In addition, a few exceptionally qualified women were allowed to test rocket-propelled planes, to pilot jet-propelled planes, and to work with radar-controlled targets. Between September 1942 and December 1944, the WASP delivered 12,650 aircraft of 78 different types."

Friday, March 1, 2013

OUTER DARK

This 1968 novel written by Cormac McCarthy is brilliant but also one of the most disheartening stories that I’ve ever read. Warning: If you are suffering from depression, don’t even think about reading this somber book. Cormac is truly the gloom and doom master. A quote from All the Pretty Horses sums up Mr. McCarthy’s thoughts on life: ”It was good that God kept the truths of life from the young as they were starting out or else they'd have no heart to start at all.” One of Cormac’s Outer Dark quotes is: “Ive seen the meanness of humans till I dont know why God aint put out the sun and gone away.” One of the two main characters, Culla states bleakness best when talking to the mysterious bearded man and says, ”I never give nobody nothin, I never had nothin. Never figured nothin, never had nothin, never was nothin, the man said. He was looking at nothin at all.” I added the quotations, but Cormac doesn’t use them or any other basic elements of prose in his novels. If you have read any of my reviews, you know that I’m not a fan of his famous novel The Road ; however, I do admire this novel. He has stated in the past that if the story is good enough, the author doesn’t have to be grammatically correct. I hear you loud and clear! This story will stay with me for awhile.

Even though Cormac doesn’t mention a time or place, I did some basic research, and it seems that this story takes place in the Appalachia mountains of east Tennessee. I can’t find a time period, but it felt like I was reading a novel set in the early 1900s. It’s the story of a brother and sister, Culla and Rinthy, who have an incestious relationship resulting in a baby. Both of these people are destitute mountain people of low education living in a rural cabin. As Rinthy recovers from the birth, she hears a tinker (a travelling seller of pots and pans) outside talking to her brother. The tinker leaves, and while Rinthy sleeps, Culla goes in the woods and leaves the baby in the glade to die. When Culla goes home, he chops a fake grave with his axe. The tinker finds the baby. When Rinthy wakes, Culla says the baby died. She discovers that the grave is fake and thinking that her brother sold her baby to the tinker, she leaves on foot pursuing the tinker. Culla also leaves on foot seemingly looking for his sister but more likely because he is fleeing from his sins and just wants to get away. To complicate matters for Culla, three mysterious men apparently follow him causing death and mayhem in his wake. Rinthy, in her travels, finds people mostly accommodating to her plight. Culla, Rinthy, the baby, the tinker, and the three mysterious men are heading for a collision of monumental and unguessable fruition. You must read this, McCarthy’s precocious second novel; it is stunning.

I find this story full of symbolism and metaphors. For instance, Culla and the three mysterious men seem to have nothing in common. But why do the three men appear to follow Culla from town to town, causing Culla many troubles. The leader of the men wears black, the color of evil and death. Culla seems to be running from his sins, and the three men are in pursuit to mete out punishment. Evil looms all around Culla. Are the three men emissaries of the devil? Rinthy, on the other hand, receives food and shelter from most of the people she meets on her quest to find her baby. Do these people represent the Archangels of God? I don’t know, but I do know when I’m reading a book full of symbolism. And what of the mean tinker? Who does he portray? And finally, who is the blind man Culla meets at the end of the novel who says, “But I knowed I’d seen ye afore.” Culla wants to know if the blind man is a preacher, and the blind man says, ”No. No preacher. What is they to preach? It’s all plain enough. Word and flesh. I don’t hold much with preachin.” Is this the Grim Reaper, now hot on Culla’s trail? I don’t know, but it’s fun conjecturing.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: Cormac McCarthy is 79 years old, and has written 10 novels in three different genres: Southern Gothic, Western, and Post apocalyptic. He says he is working on a long novel (that’s unusual!) called The Passenger. Three (there’s that number again) of his novels have been adapted for film. No Country for Old Men won the Academy Award for best picture. He has done very well for one who violates most of the rules of writing, grammar, and punctuation.

Goodreads says that one of Cormac’s famous quotes is from his novel, The Road: “Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.” That’s pretty good writing for someone who makes his own criteria.

Vulture on 6/6/07 said that Cormac bombed on the Oprah Winfrey show: "On yesterday's show, McCarthy wasn't as gnomically apocalyptic as we’d speculated he would be. Slouching in an overstuffed armchair, he seemed more like a nice-enough old man, gamely trying to answer the inane questions posed by the over enthusiastic woman sitting opposite. Winfrey trotted out such chestnuts as "Where did the idea for this novel come from?" and "Do you have a writing routine?" McCarthy, to his credit, treated the questions seriously, though that may be because he's the only writer on earth who's never heard them before.”

And lastly, a quote from chapter one of All the Pretty Horses shows Cormac’s descriptive style: "They rode together a last time on a day in early March when the weather had already warmed and yellow mexicanhat bloomed by the roadside. They unladed the horses at McCullough's and rode up through the middle pasture along Grape Creek and into the low hills. The creek was clear and green with trailing moss braided over the gravel bars. They rode slowly up through the open country among scrub mesquite and nopal. They crossed from Tom Green County into Coke County They crossed the old Schonover road and they rode up through broken hills dotted with cedar where the ground was cobbled with traprock and they could see snow on the thin blue ranges a hundred miles to the north." Rules or no rules, this man can write!