Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

What To Do In Worcester When You’d Rather Not Leave The House

As long as I’m still creebing and moaning about Facebook’s profile adjustments and other neat innovations that nonetheless completely muck with my finely-crafted (and not a little narcissistic) view of My Own Darn Self …!

And as long as the weather outside encourages a fellow to stay inside … I’ve been re-acquainted with a number of trusty tomes.  It’s been awhile, books… sorry I’ve been away.


Favorite Books:

[] Season Ticket, by Roger Angell. Just one of Angell’s books about baseball, chiefly about major-league baseball – behind the scenes with players and scouts, accounts both of important games and of smaller events not covered by worldwide media.  Angell can make you care about athletic millionaires and minor-leaguers desperate to get to the Show, equally. (If they deserve your sympathy. If not, he can explain why not, as well!)

[] Bushwhacked, by Molly Ivins. I miss Miss Ivins. Left- or right-wing, there’s no one who comes close to sounding as common-sensical as this Texan wit.

[] Anything by John Feinstein. He could write a book about tiddlywinks and make it work.  I read his golf books and I’m on the edge of my darn chair.

[] The Big Show, by Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick. Backstage at ESPN’s Sportscenter, circa about 1995. Before Sportscenter became a gigantic corporate shill full of unfunny anchors with cloying catch-phrases, Olbermann and Patrick defined the time when Sportscenter was a gigantic corporate shill full of funny anchors with literate and deft catch-phrases. “Houston, hello!” Or, more subversively, “For those of you scoring at home; or even if you’re all alone…”

[] Homegrown Democrat, by Garrison Keillor. He’s not necessarily the first guy you’d think of if you were looking for an author who “relentlessly pulls no punches,” but he definitely found the strength to get up and write what needed to be written, a few years ago.

[] Happy To Be Here, also by Garrison Keillor. A collection of short stories and other brief items culled mainly from Mr. Keillor’s 1970s New Yorker days. Amongst its treasures is “Jack Schmidt, Arts Administrator”, a precursor to his current “Guy Noir” radio private eye series and possibly what a Raymond Chandler novel would be like if the hero were wrangling grant money; a couple of wonderful approaches to baseball; a pitch-perfect sendup of macho war-hero comic books (sorry, graphic novels); and a story of a train wreck – the wreck of a fictional train that ran (in Keillor’s imagination) between Minnesota and the Dakotas, and if you think that sounds like a bit of a dull concept, keep reading: his description of a burning train coming to a loud end is positively poetic.

[] Spock’s World, by Diane Duane. I know; I know. Star Trek fiction is usually not on anyone’s list of serious reading (and dear Lord, Star Wars fiction even less often than that). I’ve read a few really good Trek novels, but mostly they’re only really good if you know the Trek canon backwards and forwards, at which point people start to make jokes about you.

BUT. Spock’s World almost literally veers back and forth between being a Star Trek story (without a phaser being fired!) and a historical novel. It digs deeply into the ancient history of the planet Vulcan and its formerly emotional and violent people. The 1988 book has since been revealed to be “non-canonical”, which is to say, divergent from histories and details set out by the official, Paramount-Pictures-released TV series and movies … which is NOT to say that it’s no good. Here’s where I start to reveal my Trek nerd-ness: to my mind, Diane Duane’s Vulcan history is a heck of a lot more (gulp) logical than most of what the “official” Star Trek producers have dreamed up in the last 20 years. Besides, Duane writes Trek dialogue better than anyone including the official producers. Doctor McCoy has a multiple-page soliloquy which makes you wish DeForest Kelley were still alive so he could read it aloud. [Follow the link below to a Trek forum page about favorite Trek moments, ignore the first thing you see!!, and instead search on the webpage for the words sloppy thinking and read THAT post instead.  It quotes the entire passage from the book.]


[] Last Chance to See, by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine. Douglas Adams takes his “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” brand of writing and applies it to this Earth, specifically his expedition to Madagascar and other places which contain animals on the verge of extinction. Komodo dragons and the Yangtse River dolphin are big loud examples, but there are lots of others just as interesting, and I suspect Mr. Adams could make an nearly-extinct germ come off sounding Monty Pythonic.

Some years later, the book was turned into a BBC television series, with Carwardine and Stephen Fry (http://www.bbc.co.uk/lastchancetosee/). About a year ago, The Rachel Maddow Show unearthed a video clip which made its host giggle so furiously that she went happy-verklempt on the air. I dare you not to giggle as you follow this link and watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQfNZWEwN0I

[] The Parables of Peanuts, by Robert L. Short. When I was about 9 years old, I went to the library inside the church my family attended, and my eyes lit upon a book with Charlie Brown and Linus Van Pelt on the front cover. Sold!! As I was a complete Peanuts fanatic at the time (and what, exactly, has changed since?), I knew I had found a book whose existence in the church library mystified me, but I thought I’d just found a happy accident. Pretty soon, my fourth-grade brain caught up with the rest of the world, and I realized there were only a few actual Peanuts strips, and lots of blocks o’ text. Much later in life, I actually read through the first few pages, and discovered that Charlie Brown etc. were being utilized to make theological arguments – in fact, Charles M. Schulz was being touted as “no mean theologian” himself. The Parables of Peanuts is something of a primer on the basic tenets of Christianity. This past week I saw a number of people post links on Facebook to the wonderful speech that Linus gives, in “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, in which he explains how the original meaning of Christmas had nothing to do with the financial bottom line… and I guess it’s no wonder this book still sells fairly well.  (It explains why Peanuts hits so many people so close to home: it’s not just moving pictures with banging and crashing and action figures.  It has a soul.)

And when you get tired of the theological and philosophical writings, you can just skip from comic strip to comic strip and chuckle. Not a bad option, often.


December 27, 2010 - Posted by | books, literature, science fiction, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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