I am a freelance author, writer, critic, artist, and entrepreneur living in the Heart of the Texas Hill Country.
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For as long as anyone can remember reading, or being a reader has been synonymous with being smart. As a child if you enjoyed reading in school you were a nerd, inasmuch as being good at math, or science, or what, I don’t know, being able to build a *lamp. I wasn’t this child. I did not have a particularly normal childhood. The dynamics of my schooling did not fit within the confines of the stereotypical Jr. High, High School drama. I was kind of a nerd jock: which is to say that though I played basketball and tennis, and I ran cross-country and track at different points throughout those six years, I was labeled as being smart—though I never understood why. I wasn’t particularly smart. I hated reading the assigned reading. I pretty much hated doing everything that I was expected to do, and as an unconscious result I lived as unexpectedly as I cou…well, as unexpectedly as I wanted, at least inasmuch as the unexpected would fit into the purview of how I thought I might want to live my life, someday—yes, that’s seemingly paradoxical, but if inquired I will always explain the unexplainable when explaining me.
Of course I did, eventually, come to enjoy reading once I had escaped the invisible bubble of the accepted, and expected societal constructs of systemic humanism, which is to say that once I no longer had anyone telling me what to read, how to read, and what to think about what I was reading. Still I could never shake the concept of the synonymic between readers and intelligence. I thought about it for a long time as if working through a math problem in the back of my head over the course of years, and years (I would do the same with religious and political ideas, as well). See, there were adults in my childhood who were apparently intelligent, I mean, based on a series of mutually accepted societal measures these people would be considered, by all means, intelligent. Yet, I could see through them. I thought back to Jr. High and High School and this apparent impression of intelligence that surrounded me, and how I did not actually fit that construct, and then how at the present time, I was an avid reader, I had become synonymous with the construct, and still I could not accept the identity of-, or measure that intelligence granted. I could read every book that I got my hands on, and enjoy it, and want to know more, and still anything that I might learn from picking up a book was equally accessible to everybody.
One day—I cannot remember where, or when, or why—it occurred to me that the way we perceive and measure intelligence itself is simply wrong. I mean, think about our IQ: it’s supposed to be fixed, it’s supposed to never change, but considering how often we change that’s ludicrous, and we base our intelligence on a series of ostensibly calculated questions that have been accepted arbitrarily by an academic minority in order to organize us, but it’s all entirely academic. How can we possibly base the ‘intelligence’ of a persons’ humanity on our hypothetical academic agility? The idea is based on an academic cast system establishing ranks with the understanding that the top tier, at the highest level of humanity, is chaired by college professors. Yet we still put so much stock in the idea. Politically even, the Alt-Right and many Conservatives are not classically educated, they are vocational and business oriented, and they often mock the more classically and liberally educated left while still maintaining the idealism of an academic intelligence, as if they accept IQ as the God of the classic liberal, and they revere Him.
But look, our humanity does not exists entirely in our head. Our bodies are not vessels designed only to carry our brain from one place to another. We are social creatures, by our very nature. Everything in our lives changes: the jobs we keep, the ideas we share, the beliefs we hold, the facts we covet, the environments in which we live, the people that we know it will all change throughout our lifetime, however the one thing that will never change regardless of the extent of our effort is that there will always be people in our lives. This is unequivocally the one thing in life that never changes, so would it then not make sense to define our intelligence by the way that we act, and react towards people?
Daniel Goldman wrote a small handful of books describing the different intelligences that we, as humans, share however Mr. Goldman based it all on the idea that our original measure for intelligence is true, and that academia somehow casts a shadow over us in dominion, but our present education system was designed in the early 20th century to accommodate farming families and industrial workers, it was not designed to develop well-adjusted, informed, innovators, artists, and thinkers. We have let the system dissolve without reform and now our education system is a f%#king disaster, and that is in part because we have developed the belief that our bodies are only vessels to carry our brains from one moment to the next; Daniel Goldman would suggest that basing our intelligence on our ability to interact well with others is Emotional Intelligence, however I would suggest that, if there is such a thing as emotional intelligence that it should be recognized entirely by how well we act, and react to our own emotions, not the emotions of others, and definitely not by the means in which we interact with one another.
I believe that reading is identified with intelligence because the means in which we measure intelligence is based not only on outdated concepts, but concepts that may not have been appropriate to create parallels with in the first place. We inherently recognize a problem with the means in which we base the foundation of our entire society, so we avoid it, and as children, during school, we find ways to separate ourselves from intelligence. We create negative stigmas around ‘smart’ people and reading. And not only has the act of reading taken a loss because of those parallels but are humanity has as well, and it continues to. Until we decide to change the way we perceive the world around us.
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When I was in my early twenties I started writing a book. I had this idea to set the novel, in its entirety, on a plane, and it would be a study into behavioral and psychological habits of people that, for one reason or another, all found themselves sitting together here on this plane, at the end of which almost no one would hold on to the connections that they may have made that day, at least consciously. The novel was tentatively titled, A Window Seat. I enjoyed writing it. I remember sitting in my office, or what I had decided would be my office, in my new apartment in Pocatello, Idaho. The building was renovated to resemble an old ritzy hotel: the lobby and hall carpets were all maroon, the wallpaper maroon and gold, the radiators were painted gold, and each room had a milk door that opened up into the kitchen. I love this apartment. It was essentially a studio with a single room that was separated by French Doors that led into a room that, on the remaining sides, were covered by windows, and this room would become my office. I sat one evening on a chair that was left in the apartment. That chair, a bookshelf, and my bed, which lay in the middle of the larger room, was the only furniture that I had after leaving Texas so I used a book as a desk, a hard surface to write on while sitting in the chair, in my new office. I was consumed entirely in writing this story, A Window Seat I remember, distinctly, seeing not the windows but beyond the windows surrounding me, or the room adjacent, my bed, etc., I instead remember seeing my airplane and the passengers in it, I remember the window seat, and the gentlemen sitting next to me, I remember all of this fiction that had enveloped me. It was in that moment that I decided that I would write for a living, I realized that day that I was a writer.
I was never able to finish that novel, A Window Seat, instead I chopped it up and rewrote it as a series of short stories and moved on from there. I struggled, a lot. I did find opportunities in various outlets like the Idaho Falls Magazine and a handful of literary journals, but I learned how to live small. There were times that I lived unimaginably small. I know how to comfortably sleep and to live out of a car, and I know where to-, and where not to sleep as a struggling, homeless, and starving artist in New York City. I’ve watched people that I know make the same efforts that I’ve made and rocket into stardom even without the security blanket of talent. I have sacrificed the prospects of a ‘normal’ life for the sake of persistence unrealized in order to develop a dream inspired by my passion for writing. And I’ve wondered a great deal what it is that I am missing that seems to have come so naturally to everyone else, that thing that allows them to succeed while I, you know, don’t—and still sometimes I wonder.
I know the value of determination and persistence, and when people say to “never give up,” I know that it is not just a sound bite, because the catalyst of success is in being noticed every day, consistently. The day after you give up is the day that you would have succeeded. It’s just the truth. And at the foundation of that truth is the willingness to have taken a risk in the first place. It’s no coincidence that a large number of great artists, writers, actors, and people are an example of what we have come to call “a success story.” If you spend your life risking failure, and failing, you will, inevitably, discover success. We will encounter hurdles that seem more impossible to chance than others. For me, honestly, it was—it is—the expectations of my parents that continues to challenge my drive, but I know, without a degree of uncertainty, that the day I give up, the following day is the day that I would have succeeded at least in the eyes of my parents, of course, as far as I am concerned, I already have succeeded, simply because I have never given up, and once you are willing to take that same risk to not only find the willingness to start something new, but to see it through you’ll know exactly what it is that I mean.
When you’re an artist, of any medium, and you have made the decision to pursue that craft professionally you will tend to look for any opportunity regardless of how small to make it work. I write blurbs for Crowd Content—I still do. It’s a small online marking firm that hires ghost writers (like myself) to write short advertisements for, almost, anybody that will take them, and they pay almost nothing. As an artist you have to train your brain to think differently, in a lot of ways, but most aptly for this blogs purposes, you have to rain your brain to think differently when it comes to the way that you make money. For anyone whom has worked a job whether it be shift work or a nine-to-five you are used to working a specified number of hours and receiving a check, in one weekly or bi-weekly or bi-monthly bulk transaction, and your organize your budget based on that income. As a—struggling—professional artist you’ll often receive multiple checks throughout even the course of a day ranging from $10 to $500 (or more; or less). It’s not the time you work that becomes valuable it’s what you’re doing with your time, which for obvious reasons, demands you to covet time, but for all intents and purposes bear with me on this point that I’m making. In my experience if you’re an artist, and have worked to develop your art and yourself, and developing a market of yourself, the only reason we struggle, really, is because it’s difficult to rewire our brains to think differently about the way we understand income, especially if you never stop to consider the possibility that the unconscious expectations that we develop throughout childhood are considerably more demanding on our behaviors, and our actions than most of us fully understand.
When taking a risk whether it’s quitting your job to write a book, or to start your own bookstore (business), or you’re going to paint, or be a full time photographer, it’s important to be aware that success comes only from changing the way you perceive the market, and the way that we make money, and the way that we spend money. I’ve worked many jobs while trying to make my life work as an author--and then, again as a business owner. Some of those jobs have been too demanding for me to even consider creating my own life, and so I just simply left them for the sake of my passions, and if things got bleak again, I would find another job, and in the meantime I learned to train my brain to think in terms of a, I don’t know, micro-income generator, and how to accept money regardless of whether it was in the form of a ten dollar bill or a few thousand dollar check. You make a lot of promises, and acquire new and interesting kinds of debts, your write a lot of thank you letters, or texts, or Instagram’s or whatever, and you never give up, and just like Jim Carey walking around with a ten million dollar check in his wallet made out to himself until he was able to cash it (he carried around for years, and was able to cash it in 95’), you will find success.
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Knowing whether a book is collectible, or rare, or even valuable is not always easy. In fact it can be downright confusing to know what it is that you’re looking at, and whether it’s worth anything. There are guides available floating around this massive cloud of information that people sometimes call the internet, my professional life is almost entirely dependent on the unlimited potential at your fingertips and I sometimes still have no idea what the hell I’m even looking for, let alone how to find it. In a search engine a single word can mean the difference between unlocking a library of vast and limitless knowledge and power, and staring at cat videos for ten hours. Where does the time go?
My bookstore is a collection of new, used, remainder, rare, and collectible books, I will mention that at any given moment, with every conceivable opportunity that I find to do so. “New, used, remainder, rare, and collectible books.” The extent of what I offer might, to some people be obvious, while most of you may have a general idea of what it is that I mean by new, used, remainder, rare, and collectible. To be honest, it’s actually fairly confusing, I know that a lot of you don’t know exactly what it is that I have, let alone what it is that I am offering. The type of bookstore that I maintain is so much less difficult to describe if you can actually see and touch something right in front of you, if you can smell it, and speak to me face-to-face you’ll have one of those “Ah-Ha!” moments that will open an entire world up to you. Just yesterday I was talking to my mother and she asked me, again, “What type of bookstore do you have? I mean, can you get a book for me, that’s about to come out?” “Yes, mom, of course I can, I use the same book distributer as Barnes&Noble” “Really? So you can get that one book, hold on let me look it up, Russian something…Russian Roulette?” “Yup, do you have a preference between a hardcopy an eBook a digital book?” “Get a hardcopy so you father can read it to.” “Alright.”
I am Barnes&Noble online but with the added benefit of you being able to communicate directly with the owner, the book buyer, the bookseller, the inventory manager, and the shipper. Imagine your own personal Barnes&Noble: yup, that’s me. And yet, I still, also, offer used books, and yes I can order used books for you! And, I can likely even get used books for you for a better price and in better condition than Amazon.com. How? You might ask, well I’ve been working in this industry for most of my life: I started as a bookseller at Borders Books, Music & Café, I’ve worked as a manager at Hastings Entertainment, I worked as a manager at the Barnes&Noble on 86th and Lex on the Upper East Side in New York City, and if you were to have walked into Op. Cit. Books in Santa Fe, New Mexico while it was at the Sanbusco Center anytime between 11:00AM and 8:00PM Monday through Friday I’m the guy you spoke with, because there was no one else there, I started Wardrobe Books inside the Boerne Emporium in Boerne, Texas, and I’ve been selling books online through Abebooks.com and Amazon.com for years (before starting my own website), and I’m an avid reader and book collector, and I am a freelance writer, and book reviewer. I know the industry better than most people you will talk to at any Barnes&Noble or Amazon store or through any customer service hotline. I cannot speak for other bibliophiles and bookstore owners, but I can guarantee you that I will get the best price for the book you’re looking for anywhere online.
I will also help you to understand what it is that you have. I do book appraisals. I will offer free estimates, and for an in-depth appraisal I charge $100 an hour, visit my page for more detail.
However the purpose of this entry is to offer to you a better idea of what selling new, used, remainder, rare, and collectible books means, and how to spot a rare or collectible book, to the best of your ability, because it is not always easy to spot a first edition—or first printing, as they are more traditional referred to—most people seem to think that if you find the words “First Edition” somewhere on the copyright page then whatever it is that you’re looking at must, in fact, be a true First Edition, but that is not always the case, and, unfortunately, with as many publishers as there are, and because most of them do things a little differently, unless you know what you’re looking for you’re probably not going to find it.
Fortunately, if the book is a stated “First Edition” it is, in every case, always a First Edition, but whether the book is a true First Edition or if it’s a First Edition/Later (Second, Third, Fourth…34th, etc.) Printing as opposed to a Second Edition/First Printing et c., because, yes, it would seem that some publishers enjoy throwing people off by printing First Editions with a number of Printings, which means that if your book specifies that it is first edition and is followed by a series of printings that does not specifically say First Printing, than your book is not a true First Edition.
If you’re holding a book and somewhere on the copyright page it reads: First Edition, and there is no Number Line, or Letter Line, and it doesn’t specifically indicate whether there are printings first or otherwise, then the book you’re holding is a true First Edition. Like I mentioned different publishers like to indicate Editions/Printings differently. For example, if the book states First Edition and includes a number or letter line then you should disregard the stating of First Edition (in the sense that if your book is not a First Edition AND a First Printing collectors do not accept that as a true First Edition)—just like you would if your book has a later printing (anything other than a First Printing)—and focus, instead, on the number or letter line. A Number Line or Letter Line often looks like a line of scattered seemingly nonsensical numbers, however, with most books if there is a number 1 or the letter A anywhere on the line then the book IS a First Printing. If there is not a number 1 or the letter A then you would look for the next lowest number or letter. For example: if the book is a stated First Edition with a number line and the lowest number you can find is a 3, then you’re looking at a First Edition/Third Printing. Or if the book is a stated First Edition with the letter E, it’s a First Edition/Fifth Printing.
Now, here’s where it gets even more confusing…
Not every book is a stated First Edition, however if it still has a number, or letter line and the number 1, or letter A is listed than the book is still a First Edition/First Printing, unless otherwise stated. And it might otherwise be stated by saying: Reprint or Anniversary Edition or “This book has been printed x number of times.” With the case of Anniversary Editions that are stated, or otherwise First Printings, those books still might have market value. I have a VIKING printed Fiftieth Anniversary Edition of Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath that has a number line, with the number 1 indicated, and so it is a First Edition/First Printing Fiftieth Anniversary Edition and the value is still right around $50—imagine what a 1939 First Edition/First Printing of The Grapes of Wrath would be worth? (It goes for as high as $17,500, but I can get it for under a $1,000 so, you know, don’t be fooled).
And, it can get more confusing still…
Random House, sometimes, lists a First Edition/First Printing by stating First Edition and leaving the number of THAT Specific Printing OFF of the number line: so if the book is a stated First Edition and the only number that is missing is a 1, then that book is a true First Edition, or a First Edition/First Printing. If the book is a stated First Edition, and the lowest number is a 4, then that book is a First Edition/Third Printing. But, again, it’s challenging because Random House does not always do this.
Now there are other publishers, and books that were published before a certain year (depending on the publisher) that will only include the date. The book will not necessarily have the words First Edition printed anywhere on the copyright page, there will be no number, or letter line, and you may be left with the words—for example—“copyright 1955,” only. In this case you need to find out what year that book was printed. More often than not if that particular book is not a true First Edition, it will have a list of copyright dates indicating later printings—but not always.
You know what another fun game that publishers and authors like to play is? Some authors had both the cloth and paperback copy of their books published at exactly the same time, in the same year! Of course, the edition/printing will, likely, still be stated on both the hardback and paperback copies, but nevertheless, for collectors, that’s an interesting thing to come across. Thomas Pynchon, for example, printed Gravity’s Rainbow—“A screaming comes across the sky.”—in both formats, simultaneously.
I bet you didn’t know it could be so complicated! Having a signed book, too, can be more complicated than you might have thought. A number of collectors prefer signed books that are, what the industry considers, Flat Signed: which means that the author, when signing, only wrote his/her signature. Most collectors prefer this to an inscription (but that, too, will depend on the book, and how difficult it is to find). Occasionally you’ll find a book signed by the author, and inscribed to someone, for example:
To: Roberto, Thanks For All the Wisdom
& Advice. You Are a great Friend.
Keep on Keeping On!
AKA. LA CHUPACABRA!
Above is the inscription in a copy of The Da Vinci Code I have, inscribed by Dan Brown. Personally I like to collect books inscribed by authors, if for no other reason that you come across something like THAT: cool inside jokes between people, or nice connections between two people.
When I state that I sell New Books there is sometimes a misunderstanding of what exactly that means. New means that the book has never been read before, and it has never been owned, that could mean a book titled that was released fifty years ago that is still being printed, new, and books that came out this week. I have both new books available, and am able to get any book you might be interested ‘new’ or old.
Remainder Books, however, are also new books. These books have never been read before, and they have never been owned, at least by anyone other than a bookseller. Remainder books are books that have been printed in excess, and have been liquated and resold. I have a large inventory of remainder books, and am able to get almost any book on remainder. If you, as a client, request me to find you a new book, with your permission, I will always look to find it as a remainder first, because I am able to price Remainder books below 50% there list price.
So, the world of book buying and collecting can obviously be difficult, and determining whether a book is a First Edition/First Printing can be exceptionally difficult, and confusing, and it takes a wealth of knowledge, and experience in order to do so, but having a general idea of what you’re looking at can be helpful, so I hope this helps, otherwise feel free to contact me at [email protected] for more information!
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Alice Liddell’s father was the Dean of Christ Church in Oxford, she was one of ten children that grew up on the Christ Church campus in the mid-19th century. Charles Dodgson was a mathematician in Oxford and an amateur photographer, Dodgson met the Liddell family while photographing the Cathedral in 1856, and came to know the family well. He used to take Alice and some of her siblings on boating trips during which he would tell them fantastical stories, Alice was always taken by his stories, and would quickly become the protagonist in many of them. Their relationship developed so quickly and they became so close that many people began to grow concerned, and one such afternoon while on a train something happened between the two of them that forced the hand of the Dean and others in the community, Dodgson was no longer allowed to see Alice, Charles Dodgson was 29 and Alice was only 11, at the time. Alice grew up to marry a professional cricket player and the couple bore three sons, and yet the events of her childhood would remain with Alice for her entire life. Charles Dodgson remained a prominent mathematician and would hold the Christ Church Mathematical Lectureship until his death in 1898, he never married, and was rumored to have died unhappy and alone.
In 1864 Charles Dodgson published one of the stories that he would tell to Alice and her siblings while on their boat trips, Alice’s Adventures Underground. And in 1865 the book was republished under the title Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland under the pen name Lewis Carroll.
I have more than 30 different copies of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Every time I find an edition or a copy that I do not have, I buy it. I have even reviewed a copy of rendition of the story for Nomadic Press by the author Steve McCaffery called Alice in Plunderland. It was hilarious, satirical, and dark. I recommend it. I have no idea why I have such a strong connection to the book. It has always fascinated me how wonderful the story is, how brilliantly the characters were written, how creative the dialogue is, and how it has brought joy and inspiration to so many people despite its origins having such a bleak beginning. The Walrus and The Carpenter is probably my favorite poem, with Invictus being a close second. And yet I know that Alice Liddell was haunted by the story for her entire life. It is said that she wouldn’t even read it, and only finally did as an old woman once her cricketer husband, Reginal Hargreaves, had passed away. Alice Liddell was even introduced to a middle aged Peter Llewelyn Davies during which Davies pleaded with Liddell about how she managed to live a normal life despite the cloud of having inspired lingering overhead. Peter Llewelyn Davies is the namesake for the famed play Peter Pan, or the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, though he was unlikely the actual inspiration for the character, but still Peter was preoccupied by the connection for his entire life. James Barrie (J. M. Barrie) acted as a co-guardian of the Llewelyn boys after their mother died. Davies would later throw himself under a train as it was returning to Sloan Square Station in London, committing suicide.
It has always amazed me that the two of them, Alice Liddell and Peter Llewelyn Davies, would meet, and to do so for the sole purpose of discussing life after providing a degree of inspiration for two of the most celebrated childrens classics. One of my favorite places, when I lived in New York City, was a sculpture, in Central Park dedicated to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, in Bronze it portrays every character from the story. I would often sit at the Hans Christian Andersen Sculpture and I would write, there were always children playing on-, or people posed and taking pictures on or near the Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland sculpture. I would also frequent Alice’s Tea Cup near Columbus Avenue in New York, a Mad Tea Party themed teahouse. Fun Fact: The number on the Mad Hatter’s hat, “10/6,” is a price ticket, ten shillings and a sixpence, which, especially at that time (1864-65) would have been a rather expensive, and therefore very nice hat. I’ve always been partial to Johnny Depp’s portrayal of the Hatter in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland even though Burton did not use the name from the original story (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland), not to mention Mia Wasikowska’s reinvention of Alice, I mean, how great was that? And, of course, Alan Rickman as Absolem, The Caterpillar. I’m an avid hookah smoker, I have one sitting next to me currently, so he being synonymous with wisdom is quite fitting ;) Nevertheless the most interesting and, probably famous character, aside from Alice, and maybe The Hatter, is The Cheshire Cat, sometimes helping Alice and sometimes getting her into trouble—all of Carroll’s (Dodgson) characters are so amazingly written! They all made an appearance in the sculpture, though some were more difficult to find than others. One year for Halloween, in New York City, all of my friends and I showed up to a party dressed up as The Mad Hatter, we were all The Mad Hatter, which, in-and-of-itself was the costume—the collective introduction of the many faces of The Hatter, it was pretty great.
Simon Winchester wrote a really great biography of Alice Liddell titled The Alice Behind Wonderland, it’s a short read and worth every second of your time. There is also a great nonfiction-novel about Alice titled Alice, I have Been written by Melanie Benjamin. Oh my, I love that I had just mentioned a nonfiction-novel about Alice Liddell when in my last blog entry I wrote about Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, which was the first nonfiction-novel. Shit like that, as small and meaningless as it might be for you, I don’t know, man I just think that stuff, all this stuff is really cool! Maybe that’s why I feel as connected to some of these stories and authors as I do, I allow them to take ahold of me, and I want to know more, the intrigue blossoms into a passion, and one day I find myself completely surrounded by books. I get excited about these little things. For example, when I was working at Op. Cit. Books in Santa Fe I found a copy of Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang, now, I mean, everyone knows the movie starring Dick Van Dyke, right? It’s a great movie. There are scenes from that movie that Family Guy has spoofed—which, again, I think is so cool—but, anyway, I find this copy of Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang and I’ll bet that you cannot guess who wrote it? It blew my mind. Do you give up? I’ll give you a hint: “A Medium Dry Martini, Lemon Peel. Shaken, Not Stirred.” Got it yet? That’s right! Ian Flippin’ Fleming! Ian Fleming, the guy who created James Bond also wrote Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang! How can you not love books? The worlds are so incredible.
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To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960, it won the Pulitzer Prize, and was immediately and American Classic. The story is about the trial of an African American man who had allegedly taken advantage of a young white woman in southern Alabama, though it was astonishingly clear that the young girl’s, Mayella, father was responsible. Atticus Finch the assigned lawyer to the defense was ridiculed and harassed for defending the African American, Tom Robinson.
My father likes to tell me that the trial of Tom Robinson was based on two trials that took place when Harper Lee was a child, one of which involved one of my own relatives—a relative, a lawyer, whom was, apparently, defending whomever in a similar situation, I don't really know. But, apparently, “Our blood is between the pages.” I haven’t looked into the validity of that to a great extent, still the thought is cool, and I have felt a close connection to the novel, always. The same is true of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland—but I’ll get to that later.
The movie, To Kill a Mockingbird, staring Gregory Peck is a longtime favorite of mine, though the film took some of the focus off of the trial, and made it more about what it was like to live in southern Alabama during the late 1930’s, which for all intents and purposes is fine, I still enjoy it for the cinematic masterpiece that it is. ‘Boo’ Radley plays a major role in the film, though he’s only actually on screen for, maybe, ten minutes and never speaks. His presence is one of my favorite trivia questions because he was played by a longtime acting genius, it was the first role, at age 19, for a young Robert Duvall, and watching it, and seeing him at that age, playing that role, always gives me chills, it just so freakin' cool! The soundtrack to the movie, and the narration by Scout as an adult woman surrounded the film with a certain ambiance that you only see in those classic epic films like The Wizard of Oz and Meet Me in St. Louis. I love it.
Harper Lee’s first novel, Go Set a Watchmen, tells the story of Scout as a woman, and Lee’s publisher enjoyed the character, and the snippets of backstory so much that her publisher asked Lee to write the story of Scout as a young woman, instead. Go Set a Watchmen would not see publication until 2015, not even a year before Harper Lee died in Alabama. It’s rumored that Harper Lee’s sister, who cared for her in Lee’s later years, refused to release Go Set a Watchman for fear that the publishers would take advantage of Lee’s state. Alice Lee, Harpers sister, died in November 17, 2014. Go Set a Watchman was published 8 months later.
Dill, the young character who lives next door to Jem and Scout during the summers, in To Kill a Mockingbird, is based off of Harper Lee’s childhood neighbor in Alabama, the author of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood, Truman Capote. Harper Lee and Truman Capote remained very close friends until after Capote released In Cold Blood in 1966. Capote based his character Idabel form Other Voices, Other Rooms on Harper Lee. Lee joined Capote in Kansas when he went to research the killings, and interview the murderers for a manuscript that would become In Cold Blood; an experience that would, ultimately, be the catalyst for the end of Capote’s life, which occurred almost twenty years later of alcoholism. In Cold Blood was the last novel that Capote would see the publication of. Truman Capote, while interviewing Perry Smith, one of the two suspects being tried for the murders in Kansas, is said to have fallen in love with Smith, and though Capote did have the means to-, and even offered to help Perry Smith and his accomplice during the trial, the effect of which would, likely, have gotten the pair off for the murders, he chose, instead, to continue to lie about-, and do nothing for the sake of his nonfiction-novel, In Cold Blood. An unfinished novel, Answered Prayers, was released two years after his death in 1986. And the novel, titled Summer Crossing, which remained in Capote’s possession, and that Capote had claimed to have destroyed, was found and published in 2006.
If you haven’t seen the fantastic film Capote starring Philip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote (for which Hoffman won the Oscar) and Catherine Keener as Harper Lee you should, because it’s amazing. It portrays Capote’s life just before-, and during his time spent in Kansas researching, and writing In Cold Blood. The movie also portrays the disintegration of Harper Lee and Truman Capote’s friendship which began when Lee won the Pulitzer for To Kill a Mockingbird in 1960. Around the same time as the release of Capote the movie Infamous was also released, and it’s, essentially, the same movie starring Toby Jones as Truman Capote. It wasn’t spectacular. The best thing about it was Sandra Bullock’s portrayal of Harper Lee.
I have first editions of both To Kill a Mockingbird (Go Set a Watchman, but that had such a massive first printing that it doesn’t matter) and In Cold Blood, I find that they are two of the most fascinating American novels ever written both because of their content, the story, the way they were written, and because of who wrote them, and what was going on in their lives, and the lives that they led, just in general. I like the crossover between their two life stories, and how much one affected the other.
I love how novels, and movies, can affect us in ways that we cannot understanding, and may never understand, there is simply an air around them that finds us, and it latches on to us, never full letting us go. I’ve discovered a number of these connections between novels and films and myself, and I look forward to sharing them with you throughout this blog.
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Do you ever find yourself trying to relate your life to a book? I often find myself doing just that. Sometimes a short sentence will pop into my head, and suddenly I’ve escaped somewhere in story, and attempt to remind myself that I need to write that down. Don’t forget this James, until you get the opportunity to write that down. And, of course, I always end up forgetting it. When I do remember I remember only that I did not want to forget something, but, for the life of me I cannot remember what that something was. My favorite slam poet, Buddy Wakefield, has a great line in his poem Information Man: “There are times when you will lay your head to rest and have a moment of brilliance that will grow into a perfect order of words, but you will fall asleep instead of painting it down on paper. When you wake up, you will have forgotten the idea completely, and miss it like a front tooth. But, at least you know how to recognize moments of brilliance.”
I will be sitting on my couch, listening to music, and working—probably marketing, because geeze driving people to my site is insanely difficult—and I will look out the window, and escape once again. I am transported beyond the tree just outside my window, the leaves lightly fluttering in the wind, and then I am who knows where. Just gone. Inasmuch as I could be browsing Facebook, just lying in bed scrolling through the countless useless posts the nature of which inspire anxiety, and frustration, and sometimes inspiration.
A hermit surrounded with books lives out his ‘endless numbered days’ in hiding only from Facebook, his cats pawing at the windows and the door desperately seeking something more than the pacing, the reading, the writing, and the one record, bent and dusty, circling beneath the needle again, and again, and again.
Every story I escape to is a reflection of myself in a different time looking back on me today, and acknowledging the process, the conversations that I might have that help me to make sense of Trump, of Gun Regulation, of our Minimum Wage and Inflation, of Healthcare, and Education, and the staggering degree of Indifference, of how Desensitized we are, and how much Worse it’s getting, and how with the development each new iPhone we see only a Devolution in our ability, and our Willingness to Interact with one another, and how Differently each Generation of Humanity is being Affected, and therefore Conditioned to Behave, to React, and to Ignore. The Glass Figurine on my bookshelf and in my Television Screen, and how Complacently we do Nothing.
I could write that story, but we are already desensitized to it. The character development is trite, the conflict is familiar, and the end is only as ingredient to the means. We hear time and again to write what we know, or if we have something to say to figure out the best way to say it, and then to bellow it throughout the hills, “to sound [our] barbaric YAWP!”
And then, of course, there are some stories that I will escape to that have me immersed, and taken, and welcomed some stories that I will bleed to never return from. These stories our born off the same seeds and foundation as any other story I might pen. These stories are equal to my fears in every way except for the manner in which we express empathy, and offer acceptance. I am sitting in the same couch, looking through the same window, and beyond the same tree, and yet the world beyond that tree is one that I view through an open window, an unlocked door, while my cats are lounging on the front porch.
I do sometimes consider creating fantastic worlds with heroic ideals and acts of altruism, and I will even sit down and stare at my computer, and begin typing, I will have written pages upon pages, but then I look at the window, and I find myself instead writing a short blog that touches on the challenges of marketing, the experiences of creating, the dream of writing, and the indifference of politics while my cat, standing on a windowsill of books, stares out at the leaves of the tree fluttering in the wind just outside my window.