I am a freelance author, writer, critic, artist, and entrepreneur living in the Heart of the Texas Hill Country.
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I’m sure many of you look back on your childhood and wish that aspects of it were different, when you read biographies or hear stories about the way people grew up, and how it influenced their lives. David Foster Wallace’s parents were professors, Michael Jackson’s father was intensely involved in his children’s musical upbringing, and Haruki Murakami’s parents were both Japanese Literature professors. My own upbringing was incredibly unremarkable, my father was in the air force so we moved around a bit, including living in Japan in the mid-eighties, however I was never inspired to develop anything. My sister and I were kind of left to make our own mistakes without direction, I am very fond of allowing ourselves to make mistakes, but when aiming towards something, you know, like Thomas Edison’s great quote, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Haruki Murakami studied drama at Waseda University in Tokyo, where he would meet his wife Yoko, Murakami worked for a while at a record store before opening Peter Cat a coffeehouse during the day and a Jazz Bar in the evenings. They closed the jazz bar in 1981 when Murakami decided to attempt to make a career of writing full-time, with three novels already in his library, two of which he wrote both while working at Peter Cat and on his free time. There’s a popular story that while Murakami was at a baseball game in Tokyo watching American Dave Hilton hit a double Murakami was consumed with a “warm sensation,” and the realization that he could write a novel, he went home and started to write that evening. Over the next ten months Haruki would write his debut novel, Hear the Wind Sing, after finishing it he sent the manuscript to a literary contest and was awarded first prize. Murakami was 29.
Wild Sheep Chase would be Murakami’s break out success, the final book in The Trilogy of the Rat which included his first novel, Hear the Wind Sing, and his sophomore novel, Pinball, 1973.
I read a blog by A Geek in Japan about trying to find Haruki Murakami’s jazz bar, Peter Cat, though closed, they were curious to experience the same sights, and hopefully feelings that Murakami would have felt while living and working in the area. First the blogger stopped into a Senta (public baths), that looked to have been around for a while, and though the woman who ran the place enjoyed discussing how wonderful the neighborhood was in those days, she had never been to Peter Cat. The Blogger stopped by a bookstore owned by a middle aged man who, “…didn’t really look friendly.” However when asked about Murakami the middle aged man’s demeanor changed and the two fell into a great conversation about how Haruki would occasionally stop by the bookstore, the gentlemen even went as far as to point out where Peter Cat used to be, it is now a restaurant-cafeteria. It’s a good read, and if you feel so inclined you can check it out here.
I cannot recall my first experience reading Murakami, for some reason I keep coming back to Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, but it was printed later than I remember my interest developing, so it must have been either Hardboiled Wonderland or the End of the World or Norwegian Wood, I do remember, very distinctly living in Santa Fe, I had been there only a couple of weeks, and had still been settling in to a perfectly sized casita for one directly in the heart of the downtown Santa Fe, and my new neighbor and I slowly began developing a friendship. She was about my age, an incredible young artist, from Maine whom had moved to Santa Fe not long before when her brother’s girlfriend, who had been from there, suggested she spend some time in New Mexico. She handed me a copy of Wind-Up Bird Chronicle which she had inscribed for me, the same copy that I have lent out and has been returned to me numerous times, it’s amazing actually how often I’ve lent this book out, and how it keeps coming back to me. The book is tattered, and worn, it had been read more than any book I’ve come across, It’s got tire treads on the inside cover after having been run over, there’s circular shaped tea stains on the rear cover where a mug had been left, and still I have this book, and I will probably always have it until I’m gone. It is books like this, editions like this, that I have that reinforce what it is that I do, and my love for, not only, literature, but books, just…books. I’ve read everything Haruki Murakami’s written, and I look forward to the October 9, 2018 release of his new book, Killing Commendatore.
Murakami has been criticized for following a pretty distinct template throughout his novels: a thoughtful/emotional protagonist loses someone/something and is compelled to retreat on a journey, and then returns, eh, semi-enlightened—in the meantime all of his characters experience surrealistic, relationship, and pop-culture themed development, and all-in-all, I’ve always felt, that it makes for wonderful storytelling, I love it, and recently Xi-Chen wrote an article for Medium which I posted on the Communitea Books Facebook Page, in this article Chen illustrates something that I believe to be important for all Murakami readers, “…because writing is a form of expression and he is going to keep writing the same book until he captures that “something” and fills in that void.” It’s a great article Why I Read Haruki Murakami, you can read it here. What Xi-Chen writes is beautiful, and exactly accurate, Murakami is one of the few writers in which I can truly experience the journey not just for the characters, and not just for the reader, but for him—for Haruki Murakami.
Murakami is a bit of a loner, he doesn’t spend time with other writers, and has not developed a community of literary friends like David Foster Wallace and Jonathan Franzen or George R. R. Martin and Neil Gaiman, and instead he relies on his wife, Yoko, as his first reader. He loves classical and jazz music, as well as rock, of course, as you will recognize in his writings such as Norwegian Wood, a classic [the] Beatles song, as well as Radiohead, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, Johnny Rivers, The Doors, and more. He is an avid reader, and crime novel enthusiast, he read crime novels to teach himself English, such as The Name is Archer by Ross McDonald. Haruki Murakami is a fascinating man, and a great novelist, and, again, I look forward to Killing Commendatore, as well as those novels he has yet to write.
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The vast majority of people throughout the United States are unware of how different our country is depending on where it is that you live. It will rarely cross your mind that the people living in the Southwest are not experiencing the same thing as those living in the Midwest, and so-on-and-so-forth, there are, of course similarities, an example of which being McDonaldization and the illusion that efficiency and familiarity establish some deeply-rooted since of comfortability, though this is not entirely true. Yes, regardless, I did laugh at Tom Segura’s joke, “…the worse part, honestly, of traveling in our country is that there’s no surprises. I swear to you, I travel every week, and it’s really a disappointment. Every place is exactly what I thought it was going to be. You know? I can prove it to you. Picture a place you’ve never been to in this country. Picture it. Yup. That’s exactly how it is.”
…because there is truth to that, it’s those similarities, or differences that we actually think about: I live in Texas, in a little town in the heart of the Texas Hill Country, I grew up here, I moved out of state after high school for ten years, and now I’m back, there are still people who believe that here in Texas we ride our horses to work, and granted in another little town about 40 miles from me called Bandera there is truth to that, but they do not speak for the rest of Texas, however, you would be surprised by how different things actually are.
I keep repeating myself, why? Because it’s important for you to understand the differences. When I was living in Salt Lake City I developed a strong craving for Jamba Juice one Sunday afternoon, I drove around for nearly two hours just hoping to find a Jamba Juice that was open on a Sunday. I remember having a conversation with a female friend—or so I thought she was—until I asked her, “So, can men and women be friends?” Her response was, “Yeah, I think so.” I continued with, “What if one of them is married?” To which her response was, “Oh, absolutely not.”
The way that people think, what people are interested in, how people express and act on those interests, all of which, and more, differ depending very much on where it is within the United States that you live. I was at the gym last week in the middle of a conversation—which, frankly, I still cannot understand what this friend of mine was thinking approaching me at the gym while I wearing headphones, I honestly don’t care how well I might know you—he asked me about my work, “So you run an online library, right? How’s that going?” I responded with, “Well, it’s a bookstore…you know, and it’s going great…” He looked at me after I corrected him about my business being a bookstore and not a library as if to say, what’s the difference? And there’s a truth to that, in Texas. If you’re even the slightest bibliophile (book person) living wherever it is that you might be living you are probably familiar with Book People in Austin and Larry McMurtry’s bookstore in Archer City, Booked Up, those are the two bookstores to speak of in the state—in the state of Texas! And most Texan’s are not familiar with them, but then again most Texan’s are still under the impression that printed books and bookstores are a thing of the past, most Texan’s are not aware that as of 2012 bookstores, and especially privately owned used bookstores have seen a steady increase both in new stores and sales, and that digital—or eBooks—had leveled out in sales.
It’s a result, entirely, of this misconception that though you might drive by (or thru) a number of familiar franchises between here and everywhere else, that everywhere else is not the same. They are not watching the same news stations, they are not hearing—or agreeing—with the same ideals, and I’m not referring to a political agenda, even though our government and media has managed to make everything seem like it’s a political arena in attempt to divide a manipulated American public, bu-bu-buuttt that’s not exactly the point of this blog. I want to talk about books, and about reading, guess what? Reading is alive and well, and you fellow Texan’s I’m not only talking about in “dirty liberal cities” like San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, and New York, small town moderate (left of-, right of center Americans) are tearing through the spines of an increasing number of books and hauling them—after reading—to their local libraries or bookstores (what’s the difference again?) for reselling.
Did you know that Half Price Books started in Austin, Texas? HPB is one of the largest book retailers in the country, and, that’s right, it started here in lil ol’ Texas—there are five stores in San Antonio. Just outside of San Antonio in the numerous growing towns such as Boerne, Bandera, Comfort, Kerrville, Fredericksburg, and New Braunfuls the only existing bookstores (that are not specialty stores) exist within the local libraries, which, unfortunately, do not have the means to offer to the town the inventory or the hours that the residents deserve. The main reason for this is the fact that most people in rural Texas do not understand that people still enjoy reading. I know, from a number of perspectives that might sound ludicrous, in the sense that how can a person not know what they like, but that’s not what I’m trying to get across, it’s that you don’t necessarily know what other people like, and individuals, for whatever reason, make the assumption that they are different from everybody else, that our own interests are not shared by the people around us, and it’s that idea exactly that is the catalyst behind the ‘mob mentality’ reaction to—well, now-a-days, to just about everything.
Printed books are not going anywhere. And it’s not just about nostalgia, though there is something about holding a book, smelling it, having it resting on our shelves, it’s not entirely about that, and it may not be the most logical understanding, but the simple truth is that the reason books are not going anywhere is because, they are books. The Gutenberg Bible was printed in 1455, that’s more than 560 years ago. Don’t let your misunderstanding of what others may or may not understand affect something that you actually enjoy doing, pick up a book, grab something of your shelf, open the spine, and start reading. Respond to this article, and tell me what you decided to read, and how it made you feel—or visit Communitea Books and share with me a story about a time when you stopped reading, for a while, and came back to it, or tell me about a book you never finished, the one that’ still sitting on the shelf with a bookmark in it.
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In 2007 I was working as a bookseller at a Barnes&Noble in Murray, Utah. Most people are aware that somewhere within a Barnes&Noble there is a discount book section, usually up front near the cash registers, these books are called Remainder Books: books printed in excess and are liquidated and resold to book distributors to be, again, resold at considerably discounted prices. On my shift one morning I was browsing these discount books and happened upon a book titled, Consider the Lobster. It seemed interesting, based solely on the cover: it’s a white book at the center of which is a single red lobster and above that is the title, in black Consider the Lobster. I bought it, having never heard of David Foster Wallace until then. Yes, that’s right, prior to that moment, having worked for Hastings Entertainment and Border Books, Music, & Café I somehow never became familiar with the 1996 Literary Masterpiece Infinite Jest. I take full responsibility, though it did not take me long to remedy that mistake. After finishing Consider the Lobster I scoured the shelves for anything I could find by Wallace, and I consumed it all.
David Foster Wallace from that moment on would be my favorite author. There was something about the way that he wrote, and it was more than his prescriptive, and deeply personal relationship with the English language, it was as if Wallace was peering with an unbiased curiosity into my psyche, and this was perfectly comfortable for me, as the reader, because in response he would open himself up to me even more. There are passages of Wallace’s that I would sit and read over and over again, squeezing every ounce of substance from each sentence. It felt as if David Foster Wallace and I were more than confidants, we were friends. And for me it may have been more than that, because it seemed as if he was speaking through me, to me.
Wallace was born in Ithaca, New York, and was raised in Champaign and Urbana, Illinois. His parents were professors at two nearby colleges, his father an emeritus professor at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and his mother an English professor at Parkland [Community] College. David Wallace attended Amherst College and majored in English and Philosophy where he discovered an interest in Modal Logic and Mathematics, he graduated Summa Cum Laude in 1985. His English honors thesis would become the manuscript for his debut novel, The Broom of the System (1987), a novel that follows 24 year old Lenore on an escapade to recover her missing great-grandmother who had escaped from a nursing home, dealing with a neurotic boyfriend and the sudden musings of a talking cockatiel. Wallace attended the University of Arizona where he graduated with a Masters of Fine Arts degree. Along with Broom of the System Wallace had also sold The Girl with Curious Hair, a collection of short stories before graduating from U of A.
David was a regionally ranked junior tennis player in his youth, which was the inspiration behind Hal Incandenza’s (the protagonist of Infinite Jest) time spent at E.T.A. the Enfield Tennis Academy. Infinite Jest is one of the most epic novels ever composed. The novel is set in a postmodern setting of The United States, Canada, and Mexico that composed a unified North American Superstate known as The Organization of North American Nations. Corporations would be allowed to bid for, and to purchase naming rights for each calendar year such as the Year of the Whopper, the Year of the Whisper-Quiet Maytag Dishmaster, and the Year of the Yushityu 2007 Mimetic-Resolution-Cartridge-View-Motherboard-Easy-To-Install-Upgrade for Infernatron/InterLace TP Systems for Home, Office or Mobile [sic], but most of the novels setting takes place during the Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment. There are several major plotlines, that all connect via the production of a film, Infinite Jest also known as “The Entertainment.” It’s at this point in the description of the novel that I will stop summarizing and implore that you find the time to read it yourself, and by “find the time,” I very much mean scrap for time, because this book is going to consume your life for that period of which it takes you to read it—it’s worth it.
David Foster Wallace is the recipient of the Aga Khan Prize for Fiction, The Lannan Literary Award, the Whiting Award, Salon Book Award, and The MacArthur Fellowship (The Genius Grant), he was a professor of Creative Writing and English at Pomona College in California. He is the author of three novels (The Broom of the System, Infinite Jest, and The Pale King [Unfinished]), three collections of short stories (Girl with Curious Hair, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, and Oblivion), and several collections of essays (Both Flesh and Not, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, Everything and More, and more), he’s contributed in numerous magazines, and he published his 2005 Commencement Speech at Kenyon College, This is Water, which is widely considered to be the greatest commencement speech of all time.
After the publication of Infinite Jest in 1996 Wallace went on a book tour that was kind of alarming for him, and it shook him in regards of fame, and how it is that someone in his position might view themselves in relation to how others view him. Some of what he went through was illustrated in David Lipsky’s, Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace, a memoir about Lipsky’s experience traveling with Wallace on the tail end of the Infinite Jest book tour, a piece that was originally supposed to be for Rolling Stone Magazine. The Memoir become the 2015 drama film The End of the Tour starring Jesse Eisenberg as David Lipsky and Jason Segal as David Foster Wallace—both the memoir and the film are fantastic, and although it made me nervous when I first learned that Jason Segal was playing the part of Wallace, he was absolutely phenomenal.
David Foster Wallace spent a lifetime struggling with depression. He was on a cocktail of medications and in early 2008 he stopped taking one cocktail in hopes of transferring to another, they did not work, and when attempted to return to his previous cocktail it no longer had an effect on him. David Foster Wallace hanged himself on September 12, 2008. He rarely talked about his issues with depression and alcohol and recovery and medication, yet he did have moments of sincerity if under direst, which is to say that if people really pushed. David Foster Wallace was an incredibly human being, and an outstanding American writer whose works will continue to amaze people for…ever. The Las Angeles Times called Wallace, “one of the most influential and innovative writers of the last twenty years.” And Time Magazine referred to Infinite Jest as one of the greatest English language novels published since 1923. Loyola University in New Orleans and Harvard University both offer classes on Wallace, and in 2017 the International David Foster Wallace Society, and The Journal of David Foster Wallace Studies were established. For another unique and refreshing take on Wallace check out this wonderful article from NPR, Here.
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I have an idea:
Regardless of the influential scale of your impact, regardless of whether its effects are great and wide, or individual and minute, regardless of whether you're concerned you might look bad to your peers instead of consistently looking for someone else to blame for (y)our problems—personal or societal—why don't you focus on what your role is in creating those problems. The political price tag has gotten to be too high, because whether or not anything on C-span directly affects the majority of our lives, we are allowing it to affect our lives, and, of course, in cases of school and workplace shootings and other senseless deaths we really are beginning to experience a phenomenon that will not be remedied from the top down.
It is way too easy to blame others, to focus on the misdeeds or irrational understandings of those that we might disagree with, and to justify our behavior with our own developed sense of social morality. The American party system has become so manipulated and so divisive, and that divisiveness has become so commonplace that we do not even recognize that our ship is sinking. It has nothing to do with Barack Obama or Donald Trump or Mitch McConnell or Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton—nothing. We are too focused on blame. Somewhere along the line the American people became convinced that our way of life, and our society, our American dream no longer existed, and instead of actually looking at it, instead of stopping to say, “Well, sure it does.” We started blaming each other. It’s the Democrats, it’s the republicans, it’s the African Americans, it’s the immigration issue, it’s the gun control issue, it’s the LGBTQ community, and it’s that George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump—it’s not, it has always been us. Our indifference and our lack of accountability.
I liked Obama, I voted for him, twice, but a lot of his policies did ignore the intentions of the constitution; however, I am quite certain that when most conservatives argue in favor of that point they have no idea what they are actually talking about, they are simply repeating sound bites that they happened to hear making the rounds through the social mediasphere, and if they do [claim to know what they are talking about] then their indifference now completely outweighs their sense of social service. I am a proponent of social liberty—for everyone. It’s nonsensical to say that, “I am a proponent of social liberty, well, except for blacks, and homosexuals, and the transgender, and…” with that said, it’s not the place of the federal government to decide for the American people what your sense of social liberty is. Racism and sexism and other prejudices are a form of ignorance, there is no doubt about that, but if the United States is going to establish law in favor of-, or against various social liberties—though it’s something that the U.S. should never do—it can only be done at the state level. Obama did ignore that. Is that prosecutable? No, I’m sorry, it is not, and neither is it forcibly divisive. As I have mentioned, that personally, I do understand the frustration of ignorance, and the desire to force a sort of…re-education, but it cannot be done, forcibly; that is a fine line to cross, and we have to maintain the distinction—and if for no other reason that we are sometimes too different in our perspectives from one another.
I can appreciate the necessity of the 2nd amendment though I cannot, for the life of me, understand why conservatives are fighting so hard to keep semi-automatic guns available to the public, it makes no sense to me whatsoever. The argument that you can keep it simply because you have the right to, is, I mean, it’s apathetic and careless, and borderline dangerous, actually, at this point, it is beyond borderline. There are more than enough alternatives available to the American public without the ‘freedom’ to unload and unreasonable amount of ammunition sailing towards a deer or a target attached to a barrel of hay. You don’t need it. Even the Founding Fathers disallowed weapons in some situations and institutions, too many people conveniently ignore that, inasmuch as they ignore the language, “A well-regulated militia…” the first lines of text in within the amendment for, “…shall not be infringed.” When it is undeniably clear that the act of infringement, in this case, refers to the amendment in its entirety, and how not regulating gun control is in actuality an infringement on the amendment. Yes, we do need a 2nd amendment, people do need the right to “bear arms,” but some of y’all need to be reminded that there is a difference between pride and freedom.
I am pro-life. Do you know what that actually means, to me at least? It simply means that I am against death, well premature, unnecessary, and senseless death. It means that I am against the acts of “police brutality,” abortion, and the death penalty—and I have a sleuth of issues with our judicial system, specifically the correctional department, and how people are imprisoned for life for non-violent drug crimes, I mean come on—isn’t that what healthcare’s for? Oh, wait, we can’t even figure out our healthcare system either. But, why? It should be simple: we have a capitalist economy, right? Well then why isn’t healthcare privatized? Only then would the sick actually get the quality of healthcare they deserve. The United States is too big for Universal Healthcare, especially if our federal government is focused on making everything a federal issue.
And look, no, I don’t agree with abortion—I’m prolife—however, I’m also male, which in-and-of-itself kind of eliminates me from having any sort of practical understanding, and therefore opinion on the issues, especially considering that I am prolife, not just pro-birth.
The point that I’m making with all these personal political confessions is, well, 1.) That there needs to be a distinction between our social and our political lives, but more important 2.) Most of your opinions are based on sound bites that mean nothing, if you established some sort of linear “How Did I Come to these Conclusions” outline for your political beliefs system it wouldn’t make any sense, because it’s not based on anything.
And although it seems that I am using republicans as a series of examples of what not to do (I'm about to do it again), I am, by no means, only referring to republicans, this is a bipartisan problem, democrats are just as responsible, you are a mirror image, only, to your political counterpart.
I mean a major aspect of Republican Dogma is moral family values based greatly on the teachings of Jesus Christ, while there are 11,000 immigrant children that have been removed from their parents and locked up in warehouses across the southern most part of our country. Congressman are not even aloud to tour these facilities. And you shrug your shoulders and whine about immigration? And that’s justifiable to you? Jesus was Middle Eastern, why don’t you try Googling “People Born in Bethlehem,” and after weeding through the various paintings of Jesus and pictures of American kids recreating The Nativity, tell me what you see.
And I’m even a proponent for having, and enforcing better immigration laws, but come on, let’s do things the right way, hmm?
So instead of getting on Facebook and sharing fake news articles, or real news articles and expressing your feelings of intense distaste towards something completely irrelevant to our everyday lives, why not stop and think about what you really want your role to be, and what your role actually is, and through this exercise maybe you’ll learn to take some accountability. Because is it really Obama or Trump that’s dividing this country? Or is it us?
So, let’s try that, and were that takes us.
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More of the Most Expensive Books since 2014, Cont'd
In a previous blog I left off with the list of “The Most Expensive Books Sold on abebooks Since 2014, after 2015. It’ll never cease to amaze me that many of the books you have on your shelves at this very moment are likely valued anywhere between $1 and $30,000! And how simple it might be to appraise them, granted most of the books you have will fall somewhere between $1 and $10, but you never actually know, until you afford some time, and a little effort to understanding the varied value(s) of books.
I am surrounded at this very moment with amazing books in knowledge, in story, and in value both fiction and non-fiction, and how lucky I consider myself for discovering this world. See I’m not entirely a bookworm, or professedly even at all. Yes, I do love to read; looking out my window however at the adventures this world has to offer it’s difficult to justify sitting inside and writing and reading all day, even being outside and reading. I lived in Salt Lake City, Utah for a couple of years and being surrounded by parks such as Bryce Canyon or Zion how could you not visit, and my time in Santa Fe, New Mexico was just as filled trips to Tent Rocks, Abiquiu, Taos, and the Chama River, and that’s only a small fraction of my experience hiking, camping, bouldering, kayaking, and exploring every opportunity I discover. Books are not a safe haven for people afraid to actually live life, nor are they entirely an opportunity to escape life.
I love books and reading inasmuch as I do being outdoors, and movies, and music, and traveling, and writing, and socializing, checking out new micro-breweries, coffee shops, restaurants, and so much more. Reading, I think, allows you to explore yourself, an introduction, if you will, to whom you might be, by inviting conversation with yourself through the lens of story. For those of you that haven’t yet explored it, it might help to understand that there are more to books than you might know.
The Most Expensive Book Sales of 2016 were:
I have a collection of over 30 different versions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, including a couple facsimiles of the original Alice’s Adventures Underground. I’ve been collecting them for longer than any particular title or author. I’m not sure why. There’s just something about it. When I see these editions of Alice, first the 1969 edition with illustrations by Dali, and now this First Edition (1866) selling for $36,000 it really makes me want to find a copy. How amazing would that be?!
The Most Expensive Selling Books of Last Year (2017) were: