Douglas Arvidson is a past winner of the WICE/Paris Transcontinental International Short Story competition. His short fiction has been published in Paris, Prague, and in literary magazines in the United States and he was recently invited to be a staff writer for the Prague Revue, a cutting-edge, online literary journal ( The novels in his fantasy series, The Eye of the Eye of Stallion, include The Face in Amber, The Mirrors of Castaway Time, and A Drop of Wizard's Blood. His new novel, Brothers of the Fire Star, was selected as a finalist in the ForeWord Reviews 2012 Book of the Year national awards and as a finalist in three categories in the 2013 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards: Action Adventure Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Young Adult Fiction. It has become part of the pantheon of Pacific literature and is now included in school literature programs. Brothers of the Fire Star is an adventure story set in the Pacific during World War II and concerns two boys of different races and cultures who escape the island of Guam in a small sailboat when the Japanese army invades. They must then struggle to survive as they master the secrets of the ancient Pacific navigators. Appropriate for young adults as well as adult readers, Brothers of the Fire Star is available on Barnes & Noble, ( and Visit the author's website:

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Never-Ending, Skull-Crunching Search for Brain Candy: Scanning the Internet and Reading, Reading, Reading

Where I now read and surf, looking for the elusive cognitive jolt that will inform what I write. I feed on the offerings of both good books and the infinite--if ofttimes sketchy--resources of the Internet. How did I ever have time for a day job? Anyway, here are this morning's gleanings with some personal thoughts attached:

There are some people who read too much: The bibliobibuli. I know some who are constantly drunk on books, as others are drunk on whiskey or religion. They wander through this most diverting and stimulating of worlds in a haze, seeing nothing and hearing nothing.- - - H. L. Mencken

Ah, the Sage of Baltimore, the acerbic journalist and critic of American life (don't worry, he's dead as of 1956) peeled back a filmy coating and revealed a pithy truth: Some people are so well read they are idiots. Avoiding the dirty, desperate real world--they fancy themselves above it all--by keeping the up-turned schnoz in a book, they then lean out and peer down at the rest of filthy humanity and pass unctuous judgement. Still, there's something unsettling about the dark, slithery habits of bookworms. Could they be right?

When you long with all your heart for someone to love you, a madness grows there that shakes all sense from the trees and the water and the earth. And nothing lives for you, except the long deep bitter want. And this is what everyone feels from birth to death.- - - Denton Welch

Who the hell is Denton Welch? A nearly forgotten English literary genius (there are a few of these left, apparently, whose reputations hang in closets in dusty bedrooms in drafty English country homes) who died at age 33 in 1948 (yeah, he's dead, too). In this quote, he gets the human longing for love just about right. He was born into one of those "privileged" lives wherein the attempt was made my mummsy and daddy to curmudgeon him into shape to fit upper-class British sensibilities. He rebelled against it with all his poor soul, and was miserable and desperate and tragic before the auto accident that damaged him irreparably.

Television is a triumph of equipment over people, and the minds that control it are so small that you could put them in a gnat's navel with room left over for two caraway seeds and an agent's heart.
                                   - - - Fred Allen, CoEvolution Quarterly, Winter, 1977

Fred Allen was an ol' time radio comedian back in the '30s. You know, you've heard them--the scratchy quality, the nasal voices, the live band in the studio. He was famous, and is now dead. But he was funny and saw the truth and told us about it and got us through the depression and then some. And he saw the scurrilous bread-and-circus effect of television on the public mind. What the hell would he have thought of the Internet? I shudder to think.

But, O Sarah! if the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; In the gladdest days and in the darkest nights . . . always, always, and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath, as the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by. Sarah do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again.- - - Major Sullivan Ballou, to his wife, a week before his death in 1861, during the Civil War

Major Ballou was one of the 700,000 soldiers, on both sides, killed during the American Civil War. That figure is, again, 700 freakin' thousand. All Americans, too. T'was ever thus, and when will we ever learn?If you've never had to leave anyone you loved very much to go to war, you'll never understand Major Ballou's romantic agony.

I have a most peaceable disposition. My desires are for a modest hut, a thatched roof, but a good bed, good food, very fresh milk and butter, flowers in front of my window and a few pretty trees by my door. And should the good Lord wish to make me really happy, he will allow me the pleasure of seeing about six or seven of my enemies hanged upon those trees.- - - Heinrich Heine

This from Wikipedia about Heinrich: Among the thousands of books burned on Berlin's Opernplatz in 1933, following the Nazi raid on the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft, were works by Heinrich Heine. To commemorate the terrible event, one of the most famous lines of Heine's 1821 play Almansor was engraved in the ground at the site: "Das war ein Vorspiel nur, dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen." ("That was but a prelude; where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people also.") This long-dead German poet had the sublime and perfect poet's understanding of human nature. A little bitter brain candy, anyone?

A cup of coffee - real coffee - home-browned, home-ground, home-made, that comes to you dark as a hazel-eye, but changes to a golden bronze as you temper it with cream that never cheated, but was real cream from its birth, thick, tenderly yellow, perfectly sweet, neither lumpy nor frothing on the Java: such a coffee is a match for twenty blue devils, and will exorcise them all.
                                                       - - - Henry Ward Beecher "Eyes and Ears"

Henry was a liberal clergyman and abolitionist back when the good people of our South still thought slavery was a damned good idea and nothing less than God's will. They were willing to die by the hundreds of thousands rather then let it go. Apparently Reverend Beecher fueled his abolitionist rhetoric--and was able to even take on the great slavery-loving Christian God of the South himself--by drinking enough really good coffee.

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