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Social Media Dump July 2022

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On this July 4 (an American holiday), I admit that my thoughts go often to Ukraine and the terrible events happening there. This is not even my country, but on any given moment my emotions alternate between anger/disgust/horror/pride/sympathy/admiration/optimism/amazement/detachment/gloom/hope. It’s a good thing that the American government is helping with economic and military aid, but it is late and probably not enough (I hope that this generosity can continue after peace finally comes).

From an article about US vets volunteering to train Ukrainians: (PAYWALL) “They are destroying whole cities, killing civilians indiscriminately. If that’s not escalation, what is? I don’t see this so much as being like the years before Vietnam. To me, it’s more like the years before World War II. People are going to wonder, looking back, why we didn’t do more sooner?”

Best comedy charactes from Conan O’Brien’s show (the original NBC one). It’s possible to be endlessly entertained by some of the TeamCoco playlists.

Article on the art of subtitling.

Watched Season 4 of Ozark (without watching previous seasons). What a bore.

QUOTE: “They have all their heavy technology right up on the border. Every night at 11:00 pm, they just start pounding the city. They don’t even aim anymore; they don’t care who or what gets hit. It’s just a boring job for them,” my friend explains. He’s calm, but only because the panic and worry have already passed for him. No one can remember what life was like before this. My brother and his wife nod in agreement. My friend goes off on a tangent. We’re all taking in the view before us, looking at the city, and doing our mental calculations. “(Memories of living on the battlefront of Kharkiv, Ukraine by Maryna Prykhodko).

I don’t know how it turned up in my feed, but Jimmy Kimmel had a hilarious 2018 interview with Stormy Daniels about Trump. Amazingly, she reports that in one of their encounters, Hilary Clinton had telephoned Trump about something (this was 2006). Says one article summarizing the book, “Then, to make it crazier, Hillary Clinton called…He had a whole conversation about the race, repeatedly mentioning ‘our plan’… Even while he was on the phone with Hillary, his attention kept going back to the sharks,” (of Shark Week). “

MARVIN ZINDLER SPEAKS! Everyone in Houston knows about Zindler, a colorful TV personality and consumer advocate who helped hapless customers who were ripped off by businesses. His most famous claim to fame was closing down the Chicken Ranch brothel (and inspiring a Broadway musical –and movie — about it). Here’s a great 16 minute interview right after the movie came out. Everyone laughed about Zindler’s catchphrases (“SLIME IN THE ICE MACHINE”) but he did a lot of good for the community and seemed in this interview to be a fairly humble man.

MUSK AND TWITTER: “Whatever the outcome, it will be a test of what really matters in billionaire business in 2022. In one corner, there are laws and contracts and old-school conventions about the way negotiations work—most notably, the concept that when someone signs papers agreeing to do something, they have to do it or pay a penalty. In the other corner is complete and total bullshit, wielded by a bullshitter who is attempting to worm his way to a preferred outcome on the strength of being not just the richest person in the world, but also the most annoying. It is a heavyweight bout between how business is done by most people and how it is done by one person. We are all about to locate the outer limit of what hucksterism can achieve.

PLEASE CALL IT TERRORISM: “The deep, unanswerable question is whether war crime is even the correct term for what happened in Serhiivka (UKRAINE). In truth, the war in Ukraine now has a different nature than most of the wars we have seen this century. In the eastern part of the country, soldiers on both sides fight for territory on either side of a discernible front line. But elsewhere in Ukraine, something else is happening, something that looks less like war and more like multiple acts of terrorism…. If terrorism is defined as an intimidation campaign using violence, then the bombing of Serhiivka was terrorism. So was the June 27 bombing of Kremenchuk, in central Ukraine, when another Kh-22 anti-ship missile hit a shopping mall, killing at least 20 people. Terrorism could also describe the repeated use of cluster munitions in residential areas of Kharkiv, bombs that splinter into hundreds of fragments, causing death and injury, leaving traces across playgrounds and courtyards. Terrorism is also a good word for the July 10 attack on Chasiv Yar, where multiple rockets struck a five-story apartment building and emergency services spent many hours digging residents out of the rubble. Russia is not pursuing traditional war aims in any of these places…. But if the bombing campaign is not part of a “war,” as we normally understand it, that doesn’t mean it has no purpose. On the contrary, it seeks to achieve several goals. One of them may be to persuade people to leave, to become refugees, to become a burden and perhaps a political problem for Ukraine’s neighbors. Clearly the bombs are also meant to impoverish Ukrainians, to prevent them from rebuilding, to weaken their state, to persuade their compatriots who are abroad not to come home. Who wants to return to a country that features on the evening news every few nights, as another bomb falls on another apartment building or shopping mall? Who will invest in a place of smashed rooftops and broken glass? Sowing such doubts is a classic goal of terrorism too. ” (ANNE APPLEBAUM)

QUOTE: “Russia is facing a systemic manpower issue, and they are using multiple ad-hoc methods to fill in the gaps with volunteers, mercenaries, prison battalions, and personnel from other parts of the government like the national guard,. It results in minimally trained soldiers and presumable lack of cohesion at the unit level.” (DARA MASSICOT, Policy Researcher, Rand Corporation)

Apparently these crisis pregnancy centers (CPC) received governmental funding, but offered barely any medical services except a strong anti-abortion message. Conclusion:

CPCs are a unique and disconcerting hybrid of anti-choice activism, religious propagandism, and pseudo-medical practice. Their modes of operation are fundamentally unethical and undermine the respect to human life that they claim to protect. Currently, the government faces significant barriers to implementing regulation of CPCs. The overall protected status of CPCs exists in stark contrast to that of abortion clinics. As states across the country threaten to severely restrict, and in some cases eliminate, access to abortion, efforts to limit the influence of CPCs will become increasingly vital. Initiatives to promote transparency and protect people seeking unbiased medical care from deception by CPCs will require creative solutions. On a grassroots level, healthcare providers and pro-choice organizations need to remain knowledgeable about CPC operations within their communities and serve as reliable sources of information for patients. Structurally, in addition to pushing for greater oversight of these organizations, Americans should demand increased accountability from search engines and social media outlets regarding advertising of CPCs and the medical accuracy of their online content. There also needs to be widespread social and political support of public health policies that create legitimate, safe access to medical and financial resources that are currently offered under threat of coercion by CPCs. While reproductive rights advocates continue to demand responsible, appropriate action from local and national governing bodies, increasing patient awareness and education about these centers will hopefully protect anyone capable of pregnancy from erosion of their reproductive freedoms by CPCs.

Happy to learn the news that Albania and N. Macedonia entered accession talks with the EU.

This 30 minute interview takes a look at all the major acting roles of John Lithgow. (my fave actor) I loved him in Third Rock from the Sun, but am pleasantly surprised at how many movies he did in the 1980s and 1990s which I never have seen. (He was good in the underrated movie, 2010: The Year We Make Contact )

In addition to Netflix, full episodes of COMMUNITY are starting to be available on Youtube. Here’s the second episode — about the insane spanish teacher Senor Chang (played by Ken Jeong). I love this series to death.

NETFLIX SITCOM RECOMMENDATION: “The Upshaws” is a hilarious 30 minute sitcom/dramedy about the ups and downs of a workclass family with a complicated history; Bennie the car mechanic dad had a child with another woman; the aunt (played by Wanda Sykes) complains about Bennie but has to bail the family out during crises. Kim Fields plays the ambitious level-headed mother who has to manage all the chaos. This is a lovely show with great characters and outstanding actors. To “keep it real,” the show has a fair amount of profanity and R-rated humor and a lot of story development and unusual plot twists. We sped through two seasons — alas, Season 3 will arrive next summer. Made especially for Netflix with brilliant writing, this is now one of my favorite Netflix-only shows.

Mary Ann — SEQUEL?! A year or so before she died, Gilligan’s Island star Dawn Wells did some short comedy sketches with Terry Ray recreating her iconic character. This playlist contains 3 sketches totaling 15 minutes. These are amateur productions, but still lots of fun…


Music Discoveries July 2022 #19

See also: June 2022 and Aug 2022 (View all)

I just finished appearing on a guest podcast to discuss two albums Pistola de Plástico by the Chilean punk-pop group Los Ex and Lupon by the Portland group Y La Bamba. Both were great albums, and I’ve been following the Los Ex lead singer Colombina Parra for a while.

Articles and Interviews


Emusic Purchases

  1. Light by Tessie. 5 tracks, 99 cents. Nice solo work by Tessie Spoljaric-Woodgate, lead singer of the INTIMATE STRANGER band from Chile (also great). Not as pop, but more like Mazzy Star (and the last two songs were absolutely beautiful). Nice lowkey EP, in slow ambient shoegazing style
  2. Various low-cost eps from Mitimitis: (Soundcloud) Abrilar, Terror en el autocine, Monos en la costa, videoclub, campos de amberries por siempre.
  3. Just (We are not Just Human Beings) by Intimate Stranger. About half these tracks already appeared in their compilation album,
  4. GBS Fest by Gugun Blues Shelter. 3.49 for 37 minutes. (Youtube) Nice mainstream Indonesian blues rock.
  5. Bosque Sagrado by Felics. 3.99 for 34 minutes.
  6. 3 albums by Elso Tumbay: s/t (1997) and Nino Planta, and Arbolica, Each is 3.99 for 45 minutes.
  7. Gorgeous George by Edwyn Collins. 55 minutes, 5.99 Scottish songwriter famous in the 1980s and 1990s.
  8. A Flower White EP by Susumu Yokota. 99 cents for 21 minutes.
  9. Hotel Valentine By Cibo Matto. 4.99 for 37 minutes.
  10. s/t by Omni. 5.99 for 42 minutes. 80s Polish electro, very Vangelis/Stranger Things.
  11. Electric Love by 70sOC (70s Orgasmic Club). Indonesian funk band. Also, Supersonicloveisticated 1.99 , 21 minutes.
  12. Golden Hits by Adriano Celentano. 97 minutes, 44 tracks. 3.99
  13. ZYX Italo Disco Collection 2, Various, 6.49. 210 minutes. Call me crazy, but I just love that 80s Euro-disco sound. It’s oddly soothing.
  14. More ESP-Disk Experimental Jazz (unbeatable prices!) New York Eye and Ear Control by Albert Ayler, Town Hall 1962 by Ornette Coleman, On tour by Burton Green Trio, 99 cents, 46 minutes, s/t, Noah Howard Quartet, 99 cents, 29 minutes, Pharoah’s First by Pharoah Sanders, In Search of Mystery by Gato Barbieri, Two by saxophonist Sonny Simmons: Music from the Spheres, Staying on the Watch, Forest and the Zoo by Steve Lacy, Your Prayer by Frank Wright,
  15. African Prayers by Amine Mesnaoui & Labelle (bc), 2.99, Moroccan piano compositions, with all sorts of percussive accompaniment.
  16. Gondrong Kribo Bersaudara by Gribs. Indonesian glam rock. Conventional and predictable, but still a nice listen.
  17. Saz Ile Modern Oyun Havaları by Kadir Seker. 3.99, 56 minutes. Intense and fast-paced Turkish instrumentals which sound like bellydance music a little.
  18. Young and Old by Tennis, 4.49 for 33 minutes. 2012 album Early album by Denver pop duo and husband and wife (and still going strong). Crap, looks like their albums are already on freegal.
  19. Various

Bandcamp Purchases

  1. Begin

Youtubey Things

SANREMO ROCK AND ROLL SPECIAL: Adriano Celentano shows off his dance moves in this classic rock and roll song from 1961.

Recently I’ve grown sentimental about some musical pieces for children written by Carl Orff for pedagogical purposes. My high school girlfriend Susan Engelhardt gave me two classical music cassettes for my birthday: Haydyn‘s Mass in the Time of War (an extraordinarily beautiful piece) and Orff’s Musik für Kinder (which included the lovely Gassenhauer). I was probably a senior in high school and knew Carmina Burina very well (maybe I even had a cassette of it), but the Orff music for children caught me off-guard. It was so inventive and unconventional and yet sophisticated. I didn’t learn until later that these pieces were invented mainly for pedagogical reasons. No matter! (Gassenhauer is the first piece on the youtube clip, and it is justly famous). There’s a great note on the youtube vid:

it should be mentioned that the ‘Street Song’ album was pretty much entirely arranged/composed by Gunild Keetman, not Orff, including ‘Gassenhauer’,the sole exception being the collaboration ‘Unsquare Dance’. The credits on the 6 CD release ‘Musica Poetica’ by RCA/BMG from 1994 confirm this-she was the percussion/instrumental genius while Orff’s contributions tended to lean more towards vocal/choral works. Unfortunately Keetman rarely gets the credit she deserves-for example her name has been airbrushed from the original album cover shown in this video and on some releases, not mentioned at all.

The Haydn mass in the time of war was not as lugubrious as I expected it to be. It was a simple classical mass — more Bach than Beethoven, but the last part, the Agnus Dei has a nice adagio which ends with a dirge-like trumpet and drums. Actually though the last dona nobis pacem ends quickly on a simple and glorious note. (Here’s a great Neville Marriner version).

Freegal and Library CDs


Reviews (Rateyourmusic/Personal Reviews, etc)

See also my rateyourmusic profile and my review spreadsheet.in Google Docs.

Podcasty Things



Robert’s Roundup #32 (July 2022)

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Abbreviations: KU means Kindle Unlimited, LE means that lending of this Kindle title is allowed, and APUB means it was published under an Amazon imprint.NYP means “Name Your Price” (that’s an option on Smashwords and other booksellers). If you’d like to submit an ebook to me for review or mention in this column, see my instructions here.

By the way, Minor Sketches and Reveries is free for the month of July everywhere.

LITERARY TIP: If you’re looking up a book or author, try searching Youtube for the author’s name. You’d be surprised at how many video clips will turn up for even the most obscure writers (except for me, ha, ha; the only search results are for Robert Nagle the real estate lawyer or Robert Nagle the trumpet player). But I’ll be posting more book-related stuff on Youtube over the next few years.

Smashwords July Ebook Sale

The whole month of July Smashwords will be featuring discounted ebooks. It’s somewhat hard to find the good stuff, but I’ve got you covered.

Here are the most interesting presses I’ve seen so far on Smashwords: Unsolicited Press | Fomite Press | Whitepoint Press | OpenBooks (interesting but overpriced?), Bold Venture Press (republishes classic, pulp and genre fiction | Lethe Press |  Hamilton Stone, a NJ based press which publishes a lot of poetry and literary fiction | ReAnimus Press (established scifi press which republishes lots of things) | LDB Press | Black Opal Books | Propertius Press (too expensive though) | Atthis Arts | Leaf Garden Press (mainly poetry — see here). Also I would be remiss if I didn’t link to my own Personville Press titles — great stuff — all discounted!

I’ve done roundups to SW titles and even made hyperlinks to them (with my affiliate codes embedded).

Overall, no big discoveries or must read authors during this SW sale, but I took a chance on a lot of indie authors — mostly from outside USA.

Discounted to 99 cents, my ebook buddy David Rothman has a global techno-thriller which I even wrote a blurb for. (Drone Child). I described it as a “A fast-paced Horatio Algerian rags-to-riches story set in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A teenage supergeek runs away to the capital city…with dreams of a better, safer life–and instead ends up working under duress for gun-worshipping racketeers… Lots of incidents and dangerous escapes.” Here’s the author website and a longish interview with rothman . Rothman is a semi-retired fellow living in Virginia, but he’s taken an interest in the social and political changes occurring in the Congo region.

David Blixt is now publishing his novels on Smashwords — a very good thing (although I bought most of them on Amazon already). He’s good at writing about Shakespeare and various historical periods. All his works are worth reading/buying, but let me recommend in particular Her Majesty’s Will and What Girls are Good for. (both selling for about a dollar).

Chloe After Dark by Elsa Joseph. 2.99 UK author about a radio host at a steamy erotic radio station.

Mapping the Shifting Paradigms of Post-Modern Society by Manu Mangattu. An excellent free anthology of literary criticism about postmodernism.

Fairleigh Parker by Timothy Provenzano. With a hard-bitten realism inspired by mid-20th century masters such as Raymond Carver and David Goodis, Fairleigh Parker captures lives at the margins of respectable society without sentimentality.

Call me strange, but I picked up 3 anthologies of the year’s best lesbian speculative fiction for 99 cents each (here, here, here). Each annual edition is edited by a different person.

A freebie novel, Faith by iToro Bassey by Malarkey books. (Author Website). Here’s a nice interview with this Nigerian-American author. Lots of YouTube clips.

Much ado about a Marriage by Luis Lott. Singapore author

House with a Blue Door by Nick Wisseman. (free) Upbeat story about a man working at a group home for mentally handicapped patients.

Witness 2017-2020 by Hilton Obenzinger (Author website) . 99 cents (Poetry). Here’s a 30 minute reading on Youtube. He’s a prolific experimental Jewish author and academic. “Hilton Obenzinger is an American original. His lost histories are acts of legerdemain and cunning–mixing truth and imagination in ways rarely see before.” –Paul Auster This poetry offers lots of ephemeral observations about COVID, Trump, current events.

Summer Stance by Lorn MacIntyre. Odd coming of age work that mixes Gaelic language and culture with a modern story.

Small Stories: Perfectly Absurd novel by Rob Roy O’Keefe. Humorous fiction .

Several sexy picaresque novels: Once in a Lifetime by Sharyl Lidzhuan Sapari. Sexy picaresque novel. Several other erotica fluff: Mount Eros and Fifi Code by Richard Lee (Interview and Author website). Letters to Jennifer Sex for Starters by Cole Change. NYP. (This last one seems to be transcripts of live readings).

Ground Under My Feet by Eva Kollisch. Memoir about growing up Jewish during the Nazi period.

Rus in Urbe by James Lawless. (Irish Poetry). Author home page. Longer interview.

Sun Still Shines on a Dog’s Ass by Alan Good NYP. I’ve read several other of Alan Good’s books. Funny, crazy, irreverent.

Vinegar Hill Blues by Wayne Clark. Interview. Montreal writer.

Various poetry ebooks by D.L. Lang. All free! Poet Loiterer, and Poet Laureate Years. Prolific Jewish poet from California. (Author website). Her youtube channel has interviews and readings. Here’s a nice written interview.

Big Book of Cowboy Poetry by Stan Paregien Sr. (Author profile). Light-hearted verse, most with a story attached to them. Professional storyteller from California.

Two sci fi series free this month: Don’t Drink the Water (time travel series, free this month) and After the Cull. By Simon Cutting (Australia)

Updating My Cloud Reader

Oh, my, I have discovered that I have accidentally forgotten to transfer many Smashwords purchases over to the Kindle Cloud. I’m talking about potentially 100+ ebooks. I’m guessing that most of them were uploaded instead to Google Play Books, but now that the Kindle supports native epub uploads, why not put it on the Kindle cloud as well?

Indie Author Spotlight


Under the Radar

Elephant of Belfast by S. Kirk Walsh. Somewhat whimsical-sounding story of a zookeeper/animal caretaker who takes care of an elephant during the German blitz of Belfast during WW2. The premise is certainly delicious. Here’s a 10 minute youtube interview. The author lives in Austin TX. Here’s the author website and links to other writing.

Geometry of Love by Jessica Levine. I’ve been tempted by this book for a long time, but finally relented when I saw that the author wrote her dissertation on Henry James and Edith Wharton. (Author web page and other writings).

Rising Up: Book One in the Tranquility Series by Tanya Ross . This book won the California Indie Author award last year.

Ten Threads by Richard R. Becker. (Author website)

Paradise: A Novel by Elena Castedo. (wiki page) 1.99 1989 National Book Award finalist and bestseller about growing up in South America. Described as “ingenious social satire” of the “arrogance, folly, injustice, and debauchery” among Spain’s privileged class

The Human Planet: How We Created the Anthropocene by Simon L. Lewis, Mark A. Maslin

Pistoleer: A novel of John Wesley Hardin by James Carlos Blake . Texas novelist Clay Reynolds raved about the writing and historical accuracy of this Texas novel.

Library Purchases/Printed books

Writing Life Stories by novelist Bill Roorbach. This how-to book on memoir writing struck me as useful. Far more interesting was that I had never heard of Roorbach, and he has written many fiction works I’d never heard of. I’ll be buying a few.

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. A fine book surveying people’s productivity techniques. I thought I already bought this one, but I found a hard copy at the library.

Giant Book of IQ Puzzles by David Bodycombe. As a kid I used to devour these puzzle books even when the puzzles themselves were ridiculously hard.

Autobiography of a Corpse (New York Review Books Classics) by Sigizmun Krzhizhanovsky. Borgesian story collection by early 20th century Ukrainian/Russian author, considered Kafkaesque. Update: Apparently several other volumes have come out, with another one due this year!

Annotated Hans Christian Andersen, edited by Maria Tatar. I totally freaked out when I saw this oversized hardback book at the library a few years ago. New translation, heavily annotated, with gorgeous illustrations, and my favorite author. Unfortunately the price even for used copies has been prohibitive. I snagged it for $10 — and with a 10$ coupon, got it for free!

Golden Days (California Fiction) by Carolyn See

A Plea for Eros: Essays by Siri Hustvedt. Adding to my collection, this book seems to be more personal than the other books by her.

Monarchy of Fear: Philosopher looks at our political crisis by Martha Nussbaum . It is such a pleasure to read anything by Nussbaum.

Several works by Bill Roorbach: Into Woods: Essays, Remedy for Love, Girl of the Lake, Life among Giants.

Silk by  Alessandro Baricco . Apparently an erotic fiction classic.

Two collections by Paul Metcalf: Paul Metcalf: Collected Works, 1956-1976 and Paul Metcalf: Collected Works, Volume III, 1987-1997 He’s an experimental writer of the Guy Davenport/William Gass ilk. Here’s a Paris Review profile and Brad Bigelow of Neglectedbooks is apparently a huge fan. (oh, and a wikipedia page)

Stories of Frank Sargeson. Well-regarded New Zealand author (I bought a collection of book reviews by him a while back). His stories haven’t really been available in the States.

Radicalism of the American Revolution by Gordon Wood. I’ve heard great things about this tome, and I had been waiting for its price to fall.

Disordered Mind: What Unusual Brains Tell Us About Ourselves by Eric Kandel.

Creative Commons/Freebies

(To do: mention my PG edits!)

I rarely purchase ebooks for over $5, but I made an exception for a book I once downloaded for free but cannot find — Machine of Death, which sells DRM-free on Gumroad for 5.99 . Honestly I didn’t finish the anthology yet — and I listened to some of the stories on audio (audiobook on sale here) but the premise is delicious, and the ebook is beautifully illustrated.

Here’s the delicious book description:

The machine had been invented a few years ago: a machine that could tell, from just a sample of your blood, how you were going to die. No dates, no details. Just a slip of paper with a few words spelling out your ultimate fate — at once all-too specific and maddeningly vague.

A top ten Amazon Customer Favorite in Science Fiction & Fantasy for 2010, Machine of Death is an anthology of original stories bound together by a central premise. From the humorous to the adventurous to the mind-bending to the touching, the writers explore what the world would be like if a blood test could predict your death.

But don’t think for a moment this is a book entirely composed of stories about people meeting their ironic dooms. There is some of that, of course. But more than that, this is a genre-hopping collection of tales about people who have learned more about themselves then perhaps they should have, and how that knowledge affects their relationships, their perception of the world, and how they feel about themselves.

I actually thought of the book when trying to come up with ebooks that my 15 year old niece would actually want to read (she dislikes reading but is into art stuff). I look forward to reading the rest of the stories very soon. By the way, I noticed that Ryan North of Dinosaur comic is a contributor as well as editor.

Literary Articles and Essays

Jessica Levine on whether it’s necessary to write fiction with sex. In her book Geometry of Love, she came close to excising the sex scenes out of embarrassment, but had to be coaxed by her editor to leave them in. Writing about sex can be revealing (she concludes): valuable tool for charting human experience and experimenting with the ways in which language can record it. Her examples of sex in literature definitely have a lot of sexual predation (Tess, Tropic of Cancer, Native Son, Kite Runner, etc) but probably by now female authors have changed that.

From that same Read her like an Open Book website, here’s a collection of interviews with female authors. I personally love reading interviews with lesser known authors (though most of these have been published through major presses). Here’s a general index of authors. Here’s a nice annotated list of 10 novels by women for the men in your life.

Tom Perotta tells all about his new Tracy Flick book.

3 listicles about erotic fiction: Cosmopolitan, Happymag, rumpus, Marie Claire, Esquire. The last one has more male authors on the list.

Here’s a nice preface to Carlos Bulosan’s America is in the Heart.” Fun fact: This important 1940s Asian-American novel is in the public domain but apparently Amazon sells it for 2.99. Yuck.



Egad! 2 months after buying 5 used copies of bks by Siri Hustvedt at bargain prices ($3-6), her publisher finally discounted her back catalog to more reasonable prices. I REALLY try to buy books in a way that supports the author, but when ebook prices are high, everyone loses!

Capsule Book Reviews


Book Roar Review

Author’s website and youtube vid of reading her poetry.

Here are some small quirky personal poems about mundane things and the natural world. Metaphysical in subject matter (and gosh, a lot of fleshy corpses!), most of the poems are casual, light-hearted and conversational. There is not a lot of specificity to a time or place — aside from an occasional mythological reference and unexpected phrases (iPad, the “Pamela Anderson of matter” etc.) I like how sometimes the poem starts out normally and then takes a jarring turn or twist — often through a rude or offcolor remark. Although these poems seem both free-spirited and free-versed, some of the poems use diction, rhythm and witty word repetition very well (Atrophy, Devilry of Spastic Colon, Wasp Waist, Live Wire, Earth Wire) and skillfully hyperbole (Crater). Generally these poems are accessible and flow well, though there are several images and phrases I haven’t quite figured out — (“existence detaches twice or thrice?” — there’s profundity here, but I’m still scratching my head….) Quite a few poems operate at several layers, and I really enjoy the widening (or narrowing) of perspective by the time you reach the poem’s end.

Some of the poems contemplate random objects — the bath bomb, a shed, a wasp which is bopped dead by a poetry journal, knives in the sink, an appliance inspection sticker, a bike helmet, bugs in coke cans. These poems are a lot of fun — and I bet they are great when recited aloud before others. Be warned that there’s a fair amount of self-aware/self-referential poems about poetry and the poet (Mellifluous Inclinations, Bland Tasteless Junk)– fortunately not enough to spoil the reader’s appetite (also, they are finely done).

Sometimes a remark at the end of a poem can undermine the poem as a whole. In Perception of Truth, the poem crafts some beautiful imagery as a series of WHAT IFS — only to finish by saying “What does it really matter? Why do we even care?” I don’t know; it seems inappropriate to close a poem in such a glib but banal way. Other poems like A LEAF AT A TIME or BLACK MOTH FLUTTERING contemplate the natural world and finish more serenely.

One complaint about formatting. I read the ebook and it does not have a table of contents — a publisher’s mistake. The publisher should have included a Logical Table of Contents for the Kindle edition. As a result, it is impossible to browse through poems by title — maybe that was done on purpose to hide the titles?

Overall, it’s a fun collection of easy-to-read, mostly metaphysical poems, with my favorite being LIVE WIRE, EARTH WIRE

Multimedia/Podcasts, Etc

I just finished editing a video interview with author Harvey Havel. Hey, it’s the first video interview I’ve ever done (Still getting the hang of it). I plan to make some vids of myself soon.

I’ve noticed that Hugo House has a video channel with long vids by some of its visiting authors. I see Bob Shacochis, Antonya Nelson, Steve Almond, Charles Baxter, Charles Johnson, Kelly Link , Pam Houston, Andre Dubus and other names I don’t know.

Personville Press Deals


RJ’s Geeky Explorations 2022 June-July

See also:  Previous and Next (View all)

Horray! I now have another monthly category of microposts for Geekstuff to fill with content. To make it easier on myself, it will cover 2 months instead of 1.

I have skipped doing this for several months now. I have been overwhelmed. I always find geeky stuff, but I never have time to make note of them — and then I end up forgetting about them.

Jenkins Comic on Unit Tests.

Ended up buying another Bluetooth speaker because my other one only works for 10 minutes! I ended up buying a JBL Flip 6 for $99 (Here’s a review and another and a review video). Several notable features: USB-C port, waterproof, extra tweeter, rubber feet, 8 hours use, equalizer configurable through a mobile app, 20 watts,

Here’s a variety of methods for converting webp format to a png format. (Apparently, you can use a Chrome extension.

I’m really intrigued by open source static site generators (SSG). Here’s HUGO. Sounds good — I guess, but the deployment details sound complicated; you can rsync via conventional webhosting, but most of the instructions are for cloud-based providers and github. Hey, am I being too old-skool by using conventional web hosting? Gotta investigate that. Update: I still want to try it out once, but the templating code looks a bit too hairy and not very human readable. Most of all, I want the resulting output code to be easy to decipher.

Some other reviews of SSGs and also here

What is jamstack (like the “LAMP” stack of previous decades).

Trouble with mice!: I can’t understand it. A few weeks ago I was working away from home and my mouse became unusable. I finally bought a wireless mouse, which is good (I guess) but it doesn’t register the click immediately especially on chrome. Why must everything be so difficult?

Let me gripe about Google Sites. I made a website for a friend 8 years ago and used Google Sites (against my better judgment) to build the website. Google Sites has a wysiwig tool and several templates that are ok, but not particularly great. The main benefit of using it was to make it easier for the site owner (a nontechnical person) to make edits.

8 years later, I am asked to edit the site again. Normally, that’s no problem, right? Except that Google Sites changed its website management software (in a major way) and automatically migrated the old sites to the new system.


Social Media Dump June 2022

See also:  May 2022 and Next (View all)

Been late about putting up this monthly pages. I read and discover all kinds of interesting things, but if I never get around to putting up the #$#$ page, I never include them here.

Kate Beckinsale has a thing for Pantomime horses.

NEW WORD: “STROAD” — “It is a street that is designed like a road, and in doing so, it fails at being good at either one. (This 18 minute is a must-watch vid with examples from many cities around the world — including Houston where I live).

See also this amazing anecdote about his visit to Houston and having lots of difficulty just walking 800 meters in North Houston (It starts at 4:13 minute mark). Honestly, this example is just like thousands of places in Houston. Uggh, we Houstonians have to put up with a lot!

Alas, I live in a Republican-leaning district where my congressional rep Troy Nehls hangs out with a lot of GOP crazies and still offers effusive praise for Trump. The irony is that the district is not that conservative (Trump won 50% of the vote here), but thanks to gerrymandering, it is considered a “safe GOP seat.” So I will have to live with Nehls for a fairly long time.

This video about using AI to generate images from text-descriptions really blew my mind. The technology probably is still in its infancy, but it raises a lot of questions. Some of the vid’s commenters pointed to possible uses in music vids, games, literature. Here’s an update discussion about the implication for art and artists.

FUNNY SPELLING BEE CONTEST: Every year Jimmy Kimmel invites the national champion spellers to see if they can spell better than the talk show host. (Here are the 2016 winners). I laughed my head off while watching this. The real 2022 national spelling bee — which I watched earlier tonight was really exciting to watch…. Two other episodes here and here.

Fun compilation of special effect tricks from movies.

Here’s a delightful 18 minute interview with the man who inspired the DiCaprio/Hanks movie, CATCH ME IF YOU CAN. Abagnale has written a memoir and several books about protecting yourself from scammers. Also, he gave a longer version of the speech at Google in 2017.

My first FB post was June 26, 2007. It said simply, “I’m too old for Facebook.” 15 years later, I wonder if anything has changed….

Here’s an incredibly useful guide to new gender identity terms (but were too embarrassed to ask about).

Movie Stuff: Terry Rossio on the importance of having a killer movie title. Wow, he has a lot more fun columns about writing screenplays.

Thread about great rules for screenplay writers.

Why google search is dying. Hey, I already wrote a post about this. Apparently a lot of people are going to google and typing the search term and appending the word “reddit” to it.

Dan Harmon’s story circle for writing scripts. Here’s a longer explanation.

I was going to post an interesting article here; then, I realized only a fraction of my friends would find it interesting (and an even smaller fraction would actually notice it). For everyone else, it would seem dull, irrelevant, distracting. So instead of posting this link, I shall merely note the omission, make an oblique reference to Wittgenstein and point out the difficulty of escaping one’s inner rationalizations. You’re welcome.

“There’s something about a problem being unprecedented in human history that makes applying legal precedent to it seem absolutely clownish.” (TWEET BY CLIMATE CHANGE PODCASTER
AMY WESTERVELT ON TODAY”S SUPREME COURT DECISION BLOCKING EPA”S REGULATION OF COAL POWER PLANTS). Here’s a transcript of her recent podcast about the West Virginia vs. EPA case.


Music Discoveries June 2022 #18

See also: May 2022 and July 2022 (View all)

Hey, I’m still catching up here. Strangely I’ve been checking out lots of music CDs from libraries.

Articles and Interviews


Emusic Purchases

I have a lot of emusic credit to burn; I’m going to buy a lot of Polish jazz on the GAD music label (bandcamp), get a lot of Turkish stuff and some old compilations. I might surf through some Iranian music on Yaletown Technologies and Opus music label from Serbia/Yugoslavia. Update: Here are links to several interesting emusic labels.

  1. Doble Exposition by Capricornio Uno. $4.
  2. Arriba Excursionistas! by Biodramina Mood. 99 cents.
  3. 40 Hits 1946-1949 by Bourvil. He’s a French comic actor and singer and this seems to be his earlier stuff.
  4. Live in Prague 1964 by Krzysztof Komeda Quintet. 5.99 historic and famous recording by Poland’s most famous jazz composer. (I’m a big fan of the Komeda pop band who were inspired by his music).
  5. Live at Cafe Montmartre 1966 Vol 3 by Don Cherry. 49 cents for 50 minutes.
  6. Kochaj albo rzuć by Andrzej Korzyński
  7. s/t by Phia. 6.49 for 42 minutes. Australian DIY. 6.49
  8. Compilation: Ze szpulowca bigbitowca 2 (1964-70 Polish Beat from Radio Vaults). 6.49
  9. Detik Waktu : Perjalanan Karya Cipta Candra Darusman. (compilation). This song collection won 2018 Best Album in Indonesia. Candra Darusman writes mellow jazz and upbeat pop (in the vein of Barry Manilow or Elton John). This album includes performances by various other singers and duets. All are lovely. Don’t miss the compilation sequel Detik Waktu #2 : Perjalanan Karya Cipta Candra Darusman. (4.99)
  10. Skilfulness by Alan Silva. 49 cents for 37 minutes. Wiki article on the album: “For all the hippy fantasies of rock and the space operas emerging on the fringes of jazz, nothing of the time quite captures its spirit – ethereal but grounded in sophisticated intelligence and high technical skill – quite as well.” From the ESP-Disk label.
  11. Various albums by jazz saxophonist Frank Wright: Your Prayer, Unity
  12. Burton Greene Trio: On Tour. 99 cents. I was a big fan of the Burton Greene Quartet which was furious and fast-paced avante garde jazz, but still fun and listenable. This one is less interesting but also cheap.
  13. Ebikokyo by Faizal Mostrixx and Suzan Kerunen featuring Aloysius Migadde. 99 cents, 23 minutes. Nice dance music from Uganda.
  14. Tangawizi by Ondi. 99 cents, 22 minutes Here’s an interview.
  15. Imperial Blue OST, David Bryceland and others. 5.99, 55 minutes. Strangely and annoyingly, they put bits of film dialogue at start of some tracks, but it doesn’t distract too much.
  16. Listen All Around: The Golden Age of Central and East African Music, Compiled by Hugh Tracey. 131 minutes, 7.50 Another Dust 2 Digital megacollection of field recordings from the 1960s. Reviewed here.

Bandcamp Purchases

  1. Begin

Youtubey Things

I’m going to try not to embed youtube videos in these posts — pretty much the URLs go bad after a while. I still will link to them. I just love this song by Moldovan Eurovision contestants Zdob şi Zdub & Advahov Brothers – Trenuleţul – Moldova

When Stefania won Eurovision, I knew that there was a “sympathy vote” supporting the Ukrainian entry, but later, they remade the video for the song which captured the literal meaning of the song — affection for the mother, metaphorical comparisons with the “motherland.” A later video uses the backdrop of war and buildings destroyed by Russian fire to bring the point home more dramatically. Manipulative, yes, but effective. If I were to do it indifferently, I would include pictures of the war dead; I come across them all the time (graduating from college, smiling at the beach, etc). The whole is such a profound waste of life.

Here’s a great song by Kristin Chenoweth which won her first Tony. I just love this song!

As crazy as it sounds, somebody surreptitiously taped a full 1999 performance of You’re A good man, Charlie Brown — apparently from a cell phone although I can’t imagine that watching it would be a pleasant experience — although I’m grateful to have it. That makes me think. I’m sure big Broadway productions must have videotaped their live performances at least once — maybe not for sale, but certainly for archiving. I’m really surprised that more of these tapes haven’t been converted to DVD or made available on streaming services. By the way, the live taping of the original production of Come From Away is available on Apple TV+. God that was one of the best things I’ve ever seen!

Here’s a great early Boz Scaggs bluesy number with a rare Duane Allman recording (a 13 minute recording!).

Here’s a CBS profile and interview of A.J. Croce, the son of Jim Croce.

Post Roe vs. Wade, I recalled a lyric from this Digable Planet song . Actually, there’s another song on that same brilliant album that speaks about the metaphor of abortion.

Just try — TRY — to listen to the Caldonia song (by Louis Jordan) without snapping your fingers or tapping your feet. You can’t do it! This comes from my ultimate playlist of Broadway songs.

RUSSIAN WAR PROTEST SONG — WOW! Little Big has been famous for their stylistically subversive songs & music videos. Up to now these songs have been (mostly) devoid of political overtones. Here is their first song since the war started, and it tackles the political subject directly. Singers have always sung songs with subtle political messages (even during Soviet times), but this song is not subtle at all — and strangely, the lyrics are entirely in English! (Then again, their visuals transcend language).

The interesting thing is that the outrageous campy style and violence are perfectly normal in any hard rock music video — it’s not even that outrageous — and yet its messages cut very deep — never before have the stakes been so urgent.

Also The Russian Eurovision singer Manizha performed a very beautiful choreographed anti-war song in middle of March. (also in English, but with Russian subtitles). One wonders whether watching a music video will eliminate political indifference or simply express messages for the people who follow political events more careful.

Freegal and Library CDs

  1. Songs by Kiki Dee. Wow, I didn’t know she was that popular before she sang Don’t Go Breaking My heart with Elton John. Her big song was, I’ve Got the Music in Me.
  2. Various tracks by Wilson Pickett. You probably already know that Wilson Pickett’s Hey Jude (with Duane Allman on the guitar) is much better than the Beatles’ version (!). His other tracks are pretty wicked, though more in the soul category than bluesy rock.

Reviews (Rateyourmusic/Personal Reviews, etc)

See also my rateyourmusic profile and my review spreadsheet.in Google Docs.

Podcasty Things



Emusic Labels

Saved Search Queries by Date

(Assume that all queries include the terms “FULL ALBUMS” and “4 1/2 stars” (meaning 4 1/2 stars and above)

By Style of Music (All Dates): Latin, Bossa Nova, Celtic, Americana, Acoustic, Progrock, Hard-Rock, Soundtrack ;

New This Year (All Genres) || 1980s, 1970s and 1960s

2020s: Metal, Regga/Dub Ska, Classical, Hiphop, Ambient/Instrumental, Blues, Electronic, World

1990-9: World, Pop, rock, Regga/Dub/Ska, Classical, Hiphop, Ambient, Blues, Electronica, Country, Soul-Funk

2000-2009 albums

2000-9: World, Metal, Regga/Dub/Ska, Classical, Hiphop, Ambient, Blues, Electronica, Country

2000 Jazz, Pop, Country, Rock, Electronic

2001 Jazz, Pop, Rock, Electronic

2002 Jazz, Pop, Rock, Electronic

2003 Jazz, Pop, Rock, Electronic

2004 Jazz, Pop, Rock, Electronic

2005 Jazz, Pop, Rock, Electronic

2006 Jazz, Pop, Rock, Electronic

2007 Jazz, Pop, Country, Rock, Electronic

2008 Jazz, Pop, Country, Rock, Electronic

2009 + Jazz , 2009+Pop, Country, Rock, Experimental, Electronic, World


2010s: World , Metal, Reggae/Dub/Ska, Classical , HipHop, Ambient/Instrumental, Blues , Electronic,

2010: Jazz, Pop, Country, Rock, Experimental, Electronic, World

2011: Jazz, Pop, Country, Rock, Experimental, , World

2012: Jazz, Pop, Country, Rock, Electronic,

2013: Jazz, Pop, Country, Rock,

2014: Jazz, Pop, Country, Rock ,

Interesting Emusic Labels + Bandcamp or Catalog pages

Here’s an abbreviated list of emusic labels — which is hard to keep in my head. I’m using as my reference omnifoo’s comprehensive annotated list of labels. I’m just adding links to emusic and bandcamp and maybe other resources.



  • Audio Cave (Bc) A profusion of trios and quintets from the last few years shows promise, and I’d be happy to own most of it. MN jazz more than occasionally looks Polish in 115 at usually quite low prices. Updating in 2020 and with a few from the 1990s, one might say they’re an exceptional steal. Far better than the big jazz donors in the wine caves. I picked up Silberman Quartet in part for it being among the least jazzy.
  • || Gad Records (bc) (album summaries)
  • Serpent Records (bc) Almost 200 titles ranging from classical, jazz, folk, and Krautrock. Might be worth spending a long time exploring, as many are inexpensive. Very low-key and abstract as a whole, sometimes a little off kilter..
  • Karrot Kommando. (Youtube albums)  Polish pop, rock, jazz, reggae, and you name it.

TurkeyTurkuola (bc) ; Turkofon GmbH (bc)

Portugal: Lux Records (bc) Irreverent blues from Legendary Tiger Man, then lots of alt. rock in 38 titles from the end of the 20th century up to 2020. Occasionally in Portuguese. More than I expected stands up to scrutiny. There’s a lot of character(s) here you should introduce yourself to.

Black Hole Recordings: (Netherlands) Bigger names in electronica like BT and Tiesto veering towards house and trance. 851 to choose from, if you can differentiate. (Artist Page / Wiki page

United Kingdom

  • Selectonic (bc) UK
  • Trunk Records (bc) UK (label releases). A whole lot of vintage stuff to sort through, rockabilly and int’l combined confusingly with stuff that’d be a great find on cheap, old vinyl. 293 titles that often find themselves on the bestsellers list for big names in jazz.
  • Ghost Box (bc). Ambient, electronic. (Artist page and Wiki page) Early tests of this well regarded electronic label show promise, but it’s too soon for me to get on the bandwagon. Several users have expressed concerns about it leaving. I’d be sad but definitely survive. 58 titles almost all rated.
  • Earache Records (Artist Catalog and Wiki page) Finding this seminal metal label so recently makes me worry that I’ve missed a lot of labels in genres I don’t listen to at all. In 433 albums, I’d be surprised if nothing was worthwhile, even for me.
  • Lo Recordings (bandcamp) (Wiki article listing artists) Lots of good electronic stuff, especially when artists whose releases overlap mean labels that have disappeared are still available for a few albums. 168 titles
  • Damaged Good Records. (Label Artist catalog and wiki). Gotten into Holly Golightly lately, on a friend’s suggestion. Lots of other stuff is rated for easy exploration if you want to revive the dirty rock and blues sounds of old but want something from 2020. Large selection of 214 here can add 59 more by adding “Records” to the name.
  • Memphis Industries. (Bandcamp) List of artists. The folks responsible for Self have a real knack for production without letting anything sound overproduced. I believe some past releases were also called “Spongebath” Records and were less reliably nifty. 80 titles.


  • Pschent (Soundcloud) . French synth pop, house, and disco, deliberately cheesy and smarmy. Just over 50 titles ending in 2011, then add “Music” for a whopping 147 more, with many highly rated. Add Stéphanie Cadel et La Caravane for a few more.

Latin/South America

  • Beast Discos Artist Catalog (Chile)  Rock en espanol and probably some worthwhile stuff among 170 (now 180) titles up to 2019. Pop someone w/ taste might call “tasteful.” 244 in Jan.’22 (RJN: I really love this label!)
  • Oveja Negra (Black Sheep). (Chile). Now defunct.
  • Jabalina. (bc) Large selection of understated Latin pop, apparently going strong for 25 years and updating in 2019. Spanish label.
  • Disco Fuentes here and here Wiki article
  • Naafi (bc) Mexico. 33 electronic titles from 2017-21 only discovered in Sept.’21 in a farewell post from eMusers. Short but also inexpensive albums, quality is decidedly a cut above most electronica thanks to worldly elements.
  • Gorgon Records. (RYM Catalog(Jamaica) Reputable, classic dub.
  • Hueso Records . (Brooklyn/chile) Release old albums, working with multimedia artists.
  • DIW (Devil in the Woods (bandcamp). Artists’ list. Mexico. Many albums w/ tracks on the longer side suggest unlabeled post-rock en español
  • Escapula Records (Label catalog) Brazil.
  • CVRA LVDORVM (some on Bandcamp). (Some Youtube playlists). Ecuador.
  • Halcon, Limited label containing mostly 70s Norteno/Tejano music. Classic salsa and mariachi of the 1970s with contemporary examples. RJN: Rare stuff, but sadly overpriced on emusic.


  • Demajors. (Indonesian label, mostly jazz ) full album streams on youtube ,(Artist List) and Wikipedia page in Indonesian I am pleasantly surprised by almost everything I find here.
  • Le Moesiek Revole, (Youtube).
  • Wing Hang Record Trading Co. Trove of late 20th century and early 21st century Chinese titles, 118 in total, ending in 2012 but extending well into the 1970s, mostly from the 70s to the 90s. The label name sounds like it’s Cantopop, as does the album art, but the song titles have been entered in Mandarin
  • KWAIOTO Other labels are pretenders. Japan. These dubstep EPs coming out of Kyoto are the real deal. Up to 2019. [[RJN: Lots of single tracks mixed in]]



East Africa Records (bandcamp). Uganda. A lot more singles than albums (List of Artists)


J.D.L. Pre-WW2 European compilations. Overpriced, but definitely rare and listenable.

Masters of the Last Century: Compilation of Random US pop/jazz stars. Some interesting stars here, but overall they are not a particularly good deal for the money (usually 65-80 minutes for 6.49)

Independent (?!) Omnifoo surmises that the 10,000+ releases with this “label” were lumped together because the label field was never filled in. You can’t really sort by release date because about 95% of recent releases are singles only.

JSC-Firma-Melodiya — Obscure Russian classical label with lots of composers I’d never heard of.


Robert’s Roundup #31 (June, 2022)

View Previous Roundup and Next Roundup (View All)

Abbreviations: KU means Kindle Unlimited, LE means that lending of this Kindle title is allowed, and APUB means it was published under an Amazon imprint.NYP means “Name Your Price” (that’s an option on Smashwords and other booksellers). If you’d like to submit an ebook to me for review or mention in this column, see my instructions here.

I just wanted to follow up on last month’s purchase of my big ass floor lamp. That — along with better floor glasses has made it easier for me to read. Much as I like to read, I have to do a ton of it for professional reasons. Some of it can be fun, but mostly it feels like work. Anything which helps me with reading is a win. I personally prefer reading ebooks — especially because it’s easy to annotate and save my place, but occasionally it is nice to read a real book for a change.

After the tremendous amount of ebook purchases between Jan and April, I settled down in May a bit and June should be rather tame. But maybe I’ll do more actual blogging. Six days later: I bought a ton of books during the intervening time! Ha, ha!

I’ve started reading Iris Murdoch‘s The Sea, The Sea, which I’ve always wanted to read!

Indie Author Spotlight


Under the Radar

Jesse Ball (wiki page) is an experimental writer from NY who has been compared to Kafka, Borges, Calvino. Got his MFA from Columbia and studied with Richard Howard (he has published several poetry volumes as well). He’s prolific and publishing through major publishers, so who knows where the quality stuff is. But I bought the cheapskate novella, The Lesson (99 cents) and and early story collection called Village on Horseback (2.99) which contains a piece published in Paris Review and won a prize.

Schopenhauer Cure by Irvin Yalom. (Author website). Yalom is a philosopher/psychotherapist who has written lots of nonfiction and fiction books. In 2009, he published this book about a therapy group who use Schopenhauer’s ideas in trying to heal/improve. The first chapter I read was great, and Yalom has written several subsequent books with the names of famous philosophers in the title (not a bad gimmick, I admit).

On Looking: Essays by Lia Purpura. 1.99 (Author bio and interviews). Purpura is a poet and critic Oops, a lot of these links don’t work, but she has a lot of interviews on Youtube. (2022, 2021, 2016, and another 2016)

Balladeer: Coming of Age Drama by Fred Calvert. (author website) 99 cents. Young boy accidentally causes his brother’s death; the novel is about how it affects his growing up. First novel by an extremely accomplished animation artist, screenplay writer and TV writer.

Redundancy of Tautology: 80 acerbic poems by Leilanie Stewart (author website and blog). Reviewing for Bookroar. She’s a Belfast-based poet and author who edits Bindweed Magazine — whose issues are also published on Amazon.

Luminaries by Eleanor Catton . Longish Booker prize-winning historical novel about New Zealand.

Alejandro’s Lie by Bob Van Laerhoven (author home page). Free on Smashwords. Political novel taking place in South America in the 1980s. From Booklife: There is a poetic quality in Bob Van Laerhoven’s prose that makes the story sing, and its romantic angle reminds me of Love in the Time of Cholera. As for the turbulent backdrop of a system that corrodes the nation, what started out as detention and torture for Alejandro has expanded into a moral dilemma that largely affects not only him but also those people who have faith in him.

I like digging through the archives of book reviewers. Lately I’ve been looking through Baskerville Book Reviews. This reviewer reviews lots of fantasy, thrillers and sci fi, but there’s a variety of genres. Here are some things that struck me:

  • Born of Air (The Valdir Chronicles Book 1) by RA Lewis. All the books start with “Born of”
  • Two books by Brian Freeman: Ursulina and Deep Deep Snow. Mystery/thriller (she recommended especially the audiobook).
  • Kitsune: A Little Mermaid Retelling (Tales of Akatsuki Book 1) by Nicolette Andrews. This series consists of retelling of several famous tales, but in a Japanese context.
  • Brilliant White Peaks by Teng Rong. In the good style of Watership Down, this novel depicts a life of a wolf.
  • Chloe After Dark by Elsa Joseph. Steamy thriller book, btw, the audiobook reader Aisling Bea is a well-known Irish actress.
  • Minion: Vampire Huntress Legend Book 1 by L.A. Banks. (First in a Series).

Evidence of Things Unseen by Marianne Wiggins. (Wiki page) “The dawn of the atomic age is seen through the eyes of Fos, an amateur chemist in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, and Opal, a glassblower’s daughter.” 1.99 Wiggins claim to fame is being married to Salman Rushdie when Iranian crazies were trying to assassinate him. Eventually they separated, and she’s gone onto a successful writing career. I read some of her stories from Herself in Love and read the 1989 John Dollar, which was interesting.

Agamemnon’s Daughter: Novella and Stories by Ismail Kadare. Well-reviewed shorter pieces by Kadare.

Otherlands: A Journey Through Earth’s Extinct Worlds by Thomas Halliday. (Author Website) Big sciencey book about extinct animals. Covers some of the same ground as Elizabeth Kolbert‘s Sixth Extinction,but hey, Kolbert and McKibben wrote blurbs, so I’m going for it! (It’s a heavy ebook weighing 25 MB)

Cabinet by Un-su Kim. Well-regarded Korean novel about an office worker who discovers a cabinet with magical qualities.

American Science Fiction: Four Classic Novels 1960-1966 (LOA #321). This special Library of America edition novellas by Poul Anderson, Clifford D. Simak, Daniel Keyes and Roger Zelasny. All for 1.99 via a bookbub deal. There is a later volume titled American Science Fiction: Four Classic Novels 1968-1969 (LOA #322) (not discounted yet, but just you wait.

Library Purchases/Printed books

Siri Hustvedt: Living, Thinking, Looking : Essays and Sorrows of an American (fiction) . Sorrows got well-received. Here’s a 2013 video of her at an Adelaide conference with my former teacher J.M. Coetzee (and part 2.

Several books by James Morrow (Home Page) Last Witchfinder, Philosopher’s Apprentice, Galápagos Regained. Can’t wait to read them.

Case of Comrade Tulayev by Victor Serge (Wiki page). Russian Marxist-anarchist critical of Stalin who wrote novels about Stalinist purges. This 1962 work was later republished by NYROB with a fancy introduction by Susan Sontag. I bought the original 1962 edition in a nearby store for 90 cents — and I can download the ebook sample which contains the full Sontag essay for free!

Not where I started From by Kate Wheeler (Oklahoma-born American Buddhist novelist – wiki page) .

Several Postsecrets picture books — edited by Frank Warren: The World of PostSecret, Postsecret : Confessions on Life, Death, and God; Lifetime of Secrets : A PostSecret Book; My Secret : A PostSecret Book; PostSecret : Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives.

The postsecret books compile anonymous postcards sent to the postsecrets.com website.

Triangulum by Masande Ntshanga. (Author page on two dollar publisher site). “ambitious, often philosophical and genre-bending novel that covers a period of over 40 years in South Africa’s recent past and near future — starting from the collapse of the apartheid homeland system in the early 1990s, to the economic corrosion of the 2010s, and on to the looming, large-scale ecological disasters of the 2040s.” Here’s an 8 minute video about the book and a 1 hour zoom interview.

Street by Ann Petry. (Author wiki page). 1st bestseller by African-American woman in 1946.

Sun is Not Merciful: Short Stories by Anna Lee Walters. (Author page and wiki page). Oklahoma-based Native-American author. This collection published in the 1980s won an award.

Available Light by Ellen Curie. Humorous magic-realist novel published in the 1980s. (wiki page). Praised by J.D. Salinger of all people.

Creative Commons/Freebies


Literary Articles and Essays

Here’s a nice article about translations by Hindi translator Daisy Rockwell whose translation of Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree later won the International Booker Prize for translations. I expect that the ebook will be rushed to the US market soon.

NYT has several By the Book interviews with well-known authors where they spill their guts about favorite books and things. Michael Dirda spills his reading list for the summer. .

Interview/profile of Syrian author Samar Yazbek about writing in exile. Learned about her from an interesting zoom discussion with several East European authors and poets talking about writing during wartime. I’m still exploring these authors, so I’ll probably report on some other participants later.

From an article about new apps to help people discover book titles, I wrote this modest comment:

The best way to learn about new stuff is to sign up for newsletters of publishers and authors. The best way to learn about indie authors and publishers is to subscribe to a ebook deal newsletter like Bargain booksy or fussylibrarian. Another idea is to read Midwest Book Review which reviews everything… Social media and community sites are fine too — I like twitter and reddit — but many of the highbrow readers end up recommending the same writer or books. To summarize: rather than trusting one critic or one publisher, I recommend drinking from the firehose — you’d be amazed at how much you can learn about a book just by reading the book description and the blurbs — but especially the description. I’m not particularly impressed by blurbs or negative reviews; lots of books get negative reviews because reviewers don’t know what they’re reading or they are the wrong kind of audience for that particular book. I no longer worry about the objectivity of these reviews — who cares if they are so-and-so’s sister? I just read for information about style and themes.

Fascinating discussion of a new trend in book promotion: putting the character’s name in the book’s title.

Listicle of the 55 Most Erotic Books You will Ever Read by Shannon Carlin. Here’s another listicle and another one on bookriot (a really good list)

Two essays on publishing and elitism by Naomi Kanakia . Myth of the Classically Educated Elite and If They Want to Be Published, Literary Writers Can’t Be Honest About Money Fun fact: Kanakia graduated from the same creative writing program I did (Johns Hopkins) and has published several novels. Most amazing about her website is her index of books she’s read/blogged about.

I followed a different path to publishing — avoiding writing to market, and abandoning the futile effort to get published by a traditional publisher. Also, I never bothered with submitting stories — or rather I stopped doing it 5 years after finishing JHU; it seemed like an incredible waste of time. Also, by starting my own publishing company, I retained a lot of control, but at the cost of writing much much less than I would otherwise have done. Instead I learned more technical skills and developed more outside interests — though at heart I’m a scholar and bookworm. As a result, I started publishing much later in life although I’ve always been writing (I guess). I disappoint myself every day with my lack of writerly productivity — it used to be so easy — but the problem is not lack of inspiration or drive, but struggling with other personal commitments. On the other hand, I can still pursue certain narrow topics in excruciating depths. In my 20s and 30s reading seemed so important to do — and I guess it still is that way, but I don’t need to read the way I used to. I’d rather spend the time writing my own stuff — especially now that my time is in such short supply.

I do enjoy this artistic experience, but I confess that lack of feedback can potentially hurt me in the long run.

Annual Awards

I enjoyed surfing through the SPR reviews


The next section contains my “review” of a Clay Reynolds book. It’s more like a rushed review than anything else.

Truthfully I publish book reviews a lot less often than I should. I come across tons of books I like and recommend; often I am asked by friends to write a review of their ebooks, and I feel obligated to do so (and try to be honest and fair). I generally have no time to pause to write a review unless a book has a dearth of reviews and a book is particularly deserving. In such cases, I usually write “rushed reviews” which are superficial and generally laudatory, but also provide the bare minimum to tell readers what the book is about. Certainly books deserve better reviews than this, but I just dash these things quickly.

I love reading longish reviews and will read book review essays in New Republic and NYROB. Often though, these book review essays seem like overkill. They are written not necessarily to assess the book’s quality but to respond to the issues of the book. That certainly is a worthy goal for an essay, but it often skirts around the consumer question about whether someone should pay to read the book.

Some people can do it quickly and effortlessly. Not me. But when I do write a review, I want it to count; I want to grapple with aesthetic and ethical questions posed by the book. Yes, I’m inclined to write precisely the type of essays which I just called unnecessary.

One of my greatest literary misdeeds is that I queried the book review editor of an extremely well written online litmag called Cleaver Magazine. Cleaver Magazine is one of the best litmags in USA, and they publish great and thorough reviews (and fiction, etc). I pitched the idea of writing a review essay about my favorite discovery — a quirky translation of Confucius’s Analects. I was all set to write a deep review of this book — and maybe do some comparisons with other translations. The editor wrote me back, saying, great. I gave a date range when I would get it done.

For a while, I really wanted to get it done by that date. I read it quickly, wrote nice notes and commentary. But then some major life events happened, plus this book just became a low priority — always. I wrote the editor a month or two later, saying, don’t worry, I’m still working on it. Truthfully though, I couldn’t justify spending any time writing this review. I was so humiliated at wimping out that I didn’t even write the editor back to explain myself.

A year goes by. No one has discovered this quirky translation. It still does not have a single review on Amazon, Smashwords or anywhere else. The translator is a distinguished scholar and translator living in California somewhere. Eventually one morning, I decided just to throw together a “rushed review” of the book (and really all my blog readers should buy and read this book — it’s that good!) It took 30-45 minutes to write. But this rushed review is not genuine criticism; it’s just praise mixed with book descriptions. I’m not really saying anything except, look how incredible this book is!

I never felt comfortable in academia and never could crank out above-average criticism rapidly. Usually, when I try, the result is garbage. As it happens, I’m writing two long analytic essays about books; it’s killing me. These essays are the first (and possibly only) long essays about the topic; both of them need to be great! By contrast, these “rushed reviews” feel like off-the-cuff impressions.

Capsule Book Reviews

Here’s an Amazon review I posted for Clay ReynoldsOf Snakes & Sex & Playing in the Rain

book cover graphic

This is a great and funny and poetic collection of personal essays about all sorts of topics ranging from “macho” topics (like trout fishing, golf, baseball, etc) to pop culture (Elvis, first dates, coffee, warning labels) to personal reflections about the legacy of long lost relatives. This is the perfect gift book for the I-Know-How-To-Read-But-I’d-never-be-caught-dead-reading-Proust-or-Faulkner-or-Morrison type of reader.

Reynolds (1949-2022) is one of the most erudite authors in USA. His fiction is distinguished and very Texas-focused. This essay collection contains a little bit of that regionalism and some of that erudition (although Reynolds hides it very well here). Reynolds has written lots of literary essays and book reviews, but judging from this book, you’d never know it. These are more like personal incidental essays. I guess it’s sort of tragic that Reynolds didn’t write more in this genre; he came to the personal essay genre later in life (and didn’t have time to release more).

Don’t be fooled by the lack of reviews (blame the publisher for that!) This collection is sure to be a classic.

Multimedia/Podcasts, Etc

Hmm, I’m already linking to the podcast and youtube by the author’s entry. Maybe I can delete this section. Need time to think…

Personville Press Deals

I run Personville Press, a small literary book press where all the ebooks cost less than $4. Prices normally appear highest on Amazon, Apple, Kobo and BN, somewhat lower on Google Play Books and lower on the two DRM-free stores which are Smashwords and Payhip. Personville Press is committed to selling DRM-free ebooks and audio files directly from the Personville Press payhip store or from Smashwords


Social Media Dump May 2022

See also:  April 2022 and June 2022 (View all)

I’ve been really behind on a lot of stuff, so I’m keeping my social media in one monthly post.

FILTRATION CAMPS ARE REAL: Perhaps the most shocking thing about the Russian attacks is the least publicized: Russian armies have been capturing Ukrainian noncombatants in Western Ukraine — taking their identity papers and cellphones and deporting them out of Ukraine and deep into Russia. There are scattered media reports, but nobody knows the true number. Some Ukrainian media say that about 1.2 million Ukrainian citizens have been essentially kidnapped into these filtration camps and removed from Ukraine. It may take weeks or even months to know the true number or the true extent of the horrors from this process, but make no mistake: Russia filtration camps are real, and the Russian state bears full responsibility for this awful thing. Here’s a BBC report from April and a first hand account by a Ukrainian writer in late March.

BAD JOURNALISTS WHO WIN PULITZERS: This report retells the story of a terrible US journalist who believed Soviet misinformation about the Ukraine famines and showed pro-Stalin sympathies. This US reporter later won a Pulitzer prize! “Duranty simply toed the line because it was good for his career — excusing and rejecting the deadliness of Stalin’s rule well past any moment of possible denial.”


Music Discoveries May 2022 #17

See also: April 2022 and June 2022 (View all)

This is the month of song contests — American Song Contest and Eurovision. I’ll try to capture my thoughts. ON the day of Eurovision finals, I’ll do my once-a-year tweeting about Eurovision at this twitter account.

Here’s my twitter storm:

All psyched to watch @Eurovision from Texas, with the fun commentary by ex-Olympian ice skater
@JohnnyGWeir.. My rule for the contest is that the winner never turns out to be who you want or expect. (Last year, I rooted for Germany’s Jendrik and Lithuania’s Roop — oh well!)

As good as this year’s @Eurovision will probably be, Euro2021 was pretty amazing — the best ever. Even Russia was great, and so was … Malta!? Israel!? Iceland?! Belgium!? Even the Yaja Ding Dong Man was there.

I’m so into @Eurovision but I gotta admit, American Song Contest was also outstanding. Jordan Smith, Allen Stone, Tyler Braden, Alexa, Grant K were all the best — any one of them could probably do great in ESC as well.

Gotta admit that I love the interval acts, local talent, dance medleys and nostalgia cameos just as much as the @Eurovision itself. I still remember being gobsmocked by Onuka in 2017’s contest…..

I always knew that Italy would put on a great show this year. Their Sanremo song contest was the place to be in the 1950s and 1960s. (Frankly I didn’t belong to the Maneskin fan club, but they were great tv!)

Czech’s song was cool and danceable, though not weird enough for my tastes. Some competitors aim for mainstream appeal, others try to go for niches. I guess to be popular across Europe you can’t be too niche…

Romania, well, it was fun, but nothing special.

Portugal’s Saudade is a different kind of singing — slower, more relaxed and lowkey. I love these kinds of songs, but unfortunately it’s not often that these songs win….. @Eurovision

It’s often fun when hard rock/heavy metal songs compete — as long as there’s not too many. Finland’s Jezebel is upbeat, energetic definitely not as rowdy as other rock songs @Eurovision

Nice Boys do Cry song by Switzer…. slow, earnest song with a very pleasant peaceful finish….@Eurovision

This year’s France entry is so much more energetic and folkselectronica than last year’s wonderful VOILA. It almost sounds like the kind of thing Ukraine specializes in… @Eurovision

I like Norway’s stylish memish song, kind of like “What does the wolf say?” . It doesn’t really inspire though…

I love Armenia’s blithe spirit, the ultimate bedroom song. Kind of has an Olivia Rodrigo vibe . I just love this song!

Sorry, not getting into Italy’s song. Maybe it’s a language thing, but it didn’t really work as a melody.

Spain’s song is catchy, and the dance steps are great too. (Also great costume change too!) If you’re talking about theatrics, Spain’s song is great.

Netherland’s song is simple, uplifting, joyful. Wish I knew what she was singing about. I wouldn’t be surprised to see her win the whole thing

Ukraine’s song… I wanted to like it, but the rap vs. folk singing just seemed a little forced. Outstanding dancing though…

Germany’s confessional rock was a surprise; it’s very “unproduced” and personal, with a rap climax. Liked it, but I don’t think it willdo well.

I love Lithuania’s nightclub chanteuserie. These things rarely win, but the style and melody tends to stick in your mind long after #Eurovision is over.

Wow, Azerb has an incredible vocal climax ; the song seems a little muted though…..#Eurovision

I love Belgium’s soulful I’m going to miss you —- Noooo! (Also I really loved Hooverphonic from last year’s contest). Wow that song ended very well… High marks! #Eurovision

Greece’s song seems awfully forlorn for a #Eurovision contest. Lovely song, but it just didn’t work…..

Even though 2021 iceland group was incredible, I’m liking this dreamy country song. The song is good, but the singers are barely part of it… Maybe it’s a problem with the musical arrangements or balance…. #Eurovision

Moldova’s song is fun, zany, eclectic. I would love to see this song win the whole thing. I can’t help but snap my fingers….. This is Moldova’s best shot at taking the crown #Eurovision

Sweden’s singer is definitely a star, and the song is great, but I’m not sure this is her ideal place to shine. Kind of has a Duffy vibe (that’s the ultimate compliment in my book). #Eurovision

Astonishing vocal power of Australia’s NOT THE SAME — though it’s a little too emotional for me. #Eurovision

I always love when they recall older songs, like Laura Pausini singing Volare…..

I love UKs spaceman — definitely redeeming last year’s horrifying #Eurovision entry. Definitely a top tier performer for the year….. rock and roll with a crazy powerful voice…..

Poland’s song is just gorgeous and his singing is just amazing — a little operatic, but soaring enough for a pop song. What a beautiful song…..

Serbia’s story-based song is interesting and mysterious and certainly memorable, It’s an original concept, not the thing that goes over well in #Eurovision

Estonia’s country Johnny Cash song is pleasant, plus the singer is charming. It’s an interesting style and song, but I don’t see it going over that well in #Eurovision

Ok, top contenders: Moldova, Netherlands, Spain, Poland, Portugal, UK (ha,ha!), Romania, Armenia. I would also be happy with Ukraine, France, Belgium, lithuania,, Sweden, Australia, Switzerland,

It warms my heart to see Cinquetti singing onstage at #Eurovision again, seeing a return to its origins. I would love to hear her speak about what it was like to win in 1964….

I reallly want Moldova, Poland and Netherlands to win the damn thing. They are all spectacular. #Eurovision Ultimately though I have no idea who the Europe collective will vote for….

Truth be told, I have no idea who will win or even place….I love the singers but am usually disappointed at the final outcome..

It’s great to have the Italian hosts singing their hearts out. My public library actually has some Laura Pausini CDs, but it was pretty amazing to hear Mika sing #Eurovision

Midway through jury votes, I am shocked that UK is staying on top…. and Greece too.

Wow, Moldova turns out to be a crowd pleaser. Thank god…. #Eurovision

I am happy that Ukraine won (and I’m as pro-Ukraine as you can get), but I thought Moldova, Netherlands, Spain and Poland were equally incredible, probably more so than the country that actually won… Lots of individual performances really shone

Articles and Interviews


Emusic Purchases

I temporarily put my emusic account on hold, but I’ll be buying another $200 credit sometime this month. Stay tuned.

  1. List begins here

Bandcamp Purchases

  1. Begin

Youtubey Things

I’m kind of changing my mind whether I should embed youtube vids. Those links change so much, that you can never count on anything to remain.

Hooverphonic’s 2 Wicky is the strangest music video I’ve seen in a while. It’s goofy 1990s absurdist Euro-shit by the Belgian group Hooverphonic. She wowwed me in 2021 Eurovision with the song Wrong Place. . And I love it.

I’ve been addicted to watching this amazing light show on a 2019 live performance in Kiev of Chemical Brothers performing their song Private Psychedelic Reel. Who would have ever thought that animating some stained glass window designs would provide such an aesthetically satisfying experience. (By the way, the person who videotaped this song really did an expert job — he must be a professional; I just love how the camera mostly ignores the audience except for one simple 360 degree twirl at the 5 minute mark. Some other concertgoers have tried to capture the light show of Chemical Brothers concerts with somewhat disappointing results. Below this video I have placed a “Best Moments of their Paris Show” (1 hour long), which is also remarkable, but nowhere near as amazing as the Private Psychedelic Reel in Kiev.

Freegal and Library CDs


Reviews (Rateyourmusic/Personal Reviews, etc)

See also my rateyourmusic profile and my review spreadsheet.in Google Docs.

Podcasty Things


Robert’s Roundup #30 (May, 2022)

View Previous Roundup and Next Roundup (View All)

Abbreviations: KU means Kindle Unlimited, LE means that lending of this Kindle title is allowed, and APUB means it was published under an Amazon imprint.NYP means “Name Your Price” (that’s an option on Smashwords and other booksellers). If you’d like to submit an ebook to me for review or mention in this column, see my instructions here.

This month will probably have a smaller number of discoveries/purchases. (I bought a ton of books in March 2022 and am still catching up). I’m still caught up in the Russian attack on Ukraine, so that colors my blogging accordingly.

This month after doing lots of research I bought a bigass floor lamp from Ikea. (the Hektar floorlamp model). Boy I’m happy with that. I have a hard time reading books in anything less than bright light, and this lamp fits the bill perfectly. It’s only $70 and the only catch is that it’s slightly tricky to assemble.

Other news is that I broke down and bought a subscription to New York Review of Books. I don’t love this journal, and its coverage of fiction is pretty skimpy and limited to the self-consciously high-brow, but I generally enjoy the contributors and the longish essays by JC Oates, Vivian Gornick. Now that I think of it, I’m not that impressed with any book review journal at the moment; either they are too taken with NY publishers, are too niche-specific (especially with scifi) or too open-minded to series and genres. I personally like drinking from the spigot — reading MidWest Book Review, City Book Review, Publishers’ Weekly and Kirkus. (Actually even though NPR Books covers the more obvious offerings, it reviews more titles than anybody else, so you could do worse than to read that for book suggestions). You’d be amazed at how seemingly-highbrow publications like Popmatters have laughably bad book review sections. The essays are good, (I guess) but the books are about overpriced print titles (graphic novels, etc), cultural history and criticism, biography, YA shit, fashionable sci fi and memoirs by cool people. I have a friend Michael Barrett who publishes topnotch film crit on Popmatters and I’ve read excellent musical reviews, but book reviews –fagettaboutit!

(By the way, you really should check out the blogroll of literary critics. If you’re reading on a laptop, it will appear in the right sidebar; or on mobile devices it will appear below all the blogposts (yes, that’s a problem I know).

Indie Author Spotlight


Under the Radar

Natural Trajectory of Human Consciousness: 10 Speculative Stories by William W. Chan.

Rat by Kevin Lavey

Watershed by Colin Dodds

Accidental Child by Karen Douglass

Other Hand Clapping by Marco Vassi — philosophical/erotic novel.

Reality by Other Means by James Morrow. (Big story collection by this fabulist/fantasy writer).

Evil Geniuses by Kurt Anderson (author website) Political history that tries to explain why progressives keep losing and not getting anything done in American society. The short answer is because GOP are obstructionist and benefit from the power of corporations (duh!) Anderson has observed that it’s easy for young liberal-minded people to assume good faith on the part of their conservative opponents. Gradually it becomes clear that it is not an even matchup because progressives keep losing. I personally would point to climate change. Despite the rhetoric, pretty much the federal government has done next to nothing to regulate carbon emissions or enact legislation to wean people off fossil fuels. I’m sure as I delve into this book, the book is liable to fall into generalizations, but I’m very sympathetic about the issue and how to solve it. I enjoyed his previous book Fantasyland which put Trump’s ascension into historical context.

Overheated: How Capitalism Broke the Planet–And How We Fight Back by Kate Aronoff. (twitter) Aranoff is a first rate environmental reporter covering both the crisis and the tepid political response. I’m sure this book strings together articles from the Intercept, Nation, New Republic — and frankly I read so closely in the field that this might all be a review for me, but her writing is so good that it’s worth re-reading just to remember where we were a few years ago.

New Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of Writing by Women of African Descent edited by Margaret Busby. 1.99. Distinguished 1200 page anthology including contributions from not only Africa, but lots of African-Americans as well. This is an expansion of an earlier print-only edition.

Library Purchases/Printed books

Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women: Essays on Art, Sex, and the Mind by Siri Hustvedt. I’m currently reading/buying any book by Hustvedt, but they rarely are priced moderately. (June update: I found some low priced copies on Better World Books).

Plato at the Googleplex : Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away by Rebecca Goldstein.

Creative Commons/Freebies


Literary Articles and Essays




Capsule Book Reviews


Multimedia/Podcasts, Etc


Personville Press Deals

I run Personville Press, a small literary book press where all the ebooks cost less than $4. Prices normally appear highest on Amazon, Apple, Kobo and BN, somewhat lower on Google Play Books and lower on the two DRM-free stores which are Smashwords and Payhip. Personville Press is committed to selling DRM-free ebooks and audio files directly from the Personville Press payhip store or from Smashwords


Back in the Groove, Baby

I’ve been sick for the last 9 days, so I’m way behind on everything. Now I feel better (not 100%, but definitely better), so I’m ready and raring to tackle the work awaiting me!

(Update: When I said yesterday that “I feel better”, honestly that was true, but I was still very exhausted. I was still a vegetable (albeit a happy vegetable). Today though (Tuesday) I’m at all 4 cylinders, horray!


Texas author Clay Reynolds was a literary giant who understood deeply what it meant to be a Texan. He was a great scholar of history and literature and also a dedicated teacher. His novels tackled all kinds of social issues of today and yesterday; they were populated with characters who could be lovely, offbeat or even detestable. But he could also find sympathetic and even heroic qualities in the most ordinary of people (such as with the Gil Hooley character in his novel Tentmaker). Reynolds pursued his art both brilliantly and relentlessly — and with humor and compassion. Reynold’s Texas stories reveal the complexity of character and the worlds they inhabited; these stories will be treasured for generations.

By Robert Nagle, Blogger and Editor of Personville Press

(Read the Wikipage article about Clay Reynolds, the author’s official home page and the obituary)

At the end of this page is a list of the best Clay Reynolds books & essays to start off with. Several of Mr. Reynolds books were published as ebooks by Baen Books and are available on all major ebook stores. The official author page for Clay Reynolds contains lots of links to published essays and online articles. Several books (like Sandhill County Lines) are only available in print and can be bought on Amazon and other places. Sandhill County Lines is also an audiobook available on Audible and other places.

Tony Daniel did an 80 minute interview with Reynolds for the Baen Free Radio Hour podcast.

I came to know author Clay Reynolds during his last year of life. No, I never met the man or even talked to him on the phone, but we corresponded often over the last year about literary matters. We shared a few common friends on Facebook, and several years ago, after I noticed that there was no Wikipedia page about him, I offered to set one up for him (as I had done before for several Texas authors). It took more than a year for Mr. Reynolds to respond — at first, he was a bit suspicious, but he opened up a bit after learning that my Personville Press was named after a small town outside Dallas. Reynolds loved to write about small towns in Texas like Quanah, Texas where he grew up.

As it turns out, Mr. Reynolds and I had many connections. Both of us passed through Trinity University (I had gotten my B.A. in 1988 and Reynolds had studied there as an undergraduate and received his master’s in 1974). By some miraculous coincidence, both of us took creative writing classes with playwright Eugene McKinney and were both ardent fans of the fiction of Robert Flynn (who taught fiction writing at Trinity and also used Texas as a backdrop for his fiction). As luck would have it, during the years I was at Trinity, Clay Reynolds had visited several times to give lectures about fiction — although strangely, I never knew about it at the time).

Actually though, my first contact with Clay Reynolds came through book reviews he regularly wrote for the Houston Chronicle. As luck would have it, I later learned that in 1996 my mother, after reading one of Reynolds’ book reviews, had bought and mailed the book to me when I was in Albania teaching with the Peace Corps. (That book happened to be Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States by Bill Bryson and was delightful).

After Mr. Reynolds responded and I realized all the common connections, I suggested that in addition to writing the Wikipedia page article that I would like to interview him separately by email. Reynolds already had a long distinguished career in academia and publishing, and it was semi-scandalous that no Wikipedia page existed about him.

Lone Star Literary Life had already done an in-depth interview with Mr. Reynolds in 2016, but it was clear that many more topics remained to be covered — and besides, Reynolds was the perfect interview subject because he would eagerly answer any question thrown at him. Indeed, purely as a pastime, Reynolds had answered over 1300 questions on the Quora.com website about history, culture, Texas, you name it. My email interview with Reynolds started in mid-January 2021 and ended in January 2022. The interview itself is about 45,000 words and will be released online on one of my websites by Summer, 2022.

6 Interesting/Peculiar Things about Clay Reynolds

He was loquacious about his own literary creations and the creative process itself. Many authors are reluctant to engage so openly in this kind of introspection. Not Reynolds. When Baen republished his titles as ebooks, he wrote 2 new prefaces — (one for Vox Populi, and one for Tentmaker — you can read them by clicking the Sample button on the book page to read it in a browser). Reynolds wrote a similar kind of preface essay for his Sandhill County Lines short story collection. He delivered an address about creativity and biography called “A Cow Can Moo” (PDF) . You get the point.

Reynolds had an encyclopedic knowledge of literature and history. (He actually received his undergraduate degree in history and wrote his doctorate on literary history (American Social Drama in the 1930s). Just for the hell of it, during his retirement he liked to answer random questions about history on Quora.com He answered 1300 questions (with his last answer about the price of horses in the USA just before the advent of the car). He rarely asked questions on quora.com except one –what was the asking price for the street price of raw opium in 1916? (now that he asked it, I am kind of curious about the answer!)

Reynolds had a knack for writing about people with rough edges. Critic John Pitchfork remarked that one of the best features of Reynolds fiction is “the recurrent pattern of tongue-tied and not very bright good old Texas boys courting the mystery of beauty they cannot understand nor resist.” Sandhill County Lines has tough rednecks (“A better class of people”), vulgar frat boys (Mexico), domineering parents (“The Prodigal”). (Don’t worry, it also has lots of kind-hearted people as well). One of my fave stories is “Nickelby” about an adjunct English professor who moves next door to a mean-tempered man who mistreats his dog and how her desire to protect the dog forces a confrontation. Tentmaker is populated with outlaws, prostitutes and all sorts of misfits.

Reynolds was a stickler about historical accuracy in his old Western novels. He spent about 2 years researching the 1992 novel Franklin’s Crossing and did all kinds of field research to learn about dress, weapons, transportation. He visited the archives of a Tennessee hotel to learn what kinds of dinner they served. In the BAEN interview, he said he assumed that everybody ate steak in the 1870s only to find out that almost nobody could eat beef because it couldn’t be preserved (in contrast to fish, pork, fowl, which could be). He had no idea how big wagons were during that time (and how much they could hold) or how to use a saddle with a 19th century tack. This research also shows in his later novel, Tentmaker. (2002)

6 Clay Reynolds works to start off with

Clay Reynolds has written a ton of stuff. I have read only a fraction of them, but I sorta know what most of them are about. There’s enough to keep a bookworm busy for years (if not decades). Here’s some tips about how to get started. You can buy DRM-free ebooks of these titles directly at the baen.com website and print copies and also buy them at the same price on Amazon, Google, Apple, etc. Don’t be fooled by the lack of customer reviews of these books on Amazon. All are interesting and dramatic and beautiful.

1. Of Snakes & sex & Playing in the Rain: Random Thoughts on Harmful Things (Baen 2013) This is a great and funny and poetic collection of personal essays about all sorts of topics ranging from “macho” topics (like trout fishing, golf, baseball, etc) to pop culture (Elvis, first dates, coffee, warning labels) to personal reflections about the legacy of long lost relatives. This is the perfect gift book for the I-Know-How-To-Read-But-I’d-never-be-caught-dead-reading-Proust-or-Faulkner-or-Morrison type of reader.

2. The Vigil (1986) was his widely acclaimed first novel. It’s about a mother who loses her daughter in a Texas town. It received very positive reviews in the national press.

3. Tentmaker (2012) is a historic novel about Gil Hooley, an ordinary fellow who travels to Texas in the late 19th century after his wife leaves him. He is (you guessed it) a tentmaker. After his wagon breaks down in the middle of nowhere, he decides to live in his tent. The novel is about the society which forms around him — including a brothel! — and how this emerging group tries to fend off various outlaws and calamities. The first chapter begins with a shocking and gruesome crime, and the rest of the novel alternates between the perspective of the outlaws and the various people trying to make a living around Hooley’s tent city. This novel was meticulously researched, has a lot of bawdy humor and does a great job of conjuring up what early settlements were like before they turned into actual towns. I love this book; as I said, the first few chapters are pretty gruesome, but it heads off into many unexpected directions.

4. Sandhill County Lines (Stories) 2007 (No Ebook) If you can, try to listen to this audio book instead of reading it. Hearing captures the variety of dialects and speech patterns of various characters. My only “complaint” about these stories are longer than the typical short story (ranging in the 15,000-25,000 word range). They feel almost like novellas. I love “Dogstar” which is about two state highway patrolman investigating the death of a homeless man. The story “Bush League” is a great story about the love life of a talent scout for a professional baseball team. The opening story, “A Better Class of People” kind of appalled me when I first read it; it’s about some rednecks who beat up some college students who happened to visit a bar one day. But when I heard it aloud on the audiobook, I really appreciated the subtle characterizations and the gradual rise in dramatic tension. Also, the spoken dialogue is really masterful — simple, guttural, good at conveying anger and dread. (There’s no ebook edition of this collection, but the book is still in print and relatively cheap.)

5. Ars Poetica: A Postmodern Parable (2003, Texas Review Press). No, I haven’t read it yet — so what do I know — but it’s an academic satire set in academic times about an aging poet in academia. Serious readers may groan at such books (hasn’t this subject been written to death? ) but I actually like the genre, and frankly Reynolds is precisely the type of author who is erudite and witty enough to pull it off. (Novelist George Garrett liked it a lot, and the novel eventually won a 2002 Texas Review literary prize.) I know 95% of readers may roll their eyes at the idea of reading another campus novel, but for fans of postmodern fiction and John Barth, this is our catnip.

6. Vox Populi: Novel of the Common Man (2013) is another novel I hadn’t read, but I really want to. It’s an experimental novel about a nameless narrator who runs into various people at various places around town. Texas Book Lover Michelle Newby Lancaster wrote a nice review of it (archived version), saying

Clay Reynolds is uncannily skilled at rendering vignettes of strangers forced to occupy the same physical space. He is an astute observer of our smallest gestures and expressions and his dialogue is spot-on, complete with malapropisms that had me laughing aloud. His physical descriptions are detailed to an impressive degree. I could picture these people standing in front of me, to the last vivid detail. At the beginning of Vox, the nameless but not-quite-anonymous narrator seems to be a rather dull blank slate with no personality of his own and at the mercy of the seemingly stronger personalities surrounding him. As the sketches progress, though, our narrator begins to slowly but surely engage more substantively, confidently and empathetically – which is to say, successfully. It is a subtle performance. 

Others? I confess that I have not read a lot of the other novels except maybe the blurbs. If you feel strongly about a novel, feel free to make a case for it in the comment section!

Essays to Read Online

Clay Reynolds has been diligent about publishing his essays, book reviews and academic articles online. (Really his website is full of great stuff). A lot of stuff from the 1980s and 1990s have not been digitized, but there are PDFs of some of his more interesting essays available.

TV Pandemic Log II (2020-2022). (PDF) During COVID, Reynolds watched a lot of movies and TV shows (as did all of us). He kept an idiosyncratic journal of everything he watched, assigning it a score and giving it a capsule review. He watched stuff from almost all the streaming services (and noted which service they’re on– helpful! ) He watched an awful lot of mysteries and historical dramas — and was very critical about series that didn’t quite get the history right.

Reaching the Summit: A Confession and a Valediction (PDF) (published in 2016) is one of Clay Reynolds’ most philosophical (and yes somber) essays. It’s about retirement and confronting the fact that the attainment of his intellectual and literary goals still leaves him unsatisfied.

History of a campaign that failed: The story of Sarah Palin, former Governator of a Really Big state, told by Clay Reynolds. (Satire) (PDF) October 2009. Sarah Palin was an easy target of satire; Reynolds took it to an entirely different plane by writing a monologue diatribe using Sarah Palin’s peculiar form of speaking. It perhaps is longer than it needs to be, but Reynolds had a great ear for speech patterns.

From Castro to Cancun by Clay Reynolds (2014) PDF Reynolds offered an eyewitness account of visiting Cuba at about the time that the Obama Administration loosened rules on travelling to that country. He said he enjoyed seeing the vintage cars on the road and thought the place was relatively free — though he felt certain that Cuba’s unique culture would soon be Americanized.

Happy Reading!


Recently I was editing a wikipedia page about an author when I realized I needed an author photo.

You may not realize that graphics for wikipedia come from a separate website called Wikimedia Commons. Wikimedia Commons has a separate mission from Wikipedia. Unlike Wikipedia (which requires that pages for living people meet a “notability” test), it’s pretty easy to upload art or photographs to Wikimedia Commons. The main challenge is making sure that the person uploading it has the rights to do so and that they are willing to use a license that allows others the unlimited right to use the image commercially. After a person’s photo has been uploaded onto Wikimedia Commons, it can be used anywhere on Wikipedia (or other third party sites even). For authors and publishers, it generally makes sense that publicity photos have no special restrictions on use.

Uploading Book covers (which are copyrighted and not-free) is allowed by Wikipedia under fair use, but there are special rules about that. I discuss this more at the bottom of this blogpost.

Unfortunately, this information is not widely known. That’s why the wikipedia page for many authors, musicians and public figures lack a photograph of the subject.

For this reason, I have prepared this page which explains how to get an author photo onto wikicommons (and possibly at some point Wikipedia). Because I work in publishing, the main use case I’m thinking of is author photos, but most of these rules are generally applicable to other living persons on Wikipedia (musicians, politicians, etc).

Important Pre-Conditions

To be able to use this upload wizard, you must either be the original photographer or the copyright holder with full copyright control. If you do not own the copyright, then you must be able to verify that the image has one of these creative commons licenses. That means you must 1)know the name of the copyright holder and specify where the the digital file comes from. It could be a URL, a book or a publication.

Personality Rights (and Model Releases). Generally the Wikicommons Upload Wizard does not require a model release. But the copyright owner who is doing the uploading must choose an image which respects the publicity rights (i.e., personality rights) of people inside the photo for that country (or US State). Wikimedia Commons has a process for considering removal requests if an individual feels that a photo violates someone’s personality rights. More information about publicity rights and personality rights and Wikimedia Commons can be found at the bottom of this blogpost.

How to Upload the Image

There are basically two ways to upload a graphic or photo to Wikimedia Commons.    Assuming you meet the pre-condition, you must take one of these two steps:

  1.    use wikimedia commons upload form wizard OR
  2.    email wikimedia commons, attach the photo and include a release of the rights to the image in the body of the email message. 

The first option is easy to do (takes less than 5 minutes), even if the wizard is something complicated. Importantly, it goes live within minutes of uploading.  Below are explicit directions  about how to use the form. 

The second option is for less tech-savvy people. It takes several weeks for wikimedia volunteers to process.  But it works. 

Below is a technical guide I wrote about how to perform either step.   Fasten your seat belts! 

FIRST OPTION: The photographer uses the upload form wizard

THE EASIEST WAY to get everything done is for the person taking the photograph to do the uploading. It often asks you to include a lot of metadata, but a lot of it is optional. You can always add/edit these things later.

Here is the upload form wizard.  

Below the explanatory button, there is a blue NEXT button, which you should press. 

Some remarks about the process of using the upload form.

1. First tab allows you to upload the photo.

2. Second tab allows you to specify if it’s your own work or not (i.e., Release Rights). If you choose THE FILE IS NOT MY OWN WORK, you then have to fill out some rights information. I would avoid selecting this option if at all possible.

3. Next tag asks you to provide a description — pretty self-explanatory. However, the bottom category is somewhat important. You should add categories by typing AUTHORS FROM THE UNITED STATES and WRITERS FROM TEXAS. Filling out the category part is optional. Anyone can add  it later. Depending on the kind of person in the photo, you may need to choose different categories.

4. The Add Data tab asks for you to fill out more data (like a description of the picture). Totally optional.

5. Publish and then you’re done.

I tried uploading a random selfie of myself to see how to do it. You can use this as a model. 

Here is another photograph of myself on Wikimedia Commons. In this case, a professional photographer took it and he uploaded it to Wikimedia Commons himself. (I actually sat next to him and watched him do it!) He had to license it with a creative commons license.

It’s really easy to do if you own the copyright to the image. It’s almost as easy if you have proof that you have full copyright control over the photo (like a signed agreement or posting on a website by the organization which owns the photo). After you finish the wizard and press submit, the image will immediately be available.

SECOND OPTION: Send Wikimedia Commons an Email 

The person who holds the copyright to the image (presumably the photographer) should send this email to photosubmission@wikimedia.org . The email should come from an email address that we can recognise as associated with the content being released. For instance, if you are releasing images shown on a website, your email address should be associated with the website or listed on the contact page of the website; if you are releasing images on behalf of an organisation, your email address should be an official email address of the organization.

I used this wikicommons form to auto-generate this letter .

EMAIL SUBJECT LINE: release of content attached to this email


I hereby affirm that I represent [University of Texas at Dallas], the creator and/or sole owner of the exclusive copyright of the following media work:

(list content attached to this email)

I agree to publish the above-mentioned work under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International.

I acknowledge that by doing so I grant anyone the right to use the work, even in a commercial product or otherwise, and to modify it according to their needs, provided that they abide by the terms of the license and any other applicable laws.

I am aware that this agreement is not limited to Wikipedia or related sites.

I am aware that the copyright holder always retains ownership of the copyright as well as the right to be attributed in accordance with the license chosen. Modifications others make to the work will not be claimed to have been made by the copyright holder.

I acknowledge that I cannot withdraw this agreement, and that the content may or may not be kept permanently on a Wikimedia project.




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Publicity Rights (Personality Rights) for Author Photos

Publicity rights (or personality rights) vary according to the country and US state you reside in. The copyright owner (usually the photographer) will generally have to respect these rights when choosing what kinds of photos to upload to WikiCommons (although it is not always required to obtain consent to take or publish it). This can be accomplished simply by getting a model release (even though in many cases it is not necessary). Generally though it is permissible to upload photographs of people taking part in a public event at a privately-owned venue; Some of the questions which the uploader should keep in mind when trying to decide:

  1. Generally is the photo reasonably flattering (i.e., in focus, not sweating, etc)?
  2. Was the author (subject) aware that he or she is being photographed? Does the context suggest that the author is performing a role as writer at a certain event (like after a reading or at a book sale)?
  3. Has this photo already been used by an individual or organization in order to promote some event or product or the author himself? (like publicity for a book, etc). If yes, this implies consent for the image being used for other promotional purposes.
  4. Does the upload include other people in the background? Are the individuals identifiable? Is it possible to crop the photo so that unnecessary figures are removed without damaging the overall photo?

Generally my impression is that the Wikicommons upload wizard does not have any specific requirements about personality rights, except that the photo must follow the rules in one’s own country and state.

Uploading Book Covers (non-free, Fair Use) to Wikicommons

Book covers are a special case; Wikicommons/Wikipedia allows the uploading of certain non-free content still in copyright. On the upload page for non-free content, you should click This is a copyrighted, non-free work, but I believe it is Fair Use. and then check this box: This is the cover or dustjacket of a book, the cover of a CD or video, the official release poster of a movie, or a comparable item. It will be included as that work’s primary means of visual identification, at the top of the article about the book, movie, etc. in question.

One other thing. If you are uploading non-free content, it must be low-resolution and it must be used on at least one wikipedia article. So if you are uploading a non-free book cover without actually including it inside a Wikipedia article, I’m guessing that it will be subject to deletion.


Social Media Dump April 1-30

See also: March 16-31 and May 1-16 (View all)

I’ve been incredibly distracted by things; never had the chance to add things until today.

MY HOT TAKE ON MUSK AND TWITTER: If Musk tries to run Twitter, he’ll probably ruin it for most users. But it won’t matter because most users will have left the platform for something easier to use and more fun…

RESISTING COVID LOCKDOWNS: Wow, this PBS Newshour video report is one of the most shocking news report I have seen. Near the end they interview an English-speaking Ukrainian. “I only want to get out of here. To tell the truth, I definitely cannot wait to go to Ukraine.”


View Previous Roundup and Next Roundup (View All)

Abbreviations: KU means Kindle Unlimited, LE means that lending of this Kindle title is allowed, and APUB means it was published under an Amazon imprint.NYP means “Name Your Price” (that’s an option on Smashwords and other booksellers). If you’d like to submit an ebook to me for review or mention in this column, see my instructions here.

I bought a massive number of ebooks in March — probably the most I have ever bought in my life. This was a one-time event which occurred when I realized that Soho Press, Europa Editions, Mariner Books, Grove Press were discounting some of their titles to 99 cents.

Indie Author Spotlight

Texas author Clay Reynolds is a prolific author. In preparation for making his wikipedia page, I read a lot of his stuff — and really only scratched the surface. Here are some PDFs of recent articles:

Under the Radar

L’Origine: Secret Life of the World’s Most Erotic Masterpiece by Lilianne Milgrom. (author website) This novel won the 2021 PW Selfies Book award. Can’t wait to read it! Wow, here’s a gimmick. The author visited Paris to do her own painting of the famous painting (and made a video of doing so).

Circus in Winter by Cathy Day

Willing by Lindsay Lees. 99 cents. Novel about sexual dystopia. (Read an interview with the author).

Beasts of Success by Jasun Ether. (author website) 99 cents. Satiric look at business ambition and success.

Beginning of Spring by Penelope Fitzgerald. Deftly written historical novel about Russia in the early 20th century.

The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation by
Thich Nhat Hanh, Retelling of the Buddha’s life by a noted Vietnamese Buddhist. I already have a hard copy, but having a virtual copy for easy reference was definitely a must.

Only Begotten Daughter by James Morrow. (author website) 1.99 I owned two books by Morrow which I never read (I started to read one, but got sidetracked). While researching this title — about a female deity who comes to rescue the world — I realize that I really want to read more Morrow — like pronto! Unfortunately, the public libraries doesn’t have many Morrow books, but I learned that buying all those Conjunctions anthologies at discounted prices would end up paying off! (Morrow frequently contributed stories to Conjunctions — and I read one (Wisdom of the Skin) which was delightful). Update: Apparently this story comes from the Reality by Other Means story collection .

Library Purchases/Printed books

Stoner by John Wiliams This is supposed to be a classic.

Train to Estelline by Jane Roberts Wood

Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson

Leaving Brooklyn by Lynne Sharon Schwartz

Faded Coat of Blue by Owen Parry.

Shakespeare by Mark van Doren. Compact book of lit crit by famous professor at Columbia who taught a class on him.

Creative Commons/Freebies


Literary Articles and Essays

Wikipedia tidbit : Andrei Codrescu was a commentator for NPR, and on the December 19, 1995, broadcast of All Things Considered, Codrescu reported that some Christians believe in a “rapture” and four million believers will ascend to Heaven immediately. He continued, “The evaporation of 4 million who believe this crap would leave the world an instantly better place.”



Capsule Book Reviews


Multimedia/Podcasts, Etc


Personville Press Deals

I run Personville Press, a small literary book press where all the ebooks cost less than $4. Prices normally appear highest on Amazon, Apple, Kobo and BN, somewhat lower on Google Play Books and lower on the two DRM-free stores which are Smashwords and Payhip. Personville Press is committed to selling DRM-free ebooks and audio files directly from the Personville Press payhip store or from Smashwords