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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.


Poland: (Browse RYM List of Polish performers)

  • 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) RJN Lots of Polish instrumental and jazz stuff — including lots of soundtracks. Great stuff, but somewhat pricey.
  • 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.
  • Metal Mind. Polish label seems to be progressive rock at least as often as it is metal, and not very loud or hard metal when it is metal. Tracks tend to be on the long side, but don’t assume what they sound like. Sample (at least some let you listen to the whole track) or get burned! 59 titles from the 1980s to 2014.
  • Agora S.A. (Wiki page) Polish distributor (not a label). I like Pustki and Dagadana. I think this is Polish. 25 titles ending in 2014, and there’s plenty of pop vocal nonsense and live albums to filter out. RJN: Looks like they stopped adding albums in 2014. I really love the live albums which are all called Najmniejszy Koncert Świata.
  • Box Music. Another of the Polish labels that inexplicably sometimes lets you listen to whole songs for risk-free downloading. Voo Voo is interesting rock, but the rest is highly questionable. 149 titles from the late 20th century to 2015.
  • MyMusic Group. (Catalog on Wiki) (preview by artist on Youtube). There’s almost certainly some interesting stuff in here, but I’m not going to click through 780+ titles to find it. Mostly Polish.
  • Tercet. 90s technopop Polish & Eastern European music and remixes.

TurkeyTurkuola (bc) ; Turkofon GmbH (bc)


  • Songbird (Wiki page) RJN: sublabel of Black Hole Recordings, primarily known for its Search of Sunrise trance mixes. (All are great, especially the earlier Tiesto mixes). Great values too.
  • Black Hole Recordings (Wiki page) Bigger names in electronica like BT, Solarstone, Paul Oakenfold and Tiesto veering towards house and trance.

Slovak RepublicOpus Records (Wiki page) RJN: A very odd assortment of 230 albums by Eastern Europeans over 4 decades. Probably overpriced and some albums sound cringey, but lots of great unusual stuff here! No separate Youtube page, although many albums are listed there. See also 100 Greatest Slovak albums of all time and a longer list here.

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.
  • Cambrian Records (UK-WALES). Bandcamp . 8 country/folk albums.


  • 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.
  • Because Music. (Bandcamp, Wiki listing)  Decidedly not where I got my Beta Band cds, but if I didn’t have them, nice to know there here with Charlotte Gainsbourg and others among a whopping 357 in tota, 77 more under “Ltd.” and countless variations.


  • Mole Listening Pearls. (Youtube) Quite large electronic catalog with high ratings. Accessibly poppy and upbeat. 173 titles from the turn of the century to 2019. 186 in Sept.’21, and I haven’t seen fit to buy anything yet…maybe a little too smooth in its downtempo and too broad in its pop. (RJN: Start with Ohm Square and the Rewashed compilation album of label artists).
  • Springstoff. (Catalog) (Youtube). 237 titles and the site’s bestseller for May’22 are here in electronic, though I’m always skeptical of deep house. Up to 2022.

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]]
  • Maestro Digital/Maestro Production (UZB Label) (Youtube). Russian is definitely nearby, but these pop vocalists look more like Central Asians, so I’m going to put their pop and hip-hop with the Middle East. 100+ titles up to 2019. Not the worst cheese I’ve heard.
  • Nevo Music. (UZB) (Youtube) . Another Uzbek label, with a lot of songs in Russian.


  • 604 Records. Catalog and Wiki page. Youtube. Nearly 200 to choose from, but I doubt the five-starredness of some of these alternative rockers and their conventional pop takes on folk, country, etc. There do seem to be more female vocalists than usual. Turn of the 21st century to 2020. Lots of variations of the name to sort through. Another reliable explorer has confirmed there’s nothing actually of interest here.
  • Light Organ. Wiki Page Catalog. Youtube. Large catalog of rock, folk, synth pop, etc. and on sampling the quality seems high. A few are rated, several 2019 titles. RJN: Launched by 604 cofounder to appeal more to the college music crowd.



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” is that the 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 patrolmen 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 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 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, Baen ebook, print book by 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


Music Discoveries April 2022 #16

See also: March and May (View all)

First, here’s another episode of Out of Obscurity music podcast which I was a guest at. It’s a lot of fun, but also a lot of preparation to get ready (and I’m not even the one producing it).

First, I wish to express my heartiest recommendation to the Bach Guild for selling downloadable megapacks of classical music on Amazon for dirt cheap prices — usually only 99 cents! Their catalog is mostly here and here. (I’ve bought about 3/4 of the boxes, possibly more). What’s the concept? They obtained the rights (mostly from Vanguard Records?!) and assembled classical recordings into megapacks which ranged from 3 hours to 8 hours. Normally I would be skeptical of such budget products. Also, these packages were unwieldy gigantic downloads. Even for people who collected classical music, I worried that “historic recordings” translated to low quality. I didn’t need that headache.

Actually though, these “historic recordings” turned out to be well-chosen, with great liner notes and meticulously gathered metadata. (It’s true that occasionally the metadata for a track or two would be messed up, but they generally updated it with the correct track shortly thereafter.

They do most of their Big Boxes by composer (Beethoven, Mozart, etc), but in some cases they do it by instrument (Big Guitar Box, Big Flute Box, etc) or by genre (Big English Music Box, Big Chamber Music Box, etc) or by nationality (Big Russian Music Box, Little Big Spanish Music Box). Sometimes they have multiple volumes; the chamber music collection has 3 volumes. They have several Bach boxes, and luckily they don’t overlap.

Classical music fans usually are a fussy bunch, but the Amazon reviews are mostly glowing — intrigued by certain performances, complaining about metadata mixups. How amazing is it that you can buy these things at 99 cents!? Seriously how much money are these people making?

It seems that the pushback is coming from the music sellers themselves. The Bach Guild site writes coyly:

We started selling Big Box Sets that were 5, 6 or 7 (or more) hours long. Some retailer named after a fruit said they didn’t want to sell any downloads that long. So we created smaller boxes…and called them Little Big Boxes. The fruit company didn’t completely follow through (unlike the retailer named after a river), but you, the customer did. So when we don’t have enough of repertoire for a themed Big Box Set, we create Little Big Boxes. Same great artists and performances, just a little less music.

Eventually it seemed that Amazon wants to stop selling music downloads and just do streaming — and indeed, some boxes are only streamable — you can’t buy them. Shucks! Also, allegedly you can stream your purchases on the Amazon music player. There is just one problem. You can filter to show only purchases, so you have to wade through things you used the music service for. No matter.

The other thing is that these files are huge. So far the directory containing these megaboxes is 40gigs on my PC. Managing these files is quite a chore (archiving, etc) and frankly, I’m sure Beethoven and performers will be horrified at the “commoditization” of these things at bargain prices. These are the masterpieces of Western culture! I listened to classical music stations in high school like a nut, so I know almost all the standard repertoire, but then again, it’s called my attention to certain works that get overlooked. I have Big Haydn Box to thank for introducing me to Symphony #59 and others. True, having easy access to these things makes classical music seem like wallpaper — but beautiful wallpaper at that.

It then raises the question about whether we should just call music something that is streamed by a centralized commercial server. Silly old-fashioned me, I like the idea of being able to listen to things without Internet access and without having to pay a blanket subscription.

American Song Contest (Weekly Report for Week 2 and 3)

Week 2. I didn’t enjoy this week as much as week 1, but it still was impressive. Jordan Smith‘s (KY) Sparrow song was a terrific country ballad and deserved first place. He’s a major talent. Unexpectedly I was impressed by Can’t Make You Love Me by Chloe Frederichs (ND). She is a Native American who sings plaintive country. I didn’t care for Green Light by Enisa (NY), but her other singles are great, so she deserved to advance. I enjoyed courtship‘s (OR) Million Dollar Smoothies goofy song, but of course it ranked low. I did enjoy Broderick Jones Tell Me song as well. I can’t expect to like every result, but I’m gratified that Chloe Fredericks advanced.

Week 3. Somewhat weaker than previous weeks. Highlights were Brooke Alexx’s I don’t take pictures anymore (NJ) and Tyler Braden‘s (TN) Seventeen. I loved seeing Jewel again to represent Alaska, but didn’t like her song. From TX Grant Knoche‘s Mr. Independent was also impressive as a dance song; so was Ale Zabala‘s Flirt. Now You Do by Brittany Pfantz (LA) grew on me over time. Also, I loved Delaware’s Nitro Nitra though I didn’t love the song.

Week 4. Competition this week was really intense. Allen Stone sang an incredible happy-go-lucky song wowwed everybody. Highlight of the day was watching Crystal Method‘s headbanging heavy metal song Watch Me. I also loved Savannah Keyes‘ Sad Girl (UT) which is just a lovely underrated song. Jared Lee (MA) sang a plaintive but powerful ballad, Shameless which was stirring and sung perfectly. I did not vote for Stela Cole‘s DIY (GA) which was upbeat and full of attitude, and I also loved. Surprisingly, Bri Steves (PA) did not make it with her soul+rap song (I loved it), but Mari‘s Fly (NH) made it instead — I really didn’t care for that song.

Week 5. Good songs, although I didn’t particularly like the jury’s favorite (Ada LeAnn from MI). John Morgan (NC) sang a really nice love song, Right in the Middle. The Latina 3some Sweet Taboo (CA) sang a real-crowd pleaser, Keys to the Kingdom, and let’s face it — the girls are hot! I had a hard time picking my third — I enjoyed Sisqo‘s (MD) new song, but I also liked songs from two islands — Jason J.(Guam)’s relaxing tropical-song, Midnight and Tenelle‘s Full Circle (American Samoa). Ultimately I went with Tenelle.

Articles and Interviews


Emusic Purchases

I bought several budget recordings on the Important Records label. Here’s the bandcamp page, but they are priced much cheaper on emusic. Helpfully the wikipedia page for that label contains a lot of background information about individual artists.

  1. Freeway by Pieta Brown. (11 songs for 4.99) This album definitely will grow on you; it is slow, meditative, tranquil; the singing and lyrics are intricate and carefully constructed. Apparently this Iowa singer has been producing albums since 2002 — of which this is only the latest.
  2. Two 99 cent albums by composer Alvin Lucier (obit & wiki page). Orpheus Variations and Out of Our Hands. 99 cents each.
  3. Electronic Works (1958-1995) by Else Marie Pade. 90 minutes, 6.99 (Wiki page)
  4. Various albums by Acid Mothers Temple (anarchic guitar-driven soundscapes by a Japanese experimental rock band). Lots of 99 cent albums here, here, here and here and several more.
  5. Drifter’s Symphony by Holy Sons. 36 minutes, 3.49.
  6. Decibels of Gratitude by Major Stars. 99 cents for 40 minutes.
  7. Spicchiology by XXL — Listenable experimental rock consisting of Xiu Xiu and Larsen
  8. Fake Love by Enisa. 4.49, 7 songs, 19 minutes. Great dance pop by NY-based Albanian American singer (and .2022 American Song Contestant). These sings are more bluesy ballads, better than her competition song.
  9. Assignment/stupid by Ni/Co. Another American song contestant. 2 songs, 99 cents. Much better soul songs than what they competed with.
  10. I’m Sorry, Tokyo (featuring Lackhoney) by Brooke Alexx. 99 cents, 4 songs. New Jersey singer Brooke Alexx is knocking them dead in the 2022 American Song Contest. Her other albums are elsewhere, grab this while it’s still on emusic!
  11. Simetria by Elle Belga. 3.99 for 33 minutes.
  12. Puzzlewood by Plone. 6.49 for 39 minutes.
  13. Lack of Resistance by Coss. 28 minutes, 4 tracks, from Serafin Audio Imprint, with lots of similar electronica/remix music.
  14. Talk from Home by Suzanne Kraft. 37 minutes, 2.99
  15. Evening with Silk Sonic by Bruno Mars, Anderson Paak, Silk Sonic. 6.49, 36 minutes.
  16. See where the night goes by Goodbye June. 40 minutes, 4.99. Good southern bluesy-rock with a lot of Black Betty like yelling. This feels a little wilder than their previous album.
  17. Albums by French 79. Angel (99 cents, 28 minutes) and Olympic (Remixes) (13 minutes for 49 cents)
  18. Wohin? by Helium Vola. 6.99 115 minutes. Avante-garde arrangements of medieval choral group from Germany.
  19. Jamie Singles Collection 1962-1965 by Barbara Lynn. 7.49 for 75 minutes. Classic Blues singer and electric guitar singer from Beaumont Texas.
  20. Invisible by Chapelier Fou. 50 minutes for 3.99 . Also Darling, Darling, Darling, 25 minutes for 99 cents.
  21. Rebirth Symphony by Mieczysław Karłowicz. 3.49 for 50 minutes. Karłowicz is a late 19th century Polish composer who died prematurely. Many online have praised this symphony; one Youtube commenter described it as “like hearing Mahler, Elgar, Tchaikowski, and even Bernstein (3rd movement) all at once.”
  22. From the Reach by Sonny Landreth.
  23. Various Southern blues from the PepperCake label (all are 3.99 for 50 minutes) : Nine Pound Hammer by Mark Selby, Travellers by Richie Arndt, Voodoo by Richie Arndt. Aha, Richie Arndt is NOT Richard Arndt (the US Southern blues singer NOT on emusic); he’s a German blues singer. They are both good though.
  24. Anadolu’yum by Fikret Kızılok. 4.99, 48 minutes. Experimental pop singer from Turkey in the 1970s. This album gathers his hit 45s from the late 1960s to early 1970s.
  25. Two albums by Chilean folk pop singer Angelo Pierattini: soy un Aprendiz (3.99, 30 minutes) and Tomatu Sopita (Vol. 1) (99 cents, 16 minutes). Also, Parabens (1.99, 16 minutes)
  26. Collezione privata by Gigliola Cinquetti, 82 minutes, 6.49. She won Eurovision contest in the 1960s at the age of 15. This album showcases a lifetime of singing slow Italian ballads.
  27. Demamanecer by Carlos Cabezas. 3.99 for 52 minutes. Several other 3.99 albums on emusic. This is the first I heard by this Chilean pop singer. Here’s a soundtrack he composed for the film El Chacotero Sentimental (some instrumental, some with vocals).
  28. Lighthouse — Everything’s Calm by Yann Tiersen. 6.49, 70 minutes.
  29. Camille 2000 (Soundtrack) by Piero Piccioni. 4.99, 62 minutes. I had seen this softcore European flick decades ago and listened to it for mainly sentimental reasons. What gorgeous incidental music.
  30. Wunsch mir Gluck by Steiner & Madlaina. 4.99, 41 minutes.

Bandcamp Purchases

  1. Begin

Youtubey Things

METAPHOR BECOMES REALITY: I had the good luck to see Ukrainian singer Ms. Irina Bilyk perform this song (translated as “I’m going to War”) live in 1998 (a double concert also with the Russian singer Linda, who was also great). It’s ironic that in 1998 songs would be about metaphorical wars and turn into actual wars 2 decades later. …. Слава Україні.

translated lyrics) I’m going to war

I’m not myself today,

I can’t sleep since the evening.

My weapons are already prepared,

I’m going to war.

My enemy is myself,

Dear God, forgive me.

My enemy is my eyes and my words,

Only you’re in them.


Tell me, who is to blame

That a war with oneself is waged now?

Tell me, who is to blame

That a war is waged now?

As I go, I’m seeing the fires

The burned garden of happiness.

I haven’t said “yes” or “no” yet,

But it’s late to go back.

Source: Lyricstranslate.

Am not embedding it, but here’s the link to the outstanding song Sparrow by Jordan Smith.

Here’s a lovely song by a Chilean singer. La Libelula translates as “The Dragonfly.” For more, here’s a 1999 live performance of another song.

I was delighted to see Sisqo performing at the American Song Contest. His song was good in an incomprehensible way. But I had to watch the music video for the Thong Song (an earworm which was everywhere in 2000; really, it’s a great song. I listened to it a lot). When I finally watched it for the first time 22 years later, I had to admit that it was exactly what I’d expected and more. Lots of butts and cleavage, lots of dancing and Massive budget, lavish colors,

Freegal and Library CDs

The Traveller by Khan Jamal. 1980s jazz album with Jamal on vibraphone.

Reviews (Rateyourmusic/Personal Reviews, etc)

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

Podcasty Things



(I posted this originally on Facebook on June 4, 2008. Here’s an archived copy on my own blog).

Rachel Donadio on literary tastes:

We’ve all been there. Or some of us have. Anyone who cares about books has at some point confronted the Pushkin problem: when a missed — or misguided — literary reference makes it chillingly clear that a romance is going nowhere fast. At least since Dante’s Paolo and Francesca fell in love over tales of Lancelot, literary taste has been a good shorthand for gauging compatibility. These days, thanks to social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, listing your favorite books and authors is a crucial, if risky, part of self-branding. When it comes to online dating, even casual references can turn into deal breakers. Sussing out a date’s taste in books is “actually a pretty good way — as a sort of first pass — of getting a sense of someone,” said Anna Fels, a Manhattan psychiatrist and the author of “Necessary Dreams: Ambition in Women’s Changing Lives.” “It’s a bit of a Rorschach test.” To Fels (who happens to be married to the literary publisher and writer James Atlas), reading habits can be a rough indicator of other qualities. “It tells something about … their level of intellectual curiosity, what their style is,” Fels said. “It speaks to class, educational level.”

James Collins, whose new novel, “Beginner’s Greek,” is about a man who falls for a woman he sees reading “The Magic Mountain” on a plane, recalled that after college, he was “infatuated” with a woman who had a copy of “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” on her bedside table. “I basically knew nothing about Kundera, but I remember thinking, ‘Uh-oh; trendy, bogus metaphysics, sex involving a bowler hat,’ and I never did think about the person the same way (and nothing ever happened),” he wrote in an e-mail message. “I know there were occasions when I just wrote people off completely because of what they were reading long before it ever got near the point of falling in or out of love: Baudrillard (way too pretentious), John Irving (way too middlebrow), Virginia Woolf (way too Virginia Woolf).” Come to think of it, Collins added, “I do know people who almost broke up” over “The Corrections” by Jonathan Franzen: “‘Overrated!’ ‘Brilliant!’ ‘Overrated!’ ‘Brilliant!’”

(See also David Rothman’s March 30 post E-books, Pushkin and the dating bar and my note on Kundera below).

Novels are no longer reliable cultural reference points in the dating sphere, except to indicate education level, free time availability and participation in book clubs.

I have done online dating for several years on match.com and used to pay attention to book titles mentioned on ads. I made sure to namedrop a few highbrow titles on my own dating profile, but I don’t think it impressed anyone except myself. Most book titles listed on dating profiles indicated quasi-religious nonfiction (Your Best Life Now) or bland best sellers (Da Vinci Code) or cult classics (Ayn Rand, Tom Robbins) or titles read in college (Great Gatsby) or political diatribe (Ann Coulter) or light reading (Dave Barry) or middlebrow nonfiction (Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink). Oprah titles appear on woman’s dating profiles, which is neither surprising nor bad — just uninteresting. For bookish people, titles matter, but for nonbookish people, they simply refer to the latest cultural craze which the person has fallen victim to. I almost would prefer non-bookish people to leave this question blank rather than say something fake. If asked to name my favorite football team, I probably could come up with a recognizable team name (didn’t Green Bay win the Super Bowl recently?), but why fake an interest? I’m almost prefer dating profiles that give a glib nonanswer or a ridiculous book title ( 101 Eggplant Recipes or Pilates for Dummies). Books matter for some people, not for others. I accept that.

I am still single, but even if Ms. Right shows up on the scene, I doubt she would know my favorite authors of the moment (Dino Buzzati, Felipe Alfau, Arnold Bennett) nor would I know hers. Wouldn’t it be enough just to meet someone who reads SOMETHING — anything– on a regular basis … if only because it implies tolerance for a book-saturated apartment. James Joyce once wrote that there is nothing sexier than a woman with a book in her hand. But who carries books around anymore? (I live in Houston, a place without decent mass transit, so the only place to carry around books is in the car). A female friend of mine used to hang around bookstores … partly for the coffee, but also for the chance to meet interesting men. But for the most part she rarely reads… except business books and fashion magazines. Nonetheless, she likes giving the impression of being a reader. I recall Bernard Malamud’s wonderful short story, a Summer’s Reading, where a teenage boy resolves to read 100 books over the summer and notices that people treat him more respectfully after he announces this goal .. regardless of whether he actually reads anything. At the end, when the boy has read nothing and his charade is nearly exposed by a neighborhood fellow, he heads off to the library and counts off 100 books at random. Malamud’s story ends with a question mark; will the boy actually read any of these books? Will he enjoy it? The reader of the short story wishes something wonderful will happen. Wouldn’t it be nice if the boy discovers a nice book about automobiles or a sci fi novel or a pornographic novel or a socialist diatribe or a history of the Civil War –something to shake this boy’s world up? In fact, the boy is unemployed, bored and restless. He could use an escape … and doesn’t realize such escape is even possible.

100 Random Books

I like to believe that 100 random  books would open up a new world for this boy, but the cynic in me predicts disappointment.  You can’t  pick up 100 books at random and suddenly expect your world to change. First, you have to be ready to occupy another person’s point of view. Even nonreaders have some ability to lose themselves in TV shows or movies; (my  bookstore-visiting friend who never read anything certainly  watches Netflix films). But  current dramatic genres take you back only so far.  Jane Austen? Forget about it … unless Emma Thompson stars in it. Cervantes, Ovid, Boccaccio.  How do you depict Zeus and Europa in a Hollywood  production without  awful  Cat-in-the-Hat live action or Disney-blandification? “Sorry, Zeus, your antics aren’t testing  too well in the heartland. The studio has decided to pass.”  (Maybe he could be a guest star  in a future South Park episode with John Lithgow doing  voiceover?)

Many book stories are inherently unfilmable. Or maybe they can be adapted, but they don’t capture the internal thought processes or perspective of the protagonist. Or maybe the predominance of televised  genres  today emphasize or de-emphasize certain modes of living.  A society comfortable with watching  Time-Warner’s lavishly-decorated  Sex in the City is also comfortable watching CNN’s lavish presentation  of the Iraqi War as a high-ratings media extravaganza (there are even fancy cartoons military graphics to accompany the shock-and-awe pageantry).  An individual who reads will  see the world differently…he can imagine stories and dramatic situations without needing celebrity eye candy or lovely NY apartments to prettify  the vision.   When reading, you tend to compare your own thoughts with that of the character in the fictional world.  How are Proust’s thought processes different from your own? How are Ben Franklin’s practical thoughts about living any different from your own?  But with dramatic forms, the sympathy is external.  When you watch a movie or TV show, you are  prone to admire Carrie Bradshaw’s taste in shoes or  Pixar’s rendering of  the Paris sewers in the rat movie.  You observe, you pity, but you do not truly immerse yourself  (or compete with)  the character’s state of mind.

As a writer and literary nut, I am  embarrassed to  meet educated-but-nonbookish  people who  read more than I do.  A flutist friend reads tons of classics for her bookclub; a  stay-at-home mom  reads feminist sci-fi; an old boss keeps  a stack of mysteries or thrillers on his desk.  I often do not recognize the titles or even the  genres they  rave about. Last weekend at a social function I talked to a pediatrician who was a Jane Austen fan.  Lots of Jane Austen fanatics are out there (not a surprise), but the pediatrician was overflowing with biographical details and critical insights from sustained reading.     As thrilled as I was  to meet a Bona Fide Reader,  it also made me feel small; after all,  I hardly spent free hours perusing  books about the measles.

The Point of Reading

The doctor and the flutist are readers; they are used to putting themselves into other people’s lives and turning their backs on commercial forms of entertainment.   Maybe mutual tastes in books do  lead  to romance in college;  Reading is  mandatory  for the college experience; if college students were required to learn Urdu or  python programming, these subjects could become the basis for flirtation as well. (See Note #2).  Over time, reading becomes  less useful for establishing personal connections   than helping the individual  to explore his own thoughts and values.   I just finished Remarque’s remarkable novel of postwar romance called Three Comrades. I doubt I will  meet anyone in meatspace who has enjoyed the novel–much less has heard of it. That is not important. You are totally missing the point.

As I read Remarque’s book, I start reflecting. Did I share the narrator’s cynicism about love and ambition?  Were  the narrator’s mundane enjoyments (drinking with buddies, joy riding, etc)  the only honest  pleasures in life? (The protagonist remarks, “The smell of coffee made me more cheerful. I knew that from the war; it was never the big things that consoled one — it was always the unimportant, little things.”)  Was  the narrator’s giddiness about finding a girl justified (or was it  setting himself up for disappointment)? Do personal traumas (like fighting in a war)  brutalize the individual’s soul..or  make him better able to handle future  travails?  It is a deeply cynical novel….no wait, it is an honest portrayal of love’s decline. Does the protagonist find reason for  hope at the end? This book is not a glitzy tragedy; there are no Shakespearian conflicts or heroes  (except the ordinary heroism  of a person willing to suffer for the sake of his beloved). There are two scenes where the protagonist makes long journeys by car to bring his girlfriend to the sanitarium. It all seems so futile.  (Would I –or anyone else–have done the same thing?)  Did the story pass judgment on its characters?  Was it overly sentimental or not sentimental enough? Did I believe any person could go through life as jaded as the protagonist..and still manage to be happy?  I cannot say whether I loved this novel or found any great insights from it. I just don’t know.   I have finished the last page, but the journey is not over.   I am still wondering, going over various scenes in my head, trying to decide if the novel rings of truth or falsehood.  Remarque’s narrator says:

It was the melancholy secret that reality can arouse desires but never satisfy them; that love begins with a human being but does not end in him; and that everything can be there; a human being, love, happiness, life — yet in some terrible way it is always insufficient, even as it grows.


Note #1: I will now blithely dismiss any author who blithely dismisses Kundera’s ULOB. I wrote my undergraduate thesis on Kundera, so for a few years  I behaved like the world’s expert on the subject.  While taking  writing workshops at JHU, I  quoted  Kundera’s Art of the Novel so often that it became almost  a classroom jokes; later, after being fired by Rice University for sending a satirical letter to its library, I found parallels with the protagonist in Kundera’s The Joke–who is sentenced to several years of hard labor after sending a joke postcard to his girlfriend).    Kundera already understood what modern practitioners of the novel did not: you could use the novel to present complex metaphysical ideas to ordinary readers by segmenting themes into dozens of miniature stories.  Kundera’s novels  ( especially  his  latest novel, Ignorance) are full of paradoxes.  He used  the  social upheavals of communism as a counterpoint to  personal themes… but what happens when communism disappears? He used erotic themes to  engage a broad swathe of readers… but what happens when the author is  70 years old and past his sexual prime?  He used his own exile from Czechoslovakia as a metaphor for the boundaries that exist between people   (Kundera, like  Kadare and  Gao Xingjian were  exiles living in Paris, probably drinking at  the same cafes). But what happens when travel restrictions are lifted… and you can  go home  any time you want? Interesting and profound themes,  Mr. Collins. Hardly  “bogus metaphysics.”

See also Lois Oppenheim’s interview with KunderaKundera’s essay on Feelings and Values or Jørn Boisen’s ruminations on Kundera and swimming pools ).

Note #2: Classical scholar John Finley once said, “the only purpose of a college education is to reduce the time spent thinking about the opposite sex from 80% to 60%.”


Social Media Dump March 16-31 2022

See also: March 1-15 and April 1-30 (View all)

Totally random, but here are two extended newscasts from 1997 about the political turmoil in Albania. I experienced it directly when living there as a Peace Corps volunteer between 1995-7. (I have written about those times here and here .

PBS newshour had 2 excellent segments on March 10 1997 and March 14 1997. On Sunday March 10 I was living with my host family going through a “practice evacuation” which none of us took seriously. Two days later (either Monday night or Tuesday night), they ordered us to report the next morning to the Peace Corps compound to be evacuated. We ended up staying inside the compound for 2 days while waiting for the situation to clear. As it happened, the rebels had already reached the capital, there was nonstop shooting around town, the airport was closed and the so-called emergency evacuation at the football field was cancelled because it was right next door to a military armory! But then early on either Thursday morning or Friday morning, they hustled us to the US embassy by bus to be picked up by the US military helicopters to a battleship and then eventually to the Brindisi airport in Italy (and eventually to Bucharest, Romania).


Music Discoveries March 2022 #15

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

First, I created a super-duper 150 minute playlist called Ukraine Pop Music is Cool. Here’s the Spotify playlist and the Youtube playlist — or just click below. Man, this is a good playlist — collected over 20 years. Despite my very limited understanding of Russian and Ukrainian language, I think I have a good grasp of what is good and interesting about Ukrainian music. Ironically when I lived there in 1997-8 I went to different cities to give lectures at various universities — and my most requested topic was History of American Rock and Roll music, and I found Ukrainian and Russian music endlessly fun and fascinating. Over the decades though, Ukrainian has gone from simply imitating Russian styles and catering to Russian audiences to being unique and edgy.

Song Contests

Here’s my review of American Song Contest which premiered Monday March 21, 2022.

Overall, I was very impressed by the profiles and song numbers and the diversity of styles. I liked the fact that Michael Bolton was thrown in — with a pretty good song too. Some Europeans decried the number of commercials between performances, but hey, that’s just USA. I was impressed that the contestants contained a mixture of up and coming and established musicians. I don’t think the songs were overly pop or pandering to the audience, but they all had new takes on a kind of song, plus great performing skills. My favorites:

  • Hueston (RI) a simple and sincere song (picked by the judges to advance, and I loved it too).
  • Keyone Starr (MS) great bluesy-rock song, with a fierce beat. Athena Franklin?
  • Jake O (WI). Great rock and roll song.
  • Alexa (OK). Petite K-pop girl already popular in South Korea!

I put together a youtube playlist which will include all the states eventually.

Articles and Interviews


Emusic Purchases

  1. Geoff Muldaur and the Texas Sheiks. s/t 6.99
  2. Two albums by Savath Y Savalas: La Llama and The Predicate (Dub Version). I’m discussing their album Folk Songs for Trains, Trees and Honey (youtube link) on a podcast.
  3. 2 albums by Vryll Society: Course of the Satellite (4.99) and Pangea (99 cents)
  4. Secret Memories by Gentlemen. 3.99 47 minutes.
  5. Her Greatest Hits by Carol Douglas. (1970s disco singer).
  6. Texas Moon by David Allen Coe
  7. Tboya – Твоя by Poli Genova. 7.99 for 53 minutes. Bulgarian techno-pop singer who competed in Eurovision in 2012.
  8. Rey by Camila Moreno. Chilean avante-pop with cool music vids. Also Mala Madre (4.99 for 40 minutes) and Opmeitomsimla (3.49 for 37 minutes).
  9. Various Chandraveena ragas by S. BalachanderChandraveena: Here, here and (maybe more?). Emusic has 6 albums of live recordings, each about 45 minutes for 99 cents. Bandcamp has the albums for more.
  10. Infinity by Khan Jamal. 1.99, 37 minutes. Classic 1980s album by noted US vibraphonist.
  11. Fragment of .. by Hunt, 9 tracks, 3.99. Ladytron, Cocteau Twins, Polly Scattergood, etc. Definitely an acquired taste, but this electronica-centered album is trippier than Cocteau Twins, always unpredictable and nice and moody.

Bandcamp Purchases

  1. Prototypes [DTNDLP004] by DAAT
  2. Portals: Energostatic (For Ukraine) by A Strangely Isolated Place
  3. Superradiance (name-your-price) by Deepspace
  4. Descent (name-your-price) by Lorenzo Montanà

Youtubey Things

Ever since I found a box set of Cole Porter classics in the 1990s, I’ve been a huge fan of songs by Cole Porter. Some of the songs and recordings are iconic, this one being one of them.

This was the first song for a Youtube playlist I made for a Ukrainian friend. Don’t know if he actually listened to it, but it’s a feel-good-during-a-war kind of playlist.

If you know the famous “Who will Save Your Soul” song by Jewel but have never heard her live 1999 performance at Woodstock, trust me: you have NEVER truly heard the song before. It’s incredible. The full concert is here:

B Lionel Yu, a classical pianist famous for staging “remixes” of classical music, paid a dozen music producers to do “remix versions” of Beethoven’s Fifth symphony for him to play. This version turned out to be his favorite.

Freegal and Library CDs

I bought a boxful of used CDs for 50 cents each.

  1. Irving Aaronson, 1920s Hot Dance classics
  2. Fastball
  3. Goofball 1920s — (Free on archive.org)
  4. Sans Amour Mon Amour by Amandine Bourgeois (French Eurovision diva who sings uncharacteristically blues-pop –

Reviews (Rateyourmusic/Personal Reviews, etc)

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

Podcasty Things



Social Media Dump March 1-15 2022

See also:  Feb 15-28 and March 16-30 (View all)

Note: I’m still updating my Ukraine/Russia page I started to collect all the links and passing observations.

From an Ask Reddit about bad TV plots. (All these are pasted from the discussion, no original thoughts by me). (See my remarks about sitcoms here)

Gray’s Anatomy:


Shooting at the hospital.

Cheat because of trauma from shooting at the hospital.

Another shooting at the hospital.




You forgot the 3 patients on each episode: 1)The one with the weird/funny illness or injury, 2)The one who probably won’t live but somehow is saved miraculously and 3)The one who surprisingly dies and everyone is all sad about.

Hey sometimes there is a bomb threat instead of a shooting. Or a patient dies and that makes them cheat too. You’re about forgetting the natural disasters like an earthquake, ferry crash, or plane crash that can also make someone cheat. That was a particularly memorable one for me. Right about when I stopped watching.

Sex and the City:

“And so I asked myself, is it really that wrong that Big and I have been together for 41.5 years and I can’t keep so much as a hair tie at his house, he’ll never let me meet his mother, he can’t be bothered to be nice to me, and only wants me around for sex? Maybe this is the new progressive normal and we, as women, should start feeling empowered by it for some reason. Being treated like shit is the new black, after all!”

Meanwhile Samantha was downtown…

“Dick dick dick dick diiiiiickkkkkk!!!”

Back to you, Carrie.

in underwear, smokes cigarette while staring out of window at rain *

Maybe charlotte?

“I want a baaaaaby. Let’s just skip to the end already.”


“I’m a bitch.”

Everyone is walking down the sidewalk for some reason?

cue jazzy outro jingle *

Melissa Sue Anderson said about Little House on The Prairie and other shows that once a show starts adding children to the show she knows it’s about done. There was a David Hasslehoff interview where he talked about on Baywatch if they were struggling for ratings they either added some new sexy person, or killed off one of the current cast. It’s always an instant rating booster.

AMERICANS ARE IGNORANT — SURVEY: When US registered voters were recently asked what adjective best describes Russia, 42% said “Communist,” 13% said “Socialist,” 11% said Capitalist, 34% said “Something else/Not sure”. (Wikipedia calls it a “mixed economy”; I personally think labels like “oligarchy, “”crony capitalism” or even “kleptocracy” are more accurate. ). (Source).

Bill McKibben about how reducing natural gas consumption to fight Putin:

FIGHTING PUTIN BY REDUCING NATURAL GAS: “Since the basic support for the Putin regime is oil and gas revenue, anything we can do to use less oil and gas also helps. Not immediately, but this war may grind on for a long time, and eventually our ability to get off hydrocarbons could play a crucial role. The GOP, Joe Manchin, and their patrons in the fossil fuel industry think the answer is producing more American oil and gas. But that’s just dumb, in part because breathing its combustion byproducts already kills 9 million people a year (far far far more than all war and terrorism combined), partly because it destroys the planet (as the IPCC reminded us on Monday) and partly because oil and gas are a global market. In the end, anything that maintains our dependency on them is a gift to Putin.Far smarter would be figuring out how to cut consumption here—keeping demand down would keep the global price down, denying Putin (not to mention Exxon, the Kochs, and the king of Saudi Arabia) windfall profits. And the quicker we build out alternatives, the quicker their power dwindles.

Some of the ways to reduce consumption are time-honored and obvious: if Ukrainians can shiver in bomb shelters, we can put on a sweater or two and turn the thermostat down a few degrees. Or—if you’re in parts of the South or Midwest reporting unprecedented late-winter heat—you could turn up the thermostat a few degrees and let the AC rest. It’s nice that we’re lighting things up in blue and yellow—but we could turn off a lot of other lights. (Environmentalist Bill McKibben)


Robert’s Roundup # 28 (March 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.

Just wanted to say that Dying Inside by Robert Silverberg is one of the most fascinating sci fi/fantasy stories I’ve ever read. Here’s Ted Goia’s essay about the book.

Indie Author Spotlight


Under the Radar

Wow, lots of discounted books for Mariner Books, Open Road Media and Soho Press. All prices are 99 cents unless otherwise noted. (Update: Some of them have gone up in price on Amazon). Update: Now Grove Press seems to be discounting. Update 2: Europa Editions seems to be discounting as well.

Last Flight of José Luis Balboa: Stories by Gonzalo Barr

Wrecking Light: Poems by Robin Robertson

Life & Times of Chaucer by John Gardner.

Rumors from the Cauldron: Selected Essays, Reviews, and Reportage by Valerie Miner. Literary essays with a feminist bent. (Author home page). I discovered Miner’s writing from Smashwords a year ago.

Goddes of Fire by Bharti Kirchner.

Kingdom of the Young: Stories by Edie Meidav.

Had a Good Time: Stories from American Postcards by Robert Olen Butler. Also, a Deep Green Sea.

Flashbacks: 20 Year Diary of Article Writing. by John A. Williams. (Wiki page). African-American essayist and journalism who wrote long-form journalism about world affairs, African-American culture. According to this NY Times obituary,

Why the Devil Chose New England for His Work: Stories by Jason Brown (author home page).

Prelude by William Coles. A British man looks back at his student days and illicit romance with his piano teacher.

Red Ant House: Stories by Ann Cummins. 1.99 (Author home page). Acclaimed story collection by Arizona-based author who writes about working class issues. Oops, discounted to 99 cents a week later, I should have waited!

Collected Memoirs: Ahead of Time, Haven, and Inside of Time by Ruth Gruber.

Fire Year by Jason K. Friedman. Jewish LGBTQ story collection which won a Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction. Another winner also discounted is Father Brother Keeper by Nathan Pool (stories about rural Georgia).

Cast a Cold Eye: Stories by Mary McCarthy (speaking of which).

Fall of the Year by Howard Frank Mosher. (Home page) Autobiographical novel about a preist’s adopted son in a small town in Vermont.

Yo! by Julia Alvarez. 1.99 Author of poetic In the Time of Butterflies.

Shout Her Lovely Name By: Natalie Serber. Short stories about mothers and daughters.

Poet of Ukraine: Selected Poems of Taras Shevchenko, translated by Clarence Manning. 1.99 Schevchenko is a 19th century poet who is now the national poet. This ebook is a facsimile of a printed book, so maybe read only on your tablet. Clarence Manning was a very distinguished translator who did this one in the 1940s.

Speaking of cheap Ukrainian books, check out Oksana Zabuzhko‘s novels. Museum of Abandoned Secrets and Field Work in Ukrainian Sex. These were published by Amazon Crossing, and she has one more Your Ad Could Go Here as well.

Megapack Memoir by Ruth Gruber. Distinguished Jewish journalist with a literary background who wrote several memoirs of before, during and after WW2.

Coyote: Seeking the Hunter in Our Midst by Catherine Reid. Nonfiction portrayal of an animal species we probably haven’t thought twice about. Texas author J. Frank Dobie used to write similar kinds of pieces.

Good Life: Stories by Erin McGraw

Various issues of Conjunctions. Editor Bradford Morrow did a smart thing and digitized some but not all old issues of Conjunctions. At the moment over half of the digitized versions are on sale for 99 cents, and a lot go on sale for 1.99. These things were giant-sized over 300 pages when printed and overall high quality. As digital zines, they are somewhat less impressive, but still very high quality and browsable. The only way to keep track is to set up an ereaderiq alert for the author Bradford Morrow. Morrow is also prolific as an author, so this means you’re getting a lot of unrelated alerts. That’s ok! Here’s the list! Hey, Mr. Morrow, if you are reading this, I always loved your magazine when I subscribed in the 1980s and 1990s, but fuck you for never accepting any of my submissions! (Also, fuck you for always having theme issues with strange and unpredictable deadlines!). But lots of love anyway.

  • American Poetry: States of the Art (Conjunctions Book 35) **** This is a must buy!
  • Sleights of Hand: The Deception Issue (Conjunctions)
  • Affinity: The Friendship Issue (Conjunctions)
  • A Menagerie (Conjunctions Book 61)
  • Inside Out: Architectures of Experience (Conjunctions)
  • Other Aliens (Conjunctions)
  • Tributes: American Writers on American Writers (Conjunctions Book 29)
  • The New Wave Fabulists (Conjunctions Book 39) (not now on sale, but wait a little)
  • Natural Causes: The Nature Issue (Conjunctions Book 64)
  • Exile (Conjunctions Book 62)
  • Fifty Contemporary Writers (Conjunctions Book 50)
  • Radical Shadows: Previously Untranslated and Unpublished Works by Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Masters (Conjunctions Book 31)

Village Prodigies by Rodney Jones

Equal Love by Peter Ho Davies. (Author website). Also on sale Ugliest House in the World: Stories. Davies is a Welsch-born author of Asian descent living and teaching in Michigan. Here’s a listicle he created about Top 10 Books about the Unknowable and here’s a podcast he did with Gish Jen about Anti-Asian Racism. Also here’s a keynote video from 2018.

Various sci fi story collections by Paul Di Fillipo: Harsh Oases, Neutrino Drag, Spondulix: A Romance of Hoboken.

Several novels by Padgett Powell: Hologram, Typical (short Stories), Edisto and Edisto Revisited. (Faculty home page and wiki page ).

Behind Closed Doors: Her Father’s House and Other Stories of Sicily By Maria Messina. (wiki page). Sicilian author who died in 1944 (and was mentored by Giovanni Verga). Ten stories of impoverished Sicilian women in the early 20th century—“honed, polished, devastatingly direct . . . verismo at its unsentimental best”

Be Mine by Laura Kasischke. (Wiki page) A novel of “sex, mystery, betrayal, intrigue and violence, all wrapped up in the disturbing world of a middle-aged woman’s deepest desires.” Actually all her titles look great! Several youtube readings from 2012 and from 2011. Great, I see her other fiction is being discounted.

Eveningland: Stories by Michael Knight. (Author website). Winner of Truman Capote Prize for Short Fiction. Here’s a glowing review by Rick Bass. Divining Rod is also 99 cents.

The One-Star Jew: Stories by David Evanier

Shout Her Lovely Name by Natalie Serber

Turing’s Delirium: A Novel by Edmundo Paz Soldán (Bolivian author).

Dating Tips for the Unemployed by Iris Smyles. Comedy book (large file!)

Theatre of Illusion by Pierre Corneille, translated by Richard Wilbur. Wilbur would of course do a fantastic translation.

The Eastern Shore: A Novel by Ward Just.

Fearless by Rafael Iglesias. Movie with same title was based on this. Also bought Game Player

Three Thousand Dollars: Stories by David Lipsky. He was in my JHU creative writing program the year before I came, and the title story was published in the New Yorker before he enrolled — what luck!

Forensic Songs: Stories by Mike McCormack. Booker nominee. Library Journal says this Irish novel “effortlessly weaves Raymond Carver’s lucidity together with Franz Kafka’s otherworldly absurdity”

2 book of essays by Roger Rosenblatt: Rules for Aging: A Wry and Witty Guide to Life and Anything Can Happen: Notes on My Inadequate Life and Yours. I’ve started reading Rules for Aging; it’s excellent and fun.

Ice-Cream Headache: And Other Stories by James Jones (of From Here to Eternity fame).

Becoming George Sand by Rosalind Brackenbury. I’ve also read Paris Still Love by the same author. Also Without Her is on sale.

Inside Madeleine: Stories by Paula Bomer. Raw, intense female-centered stories.

Law of Enclosures by Dale Peck. Embarrassingly, lots of reviews in mainstream press, but one sarcastic lukewarm review on Amazon. Oh, now I remember Peck; he’s a gay author and critic gained his reputation through author takedowns; who cares really? Also bought Garden of Lost and Found and Greenville.

Twice Told Tales by Daniel Stern. Although the story titles are identical to very famous stories, they are set in contemporary times. I saw him speak in Houston and found them readable (intro by Frank Kermode).

Sexual harassment rules by Lynda Schor.

Burning Down George Orwell’s House by Andrew Ervin.

The Slopes of Lebanon: Essays By Amos Oz.

Finding a Girl in America: And Other Stories by Andre Dubus

News from the End of the World by Emily Jeanne Miller. I ended up going for Brand New Human Being as well.

The Southern Cross by Skip Horack, Antonya Nelson

Wake of Forgiveness: A Novel by Bruce Machart

Cockroach of the Dada Movement: The Life and Selected Works of K. Ungeheuer. Indie published compilation of short prose pieces over several decades. Writes the editor Karl Sigler, “While Ungeheuer’s odd stories echo his contemporaries like Leonora Carrington, Kafka, and Borges, it seems like fate that this collection comes at a time when the new Weird Lit of Vandermeer, Schweblin, and Ligotti command the stage.”

Incendiary Circumstances: A Chronicle of the Turmoil of our Times by Amitav Ghosh.

Fireflies in the Night: A Coming of Age Historical Novel by Nalini Warriar

Wrinkles: A Novel by Charles Simmons. Simmons also wrote the satirical novel about book publishing, Belles Lettres Papers.

How to Rob an Armored Car: A Novel by Iain Levison. Humorous novel about working class anxiety set in a dying Pennsylvania coal town. Other novels: A working stiff’s manifesto: memoir and Since the Layoffs.

Texicans by Nina Vida. Frontier story taking place in San Antonio in 1843.

Please don’t come back from the moon by Dean Bakopoulos.

The Spinning Heart: A Novel by Donal Ryan

Winter Sisters by Tim Westover. This Southern novel with magical/fantasy elements won a major indie award.

Coyote: Seeking the Hunter in Our Midst By: Catherine Reid

Prelude (Novel) by William Coles.

The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements by Sam Kean

Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism by Peter Mountford. First novel set in Bolivia that’s a parable for the global economy.

3 compilation of Alistaire Cooke essays (I love him): America Observed: From the 1940s to the 1980s. Also: The Alistair Cooke Collection Volume One: Letters from America, Talk About America, and The Americans and Patient Has the Floor: Essays

Mind Over Matter: Conversations with the Cosmos by K.C. Cole short essays about the philosophy of science originally published in Discover Magazine.

2 erotica works by Marco Vassi: Sensual Mirror and Mind Blower. I’m writing a study on his works — I already own hard copies of both works, but want the convenience of having it on Kindle!

Work Shirts for Madmen by George Singleton. I pretty much buy anything by George Singleton, who is one of America’s great authors.

Caroline by Adrian Spratt.

Zig Zag Wanderer: Stories from Here, Stories from There by Madison Smartt Bell.

Testament by Nino Ricci. Story of Jesus Christ told in novel form. This was widely praised for being a serious literary investigation into the subject. I’ll read with an open mind.

Flights by Jim Shepard. Also Kiss of the Wolf.

On a Wave by Thad Ziolkowski.

Passing By: Selected Essays, 1962–1991 by Jerzy Kosinski.

The Cigar Roller by Pablo Medina.

Guys like Me by Dominique Fabre

Two novels by Mary McGarry Morris

Pocket Kings by Ted Heller.

How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone by Sasa Stanisic. Bosnian-German author. Here’s his debut novel.

A Window Across the River: A Novel by Brian Morton. Also Breakable You.

Drift: Stories by Victoria Patterson (Author Home Page).

Raised from the Ground: by Jose Saramago.

Hermit in Paris: Autobiographical Writings by Italo Calvino.

Grove Press Poetry Series has several poetry books on sale for 99 cents: Dead Man’s Praise by Jacqueline Osherow, Twenty-Seven Props for a Production of Eine Lebenszeit by Timothy Donnelly and Plot by Claudia Rankine. All promising, with good reviews by fans.

Three Poems (Poets, Penguin) by John Ashbery.

3 works by Texas author Dagoberto Gilb: Gritos (Essays), Flowers (Novel), Last Known Residence of Mickey Acuna.

Caprices by Sabina Murray. (PEN/Faulkner Award winner).

The Rebels’ Hour by Lieve Joris is a journalistic literary work about a Congolese rebel leader who becomes an army leader and navigates the chaos of his lawless country.

Mammoth Cheese by Sheri Holman. Quirky novel about small town politics.

Books by Fay Weldon. My god, it seems that 75% of Weldon’s novels are on sale for 99 cents!

Pack of Cards by Penelope Lively. (Stories).

Women in Love: And Other Dramatic Writings by Larry Kramer (gay playwright most famous for adapting D.H. Lawrence‘s Women in Love).

Home Schooling: Stories by Carol Windley.

Various books by Alan Sillitoe.

Under the Red Flag: Stories by Ha Jin. (Early story collection which won Flannery O’Connor Award).

Din in the Head: Essays by Cynthia Ozick.

In Favor of the Sensitive Man and other essays by Anais Nin. I’ve resisted her diaries — I never thought Nin was all that important an author — but Volume 5 is at 99 cents, and they’re all published by Mariner, so I expect all to be discounted eventually.

This is How by M.J. Hyland.

That was a Shiver and Other Stories by James Kelman.

This is not Civilization by Robert Rosenberg.

Diezmo by Rick Bass. Noted Texas author writes a historical novel about a tragic military adventure in early Texas history.

What we Owe by Golnaz Hashemzadeh Bonde. Iranian author.

Lay it on my Heart and Home Remedies(stories). By Angela Pneuman. Stegner fellow, Southern stories; for Christ’s sakes, must every fiction work by a Southern author be compared to a)Faulkner, b)Flannery O’Connor or c)Eudora Welty?

Hidden Letters of Velta B. by Gina Ochsner.

Zigzag Way and Diamond Dust (Stories) by Anita Desai.

I already bought it on Google, but I noticed that Margaret Drabble’s Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman: Complete Short Stories is at 99 cents.

Dove of the East and other Stories by Mark Helprin.

Several novels by James Carroll, a New England author who frequently writes about Catholic subjects.

When Mountains Walked by Kate Wheeler. American Buddhist author

Living on Air by Anna Shapiro. Deep character study about growing up in Long Island, NY in the 1960s.

Brothers Boswell by Phillip Baruth. Historical British novel about Samuel Johnson and James Boswell being threatened by Boswell’s younger brother.

2 Novels by Mary Volmer: Crown of Dust (historical novel about the gold rush) and Reliance, Illinois (historical novel about 1870s 13 year growing up. LJ: “a compelling portrait of a small Midwestern town and its residents during a period of great change” (Author website, blog and interview page)

City Son by Nepalese-American author Samrat Upadhyay. Also Guru of Love. (home page and interviews)

Five Moral Pieces by Umberto Eco. Essays about childhood, fascism, etc. Still haven’t read Name of the Rose.

Failure: Poems by Philip Schultz.

Broken String: Poems by Grace Schulman.

Various titles by Laird Hunt: The Impossibly, Kind One, The Exquisite, Ray of the Star. Here’s his twitter and wiki page and a written interview from 2006. Here’s another from 2010. I’d listened to his iambik audiobook eons ago (not on audible apparently)

Carnivore by Mark Sinnett. Award-winning novel about how a natural disaster hitting Toronto affected the marriage of a young couple. (2010 interview about the novel).

The Indie Author project is a new series of state-by-state literary contests which started a few years ago. The great thing about this contest is that 1)there’s a lot of them and 2)the authors are still obscure enough that their ebooks are priced pretty low or even free. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read — although it’s true that several of the prize winners are in genre or series. I don’t have time to list all of them, but I’ll list ones I actually bought.

  • Nine (Book 1 of Series) by C.G. Harris (website). Fantasy & Sci fi.
  • Bootlegger’s Mistress by Marc Curtis Little.
  • Southern Spirits by Angie Fox (Book 1 of Ghost Hunter series). (author website).
  • Back of the Yard by Meg Lelvis. (author website). Houston author who writes historical novels.

 Poetry of Jack Kerouac: Scattered Poems, The Scripture of the Golden Eternity, and Old Angel Midnight 

Moneyland: The Inside Story of the Crooks and Kleptocrats Who Rule the World by Oliver Bullough 2.99.

Willow Temple: New and Selected Stories by Donald Hall. 99 cents.

The Animal That Therefore I Am (Perspectives in Continental Philosophy) by Derrida. 2.99 I bought this mainly out of curiosity!

Library Purchases/Printed books


Creative Commons/Freebies


Literary Articles and Essays




Capsule Book Reviews


Book Roar Review


Multimedia/Podcasts, Etc

Poet Laura Kasischke gives a poetry lecture:

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