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Ray Bradbury has died

Writing is not a serious business. It’s a joy and a celebration. You should be having fun with it.”—Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury died this morning in Los Angeles:

His strange  stories told me that the mysteries I sensed in the late summer afternoon light had been glimpsed by someone else. I can’t tell anymore whether Bradbury helped create the way I see things, or if (as it felt at the time) I had found a writer who saw things the way I did.

Less interested in the science fiction books such as the Martian Chronicles, I loved the stories in Dandelion Wine set in an eerie, evocative smalltown summer, and the strange, evil carnival in Something Wicked This Way Comes.

Though I began to find his stories too sentimental as I got older, Ray Bradbury is one of the writers who made me write the way I do (it’s not his fault, though).


Bread of the Week

Two loaves of pain au levain, from a recipe given by Daniel Leader in his great cookbook Bread Alone.

Sourdough French bread


The Lurking Fear

The Lurking Fear and other stories, by H. P. Lovecraft. Ballantine Books, 1975 (sixth printing). Cover art by John Holmes.


The Lurking Fear

Rummaging through paperbacks in a thrift store yesterday I came across a copy of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Lurking Fear, one of several collections of HP stories brought out by Ballantine in the early 1970s. I had most of the stories already, somewhere scattered through different books, but with half my library in storage, I would never find them.

And now I wanted to reread Lovecraft. This happens to me periodically, in times of stress usually. For me, Lovecraft is a kind of literary comfort food. This may seem strange to some, but not as strange as the stories themselves.

So I ponied up 50 cents and bought it.

All the things I love about Lovecraft are on display here, as well as the cringe-making parts. The title story is what you might call Early Transitional Lovecraft, still strongly influenced by Poe, with an infusion of pulp magazine male adventure stuff mixed in with the raving neurasthenia. 

But what I like best are the pieces of pure Lovecraft that float to the surface, not yet integrated into a personal style, but unique to the man and completely insane.

Striking and grotesquely disproportionate similes abound:

” . . .vague new fears hovered menacingly over us; as if giant bat-winged gryphons looked on transcosmic gulfs.”

This is what I read Lovecraft for. 

And I love the casual assumptions in this:

“Sometimes, in the throes of a nightmare when unseen powers whirl one over the roofs of strange dead cities toward the grinning chasm of Nis, it is a relief and even a delight to shriek wildly and throw oneself voluntarily along with the hideous vortex of dream-doom into whatever bottomless gulf may yawn.”

I know, right? We’ve all been there. 

People who can’t read Lovecraft often fault him for purple prose.  But “purple prose” ain’t in it; this is over-the-top bad writing taken to wonderful extremes, transmuting into poetry. Extreme overwriting as an analogue to extreme states of consciousness, that was HP’s project, coming out of Poe.

My plan for the day: make a pot of tea and read more Lovecraft.

I feel better already.




Booklovers play rough

Let’s see, elbow pads, knee pads, crowbar (for prying books loose from old ladies who won’t buy them but won’t put them back), backpack rated to 80 lbs., sports crème for strains and bruises, wrist brace (for lifting those 1000-page-plus reference books)—okay, I’m ready for the Friends of the SF Library book sale.


Libraries: Socialism at work

I’ve been thinking a lot about libraries lately, probably because my book addiction is out of control in spite of a thorough shelf-culling both before and after we moved. So it would be better, much better, to have guest books that could be returned to some other bookshelf than the ones in my apartment.

Free libraries are pure socialism, no doubt an invention of the devil to the bugfuck-crazy teabags who don’t want to be helped at any cost, lest they should be asked to pay a nickel to help someone else.

But I have always loved libraries.

I was delighted to find out that Vinnie’s Head had been purchased by libraries in Singapore and Tasmania. And jazzed to find it on the shelf at the wonderful public library in downtown LA. I spent hours in libraries, from the time I could read until I could afford to buy my own books (something that happened fairly late in life). And now in the difficult condition of partial and uncertain employment, I’m spending that time in them once again.

What a pleasure.


Tiny Little Troubles goes paperback

My novel Tiny Little Troubles came out in trade paperback (that’s the large-format softcover) this week. Look for it at your local bookstore.

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