Social Networking & Beyond

LOVE, WISDOM, EMOTION (distilled to 140 Characters)

Social networkers who know me might get the inkling that I am a fan of Twitter.  Social Networkers who know me well,Twitter Love will tell you if they stick a pin in me would (after they listen to my obscenities), expect I’d bleed in short spurts of 140 characters.

That is to say, Twitter is in my blood!

My wife would tell you what my good friends and my very tactful new acquaintances, away from the internet, won’t.  And that is this: when I’m left to my own devises, and have no outside restrictions imposed on me, I can talk a subject to death while trying to get to the meat of it.  It’s just the crazy way those zany electrical conduits race on their circuitous route from my brain to my mouth.  I don’t control them, so I disavow any responsibility over uprooted signs, overturned food carts, or crossing guards resigned to shaking their staffs, along their way.

But, put me on Twitter and my brain becomes a master of brevity—which is not the same thing as being the master of intelligent brevity. Continue reading “LOVE, WISDOM, EMOTION (distilled to 140 Characters)”

The Writer's Life


[This blogster is getting frugal in his retirement.  If this post looks familiar to any of you it is because it was posted in my once lively, now defunct,  Jay Squires Writer’s Workshop Newsletter.  I think it has enough general interst that it should be included here.  Curiously, I had an earlier blog post entitled THEN AND NOW (A WRITER’S LIFE) — a title which I totally plagarized myself by using in my Newsletter (fortunately, there’s a law against suing oneself or I’d lose what little income I have in my retirement — I had that good a case against me!)  Even more curiously, I apparently had forgotten I used this same title, though the content in the two articles was entirely different.  Anyway … hence the PART II here.]


*     *     *

(A Writer’s Life)

   It was about 1961 or ’62.  I had just moved from a comfortable room in my parents’ home to a flat in San Francisco I shared with three others, only one of whom I remember.  His name was Joe, and I remember him because he, like me, left a comfortable home in Santa Maria, California, to experience life in San Francisco.
   We were oh so ready to begin our suffering. Continue reading “THEN AND NOW — PART II”

MOSTLY OPINION · The Writer's Life


I am about to post something that has the potential to instantly polarize my followers, possibly to cause a goodly number of them to unsubscribe from SeptuagenarianJourney altogether.  I hope that doesn’t happen.  But, if it does …

So be it.

I didn’t approach the controversial nature of the subject-matter with the sense of adventure I might have shown as a younger man.  You won’t find any courageous nose-thumbing from this corner!  As a matter of fact, a thorough exegesis of both sides of the argument by an expert would have been welcome relief to me.  But, with no such balanced analysis forthcoming, it is apparently left up to me. 

I’m taking a risk that’s not easy.  I’m sorry if I insult any of you.  That is not my intent.  On the other hand, it is impossible for me not to take sides, so I can’t even protect myself from the wrath of some of you by pleading for you to please “not shoot the messenger.”

Indeed, I am the messenger, but to some of you the stand I will be taking may be considered a shootable offence.

Again … so be it!


The Writer's Life


Librarygift card




I went to the library today.  My son, David, works there.  I went there to deliver a Christmas card to him.  No need to go back and reread the sentence.  It was today.  It was a Christmas card.  There’s a story there.  I’ll tell it to you if you like.  That was not the intent of this blog, though—telling the story, I mean—but life is complex.  That’s why I don’t often write in simple sentences.  To meet life’s complexities head-on, and write about them, I often write in compound sentences, sometimes complex sentences.

But the story … okay: 

Last Christmas we gifted many of our loved ones cash or gift cards.  David was one.  We bought him a fifty-dollar movie gift card.  He loves movies and since they were going through a financial rough patch, this gave him an opportunity to go to a movie without feeling like he was taking food off the family table.

Not too long ago, my wife and I heard on the grapevine (actually, the grapevine was my other son, Joe, who also loves movies), that the brothers went to the Marketplace Theater where David pulled out his gift card to pay for his ticket.

The teenager in the booth ran it through the scanner and put her mouth to the hole in the glass:  “That’ll be nine-dollars and fifty cents,” she said, around her chewing gum.

David said, “Yeah, go ahead and use the card.”

“You used the card,” she said.  “Fifty cents worth.”

Of course he told her the card was for fifty dollars, to which she retorted, “No.  Fifty cents.”

David’s a pretty mildly tempered person, but he was getting a bit heated at this point.  “Why would anyone buy a gift card for fifty cents?  Do you even sell gift cards for fifty cents?”

“No,” she replied and popped her gum.

That happened sometime in January.  Joe told us about it, I believe, in May.  I don’t remember how it came up, but it was a rather oblique reference, as I recall.  It was probably, by agreement between the brothers, that we weren’t to hear about it at all, but it somehow just happened.

My wife and I talked about it.  I mean, it wasn’t our fault.  We paid for a fifty dollar gift card.  It was the movie theater’s fault.  Specifically, it was the fault of the person who sold us the card.  But it was David who had really lost out.

So, last night my wife dug out a Christmas card from the drawer.  At the bottom of the greeting she wrote, “Merry Christmas all over again,” and tucked in two twenties and a ten.

And, I took it to him today.

Well … that’s the story, but it’s not the blog post I had intended.

What I really wanted to tell you was this:  As I was walking across the library parking lot, clutching the Christmas card, I found myself flowing forward with a river of library patrons, most of whose arms were loaded down with books.  One backpack so filled with books that the wearer was forced to walk in an awkwardly erect posture, threatening to fall over backwards, which conjured up images of a turtle on his back, unable to right himself.  Children skipping, laughing out of sheer joy, screaming, well, because they were children; parents exhorting, “Now you remember you whisper when you go inside.”  A little boy talking in excited tones to his sister, ” … and I’m gonna get me a book about horses and I’ll ask mama if I …” and his thin voice blends in with, and is blanketed by, other voices and noises and celebration.

Difficult to pin down, hard to put your finger on … this community of festivity, this carnival of expectation; hope—the possible unwrapping of a mystery inside those walls, between the hard, musty covers of a book plucked randomly from one of the thousand of shelves, the voice in the book, that one voice that says with precision and certitude what you have been forever feeling, but thinking you were alone, and lonely, in the feeling of it.  But, here you find a friend, a confederate, a confidant, here—here in this book, taken from that shelf within the whispering walls of the Library.

And I am being swept along, thinking about this and almost trip over a young man, hoisting in his arms a mountainfalling books of books, one of which slides down the slope and while he bends to pick it up two more fall, and making a wild grasp for all of them the entire mountain collapses.

And I stop and help him.  I pick up a one volume Works of Balzac, a Strunk and White’s Elements of Style, and a paperback western novel.  He lifts a huge tome entitled the Essential Dictionary of Music Notation, and a few more paperbacks.  Enormous green eyes stare up at me through coke-bottle-lenses and he thanks me.

I continue on, thinking about all this and what it is urging me to remember.  And, then I do remember.  I remember something I had read, or seen on TV, or heard …something that was from a respected source that told us we were, mentally, becoming a nation of pablum ingestors.  We have lost our intellectual teeth and are growing incapable of thinking on our own.  A dangerous thought: other people thinking for us!  Books being replaced by television; outdoor activities by video games.

We’ve all heard the naysayers.

How many aspiring writers have given up in the face of such cultural inevitability?  I remember thinking back then, “What’s the bloody use in writing! Who will be there to read it, anyway?”

Today, with Christmas card in hand, caught in the flow and flood of this army of cultural dissenters, I hear and see, and, yes—I feel: the alphabet is hearty, the squiggles and squams of punctuation still function, words, almighty slippery, wriggling, palpitating words, still have meaning thanks to this army, thanks to this marvelous, beautiful army converging in to burst through the door and into the mystery world inside the whispering walls.

The Writer's Life

OFFICE REFLECTIONS (Waiting For the Ringing)

I can reflect back over thirty years sitting in this office, staring out across the parking lot at the traffic whizzing up and down Columbus Avenue, each car coming from someplace and going someplace else.  There was never anything personal or special or memorable about the occupants of those cars, and I’m sure if any one of them happened to glance over at my office, he would have found nothing particularly personal, special or memorable about its occupant either.  Had one’s eyes locked on mine at that precise moment he passed and if I just happened to lock my eyes on his at that same fragment-in-time—well that might have had all the potential of being a Hollywood moment!

But, over a quarter century that never happened.

Looking back, each year, and for that matter, each day of every year was pretty much like all the other days and years.

Across Columbus Avenue there used to be a two acre parcel of vacant tumbleweed-clogged land, endowed with its own special charm and populated with kit-foxes (which are an endangered species, and are a fineable and/or jail-able offence to even accidentally kill), and ground-squirrels, that anyone can kill and often does.  At the far end of the parcel are groves of dense, nameless trees.  Behind them is a stream, a tributary really, of the mighty Killer Kern River, riverso named because of the number of people who lose their life to it every summer, and where, up-river, at its most violently churning part, a sign is posted that reads: Stay Out/Stay Alive  But, alas!  They don’t.  And, they don’t.

In the interest of accuracy let me explain that from my chair you can’t actually see the tributary to the Mighty Killer Kern behind the groves of trees.  But, I know it’s there, just as I know it’s part of its mama, the Mighty Killer Kern, and, where, up-river there is a sign Stay Out/Stay Alive.  I know all that is there, even though I can’t see it from here—and I thought you might like to know it’s there, too—both what’s visible and what’s not.

Also, in the interest of further accuracy, I’ll add that from my chair—and, for that matter—from any chair from any office on this side of Columbus Avenue you can’t see the groves of trees, anymore, except what is allowed to peek from between the second and third of the four apartment buildings, and looking suspiciously like a clump of spinach wedged between teeth.

It all happened about seven months ago.  An enterprising Bakersfield soul, after the mayor cut a ribbon with a humungous pair of scissors, turned his men loose on the field to remove rocks and tumbleweeds, to relocate the kit-foxes and gas the holes of the ground squirrels.  Afterwards, they planted a brand new crop of apartment seeds in threeoffice to apartments 260 neat rows of four and over the months I watched them grow until they were fully ripe and ready to open up and harvest cash for the owner.

Please don’t think I am angry and protesting progress.  I’m just a writer who is trying to find a balance between clinging to the truth of his life while creating fresh and interesting ways to keep his readers awake and moving left-to right across the page.  In the course of doing this, I’d like to say I told the truth as I perceived it—although one piece of mistruth I’m blushing about is that the contractor’s men gassed the ground-squirrels.  I don’t know how they got rid of them, only that they were there in masses before.  I haven’t seen one in the last month.

You may wonder what difference any of this makes anyway: the cars, the fields, the trees, the hidden streams, and the Killer Kern, progress, the apartments and the mystery of the missing ground squirrels.  In the grand theme of life what is any of this but disjointed and uneventful subplot?

Subplot … I wonder myself.  Thirty years.  All subplot!

This—all you patient readers—is what I’ve been leading up to:

old man in chairIn three days I shall—while exhibiting as much drama as I can muster—turn off the lights for the last time.  Bill Cosby did it when his tenure ended.  Mary Tyler Moore did it at the end of hers.  Twenty-million people watched on TV as the room faded to black.

But, I shall be alone, flipping the switch.  And, it’s springtime here in California.  There will be no fade to black, or even gray.  The room will look the same with the switch down as up. 

But, perhaps that’s as it should be.  No high drama.  Just subplot.

So, June 1st I shall be retiring from Allstate Insurance Company (By the way, the gentleman in the picture is not me.  We look much alike, but I do not yet need a cane.)

I was a middle aged man of 43 when I hired on.  Allstate did much of what she promised.

 She provided me with an office that was toasty in the winter and cool in the summer, a sign above the door with Allstate and Jay Squires on it, an internationally recognizable brand, scads of advertising on the national and local level … and a telephone.  I waited for it to ring.  It rarely did.

During my thirty years of waiting for the ringing, I wrote hundreds and hundreds of poems and short stories, the absolute finest of the latter compiled in a collection of short stories under the dubious title THE GREATEST short STORY [-ies] [I’ve ] EVER TOLD (think yellow, he subliminally whispers).  I also wrote a Noah Winter mystery novel, entitled RSVP: An Invitation to an Alchuklesh Massacre.

After thirty years, I know I’m not leaving Mother Allstate a legacy.  Neither has she left one for me.  We part merely as strangers—occupants of cars and offices.  And, in a way, I suppose that is sad. 

But, Saturday I begin a new subplot.  If I have my way, over the years allotted for me, I shall make it a grand subplot on the way to uniting—or reuniting—with its even grander theme.

The Writer's Life

SPRINGTIME (Pt. II) When a Little Rain May Fall


We concluded the first springtime post with the question: “Is there a downside to internalized springtime for the creative mind?”

So… is there?

Oh, you bet there is!  I’ll give you an example:

Insurance agents (and I’m guessing it would be the same with all salesmen), are notorious for summarily ditching what works for them: a perfectly successful phone technique, a dynamic sales presentation, or flawless methods of turning nos into yeses.  Suddenly, they just stop using them.  Then, midway into their commission’s downward spiral, when their manager asks them why they stopped doing what was successful and made them money, most will sheepishly admit: “I knew that it worked, so I wanted to try something new.”

To try something new ….  And, that, dear reader is the lure—the siren—of springtime!

Let me ask you this:

How many of you have amputated stories, or sheaves of half-worked melodies lying in the bottom of your desk drawers, or blocked out sketches on canvases stacked in our closets?  How many of your past creative impregnations—after a rough winter’s labor—become pre-term-stillborn when challenged by springtime’s new shoots?  To try something new.

Let me start the survey myself:

I have two unfinished novels and about eight or nine truncated short stories.  No songs, I’m afraid.  No canvases.

How about you painters reading this?  Or songwriters?  You other writers? Stop giving up

Personally, I don’t know the first thing about technique in painting, only a little more about songwriting: I can hum a ditty.  But I do know what all three have in common.  Throw in playwriting and sculpting, and I’m still in familiar territory.  And so are you!

I know they all began with an idea, which I’ll call a vision—however unarticulated the vision was.

If the vision was true there was a powerful, if not burning, desire to bring that idea or vision to completion.  Dare I say it?  I shall: To give birth … to the novel, or the short story, or the painting, sculpture, stained-glass window or architecture, or the song, tune, opera, or symphony!

Of course the all-important medium between Vision and Birth is Time.

Could it be simpler?  If the vision produced a desire that was consistently powerful enough over time there would be a joyous delivery.

For the formula lovers amongst us, I offer:


*     *     *

The Challenge:  Visit the graveyard of projects past.  Let’s do a little disinterring.

For the purposes of discussion let’s say it’s a writing project you pulled out of the graveyard of your drawer.

1.  The beginning-tounravel point: At what point did you start losing interest in your project?  You didn’t just one day say, “Okay, I’m no longer interested in this.”  It came by degrees.  And, there was a reason for it.  Chances are the reason is going to take you right back to the vision.

Continue reading “SPRINGTIME (Pt. II) When a Little Rain May Fall”

The Writer's Life

SPRINGTIME … When a Young Man’s Fancy (Part I)

     I’m sitting here in my office chair, at my office desk, my hands cupped to the back of my head, elbows up and to the side, staring out the glass office door where the stenciled letters spelling AUTO, HOME, BUSINESS & LIFE INSURANCE are backwards to me so the passersby on the sidewalk heading down to the 7-11 can properly read it and perhaps come in and spoil my reverie while I am thinking, “Well … another springtime is here.”

     I’m also imagining how someone, staring at me from one of the apartment windows in the complex across Columbus butterfly manStreet, might wonder at my hands so placed behind my head, my elbows high and out, my well-toned lats filling that part of my Hawaiian shirt and at the glazed look in my eyes, whether I might, instead, be a huge Monarch butterfly fresh-slithered from my chrysalis, which he can’t see, owing to the distance and also the fact that my former springtime home lies like a discarded garment at my feet, hidden behind my big, impersonal insurance desk.

     Oh, yes it is most definitely spring.

     My imagination flutters me about the room, dipping and rising and soaring and fluttering, and the man in the apartment has now vacated his window falsely believing he had not been staring at a butterfly at all, but an old insurance man sitting in his chair behind his desk.

*     *     *

     I’ve experienced probably sixty springtimes, nearly all of which I might remember the magic of, if I really put my mind to it.  Even if I were to try to recapture the memory of the springtimes earlier than that, it would be irrelevant.  Why?  Because you don’t need springtime when all of childhood—assuming it is not meddled with—is tender and fresh.  All life is magic, or should be, to the pre-teen child.

     My reality is that I’m 73 years old.  But, then again, no one who’s reading this is likely to be cavorting around in the tender, fresh wonder of childhood, either.

     So, I’m thinking we all need our springtimes.  Am I right? What does springtime conjure up in your mind? Spring cleaning?  Or, Easter?springtime wedding  And, isn’t springtime the most popular season to marry?  How about planting time?  And, dare we omit nestlings chirping in the trees, or, butterflies flitting from flower to flower?  What have I forgotten?

     One doesn’t have to go too far to find the common thread running through all these?  Springtime is a time of new beginnings.

     At the risk of belaboring the obvious with the above statement, I’d like to take it a step further and suggest that the first day of spring should be the true New Year’s Day.  Sure, a few things would have to be tweaked, but I’d wager that once done, the rational mind of man would have a closer association with the truth of new beginnings that reside in man’s soulAnd, because of that … I’d wager another thing: our New Year’s resolutions would have a far better chance of succeeding because our souls are already geared toward change, improvement, betterment.

     We’d have to do something about the college bowl games.  I’ll put my people on it.

*     *     *

     How do the seasons play out in our creative life?  As a writer I wonder, is it just me, or do the fresh sprouts nudging the soil of our creative minds seem more abundant now?  Notwithstanding, we may be still pregnant with undelivered projects of springs and summers past that we’ve been pushing through one more exhausting winter of fitful contractions.

     No one said creative project-bearing would be easy!

     And, now, as if to confound us, these new ideas are germinating in our minds with surprising ease and are as fresh as a peach-blossom-wafted breeze.  With that tingling in our nostrils who could be blamed for wanting to take a break from all the pushing and grunting?

     (Can I hear some of you complaining that the old coot is waxing awfully poetic?  Well, you young whippersnappers, springtime’s the reason.  Blame it on springtime!)

     Complaints aside, though, are we beginning to see there just might be a downside to springtime for the creative mind I hope you’ll explore that with me next time.monarch butterflies

     Until then … be kind to old men and young butterflies.

 Pssst!  You made it this far so why not bounce clear to the top of the right-hand side bar and subscribe to my FREE newsletter?  Until I get other people to voluntarily rave about it, I’m gonna have to be the first one you’ll read as saying: “Jay’s newsletter’s a hoot!” and “Chock-full of writing tips, it’s information rich, while entertaining and funny!” and “You’re gonna wanna jump aboard before Jay discovers how great it truly is and starts charging a huge subscription fee!”


Re-blog of Barbara Rogan’s Stunning Post

     My April 19th post of THEN & NOW (The Writer’s Life), was a comparison of the writing/submission process THEN (circa the 1930s), with typewritten Mss, manila envelopes, stamps and snailmail … and NOW, with the computer, internet and email.  I was pleased with its reception.  A few days after its introduction, I read a brilliantly written blog post by Barbara Rogan which stands as a kind of counter-point to THEN & NOW in that it gives insight to the publishing business from the other side of the desk, so to speak, and offers thumbnail portraits of some of the great editors and publishers.

     I offer it now as a reblog, for your enjoyment.  After you experience the richness of her prose and the subject, I invite you to check out her latest novel, A Dangerous Fiction

             Please enjoy:

A Dangerous Fiction

The Best Part of Publishing

Posted 9/12/12, by Barbara Rogan

The problem with living in the golden age of anything is that you never know it at the time. It is what it is, that’s all. Only much later, when it’s over, do you realize in retrospect what anextraordinary period it was.

I thought about this the other day when I came across a piece in the New Yorker, “Editors and Publisher” by John McPhee: an affectionate appreciation of his two great New Yorkereditors, William Shawn and Bob Gottlieb, and his publisher, Roger Straus Jr. It occurred to me that I had known and worked with two of these men, Bob Gottlieb when he was editor-in-chief of Knopf, and Roger Straus Jr. during his long tenure at the helm Farrar, Straus and Giroux. I was, at the time, a young literary agent based in Tel Aviv, representing Israeli writers abroad and American and European writers in Israel. I had moved from New York to Tel Aviv at the age of 22, worked for an Israeli publisher for a year, saw a niche into which I might fit, and at the ripe old age of 23 launched the Barbara Rogan Literary Agency.

Read More: 1066 more words


THEN AND NOW: (the writer’s life)



     Over my Saturday morning treat of biscuits ‘n gravy and coffee at Carl’s Jr, I happened to be reading a short story by William Saroyan.  The story is called Seventy Thousand Assyrians, and typical of Saroyan, it has a humongous title with very simple content that seems to go nowhere but goes everywhere, if you know what I mean.

     He writes about a young man (the writer, William) needing a haircut; having little money, he goes to a barber college where he can get one for 15 cents.  While he is waiting for his turn he strikes up a conversation with a sixteen-year-old lad, also down on his luck, and waiting for a haircut.  The young man tells him he is heading to Portland, Oregon since there is no work in the lettuce fields of Salinas, which is in California.  And, that brings me to Saroyan’s narrative.  And, I quote:

     “I wanted to tell him how it was with me: rejected story from Scribner’s, rejected essay from The Yale Review, no money for decent cigarettes, worn shoes, old shirts, but I was afraid to make something of my own troubles.  A writer’s troubles are always boring, a bit unreal.  People are apt to feel, Well, who asked you to write in the first place?  A man must pretend not to be a writer.  I said, ‘Good luck North.'”

     A fine short story, worth every writer’s perusal.  But, it was just the reading of that one paragraph that set me to thinking about the life of the writer then (1933) and now.  And, it got me thinking philosophically about the writer then and now.  About their psyches.  About the subtle deeper layers, then and now.  And, I’m way out of my own depth here, I know that.  But has that ever stopped me before?

     Thinking about it, and including it in my blog, are two different things, though.  The decision maker was that my Kindle Fire alerted me I need to charge it now!  I had just enough juice left to type out the above quote before the screen went gray.

     The electronic age — how apt is that?

     “I wanted to tell him how it was with me: rejected story from Scribner’s, rejected essay from The Yale Review.”  rejectionI’ll go back and pick up the rest of the quote later, but right now the keynote difference between the two parts of the quote is not the results of rejection but how one is rejected.  And, the very important impact that time has on rejection.  Very important!

     Many writers are not old enough to have experienced the submission/rejection phase of which Saroyan speaks.  I am, and some of you are.  What Saroyan  had to do was write, edit and put in its final polished form the manuscript he wanted to submit.  He knew there was protocol.  The editor, or his lackey, would be looking for a reason not to have to finish a piece to its end.  There were hundreds that had to be waded through before closing time.  The writer couldn’t fold it and slip it in a regular size envelope.  Folding not allowed.  So, he had to purchase manila envelopes. He needed two for each manuscript — one in which to put the Ms along with the second, folded, stamped manila envelope — alas! for the returned Ms. With the returned Ms would be the rejection slip, suitable for framing, wallpapering or wadding up.  If Mr. Saroyan were fortunate there would be no coffee stains or other tale-tale signs on it, so he would be able to use the almost virgin Ms to send to the next on the list.

     Each submission represented about a month out of the writer’s life.  Thirty days.  Maybe even longer.  And, each successive, unsuccessful month meant a little more abrasion to his soul.  But, I promised not to talk about the effects of rejection just now.  Only the process, the how, of rejection.

     Effort.  Money.  Time.  These always have been and always will be the constants.  How they are allocated will differ over the years.

     Mr. Saroyan had a typewriter.  While he created, he had to x-out the offending words, writing the corrected ones above or below the lines.  But, for his finished Ms he needed perfection (back in an age without white-out or correcto-tape) and if that meant tossing an otherwise perfectly good page because in the last line he wrote to instead of too … so be it!  Effort.  Time.

     Then came the computer age!

     Just having the ability to make all the editing changes on the screen (with spell-check, insert and delete, cut and paste) before the Ms is printed, the computer presented an enormous saving in time and effort.  And, then, withcomputer love the advent of the internet, all of a sudden Scribner’s, The Yale Review and a hundred-thousand other magazine and many book publishers have moved right next door.  So to speak.  There goes the neighborhood! — again, so to speak.

     Now the writer whips his Ms into near perfection, pulls the publisher up on-line, pastes or attaches the Ms, pushes the submit button and, voila!, he is about ten days, instead of thirty from rejection — or acceptance, lets not forget that, with the payment sent to his Pay-pal account.

     This first segment of “THEN AND NOW: (the Writer’s life)” focused on the submission/rejection process of Magazine Fiction and Non-fiction writing.  For this blog,  it is a stand-alone piece.  I hope you enjoyed it.  I also hope you will be inclined to sign up for my free newsletter where the series will continue with a close look at the results of rejection on the writer;  after that, the third in the series will branch off to what I hope is a fresh exploration of brick ‘n mortar vs. E-book publication You may sign up on the upper right sidebar.  I hope you take that journey with me!



M’ bud, Seumas Gallacher , tossed me the gauntlet.   He actually tossed five gauntlets to five receivers.  I’m sure the other four caught theirs.  Congrats, but I missed mine!

Steel gauntlet and big toe do not a merry meeting make.


But … not allowing a throbbing hallux to daunt this fisherman’s challenge, I cast the net of my memory out into the teeming sea of literature and snag my personal five favorite books.

These are the books whose special dog-eared pages can still tease out of me a smile or a tear after the third or thirtieth read.  They might not be the critic’s choices.  They may not be your favs.  But dare you say they are not worthy of inclusion on Jay’s Doggone good Reads bookshelf, I want to cordially invite you to my boat.  I have a dandy little plank I would like you to test out.  Arrrrrrrrg!


So, here goes, dear readers.  The selections are in no particular order.  And, you writers out there … I reserve the right to revise the list after I’ve read your masterpieces.  But, at this moment here are my choices:

A Child’s Christmas in Wales, By Dylan Thomas:  This little book (I’ve seen it under its own covers, but it’s so small it’s usually included with his poems.  But, it deserves its own sovereignty.)  is meant to be read aloud—and in a Welch accent, I might add!  Wanna know what a Welch accent sounds like?  Listen to Dylan Thomas reading A Child’s Christmas in Wales.  If you’re like me, after to hear it you’re gonna want to have your own copy.  Why?  So you can read it aloud.  Children especially love hearing it.  I said Thomas’s words are meant to be read aloud.  It’s truer to say they’re meant to be eaten!  Like fine cuisine.  Oh my!  I’ve said it and it feels so good!

 Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates, By Tom Robbins:  In my opinion Robbins is a dangerous writer for a fledgling writer to read.  Just sayin’.  He breaks all the rules with his rendering of characters and plot and breaks them so seamlessly, so easily, so freely and with such astounding craftsmanship that an impressionable writer might easily come under his spell.  I know I did!  After reading this very book, I was a miniature Tom Robbins for my next 300,000, or so, words.  I say “miniature” advisedly.  I could never bring off the outrageous panache of the original.  Mine was always a diluted, “miniature” version.  But, to his favor, only greatness can bring about such an effect!

Look Homeward Angel, By Thomas Wolfe:  I need to remind some of my readers that there are two Thomas Wolfe’s.  There’s the one who wrote in the 50s, 60s and 70s.  Then there’s the real Thomas Wolfe (he says with a wry smile).  The author I’m speaking of was contemporaneous with Hemmingway.  Anyway, I cut my newbie teeth on Thomas Wolfe.  He was a literary steamroller.  There is sheer power in his words and nowhere is that more representative than in Look Homeward Angel.  I’ve heard it said that Wolfe will never be found in the Pantheon of American writers because they lack a certain “finished” quality … and I tend to agree with that assessment.  But the emotional honesty and rawness that’s found in his prose is more a monument to me because of the lack of polish.  Sometimes the excitement in one’s writing can only be spontaneous and polishing dulls its fine edge.   And Besides, Wolfe stood over six-and-a-half feet tall and scrawled his mighty words on a tablet which was laid on top of the refrigerator.  While apocryphal, it’s been said he used to beat his head against the wall to slow the pace of words that bubbled & frothed out of his brain.  You just gotta love that!

 Tropic of Cancer, By Henry Miller:  Lawdy, how naughty I felt reading Tropic of Cancer in the 60s when it was declared to be “non-obscene” by the Supreme Court.  I was about 20 at the time.  Being “non-obscene” didn’t mean I wouldn’t be umbrella’d by a little old lady who watched me leering at the pages in the park, but at least I had no fear of being arrested.  By today’s standards the book would raise nary an eyebrow.  Both the Tropic books were important to me as a living document of life in the 30s and in Paris.  Important literary and art figures wandered in and out of the pages—with their literary and artistic idiosyncrasies.  Also, lest we forget, Henry Miller was not a shallow thinker.  He helped bring sexuality out of the closet and cast it in an almost spiritual light.

The William Saroyan Reader, By William Saroyan:  This is a compendium of some of William Saroyan’s best short stories along with a play, The Time of Your Life that won him the Pulitzer Prize.  He declined the Prize because he believed that “commerce should not judge the arts.”  I admire, so much, the integrity of the man behind the artist.  William Saroyan (I think I’ll call him Bill) lived just up the street from me—well, 70 miles up the street, in Fresno, California, from which his stories derive their inspiration as well as their energy.  Saroyan is sheer joy to read.  His rambling yet organically controlled sentences, his down-to-earth characters who strike such a chord of reality, his settings that scintillate and drag you into the present moment—this is what makes Saroyan one of the most seminal writers in the twentieth century.

And, now, I’m going to wish the following five bloggers better luck than I in gauntlet catching.  This is your assignment if you choose to take it (and, may I say you were chosen because of your high intelligence—to be sure—but also because you’ll do anything to take a day off your present project.  Also, you dread with a dread the world’s never dreaded before of being invited to my boat.)  When you’ve published your five favs make sure it includes at the bottom the five bloggers to whom you are going to toss your gauntlet, spear or grenade.

Without further ado, readers, put your gauntleted hands together for:

Clive Eaton

Sonia Medeiros

John Betcher

Teresa Cypher

Hamilton C Burger