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The Elements of Revenge Lit.

Every art form has rules.  Some forms, like the Elizabethan sonnet, specify the number and emphasis of beats in a line and lines in a verse.  Other forms operate under dicta that (to borrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean script) function more like guidelines.  I’m not sure how formalized the rules are in Revenge Stories but I can tell you one thing about Andrew Hilbert’s Death Thing.  It has the elements of this genre down pat. A Recognizable Protagonist – Gilbert is one of life’s constant complainers, a fellow the rest of us have met and now try to avoid.  He’s the self-satisfied old guy spouting opinions on every subject, and insults with every remark.  If he’s your relative, you duck him at family gatherings and wonder on the way home why and how his wife stays in their marriage. Like many retirees, Gilbert has too much time on his hands and booze in his gut but the man does have a legitimate problem: vandals have been breaking into his car.  Rather than keep his auto in the garage or take his valuables inside when he leaves, Gilbert opts to turn his car into a machine that will “teach”…

Getting Help with Ye Olde Classics

It’s no secret that I’m addicted to reading.  I started staring at printed pages before I learned to walk and I was pulling the meaning from them before I could tie my shoes so reading was never hard.   Want to hear a secret? Reading the Classics, those old, required plays and poems was hard for me, at first.  My eyes, trained for the fast-paced, economic sentences of the twentieth century, stopped dead at Elizabethan verse and Middle English. Now,  professors tend to look down on would-be English Majors who can’t discuss Shakespeare and Chaucer, so I had to resolve the issue.  You could say I got a lot of help.  I’d prefer to think of it as cheating. The Canterbury Tales Take enough English classes and eventually you’ll bump up against Chaucer’s famous tales.  The premise is simple.  A bunch of religious travelers meet at a pub and amuse each other through the evening by telling stories.  The problem is, they’re speaking in Middle English, which has, at best, a nodding acquaintance with our type of palaver.  As an example, I’ll give you the start of my favorite, The Miller’s Tale: Whilom ther was dwellynge at oxenford A riche gnof,…

Something Real to Fear in the Fall
I know a Good Story / October 6, 2015

We like to scare ourselves with autumn stories.  Whether the celebration is Halloween, Guy Fawkes Day, or Dia de Los Muertos, this is the season when we remember that life is chancy and death is real.  Because these truths are frightening, most of us arrange our lives to minimize danger and invent spooky stories for fun.   It took Sebastian Junger to remind us that some folks still earn a living doing hazardous work and watch the skies of October with fear. Those who live by and on the sea never forget that hurricanes arrive with the fall. The Perfect Storm is an account of a Halloween storm that  landlubbers will never forget. Two dozen years have passed since a low-pressure system hit the remnants of Hurricane Grace and turned it into a sea-going cyclone.  Three people outside watching the storm were swept away by the winds and two more died when their boat sank off Staten Island.  A Coast-Guard helicopter crashed in the storm and one of the paratroopers was lost at sea but if you ask readers about that storm, they’ll tell you about the fishing ship, Andrea Gail.  They may even remember the names of her crew,…

Now let us Praise Banned Books

It’s Banned Books Week again, that week cherished by bibliophiles and lovers of intellectual freedom, a time when the stupidity and bigotry of would-be censors is exposed to the light of day. Granted, a small part enjoying of BBW comes from a feeling of coalition; it’s nice to meet others who prize big ideas over small minds but the core of the celebration are the books themselves. Banned Books  are some of the best stories in the world. When I first heard Americans were banning books, I was a teenager and my personal library was kept on one shelf.  At the time, I was amazed that anyone in the USA endorsed censorship, especially after after WWII (why copy any policy approved of by Hitler?)  The real surprise came when I read which books folks had wanted to ban:  Alice In Wonderland?  To Kill A Mockingbird?  The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-In-The-Moon Marigolds?  Were they kidding? Almost every book on my shelf (and all of my favorites) had been a target for censorship at some point. I also noticed titles that were not on the list.  One of families that I baby-sat for kept a collection of paperbacks in the living…

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