REVIEWING THE BOOK REVIEW

Book reviews always make me curious. I love them, but at the same time, I wonder why people read them. And people DO read them, The Los Angeles Review of Books (aka LARB), which is a lovely website, thrived when they filled a void that existed in the industry for book reviews—but I wanted to talk about the idea of a book review.

When I think of a book review, I think of some detailed discussion about a few things. 1) What the book was about, 2) the key elements of the plot, themes, and other motifs, and finally 3) how it all relates to the bigger picture of life. Which is certainly something that matters to the overall discourse of the world, isn’t it? It presents a different interpretation, as well as potentially missed aspects of a story someone read.

Yet papers often run book reviews concurrent to release dates. LARB does this sometimes, though they also do book reviews of things several years down the lines. The classic book review though, which is designed to boost the popularity of a book on release, comes out often the same day as the book. Which doesn’t make sense to me. What discourse can that add to the world? It will get lost in the paper. I’m not going to finish my brand new book, track down the now week-old paper, and reread a book review to really understand how it ties into the bigger picture of things. Not when Goodreads comments often add just as much value. No wonder that industry went through a pretty hard reset.

How would I improve this? Well, I mean it’s really just adjusting the dates of release. If a book releases Wednesday, and it takes two weeks for the average person to finish reading…well then they should publish the review two weeks later. It’s not like a superfan is going to be upset the review is a bit later, and people often rave about books the most right when they finish. Repetition and intensity are what make people remember a product.

What do you think? Would you rather read a review a few weeks later? Let me know in the comments!

——

 

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ESCAPING THE LAUNDROMAT

I was told that everything could be interesting if you tried hard enough. My father would tell me that, out in the garage in the summer heat, with a fan running on high, blowing hot air in my face. I was something I never really understood until I was older; when the world started to become something that I could make choices in, rather than follow blindly.

Those are exactly the words that floated through my head as the elevator ticked from floor two to floor three. The white light, which had faded to a dusty yellow over the years, flashed “3” on arrival, and the quick accompanying Ding-ding noted that I should prepare to depart. The doors slid open, slowly, like sludge through a pipe. It was early on the weekend—before most people get up. That’s the best time to go; you’ll be able to find an open washer.

That morning I had gotten up extra early. Work had called me late the night before to ask me to cover a shift, and my uniform was still dirty. Ruined my Saturday, but work was money, and money was tight. So early, that the sun was still coming up when I walked in the door. I loaded my cloths into the washer, put the detergent in, set the water temperature, and hit “start.” Suddenly I had forty minutes to burn. And I had forgotten my book.

So what was I to do, dad? What to do what to do what to do what to—Ding-ding. The elevator clicked open again, and a little old women came out. She hunched over was pushing a square cart full of cloths. She was so ancient, it looked like she was sinking into the ground in front of me. But she shuffled by, wheels squeaking loudly.

And I wondered about her. When was she born? What did she do as a child? The little spiral of a story unwound in my head like an old toy from my childhood. The little girl, walking down an empty street, that slowly filled with the buzz of cars. Her mother was dead, and her father was still out from a night of gambling and drinking, but she—she was fine. Every few steps she broke into a happy skip. Then the scene morphed away, and suddenly I saw a beautiful young woman. Her black hair twisted lightly down her backside. She was walking again, this time with a man at her arm. They were dressed in elaborate outfits that denoted the importance of them, yet for all they had, her eyes held a sense of fear in them.

Again, I watched as her hair was peppered with streaks of grey, and her warm eyes glazed over. A barrel of caramel colored children ran around her ankles, with the same glee she had been filled with not five minutes before. Almost as if they had sucked the life out of her. Of course, it must have been the fifties then. So it would have been just her. Men of such “importance” didn’t stick with black women at that time.

And as my mind found her in the elevator, struggling to push that cart of clothes, I realized my own clothes had finished washing and she was staring back at me, as if to tell me it was my turn to tell my own story. And suddenly, even the Laundromat didn’t seem quite such a boring place.

——

 

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PRIME TIME DISCUSSION

If there is one thing that I have learned about over the last few weeks, it is that being a good person does not always equate to being a (financially) successful person. Which is not to say that there isn’t room in the world for more good people, but rather to qualify that the world as we know it may not be in a good place.

Recently, I heard a talk by Cory Doctorow, who is a brilliant guy and very engaged in the world as we know it. The key point that really stuck with me through his talk was this: There is no good or bad in the world, there is only people with leverage and people without leverage. This was backed up by a slew of examples, that included major businesses like Amazon, YouTube, and so on, where the simple number of people using these platforms outweighs any individual power. Think about it. Amazon literally said “oh hey, lets make a day called Amazon Prime Day” and it exploded. That’s a business with leverage that is more powerful than many governments.

And I’m not trying to say that Amazon is all bad or anything. I mean, I use it, my family loves it, and they have done a lot for the various communities, which has allowed many groups to be successful that otherwise never would have been. But it is a bit concerning to me that one business can hold so much power. Especially since they are not transparent. Now, I don’t know that a business should be entirely transparent, just as I don’t know that we as individuals should be. I mean, I certainly don’t wish to be monitored 24/7. That would make me paranoid and probably cause an early death. But at the same time, it frightens me that one of these businesses could be lobbying for changes that damage the core of our values, without us even realizing it. In some cases, it might be that they simply have to not get in the way.

For example, there are plenty of businesses that stood to gain by having Donald Trump elected, but with his unpopular choice of words, they could very easily back Hillary Clinton and publically donate to her campaign, thereby saving face. At worst, she wins and they are on good footing with her because of how much they contributed. At best, Trump gets elected, and suddenly all these regulations, like, I don’t know, the Paris Agreement, go away, and these groups get to maximize their profit by not sticking to emissions standards. Just a hypothetical. But likely one that did occur.

Regardless, it is always good to be keeping an eye out for what is going on in the world, and to see when the number match the public representation a company presents (and when they don’t).

——

 

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A WEEK INDOORS

Water ran down the window, as the pouring rain pattered lightly against the side of the house. It was another indoor day for Tim. Monday had been the first, which was exciting for him. It was rare that he got to watch so many movies in one evening. Tuesday was the second, at which point the novelty of a day inside began to wear off. His mother grew more impatient with him, because as he ran out of things to do, he began talking to her more. They didn’t talk often.

On Wednesday, Tim tried to take a walk outside. The rainfall had died down a bit, and he was hoping that he would be able to enjoy the cool air a short while. But as all good plans go, the second he shut the door behind him, the wind picked up, blowing frosted air and icy bullets of water into his face. It felt like an animal was tearing at his skin. That was the last time he would be doing that.

Thursday the power went out. Tim begged to light some candles—he had always like the fire, but when his mother obliged, neither of them could find the matches. His sadness turned to frustration when two in the afternoon rolled around. It looked like midnight outside; the clouds were an impenetrable wall of darkness. It was like the sun itself had been dampened by the rain.

But today was Friday. Fridays were usually spent taking a walk from school to the park, then off for ice cream on the way back home. Tim’s stomach growled as he fantasized about it. He could feel the threads of grass between his toes, and the grit of the soil under that. He could taste the vanilla cone, the sticky sweet sugars finding their way into the cracks of his skin. They would torment him later, but he didn’t care.

It was a lovely thought, but alas it was entirely fabricated. The evening Friday was short, and Tim found his way to bed in the early hours of the night.

——

 

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HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!

Happy birthday America (also to my younger brother, so I’ll be keeping this short today)! These days have been a wild ride. Being American this year means something different than it meant last year. This year, it means that you likely do not support the current president of the United States. It also likely means that many of the political decisions being made are not in the best interest of the common man. Which, ironically, is the backbone of any good society. When the lower and middle class (AKA the bulk of a society) is doing well, there is no need for revolution. Revolution is the bane of an established country.

That being said, it is also a boon to refurbishing a failing system, and with all the political power that various corporate entities carry, it might be a good thing for America to re-experience its own revolution of thought, especially speak that the revolution that birthed this country was heavily focused on the little guys. It was about standing up to the corporation that was the British Empire. It wasn’t about putting American businesses first, but rather giving the businesses of America a shining city on a hill to display their wares equally.

That is the kind of America we need to go back to—one open to revolutionary ideology, with compassion for the commoner. Not some business-centered bull, that would suppress news media. The core of a country isn’t its corporations, but the people inside them everyday, making sure the lights come on in the morning.

——

 

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LIFE UPDATES

Ah, it’s good to be free. School is over. Weeks of freedom are ahead, for some. For me, I will be going to USC for a Publishing Workshop with the LARB (The Los Angeles Review of Books) for a whole month, starting next week, which is—in its own way—a sort of freedom. But, that does mean dubious things for my free time. I will be busy ALL day with the workshop, pretty much from sun up till past dinner, with speakers and so on.

Now, you may wonder why exactly I am bringing this up. I mean…cool, that’s my life right? Well, the main reason I am bringing it up is because I am uncertain how much free time I will have to work on this blog. To be as consistent as possible, I have been doing one entry per day, every day of the week, for over a year now. That’s quite a bit of time, and I have loved doing so—it has helped me grow as a writer and as a person. But at this workshop I will be doing just that—growing and developing. Which means that I will already be doing what I wanted to do with this blog.

Of course, I don’t PLAN to be going away. If I can find the time, I will be writing daily still. But I might miss a couple days. And I don’t want anyone who reads my work daily to be worried. Normally I can plan out exactly when I will have time to write a post ahead of time to do so (see last year’s vacation posts), but this year I was caught up with graduation and other things, and couldn’t prewrite a month of posts. Plus, that’s less fun.

Anyways, I figured I could take today, my slow day, to post an update about the future, and update you on my life. I went to Las Vegas last weekend for a short vacation, which was super fun (no I didn’t go to EDC, but I certainly dealt with the traffic on the way home). We went to the Peppermill twice, which was incredible, and had Brazilian…BBQ? All you can eat food. It was amazing. I ate WAY too much. I also finished in the top 350 of a 4000-person tournament I played in, which was a fun experience, albeit not how I would have adored.

Well, that was my week. Let me know how you are spending your first few weeks of summer in the comments below!

——

 

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CLICHE POST-GRAD FAMILY THANK YOU NOTE

Graduation just passed, and this weekend I had a million things to talk about. Planning. Hard work. Hating the morning. Good food. Family. Stress. Over eating. And so on…yet somehow today my mind has pulled a blank. Probably because I was up until nearly 3:00 am giving life (relationship) advice to a good friend of mine, and I am now understandably sleepy. But I’m sure as I am typing, something will come to me.

Speak of the devil, and you will be rewarded in kind. Let’s talk about family. Family is a great and terrible thing. Somehow they are always there for you, yet also removed from your being (at least, this is true for me). Don’t get me wrong—I love my family. In fact, I think deep down, I would fall into the “family before country” group. Though, the caveat to this would be that this doesn’t apply to ALL members of my family. I don’t know my second cousin once removed who lives in wherever of wherever. I honestly don’t think I would jeopardize my life success over them. My mother, brother, sister, father, aunt, and/or immediate cousins though? Yeah probably. Actually not probably—definitely. Those are the people who keep up with and care about me, and I care about them.

Which is like…duh, Cassady. Of course you would care about your mother. Who doesn’t? I mean maybe it is a bit obvious, but at the same time I am not as sold. Perhaps it is due to the stresses of my life, which have been in many ways caused by certain family members, and I have seen people that I once would have placed on a pedestal fall into the depths of contempt. I also have family members that aren’t technically related to me by blood, yet they mean more to me than the biological grandparents on my mother’s side that I never knew. I have family whose image and ideology has influenced me long after their death. In part, I attribute the success of my life to their life lessons.

But again, like…duh Cassady. Of course you are shaped by your family and their teachings. You ranted about this when you talked about religious upbringings. Eh. Yeah. I suppose so. But what exactly is life without a little thankfulness. I don’t currently believe in an afterlife, which is perhaps my nihilism seeping through. But I do believe in life after death. I’ll explain quickly, since this post is getting a bit longer than I’d like. After we die, I don’t see much reason for us to actually have much going on after. If you disagree, that’s fine. It just doesn’t make much sense to me in the traditional sense, since if we have life after death, why shouldn’t the cat, or the dog, or the dolphin. What makes us so special? Because we claimed it? That sounds like vanity.

Regardless though, we can live after death through things. Images are a common one, but those don’t really impart the idea of life. Through our family we can live on, in the sense that our ideas will continue to flourish and develop. Thoughts we once had will find their way into the minds of brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, and so on. Heirlooms seem to carry a similar quality, which is what makes them so…irreplaceable. You know what I mean? Let me know what you think! Is your family that important to you?

——

 

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THE END OF DAYS

If all men are dogs,

Then are all women frogs?

And are all mice men?

What’s that make children then?

 
But we all drink water;

We all have a father;

We all feel the pain

That’s driving us insane.

 

The pain of being alone,

Stuck inside a world

That’s bigger than our own.

 
Do you remember the days of old?

The days when our family

Was more valuable that gold.

 
Days before the calamity,

When we became preachers

Of goodness and chastity.

 
In the days where our leaders

Didn’t sell us out to greed,

And the land was our teacher.

 
Those days when we were free.

Free to be, you and me.

But those good days have long gone past,

The end of the world has come at last,

And machines order us throughout our days,

Because we let them put us in this haze.

——

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LOVE POEM #41 – THE STORY OF ALEXIA

When electricity made love rigid,

And enslaved men in their lusty livings,

The world itself seemed to grow frigid,

As nature was filled with such misgivings.

 

Time itself had grown old, aged, and weary;

The bolts of Zeus no longer cracked the sky;

Hades realm had been filled entirely,

And Poseidon’s sea kingdom had gone dry.

 

The great Zephyrus had breathed his last breath,

And Boreas ruled in the winter lands.

It seemed to me Eros had met his death,

And Aphrodite raped by evils hands.

 

But then came the spark, that flash of hot red,

That burned away the technology,

And we watched as the wicked turned and fled

Like a lost story in mythology.

 

They called her Rekka; Fira; Hestia,

And all sorts of other fiery names,

But by birth her name was Alexia

And the real fire was in her brains.

 

She found the fuel to burn down the kings,

Who had slaughtered the people she loved most.

And her vengeance gave revolution wings

Till the fire had spread from coast to coast.

 

And I tell you this tale so you know

That true love can defeat the greatest foe.

——

 

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THE DINING HALL

“Good afternoon,” a friendly deep voice called to me from down the hallway. The man was a large, aging figure, dressed as a stereotypical butler would be dressed. He even had the covered silver platter balanced carefully in his right hand, which stayed unnervingly still has he sauntered over to me.

“H-hello,” I said back. The butler smiled politely, but I could feel the nervousness in my voice. I had somehow found my way into the house, but could not for the life of me remember how. Actually, calling this place a house was a bit of an understatement. It was more like a mansion from a snobby magazine. The carpets were red with gold, the walls were satin, every painting looked like it had been there since it was originally painted several hundred years ago, and all their frames had the same, faded gold shine to them. There were candles lit down several corridors, and a glimpse of massive rooms could be seen peeking out behind half closed mahogany doors.

Yet the place itself was spotless. There was no hint of dust; no stains, no cracks, no breaks; no unevenness. Everything looked perfect, as though every evening someone went up to make sure everything was in order. Which must take hours, based on the relative size of the place.

I realized my eyes had been wandering for a few moments too long when the butler cleared his throat.

“Sir, I must ask that we make our way to the dining table. The master has been expecting you for a short while now.” He began to turn away to show me the way.

“Expecting…how did I get here?” The butler paused, then turned back to me with a carefully practice patience.

“Sir, please, everything will be explained in due time.” I opened my mouth to respond, but before I could get a word out he had turned his back to me and began walking down the hallway. I fell in step a few feet behind him, my eye fixated on the patterns woven into the fabric. So simple, yet so precisely elegant. We turned a few corners, then passed through one of the large doors to an enormous room. There was a large, fifty foot table in the center, no doubt regularly filled with parties, as there were nearly one hundred placemats set out. Though interestingly, only two chair.

The chair closest to me, which the butler had indicated I should sit at, was a simple wooden chair. It seemed too homely compared to the rest of the house. Almost like they had robbed some poor family of their best chair in the middle of the night. Seated on the other end of the table was a large, black chair, made what looked to be a fine leather material (though from that distance I was not entirely sure). The chair towered over the man inside, who was shadowed mysteriously so that I could not get a clear view of his face. His hair appeared to be short, possibly even blonde, and he held himself like a man used to wielding power.

After I had taken my seat, the butler walked down to speak to who I assumed was the master. He was speaking softly, perhaps asking the master what he wanted to eat. The man waved him away, and the butler turned to walk back to me.

“The master will be dining on lamb tonight. What would you like to eat?” he said in a quiet voice.

“Is there a menu?”

“The menu is whatever you would like it to be. Though I would warn you,” he glanced down the table, “your choice of food will be noted by the master.” I looked down the table, past the perfectly placed candles and table settings, to try to get a read of what I should do.

“I’ll require an appetizer, of the chef’s choice, however it must be served hot and with mozzarella cheese. Then, for the main course, I would like a ribeye steak from a cow slaughtered no more than 3 days ago, cooked with garlic and butter to just above rare, but slightly before medium rare. To pair with it, I would like a merlot from 1950 or earlier, but prior to that I would like a Coca-Cola, from the glass bottle, not a can, served with two spoonfuls of vanilla syrup mixed inside it.”

“Ah sir,” the butler started.

“Is there a problem?” I quipped, trying to appear as regal as possible.

“No sir. I merely wished to ask if you’d like your steak to be twelve ounces, or sixteen.”

“Twenty.” The butler looked at me, then nodded quickly and walked off. I looked down the table to beam at the master, yet he was absentmindedly jotting notes on a pad of paper that had seemingly appeared before him.

——

 

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