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Mea Culpa

 I haven't posted in a coon's age - a very lnog-lived coon. Rather than go through a long list of excuses (it's really quite long and impressive, and mostly bullshit) I shall just apologise and try to do better.





Lord of the Rings on Steroids

Twenty-two years ago my friend JK gave me a book to read, the first book of The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan.  In some small way, that day changed my life.  As I began reading the first book, The Eye of the World, Jordan’s third book of a projected six neared its date for release. I flew through the first two and like JK anxiously awaited The Dragon Reborn. What I was about to receive, in addition to a copy of that book were decades-long lessons in patience, humility and dealing with desires, longing, frustration and anger. Some pertinent information:

  • I am not, per se, a fantasy book fan, although I enjoy a good one occasionally.
  • This series has stretched well beyond good. Beginning with the fourth book every subsequent volume immediately hit number 1 on the New York Times bestseller list – every single one. The final volume, A Memory of Light, is number 1 now. So a lot of casual and non-fantasy readers have hopped on board.
  • He did not finish the series in six books.  It took 14.
  • He did not finish the series at all.  Jordan died of cancer in 2007 while completing book 11.
  • For a while, we addicted readers could expect a new book every fall.  But the gap between books grew longer, perhaps because he grew ill.  Jordan kept his illness quiet.
  • Because of those long waits, in the pre-web site days JK and I re-read the previous book prior to the release of the interminably long awaited next volume. Now there are dozens of fine Wheel of Time web sites that can refresh one’s memory. One even lists, with a small blurb for each, all of the 1331 named characters through book 11, so when someone pops up that you can’t quite recall, that you may not have seen for 2,700 pages, you can just open the site, “Oh yeah, I remember her!”
  • Around book 8, and through book 11, the story dragged at times.  Jordan seemed to be chasing rabbits – a writer’s term for running off on side stories that do not move the main story forward. Some of us, me included, thought that maybe he had discovered a “cash cow” in his epic and would never finish as long as the money poured in. Perhaps the rabbit chasing was due to his illness.
  • Jordan left extensive notes for the conclusion of his series, and yes he had neared completion.  The Wheel was not to be a never-ending cash cow. His wife, who was also his editor at Tor books, hired another fantasy writer, Brandon Sanderson, to finish (it took three books). Sanderson has been faithful to the story and Jordan’s style in telling it, and he is a joy to read just as was Jordan.
  • By my count, in hard back The Wheel of Time series incudes 10,104 pages – a daunting number for one about to begin.

I have begun the final book and I’m filled with conflicting emotions.  Everything flies breakneck towards the climax that I have waited 22 years for.  I want to read slowly and savor. It is so difficult to put down.

More after I either complete savoring or fly through the 634 pages (891 total). 


Is That You, Harry Potter?

J. K. Rowling has released her first post Harry Potter novel and I've just finished it.

 A couple of generations ago American women stayed home and kept house and mothered children while the men earned the family’s bread. At lunch time each week day mothers took a break and watched their favorite soap operas. There were a half dozen or so and a few come to mind: One Life to Live, As the World Turns, General Hospital, and in the 60s a vampire soap, Dark Shadows. These soaps developed a successful formula. Every Friday something earth-shattering would occur to draw our mothers and grandmothers into viewing the following week. Then the soap’s cast spends Monday through Thursday reacting to and talking about what happened last Friday. And the following Friday it all begins again.

J. K. Rowling opens The Casual Vacancy on the equivalent of a soap opera Friday. By page five Barry Fairbrother drops dead of a brain aneurism. The next 241 pages become Rowling’s Monday thru Thursday, with everyone talking about and reacting to Fairbrother's death. Only it really stretches on farther than that. Page 241 serves as the location of the next somewhat noteworthy action, though it’s hardly Friday-cliffhanger worthy.

Rowling spends these pages introducing her cast of 22 (by my count) main characters. And there is not a hint of protagonist or antagonist in the batch. There are a few who occasionally approach protagony or antagony, but Rowling doesn’t single anyone out for her reader to root for, to love or loathe.

To provide fair and equal time for each member of her ensemble Rowling writes in the omniscient point-of-view. Our all-knowing storyteller flits from one character to the next like a honey bee in a botanical garden. She changes from one to the other without pause, into their heads for a moment and off again into the head of the person to whom they are speaking. It’s unnerving at first and serves Rowling’s readers a whiplash and confusion cocktail. And to keep developing her characters equally, she rarely spends more than a few pages on anyone. Bartender, make that whiplash and confusion cocktail a double.

Casual Vacancy touches on a small English country town’s angst at being introduced to big city troubles, primarily poverty and drug addiction. Rowling has provided enough main characters to give voice to nearly every opinion and concern. Her characters all carry their own private demons and prejudices. She divides the “cast of thousands” into adults and adolescents, with a few peripheral younger children occasionally holding center stage.

What works for Rowling, what keeps Casual Vacancy from becoming a tedious 500 page character study, is her ability to write. Rowling brings along her strong descriptive voice from Hogwarts, and some of her metaphors and similes are wildly inventive, “Darkly clothed mourners moved, singly, in pairs, and in groups, up and down the street, converging like a stream of iron filings to a magnet.” And some of them are portentous, such as “Fear fluttered inside Krystal’s belly like a fetus.”

Rowling develops believable characters, especially and not surprisingly, the adolescents. Slowly and gradually all her characters begin to muck up their lives enough that Rowling can provide some turmoil in the book’s final 80 pages. And when 22 main characters have sufficiently botched things in route to a no holds barred, primarily verbal, free-for-all climax, those readers who have stuck it out are in for a treat. Rowling leaves many of the chaotic ends loose and untied as she wraps up Casual Vacancy with a funeral and an adolescent stepping forward (finally) as protagonist to provide some needed heart.


WFAJK with emphasis on "World"

For those of you closely following World Famous Author Jack Kline, last December United Kingdom's Prole Poetry and Prose compendium published Jack's story "Christmas with the Pack."  "It was somewhat of a hit," Jack said, way too modestly.

Check out this review from the UK's Crack Magazine:


Prole: Issue 6
Edited by Brett Evans and Phil Robertson, Prolebooks, £5.50
This Welsh produced publication is a slim-ish volume (just over 100 pages) of original prose and poetry and they’ve just reached their sixth issue which, I’m pleased to report, is a riveting read with more good than so-so. I particularly enjoyed Jack Kline’s story “Christmas with the Pack” which tells the strange tale of famous horror author Brad Kirby’s encounter with an injured coyote. I also enjoyed Barbara Leahy’s story “Devil’s Eye” (winner of the Prolitser Prize 2011!) which captures an evocative family tale in little over three pages, as well as a non-fiction piece by Geoffrey Heptonstall on the need to create; to write.
Among the poetry I was drawn to were Claire Booker’s encounter with a ewe while she has a sneaky pee in a field; and Lois Elaine Heckman’s “The Gardener” which details the meditative and restorative nature of someone simply tending their garden. Prole have just issued their first two poetry pamphlets (by Wendy Pratt and Robert Nisbet – both worth a look) and you can find out more about these – and Prole magazine – from GM


Now, Prole's quarterly issue 9, released last night to subtly subdued fanfare includes another story by the WFA from Louisburg, Kansas.  It's a dark story that includes blood and gunplay and regret.  Get your copy from the Prole site listed above.  And make sure that you order Issue 9 (or Issue 6 for Jack's previous story), and remember, contributing writers get a percentage of the take from Prole, so every pound, shilling and pence you pay, allots WFA Jack Kline an infinitesimally small cut of the purse.





Shoulda Seen the Other Guys



Thanksgiving week brawl, Anthony, Kansas.  WFA Jack Kline and his niece, Jenn Cox took on a bar full of crazed, drunken oil-field workers the day before Thanksgiving.  Not inclined to start fights, the WFA and Jenn are not averse to finishing them.