Milo loves to read so here is his most recent list along with some notes and quotes he has compiled from some of them. Enjoy!
“In Plain Sight” C. J. Box
Picked this up on a lark at one of those neighborhood library street side boxes. Not a bad yarn. The protagonist is a Game Warden in Wyoming by the name of Joe Pickett. There are several in the series and not sure where this one fits in. Not deep, but a page turner. “If you walk around with a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.” –Unknown
“A Fatal Grace” Louise Penny
My second in the Gamache series, and I’m loving them. Penny digs deep into the characters of Three Pines, a remote village an hour or so from Montreal. Very much worth the read.
She occupied herself with the pea soup, stirring the ham bone in the large pot, making sure the flavors combined. Henri was sitting patiently at her feet, staring up at Em with his intense brown eyes as though willpower alone could force the bone to levitate out of the pot and into his eager mouth. His tail wagged as Em bustled around the kitchen and he made sure he got in her way whenever possible.
The bistro was his secret weapon in tracking down murderers. Not just in Three Pines, but in every town and village in Quebec. First he found a comfortable café or brasserie, or bistro, then he found the murderer. Because Armand Gamache knew something many of his colleagues never figured out. Murder was deeply human, the murdered and the murderer. To describe the murderer as a monstrosity, a grotesque, was to give him an unfair advantage. No, murderers were human, and at the root of each murder was an emotion. Warped, no doubt. Twisted and ugly. But an emotion. And one so powerful it had driven a man to make a ghost. Gamache’s job was to collect the evidence, but also to collect the emotions. And the only way he knew to do that was to get to know the people. To watch and listen. To pay attention. And the best way to do that was in a deceptively casual manner in deceptively casual setting. Like the bistro.
“The Rembrandt Affair” Daniel Silva
“The Murder of Harriet Krohn” Karin Fossum
“Captain Alatriste” Arturo Pérez-Reverte
“Visitation Street” Ivy Pochoda
“King Suckerman” George Pelecanos
“The Machiavelli Covenant” Allan Folsom
“Die Easy” Zoë Sharp
“A Piece of My Heart” Richard Ford
He sighed, realizing he just wasn’t up to the old man’s ferocity. Whatever the old man had stored in never-ceasing abundance was exactly what he lacked. And he wondered when his had been siphoned off, or if he ever even had it, and if he had, where it had gone. It occurred to him that if he did indeed have it, it was certainly all directed inward now, while all the old man’s fury was pointed out like ordnance at the armies of contravention and deceit that had him under constant siege. “I’d have gotten him a good lawyer, if there was one,” he said soberly, “had him plead dementia praecox, put him on the stand, and told him to act crazy.”
“The Innocents” Ace Atkins
“Americana” Don DeLillo
Once out of the mailroom, I began to learn more about fear. As soon as fear begins to ascend, anatomically, from the pit of the stomach to the throat and brain, from fear of violence to the more nameless kind, you come to believe you are part of a horrible experiment. I learned to distrust those superiors who encouraged independent thinking. When you gave it to them, they returned it in a form of terror, for they knew that ideas, only that, could hasten their obsolescence. Management asked for new ideas all the time; memos circulated down the echelons, requesting bold and challenging concepts. But I learned that new ideas could finish you unless you wrapped them in a plastic bag. I learned that most of the secretaries were more intelligent then most of the executives and the executive secretaries were to be feared more than anyone. I learned what closed doors meant and that friendship was not negotiable currency and how important it was to lie even when there was no need to lie. Words and meanings were at odds. Words did not say what was being said nor even in reverse. I learned to speak a new language and soon mastered the special elements of that tongue.
“The Time of Our Singing” Richard Powers
Lizette has taught him the rule that keeps all drama from going mawkish. At the top of the phrase, at the song’s maximum need, pull back. Don’t get big and messy; draw yourself inward around the unbearable, until it glows with the smallest light.
I found something to praise in his every new drab goddess, raising the same enthusiasm I mustered for his recitals, whose repertoire now baffled me. The simple trip from tonic to dominant and back now bored Jonah. Only the most jagged music still promised him a real workout. Tritones and the devil’s other intervals, weird new notational systems, poly-rhythm, microtones: He only wanted to keep growing, a thing the world rarely forgave.
Once, she thought bigotry an aberration. Now that she ties her life to a white’s, she sees it for the species’ baseline. All hatred comes down to the protection of property values. One drop; just another safeguard of ownership. Possession, nine-tenths of the law. Negroes, of course, make room for them. Her family, her aunt in Harlem, the church circuit, her friends from college. That saint Mrs. Washington, who keeps a roof over their heads. Nobody’s exactly thrilled with the arrangement, of course. But if whiteness depends on those who can’t belong, blackness is forever about those who must be taken in. Her boy is nothing special. Three-quarters of her race has white blood. Age-old rights of the plantation: the disclaiming owner, the disowning father. The difference this time is just that her child’s father sticks around.
My brother’s take on the human species had never been complicated. Now it was simplifying down to a single perfect point. People would rather die in invented safety than live in invigorating fear.He’d seen enough. Jonah turned his back on the whole time frame of earthly politics, and I could no longer call him back. Every passing day only confirmed him. None of us knew how to live here, at the rate of life we were given.
I played what I imagined they wanted. All I had to draw on was an out-of-tune baby grand and an incomplete Juilliard education. But the thing about music is that its tool kit is so small. Everything comes from everywhere. No two songs are further apart than half cousins by incest. A raised third or an augmented fifth, an added flat ninth, a little short-leg syncopation, an off-the-beat eighth note, and any tune could pass over the line. Music at night in a noisy bar didn’t stop at two colors; it had more shades than would fit into the wildest paint box. If the Supremes could do the Anna Magdalena Bach notebook, even I could do the Supremes. When I got too strange in my tonal mixings, Saul Silber rode me back into the corral. “Play what the kids want to hear.” “Kids” meant prosperous couples in their late thirties, looking for aura out in Pageant City. “Play the chocolate stuff. The mahogany stuff.” Silber ordered music the way an interior designer bought books for nouveau riche libraries: by the size and color of their spines.
“Commonwealth” Ann Patchett (audio book during Milo’s Kansas road trip)
“The Artist of Disappearance” Anita Desai
Three lovely novellas including the title story; along with “The Museum of Final Journeys” and “Translator Translated.”
“Standing In Another Man’s Grave” Ian Rankin
“Art and Lies” Jeanette Winterson
There are palaces in planed proportion built by the Golden Mean. Urgent steeples, pennants, weathervanes, and upward rising of assumption and power. This is the old city and it has been the most destroyed. The churches are empty and many are ruined. When the Church of England was disestablished it was a clever way for a government to ignore the crumbling beauty of a passion no longer felt. The old city was built on faith, vanity, and fabulous piles of cash. We have none of those and the poor in spirit must learn to be humble.
Reportage is violence. Violence to the spirit. Violence to the emotional sympathy that should quicken in you and me when face to face we meet with pain. How many defeated among our own so we step over and push aside on our way home to watch the evening news? ‘Terrible’ you said at Somalia, Bosnia, Ethiopia, Russia, China, the Indian earthquake, the American floods, and then you watch a quiz show or a film because there’s nothing you can do, nothing you can do, and the fear and unease that such powerlessness brings, trails in its wash, a dead arrogance for the beggar on the bridge that you pass every day. Hasn’t he got legs and a cardboard box to sleep in? And still we long to feel. What’s left? Romance. Love’s counterfeit free of charge to all. Fall into my arms and the world with its sorrows will shrink up into a tinsel ball. This is the favorite antidote to the cold robot life of faraway perils and nearby apathy. Apathy. From the Greek A Pathos. Want of feeling. But, don’t we know, only find the right bit, only find the right girl, and feeling will be yours. My colleagues tell me I need just such a remedy. Buried up tp my neck in pink foam nothing can hurt me now. Safe to feel. All I can feel is you darling.
Most common are the retired or fired businessmen who develop cancer. They come to me in broken health, in fear for their lives, and the phrase I hear first is ‘I’m not the man I was.’ As we talk it becomes clear that he is the man he has been always, yes, well-off, yes, respectable, but immature, without self-knowledge, a man without breadth or depth, but shielded from this lack by his work, by his social standing, by his loving wife, by his young mistress, by his slap-on-the-back pals. Often, as we talk, he tells me that he has never liked his work, hates his family, or that he has lived for his work and that without it he is a child again and what should he do in the mornings? Saddest of all are the women who were brought up to believe that self-sacrifice is the highest female virtue. They made the sacrifice, often willingly, and they are still waiting for the blessing. While they wait their chance does not.
There is nothing a priori about market forces, nothing about the market that isn’t a construction and couldn’t be deconstructed. When I question the great god of the market, my friend, who is atheist, laughs and calls me a dreamer, but his way of life is a nightmare. He is a successful man who has abandoned three marriages, who owns four houses, but rents them out, who lives mostly in an aeroplane, and when he is not doing that, he makes his home in an hotel, and looks for companionship at night. He has not taken a holiday in five years. He is a successful man. I said, ‘Alan, the least of the animals can find a home that suits it, can get enough to eat, can bring up its young, play its part in the pack, and have time to bask in the sun. For a human being, the roof and crown of nature, those things are a considerable achievement. Most of us are substantially worse off than the rabbit in the field.’
It’s had to be improved, of course, not the democracy, the countryside. It was simply too bumpy and rough for the average family car. Naturally, on a day out, children need regular injections of Coca-Cola followed by a good flush on the toilet. They can’t be expected to squat in a hedge. The wild blackberries and nut trees have had to be grubbed up, they could be poisonous, and they don’t conform to EEC food hygiene laws. Those delightful rushing streams, so quaint on a postcard, have had to be fenced off in case of insurance claims against the local authority. There is plenty of grass, but now that the sheep have been removed to facilitate public access, the grass is too abundant, and it has to be sprayed four times a year with a bomb of chemicals slung under the belly of a Cessna. No need to worry about chemicals, unlike the blackberries and nut trees, sloes and hips, chemicals are perfectly safe. My advice is to stick to the paths, which lead in a Dantesque descent, from the car parks to the toilets, to the gift shops, to the Heritage Museum. There they go, democratic man in his shell-suit and fluorescent kagool. As yet, city scientists have not found a way to improve the weather over national parks.
Progress: An advance to something better or higher in development. Are human beings better or higher in development than they were? There have been many outstanding men and women in history, and, since there are now vastly more people than at any previous time, we should expect at least a proportionate rise in the number of the great and the good. Where are they? Not in politics. Not in public life. Not in the Church, whatever your brand, there are no great spiritual leaders. I will admit that we have better scientists, if by better, we agree that they are more sophisticated, more specialized, that they have discovered more than their dead colleagues. But if we ask, are they more ethical, more socially aware, more disciplined, more relevant to the happiness of the whole, then our scientists have failed the age they claim to have created. The masses are fobbed off with gadgets, while the real science takes place behind closed doors, the preserve of the pharmaceuticals and the military. Genetic control will be the weapon of the future. Doctors will fill the ranks of the New Model Army. And of course you will trust me won’t you, when I tell you that with my help, your unborn child will be better off? The white coat will replace the khaki fatigues as the gun gives way to the syringe.
I like to read George Bernard Shaw, not, as he hoped, as an improvement on Shakespeare, but as a visionary who truly believed that Socialism could progress man’s basest instinct; greed. Is there a gene we could tag and rub out for that? If there is, the money won’t be there for the research, much more profitable to ease out red-heads or homosexuals. What’s the difference? In the fifteenth century it was well known that red hair was a sign of a consort with the Devil. If our ancestors had possessed our technology, this woman opposite to me would certainly be brunette. There would be no red-heads, and we would justify that loss by saying “Ah yes, but thanks to us there are no witches either.’ Genetic engineering would have taken the credit for ordinary social change. Witches and devils no longer threaten you and me. We don’t mind living next door to the harmless lady with her herb garden and decoction still, her black cat and red hair. Once we would have tied her to the stake and burned her, but these days, it’s just the faggots that offend.
Heart attack. Had her heart attacked her? Her heart, trained at obedience classes from an early age? Her heart, well muzzled in public, taught to trot in line. Her heart, that knew the Ten Commandments, and obeyed a hundred more. Her disciplined dogged heart that would come when it was called and that never strained its leash. Her heart, that secretly gnawed away its body’s bones. Her heart, that too long kept famished now consumed her. Her heart turned.
What kind of parrot am I? My range is wide, my accent, good. When I speak I am convincing. Very often I convince myself. Isn’t there a proverb; In the country of the blind the one-eyed man is King? But what of the articulate among the guttural? Once upon a time I would have been listened to with respect, now, I am regarded with suspicion, and for the wrong reason. I know that I am false; the irony is that the barkers and jabbers believe themselves genuine. As if to speak badly is to speak truly. As if to have no command of language must ensure a complete command of emotional sincerity. As if, as journalists and novelists would have me believe, to write without artifice is to write honestly. But language is artifice. The human being is artificial. None of us is Rousseau Man, that noble savage, honest and untrained. Better then to acknowledge that what we are is what we have been taught, that done, at least it will be possible to choose our own teacher. I know I am made up of other people’s say so, veins of tradition, a particular kind of education, borrowed methods that have disguised themselves as personal habits. I know that what I am is quite the opposite of an individual. But if the parrot is to speak, let him be taught by a singing master. Parrot may not learn to sing but he will know what singing is. That is why I tried to hide myself among the best; music, pictures, books, philosophy, theology, like Dante, my great teacher is dead. My alive friends privately consider me to be rather highbrow and stuffy, but we are all stuffed, stuffed with other people’s ideas parading as our own. Stuffed with the idiocies of the daily paper and twenty-four-hour television.
“Moonglow” Michael Chabon
She had always been the kind of woman who kept her balloon aloft and sailing by cutting away sandbags and throwing nonessentials over the side.
I reflected that it seemed to be in the nature of human beings to spend the first prat of their lives mocking the clichés and conventions of their elders and the final part mocking the clichés and conventions of the young.
“Human Croquet” Kate Atkinson
“Nothing Lost” John Gregory Dunne
Criminal law suited me, as it suited him. I was good at it, and in and out of court he was both mentor and unruffled presence at my side. The first thing he taught me was never try to convince myself that a client was innocent, it only messes you up and makes you a bad lawyer. If a client turns out to be innocent, that’s a bonus: just don’t count on it., he probably did something worse: a courtroom’s not a cathedral and you’re not the coadjutor bishop. He was comfortable with the criminal attorney’s code. When the facts are against you, he said, argue the law; when the law’s against you, argue the facts; when both are against you, attack the other side. Murder and the more egregious violations of the penal code did not usually attract high-powered attorneys. The reason is simple: There is not much money in it. Outside of mystery novels, criminal defendants are rarely propertied; they tend to live on the frayed margins of society, and often do not speak the language of the courts where their cases are heard. However often they invoke the right of every defendant to have an attorney, good lawyers, as opposed to the incompetents and shysters, tend to avoid this redlined legal zip code unless, like my father, they enjoy the game. The odds are against them. In the interest of what they call “justice,” D.A.’s really do think that defense lawyers should calibrate the vigor of their argument to the larger societal need of putting perps behind bars. Whatever their public position, prosecutors seem to regard the presumption of innocence as a kind of devil worship, and reasonable doubt as justice not served. I never asked, but I would have bet that even my father worked that side of the street when he was in the Queens D.A.’s office. The law is situational, he liked to say.
“One Shot” Lee Child
“Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” Lewis Carroll
“Blood Orchid” Charles Bowden
We have achieved our Historical Absolute like good Doktor Hegel promised us so long ago. We have made our entire nation into a reservation with a population unemployed or underemployed, and our merchants eager to supply us with a lot to drink or snort or dose ourselves with. We display a frisky penchant for violence, enjoy an abandonment of everyone by everyone, stare at a future as blank as the president’s ass and a past increasingly lost in the fogs that flood our brains. As our bodies become emaciated, our government fattens on our plight and grows larger. They are going to send us to school––apparently forever––so that we can do little jobs around the rez. There seems no end to the work they see for us and they promise that each and every one of us will have six or seven careers in our twinkling lifetimes. There has been some grumbling about the pay, however, and increasingly folks in our cities prefer self-employment––whether with muskets or syringes. There is bold talk that free trade is good for us––free love is no longer permitted, it seems we have diseases––and will make us stronger and quicker and more productive. We are going to get national health care, so don’t be scared of the rashes, pustules, tumors, genital sores, and erratic heartbeat. We’re going to be one big tribe, the rainbow tribe it’s rumored (they’re working out the reading list this very moment) and at the end of the rainbow, by God, there is pot. We have nothing to do and we know it, so we spend our time doing what little is left to do: we wait. Or look backward.
Ah, only thirty years ago. I keep forgetting how fast things happen here, why there is always this blur. In the late nineteenth century the whites took the ground in almost the twinkling of an eye and dreamt of various El Dorados and then it was over, just railroads, deeds, streets, and mortgages. Before the average man or woman had a chance to savor the possibility of getting rich, the plains were taken, fenced, sold, and parceled out and one had to face an eternity of day jobs and squalling babies. After that came the next wave, us, dreaming of oil, subdivisions, factories, all manner of stale ideas that reproduced whatever the hell we had fled from. And now we have used up all the air or drugs or whatever it takes to sustain such illusions. We have used up all the space and the land rebels against us and we must construct something that can put a brave face on this event, some new manner or stance so that we can endure the incredibly shrinking and toxic ground under our feet. All our drunks are ending now. All my life I have looked for that light at the end of the tunnel. I have prayed that if I looked hard enough, suffered enough, went far enough, I would find something to believe in beyond the stubs in my checkbook. I have never, not for one instant, wanted to succeed. I have wanted to be good and to do good. I have wanted to love and be loved. The drinking, it has been necessary, and I suspect it will never end. Ending the drunk does not mean simply putting down the drink. That would be too easy. It is putting down the reason for the drunk. The hole.
Spotted Tail is a great chief, the wise man, the one who sees what is ahead clearly and never flinches. He stares out at the rubble of Lakota life and offers this thought: “There is a time for all things. Think for a moment how many multitudes of animal tribes we ourselves have destroyed; look upon the snow that appears today––tomorrow it is water. Listen to the dirge of the dry leaves that were green and vigorous but a few moons before! We are part of that life and it seems our time has come.” It is now August 1881. Little Crow Dog waits. Spotted Tail is slaughtered on a dirt road. The snow is now water.
War is no longer something we prepare for, nor is peace something we seek. Nor is the military some group separate from us. We are all committed to campaign whether we wear uniforms or not. We believe peace can kill us. So we live in a permanent state of war. We no longer can contrive a way to run an economy without war. But we almost never use that blunt word; it is too crude for our tastes. We now have actions, operations, sorties, feints, and so forth. Just as we do not live in a police state but rather a drug-free nation, a place of soon-to-be-registered guns, a place of identification numbers and cards, and the constant testing to ensure the purity of our cells from the Satanic forces that surround us. Should we falter, the authorities are listening, riding their Clipper Chips through the Sargasso Sea of our lives. WE must be free of certain plant products, of certain images of fornication, of inappropriate song lyrics, or gender preferences, of sexually based words. We must not buy war toys. And we must be absolutely one hundred percent free of violence. The state will not share a single second of this emotion.
We have been at war for over a century now and it has bankrupted our treasury, destroyed our land, corrupted our people, and fouled our bed. We are creatures of fear, supplicants, and we expect to be taken care of by something and we do not expect to be loved or give love. For me, at least, the last item is the most telling. We now have sex but have lost our sexuality. No one ever dropped the big one on Moscow as it turned out. But they nuked New Mexico. And Nevada. And everywhere else where I go to seek love in all the dry places. I think of this now that I’ve finally gotten older and gotten my hands on the girls and they’ve gotten their hands on me.
The national debt is huge, the Mississippi never stops rolling. Auto workers leave the plant with dead faces, the mountains brush the clouds. A killing screams in the night, the plains never seem to end. I love the fall because I believe in the spring. We are the richest nation in the world––do not listen to the bankers, they know nothing, absolutely nothing––because we live on the best piece of ground. Then, now, and tomorrow.
“The Drifter” Nick Petrie
“The Technologists” Matthew Pearl
“The Angel’s Game” Carlos Ruiz Zafón
“I can barely remember the Lord’s prayer.” “A beautiful and well-crafted prayer. Poetry aside, a religion is really a moral code that is expressed through legends, myths, or any type of literary device in order to establish a system of beliefs, values, and rules which to regulate a culture or society.” “Amen,” I replied. “As in literature or any other act of communication, what confers effectiveness on it is the form and not the content,” Corelli continued. “You’re telling me that a doctrine amounts to a tale.” “Everything is a tale, Martin. What we believe, what we know, what we remember, even what we dream. Everything is a story, a narrative, a sequence of events with characters communicating an emotional content. We only accept as true what can be narrated. Don’t tell me you’re not tempted by the idea.” “I’m not.” “Are you not tempted to create a story for which men and women would live and die, for which they would be capable of killing and allowing themselves to be killed, of sacrificing and condemning themselves, of handing over their souls? What greater challenge for your career than to create a story so powerful that it transcends fiction and becomes a revealed truth?”
“An intellectual is usually someone who isn’t exactly distinguished by his intellect,” Corelli asserted. “He claims that label to compensate for his inadequacies. It’s as old as that saying: Tell me what you boast of and I’ll tell you what you lack. Our daily bread. The incompetent always presents themselves as experts, the cruel as pious, sinners as devout, usurers as benefactors, the small-minded as patriots, the arrogant as humble, the vulgar as elegant, and the feeble-minded as intellectual. Once again, it’s all the work of nature. Far from being the sylph to whom poets sing, nature is a cruel, voracious mother who needs to feed on the creatures she gives birth to in order to stay alive.”
One of the few truths I discovered was that, although the vast majority of authors who felt a calling to write about the divine, the human, and the sacred must have been exceedingly learned and pious, as writers they were dreadful. For the long-suffering reader forced to skim their pages it was a real struggle not to fall into a coma induced by boredom with each new paragraph.
“A large part of the mythology that develops around each of these doctrines, from its liturgy to its rules and taboos, comes from the bureaucracy generated as they develop and not from the supposed supernatural act that originated them. Most of the simple, well-intentioned anecdotes are a mixture of common sense and folklore, and all the belligerent force they eventually develop comes from a subsequent interpretation of those principles, or even their distortion, at the hands of bureaucrats. The administration and hierarchic aspects seem to be crucial in the evolution of belief systems. The truth is first revealed to all men but very quickly individuals appear claiming sole authority and a duty to interpret, administer, and if need be, alter this truth in the name of the common good. To this end they establish a powerful and potentially repressive organization. This phenomenon, which biology shows us is common to any social group, soon transforms the doctrine into a means of achieving control and political power. Divisions, wars, and breakups become inevitable. Sooner or later, the word becomes flesh and the flesh bleeds.”
“Martin, fables are possibly one of the most interesting literary forms ever invented. Do you know what they teach us?” “Moral lessons?” “No. They teach us that human beings learn and absorb ideas and concepts through narrative, through stories, not through lessons or theoretical speeches. This is what any of the great religious texts teach us. They’re all tales about characters who must confront life and overcome obstacles, figures setting off on a journey of spiritual enrichment through exploits and revelations. All holy books are, above all, great stories whose plots deal with the basic aspects of human nature, setting them within a particular framework of supernatural dogmas. I was content for you to spend a dismal week reading theses, speeches, opinions, and comments so that you could discover for yourself that there is nothing to learn from them, because they’re nothing more than exercises in good or bad faith––usually unsuccessful––by people who are trying, in turn, to understand. The professional conversations are over. From now on I’ll ask you to start reading the stories of the Brothers Grimm, the tragedies of Aeschylus, the Ramayana, or the Celtic legends. Please yourself. I want you to analyze how these texts work. I want you to distill their essence and find out why they provoke an emotional reaction. I want you to learn the grammar, not the moral. And I want you to bring me something of your own in two or three weeks’ time, the beginning of a story. I want you to make me believe.”
“And what do you say about women, the other half? I’m sorry, but I find it hard to imagine a substantial number of women in a society believing in pennants and shields. Boy Scout psychology is for children.” “The main pillar of organized religion, with few exceptions, is the subjugation, repression, and even the annulment of women in the group. Woman must accept the role of an ethereal, passive, and maternal presence, never of authority or independence, or she will have to suffer the consequences. She might have a place of honor in the symbolism, but not in the hierarchy. Religion and war are male pursuits. And anyhow, woman sometimes ends up becoming the accomplice in her own subjugation.” “And the aged?” “Old age is the lubricant of belief. When death knocks at the door, skepticism flies out the window. A serious cardiovascular fright and a person will even believe in Little Red Riding Hood.”
“My mother was a good person, Señor Martin. Don’t be fooled. She never took advantage of anyone, nor did she make them believe more than they needed to believe. Life had taught her that we all require big and small lies in order to survive, just as much as we need air. She used to say that if during one single day, from dawn to dusk, we could see the naked reality of the world, and of ourselves, we would either take our own lives or lose our minds.”
“Five Skies” Ron Carlson
“Without Fail” Lee Child
“After the Fire” Evie Wyld
“Dragons” Michael Connelly
“The Painted Boy” Charles De Lint
“Creole Belle” James Lee Burke
There on the bridge, in the gloaming of the day, while the last of the sunlight blazed in an amber ribbon down the center of the bayou, while the black-green backs of alligator gars rolled among the lily pads, I listened to Tee Jolie’s beautiful voice rising from the earphones that rested on the sides of my neck, as though she were speaking French to me from a bygone era, one that went all the way back to the time of Evangeline and the flight of the Acadian people from Nova Scotia to the bayou country of South Louisiana. I did not realize that I was about to relearn an old lesson, namely that sometimes it’s better to trust the realm of the dead than the world of the quick, and never to doubt the existence of unseen realities that can hover like a hologram beyond the edges of our vision.
No one likes to be afraid. Fear is the enemy of love and faith and robs us of all serenity. It steals both our sleep and our sunrise and makes us treacherous and venal and dishonorable. It fills our glands with toxins and effaces our identity and gives flight to any vestige of self-respect. If you have ever been afraid, truly afraid, in a way that makes your hair soggy with sweat and turns your skin gray and fouls your blood and spiritually eviscerates you to the point where you cannot pray lest your prayers be a concession to your conviction that you’re about to die, you know what I am talking about. This kind of fear has no remedy except motion, no matter what kind. Every person who has experiences was or natural catastrophe or man-made calamity knows this. The adrenaline surge is so great that you can pick up an automobile with your bare hands, plunge through glass windows in flaming buildings, or attack an enemy whose numbers and weaponry are far superior to yours. No fear of self-injury is as great as the fear that turns your insides to gelatin and shrivels your soul to the size of an amoeba. If you do not have the option of either fleeing or attacking your adversary, the result is quite different. Your level of fear will grow to the point where you feel like your skin is being stripped off your bones. The degree of torment and hopelessness and, ultimately, despair you will experience is probably as great as it gets this side of the grave.
Once you understood that the great shade was your constant companion, a change took place in your life that you did not share with others. Sometimes you quickened your step when you walked through the woods in the late fall; at other times indistinct figures beckoned to you from the edge of your vision, their voices as soft as the rustling of leaves, asking you to pause in your journey and rest with them awhile. Just when you thought you were on to their tricks, you discovered the joke that death had played upon you. While you were trying to avoid the natural cycle of the seasons, you empowered evil men to perpetrate upon you the greatest theft of all, enticing you into a manufactured crusade, taking you from your loved ones, robbing you of choices that should have been yours, separating you without warning from the gold-green cathedral given to you as your birthright.
“The Ways of the Dead” Neely Tucker
”Disgrace” J. M. Coetzee
“The Phantom” Jo Nesbø