Free Maggie Now!

Goodbye, Maggie (shortlisted for the 2019 Faulkner Prize) is FREE this week on Amazon (Kindle).

(If you don’t have a Kindle, download the app for free, and get all the books you need for COVID days.)

Click the cover below to link through. (Read some excerpts below.)

Get your copy while it’s free. Or if you have a copy, gift a copy or two to friends. Just tell them to be polite and write a brief and honest Amazon review in return for the freebie 🙂

Phil’s life becomes a fiasco of misdirection when his charismatic brother, Magnus, shows up with the news that he has murdered someone and asks for sanctuary. Magnus then disappears – with Phil’s girlfriend, Hermia – and Phil lands on an uneasy road trip through small town Louisiana with Gus, another rival for Hermia’s attention. Phil and Gus, white and black, find racism, madness, and unlikely friendships as they roll through the bayous and into New Orleans.

Excerpts:

First page

Closer to the end

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Bargain Booksy – Faulkner Prize Finalist

Shortlisted for the 2019 Faulker Prize and now $3.88 as promoted on today’s Bargain Booksy list.

Share, enjoy, write reviews!

Link to Maggie here.
Bargain Booksy main site here.

In a culture of health nuts, gurus, quacks and seekers, Phil’s stagnant life collapses when his charismatic brother, Magnus, shows up with the news that he has murdered someone and asks for sanctuary. Thus starts a dramatic comedy of rollicking misdirection, as Magnus disappears – with Phil’s girlfriend, Hermia – and Phil lands on an uneasy road trip through small town Louisiana with Gus, another rival for Hermia’s attention. Phil and Gus, white and black, find racism, madness, and unlikely friendships as they roll through the bayous and into New Orleans.

Amazon link here.
Author site here.
Facebook link here.

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(click covers for links)

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Before you know it

I didn’t even realize it. Hippies is free again this week.

Follow Jazmine and Ziggy through their Age of Aguarius sorrows, joys, and wonders.
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01MTGGWZV/

Go on. Do it. Release your inner hippie.

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Just be nice for the freebie and write an honest Amazon review, however brief 🙂

(Click covers for links)

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Money (and Somerset Maugham)

As I recall, Larry, the protagonist in Somerset Maugham’s “The Razor’s Edge,” is a vagabond spirit, a backpacking nomad with friends of all classes on different continents. At one point, a rich friend who enjoys philosophical discussions with Larry offers him a job at a high salary with little or no actual work. He is surprised that Larry turns him down. How could he resist such an offer? Larry responds succinctly:

“Money to you means freedom; to me it means bondage.”

He says this, as I recall, with no arrogance but a genuine appreciation of their differences. That pretty well sums up the two key viewpoints on money. Most everyone’s attitude can be placed in relation to those two poles. And if I got some of the context wrong, well I haven’t read the book in a while. That’s the way I remember it.

(Click covers for links)

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Hippies on Eartheart Radio

Friends, lovers, and vagabond spirits of the world!

Here’s last week’s interview for the excellent novel, Hippies, on Eartheart Radio (Oregon Community Radio). Derek, Eartheart radio host and a good brother to all, has interviewed all manner of characters from Wavy Gravy and Squeaky Fromme to Bhagavan Das (Baba Ram Dass’s first guide in India, as chronicled in Be Here Now). Follow Derek’s weekly shows KSKQ or on his Eartheart YouTube channel.

For what it’s worth, I was paired for my segment with St. Catherine of Siena 🙂

Click HERE for Eartheart’s YouTube home

(Click covers below for Hippies or other books by Gary Gautier)

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http://www.garygautier.com

 

Mausoleum

Mausoleo y áreas colindante (a chapbook of poems by Eduardo Padilla)
Reviewed by Gary Gautier

As a second-language reader of Spanish, this chapbook of poems by Mexican poet, Eduardo Padilla, was more difficult for me than his narrative verse chapbook, Hotel Hastings. If you are upper intermediate in Spanish, I’d recommend Hotel Hastings, where you can follow the throughline even if you miss some of the language. If you are native or advanced, try Mausoleo. Both collections are admirably weird, as Padilla always is, but Mausoleo is less narrative, more purely poetic, a sculpted universe with a lot more pressure on the language itself. Both are available at https://poesiamexa.wordpress.com/2016/03/16/eduardo-padilla/.

The content in Mausoleo ranges from sweeping and cosmic (“todos los objetos imaginables por todas las civilizaciones de la galaxia” [75]) to elemental* to archetypal (“Saturno devoró a sus hijos” [25]) to “escuálido” [33] (urine and flies buzzing a dirty street). There are no rules in Padilla. No, I take that back. There is one rule. Repetition to keep us grounded. Consecutive stanzas might start with the same phrase, or might each start with a phrase picked up from the previous stanza, or might just follow an easy pattern (“A mi primera esposa … A mi segunda esposa … A mi tercera esposa …” [49-50]). The form swings from long, Whitmanesque lines to a kind of choppy folk meter:

*El sol quema,
el agua fluye,
el viento corre,
la Tierra gira. Ninguno …
(p. 13)

And then this verse enjambs into more open free verse swings. But you get the idea. Padilla can orient us with simplicity as well as disorient us with complexity. And that’s just with the form.

The overall structure too captivates – the organization into spaces reminiscent of Gaston Bachelard’s fascinating philosophical opus, The Poetics of Space. In the case of Padilla’s chapbook, the universe is carved into spaces that are domestic but not quite domestic, semi-public but in a brooding and intimate way. Sections of the chapbook have titles like Pórtico, Dormitorio, Comedor, Salón Heráldico, Capilla, Ático, and of course Mausoleo (Portico, Dorm, Dining Room, Heraldic Hall, Chapel, Attic, Mausoleum) – domestic but layered with social and existential significance, spaces in the liminal zone between public and private, as perhaps a cloistered monastery might be for the devotees who live within it. Maybe that’s where Padilla wants us to feel ourselves. Or maybe not. But either way, it’s a space charged with meaning and emotion.

Throw in a few captivating images – “mujeres como picaduras de abeja” [33], “en cada escena del crimen una catedral azul” [69] – and you have a nice neat package of a poetic chapbook. Well, not exactly neat. Luckily for us, it’s something more interesting than neat.

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(Click covers for links)

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Three language tricks

To finish off this spontaneous chain of posts on Woodstock and antecedents (from Joe Cocker to Elvis, from Elvis to Roy Rogers), let’s do just one more – Country Joe McDonald’s “Fixin’-To-Die-Rag,” an object lesson in how to use language in multiple ways outside the scope of literal meaning. In fact, I tried it twice on my intermediate-to-advanced ESL (English as a second language) students for just that reason – once it was a hit, once it was a flop. Go figure. But let’s listen.

Friends, lovers, hippies, it’s a long way back to Elvis.

But the language. The only literal meanings in the clip come in the 10-second aside at the 2:00 mark. Everything else elapses via three essential language tricks:

Irony
Rhetorical frames
Clichés, collocations, and idioms

My ESL students pretty quickly get that the song is ironic – that the words literally advocate support for the war (“Put down your books and pick up a gun / We’re gonna have a whole lotta fun”) but the speaker’s point is the opposite. But when they go through the irony line-for-line, it is still a learning experience for them to see how each phrase flips to its opposite meaning and how some of the flips can be quite serious and powerful (as when the speaker tries to energize parents with the upbeat thought that they could “Be the first ones on your block / To have your boy come home in a box”).

This brings me to the second trick – rhetorical frames. First, the playful tone that frames the whole song. It’s like a children’s sing-a-long (“one, two, three … five, six, seven …”). When up against content as heavy as “your boy come home in a box,” the emotional impact is amplified. The US government would like you to think this is a game, but Country Joe’s language tricks (which are really just an undoing of the GOVERNMENT’S language tricks) make it clear that this is NOT a game.

The second rhetorical frame is that of the all-American high school football game. The Fish cheer (“Give me an ‘f’ … give me a ‘u’ …”) and indeed the whole song can be seen as a kind of (mock-) pep rally. If the Man can’t distract you from the brutality of the war with the “children’s sing-a-long” veneer, maybe they can get you to think of the Vietnam war as a high school football game. Rah-rah-rah for our side. The rhetoric of the high school cheerleader. Not so in the hands of Country Joe. He takes that trivializing frame and turns it on its head. Is his inversion of the cheerleading rhetoric in the Fish cheer offensive? Absolutely. But this is not just a rebellious kid breaking the household rule. Country Joe’s point is that “your war is offensive – your turning it into a cheerleaders’ game is offensive – WE are offended by your war and your rhetorical tricks to make us comfortable with it. These are our friends coming home in boxes, so you’ll excuse us if we get a little offensive in this song.”

If the rhetorical framing is really just one expression of the overarching irony, my third and final language trick – clichés, collocations, and idioms – is really just one more aspect of the rhetorical framing. The entire text is composed of clichés, collocations, and idioms. Just look at the first 10 lines, with italics on the phrases the might be called clichés, collocations, or idioms:

Well, come on all of you, big strong men,
Uncle Sam needs your help again.
He’s got himself in a terrible jam
Way down yonder in Vietnam
So put down your books and pick up a gun,
We’re gonna have a whole lotta fun.

And it’s one, two, three,
What are we fighting for?
Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn,
Next stop is Vietnam.

We could go on through the lyrics – pearly gates, tools of the trade, kingdom come, etc. – but why collocations, idioms, and clichés? Doesn’t that just show a lack of originality? When used gratuitously, yes. But this is far from gratuitous. It is part of the design. Country Joe is not interested in literal meaning but in emotional impact, and this is one way to get it. Collocations, idioms, and clichés are the things that localize language. They give you a house built of baseball, hot dogs, and mom’s apple pie. This is Americana in its most cliché form. Leave it to Beaver and Ozzie and Harriet. That’s the image the US government is using to sell you the Vietnam War. And Country Joe’s counterpoint is probably most anchored to the idiom, “I don’t give a damn.” After all, that’s the million-dollar question that Country Joe really wants to press on these 400,000 hippies: “What are we fighting for?” In 1969, no one really knew. And yet cousins and neighbors were coming home in boxes. This is the question Uncle Sam most wants you to look away from (“no, no, no, you shouldn’t give a damn about that”). So naturally that’s exactly where Country Joe, wordsmith, musician, counterculture icon, and smart-ass par excellence (who was already on an FBI watch list at the time of this clip, btw) goes to build his lyrical house.

Country Joe’s website: http://countryjoe.com/

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(Click covers for links)

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Read a Faulkner Prize finalist for free

Goodbye, Maggie (shortlisted for the 2019 Faulkner Prize) is FREE this week on Amazon (Kindle).

(If you don’t have a Kindle, download the app for free, and get all the books you need for quarantine.)

Click the cover below to link through. (Read some excerpts below.)

So get your copy now. Or if you have a copy, gift a copy or two to friends. Just tell them to be polite and write a brief and honest Amazon review in return for the freebie 🙂

Phil’s life becomes a fiasco of misdirection when his charismatic brother, Magnus, shows up with the news that he has murdered someone and asks for sanctuary. Magnus then disappears – with Phil’s girlfriend, Hermia – and Phil lands on an uneasy road trip through small town Louisiana with Gus, another rival for Hermia’s attention. Phil and Gus, white and black, find racism, madness, and unlikely friendships as they roll through the bayous and into New Orleans.

Excerpts:

First page

Closer to the end

* * *

BookCoverImage     year-bfly-cover          mgg cov clipped 2019-11-23

Don’t get stuck with nothing to read

Goodbye, Maggie now at La Librería Guanajuato & Quimby’s Chicago (+ online).
Also arrived at bookstores in NYC and Austin but down with the virus.
So best to beat the home-alone boredom with a cheap Kindle copy ($3.99).

Share, enjoy, write reviews!

       

Phil’s life becomes a fiasco of misdirection when his charismatic brother shows up with the news that he has murdered someone and asks for sanctuary.

Amazon link here.
Author site here.
Facebook link here.

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Teaching Dickens: Hard Times

Hard Times is not one of the greatest novels in the language like Dickens’s Great Expectations. It is far too taut to showcase Dickens’s strength, that luxurious attention to character and prose style. This is perhaps because it was written as a weekly serial instead of the usual monthly serial. In any event, it is a novel built more on ideas than on vivid, complex characters, and hence not on the best foundation for Dickens’s peculiar kind of literary edifice.

Hard Times, however, has several advantages in the undergraduate classroom. (Great Expectations might more interesting than Hard Times at the upper or English majors only levels, with its surface plot resting on layers and layers of symbolic strata.) For the general survey, Hard Times brings the political and thematic climate of Victorian England into focus more quickly and more sharply than the other novels: Captains of Industry (Adam Smith/Bounderby) vs. Marxists (Slackbridge) vs. Bourgeois Liberals (Gradgrind, ultimately). Other players like Sissy and Harthouse and Sleary are worthy of book-length analyses in their own right, but that basic tripartite political backdrop is a great introduction to the historical forces of the century. And Hard Times is more than adequate to introduce stylistic markers of Victorian realism (partly reflected in and partly invented by Dickens), although they may come to fuller flower in Dickens’s other novels. Hard Times is certainly better than the oft-taught Oliver Twist as an introduction to the stylistic and historical markers of the dominant genre of the time, and is probably better in terms of its sharper focus for undergraduates than the more luxurious Great Expectations or Tale of Two Cities.

(Click covers for links)

hard times cover     G ex cov2     ttc     oliver

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