Stalin and Mao Tried to Assassinate John Wayne, New Book Claims

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Steven Travers is an historian, guest lecturer at the USC Annenberg School of Journalism and author of 20 books and screenplays. He's a conservative author whose own publicity posits grimly that the "old way" of American patriotism and macho values have been destroyed and replaced with the "world now dominated by Barack Obama."

One of Travers' biggest heroes is that paragon of John Birch-era Orange County, John Wayne. And it is the Duke himself who is the protagonist of Travers' new book The Duke, The Longhorns and Chairman Mao, which you can find in bookstores, or at least on Amazon, on April 7. The book makes some truly remarkable claims about Wayne, who Travers argues was an anti-communist icon of such stature that two of the worst communist dictators of the 20th Century tried to have him assassinated.


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Do the Arts Make Us Better People? Does Science? Depends on the People

Categories: OC Bookly

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Not sure how much convincing hip readers of everybody's favorite OC Sunday morning literary arts blog will need that the arts are important but I feel like a better person already just talking up the work of Zocalo Public Square and its local night out at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, not against 'em. I'll probably miss the terrific evening of discussion from a panel of writers and nice wealthy patrons and, I hope, rousing political argument from, you bet, the pro-arts side at "Do the Arts Make Us Better People" on Tuesday night, February 11 at 7:30. Why? Because I'll be driving my little actor kid (also pro-arts, as it happens) from his rehearsal at South Coast Rep's excellent Junior Players Conservatory to his piano lesson. But you should go, and also maybe buy tickets right now for the Costa Mesa Playhouse's excellent production of Stephen Sondheim's seldom-produced musical "Assassins," in which the little Bibster plays the son of crazy-person attempted killer Sarah Jane Moore, and sings along with the ensemble of other nutty all-American kooks.  

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Grinding, Sharpening an Axiom: War is Still the Health of the State:

Categories: OC Bookly

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Randolph Bourne died in the Great Influenza Epidemic of 1918.  He is a hero of mine, a disabled, disfigured genius truth-teller. Robert Scheer, another heroic journalist, activist, articulator of the truth, was born in the Bronx, as he is fond of reminding the snotty upper-class assholes with whom he spars (and always carefully demolishes) every darn week on KCRW's excellent "Left, Rich and Center."  Oops, I meant right, or wrong. Scheer, who has no doubt done well for himself as they say (books, celebrity, a successful career) still needs to remind these gals and guys of Trickle Down War-World that he is the son of a poor single mother, benefited as so many from public assistance, attended public schools and universities, and that the banksters and corporations whose spokespeople dominate the media discussions and spin-a-thons are not you and me, thanks very much. It's called a class analysis.
  

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A Blogger's Book of Days: Amdahl to Zimmerman

Categories: OC Bookly

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It's perhaps only a few weeks until the arrival of the debut novel by playwright, poet, short story writer and all-around sentence-lover (love-slave) Gary Amdahl, published as part of the Amdahl Library by a small if devoted outfit called, amusingly, Artistically Declined Press. So, yes, excitement here at the crib of Bib about that, and so much else in the new year, which starts out just right: reading the manuscript of Amdahl's 400+ page "intellectual/emotional memoir" Across My Big Brass Bed, posing as fiction, or maybe it's the other way around. I seem to be inspired by way of organizing this morning's otherwise sloppy blog post by recent Bibilocracy guest Tom Nissley's excellent, fun and digressive A Reader's Book of Days, which made it into my recent "top picks" list, and stays on top there just now, and also on the top of the staggeringly high pile of books stacked next to my side of the bed, that one which will indeed kill me when the Big One hits (what a way to go!) if in fact the Amdahl does not kill me first, by which I mean that this novel is a Proustian whopper of a reader's (and writer's) reckless joyride, if the slowest, most delicate and elegant document charting the hot-wiring of those stolen vehicles that are memory and imagination.


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Mr. Bib Makes a List, Checks it, Finds it Pretty Solid: End-of-Year Bookly

Categories: OC Bookly

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"Self-portrait of Mr. Bib?" I hear you asking. "Local OC book club leader"? You-Know-Who, who we like to keep in Christmas or one of those "READ" posters from the American Library Association? A "selfie" taken by Dad, with the equally invisible Holy Ghost looking over his nephew's shoulder? Whichever, whatever, His reading seems pretty predictable, even provincial, and self-serving if we judge by this rare photo of JC. It's the Good Book, or good enough, sure, but you'd think He might be reading something new, maybe a sequel or a prequel at least. And, finally, is it just me or is Clip-Art Jesus enjoying his own autobiography just a little too much? Looking for the sexy bits and the miracles? Or is he only proof-reading for typos and what we lay scholars like to call inconsistencies?   

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If You'd Known She Was Coming: Kate Milliken and the Power of Waiting

Categories: OC Bookly

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There's no reason you would know the excellent short stories by the writer Kate Milliken, Not unless you'd been watching her success with publication of her stand-out spooky stories in any number of literary journals, been her fiction-writing student or followed the annual writing prizes awarded by the University of Iowa. Come to think of it, clever literary types as you readers of OC Bookly, everybody's favorite OC books and reading blog, might indeed have plenty of reasons to already know and admire her work. But there are plenty more reasons - twelve in fact - and they are each and every one of the absolutely gorgeous short and longer stories in her collection, winner of the 2013 John Simmons Short Fiction Award titled, wryly, ominously, perfectly, If I'd Known You Were Coming

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Funny as a Crutch: Jerry Stahl's Latest Self-Help Installment

Categories: OC Bookly

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Sometimes a good title so perfectly provokes, engages or deadpans to the author's fans, offers that secret handshake of an invitation, that they know exactly what they are going to get. Writer Jerry Stahl's fans, of which Mr. Bib is of course one, will be satisfied, and  then some, by the predictabley strange drug-addled existential shenanigans of his junkie narrator, but also challenged to engage a larger political critique which maybe you could also be surprised at with a cover that reads, delightfully, perversely, Happy Mutant Baby Pills. Perfect, of course, by way of the ad-speak meets Beat-poet psychedelic Big Pharma branding which has gotten so very nice and easy to send up, if you are that kind of skeptic and yet done so very nice and rough, to bowdlerize the great Tina Turner, in a novel which finds a way to make a writer of "side effects" warning copy into a murderer, a lover, a crusading co-conspirator of sorts against his own best and worst interests, depending on how you feel about drugs and romance and grassroots politics and religion, which doesn't even begin to cover it all in this "romp" of a narco-narrative that delivers resistance to the organized corporate doping of America by, ironically, two dope fiends.  Ha!  

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Think Globally, Read Locally: Wild and Beautiful Orange County

Categories: OC Bookly

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First, I want to put my own enthusiasm as a wannabe naturalist in context and cop, up front, to my total newbie-ism. There are so many other talented book and nature people who should be writing this morning about Laguna Wilderness Press, a great resource for amazing books about our region but, lucky me and thanks to Editor Gustavo the A, you'll have to suffer my excitement and endure this Mr. Bib-come-lately appreciation. It started when I found myself, no kidding, using the wet-dry vac to suck up some of what must be the absolutely most productive default olive "harvest" that has happened in these parts lately, where I live under the weird mixed-up canopy of oaks, sycamores, a few unlikely pines and, yes, hundreds of olive trees which rural (as opposed to urban) legend insists were planted by Madame Helena's boyfriend, the fake Polish "count" about a hundred years ago and, which local lore advises are the "wrong kind" of olive. But as I collected these good-sized full purple-black juicy fruits I wondered what was so wrong about them. The neighborhood in which we reside is not, after all called Wrong Kind Hill.

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Local Girl Does Good: Victoria Patterson's Peerless Vision

Categories: OC Bookly

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It's all too often this blogger has to fudge the premise of your favorite Orange County literary arts blog, stretching to meet the ostensible OC theme by way of history or demographic or subject matter. Sometimes I don't even try, and instead just go on and on about what pleases The Bibliofella. Happily, this week's subject fits both categories by way of the talented, political, beautiful (see photo) "local" author Victoria Patterson, whose third book, a novel about women Olympians of all things, marks her first efforts to write beyond the class and sex critique of our funny county and its glittering gem in the bejeweled cubic zirconian crown of Corona del Mar, Newport and Fashion Island. Patterson's amazing breakout story collection, Drift, told the lives of broken people whose unrealistic expectations somehow persist in the unreal world of privilege, composed with the special vengeance and empathy of somebody who had grown up there, watched, remembered and listened. But somebody with a class critique, thankfully. Then, in the novel This Vacant Paradise, Patterson did for (well, against) Fashion Island what novelist Greg Bills did for (to) Triangle Square in his scaldingly dark and wonderfully disturbing Fearful Symmetry. I see from above that it's time for an OC best of.

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The Re-Irrigation of the Imagination: Nicholson Baker's Traveling Sprinkler

Categories: OC Bookly

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Its unlikely title, awkward if also hilarious, has taken a couple of reviewers of the newest Nicholson Baker novel by surprise. Their disappointment at a book called, yes, clumsily, prosaically, weirdly, Traveling Sprinkler is to be understood and noted, but only if you (they) misunderstand the novel itself, and its protagonist, and the ambitions (all mostly fulfilled) of the sequel by the author of the earlier and much-acclaimed The Anthologist, inventor of nutty-wonderful character Paul Chowder, the minor American poet for whom it is nearly impossible to concentrate on one thing and why, friend would you want to?  

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