The Flowering of Language: Spring, When a Middle-Aged Man's Fancy Lightly Turns to Thoughts of Books

Categories: OC Bookly
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I've only just now enrolled late in the fan club - devoted cult readers, book clubbers and flower aficianados - lined up behind Vanessa Diffenbaugh's novel The Language of Flowers, thanks to Jill Patterson and the organizers of next Saturday's 8th annual Literary Orange festival. Flattered and proud to be invited to sit between two talented, smart, beautiful women and interrogate, celebrate and otherwise do my moderator best to share with attendees some joyful insights into two terrific novels in a panel titled, forthrightly, "Flowers, Bees, Words." Mr. Bib joins Diffenbaugh, the New York Times-bestselling author and OC's own Peggy Hesketh, best-telling author of an almost too-perfect companion book about our county, so that my blog post this weekend is an invitation to join the three of us and another couple of hundred literary types, and also a preview of sorts.  Indeed, Peggy Hesketh of Anaheim, California, USA has been lauded here at OC Bookly aplenty for her terrific roots novel Telling the Bees, so that another opportunity to share, this time with an audience of locals, seems just the right way to kick off the year's springtime literary festivities, this one the closest to home. 
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Where We Read Your Dreams: Listening to the Imagination on (Where Else?) KPFK

Categories: OC Bookly

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Recent especially terrific listening at the only really people-powered media out there inspires this morning's blog. Mr. Bib probably should have timed this celebration of So Cal Pacifica Radio KPFK 90.7 FM to appear during the recently concluded fund drive, but there's no reason you can't demonstrate your good taste, solidarity, stubborn insistence by going to the website and pledging now or mailing an old-fashioned check to the station at its Cahuenga Blvd West address. So much good and exceptional and vital and encouraging happens on the alternative air there, mostly absent any acknowledgement from the other media.  What is the sound of one's hands clapping?  Applause, but you'd never know it from the near black-out of the one media outlet which, because it cannot and will not and should not try to compete with the rest of the media should also celebrate once in a while, and brag on itself. Perhaps the announcement last week of Ralph Nader's new Saturday morning 11 a.m. program, with funnyman and smart political observer David Feldman --- and its debut yesterday --- will merit a big feature piece in the Los Angeles Times?  I can dream.  

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Train: Tom Zoellner Takes a Long Ride, Writes About It..and Shares a Slide Show, Too

Categories: OC Bookly

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Somebody's doing something very right over at Chapman University, where the faculty line-up of terrific teachers gets more and more impressive, and includes the author of a new book with appeal for sincere admirers of stylish prose and what they call general interest readers, as well as train fanatics, admirers of travel writing, history buffs and fans of its author, one of the nicest writers you will ever meet, or read. Tom Zoellner teaches at the little private liberal arts college in Orange, when he is not writing or researching his next project. I'm still disappointed that his previous offering, the urgently, provocatively, impossibly dead-on A Safeway in Arizona, a case study of the weird political and cultural behaviors and doomed public policy of one of our most charming, nuttiest Western states, didn't get more attention, by which I mean purchased by and read by and discussed by every elected official in the country. (I can dream.) The book should have been huge, required reading, but of course I am not in charge. Imagine, for instance, if the child of a wildly successful local minister, influential evangelical and presidential debate host took his own life using a handgun, this son of a famously purpose-driven conservative religious guy with a big soapbox. Instead of "forgiving" the kook who sold the gun to his suicide son, instead of talking about mental health "awareness," he might reasonably (in my own imagined universe) have organized political opposition from the big-screen mega-church pulpit to those true disciples of Satan, the National Rifle Association, pimps for weapons makers and all-around sadist-profiteers of misery.

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Science Fictions: Mormonist Lit and Scientology, too!

Categories: OC Bookly

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You need to know about what goes on in the head of your favorite OC Weekly literary arts blogger like you need a hole in your own head or one of these, an E-Meter. But you might want to know about how what is in Mr. Bib's noggin actually gets there, at least by way of tardy recommendations of a couple of terrific reads. This E-Meter "Mark Super VII Quantum"- for sale on E-Bay (!) as it happens - is a high-tech looking gizmo that measure galvanic skin response, which is basically how much you are sweating, which increases conductance of your skin, which is about as valuable as a mood ring. No, it's not much to begin with, but this baby is a far cry from crazy-as-a-loon sci-fi hack writer and all-around con man Lafayette Ronald Hubbard's original, a bit of mad genius gimcrackery just perfect for the perfect all-American fake religion meets Ponzi scheme, only mildly critiqued in Lawrence Wright's otherwise excellent nonfiction take-apart of the religion, its founder and the leadership of that criminal enterprise in Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief.

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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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