War is much in the news these days, to the great distress of the world. There is not a continent on Earth on which some form of violence is expressing our species capacity for hatred and cruelty. What did Henry Miller think of war and how it could be avoided?
Miller regarded war as the ultimate expression of anti-life. In the midst of World War Two, at the urging of his devoted follower Bern Porter, Miller wrote a pamphlet titledMurder the Murderer that set forth his position. Not surprisingly, Miller’s views on war reflect his belief in the inviolability of the individual human conscience, and his condemnation of mass movements. War results because men surrender their individuality to the will of the herd⎯a herd that is manipulated to pursue the interests of a privileged few.
A friend and former Strand employee recently started a Tumblr dedicated to “all the weird kid writing I’ve found at used bookstores.” Exhibit A.
Kid has alright tastes when it comes to hatin. Keep it up player. And Matallica is garbage.
We were once lucky enough to get a book that included a kid’s plan for his dream mansion. The setup was pretty dope: he had somehow made room for an arcade and a gaming room, not to mention a helipad and a shark tank.
I get up in the morning with an idea for a three-volume novel and by nightfall it’s a paragraph in my column.
"One day in the subway, James saw a red cat with a wound to the leg that likely resulted from a fight with another cat. It was obvious that the cat needed help. James could not pass and took the cat to the vet. With a little medical treatment and prescription drugs, the cat quickly recovered. At that point, James found it impossible to say goodbye to Street Cat Bob. Bob followed James everywhere he went. As James played the guitar on the street and Bob sat nearby, revenues increased dramatically. People found it difficult to pass when they looked at the cute kitty. James went on to write a book describing their adventures in the street which was full of life – both dramatic and comedic. In the book, James says that he could not have imagined how meeting Bob would change his life. His friendship with the cat healed him from a life that had been very hard. Most likely, if Bob could speak, he would say the same thing.”
Mike Recommends Words in Commotion by Tommaso Landolfi
If Flannery O’Connor’s characters felt an intimidated bias against women instead of foreigners (and she grew up with Kafka as her babysitter (and she studied obscure Italian terminology in her free time)), she would’ve proved an apt apprentice to Tommaso Landolfi.
The Elusive Satisfying Ending
A customer and I were recently discussing a book she had finished. I asked for her review: “I loved it”, she said, “but I didn’t feel like the ending really worked.”
As a bookseller, I hear this response frequently. What is it about endings that makes them so hard to get right, even for the most talented authors? I started thinking of my own criteria for a satisfying ending- not merely a “good” ending, or even necessarily “the right” ending, but an ending that leaves me feeling completely content with the book. I mean the type of ending that makes you go “Yes.” as you put the book down; the type of ending that is satisfying to something in your soul.
I think for an ending to hit that note for me, it needs to feel inevitable at the same time that it’s surprising; it doesn’t have to end happily, but it can’t leave me with despair; it needs to leave me thinking.
No small task for an author, amirite? While there are hundreds of books I’ve loved, there are only a few ending I’ve read that have really satisfied me, and I remember the experience of reading them very vividly. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. (I was only 12 when I realized Frodo wasn’t going to have his happy ending, and I obsessed for weeks…)
Of course, no two people feel the same about anything. I’ve had some utterly fascinating discussions with friends and customers about just what criteria make for the elusive satisfying ending, and just what books manage pull it off. One friend strongly dislikes the end of Kavalier and Clay- he felt it just petered out. He needs his endings to have ambiguity, whereas I need a little bit more closure on the story. Another friend raves about the end of The Grapes of Wrath, while I just roll my eyes. (I might need to re-read it.)
What makes a satisfying ending for you? Not just a good one, but a satisfying one? Send me some recommendations!