Saturday, October 31, 2015

Thursday, October 29, 2015

My Middle East peace plan

Make all aid from outside countries and organizations contingent upon 25% of the population taking part in a weekly book club. Membership requires eating together in a Palestinian or Israeli home -- it would have to alternate -- and discussing, say, Victor Hugo's LES MISERABLES. Or any other mutually chosen novel. No, I'm not kidding.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Sent back the edited manuscript to the publisher

Next stop, layout.

The novel is part of a big global conversation about coexistence. Not all such conversations are easy. The edits were, though. Easier than I thought, at any rate. The good folks at +Orenda Books did a fine job.

Exciting time!

You can preorder JIHADI: A LOVE STORY by clicking here.


"Smart and searing." -- Publishers Weekly

Preorder here from London's Orenda Books!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

#amediting to the Waterboys, thinking about Shakespeare

Today, I am editing my stuff on a strange boat...  one equipped with wi-fi and electrical outlets. Unlike the raft that carried Prospero and Miranda from Milan. That strange boat could hold only books.

MIRANDA: What foul play had we that we came from thence?
Or blessed was’t we did?

PROSPERO: Both, both ...

From your own Internet-equipped strange boat (I assume you've got one, we all do nowadays), you can pre-order JIHADI: A LOVE STORY, that which I edit on this one.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

My 9 Favorite Quotes from Stephen King's ON WRITING

(These nine quotes helped me finish my first novel, JIHADI: A LOVE STORY.)

1. “Writing is not life, but I think that sometimes it can be a way back to life.” 

2. “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” 

3. "Writing isn't about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it's about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It's about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.” 

4. "Your job isn't to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.” 

5. "Kill your darlings."

6. “It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn't in the middle of the room. Life isn't a support system for art. It's the other way around.” 

7. “Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” 

8. “Talent renders the whole idea of rehearsal meaningless; when you find something at which you are talented, you do it (whatever it is) until your fingers bleed or your eyes are ready to fall out of your head. Even when no one is listening (or reading or watching), every outing is a bravura performance, because you as the creator are happy. Perhaps even ecstatic.”

9. "It's writing, damn it, not washing the car or putting on eyeliner. If you can take it seriously, we can do business. If you can't or won't, it's time for you to close the book and do something else. Wash the car, maybe.”


A little alarming that it's been three decades or so since I saw the originals. Here's the BBC scorecard on what the films got right and wrong about October 21, 2015.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The tables are turned

I've been editing other people's stuff since about 1985. This week I got my first round of edits in on my debut novel from London's +Orenda Books ! How's it feel now, Word Boy?

Fortunately, it looks like they've done a great, and sensitive, job. Quite a reversal to find myself in this role, though, I have to say.

All my colors have become colours, all my licenses licences ...

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Five Books I'm Reading, October Edition


THE STAND, Stephen King.


CONTEMPORARY FICTION (compilation of brilliant modern American short stories)

THE HOLY QUR'AN (Irving translation)


Ice loss: 1984. Not fast enough for Exxon.
Image: Los Angeles Times.
Ice loss: 2013. Good for drilling!
Image: Los Angeles Times.

Hard to believe, I know, but this Los Angeles Times article is suggesting that, back in the 1990s, US oil giant Exxon was claiming publicly that the science on global warming was too murky to support any conclusions ... even as its own internal scientists were telling executives privately that melting ice in the Arctic would make it cheaper to drill for oil.

Better keep on pumping out carbon fuels, then!

Is it possible there was a pattern of deliberate deception here, one affecting public health and well-being?

How did we handle that with the tobacco companies?

While we're all pondering that, suppose Exxon were to make a major ongoing DONATION of, say, a billion dollars a year for earth-friendly car-charging stations? In, say, the ten largest US metropolitan areas? For the next, say, ten years?

Either that or we could launch a RICO prosecution against Exxon for deliberate and malicious climate deception in support of the sale of a dangerous product.

Click here to tell Attorney General Loretta Lynch you want her to prosecute Exxon.

Friday, October 9, 2015

On making up words, in imitation of Shakespeare

This uncrumbleable article walks through Shakespeare's habit of embirthing new phraseclumps to suit the occasion. Wish I'd bescribed it. Click on and envisuate the piece -- soonish!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Nehru on Coexistence

"The only alternative to coexistence is codestruction." -- Jawaharlal Nehru, India's First Prime Minister

Truer today, more important today, than when he said it.

Macbeth: A Kurzel

There ought to be a word for something that's almost a masterpiece, but infuriates you because it blows the opportunity to be one. Whatever that word is, it describes the big, impossible-to-ignore new adaptation of Macbeth now playing in the multiplex near you. Let's call it a Kurzel.

Justin Kurzel, the director, makes his way to about the 20 yard line, but fails, maddeningly, to score. He ruins his own breakthrough moment. But that shouldn't keep you from lining up for tickets.

The first half of the film is nothing short of brilliant: visually breathtaking, cinematically innovative, and distinguished by astonishing performances from the two leads, Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. Fassbender's Macbeth, a victim of  post-traumatic stress disorder, is a splendid  achievement. The actor gives a quiet, tortured, driven performance rooted in the terrifying and impossible decisions awaiting warriors during and after wartime, and he makes this scrupulously accurate period film relevant to the early twenty-first century. Yes. Nominate him for an Oscar.

Cotillard deserves an Oscar nomination, too, for breathing new life into a classic role that might have seemed, before the lights went down, to have defied any successful reinterpretation. You have not seen or imagined this Lady Macbeth. From certain angles, this is now her story, and as Safie Maken Finlay pointed out to me, it's now, thanks largely to Cotillard, a piece about grief. 

So far, so masterful. Trouble is, the director forgot to hit the gas pedal towards the end. Let's be blunt. The thing is just too damn long in the windup. That's an inexcusable rookie mistake when you're dealing with a play structured to be played at a rapid pace, especially in the fifth act.

Kurzel starts out with royal ambitions and matching confidence. He may have meant to make this Macbeth an epic experience, and it is, for the first hour and 10 minutes or so. But in the end he falls in love with his own images, betrayed by a leaden soundtrack he appears to consider hypnotic, and by a pacing strategy that will literally put audiences to sleep in the final third of the film. 

That's a shame, because there is extraordinary work on display here, not the least of which is an intriguing, bare-bones screenplay that probably would have worked all the way through if only the director had the courage to edit his own work. He doesn't.

It's only in the second half, when Kurzel neglects that responsibility, that the piece starts to turn against him ... and he begins to resemble a usurper.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Tempest

In defense of my theory that Shakespeare plays are best enjoyed first in performance and only second in written form, I submit Act Two, Scene One of this superb Globe production of the THE TEMPEST. On the page, the scene is imposing, complex, and deeply unfunny. In performance with five gifted actors, it's a five-sided ping-pong game that pays off beautifully. More laughs than I realized were there, and I've been fixated on this play for almost 40 years.


What has emerged is the GOP is OK with a gun massacre every few months. "Stuff happens," according to Jeb Bush. They will never support a nationwide universal background check system. And if you support them, you're saying that's the kind of country you want to live in.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Creating the possibility of harmonious acceptance in the Mideast/USA/Europe via literature and a powerful global conversation about coexistence

What I am positing, and encouraging others to posit, is the possibility that no one who is truly well read could continue a career as an extremist.

Although I expect there are examples that prove the contrary, and I realize those may be forthcoming in this discussion, I'm going to begin with that idea -- being well read repels extremist tendencies -- as the guiding assumption for the work I'll be doing here over the next year or forty. Some of us, I submit, are not reading enough. 

My operating principle, then, is that reading Nabokov, or Dickens, or Hemingway, or the Morrisons (Jim and Toni), or Shakespeare, or Cervantes, or Hemingway, or Vonnegut, or Homer, or Salinger, or Byatt, or Victor Hugo, or Anne Tyler, or Virginia Woolf, or Jorge Luis Borges, or any number of other people whose words have transformed my life, is not only likely to make you happier, but also likely to make you ... 

... wiser, more compassionate, and less likely to seek simple, violent solutions to complex problems. 

The more of these writers and people like them we read, the less violent and simple-minded we are likely to be.

Extremists are everywhere these days. We don't always know what to do about them. I'm not saying starting a discussion about books that are worth reading twice is the only response we should consider in dealing with them. But I am saying it's something we haven't yet done enough. Reading the Bible is important. Reading the Qur'an is important. Reading other books is, I suspect, important, too.

If I could wave a magic wand and get every human being in the Middle East, the United States, and Europe over the age of eighteen to enjoyably read and critique one book, it would be Hugo's LES MISERABLES. Not that it's perfect. Not that it could be. It's just the right conversation.

Thursday, October 1, 2015


"All empty souls tend toward extreme opinions." -- William Butler Yeats