Archive for the ‘ Not So Good Books ’ Category

I Shoulda Known…

…It was an Oprah Book Club pick; it was going to be depressing.

Somehow Gap Creek by Robert Morgan wound UP on my book wish list and low and behold, one of the kids sent it to me a Christmas or two ago.

I don’t remember wanting it, and I actually think I asked for Bill Cameron’s County Line, and somehow got it mixed UP with Gap Creek.

Either way, I got the book, laid it aside for a year or more, and recently picked it UP.

Don’t bother.

Possibly the most depressing piece of literature in the English Language, it is the story of a marriage.

That’s how it bills itself, Gap Creek, The Story of a Marraige.

The writer is very famous, generally on the best seller list, and did a wonderful job of writing the book in the first person mountain voice of Julie.

It really is good writing.

Julie “works like a man” and does more than any two people should have to do.

Her only brother is sickly, can’t work, and dies in her arms.

Then her father dies.

Hope springs eternal for the only time in the book when Julie meets Hank Richards, falls in love on the spot and marries him a short time later.

They leave Painter Mountain in North Carolina and go to Gap Creek, South Carolina, just over the line.

Morgan paints a picture of a hard scrabble life for this young bride and her immature groom.

He lands a job making brick for a cotton mill; they live with an old coot who has offered them free room as long as Julie takes care of the house.

I read on through the book knowing that something wonderful would happen only to find out that Hank’s judgmental mother comes to visit after apparently winning the “Mother in Law from Hell” award.  The book doesn’t say that, but I’m sure she did.

Julie and Mr. Pendergast, the home owner, kill a hog, and while rendering the fat on the stove, Julie bumps one of the cans, a fire starts, Ma throws water on the grease fire, Mr. Pendergast goes back in for his pension money, gets burned badly and dies the following night.

Meanwhile, Hank gets fired.

One tragedy after another comes upon this couple like the plagues of Egypt.

I wanted to throw it away, but yet, I persisted.

Yes I plogged on, hoping against hope that something good would happen.

Not yet, one swindler after another comes and bilks Julie of what little money they have.  A couple comes and claims to be the heirs of the property and allows Julie and Hank to stay but takes Papa’s silver as they leave.

Oh, and there’s a town drunk who comes and harasses them in the middle of the night about every other week or so.

Good times!

Reading ahead, knowing that hope would spring eternal for the young couple, imagine my dismay when Julie delivers the baby BY HERSELF ON THE KITCHEN FLOOR while dumbass Hank is off fetching his momma who is going to help with the baby.

Hank and Ma Richards arrive only to find Julie passed out on the kitchen floor after birthing Delia, cutting the cord with her teeth, and near death.

Oh and then, the baby dies.

After that, Ma heads back UP the mountain, Hank has a meltdown, there’s an ice storm, a flood, the drunk comes back, the cow drowns in the flood, a mink kills all the chickens…I think you get it.

But I, like a fool, was sure something good was going to happen.  Maybe they would find a pot of gold in the barn, or under Mr. Pendergast’s bed.

Or maybe some benevolent soul would give Hank a job.

Something, anything,

But noooooooooooooooooooooooo not only did nothing good come along, the attorney for the real heirs shows UP, demands back rent, takes their possessions as they have no money to pay, evicts them and they leave for Hank’s mother’s mountain cabin with only what they can carry.

Some critics compared it (because of the writing) to Charles Frasier’s Cold Mountain.

They should be shot.


He Really Should Be!

This is a book review.

My dad was a big fan of the talking head shows on CNN, Faux, NBC, CBS, and ABC.  He loved to listen to them argue, and aside from the hour a day mother commandeered the TV and watched “her stories”, he had some pundit yelling at him all the time.

Unless there was a baseball game on.

One of his favorites to watch, and vehemently disagree with, was Bob Beckel.

Bekel on the Five

I’ll have to admit, although I also do not agree often with Mr. Beckel, I did enjoy his style and his banter from shows like Crossfire and Faux News’ The Five.

Recently, Bob came out with a “redemptive memoir” about his many decades as a political operative, diplomat, pundit, addict, and alcoholic.

It is entitled I Should Be Dead.

Bekel Book

Really, he should be!

Over 75 % of the book is a story of drink, drugs, debauchery, and deceit.

I really liked the guy until I started reading the book.  For a while, I was on the off ramp of disgust and disdain for the boy.

The book helped to cement my perception of political operatives as well.


Just sayin’.

Growing UP a “survivor” in an abusive home dominated and driven by an alcoholic father, he learned to hide his feelings, survive, lie, and deceive which all came in very handy in his Washington career.

Seemingly at the pinnacle of success in the political and infortainment worlds, Bob was hiding – not so well – a big secret.

He was a drunk.

Waking UP in the psych ward on “W’s” inauguration day in 2001 was rock bottom for him, but allowed his story to change.

The story is a difficult one to read.  I had to put the book down repeatedly and move on to something else for a day or two.

Once I started it, it took me 6 months to read this book.

It has fewer than 300 pages.

It’s not me, it’s him.

Once started, it’s a must finish.  He weaves a story of his addictions and how they nearly killed him and a story of help, faith, friendship, sobriety, and redemption from unlikely sources.

It’s not a book I’ll re-read, but I’m glad I read it.

And he’s right, he should be dead!

Famously Bad

Today is the anniversary of the birth of Julia A. Moore.

I won’t say she was infamous, but she was famously bad.

Infamy generally indicates evil, wretchedness and the like.

Julia A. Moore was famously bad.

Famous for her bad poetry.


The eldest of four children, Julia grew UP on a farm in Michigan.  When Julia was 10, her mother became ill and the family responsibilities fell to the poor child.

Formal education halted, but the girl determined to learn.  To do so, she started writing poetry and songs.

Like Edison, she felt that Inspiration was everywhere!  A fire, a death, disaster; they all awakened her muse.

For example, the Great Chicago Fire inspired this:

The great Chicago Fire, friends,
Will never be forgot;
In the history of Chicago
It will remain a darken spot.
It was a dreadful horrid sight
To see that City in flames;
But no human aid could save it,
For all skill was tried in vain.

At the age of 17, she married a farmer, Frederick Moore.  The couple had ten children, more inspiration for Moore to say the least.

Her first book of verse The Sentimental Songbook was printed in 1876, sold rapidly, and earned a second printing.  Winding UP in the hands of a Cleveland, Ohio publisher, it was re-published as The Sweet Singer of Michigan Salutes the Public.

Big titles were big back then.

James F. Ryder, the publisher, sent hundreds of review copies to newspapers nationwide.  His review included a cover letter with mock praise.

The pet rock of its time, other newspapers’ lightheartedly negative reviews were a plenty.

One read,”Shakespeare, could he read it, would be glad he was dead…”

But, any press is good press, right?

At any rate, the book became a curious best seller – for whatever reason – and Moore’s fame grew.

So much so, that she was booked into the Opera House in Grand Rapids for a reading – complete with orchestra.

She convinced herself that the jeering was aimed at the orchestra, and booked the Opera House again when her next collection was published.

I mean, she knew good work when she way it, and after all,  she was a critic as well.  Her opinion of Lord Byron was one of her greatest hits.

The character of “Lord Byron”
Was of a low degree,
Caused by his reckless conduct,
And bad company.
He sprung from an ancient house,
Noble, but poor, indeed.
His career on earth was marred
By his own misdeeds.


She soldiered on.

A Few Choice Words to the Public appeared in 1878.  Sales were disappointing.

With a “better” orchestra in tow, Moore realized the jeering was for her.  Realizing the nationwide praise directed at her was sarcasm, she admitted her poetry was “partly full of mistakes” and “literary is a work very hard to do.”

When the poetry and jeering had mercifully come to an end, Moore told the audience, “…you have come here and paid twenty-five cents to see a fool; I receive seventy-five dollars, and see a whole houseful of fools.”

Mr. Moore put his foot down and demanded the poetry stop.

Julia published three more poems, wrote for friends, and two more short stories were issued.

One was about a farmer being rescued from bankruptcy when his wife published her secret works of fiction.

Escaping the notoriety, Moore moved his family 100 miles away where they again enjoyed success; he with an orchard and sawmill, she with a store.

Bad poetry or not, Moore had an influence on American Literature.  Ogden Nash was a great admirer, as was Mark Twain; though probably for reasons she’d not like.  Emmeline Grangerford of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is said to be based on the Sweet Singer of Michigan.

Mr. Moore died in 1914, the following year, Julia republished her work “Sunshine and Shadow”.  Her widowhood was melancholy; much of it spent rocking on the front porch.

She died in 1920; her death was “widely reported”.

I suppose it pays to be famously bad.

Baby Blues

I haven’t said much about what I’m reading, but I am reading and I’m reading a lot.

UP today, another Ohioan, Paul Newman.

First of all, I didn’t know he was from Ohio, and I didn’t know he was Jewish.

How I’d missed that is beyond me, but I did.

Mea culpa.

But, I digress.

This is a book report.

I recently read Paul Newman, The Man Behind The Baby Blues by Darwin Porter.


Take a tip from me.  If you’re a Paul Newman fan, don’t read it.

First of all, it’s terrible writing.  I mean really terrible writing.  Just “fact” after “fact” after “fact”.

Secondly, every thing in it is written as fact even though every one in it is either dead, deranged, or not talking.

And thirdly, it is written as if the writer were listening to the conversations as they happened.

Most of the information comes from Paul’s long time friend Janice Paige, whose apparent eidetic memory was second to none.

Hearsay, gossip, rumor, and innuendo fill the book.

I’m sure Newman was no saint, but Porter wasn’t there.

And honestly, there’s just some of it I don’t want to believe.

One reviewer called it “…fun and dishy to read…”.

It’s not.

It’s just salacious gossip…which, BTW, I could not put down.

Seriously, Porter has Newman sleeping with every one from James Dean to Elizabeth Taylor to Steve McQueen!

I’m not sure I liked the Paul Newman he wrote about, but I am sure I didn’t like the book.

Save your money.  Don’t bother.