Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Proud To Be A Moron

I got an e-mail from a friend telling me that Kanye West, that humble musician, was releasing a book. Not surprising when you think of it ... except that West seems proud of the fact that he doesn't read.

I run into people who are proud not to watch TV. I always found them to be kind of pretentious, as television isn't total garbage. It's like anything else. The majority of stuff found on it will be garbage, but there will be gems there. I can understand people not wanting to watch television, though, and being proud of that, as many people think television rots thy brain.

What I've never been able to understand, however, are the people who take pride in not reading. Is there any other proclamation that can make you seem more ignorant? No. Declaring that you don't read is the same a declaring, "I don't really think a lot." I find these people suspect. Why are they proud of their ignorance? Is that some kind of badge of honor? Who respects that? Would you really want those people respecting you?

To proclaim you don't read while at the same time talking about a book you've written ... well, that just about seems right. (Apparently West's book features blank pages and some pages with just one sentence. At least that's what the e-mail said.) Who would buy this book? A bunch of non-readers. Why would they buy this book? Because they don't read and West doesn't read, but West said he wrote it, so buy it. Sheep.

I don't play a lot of attention to hip hop, but I'm thinking of cutting an album. I wonder if West thinks that's a good idea? I mean, if he can write a book ...

On an unrelated note, I'm still thinking of going the print-on-demand route. I'm looking into things. I want to get more of my work out there, and since publishers aren't busting down my door, this seems the best way possible. If anyone has any experience with this, please let me know.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

For Those Interested ...

It looks like I will be reviewing books once again for Fearlessbooks. I'm kind of excited about that, as I was exposed to some really interesting reads. I'll post more info on this later. I have to update my bio this week, so I think this will start happening in the next few months.

Friday, May 15, 2009


I finished Conan the Warrior and thought: Was Robert E. Howard a racist? I don't know a lot about his personal life, and I realize the three stories in the Conan book were written in 1935 and 1936, but I have to wonder. Is he a racist, or does his Conan character show his contempt for "civilized" culture?

The realist in me says Howard thought blacks were inferior. The way they are written about as being savages and lusting after white women makes me think the author was just playing into the common stereotypes of the time.

The optimist says Howard was using Conan as a critique of white "civilized" culture. To buy that you have to say the stories are seen mostly though Conan's point of view. Leaders are indulgent, overweight, and ignorant. They have lost track of the enemies at their door,and when they do find them, they look down on them. Conan sees this and hates these people. Black characters are still savages, but white culture doesn't get off any easier.

The book itself is excellent. Howard's writing stands the test of time. It's as bloody as it is creepy, and he knows how to turn a phrase. That nagging bit about the untamed black men lurking in the jungle, though, doesn't play as well in 2009.

When it comes to writers from a less enlightened time period (Nietzsche is another who comes to mind), you have to take that era into consideration when analyzing their work. Granted, there have always been people who aren't racist or sexist, but are still products of their culture. An open-minded reader should be able to go into that type of story without those values ruining the experience. A less-than-open-minded reader will have a real problem getting through it.

I really suspect Howard is a bit of both things. He was the aforementioned product of the times and a bit racist, though he probably didn't look at it that way. But at the same time he has little respect for "civilized," white culture. We have gotten too soft, which is even more true these days.

It doesn't make Howard any less a writer. In all honesty, when all the normal smoke clears, I think you will find that Howard is actually stronger for it. His work still stands the test of time, and he is still popular. His Conan character thrives in other media (the recent Dark Horse Comics series is one of those), and while the racism is downplayed for modern audiences, Howard's original stories still containing the equal bit of contempt and attraction to the unknown and misunderstood.

If Howard were put on the stand and asked under oath if he thought blacks were inferior to whites, I'm not a hundred percent sure what his answer would be, but I do think that somewhere in it he would describe how all culture has become a mockery of anything rational. He would say that all the trappings of modern (for that time) society has robbed mankind of its survival instincts, and I think he would praise the "savages" for their ability to thrive and conquer in such a world, though he would admit that the blacks of his culture were vastly different than those in his stories.

Make no mistake. I'm not saying Howard is a David Duke type (who wrote racist books under a pseudonym). I'm saying he was, if nothing else, a man writing of his time, but wishing he were in another era, and it all came out in Conan.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sharks In The Water

I read this Hunter S. Thompson book while on the bus out to California. It's not a light read by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it's often pretty brutal, but also equally hilarious. It was the perfect thing for a bus trip filled with psychotic lizard people.

I consider Thompson a genius on some level. He made political writing fun, he brought anger to new levels, and he wasn't shy about his drug use. Reading the good doctor made me want to be a better, more honest writer. I was already an angry writer by the time I started reading his work, but he made me be more direct. The Great Shark Hunt was my beginning. It was not the end.

When I heard the news that Thompson had died, I was saddened. Not shocked. I had been expecting it for years. I did feel, however, that the world lost someone who could never really be replaced. When we lose Grisham (hopefully any day now), some other writer will take his place. When we lost Thompson there was a void, and nothing has rushed in to fill it. Actually, nothing can really fill it. Some can try, and they may be partially sucessful at it. They won't replace the man, however, and I don't think any of them worth their weight would want to do that.

The legacy the man leaves behind is not only one of great journalism, it's one of inspiration. I rest easy knowing that on any given day some kid is going to pick up one of his books for the first time and become inspired to be a writer. This is as inevitable as the rising sun, and it is the legacy that I think means the most.

Cheers, you swine.

(Click here for Thompson books at Powell's.)