Call Me Ishmael. Or Call Me Easy.

I was browsing through Paste Magazine, one of my favorite websites, when I happened across this article about a website named “Call Me Ishmael.” I couldn’t get the Ishmael website to work, but the idea behind it is intriguing. There is a telephone number that you can call and leave a voice mail about a book that particularly affected you, and how and why it did so. The person running the website transcribes at least one message per week and posts it to the website. That is the idea, anyway. Again, I couldn’t access the website; hopefully that is simply due to increased traffic due to the Paste article. I love the concept, however. It’s kind of a “Post Secret” or “Whisper” on a somewhat smaller scale for readers.

Everyone had great fun a couple of weeks ago discussing Kindle Unlimited, and while we aren’t done with that yet I thought maybe we’d dial things down a notch as we head into summer’s warmest month and present our own, modest, one-day-only version of Call Me Ismael without resorting to voice mail, since a lot of people don’t use it any more, anyway. What book(s) changed your life? How? And why?

I have two: LOOK HOMEWARD, ANGEL by Thomas Wolfe and ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac. I read LOOK HOMEWARD, ANGEL and was immediately swept up into the magic of words. I decided moments after reading the first chapter that I wanted to spend my life writing, in one form or another, and to a greater or lesser degree I have done that. ON THE ROAD gave me wanderlust. There are few things better in God’s world than getting into an automobile and driving for several hundred miles at a stretch to a destination that you love or have you yet to love. In what I fear is the initial manifestation of the onset of dementia, I have recently been haunted with the thought of jumping on board a Spyder RT (yes, the irony is not lost on me) and tooling down to New Orleans, then across I-10 to Houston and beyond. So far I have talked myself out of it. So far. If I succumb, please blame Kerouac and my lifelong friend William D. Plant III, the gent who shoved both books into my hand and who also happens to be one of this and last century’s best unpublished authors.

Enough about me and what I may or may not do and why.  To yank things back on track: what book changed your life? How? And why?

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Milestones

I will be mercifully short this week. I drove to Baton Rouge and back from Westerville, Ohio for a quick two day visit and am still working the road whine out of my ears and catching up on the archeological dig which I call my desk. I do have something to share with you, however.

This week marked a couple of personal milestones for me. The first, and more important of the two, was that on April 1 I completed twenty years of sobriety. I believe in giving credit where credit is due and the credit in this case is due to a now-retired Baton Rouge pediatrician named Leon Bombet whom I was fortunate enough to meet in 1989. Dr. Leon at that time had been sober for nine years, and my reaction, which I kept to myself at the time, was “What?! Nine years?! Without a drink! Wow. I’m sure glad I don’t have a drinking problem.” Of course, I did. I eventually stopped stuffing my life down the commode and it has been Dr. Leon’s friendship and example, and that of his wife Susan, that have kept me on the proper course some two decades down the road.

The second milestone was the fulfillment of a promise I made to myself as an urchin in short-pants in 1962. When I wasn’t sneaking Shell Scott and Mike Hammer paperbacks into my bedroom, I was reading a lot of science fiction. Ace Books at the time published a number of titles per month, Dick and Vance and Zelazny, oh my, as well as reprints of Burroughs’ Tarzan and John Carter titles with those beautifully painted covers by Frank Frazetta. I promised myself, at the tender age of eleven, that I would be published by Ace Books one day. That happened this week with the publication of Dark Delicacies III: Haunted, an anthology of original fiction in which my story “Starlets & Spaceboys” appears. “Starlets & Spaceboys” was inspired by a hallucination I experienced some six years ago in the New Mexico desert just west of Albuquerque while driving with author Marcus Wynne; the title was graciously given to me by my lifelong friend William D. Plant III. I would not be sitting here today but for the friendship and assistance of both of those gentlemen.

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What I’m reading: The Priest by Gerard O’Donovan. Just get it and read it, whatever you do. You won’t be sorry. You will have nightmares.

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