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05 September 2009

1001 Things to Do Before the Blog Dies

It's just too too much -- updating the website, updating the community calendars, sending out e-mail alerts (besides actually reading the books and booking the live music and other events), writing this blog, Tweeting (follow us once in a great while: @booksonfirst )... all in the name of keeping you in touch with us. Please let us know what a good job we're doing (or not).

First, a disclaimer notice/confession: None of the books, people, websites, merchants, foods, recipes, restaurants, activities, towns, et al that/whom I mention/recommend/discuss have paid me to do so -- except maybe the -.02 cent net profit (technically, a loss) after expenses that we make when we sell the book or toy or the Melissa & Doug plush toy the Company gave us to give away or the wonderful Thai dessert called Red Rubies which Som gave us after a meal last Saturday.
And, my bad, I have not sought permission to do so. To date, I haven't even told them I have mentioned their product or linked to their website or will do so.

But, what's a blog for, if not to share the enthusiasm for our mattress topper and Touch of Thai? Don't answer that.

Okay, on to the real business of this blog -- books!

Recently finished (and just sold to a choir teacher visiting his in-laws here in Dixon): How Shall I Tell the Dog? by the late Miles Kington, a British humorist who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and dealt with it by writing a series of letters to his literary agent. It's got a dark humor which is actually a pretty good way to deal with impending death. And, I laughed and felt poignancy throughout the book.
I don't have a copy of it in front of me, so I can't talk to specific passages. I can mention that I liked his take and takeoff on 1000 Places to See Before You Die as well as his mention of a colleague who was diagnosed with a liver problem and told not to drink alcohol anymore. Seven years later, he was told that was a misdiagnosis but they didn't know what was the true problem and then, a few months after that, he died of what really ailed him!
Tears did not come until after reading the last letter, because the book simply ended. (Well, there was a postscript by wife or his literary agent, but I don't count that.) The abruptness reminded the reader that the writer did indeed die. I was disappointed later to learn (in this postscript/epilogue) that these were not real letters to his literary agent Gill(ian), meaning he didn't in reality send them and then, respond to her responses. He wrote a letter, imagined her response and continued from there. The device was so well done, because the only time I suspected contrivance was when he ended one letter about remembering Geoffrey (he of the no-alcohol liver non-ailment) and then, starting another letter explaining who Geoffrey was.

Economic chaos! Pirates! Angry, stupid investors! Low employee morale! Oy vey! Is this the stuff of the "near-future" which in late 1950s' terms must be NOW?
Ayn Rand is not the easiest writer to read (and at 1065 pages of 6pt type, you do get your money's worth of her sometimes pedantic style and I would not call it an "action thriller," like the publisher does), but I recommend this book if for nothing else then her greatest contribution to the iconic, that is, the answer-seeking question of the indifferent: "Who is John Galt?" In reading it, though, can one not help but feel a sense of interconnectiveness, deja vu as you would, going from front page (or home page) of today's news journals to the adventures of Dagny, Rearden, Francisco d'Anconia and of course, John Galt. Was Ayn Rand correct in predicting how our society would end up after years of people feeling entitled to the fruits of the labors of those more visionary, more risk-taking, more passionate than they? Yet, in 1957, she ends with a sense of hope and perhaps, that's how we in 2009 will see our world.

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