Saturday, May 16, 2015
In Once a Runner, John Parker, Jr. has gifted us the quintessential short distance (1 mile) running novel. As the publication story goes, he self-published it in the 1970s and many years later it got picked up by a major publisher and became a smash hit. Now, in 2015, with "can you run a 5 minute mile" on every serious runner's bucket list, the novel is experiencing something of a resurgence.
Parker does a fine job capturing the drama that unfolds in races of the serious running-kind. Words can never do it full justice, but Parker comes pretty darn close. I am, however, more interested in the literary merits of the novel, which no great novel can be without.
From the opening chapter with the title Once . . . to the closing chapter with the title A Runner, and all the pages in between, Parker creates excellent characters and shiny prose. The novel sets the stage even before the first chapter with its literary title. It's one thing to tell a straight up running story and quite another to put it on the page in a literary way. That's what sets Once a Runner apart.
If there is any fault in this novel it is from the dictionary words the author frequently uses in the first half of the book. Parker is not the only first time novelist to err in this direction. He is also an attorney and perhaps the BIG WORDS are in his natural vocabulary. Who knows and who cares?
Once a Runner is not a book about running. It is a literary novel of very high regard that just happens to include runners among its pages. People who never get off the sofa will love it just as much as the googley-eyed beanpole runner (of which I count myself). That is why Once a Runner has withstood 4-5 decades and is likely to withstand that many more.
Sunday, May 10, 2015
In a lost 1972 road trip interview, Ray Bradbury told a couple of college journalists his thoughts on like minded friends, never driving a car, and why his science fiction stories were frequently set on Mars.
In the first half of the nineteenth century, however, the moon was all the rage for science fiction short stories. Check out "A Visit to the Lunar Sphere" of 1820 to learn about an interesting Lunarian named Zuloc that's found in Mesaerion: The Best Science Fiction Short Stories 1800-1849.
Saturday, May 2, 2015
There has been amazing news in the book publishing world in 2015. It seems that every month we learn of another new book by a famous author, which has been discovered and will be published for all the world to read. First we heard about the great J.D. Salinger and his rumored five novels that he wrote for so many decades in obscurity at his modest home in Cornish, New Hampshire.
Next, a prequel of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird titled Go Set a Watchman was announced. How the book was found and whether Lee wanted it to be published are the source of a Southern-fried controversy. Then it was announced that a new book by none other than the long deceased Dr. Seuss is on its way to children everywhere. It’s being called What Pet Should I Get. “But wait, there’s more!” the chintzy infomercial’s tell us.
If these announcements weren’t enough to titillate the interest of bibliophiles everywhere, we find out that more than 100 years after Queen Victoria’s death that stories she wrote as a child will be published. There is no end to the literary surprises popping up in 2015.
What’s next, a new horror story from Edgar Allan Poe? A forgotten werewolf story by Alexander Dumas? A lost fantasy story by Mary Shelley? Well . . . in a way, yes!
Legion are the people who have read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, but few have read her short stories. I have opined that they fall (ahem) short of storyline and characters of her most famous novel, but she did pen an excellent fantasy story called the “Transformation.” It is just one of the Top 10 fantasy short stories I uncovered from the first half of the nineteenth century:
2015 Middle Unearthed, an Introduction — Andrew Barger
1836 “The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton” — Charles Dickens
1839 “The Kelpie Rock” — Joseph Holt Ingraham
1831 “Transformation” — Mary Shelley
1819 “Rip Van Winkle” — Washington Irving
1824 “Lilian of the Vale” — George Darley
1835 “The Doom of Soulis” — John MacKay Wilson
1827 “The Dwarf Nose” — Wilhelm Hauff
1829 “Seddik Ben Saad the Magician” — D.C.
1845 “The Witch Caprusche” — Elizabeth F. Ellet
1837 “The Pale Lady” — George Soane
They are included in my new classic anthology, Middle Unearthed: The Best Fantasy Short Stories 1800-1849. Before there were lovable ogres named Shrek and a quizzical boy wizard named Harry Potter, there were these groundbreaking fantasy stories that laid the foundation of so many great works to come. This annotated collection is on sale now at $12.99 for the book and $3.99 for the ebook. Read these stories from Middle Earth of fantasy writing today.
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