Friday, October 15, 2010

Check out the new IRB

Today the Internet Review of Books relaunched as a daily blog instead of as a monthly website. Our dear friends and founders Carter Jefferson and Ruth Douillette needed time and space to do other things in their lives, so they've moved on. Now Julie McGuire, Gary Presley, and I are pleased to issue the IRB daily, generally publishing a single review every day. We'll tend to alternate between fiction and non-fiction that have been published within the last six months, with occasional interviews for variety.

Julie McGuire is a dedicated reader and reviewer of novels, and she'll continue as our intrepid Fiction Editor. Gary will manage the blog, doing lots of essential work to keep us rolling. I used to manage the website but now am the new Non-Fiction Editor.

So please stop by our blog, and be sure to follow it. You'll be eligible to win a $25 Amazon gift certificate that we'll be giving out on November 15.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Not a reader?

My blog isn't meant to be political. Although I happen to like President Obama, I understand that many people don't. Fair enough. But today I walked past a shop that had its windows filled with anti-Obama t-shirts, bumper stickers, and gewgaws. All in all, its tenor was little different from what the left inflicted on President Bush. One slogan said, One Big Ass Mistake America. Okay, that's cool. The freedom to disrespect our political leaders is essential to what makes our country great.

What annoyed me was the bumper sticker with a cartoon of Obama pointing at Bush and saying "It's his fault!" and the slogan, "WE NEED A LEADER NOT A READER." Wait a minute. Are the two mutually exclusive? Doesn't a leader need to be informed, to actually know something? Or does he just need to really, really believe?

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Remembering the Sky Buddy

At my writing group today, our presenter asked us to write on the theme of remembrance. Here is what I came up with.

Our family owned a black metal Sky Buddy radio ever since I can recall. My father bought it in New Orleans during World War II during one of his breaks from duty in the Merchant Marines. It was a short wave radio made by Hallicrafters, and it could pick up signals from everywhere. As
a child, I would turn the steel dial and hear strange languages, Morse Code from ships at sea, exotic and popular music. My mom said that during the war a neighbor reported her to the FBI because the radio seemed like a spy's tool. Over the years I listened to Curt Gowdy announcing hundreds of Red Sox games, to the weekly band concert on local WESX in Salem, Massachusetts, to Queen for a Day with my mom, to Guy Kibbee's show on fishing, and to a show called The Answer Man. I marveled that the Answer Man always seemed to know everything. My brother Larry, the family fisherman, sent in a post card to Guy Kibbee, and the show kept mailing him prizes seemingly for years.

We were of course a family of Communist haters back in the early 50s--who wasn't? I remember hearing Walter Winchell's staccato voice delivering the news every night, and perhaps he was the one who announced Stalin's death in '53. Whoever the announcer was, I cheered the news. My Dad and I enjoyed stopping in briefly to listen to Radio Moscow and laugh when the announcer told his American audience how badly we were suffering under capitalism, and how the Soviets had invented everything from radio to toothbrushes.

But of course for a young boy, baseball was more important than politics. I remember hearing Curt Gowdy's play by play when a Red Sox relief pitcher came in late in a game with the bases loaded and gave up a grand slam home run with his first pitch. In the first game of one season at Fenway Park, the first batter up hit a home run on the first pitch of the year. Harry Agganis from Lynn, Massachusetts played for the Red Sox for a couple of years, then died suddenly from a relapse of pneumonia. He'd been my hero, and I was crushed at hearing the news.

Eventually I grew up and moved away from home. My father died in '67, my mother in '04, and the radio was still in her house, its vacuum tubes dusty and dead. I took custody of it for a while but could no longer get it to operate--and had no room to keep it anyway. In a way I miss the old relic, because for so long it had been a central feature in our family kitchen.