So you can read my books

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


Samuel McCord here --

Before Indiana Jones or Allan Quartermain 

André Malraux wrote:

“Man is not what he thinks he is,
he is what he hides.”

Benjamin D. Maxham - Henry David Thoreau - Restored.jpg
Portrait by Benjamin D. Maxham

Take Henry David Thoreau.

I read his Walden at least once every year, but he could not stand up to his mistakes. 

At the age of 26, he accidentally set fire to 300 acres of the Concord woods on this day in 1844.

Thoreau had taken a few days off from the family pencil-making business, and set out down the Sudbury River with a friend.

A spark from their first fire, a noonday fish-fry — this courtesy of a borrowed match, as they had forgotten to pack their own — ignited the dry shoreline grass.

When stomping and whacking the flames didn’t work, the friend went for help and Thoreau,

 after a little more futile effort, climbed a nearby cliff to observe the scene while he waited for the firefighters.

What did he write of it?

"I said to myself:

'Who are these men who are said to be the owners of these woods, and how am I related to them? I have set fire to the forest, but I have done no wrong therein, and now it is as if the lightning had done it.'

Reminds me of what President Reagan wrote:

“Politics is not a bad profession.

If you succeed there are many rewards, if you disgrace yourself you can always write a book.”

And speaking of books --

A Memorial for Margot and Anne Frank shows a Star of David and the full names and birthdates and year of death of each of the sisters, in white lettering on a large black stone. The stone sits alone in a grassy field, and the ground beneath the stone is covered with floral tributes and photographs of Anne Frank
Memorial for Margot and Anne Frank at the former Bergen-Belsen site,
along with floral and pictorial tributes

On this day, a Wednesday it was, in 1952,

the diary of Anne Frank, a Jewish victim of the Holocaust was published in English titled "The Diary of a Young Girl".

Her diary, later entitled "The Diary of Anne Frank", became one of the most popular books in the world and is included in most schools as recommended reading.

Anne Frank died of typhus just before her 16th birthday in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945.

Recognizing that the war was ending, Hitler had retreated to his Fuhrerbunker several months previously. He and his new wife, Eva Braun, whom he had married the day before,

committed suicide on this day in 1945 by swallowing a cyanide capsule and shooting themselves in the head.

My faith in the Great Mystery was wounded by what I found in those death camps. 

It took Victor Standish entering my life again to heal it.

And on the topic of books, Anne Dillard was born on this day in 1945. 

Her wry perspective on life and writing is reflected in this quote from her LIVING BY FICTION:

"You know how a puppy, when you point off in one direction for him, looks at your hand.

It is hard to train him not to.

The modernist arts in this century have gone to a great deal of trouble to untrain us readers, to force us to look at the hand.

Contemporary modernist fine prose says, Look at my hand. Plain prose says, Look over there."

On this date in 1939,
200,000 people attended New York World’s Fair, official opening, featuring futuristic technologies such as FM radio, television, and fluorescent lighting.

On this day in 1940,
Jimmy Dorsey and his band recorded the song "Contrasts." Along with his brother Tommy, the Dorsey Brothers eventually became an unmatched rival during the big band and swing era. 

Roger Zelazny, ghost here.

You scoff. Be my guest ...

it makes it so much easier for us.

There is more to reality than you are capable of comprehending ...

after all, you are but flesh.

Oh, you are wondering who Roger Zelazny is.

Don’t be embarrassed. In life I wondered much the same thing.

Once the name, Roger Zelazny, drew crowds.

I made somewhat of a splash in Science Fiction in the sixties,

endured and evolved in the seventies and eighties.
I went the way of all flesh mid-way through the nineties in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

And Roland mourned me as a distant older brother gone over the crest of the hill before him, leaving him cold and alone.

Oh, and I inspired him to take up the pen and follow my steps into weaving tales in the genre I call Science Fantasy.


  1. What a winding trail you weave, from McCord and Victor down to jazz and fantasy.

    Nice to know who inspired you to start writing your own fantasy tales. A good 'Z' name, Zelazny.

    I'm not sure I understood that definition of prose, but perhaps that's just as well.

  2. An entirely appropriate note to finish the challenge on.
    Thank you for the education, the pain, the laughter. And the so often shared love of particular books and authors.

  3. D.G.:
    The Outlaw Trail is always a winding one -- especially if it leads through time!

    I had no idea until I started this trail how much Hitler dominated April.

    Jazz seemed a good way to counter-balance that darkness.

    As Alex later says: so few know Zelazny now. But I remember his magic. :-)

    Elephant's Child:
    Thank you so much for staying with me all this month. Do you think Audible allows audiobooks to be given in your country? I would gladly give you one of mine.

    I would gladly give you the audiobook HER BONES ARE IN THE BADLANDS since iTunes sells audiobooks if you would like to listen to it.

  4. Congratulations on completing another A-to-Z, Roland! What a great "Z". I read Lord of Light when I was in high school and it was considered an oldie even way back then. He was a talented and prolific author.

    VR Barkowski

  5. VR:
    I've missed you. Whew! I may not do another A to Z. I put entirely too much work into these posts!

    I could have finished THE STARS BLEED AT MIDNIGHT with that much work! :-)

    Yes, LORD OF LIGHT was one of my high school favorites, too. And thought a cob-webbed classic even then. DOORWAYS INTO THE SAND was good but too cutesy with his experimentation with it, sadly.

    SIGNPOSTS, too, though it is still one I re-read. And I have the paperback of it autographed! I catch his ghost re-reading it some nights. :-)

  6. I visited Ann Frank's home in Amsterdam--it was a painful, haunting experience.

    I never read Roger Zelazny, but I'm sorry for his passing, especially since he meant so much to you.

  7. When Anne Frank wrote her diary she did it with NO THOUGHT that anyone else would even read it, much less that it would be published and be read by SO MANY. Maybe there is a lesson in there for writers.

    I don't know how I feel about that fire and the quote from Walden. It sounds (to me) like in a fairly short period of time he has set aside his own part in that fire. My mind was screaming, "But the lightning didn't start that fire. You did. Own your junk."

    How do make peace with our errors if we don't own them?

  8. Oh, I forgot to mention Zalazny. I am unfamiliar with him, but that is of no consequence. I think it is serendipity to end this challenge with your mentor and inspiration.

  9. I didn't know who he was, Zelazny, so I Googled him, trying to imagine what I would have had to go through to get this information before life was made so very simple.

    Thank you for this interesting journey you have taken us on. It has been creative, imaginative, informative and fascinating. I have learned a lot and enjoyed it even more.

  10. Helena:
    Zelazny is all but forgotten. I must enjoy that I got to know him at all.

    So grim and depressing to consider the end to the lovely life of Ann Frank.

    Yes, Ann wrote stunningly because she was doing it for herself and to sort some sense into the madness all around her. You are right: we writers could learn from her in that and in so many things!

    Your take on Thoreau was like mine: he refused to accept responsibility for his actions and so tarnished the wisdom of much of Walden. :-(

    I'm glad you saw I wanted to end with the man who began my dream of being a writer. :-)

    Like you, I am always astounded at how much we can learn now with the internet and Google!

    I'm happy you've enjoyed this Outlaw Trail through the years.

    I've really loved the photos you shared on your blog.

  11. The Diary of a Young Girl was published today? I did not know that! I'm going to add that to my calendar so I can remember that for next year. :)

    All of your posts have been full of great information. I've enjoyed reading them.

    Congratulations on making it to Z!

  12. You my friend are a wealth of knowledge! I have enjoyed this A-Z journey with you and your Ghost.

  13. Chrys:
    Thanks. I've enjoyed your posts as well. It was great being A to Z friends! :-)

    My ghosts have enjoyed your company and comments! :-)

  14. Hi Roland - I had to come past and read your Z - fascinating to hear the clip - what a clear voice the narrator has (had) .. and interesting to see the sorts of books you were reading at school - and where you gained your thought processes for writing your Science Fantasy .. Roger Zelazny - someone I'd never heard of either ...

    I must read Anne Frank's diary .. especially after noting your comment that she was writing for herself .. something we seem to forget now ..

    Thanks .. and that fire and quotes on disasters ... facing one's responsibilities is essential ..

    Congratulations on finishing the A-Z ... and you've whizzed straight on posting .. you are so dedicated to your art ... cheers Hilary