Poetry Sucks – No, Wait, Does it?

Annabelle Lee

Annabelle Lee

The audio version of this post appears below. Just click on “play”.


I gave up reading poetry a quarter of a century ago, which is kind of ironic as the genesis of my writing passion grew from Edgar Allan Poe’s Annabelle Lee. When I was seven or eight, I made my mom read that damn thing to me over and over again. My mom was a real trooper as I spent hours asking her questions about what every single word meant and why Poe had chosen to arrange them the way he did. I realize that my love for a famous iconic poem doesn’t make me deep or intellectual, nor do I care. It would be far sexier if the writer’s spark had come from some obscure poet who killed him or herself by eating the only copy of their best opus and then aspirating on the vomit of their own words.

But, again, I don’t care. I just knew I wanted to learn how to string prose together like this guy did. Of course, that will never happen Poe was the master and I’m but a fan with a little imagination. As I went through school I suffered the same shit everyone does; Frost, Whitman, Yates…blah, blah, blah – searching for all the hidden meanings and trying to find some answers to life in general. I hated it. I’m not saying those guys don’t rock – I’m just saying it seemed a colossal waste of time trying to get into all these various heads.

At university I met tons of self-proclaimed poets none of which I became friends with. At that time, to me if writers were the gold standard of self-absorbed personalities then poets were the ones who set the standard. After awhile I coined the phrase “intellectual vapidity” and applied it to all the poets on campus. Then one night driving home from school, I heard some famous now dead poet on NPR saying how we all need poets to explain the universe to us. That everyone on the planet who was not a poet was somehow inferior and would struggle with our own existence until we take the big dirt nap. This guy probably thought we would struggle afterward as well.

Remember, I’m young at this point – twenty, or twenty-one at the most. So, I’m still impressionable and trying to feel my way up the slimy slope of life. I’ve never been one to judge too quickly or harshly and prefer investigating questions myself before rendering a decision on any given subject. Thus, I decided to write some poetry. I knew all the basic structures and understood everything from allegory to villanelle and since the white noise of ideas never shuts off in my head, I had plenty of material to forge into something hopefully readable.

After three weeks and exactly eighteen poems (I can still see the blinking MS/DOS prompt on my old Tandy computer), I re-read all of them and then called begging the NPR station to send me a tape of the interview with that nutty poet. I got it a week later, popped it into the player in my car on the home one night and listened to this guy’s pabulum once more. As soon as I got home, I looked at the printed out copies of my foray into poetry, neatly sorted them into a pile and placed the cassette from NPR next to them. I looked at the poems and said “you suck”, looked at the cassette and said “you suck even worse”, and then I ripped the pages into pieces and smashed the tape with a hammer, swearing to never attempt to write a piece of poetry, spend any time talking or arguing with a poet, and damning them all to hell. At twenty or twenty-one you feel like you have hell damning powers.

I’ve spent the last twenty-five or so years poetry free, being polite every once in a while when someone gifted me with a book of poems (usually Frost – easiest to find in the bargain bins, I guess) because the gift giver knows I love literature and trying hard not to grimace when someone told me they were a poet.

I’ve softened with age as one is wont to do and now have a still suspicious view on poetry albeit it a more embracing one. My good friend Ray Grant published a book of poetry a couple of years ago. You can find it here. Ray is someone I hold in the highest of regards, both as a thinker and all around Renaissance man. So, of course, I felt obligated to read his book (kidding Ray). I enjoyed reading Ray’s poems because I could relate the content to Ray as a person and my friend, and have gone back to his book on quite a few occasions. It’s also led me to be more receiving of other people’s works – although I do have to say, mainly of people who are not well known. I’m not sure what that phenomenon is, but I still find the classics boring and vapid. Maybe it’s just because I didn’t know those poets personally and thus couldn’t relate to what they were saying.

The point, if there were to be one is this: I’ve realized how personal poetry is and being the kind of person who loves nothing more than to entertain people with stories, I’m not ready to let the reading public into my most innermost thoughts and struggles. I’m giving poetry a stay of execution in my reading lexicon, but I still won’t be writing any poetry in the near future – or ever. Well, maybe as I’m about to take the dirt nap.

They Killed Brian!

RIP Brian Griffin

RIP Brian Griffin

Ok, so I go from Dick Gordon’s The Story going off air to a cartoon dog’s death on Family Guy. Hey, at least I have range.

Like most Family Guy fans, I’m completely distraught that Brian Griffin was axed off of my favorite adult cartoon. Family Guy has been a guilty pleasure of mine since it went on air back in 1999 and Brian the Dog was by far my favorite character. Who wouldn’t love a talking dog that drinks martinis and writes horrific novels? He also got the best lines in the show. Which brings me to why I like the show so much – the writing.

I can’t stand potty humor of which Family Guy is replete with, but when you put the slop through a figurative colander some really good juice comes out. The creator Seth MacFarlane is a brilliant writer and comedian and since he’s of my generation and comes from my home state, his pop culture references are totally relatable to me and bring back some great memories from my childhood. They once opened the show with the opening scene from The Great Space Coaster – I nearly bust a gut.

From what I understand, of all his characters Brian has the most characteristics of MacFarlane himself. I definitely see that and have watched both Brian and MacFarlane progress over the years. When Brian drank martinis, Seth drank martinis, when Brian switched to Scotch, Seth switched to Scotch. Brian is a tree hugging, pot smoking, Prius driving, womanizing Liberal and MacFarlane has never minced words on where he falls on the political and social spectrum and he’s rarely ever seen with the same woman. It was a very cool progression to watch – creator and character growing and becoming famous together.

The New Guy - Nothing Against Vinnie, But I want Brian Back

The New Guy – Nothing Against Vinnie, But I want Brian Back

I think from the brouhaha I’m reading in the news, blogs and on Facebook, Brian was certainly one if not, the most beloved character. So, why the hell would MacFarlane kill him off? I mean, this is a comedy after all, there’s no need to kill off a favorite character especially if he’s a cartoon dog. All I can think of is that it’s a “kill your darlings” situation. The producers said they wanted to “shake things up”. Well, they sure as shit have done that. A new dog “Vinnie” who also talks and has the voice and look of a New Jersey gangster voiced by former Sopranos star Tony Sirico, immediately replaced Brian. Kind of hacky, I think. I use the “kill your darlings” metaphor because I can’t help but wonder if MacFarlane is looking for a bigger challenge – like Brian was too easy to write, something like that.

I honestly don’t think this is going to work and cautiously predict a death knell for the show. Seth MacFarlane has made it no secret that he feels Family Guy should have jumped the shark five seasons ago, but insists on giving the fans what they want for as long as they want it. But, I have to wonder – is this what they want? I don’t. I want Brian back.

I Wish Robert Evans Was an Author

Robert Evans as Kid Notorious

Robert Evans as Kid Notorious

Ok, so technically Robert Evans is an author and I bet if he saw that tagline he’d defend his position as a published author by going into a huge self-aggrandizing yet bitingly self deprecatory explanation about all the success his book The Kid Stays in the Picture: A Notorious Life has had over the years. In fact, in his words: there has never been a more outrageous and unforgettable Hollywood memoir ever written. And, that’s why I wish he were an author.

Robert Evans is one of the best storytellers of the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Of course, all his stories are about himself, but they are fantastically woven into spellbinding accounts of Hollywood through his ever-present sunglasses. There has to be a lot of fiction laced in with his actual experiences – there just has to be. In lots of ways I compare him to Hunter S. Thompson – so over the top there’s no way it can all be true. But, we, the public don’t seem to care. We remain fascinated by people like Bobby and Hunter. Their outrageousness is so compelling they just cannot be ignored.

Just imagine if all that energy Evans used to create his public persona were directed towards fiction. I’ll bet Bob Evans could really pump out a great fiction piece if he had wanted to. Imagine all the material he would have to work with just based on his own career. All that actual Hollywood drama that could be exaggerated into gripping tales of everything we love to read about; sex, power, glamour, money, betrayal, Hollywood – shit, a treasure trove of ideas right there to be hammered down and forged into timeless stories that surely would pass seamlessly through the ages.

Here’s where I think the problem would lie; Evans wouldn’t be able to break out of himself. The man has been so caught up in himself all these years there’s no way in hell – to him anyway, there could possibly be a more interesting character than himself. Most authors will grudgingly admit under interrogation that a little bit of themselves resides in each of their characters. But, when you have a personality as robust as Bob Evans’s, I could see where it would be hard to create anybody even close to as interesting as himself. Maybe that’s ok, perhaps I’ve missed something here; Robert Evans’s world and his recounting of it could be all we need.

Insight from Anne Rice

Anne Rice

Anne Rice

I got lucky yesterday. I follow Anne Rice on Facebook not just because she’s one of my favorite authors, but also because she engages her fans and speaks directly to them. I think that’s really admirable and I enjoy getting insight into her personality and process.

So, yesterday Anne posted a link to an obituary for Syd Field. Field wrote what became known as the Screen Writers Bible back in early ‘70’s. I’ve heard of it but never read it. Anyway, here is what Anne posted on Facebook:

“In this obituary for Syd Field, there is much talk of his bible for screenwriters. Sounds like a book that might be an aid to novelists as well as those writing scripts. Comments welcome. I didn’t know Syd Field or know of him, but it sounds as if he made a very valuable contribution with his books; and surely many people will be ordering them today for the first time.”

I replied something to the effect that I couldn’t see how this book could aid me as it would probably change the tonality of my stories were I to follow it, but that I always try and make screen plays out of my short stories in case Hollywood ever calls. Lo and behold, she answered me! I was shocked and engaged her for another couple of posts. Here is how she replied:

“I don’t know about that. Sometimes these books can inspire. Years ago I read Aristotle’s formula for great drama — written for tragedy in Ancient Greece — and it inspired me mightily with my novel writing…something on the order of plot, character, spectacle — creating pity and catharsis. And voila. Interview with the Vampire.

I do think screen writing techniques can help a novel. One of the most popular novels I ever wrote — The Mummy or Ramses the Damned — started life as a long screenplay. I converted it into the novel in the space of a few weeks. The structure of my screen play — which was quite sloppy with notes and such — helped the novel to become a lightning read.”

First of all, I was in awe and amazement that I was actually conversing albeit electronically with the great author. If I were ballsier I would have tried to pitch 5 Tales, but I’m not like that anyway. I was just happy to glean any wisdom she was willing to impart.

I spent a lot of time yesterday thinking about what Anne said. My problem is I tend to be too technical when thinking about screenwriting as opposed to novel writing. The reason being as I’m writing, the scene is in my head but I’m less worried about characters’ stage direction, speech intonation, the scenery in general and am more involved in the meat of the story. Therefore, panic ensues when I think about writing backwards from a screenwriting standpoint. I would look at the physical format of the writing and be too worried about forming the character to the motion and flow in terms of the stage or set.

However, if you look at what Anne said, it makes total sense. It’s like looking at the story from the top down. Taking the drama and emotion of the stage/screen and injecting it into your writing makes perfect sense to me now that I think about it. Those screenwriting techniques Anne talks about and surely Syd Field teaches in his books could be just the salve needed to repair an injured piece of work. I have to give it a try. Lord knows I have plenty of unfinished novels to try it out on!

Ok, ok, I like e-Books

Hard to read in bed

Hard to read in bed

I love books. Duh. Who doesn’t, right? I may even love books more than I do reading. In this house there are thirteen bookcases on three floors. I would say four to five times a day one could find me perusing through one of these bookcases just skimming titles and occasionally opening a book on just about any subject and reading a page or two. Sometimes I’ll sit down and spend an hour reading through subjects that catch my interest. But, most of the time I’ll just while away thinking about the books; trying to imagine where the idea for this or that story sparked from, making up scenes in my head of the writing process of whatever author the book was borne of, whether I know anything about the writer, or not.

The hardest thing for me to do is give up a book. I’ve dragged countless pounds of books from home to home for the last twenty years and maybe I’ve thrown out or given away a quarter of my original collection. And, I’m loath to give away anymore. I actually get anxious sometimes when I’m looking for a certain volume and can’t find it. My mind goes into a panic: did I throw it out? Did I give it away? Did I loan it to someone? Usually, it’s in some box somewhere, but I never rest until the mystery gets solved and if I don’t find what I’m looking for, I jump in the car and beeline it to whatever bookstore is available and buy it. I’m never back to normal until I have whatever I was looking for in my paws.

Thus, I’ve been slow to the e-book thing. I was just never willing to commit. To me it meant another device hanging around, a betrayal to my beloved print books and in general it just seemed like sacrilege. But, then it became time to publish 5 Tales and I couldn’t deny the allure of being able to proofread, edit, design and bring to market a book within a few weeks. And, then of course, I needed to proof it on all the various platforms. In other words, I was going to have to at least read my own book on a device.

Now, my favorite place to read is in bed and when you prefer epic tomes to quickie novels as I do, the books get very big and very cumbersome in bed. At times this has become a sore point with my very easy-going wife, Amy. Of course, it’s hard to remain easy-going when you’re getting smacked in the head three, or fours times a night when your mate is changing positions and getting comfortable.

Easy to read in bed.

Easy to read in bed.

So when 5 Tales came out I first read it on my iPhone. It was a Halleluiah moment. The font size was perfect; the backlighting didn’t annoy Amy anywhere near as much as a bedside reading light and my arms didn’t get tired. Yes, it is somewhat annoying to have to “turn” pages so often but it’s a small price to pay for comfort and readability. It’s also handy because since like most of the world I’m surgically attached to my iPhone, I can read during down time like waiting for the kid at school, waiting in line for coffee, etc.

I have to admit I was short-sighted and stubborn about the whole e-book world and although I still love books and will continue to buy them, it certainly won’t be in the prodigious amounts as I used to, but I’m still buying e-books and thus supporting the literary community and I guess that’s something.

Facebook Advertising Woes – Fix it, Zuckerberg! You’re in the Big Leagues Now

This morning finds me mildly pissed off. I use Facebook to advertise this blog and my book 5 Tales. I use the “boost” feature for both posts and to gather “likes” for my author page. I’m not really sure how effective this marketing program is thus far, but I see the utility in it. For a relatively small amount of money you do get some decent exposure for your stuff. Bringing traffic to your product in any business is the key to getting more sales and Facebook certainly can bring those numbers.

However, I’m already seeing a problem in how they are vetting their ads. At this point, I have had three posts rejected for two reasons. The first was for using “profanity” in my post title. This was the title: “You Bet Your Ass Dickens Would Have Rocked this Age!” It was designed to draw attention to this blog post on The Writer’s Lair. It was rejected for the use of the word “ass”. “Ass” is a pretty benign word, so I was kind of put off by the rejection. I changed the post by not putting in a title and just used the link to the blog without any description. That went through, but I lost my oomph factor on the posting.

Yesterday, I did a blog post entitled “Vampire – Porn”, which you can find here. The content of the article had nothing to do with actual porn. However, I was rejected for – get this: promoting adult toys and/or services. So, I re-posted the article without title again and was still rejected. This pissed me off as I really wanted to boost this particular post because the subject, vampires in literature, is always a hot one and I knew it would draw traffic to the blog.

If Facebook is going to be in the advertising business they need to find a better way to vet ads. I realize they are bigger than the universe and all, but they’re going to lose a lot of $ through this very topical method of scanning and prematurely rejecting material. Glad I sold that stock.

Vampire Porn

This is a Vampire

This is a Vampire

The audio version of this post appears below. Just click “play”.



I’m not immune to the wiles of Nosferatu. I’ve loved vampire stories for as long as I can remember. I have a vivid recollection of being very young, I’m guessing about eight years old, this was in the late ‘70’s, – I’m really taxing my mind here. A brother of a friend of mine packed the two of us into his wickedly cool Barracuda, popped a eight track of Seals & Crofts into a player the size of a friggin’ Wurlitzer and hauled us off to our local library to watch a Friday night screening of Dracula, like, the original one with Bela Lugosi. That was a vampire! Scared the hell out of us. In fact, that night at my friend’s house I puked just to get a pass on the sleepover so I could go home and sleep with mom.

Let’s see, Dracula couldn’t go out in the dark, hated garlic and crucifixes and could only be killed with a stake through the heart. Purism, baby. They were fond of black and red velvet, had VERY pointy incisors and absolutely had to survive by sucking the blood of their victims. Well, what the hell happened? A century and a half later, we’ve got a bunch of ripped, half naked Romeos and seductresses infiltrating our high schools, colleges and holding jobs from baristas to rock stars. Vampire porn, that’s what it is. The only difference between it being actual porn and figurative porn is that it exists in the mainstream.

I believe in evolution and maybe my disdain for the current status of Vampire-dom is because I really am getting old, but I just think it’s gone too far. A few years after my Dracula experience at the library I read and watched Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot and although I loved it (still do), it seemed to go off script. Now that seems completely ridiculous if you look what’s out there today. I’m not going to mention any specific authors or titles – that’s just hacky and bitter, but compared to what the public is exposed to today, Salem’s Lot was damn close to the original vampire script. It was the writing that made it so great. There’s the challenge I think, writing around the original vampire structure. A little tinkering is fine, but stay as close to script as possible. It’s a great framework – like the Constitution! Try and make it better, but keep the structure.

This is another Vampire

This is another Vampire

So, if Salem’s Lot threw me off a bit imagine what it was like when I started reading Anne Rice. To me, Anne is the second and my favorite generation of vampire lore. I won’t belabor what an amazing genius Mrs. Rice is, but her work does two very important things; she stays very close to the original framework of the vampire as created by Bram Stoker and the progenitor of it all John Polidori, and then adds in all the human elements to her characters which are relatable and thus, believable. She works from the vampire out, discreetly and erotically including all the human emotions we love to read and fantasize about. If Dracula reigned as the standard from the end of the 19th to the middle of the 20th centuries, then Lestat is the vampire ruler from then on.

No clues as to what this is

No clues as to what this is

The vampire world of Anne Rice is exactly as it should be – perfection. If it took almost a hundred years to aptly change the world of Dracula, it certainly will take another hundred to de-throne Lestat and crew. In my opinion what has been going on in the last decade is drivel. Don’t get me wrong, if this is what the readers’ want and someone is willing to serve them – more power to all. I may be intellectualizing Vampire-dom a little too much, but I like quality and I’m not seeing a lot of that in the writing these days – the production values of television and the big screen are stupendous, however. But, it’s the ol’ lipstick on a pig thing. Those big budget screen ventures are pretty, but the substance lying underneath is flimsy and insulting as hell.

Maybe I am just getting old and let’s face it, I won’t be here when the next great vampire story surfaces, but I’m ok with that.

Inspiration – You Fickle Thing You

Headline: "Pretty Bridge Inspires Gruesome Story"

Headline: “Pretty Bridge Inspires Gruesome Story”

The audio for this post appears below. To listen, just click on “play”.



It’s a pretty picture isn’t it? That’s the day of the re-opening ceremony of the Taftsville covered bridge in Taftsville, VT this past September. The bridge got totaled in tropical storm Irene and in true Vermont style the community came together and made sure the structure was perfectly restored to its original 1836 condition. It took two years and a serious amount of work, but it was well worth it. The finished product is beautiful and the celebration of its reopening was a picture perfect apropos New England morning fete. There were politicians, dignitaries, American Flags flying, horses and carriages, an antique car parade, ice cream and kettle corn. Perfect. A little too perfect.

While sitting on the riverbank trying to keep my two and four year olds from getting burnt into human jerky by the unseasonably hot sun and suffering through the blathering of the local pols, a story started to percolate in my overheated brain. What if just as the ribbon were cut this perfect scene turned to chaos? What if something happened to the bridge – like, it collapsed as the first horse driven buggy full of period dressed dignitaries were to fall into the river underneath? Not too many deaths, but of course someone would have to go. And, what if it tore the little town apart – a split between the newcomers to Vermont and the old timers, a divide that resonates all over the state. For instance, what if after all the accusations and blame were thrown around there were a battle as to whether to keep the historic structure or build something modern to avoid this tragedy from ever happening again.

Maybe not the best story, but it was a germ of something I could work with and it fit into my genre. After a few weeks I began working on it, playing around with the characters and such, and although it isn’t finished, I kind of like where the story is going and will probably include it in the follow up book to 5 Tales.

It’s seems overly obvious to say that inspiration can come from anywhere. But, that’s what I like about inspiration – it’s so different for everyone. Mine usually comes from a location, or as I mentioned in my very first blog post, cemeteries. With two young rambunctious children I find cemeteries a great place to let them run free without breaking anything, running out into the road, or falling into the lake we live on. So while they’re getting enough energy out to sleep, I roam around thinking about the people lying underneath my L.L. Bean moccasins. I think it’s the energy in the bone yards that sparks my imagination. I create stories behind the names on the stones and if one hits, I take notes and go back to it later. (By the way, Absinthe helps a lot too. No, really it does.)

My good friend the author R.A. Diane, whose blog you should check out, wrote her book Coffee with my Brother as a way to try and help her Sister-In-Law through the pain of her husband’s death. She had been thinking about it for a while, wanting very badly to alleviate her Sister-In-Law’s grief and then one morning while pouring water into her French press to make coffee, she heard her dead brother say to her: “tell her my story”. There’s some inspiration for ya! The book came out of her at light speed.

To me location is so important for inspiration. Most of my stuff thus far has been born in either Southern California or Vermont, and I have a list of other places I would like to live and write in. I could wreak serious havoc in Charleston, Savannah, or Atlanta. My native state of Connecticut isn’t one of them, and the reason is how ubiquitous it is. The state itself is beautiful, in my opinion one of the most beautiful in the country. But, the pulse of Connecticut is just white noise to me. It’s like this level of static I can’t break through. It’s as if New York City bleeds over into Connecticut, only not enough so to be interesting – just a cauldron of ambition and upward mobility. In SoCal, there is a slowing down of the pace providing time to reflect and the people are much more relaxed – the funny part being most of them are New England transplants. In Vermont, well, Vermont is like it’s own universe with its unspoiled beauty and commitment to self-reliance. Vermonters are simple in their way of life but by no means are they simple and extremely interesting conversationalists when you break though their granite facades. And, man do they make for great character development.

Come on - this doesn't look like a guy who didn't try.

Come on – this doesn’t look like a guy who didn’t try.

Chasing inspiration can be very gratifying as long as you don’t force it. I’ve given up sitting around trying to think up story ideas in a vacuum; it just doesn’t work. If I’m not struck by something I don’t try and wrangle up a plot. One of my favorite quotes is from Charles Bukowski, it actually appears on his tombstone – when asked what the key to life and art is, he replied, “Don’t try.”

Editing? – Pffft!

The audio version of this post appears below. Just click on “play”.



If you’ve read any of my stuff and you have anything north of an 8th grade education, then you’ve noticed I wield a lot of power over my editors. My grammar ain’t so good at times, my sentence structure occasionally makes one think I just go around creating my own languages and my punctuation reflects exactly how I talk. In fact, one of the reasons I got such a late start to writing is my fear of editors. I’ve always seen editors as judges, which is completely ridiculous. The writer/editor relationship is one of the most important aspects of a successful writing career.

However, and to me this is a big however – my feeling is that I prefer my editors to be more involved in the story aspect of the business. I like a lot of input and I use quite a bit of what I get. Of course, the egotist in me does kick in and I do my share of overriding, but if my stuff is any good at all, it’s hugely because of the input of my proofreaders and editors. I am a perfectionist in terms of spelling ( I was enraged when I found the e-published version of my book 5 Tales had a small spelling error) and the flow of the story, but if there is an errant comma somewhere it’s usually because I want the sentence to read in a cadence that reflects how I would tell the story orally.

It’s also the way I want to read other people’s work. I want to know what it is they are thinking, not their editors. I can tell when something has lost its original message even if it’s ever so slightly and that just pisses me off. I’ll forgive a misplaced gerund if the main message comes through loud and clear. I think things need to be cohesive and flow, of course. For instance Gertrude Stein’s work, which I’ve mentioned before makes me want to commit seppuku. Her editors must have had to smoke a lot of opium before trying to make sense of that rubble.

Where were all those ramblings really going?

Where were all those ramblings really going?

Hunter S. Thompson is easily one of my favorite personalities ever. I don’t really enjoy reading his stuff but I do love reading about him and I think that’s a tragedy. We all know the good doctor thrived and worked hard to keep his reputation as a drug addled genius – so hard, that many believe he’d lost the ability to write decades before his death. There are scads of accounts told by his editors at Rolling Stone including Jann Wenner, about how hard they worked editing Hunter’s stuff. It’s legendary. I would love to see the originals of all Hunter’s work – I bet I would like that a lot more than the edited versions floating around out there. Hunter was a genius for sure, you can tell just from his quotes, but like Hunter’s love of the booze and drugs, I want my Hunter un-watered down and straight up.

Self publishing in my humble opinion has helped to bring some really good writing to the table that if it were to be heavily edited by some big publisher would lose it’s panache. It has also brought some real shit into the picture, some of which is just unreadable, but the savvy reader has always known how to separate the wheat from the chafe. I write for the readers to tell what I hope are entertaining stories I have somehow harnessed from the chaos in my head. Obviously, I don’t wish to appear a literary idiot, but I also don’t want the content or tone of my work changed. I want my work to come out the literary birth canal exactly as I envisioned.

As you can probably tell – I don’t send these posts to the editors! (who probably will never speak to me again)

That Salinger Thing

Salinger's Price Chopper - Sexy, right?

Salinger’s Price Chopper – Sexy, right?

The audio version of “That Salinger Thing”, appears below. Just click on “play”.


I didn’t like Catcher in the Rye so much. I didn’t hate it, I just didn’t think it was all that. Even after doing the requisite reading and re-reading at different points in my life I still don’t get the big fuss. To me Catcher is a pithy little story that while mildly entertaining certainly wasn’t worth the myriad analyses that have flitted about the high levels of the intelligentsia lo these sixty some odd years. I mean, teenage angst and rebellion wasn’t exactly a new phenomenon even as far back as the thirties and forties. That doesn’t mean like millions of other people I don’t idolize Salinger, I certainly do.

Salinger’s Holden Caufield makes me want to reach through every metaphysic layer of creation into Salinger’s imagination and strangle him, however, I absolutely love every other character found in Salinger’s limited catalog. 9 Stories has given me countless hours of enjoyable entertainment. For Esme – With Love and Squalor in my opinion is one of the best short stories to come out of the twentieth century. (My 5 Tales is a complete rip-off of Salinger’s title. I’m not proud.) I look with gleeful anticipation towards the release of his never before seen work and also plan on reading David Shields and Shane Salerno’s new biography aptly named: Salinger, although, I’m hesitant to do so. If you’ve read my blog post The Thing About Biographies then you know I do not suffer inaccurate biographies gladly and from the reviews of Salinger, it sounds as if I may be disappointed and I don’t want that especially when it comes to this particular man’s life.

Unlike scads of doting Salinger pilgrims I have never had the desire to seek out his stomping grounds even though I live in and amongst them. But, this past summer as Shields and Salerno were doing press junkets, I started to get curious. So much mystique has been built up regarding Salinger’s reclusiveness I do have to admit it’s hard to resist investigating, especially since I live so close to his Cornish, NH lair.

So, one Saturday afternoon I tossed the kids in the sled and took off in search of Salinger’s spirit. I was determined like all those aforementioned pilgrims to find where he lived. I really had no idea what I was doing but I know the area pretty well and just figured I’d let the wind blow me in whatever direction seemed Salinger. I also knew I would probably get no help from the locals who have always protected the privacy and mystery of his house like a national secret.

I knew from what local lore actually made it into the ethos that Salinger liked to hang out in Windsor and Hartland, VT even more so than Cornish. Going into Windsor for JD was going into town. His house was pretty remote. But, it’s well known that he enjoyed a little socialization regardless of his reclusive reputation. He crossed the covered bridge every morning in his Toyota Land Cruiser from New Hampshire into Vermont, stopped at his post office box at the Windsor post office, had breakfast at a little diner in town and did his shopping at the Price Chopper. Sometimes on the way home he would go into Lebanon, NH where you can find every kind of big box store imaginable and stop at Friendly’s for an ice cream. On Saturday nights he would show up early for the roast beef dinner at one of the churches in Hartland.

Windsor is charming and quaint in that New England-y way, but by no means is it sexy. It seems completely incongruous with the largesse of Salinger created by the public. But, driving down the main drag, I got it. I felt why Salinger would choose this place to remain for all those years. I can relate one hundred percent. I love living in the country. There are days I don’t come down off the mountain at all. But, when I do I have almost the same kind of pattern that Salinger did. I go to the post office box, I do the shopping, I gossip with the locals, but instead of ice cream, I enjoy a martini or ten over at the local watering hole before heading home.

This is the covered bridge between Cornish & Windsor. Remember to walk your horse!

This is the covered bridge between Cornish & Windsor. Remember to walk your horse!

After driving through Windsor I crossed the covered bridge into Cornish and drove right to Salinger’s house. How did I find it? I’m not really sure. I looked at some satellite pictures on the computer and I knew what road it was he lived off of. It’s a normal place with some great views but nothing to write home about. I could absolutely picture him there.

The town I live in now is about twenty miles from Cornish but I live less than a mile from where Salinger married Claire Alison Douglas in 1955. Although none of the locals here talk about him at all, I can absolutely feel his force and see why he chose to be married here. It’s a great place, quiet, picturesque and very easy to write in. It’s an escape to decide to live in a rural area, and I admit I’ve escaped. I miss New York, San Diego and even my hometown in Connecticut on occasion, but not enough to go back.

This is what I gleaned from my little trip down the Salinger road: JD Salinger was just a normal person living the small town experience, except for the fact that Salinger was brilliantly successful as a writer and I’m not, I could be him, anyone who chooses this lifestyle could be Salinger. I’m sure moving to and spending his life in Cornish was the cure for his well-documented emotional baggage packed up from the War, his childhood, love affairs etc. He wasn’t this curmudgeonly recluse who thought of himself as some kind of literary God. He was a guy who wanted to be left alone up until the point he didn’t want to be left alone. Salinger was sociable – his neighbors in Cornish referred to him as a “townie” who got involved in the community. Now, there are stories of his private proclivities, but I don’t care about that. We’re all weird in some way behind closed doors. That’s nobody’s business and I can relate to protecting it to the best of one’s abilities.

It’s not a very exciting picture compared to the legend created by the press and the public who have been steadfast in preserving the mystery and perhaps his life is better left shadowed in intrigue; we do tend to like our idols quirky and over the top. But, for me, it’s comforting to know that Salinger was just a private small town guy from a huge background and was actually personable and likeable. So, you wanna know his address and see pictures of his house? Nah, I’ve given up too many secrets already.