Saturday, December 15, 2012

Drinking with Dead Drunks by Elaine Ambrose & A.K. Turner

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Author
Read: November 26, 2012

Essays on drinking with some of the most notorious drunk writers in literary history, including Ernest Hemingway, Dylan Thomas, Tennessee Williams, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hunter S. Thompson, Jack Kerouac, Raymond Chandler, Truman Capote, John Cheever, James Joyce, William Faulkner, Frederick Exley, O. Henry, Charles Bukowski, Jack London and Edgar Allan Poe. This is the second book in the Drinking with Dead Writers Series. Authors Elaine Ambrose and AK Turner embark on a fictional romp through literary history, indulging in excessive libations along the way.


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Edgar's True Love by Alex Eckman-Lawn
Used with Permission of the Artist
The second round is on me! Okay, not really. Elaine Ambrose and AK Turner have once again picked up the tab, inviting readers to spend happy hour with some of the most talented alcoholics ever published in Drinking With Dead Drunks, book two of the Drinking With Dead Writers series.

I absolutely loved Drinking With Dead Women Writers and was thrilled when I learned the authors were going to release a sequel. Like the first book, Drinking With Dead Drunks is a collection of humorous mock interviews with famous writers, but where our first pub crawl was dedicated to the ladies, our second belongs strictly to the men.

What bibliophile wouldn't jump and the chance to meet with Tennessee Williams at the Carousel Bar or sit in Heinold's First and Last Chance Saloon with Jack London? Admit it, you want to watch The Raven with Edgar Allan Poe, question Hemingway about how his war time experiences inspired A Farewell to Arms, and even the suggestion of discussing Holly Golightly with Truman Capote thrills you from head to toe. 

My favorite aspect of these books is that Ambrose and Turner supplied very little of the dialogue for their interviewees. Instead they lifted lines from their works or personal quotes, essentially characterizing each subject through his own words. It is a fantastically creative approach that when combined with Ambrose and Turner's keen sense of humor creates a wonderfully witty and unique fiction that can't fail to entertain. 





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“Life has become immeasurably better since I have been forced to stop taking it seriously.” 
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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Siren of Paris by David LeRoy

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Personal Kindle Library
Read: December 2, 2012

Born in Paris and raised in the United States, 21-year-old Marc Tolbert enjoys the advantages of being born to a wealthy, well-connected family.. Reaching a turning point in his life, he decides to abandon his plans of going to medical school and study art in Paris. In 1939, he boards a ship and heads to France, blissfully unaware that Europe -- along with the rest of the world -- is on the brink of an especially devastating war. When he arrives at l'École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts, more ominous signs surface. There are windows covered with tape, sandbags shielding the fronts of important buildings, whispers of Parisian children leaving the city, and gas masks being distributed. Distracted by a blossoming love affair, Marc isn't too worried about his future, and he certainly doesn't expect a Nazi invasion of France. Marc has a long journey ahead of him. He witnesses, first-hand, the fall of Paris and the departure of the French government. Employed by an ambassador, he visits heads of state, including the horribly obese gray-haired Mussolini and the charismatic Hitler. He witnesses the effects of the tightening vise of occupation, first-hand, as he tries to escape the country. He also participates in the French resistance, spends time in prison camps, and sees the liberation of the concentration camps. During his struggles, he is reunited with the woman he loves, Marie, who speaks passionately of working with the resistance. Is she working for freedom, or is she not to be trusted?

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Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1983-077-14A / Licht / CC-BY-SA

I have very mixed feelings regarding David LeRoy's The Siren of Paris. I think the premise is great, but as I reader I found it a challenging piece to complete.

I'm gonna be upfront here, I had to reread several pages. I kept feeling as if I was missing something. I'm willing to admit I am somewhat distracted by the holiday season, the hustle and bustle of the festivities, but this was more than that. Though I am loath to admit it, I had genuine trouble following the plot over the intermittent timeline. It was an artistic approach, but confusing just the same. At least where this reader is concerned.


Another problem I had was the brevity in which the supporting cast appeared. Nigel and Dora for example, or even Sylvia. I wanted to see more of these individuals. LeRoy has a gift for creating believable cast members. I guess what I'm getting at is sour grapes in that I felt many of these characters were taken from me too soon.

On the other hand, I liked the material that LeRoy incorporated into the story. There is a lot here, particularly when it came to life in occupied France and the perpetual fear and danger in which the members of the resistance lived. I've seen plenty of movies and documentaries, but this is really the first fiction I've come across to incorporate these topics and I must say I was impressed by LeRoy's efforts.

I read a blurb for this book which referred to the story as thought-provoking while praising its examination of revenge versus forgiveness. The Siren of Paris wasn't the easiest of books to read, but it certainly met my expectations in terms of concept as set forth in that description. It is a toss up really, though I recommend the title, I can't say it is for every reader.  

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"You should have left Paris, Marc, and never returned," she said before the charges were read to him by the Gestapo officer. Marc groaned under the weight of this most painful moment, feeling a mixture of regret and shame. The light of his soul turned dark as obsidian and the clock began to run. 
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Monday, December 10, 2012

Guest Post: When a Horse is Not a Horse by David LeRoy

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Author David LeRoy
“Sometimes David, a white horse is just a white horse,” she said to him at the break during the workshop. 

“Maybe you let a white horse go to waste, but I don’t,” he quipped back with a  smirk.  

In the crowd I hang around with, it is fashionable to write stories or novels that explore only the physical layer of existence.  This can also include the emotional and mental layers, since both are a part of physical existence.  However, the spiritual layer is often off limits today, because it is considered sentimental or even superstitious.  

This is ironic because so many of our movies absolutely dive into this playground of meaning.  Hollywood knows our inner drive to understand what we do not fully comprehend, and it works hard to craft stories that both entertain the viewer and cast a fog of mystery.  


Another current trend in symbolism is explaining the meaning up front instead of allowing readers to project their own interpretations.   


Readers are sentimental and superstitious, even if they say it is not true.  Our minds are hard wired to see patterns.  The conscious mind may dismiss the pattern, but the subconscious absorbs it.  


One dimensional symbols have only one meaning; for instance, the American flag  is the symbol of a nation.  Take the flag and fold it into a triangle; it is given to a widow of war and later held by a son who never saw or met his father.  Now it is transformed beyond just the symbol of a nation.  It becomes a symbol for the unseen father. It may drive a character to join the military to be spiritually closer to the father that he never knew in life.  Put the character in a circumstance where he has to choose between saving the flag or saving his own life, and now the flag becomes a burden, and its destruction is a doorway for the character to achieve freedom from the past.  


The Tree of ….( what are you thinking?)

The Four horses of the ( where does your mind go to?)
The Garden of….(what comes to mind first?)

All the phrases above are strongly associated with religious symbolism in our culture today, even for people who are not religious.  


By carefully incorporating symbols into a story, weaving them together, giving each physical element multiple possible meanings on a psychological and spiritual level, you create a richer story.  Upon finishing the story, the reader was not only entertained; he knows, on a subconscious level, that there is more here than can be gleaned through one reading.  He may talk to others who have read the story, look up reviews and see what others had to say, or read the story again.  In today’s time-crunched world, that is magic .  


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About the Author: A native of California, David received a BA in Philosophy and Religion at Point Loma Nazarene College in San Diego. After returning from a European arts study program, he became interested in the history behind the French Resistance during World War Two. Writing fiction has become his latest way to explore philosophical, moral and emotional issues of life. The Siren of Paris is his first novel. You can visit him at website.

About the Book: Born in Paris and raised in the United States, 21-year-old Marc Tolbert enjoys the advantages of being born to a wealthy, well-connected family.. Reaching a turning point in his life, he decides to abandon his plans of going to medical school and study art in Paris. In 1939, he boards a ship and heads to France, blissfully unaware that Europe -- along with the rest of the world -- is on the brink of an especially devastating war. When he arrives at l'École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts, more ominous signs surface. There are windows covered with tape, sandbags shielding the fronts of important buildings, whispers of Parisian children leaving the city, and gas masks being distributed. Distracted by a blossoming love affair, Marc isn't too worried about his future, and he certainly doesn't expect a Nazi invasion of France. Marc has a long journey ahead of him. He witnesses, first-hand, the fall of Paris and the departure of the French government. Employed by an ambassador, he visits heads of state, including the horribly obese gray-haired Mussolini and the charismatic Hitler. He witnesses the effects of the tightening vise of occupation, first-hand, as he tries to escape the country. He also participates in the French resistance, spends time in prison camps, and sees the liberation of the concentration camps. During his struggles, he is reunited with the woman he loves, Marie, who speaks passionately of working with the resistance. Is she working for freedom, or is she not to be trusted?

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