Category Archives: Book Reviews

William Faulkner Reviews An Uprising of Angels

The unheavenly, inexorably scorching sun beat down on a more than dusty road—a road beyond dust, connecting the past and future, beyond the irrepressible earth itself, into a throat parched dryness and heart stopping swelter of an afternoon from another era, another day, like the Los Angeles slum ridden and dark secret hidden neighborhoods in the book I was reading as I sat by the side of that dusty, dusky, infernal road to hell and back, my back against a weeping willow tree and a damp rag from mopping my brow in my hands, hands gnarled and shaking, angry hands as angrily I read about a riot and the never to be ended, never should have begun struggle of the races against each other that reaches deep into the nation’s past and soil and soul, from the South I knew to the western Pacific shores I didn’t, into a huge metropolis beyond anything I ever experienced, being from a postage stamp sized county in a state swarming with hatred and despair and immutable actions, unsilent words, unspoken deeds and bitter emotions, emotions rambling through centuries and eons of human relationships and uncivilized civilizations, only to end up carrying that weight of race and flesh and skin, those battles never unfought and never finished, into a riot of universal size with gangs of great-great grandsons of slaves and slaveowners, of sharecroppers, storekeepers, and barn burners’ descendents exploding once more, uncontrollable, irreconcilably turning streets into bloody highways saturating the dust and filling the skies with smoke and flames as if nothing has ever been learned and nothing could ever be learned, for how could it, if all that I have recorded and written about men and their hatred has never been assimilated into hearts or souls but rather turned out and ignored, my words having meant nothing to these Los Angeles men and their furious undiscriminating unassailable dispatching of death and destruction all so very many years since I myself  toiled my fingers on pen and paper, ink stained to pass a message that’s been unread, unlearned, uncared for, since as Baldwin writes, this riot erupted, this cataclysmic abysmal unfathomable eruption of hell’s deep darkness onto the earth where men still walk and breathe and live yet must fight and struggle with themselves and others over what, if not their own beyond interminably terrible destinies and drives, desires and indefatigable selfishness where justice is damned and no one is safe in their homes, their skins, their lives, all lives reduced to the rubble beneath  the passing years’ feet and I, myself, in my legacious state of misfortunate fame or infamy can neither affect nor change, despite all the books, all the stories, all the writing I did, so that Baldwin now must take up the pen and once again, as I and others before him have, to record the impossible, impenetrable, unending and unfailing misery befalling the never innocent at the hands of the always guilty men who fail to get along?

 

Ernest Hemingway Reviews An Uprising of Angels

Baldwin sent me his book and I read it. I read it sitting on a verandah with cold beer and cats on my lap. I read it in one sitting as the sun crossed the grey clouded sky and faded into the horizon. The ocean turned black as the light faded and night fell. I drank 7 or 8 beers while I read it. The beers dripped their condensation on the pages of the book and now the pages have beer stains that will remind me when I read it again where I was and how I enjoyed the crisp clear beer while reading Baldwin’s book.

His writing is clean and crisp like the beer I drank while reading it. His story goes down smoothly like the beer. I started reading with little interest because I don’t like big city people who have problems they bring on themselves because of their stupidity and laziness. But something about it kept me reading. It was the danger, I suppose. The guns and the violence and the danger are all things I like in a book and in life.  I also like writing about war. It brings out a man’s true character. This book is about a war. A war in Los Angeles in 1992 between some good people and some bad people. The good people are not all good and the bad people are not all bad. That is the way with people.

I like the way Baldwin writes. He understands that life must be lived and fears faced. I have been through war and the riot of 1992 was a war. The bell tolled for many and no one came out of it without a wound. But some took the wounds and used them. They felt them and studied them and were true to them. That is life well lived. This is a book about life.

Baldwin tells me we share the same birthday. That is an interesting fact. I like facts because they are sharp and hard and cannot be denied. I don’t like it when people try to deny facts. Such people do not know themselves and do not understand life.

I would take Baldwin hunting some day if I could. I bet he’d be a good hunter because his eye is clear and sharp and his words cut fast and sharp, like hard flat stones skimmed across the surface of a calm cool lake.  His characters go out too far like Jake and Santiago and me. I like that too about his book. His characters know how to live and they know how to die.

I’d like to meet Baldwin and see how he lives. But I’m dead and my verandah and beer and cats are all far from the earth that he and all the people alive now still live on. I don’t live there anymore. I put a rifle in my mouth and pulled the trigger. But I won’t talk about that. There are many things that should not be talked about. A man and a writer must understand that what is not talked about gives a story and his life even more meaning. You have to know a lot to leave a lot out. Baldwin’s book leaves a lot out. That’s what I like about it most.

So I will never meet Baldwin and drink a beer with him and take him hunting. That is too bad.  We could have had a good time together. At least it’s pretty to think so.

 

A Brief Frictional Fictional Interview with Myselves

EGO: We’re here tonight with ourself, Marc D. Baldwin, author of An Uprising of Angels. Thanks for inviting us all to speak our mind tonight, Marc.

ID:  Yeah, thanks. We’re all out of our mind, that’s for sure. That’ll be pretty clear to everyone who reads the book.

SUPEREGO: Don’t blow our cover, all right?

I: What do you care? You always were trying to take us all down with your compulsive behavior. Like the time you…

E: Zip it, Id.

The trio stare each other down. With a wry smile and ominous chuckle, Baldwin marshals his selves into one for a moment.

I: Okay, me first.

S: As always.

I: Damn straight.

E: Cut the crap, you two. Just tell the readers why we wrote the book.

I: Why else? So we can let our schizophrenia run wild. The 5 main characters are all us. We seek pleasure. We love darkness. We like to live a little. You know. It’s cool. Right?

S: Why is everything always all about you?

E: Really. Stick to the fiction: the book. It is fiction, right?

I: Oh sure…of course…definitely, right? All made up. Total fiction. You know that.

They share a big laugh, face full of memories making various micro- appearances.

E:  Okay, here’s the deal: We just wanted to make sense of the senseless, right? The worst riot ever in America. Chaos, horror, anarchy. Why? Why did it happen? Because King’s attackers, the cops, were acquitted? Or was that just an excuse to riot and loot and burn and kill? Macetti, now he’s got it down. He and Gunther, they’re heroes, trying to protect the hood from the bad guys.

S: That’s absurd.

E: Me? Absurd? Id’s the absurd one, not me.

I: Got that right. But at least I know I’m absurd, pal. You don’t. You and your phony image of respectability and decency. Don’t make me laugh. You might have the world fooled, but you don’t fool me. You’re closer to being Rayhab and the gangstas than Macetti and Gunther. But they’re all messed up too.  And what’s really the kicker in this book, in our whole life, really, is trying to make sense of the senseless. That’s the definition of absurdity.  Right?

S: Yeah, but you have to try. That’s what Anwar did. He tried hard to help Ishmael avoid getting into gangs. And he tried hard to live a good, straight life.

I:  Gimme a break. He just wanted to screw Sonja. You know that. You set the poor sap up for a big fall….

S: I totally disagree!

Superego flips off Id and looks for support to Ego, who just shrugs. What can you do with a runaway Id?

I: Yeah? Whatta you know about racism, bro? That’s the ultimate absurdity and evil. I’m just part of a white guy, doing my own thing and trying to keep out of my own way. Like most people in L.A. before, during and after the riot. Just trying to get along, man. Live free or die. Don’t screw with me and I won’t screw with you.  Screw with me and look out.

E: Big tough guy.

I: You got it, bro.

S: You make no sense, as usual. I mean, yes, racism is a big part of the book, of course. As it was a major cause of the riot. But really it’s about all people. All colors and ethnicities of real people caught in hell. Trying to survive. It’s good vs. evil, right vs. wrong, love vs. hate, legality vs. criminality. In a word, life.

I: You just love dichotomies, that’s your problem. The world ain’t all black and white, pal. It’s all shades of grey.

S: Like a Motown winter’s day….

I:  Ya know, I could live without you just fine, ya know that? Do whatever I want…

S: Put ketchup on your beans?

I: Yeah. That’s right.

E: Okay, okay. You guys are killing me. Literally. I’m the one who wrote the damn book. It took all my strength to suppress you two long enough to get the words down in some kindof order. And I say Uprising’s about everything we’ve ever known. We’re all in this book, right? All of us, all of everybody. Everything we know, right? Am I right? Everything?

S: Or nothing at all, maybe. Kinda like the whiteness of the whale. The big Moby.

I: Or the blackness of the universe.

E: That’s what I’m saying: it’s about all or nothing. You in or you out? Hold em or fold em. Kill or be killed.

S: There ya go. That’s what it’s about. For real.

The trio nod and bump fists. At peace with one another. For the moment, anyway. Just trying to get along, like Rodney King wanted.

 

 

Review of Engaged, by Brian Solis

In his definitive book, Engaged, Brian Solis argues that “We must produce and promote compelling material in the communities where our customers, peers, influencers and prospects are active–using the consumption methods and means they prefer.” From creators to critics to spectators, Solis rates the engagers and concludes that to be seen and heard, to be successful in the online world, you have to know and master the rules of engagement.

Social media can make or break a business. It’s as simple as that. In Engaged, Solis (www.briansolis.com) –blogger, analyst, consultant and new media maven extraordinaire–conducts a university course in how to “build, cultivate, and measure success in the new web.”

If you want a complete guide to the social media world, this is it. From the Manifesto, to the university course titles of each chapter (“The New Media University 101” and “201” and “301” all the way to “1101”), to nuts and bolts specifics, Solis covers all the bases.

Just flipping through the table of contents, index, and glossary alone would be enough to convince the novice he’s a novice and the so-called expert he still has a lot to learn. Want to blog better and more effectively? Want to enhance your brand or even rebrand your business?  Want to find the influencers, map your social media strategy, increase your ROI, ROA, or SEO? It’s all here–with charts and bullet points, lists, action plans, and success stories.

Read Engaged and share it with your staff, friends, colleagues, and clients alike. It’ll stimulate and inform a thousand productive conversations. Just a great book, that’s all.

 

 

Review of Upstarts

The title’s play on words tells it all: the mentality you need for a startup is a bit arrogant, bold, nervy, and forward–in both thinking and action. You’ll get nowhere, Donna Fenn (www.upstartsrock.com) argues, if you haven’t got the moxie and drive to get started–today.

Those who want to start a business or even start themselves up need to keep their eyes open and look for the opportunities in other people’s or program’s (businesses, technologies, agendas) pain. In pain, people seek relief. Look for painful issues and see if your plan, your company can remove the pain and give the client pleasure.

And don’t delay. You don’t have to have it perfect to get started. Launch it. Whatever it is, start it up and get in going. You can always keep improving and rolling out new iterations.

Fenn packs Upstarts with a wealth of great advice–from how to “disrupt the status quo” to urging you to market “fast and furiously” to how best to build your brand.

One way to do that is to show people what you’ve got and what you know. Start a forum with your business: “establish yourself as a trusted and knowledgeable source of information.” Tell your story and, by all means, “call in the reinforcements” when you need them.

Fenn practices what she preaches, having already written the wildly successful Alpha Dogs: How Your Small Business Can Become a Leader of the Pack. If you’re in business and need more business, or starting a business and want to launch it fast and right, read Fenn’s books. She’s got game.