Antihero (2011)

First off, I only mention these books here -- if one should dare refer to them that way still -- because they are permanently coupled to this site via search engines. And, because of that, someone occassionally finds one here and still buys it. Or, has read a stray, extant copy and has a question or comment they send to me. And so, with the publisher of my first book now defunct, I've placed Antihero on Kindle until I decide what else to do with it. If I had the energy to pursue having this book published hardcopy, which I don't right now, I'd say this about it:

Pixie Anderson is nearly ready to graduate high school. With a mind for folly and his world in near disarray, hes created John Stumpgrinder, a backwoods serial killer for a short story in his English class. Life imitates art, and art imitates life; together Pixie and John Stumpgrinder tear down all that stands in their way, until, in the end, what remains is the blasted landscape of a misspent youth.

With tomorrow upon him, the antihero, stunned and bewildered, rises again to an unsettled future, freeform and indestructible in the face of annihilation. He stands at last on the threshold of transcendence, alone with his ego, looking about for the first time and seeing with sudden clarity where his next step must be: forward, off the shrinking stage of all he once thought true.

Antihero is about what modern culture does to kids.

Song for a Summer Night (2008)

Song for a Summer Night is a 2009 Next Generation Indie Finalist.

In the foreword of my copy of his Cantos, Ezra Pound writes: "Being essentially the instrument of his work, he [the artist] is subordinate to it, and we have no reason for expecting him to interpret it for us. He has done the best that is in him by giving form and must leave interpretation to others and the future".

A creative work is what it is, pulled from the ether and set before us. I am indebted to every one and every thing that has ever stirred me toward the culmination of thought leading to the coalescence of this novel. I'm just a simple country dentist, a wordsmith - which is to say, not quite a poet - and likely the least qualified person to interpret my work, while, at the same time, I know more about it than anyone ever will. I, but the author, vehicle for some higher power working through me, am prepared to answer only yes or no.

But you've gone to the trouble to find me, so I feel obliged to do something more than my publisher to introduce my book to you. You deserve some insight into what it really is, or, at least what it is that helped to give it life. To say Song for a Summer Night is about a boy looking for a lost cricket is like saying Ulysses is about a day in Dublin. A publisher has ten words or less to capture your attention, and that's due to the nature of our society. My book is in the neighborhood of fifty-two thousand words. That's short, as far as novels go. It should take just under four hours to read. Once upon a time you might have read this book three or four times if you really liked it, and twice if you didn't. As far as entertainment goes, though, in this modern era, reading is a slow, relatively labor-intensive pursuit, and we are truly blessed to have so many other toys to play with, although it bodes poorly for books. One can only hope there will be chairs to sit on in our virtual world of tomorrow.

Song for a Summer Night is less a tumble down a rabbit's hole than a swan dive into a bowl full of Jell-O. It's life on the other side of my mirror, where every nuance that a moment holds is slowed and made more clear, and the net result always positive. Things are governed there by the most ecumenical of precepts: the Golden Rule, and all iniatives proceed by happy mutual assent. It's life in the idylls of childhood, where "forever" can exist within a moment, and where animals talk, or at least a hero might imagine so. Rowlfy, a thirteen year-old from Oakland California, whose summer "song" is of car engines and horns, and the thump of amped subwoofers, sent me a review of my book. He said he liked it and that the writing was good: "If you can handle mature writing in a classic style like The Wind in the Willows or Alice In Wonderland, you might like this". I think that sums it up nicely. Thank you Rowlfy.

"Song for a Summer Night is for advanced readers or teens and kids who normally read adult books". I'm drawing from a very shallow well, indeed, with that. The pool of actual "readers" - I mean those who read for joy and look for and find things like themes and symbolism and irony - is small. Everyone else that picks up a book is a fraud; voyeurs mostly, devouring memoirs and scandalous gossip, or polemics, in order to batter one another with brilliant opinions (though not their own). "Readers" are hard to impress, and frauds immitate "readers", so it's often difficult to tell who's who, and a book has to find itself into the right hands to be fully appreciated. You can't force someone to read something and expect them to enjoy it. My teenage son said The Grapes of Wrath sucked, and I think I know why, which is actually encouraging to me. If it can happen to Steinbeck it can happen to anyone.

I'll never be a prolific writer. I'm too slow. I may never be capable of writing a book ever again. When I finished this one, I looked back and said, as Kurt Vonnegut says he and his carpenter have, "How'd I do that?" I put myself in a frame of mind and connect dots during the months that follow. Thoughts flow from somewhere in the distant universe and sometimes they flow through me; hence, my muse. I put fingers to keyboard and a book writes itself, and when I think I'm done, I'm not. I never know when I'm done because my immitations of others are always overblown and there is always something that could be said better. Ideas come in hopeless smatterings, wrung from nothingness at a yield of less than a pound per acre. Scotch barely helps, same with bourbon and the first lucid thoughts of morning. So I sit and stare, scourging myself pointlessly, arranging and re-arranging things, first this way, then that way, then this. Needless to say, it's all terribly unhealthy.

Good writing, to me, is like good poetry: the right word in the right place, and not too many of them. Once realized, it's this that makes revisions endless and writing hard. But it sure is fun.

Yours, Mark