Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Pause That Refreshes [tm]

When I was a kid--and later on--"the pause that refreshes" was Coke's marketing phrase. Things have changed. For one, Cokes are no longer 5 cents in the machines (as they were in my boyhood); the Coke containers are now far larger (our machines held only 8 oz glass bottles). And so on. Oh, and the motto? I don't even know. I'm not a Coke drinker anymore.

But anyway--I'm going to be taking a "pause that refreshes" for a few days on this blog. Nothing ominous. Just a break--which I will write about in a few days.

In the meantime--a couple of things I've been wanting to say something about.

1. Yesterday, I finished reading a posthumous collection of stories by the late Elmore Leonard (1925-2013), a collection assembled by a son (Peter). Charlie Martz and Other Stories (2015) comprises a few stories published decades ago--and some never before published, dating back more than a half-century.

In some ways they are resolutely "Elmore": sturdy (quiet) heroes, women who see the virtues of same, violence (necessary) in the final paragraphs, sharp dialogue. Some are Westerns (he wrote many of these and some novels, as well); others, contemporary. And a couple of them feature Charlie Martz (see title).

But most, I fear, bear strong evidence supporting Leonard's decision not to publish them. They are apprentice pieces. Wordy, obvious--not terms I'd usually (ever?) apply to his later work. He's probably blushing, wherever he is.

Still ... I had to read them. I've read all of Elmore Leonard, you see--Westerns included--and to not read one is, well, unthinkable. (And, of course, Joyce and I were addicted to Justified, the TV series based on one of his short stories, "Fire in the Hole," 2001, which you can read online. Link to story.)

Years ago, he was a featured writer at one of the Plain Dealer's Book and Author Luncheons. I got a release from school that day and took some of my middle school students with me. I also took a stack of his books with me (there would be a signing afterward), distributed them among the kids (so it wouldn't seem that I was a Stalker or something), and got them all signed. When I reached his table, I asked him if he'd ever write a Western again. He looked at me oddly. "Nobody reads them," he said. But I was gratified, some years later, when Cuba Libre appeared (kind of a Western). And The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard, 2004 (definitely Westerns!).

2. This week another of my literary lions roared his last. E. L. Doctorow (1931-2015; link to Times obituary). In the later 1960s I'd never heard of Doctorow, but a Hiram College classmate, William Heath (now a writer, too), raved about him, and so as the years went by, I bought and read Doctorow's books, pretty much as soon as they came out. I'm not sure I read all of them (and I'm too lazy to check), but most, for sure. Maybe all.

my Doctorow shelf
I also had the good fortune to review (for the Cleveland Plain Dealer) the final novel he lived to see to publication--Andrew's Brain (link to review),  It was a book I liked a lot.

Some posthumous things will probably appear in the next year or so. But I hope they're not in cahoots with Charlie Martz.

Oh, in 1990 when the Library of America published its single-volume version of Jack London's The Call of the Wild--a book about which I became obsessed for, oh, a decade (and did some consequent publishing about)--guess who wrote the Introduction? Oh, no, not I. It was E. L Doctorow. (Enlarge the picture and you'll see his name on the cover.)

His Intro ends with this: "It is Jack London's hack genius that make us cheer for his Buck and want to lope with him in happy, savage honor back to the wild, running and howling with the pack" (xviii).

Couldn't have said it better myself--though I'm not so sure about that "hack genius" phrase ...

Oh, and Edgar Lawrence Doctorow (I learned in the Times review) was named for Edgar Poe, a writer he once called "our greatest bad writer." Good line. And Doctorow wrote countless others in his most wondrous career.


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