Monthly Archives: October 2013

Peanuts Gang: Where are they now?

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I had a nostalgic urge to revisit Charlie Brown and the Peanuts Gang. I especially was fond of using the old Fawcett Crest pocket book editions from the 1960s — that’s when I was most immersed with the group while being age 10 and on for a while.

While in a used book store, over a half dozen Fawcett editons were available and I treated myself to a blast from the past.  Starting with The Wonderful World of Peanuts, I binged with the group over the next few evenings. I noticed and compared how the earlier strips ‘ artwork was less refined, but more enduring and soft (like an old blanket?)

My partner Jo and I shared our favorite strips with each other, and both were highly amused by the strips that had less text and relied on just a picture (with an occasional exclamation point or question mark.)

To me, as the strips progressed through the years, the lines became less soft; Linus and Snoopy grew up too soon from baby and puppy. The strip defined itself more. and expanded the cast. Also, more neuroses and meanness became apparent.

The Peanuts Gang
The Peanuts Gang

All of this has led me to wonder: Where are they today?

From Lucy van Pelt’s bureau of misinformation, this is what I have surmised. So, with apologies to Charles Schultz and his estate, I present this satirical look at “The Gang”.

Disclaimer: If you are offended by satire, or if you would not enjoy this what-if concerning cherished Peanut characters, my apologies and PLEASE DO NOT PROCEED FROM THIS POINT.

From the underground files of “Screw Off, Charlie Brown!”, it appears that:

  • Charlie Brown: doing time for the massacre of fellow classmates who ‘pushed me just a bit too far, I guess!’
  • Lucy van Pelt: Lost her Clinical Psychology license due to prescription abuse for her anger management patients.
  • Sally Brown: unable to find a job with her biochemistry degree, Sally currently supports herself as a strip-tease artist under the name “Sweet Baboo-ie”.
  • Linus van Pelt: influenced by Cat Stevens’ life, Linus turned to Islam for peace, but has gone the route of Islamic Fundamentalism.
  • Snoopy is a rapper on the L.A. scene as Snoopy Doggie Dog
  • Woodstock is Snoopy Doogie Dog’s sidekick, known as DJ Woody S.
  • Pig Pen: junk dealer, also  well-respected found-objects artist.
  • Schroeder: of course, is a concert pianist, composer, and gay rights advocate concerning the  sexual abuse of others who pressure people into marriage roles.
  • Peppermint Patty: of course, a feminist lesbian.
  • Marcy: the Alice B. Toklas to Peppermint Patty’s Gertrude Stein.
  • Franklin: shot in Florida for walking through  a gated community on his way home from a convenience store.

Where do YOU think they are now? Please leave us a comment.

If you have any news about Violet, Patty, Shermy, Rerun, or any of the others, please let us know.

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education

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On Friday, October 11th, my partner Jo and I were viewing one of our favorite TV programs: “Shark Tank“. We like to analyze the business offers and predict if the entrepreneur(s) will get a shark to bite (as well as which shark). As this very Western, highly Capitalistic program came to an end, there was an advert for the following program: Diane Sawyer would interview Malala, the Pakastani girl who has come to the forefront concerning education rights for girls, at home and worldwide. Jo and I decided to watch for a few minutes, and then were drawn into a whole different tank of sharks for an hour as we followed Malala’s very different life and trials — even being shot at 15 by the Taliban — for just wanting to continue her education.

The same week, the results of Malala’s nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize would be known. In addition, her autobiography had just been published. Sadly, she did not win the prize (although she has been awarded many other prizes and honors). In her graceful manner, she stated that the prize did not matter to her. All that matters is her campaign for girls’ education rights. Meanwhile, the rest of the free world has received the prize of Malala’s story and the gift of her book — I Am Malala: the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot By the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb (2013).

I Am Malala
I Am Malala

Her speech earlier in the year at United Nations has now become almost as well known as other greats such as “I Have A Dream” and “The Pen is Mightier Than the Sword”. Simply and elegantly Malala stated her cause:

“Let us pick up our books and our pens…They are our most powerful weapons. One child , one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.”

She received a standing ovation. But elsewhere in the world, she is receiving more backlash, especially in mideast countries. So, we all need to join Malala’s cause for human rights before any backlash takes power.

Malala is not speaking against Islamic values, though. She is actually reaffirming them to a culture that has lost sight:

Today we all know education is our basic right, Not just in the West; Islam says every girl and every boy should go to school. In the Quran it is written. God wants us to have knowledge…around the world there are fifty-seven million children who are not in primary school. thirty-two million of them girls. Sadly, my own country, Pakistan, is one of the worst places: 5.1 million children don’t even go to primary school even though in our constitution it says every child has that right. We have almost fifty million illiterate adults, two thirds who are women, like my own mother.

Similarly to what  I stated earlier in a posting about another young mideastern girl ‘s — Nujood’s —  account:

  • Read/buy this book. Read/buy Nujood’s book.
  • Share this book. Share Nujood’s book.
  • Discuss this book. Discuss Nujood’s book.


DO NOT let these topics fall through the cracks within world politics and human rights.

I am fortunate that I live in a society where  I can read, view, and listen to anything I want (yes, even Shark Tank, for without Shark Tank, I might have missed out on Malala’s story for quite a while.) This is not to say that our way of life is any better in comparison to Malala’s; we certainly have our own embarrassments and violations of our fellow human beings in the USA, in Illinois, in Chicago, on the northwest side, on my own street, in my own apartment building. But I do have better rights, and that is a start. As Malala states at the end of her autobiography, this is her dream:

To sit on a chair and read my books with all my friends is my right. To see each and every human being with a smile of happiness is my wish…I am Malala. My world has changed but I have not.

In the end, as always, eventually the pen wins out — the pen is mightier than the sword, but only when we are able to read what the pen hath wrought, and only when what the pen hath written is uncensored and available for all to read and, finally, when what the pen hath written is acted upon. Step 1: READ THIS BOOK!

For the moment, I have done some help here, I hope, by reading this book and by sharing this with you and others. I know this is not enough. First, I’ll recharge my batteries by reading some more; I might even watch Shark Tank again this week. Then, it’s off to ‘fight the good fight’ again as I pick up my pen or tap on a keyboard.

By the way, a few days later I went to my local Barnes & Nobel and was pleasantly surprised by the power of the media: Malala’s book had already sold out! Twice! And the copies of the latest shipment were on hold! Instead of frustration, I was proud that so many would follow Malala’s words and wishes after the Sawyer interview and after the hype of a Nobel Prize nomination.

So what did I do? I downloaded the book onto my e-book reader and was able to immediately gratify myself and begin Step 1: Reading the Book…What a world I live in! How blessed are my days…

Also become aware of another account of girls’ struggles in the mideast: please see I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced, discussed in this blog earlier.

Seekers: Return to the Wild #3 – River of Lost Bears

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Continuing the journey of the three bears, with a cast of several other bears, this third installment is very good with the story, but it lacks in written style.

The Erin Hunter franchise uses different authors for the series books, and the author for this one uses a too simplified style that eventually detracts from the story. The other books so far do not shy away from challenging language, although these books are coded for young readers. Straightforward, with simplistic dialogue, and with non-involving imagery, this book is better for plot only. Then again, the change in tone does make this for a very quick read.

River of Lost Bears
River of Lost Bears

Now off of the ice, the bears are in a forested area, better for Lusa’s diet although the nourishment is less to the taste of the polar bears. The ongoing environmental issue this time has to do with deforestation. And there is also the problem with another black bear and the territory he protects (along with his sister). As well, there is a spin with the white bears now being questioned to their presence in the wrong neck of town. ‘”Too many,” the black bear snapped. “There’s been talk about white bears coming inland. They shoud stay on the Melting Sea where they belong.”‘ (page 18)

The most interesting moment in this installment happens when the bears figure out and work together when making a tourniquet for Yakone who is bleeding to death. (page 165) Wow!! How ingenuous that was!

And then, things wrap up with the bears hopping a train — The Silver Path — that they will use for the next leg of their exploits. What better way to travel than by train, also known to the bears as a “firesnake”.

[Toklo] stared at his friends as the forest slid past. They were on their way to the mountains, riding a firesnake, and heading home. (page 202)

Looking forward to January 2014 with the release of book #4: Forest of Wolves…Hoping that the author is one of the previous ones. Grrrrrrrrr!

(also see Seekers: Return to the Wild #2 — The Melting Sea)

I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced

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As I prepare to read Malala’s book (see later posting), I ran across something similar: I Am Nujood, Aged 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali with Delphine Minoui (2010). And since I had a borrowed library copy, I decided to read this first. I am very pleased to have done so. Nujood’s account strengthens Malala’s plight and the plight of MANY young girls in the Mideast who are abused and denied education. As well, Malala’s book will hopefully call attention back to Nujood’s cause and reawaken her efforts and keep the topic of child-marriage in the forefront of the world.

I Am Nujood, Age 10 & Divorced
I Am Nujood, Age 10 & Divorced

Nujood is a Yemani girl who, at the age of 10, was placed in an arranged marriage with a man much older — almost 3 times her tender age. Not only was the marriage promise of remaining sexually inactive until she was of age immediately broken; not only was she was continually physically abused as well as sexually abused; but, let it be known, this is a common practice in middle eastern countries such as Yemen.

Her fascinating story of escape and daring courage to attain legal help to dissolve this situation is a must read. Only through efforts like hers can these practices come to light and hopefully be ridden.  In a culture that continually recounts that ‘Mohammed wed Aisha when she was only 9 years old,’ this does not mean that this is an allowable practice IN ANY CULTURE OR RELIGION, or that this practice may be continued without reprieve. The situation is NOT to be accepted as a given, such as her other mother tells her: “That’s how life is, Nujood!: all women must endure this; we have all gone through the same thing.” (page 96)

Luckily, Nujood is paired with a woman lawyer who defies that culture by working for women’s rights: Shada — beautiful, exposed without the niqha face covering. A wedding that occurred in February 2008 was finally dissolved on April 15, 2008 by a court system that had to do some clever workarounds!

Furthermore, this book also pursues a wider scope of Yemen’s culturally abusive rights in the related events of her sister Mona, her brother Fares, and another pupil from the school she attends.

Nujood has been removed from that marriage, returned to the education she desperately wanted and was pulled from, and is now continuing her future.

“Yes; I’ve made up my mind. When I grow up, I’ll be a lawyer, like Shada, to defend other little girls like me. If I can, I’ll propose that the legal age for marriage be raised to eighteen. Or twenty. Or even twenty-two! I will have to be strong and tenacious. I must learn not to be afraid of looking men right in the eye when I speak to them. In fact, one of these days I’ll have to get up enough courage to tell Aba [her father] that I don’t agree with him when he says that, after all, the Prophet married Aisha when she was only nine years old. Like Shada, I will wear high heels, and I will not cover my face. That niqua — you can’t breath under it! But first things first: I will have to do my homework as well. I must be a good student, so I can hope to go to college and study law. If I work hard, I’ll get there.” (page 162)

Reported in the epilogue are just a few of the after effects of Nujood’s experience:

  • 2 girls, nine and twelve years old, also were able to break the bonds of their marriages
  • “In neighboring Saudi Arabia, one year after Nujood’s historic court case, an eight-year old Saudi girl married off by her father to a man in his fifties successfully sued for divorce — the first time such a thing has happened in that ultraconservative country.” (page 171)

This is a powerful book. And it can be more powerful if we read it and learn  how and why to change practices that should no longer exist (and should never have existed.) Recommend this book and Malala’s to all of your peers. Share it with your children; share it with your spouse/partner.   As Malala pleads in her United Nations speech: “Let us wage a global struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism, and let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. ” Or 2 books for that matter!

Nujood’s co-writer Delphine Minoui says in the epilogue:

Perhaps Nujood does not realize this yet, but she shattered a taboo. The news of her divorce traveled around the world, relayed by many international media, bringing an end to the silence enshrouding a practice that is unfortunately all too widespread in a number other countries: Afghanistan, Egypt, India, Iran, Mail, Pakistan….If her story touches us so deeply, however, it’s also because it impels us to take a good look at ourselves. In the West, it’s fashionable to instinctively bemoan the fate of Muslim women, yet conjugal violence and the practice of child marriage are hardly restricted to the Islamic world. (page 172)

Many factors are involved in this complex Islamic society, but there are none that can possibly sustain the practice of child marriage in the twenty-first-century.

Read/buy this book. Read/buy Malala’s book.

Share this book. Share Malala’s book.

Discuss this book. Discuss Malala’s book.

DO NOT let these topics fall through the cracks within world politics and human rights.

(Please, also see I Am Malala, reviewed latter in this blog.)

More striped socks

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As promised, here is the other pair:

Striped socks
Striped socks

One has the chocolate leftovers from the last pair; the rest is knitted from the rest of the variegated yarn – this time with hardly any leftover, so this cycle of socks is completed after 3 pairs:

  • chocolate bamboo & silk
  • chocolate bamboo & silk soles with striped gams (see post below)
  • just a hint of chocolate bamboo & silk followed with variegated  soft acrylic

Special socks for a Special partner

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I make specially contoured socks for my partner Jo. Not only have I designed them to wrap around her gams and bunions, but as of late I have been using Patton’s bamboo and silk yarn for extra comfy texture.

I usually have much leftover, but I am unable to get a full second pair extracted from the leftovers. Often enough, though, I have enough to make a backup sock for the pair. This time, I had a fair amount left, but not enough for a full extra sock. So here is my stroke of genius: Use the left over yarn for the bottom half of the socks and choose some other yarn to contrast.  VOILA!!

New socks: Bamboo, silk, and acrylic
New socks: Bamboo, silk, and acrylic

And as if that isn’t enough for Jo’s daring  nature, sometimes she will wear socks that don’t match!!! Some people are horrified by the idea — this is not for the squeamish…

…nor this: embellished with googly eyes.

She now has the equivalent of diamonds on the souls of her shoes — googly eyes on the top of her socks!! (Try THAT on, Paul Simon…)

Paddlefoot - embellished!
Paddlefoot – embellished!

We sometimes refer to the bottom of her foot as “Paddlefoot” for the shape. And Paddlefoot has been embellished with eyes before in a series we shot in the Pacific Northwest in 2007. One day, I will post those, but be aware: They are not for the faint-of-heart either…

Back to topic, I did have a bit of Patton’s chocolate leftover and much of the stripy acrylic, so I did yet another pair – mostly stripy with just a hint of chocolate on one leg. I will post that next…

Set a spell, Take your shoes off. Y’all come back now, y’hear?.

Icebreaker on Flight 157 (2011)

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Hey, since we have this new blog, I figured I should shamelessly  promote a novel I wrote in 2011: Icebreaker on Flight 157.

Icebreaker On Flight 197 revolves around the themes of faith and unconditional love that can emerge from listening to each others’ life stories.

Icebreaker on Flight 197
Icebreaker on Flight 197

Icebreaker has all of the heart and insight you would find in any Mitch Albom novel or any of Jack Canfield’s Chicken Soup For the Soul series. To view/purchase, see below.

The scenario is a plane flight heading from Chicago to Houston. Most of the passengers live in either city. The plane is stuck on the tarmac for a long time, and tempers are festering. Marion Lightcastle is a meditation coach and spiritual counselor who takes control of the situation through involving cabin members in a game from one of her many social icebreakers repertoire.

She receives an encouraging response from most of the passengers that include: Job and Jesse, who are returning from conferences; Mark, a minister; several university students; and people from all ages and different walks of life, such as a group of African-American ladies on their way to a family reunion.

Icebreaker is a novel that explores the results when strangers open up to each other and share life’s experiences. Cathartic moments of great insight occur; as well, lesser but no less meaningful experiences are interspersed throughout to balance the pace of the novel.

The novels builds to a grand crescendo at the halfway point; by the end, it resolves to a majestic conclusion.

Author James Ryan
Author James Ryan

This first novel unfolds from a number of vignettes. The overtones and subtext are gently woven within the related vignettes. Icebreaker would be an excellent airplane read. Those reading it on a flight might carry away some of its principals because of the setting in which they are reading the book. Or, it might used on a stranded flight to test the strength of these principals by those who have read it.

You can order or view sample pages at


Q:  BY THE WAY: What is the meaning of the arch on the cover to the novel itself?

First of all, the photo is of  The Delicate Arch in Arches National Park in Utah. The photo was taken on my trip there is 2010. (The credit for the other elements at the top of these pages, such as the pen, are from Creative Commons, see bottom of page.)
Although not a part of the story, it does signify the strength and frailty of ALL of us throughout our life experiences. We are strengthened by others when they listen to us, as we empower them as we listen to them in turn. One day we, like the grand arch, stand strong and majestic; but some days we, like the arch, will naturally fall to the ground. But if we have the courage to fly through the arch before it crumbles, we will each arrive at a new level of experiential potential.

A new novel in the works for Summer 2014. It is a metaphysical mystery with the working title A Frond of the Aunties.

David and Goliath

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David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants  (2013) is Malcolm Gladwell’s latest fascinating mental inquiry. As the mavin about disparate trends and occurrences, David and Goliath delivers along the same lines as his previous works (The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, What the Dog Saw – ALL very worthwhile to peruse and ponder.).

David and Goliath
David and Goliath

First, Malcolm explains his thesis (see excerpt below), and then follows up on it by taking one topic and then linking it to to a few other seemingly unrelated topics, all to cull from them their possible interstices and illuminations about why humans might do what they do.

This time, Gladwell is focused on the impossibilities that small fish have against dominating big fish in our pond we call Earth.

At times I think that the disparate links stretch too far to illustrate the main contention here, but it does not really matter as the richness of each of the people and situations he describes here takes me deep into awareness.

I was especially blown away by Wyatt Walker’s Brer Rabbit actions in 1960’s Birmingham, Alabama, culminating in that gargantuan victory for American Civil Rights progress.

The only thing that distresses me about this book is it’s early publication date. If by chance the publisher waited, Malcolm might have added the biggest, latest case of D&G – Malala v. The Taliban – to his illustrations. Then again, maybe it’s better for its timely publication so it can lead us to Malala’s own personal experience in the book she had published in this same month.

The tale of a puny shepard-boy, tied to the topics of dyslexia, Ireland’s Troubles, ’60s decade American civil rights, and a small region in France that was a refuge for Jewish children during WWII  – just to list a few -, Gladwell send us on another wild foray that describes who & what & when & why & how power is useful and when it is subsumed by those it tries to control.

Like Malala’s account, this book is full of grand hope, vision, and power. Sadly, we all will now have to wait until Malcolm Gladwell’s next brainstorm.


Excerpt from page 7 of David and Goliath:

David and Goliath is a book about what happens when ordinary people confront giants. By “giant,” I mean powerful opponents of all kinds — from armies and mighty warriors to disability, misfortune, and oppression. Each chapter tells the story of a different person — famous or unknown, ordinary or brilliant — who has faced an outsize challenge and been forced to respond. Should I play by the rules or follow my own instincts? Shall I persevere or give up? Should I strike back or forgive?

Through these stories, I want to explore two ides. The first is that much of what we consider valuable in our world arises out of these kinds of lopsided conflicts, because the act of facing overwhelming odds produces greatness and beauty. And second, that we consistently get these kinds of conflicts wrong. We misread them.We misinterpret them. Giants are not what we think they are. The same qualities that appear to give them strength are often the sources of great weakness. And the fact of being an underdog can change people in ways that we often fail to appreciate: it can open doors and create opportunities and educate and enlighten and make possible what might otherwise have seemed unthinkable. We need a better guide to facing giants — and there is no better place to start that journey than with the epic confrontation between David & Goliath three thousand years ago in the Valley of Elah.

Seekers: Return to the Wild #2 – The Melting Sea

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The Melting Sea  (2012) is the second installment of the second Seekers series about 3 bears that travel together on a very long adventure – a black bear, a brown bear, and a polar bear. Whereas the first series focused primarily on environmental issues, this second series seems  to be more interested in the dynamic interaction between diverse groups.

The Melting Sea
The Melting Sea

I immensely enjoyed the Seekers series, and my delight is no different for the Return to the Wild follow-up series. The story has a steady progression; each incident either challenges the bears to develop new skills and outlooks for survival, or it demonstrates the use of the new skills they have acquired and integrated into their existence.

The bears’ adventures also mirror the interpersonal and social challenges that young people (and older people as well) face. An example from this book is when an adolescent rebellious bear retorts back to an older bear in a James Dean manner:

Taqqiq pulled away from her. “Leave me alone,” he growled. “You don’t know anything about me now.” (page 134)

Also, there are natural survival tips interspersed throughout, and nuggets about how different cultures or species see things differently, such as the differences within ice:

Lusa let out a snort of laughter…”It all smells the same to me.”

“Look,” Kallik said, pointing in her turn. “The ice there has a greenish tinge, right? And over there it’s white; that tells me it’s thicker. It’s really easy when you know how. And as for the scent…there’s not only ice on the wind. There’s …” She raised her snout and took in a long sniff, then froze with horror… (page 137)

Throughout this volume, the bears have to learn how to band together with other bears and pool their resources and individual cultural talents if they are to survive in this ecologically changing world.

The other theme running throughout is whether the three bears (with a fourth who has been traveling along with them as late) will split up when two of the bears return to their native habitat. Spoiler alert: They do not, as they all decide that their journeys together are not yet over – which also means that this wonderful series will continue. I have book #3 already (which I plan to get to in a few weeks), and book #4 is due out in early January 2014. Mostly likely, there will be six books again.

On another note, this story of banding together against seemingly great strife  echoes another book I am concurrently reading: Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath (watch for the posting for this next week). But then again, shouldn’t this be a central proposition to everything we do, everything that is written and handed down?

Until then, “GROWL!!!!”

(Also see Seekers: Return to the Wild #3 —  River of Lost Bears)

Something Wicked This Way Comes

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This year, as autumn has arrived, I feel the need to read/re-read books that reflect the season. As of late, several of these are Ray Bradbury titles that run the gamut of the season: Dandelion Wine, Farewell Summer, and now Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962).

Something Wicked This Way Comes
Something Wicked This Way Comes

In mid-October, with autumnal air-shifting, this book sails into the time of the season and then departs very soon after just like the flow of this tale. During the weekend before Halloween, a suspect train rides into Green Town, Illinois, bringing a nefarious group of soul-sucking characters, freaks, and the infamous Illustrated Man. And the same weekend is just before the birthdays of Will and his twin-like friend Jim. In tandem with Will’s midage father, a library janitor, the three are bound together for a wicked ride that eventually will redeem many lost souls – all the while bringing  the two boys closer to manhood.

Once again, Bradbury immerses his readers in a world full of zen-run-wild adjectives and occurrences, culminating in one last frenzied ritual that chases evil away from Green Town, at least for now.

Gone is the idyllic summery nature of Dandelion Wine, sent away are the last remnants early fall in Farewell Summer; here we deeply settle into a cool and chilly season, fraught with the potential of both death as well as redemption in Something Wicked This Way Comes.


Except 1:

First of all, it was October, a rare month for boys. Not that all months aren’t rare. But there be good and bad, as the pirates say. Take September, a bad month: school begins. Consider August, a good month: school hasn’t begun yet. July, well, July’s really fine: there’s no chance in the world for school. June, no doubting it, June’s best of all, for all the school doors spring wide and September’s a billion years away.

But you take October, now. School’s been on a month and you’re riding easier in the reins, jogging along…And if it’s around October twentieth and everything smoky-smelling and the sky orange and ash gray at twilight, it seems Halloween will never come in a fall of broomsticks and a soft flap of bedsheets around corners.

But one strange wild dark long year, Halloween cam early.

One year Halloween came on October 24, three hours after midnight.


Excerpt 2:

“But hell! You saw the mirrors! And the mirrors shoved me half in, half out the grave. Showed me all wrinkles and rot! Blackmailed Miss Foley so she joined the grand march Nowhere, joined the fools who wanted everything! Poor damned fools. So wound up with nothing like the dumb dog who dropped his bone to go after the reflection of the bone in the pond. Will, you saw: every mirror fell. Like ice in a thaw. With no rock or rifle, no knife, just my teeth, tongue and lungs, I gunshot those mirrors with pure contempt! Knocked down ten million scared fools and let the real man get to his feet! Now, on your feet, Will!” (Chapter 54)


Now, I am going to re-watch the movie version from 1983, which was so well done and which led me to this book. I do hope it holds up as well…