Wednesday, April 17, 2013

When life imitates the funny papers

I don't know how many of you read the comic strips these days, but for some reason I still read a few of them.  Some that I read are fun (Pearls Before Swine, and Pickles to name a couple), some are old habits that die hard (Prince Valiant), but others must be some type of penance or masochism (Sally Forth).

One of my self-inflicted wounds is Funky Winkerbean.  For those unaware of it, it is a long-running strip that began when the characters were in high school.  In Doonesbury-style (no, I'm not so self-destructive that I read that one), the characters have aged over the years, so that the main characters are now adults.

One thing that distinguishes Funky Winkerbean from many is its crushingly depressing subject matter.  A summary of the fun topics can be found here.  Suicide, land mines, alcoholism, date rape, to name a few.  A real morning pick-me-up.  Worst of all, the story is set in Ohio.  ;-)

The more pertinent topic to this blog, however, is about the character Les Moore (the guy on the left in the strip below.)



Over the years, readers of this fine comic strip enjoyed following Les's (first) wife, Lisa, as she struggled with breast cancer and eventually died in the comic strip in 2007. But Les is an English teacher who was also a frustrated author. Sure enough, empowered by the death of a loved one, Les wrote a book entitled Lisa's Story, chronicling his brave wife's battle. 

Hmm, that resembles a current topic for readers of this blog.  Let's see if there are any other similarities between author Les Moore of Funky and Our Hero:

- hipster goatee (check)
- glasses (not as trendy, but OK)
- pretentious (see the above comic strip -- I'd say yes)
- bullied in high school (oh yeah, mercilessly -- see the Wikipedia entry)
- book tour!  (Bingo!  In Texas, no less)
-

But Les is a bit ahead of Dreher in the promotional department.  He's already got a movie deal!! 



Straight-to-cable movie, but one can't be too fussy.  The creator then tries to get a couple of chuckles from the situation:



As one astute reviewer of comic strips says about that installment:

Ha ha, Les got a big check because his sad book about his dead wife is going to be turned into a movie on basic cable, and then he got a boner! This plot is already so much more traumatizing than I could have possibly imagined.

Sounds like something you'd read around here!

Anyhoo, if y'all will keep me posted on Dreher's hijinks (so I don't have to), I'll warn you of any more premonitions from the frames of Funky Winkerbean.



58 comments:

  1. Brilliant stuff, pik. This is off topic, but recently I was in a book store and picked up the latest volume of the Peanuts anthology. The forward was by Gary Trudeau of Doonesbury fame. First I groaned, but I started reading and it was one of the best forwards I ever read. It was a man praising a master at his own craft without any qualifications. One hundred percent sincere and not ass kissing at all. It gave me a new respect for the man, 'tho I loathe his strip.

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  2. The Comics Curmudgeon! I'd forgotten all about that site, and I'm glad to see it's still around and kicking.

    I think its basic appeal is that it applies to paid, professional artwork the sort of careful scrutiny that it ought to withstand: it's amusing how much the reality falls short of the expectation.

    Lord knows why I would find that funny.

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  3. Funky Winkerbean!! Such an insufferable strip.

    I'm fond of Dilbert, Curtis, Zits, and Baby Blues, myself.

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  4. Garry Trudeau also had the good taste to marry my TV sweetheart from back in the day. Gotta give credit where credit is due.

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  5. Although I'm reading fewer and fewer strips, I actually got pulled into Sally Forth recently. Something weird has happened to Sal. She and her family seem to have become a satire of their former selves.

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  6. For me, Sally Forth has had that strange effect where I actively dislike all of the characters, but I can't avoid reading the strip.

    Kind of like Downton Abbey, if you know what I mean.

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  7. I'm digressing, but while we're on the subject of what you find in your local papers, Dreher did post two or three items tagged about the mass murderer Gosnell.

    His focus has been on the media blackout, and this closing paragraph from his first makes clear his criticism.

    "It is impossible to overestimate how sacred the media hold some sacred cows. I don’t want coverage biased in my direction. I just want some coverage. We’d have some if newsrooms weren’t run by people believed a story that might give aid and comfort to causes favored by social and religious conservatives is therefore of lesser news value. You know?"

    But the mainstream media didn't just bury a story that would have benefitted social conservatives: the editors and journalists acted as if from a single hive mind -- with apparently no explicit coordination -- to abdicate their duty to report the news, to bury a story involving the murder of literally hundreds of babies.

    In short:

    These leading lights of a major cultural institution betrayed us to participate in a cover-up of an organized assault against children.

    Sound familiar?

    Yet Dreher's outrage isn't nearly as full-throated as it was in earlier, similar circumstances.

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  8. Bubba, N.B. the slight shift of his language over the past couple weeks. He won't use the term "same sex marriage" or "gay marriage". He steers towards describing the other side as "marriage traditionalism". The endorsement is coming soon. I can smell it.

    Speaking of endorsements, check out the log-rolling today with Damon Linker.

    Professional ex-Catholics anti-Catholics gotta stick together, as I remarked in a comment that is sure to not be approved.

    -The Man From K Street

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  9. So it turns out now that Ruthie Leming had good medical insurance for her cancer the whole time?

    (For the record, she had good insurance; her friends in charge of the fundraiser said if she didn’t need the money to pay medical bills, then take it and go on a good vacation with Mike and the girls; they just raised that money out of love.)

    Oh.

    So that means this and this were allowed to be manufactured for Dreher's commercial benefit based on a carefully managed "misunderstanding"?

    Keith

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  10. "When David Brooks wrote his column about St. Francisville and the way people of the community came together to raise money for Ruthie and do kind things for her, his combox filled up with miserabilists who bitched about health care policy, along the lines of, 'It’s the Republicans’ fault that they had to raise money to help her with her cancer bills!'"

    Then, it appears that Dreher was certainly aware that people were using his story to criticize our society and its reluctance to dive headlong into socialism -- indeed, to slander our society since it wasn't true that the town "had to" raise money to help with her medical bills.

    He could have assumed that the "miserablists" drew that conclusion because Brooks' article allowed for that conclusion to be drawn, and therefore he should have corrected the record.

    He does make it very hard indeed to extend to him the benefit of the doubt.

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  11. This story is getting so confusing. From a previous Dreher post on the fundraiser (emphasis mine):

    They raised $15,000 from ticket sales, and a lot more from the concessions (though there’s no final figure), and who knows what else from all the extra money people gave. Mama saw a lady there whose children Ruthie once taught, and who Mama knows has no money to give. But she sure came, and she sure gave.


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  12. First Dreher tells us that nothing quite works like stories when reminding us he's just like Horton Foote although without the talent, production, achievements or awards. Then he reminds us that he carries the sword of imagination just like Russell Kirk although with no original ideas of his own.

    And I think he's finally won me over. That is, and particularly after that whole Ruthie insurance subterfuge, I no longer expect anything so commonplace or vulgar as the truth from him, but rather in its place only the sword of imagination and the compelling power of stories, particularly the compelling, ongoing imaginative storybook autobiography of Dreher himself, extruded ahead of and beneath him daily wholly out of some weird inner gland the way a snail paves its own track or the way Wile E. Coyote dashes out onto an invisible extended precipice without falling.

    And now, as ubiquitous as high fructose corn syrup, a gland-track-goo supercharged with that newest secret storybook brand ingredient thelittlewayofruthieleming. Just wait till Proctor & Gamble discovers that Tide doesn't contain any universal supergoody goes with everything thelittlewayofruthieleming. Just imagine how mopey they'll be then.

    Keith

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  13. Short report from busy Pauli: I am reading the book somewhat slowly and I'm about 30% through it. Here's the sentence I just read: "After a year and a half of living in an Upper East Side studio apartment, Julie and I swam across the East River to Brooklyn to spawn." So I'm guessing we're getting close to the famous Day Rod Was There.

    I'm trying furiously to get hold of The Man From K Street about getting that video. It's possible that he is on a secret counter-terrorism mission and had to go dark for awhile. Not that his disguise would fool me; I'd know that faded bingo bag anywhere, and I keep telling him the long blonde wig doesn't match the 5 o'clock shadow.

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  14. Pauli: I commend your bravery in reading that nonsense!Dreher must be doing more spinning than your washing machine.

    Jonathan Carpenter

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  15. Keith, the Dreher piece you cite is both the longest piece of book-pimping I've ever seen, and an unintentionally funny self-contradiction.

    The self-contradiction comes from its being multiple quoted lectures-within-a-lecture, with all the usual Dreher name-dropping and opaquely wordy prose (Paging Strunk & White!). Yet it ends with the conclusion (after a final book plug):

    In sum, we need fewer lectures and sermons, and more poetry and imagination.

    Ha! For starters, Dreher could have spared us one mega-meta-lecture by simply not posting that piece.

    P.S. The Dreher piece begins with a long and dense passage from an essay on how "conservatism has lost its soul" and concentrated on economics to the exclusion of spiritual values. Dreher then asks "How are you going to sum up this kind of thing in something that can be said on Hannity?"

    Andrew Breitbart could. And he did, in five words: "Politics is downstream from culture."

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  16. Pik,

    I think you point out something very important about Dreher here. At first glance, Pauli's paradigm comparing Dreher to the emperor without clothes seems completely spot on. But then you ask yourself, why do all these lonely hausfraus and autistic professors alike continue to flock to him, particularly the intellectuals who should be just as able to make the criticism you make as you do? The answer I think is that the emperor turns out not to be in fact entirely naked - he's actually a coy cross-dresser wearing a teensy little thong instead.

    What Dreher is peddling in the guise of his obviously self-contradictory pseudo-intellectual mumbo-jumbo is instead a generic self-help pabulum, admittedly one that the pros like Tony Robbins and others would sneer at and disavow, but a dog's breakfast that nonetheless still clearly fits a self-help profile and performs the self-help function for his acolytes. Self-help pabulum doesn't have to make rational sense, it only has to satisfy an emotional need, thus his reliance on the standards of "the power of stories" and "the sword of the imagination" instead of rationality or truth. The self-help function for Dreher is of course that of hanging a pork chop around his neck in a sealed room filled with selected puppies, no pants pulling down puppy admitted. What the puppies get from slurping up his regurgitated gobbet stew in turn only they know, but God help them.

    Keith

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  17. What they are getting, and wanting, is the message "you can have it both ways". you can be a conservative that liberals love. You can reason your way to a place where you offend no one and everybody likes you -- you just have to be clever enough and sensitive enough. You can be the small town guy with the big city ways. It's allllll good. Except for catholics.

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  18. Pikku, it's not just Breitbart. Andrew Klavan has written about how we must "retake the culture." Beyond the wit and clarity of his writing, the biggest difference is that Klavan doesn't abandon the political principles of the free market and limited government in the process.

    About our needing fewer writers, if Dreher includes himself, how likely is it that he'll heed his own advice, to "do" more and "write" less?

    But maybe he's not including himself: his important message to the suburban masses would be more easily heard if there were less competition.

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  19. It's also Mark Steyn, who advises aspiring writers:

    Don't just write there, do something. Learn how to shingle a roof, or tap-dance, or raise sled dogs. Because if you don't do anything, you wind up like Obama and [Howard] Fineman – men for whom words are props and codes and metaphors but no longer expressive of anything real.

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  20. BTW, my friend Michael Liccione recently cited a Dreherrian excerpt in a Facebook post -- favorably -- and I couldn't resist responding a bit, well, snarkily. Dreher chimed in with an insult or two. Michael had tagged Dreher, and my curiosity overcame me, so I clicked on the link and checked out the Dreherrian Facebook page. It was ALL about his book, his book, and more about his book. Ugh. Now I don't feel so bad about posting puppy pictures all the time.

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  21. Sadly, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming fell from number 26 on the NYT nonfiction best seller list last week to number 28 this week, while the Duck Dynasty boys moved up to number 21. Seems the free market can still sift the wheat from the pretentious chaff, no matter how furiously the chaff tries to push its pretensions. Expect even more desperately furious pretentious pushing the more TMFKS's earlier grim analysis continues to sink its fangs in deeper and deeper. We may be seeing the high water mark having come and gone, with the tide already turning and running out.

    Keith

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  22. Dang. I guess staying in Louisiana instead of going up north to those high-falutin' big yankee cities really paid off for those duck people.

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  23. Pauli,

    There's absolutely nothing that creepy parasite won't try to coopt.

    Of course if

    He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man

    why does this sweet girl up top, only in her mid thirties, have so many premature and unnecessary gray hairs for someone still so young?

    Maybe it's because she's found out too late that beyond her children she's become doomed to be nothing more than mother-beard to a boy-child whose eyes don't smile, who only opens his mouth and shows his teeth like a dog, who finds food erotic and sex repulsive (remember she's in her prime while he's now probably working out the theology of Viagra between sinus naps) and who only seems to find what manhood he can scrape together for himself in facial hair and exotic religions.

    Keith

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  24. I think we might be getting a little hysterical here. That said, congratulations are in order for the term "mother-beard", assuming you invented it? i think you did, if only bc it seems like something I would have run across by now. Freud-worthy.

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  25. Hysterical? If you say so Kathleen, but he sure looks a lot like a "Ortho-dixie" Marshall Applewhite to me.

    Keith

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  26. Is that Dreher's wife in that pic? She's very pretty.

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  27. Yeah, mother-beard is a choice term. I like it. The dot-com is still available, Keith--just a PSA.

    Sometimes I really feel that, for being born the same year as Dreher and having so many of the same life experiences as he has, the two of us have continuously been moving in opposite directions on about everything. His choice of eyeglass frames, for example, is just one more small but striking example of this. I have frameless lenses now, "drill-mounts" as they're called, like Sarah Palin wears. And when he walks in the room he might as well be shouting "HEY! I have GLASSES!!"

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  28. I've just seen so many of those same soulless looking gape-mouthed pictures of him and then I ran across that one with her and I was shocked that she looked as old or older than he was, even though she's what 9 years younger?. Like she'd stumbled into marrying Dorian Gray or something. Just struck me as telling of so many things.

    Keith

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  29. Is that Dreher's wife in that pic? She's very pretty.

    I suppose. Chacun a sa bĂȘtise. It's just that, while I know he wants to depict her as a iron pillar, the pluperfect Helpmate of the Great Writer, through the prism of Ray's word processor she comes across to me as a co-dependent ninny. Not the take-it-al dente, fiery gentlewoman that TMFKS would ever seek (and indeed found) as his spouse.

    All: apologies for my slowness in uploading the very brief clip of Our Working Boy reading from his magnum opus. Things have been busy, technically difficult, and frankly I wonder if it won't be disappointingly anticlimactic: all you'll have is 15 seconds or so of a guy speaking in a monotone. But persevere I shall.

    -TMFKS

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  30. I guess being married to an emotional vampire is aging.

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  31. http://www.grandmothersbuttonsblog.com/?p=1535

    errr, see the photo showing "Ruthie's Rum Cake"....is this a southern thing, to make and serve a dead person's recipes? Or does that only happen in very special places like starfrancisvilliciana.

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  32. While we're in this sort of mood . . . I keep wondering about what the Drehers do. (Or, perhaps more specifically, what Rod Dreher does. It could well be that the Mrs is a doer -- somebody has got to keep the house operational, after all.)

    In all the Dreher blog output over the years, I don't recall much of what Dreher himself does for vocation or avocation, other than spin "words [into] props and codes and metaphors" as in the Steyn quote I posted above.

    And that may be one of the striking differences between the big city life and the small town. From my old small town experience (and assuming things to have changed there much less than in the cities), one thing about a small town is that people there were doers. There weren't a lot of priceless-afternoons-with-Dame-Beer going on in small town life, because the economy and the culture had things that needed to be done, and couldn't be hired out.

    So, if it looked like Ruthie needed money for cancer treatment, the people of the town did something about it -- not just ruminate on the problem. It wasn't anything out of character for them to do that, or for Ruthie to bear up as she did, but that is what people did there, especially people in a church community. (And that's what people in my hometown did, and indeed what people in the big city where I live now do -- as borne out by my own experience on the receiving end within the last year.) I don't mean that this kind of thing is not special or heroic, they are -- and stories about such heroism and love ought to be told, and told often. I hope Dreher's book does that, and I'll wait for Pauli's full blown review of the Ruthie book.

    But because Dreher himself doesn't appear to be any sort of a doer (come on, Rod, build something, or go fishing, or play the guitar, something -- anything), but just a spinner of words-as-props for his own benefit, I have the sense that the book is something between the long-awaited Autobiography of Rod Dreher and Dances with Wolves (you know -- enlightened educated man is attracted by a primitive culture and lifestyle, and lives among them for awhile).

    P.S. If I referred to something that my wife and I did as going somewhere to "spawn", she'd slap me in the face, and rightfully so.

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    1. I think Rod raised chickens.

      Delete
    2. There is a part in the book where he writes an article for the local paper to help save a black church from an evil land developer. That makes his family realize that his weirdness as a young dude who likes school better than hunting may be of some use in the world.

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    3. I just worry about someone who says that a restaurant recommendation is a favor of a sort that "if I have been done a kinder turn by anyone, I can't remember when it was", after an entire town put on a fundraiser for someone in need in his family. That doesn't exhibit a solid sense of the value of doing something beyond merely consuming and observing.

      (Keith will especially enjoy the photos in the linked Dreher post.)

      Delete
    4. Pik,

      That is indeed the face of someone whose libido drives him mercilessly into the arms of some hot sliced cow snout.

      But it was this previous post that's convinced me that any IRS auditor would immediately correct Dreher's official occupation to "post-intellectual hot mess":

      ...The questions I keep thinking about are, Even though I know the theory, why did it take a story — that is, seeing what happened to my sister, and how the townspeople responded to it — to make me change my life? And what implications does that have for my writing going forward?

      Stop the presses! What will be the implications for Rod's writing be going forward!?! Can we even live our lives without knowing hour to hour? Luckily for me, I think I already know. To paraphrase an old golf joke, I'm thinking for the foreseeable future it's going to be hit the keyboard, drag Ruthie, hit the keyboard, drag Ruthie...

      But Kathleen is right. That NPR thing is written in nothing but minor chords. Those people will always be unfailingly polite to the Harry Potter sipping the strawberry ale because that's the way they were raised, but Dreher will always be nothing more than a different sort of one-legged stripper thereabouts. If he doesn't return to traditional decency pretty darn quick and let Ruthie rest in peace the polite smiles will only get more and more strained as he starts looking more and more like a necrophile. When he does, though, he drops the only real contemporary connection with the place. His sister's dead. His dad isn't doing so well. His mother is up there in years, too. Notice that his brother-in-law is nowhere to be seen in the public Ruthie stuff and has had nothing whatsoever to say, and he owns the property next to Ma & Pa Dreher. Maybe this Iraqi veteran fire fighter is just as timidly tongue-tied as a 2-year-old little girl. Or maybe he's something else. So who will Ma & Pa really leave the family Dreher land remaining to? Rod? Maybe. But they don't have to. And the only possible word for their comments about his book so far is "grudging".

      Kathleen's right. Dreher's at the end of the line, but that line ends in a dead end alley like that parade band in Animal House, crumpling his trombone slide into a hard brick wall of no way out. So Paulie is probably right too. Only a fool would bet on him being there a year from now.

      Keith

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    5. Oh my, Keith. The piece you link to is going to take some study. One thing he'll never be accused of is being terse.

      But I did see one passage that will be entertaining for the crowd here:

      I’m not the one to do a book telling people what they ought to do, at least not credibly.

      That's a good one, Rod!!

      But at least there may be hope, from this later passage:

      At this stage in my life, I need to think less and do more.

      Good idea.

      Delete
    6. what pray tell is "hot sliced cow snout"...on second thought pray NOT tell. please

      Delete
  33. i listened to the NPR interview. Dreher's arguments are as bad as ever, but i'm beginning to feel sorry for the guy. He has a flat affect and sounds depressed. also been yammering on about having "mono", which is the vaguest diagnosis going. Orthodoxy was his golden ticket and it failed him, i think. the hometown return is some sort of last ditch effort to retrieve whatever it is he feels he has lost. the dead sister is totally beside the point. His refusal to grow up is finally backfiring.

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  34. Ah, THAT mono

    K

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  35. Pauli, I wrote a kind of book review. I only mention it because I thought you would find the drawing I did a little amusing.

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  36. The natives begin circling and weighing Your Working Boy for the pot.

    Or, you know, maybe it's just the mysterious paradox of things and stuff.

    Keith

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    1. Keith, thanks. Commenter philadelphialawyer pretty much sums it up, and better than I could. I'm halfway through the book now, and the best thing about the book is that it confirms the fact for me that Rod Dreher has nothing to say, draws weird conclusions from everyday occurrences and thinks there is some deep paradox about his every whimsical thought. You should always eat local food, except when you don't for artistic reasons, you should always expose child abuse in your church, except when you don't because you got in trouble the last time you did it, you should always run toward the story, unless it's dangerous and your wife wants a croissant, you should stay in your hometown, unless you are called to go journalism job jumping for 20 years, etc.

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    2. Dreher's response to philadelphialawyer is a new low: "I've done about all I can do to help you."

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    3. Yeah, I lol'ed at that. I guess philadelphialawyer should be more grateful.

      The book is full of many small weirdnesses. At one point during Ruthie's decline he writes that Ruthie and her mother both burst into tears "for no apparent reason." Hello? Did you forget this was a book about someone with terminal cancer? Has he never been around anyone else who was dying?

      Delete
  37. Oengus, is he a lefty? You drew his head like a skull. Like he has a Yorick syndrome going on, with a hairdo recalling Linus from Peanuts.

    Your review is almost exactly like the book. It's supposed to be about the book, but you just talk mostly about stuff that happened to you. The book is supposed to be about Ruthie dying, but it's mainly about Rod's life and ordeals that he went though.

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    1. But isn't oengus's point that real grief is so overwhelming that you cannot just run off and write a book about it? Also that it happens to everyone. And most of us do not turn it into a grand opera.

      Delete
    2. Yes, Diane, that is Oengus's point and it is well made. Oengus's always gets his point across. The content of Oengus's "book review" is dead serious, but the mode is sort of funny since he admits he hasn't read the book.

      Rod turns everything into a "grand opera". I'm reminded of the time that he flipped out in a blog entry because the guy working in the liquor store didn't understand what he wanted.

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    3. I don't know if Rod is left handed.

      If I were Rod's publicist, I would advise him to let the book promotion cool down a little. Give it a rest for a time.

      my drawing was my first attempt at doing a caricature.

      Delete
    4. Seeing that you have both a soul and a conscience, I can't imagine you as Rod's publicist.

      Delete
  38. That post is painful, but it cracks me up that there is an ad at the bottom: "BREATHE CATHOLIC at Christendom College. Learn more about the exciting High School, Graduate and Study Abroad programs."

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  39. I've always read his name to myself as "dray-er". But listening to the NPR drove home the point that his surname is actually prounounced "drear". Now, Ray was named Ray, and chose the name "Rod" later in life. So when spoken his name sounds like "rod rear", since the two D's tend to elide .... wondering if he thought this through. so to speak.

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  40. I've been up and down on my opinion of the possible success of Little Way in the market. Then, I read Rod's blog where he quotes from the book with some follow-up and it elicited the following response from a reader:

    "This made me think of that scene from Terms of Endearment where Emma is talking to her boys, and telling them goodbye and the oldest is being really difficult because he is going to miss her."

    Terms of Endearment

    Wow, it could be big. So much for he-man religion.





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  41. A tad off-topic, but ... re that whole bouillabaisse story: I cry BS. I'm not saying it didn't happen, but I'm having a hard time believing that a south Louisiana woman would be so insistent on "simple country cooking" and so averse to anything the least bit exotic.

    We lived in Louisiana for three years -- in north Louisiana, but in a town (Natchitoches) that was closer culturally to south Louisiana. (It had been founded by French people; all the old families were French; the older downtown buildings had "iron lace" balconies, just like in New Orleans; etc. etc.)

    Say what you will about Louisiana (and I could say a lot, believe me)...the food is fabulous. Even the food at the divey little holes-in-the-wall. And, while you can definitely get "country cooking" in Louisiana, it doesn't tend to be very "simple." Louisianans love their seasonings! They've got spices, and they know how to use them.

    Moreover...they've got gumbo. And what is gumbo? It's Poor Man's Bouillabaisse. It's how the French settlers of Louisiana made bouillabaisse when they couldn't get the classic ingredients for bouillabaisse but they could get shrimp, oysters, and crawfish. (And okra for the roux.)

    You gonna tell me that Ruthie never tasted gumbo? She lived in south Louisiana, capital of spicy Cajun cuisine, but she subsisted entirely on the kind of "simple country cookin'" you'd expect to find in the Appalachian hill country? You gonna tell me she wouldn't look at bouillabaisse and think, "Hmmm, it's like gumbo, but with fish and clams"? I mean, seriously??

    Another thing. St. Francisville is just half an hour away from Baton Rouge, I'm told. Baton Rouge -- state capital, university town, fairly large and cosmopolitan city. I'm sure there are tons of good restaurants in Baton Rouge, including French ones. I am having a hard time believing that someone who lived so close to Baton Rouge -- and not all that far from N'Orlins, either -- was such a clueless redneck hick that she'd never been exposed to any cuisine more complex than country fried steak.

    Something smells about this story. And it ain't the bouillabaisse.

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  42. A tad off-topic, but ... re that whole bouillabaisse story: I cry BS. I'm not saying it didn't happen, but I'm having a hard time believing that a south Louisiana woman would be so insistent on "simple country cooking" and so averse to anything the least bit exotic.

    We lived in Louisiana for three years -- in north Louisiana, but in a town (Natchitoches) that was closer culturally to south Louisiana. (It had been founded by French people; all the old families were French; the older downtown buildings had "iron lace" balconies, just like in New Orleans; etc. etc.)

    Say what you will about Louisiana (and I could say a lot, believe me)...the food is fabulous. Even the food at the divey little holes-in-the-wall. And, while you can definitely get "country cooking" in Louisiana, it doesn't tend to be very "simple." Louisianans love their seasonings! They've got spices, and they know how to use them.

    Moreover...they've got gumbo. And what is gumbo? It's Poor Man's Bouillabaisse. It's how the French settlers of Louisiana made bouillabaisse when they couldn't get the classic ingredients for bouillabaisse but they could get shrimp, oysters, and crawfish. (And okra for the roux.)

    You gonna tell me that Ruthie never tasted gumbo? She lived in south Louisiana, capital of spicy Cajun cuisine, but she subsisted entirely on the kind of "simple country cookin'" you'd expect to find in the Appalachian hill country? You gonna tell me she wouldn't look at bouillabaisse and think, "Hmmm, it's like gumbo, but with fish and clams"? I mean, seriously??

    Another thing. St. Francisville is just half an hour away from Baton Rouge, I'm told. Baton Rouge -- state capital, university town, fairly large and cosmopolitan city. I'm sure there are tons of good restaurants in Baton Rouge, including French ones. I am having a hard time believing that someone who lived so close to Baton Rouge -- and not all that far from N'Orlins, either -- was such a clueless redneck hick that she'd never been exposed to any cuisine more complex than country fried steak.

    Something smells about this story. And it ain't the bouillabaisse.

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