bookmark: life expectancy

Life Expectancy – by Dean Koontz

It is a pretty rare occasion that I get wrapped up enough in a book to want to do nothing but read it, but this book fell into that category. I had read a blurb about the book that piqued my interest. It said that the main character’s grandfather made a death-bed prediction of five terrible days that his grandson would experience in his life, and had made this prediction at the same time that his grandson was being born. That short summary was enough for me to check the library for an available copy, and once into the book, the story just pulled me along.

Dean Koontz is a well-known author who has written many books. I must confess that I have not read any of his books before this (though I do seem to recall possibly reading one long ago, but would not swear to that) but will definitely seek out his other books when the urge hits for a really good story. I would expect his other books to be as good.

Likable characters – even the bad guys had their good points – and a fast moving plot kept me glued to the book. A appealing life’s philosophy added to the appeal of the book. And, hoping not to be a spoiler here, an ending that didn’t disappoint helped a lot. To finish a book in two days is practically unheard of for me, but that’s how much I enjoyed the book. I better allow for that when I read another book by Mr. Koontz.

Finished 7/28/19

The Marvelous Misadventures of Ingrid Winter – by J.S. Drangsholt

I would prefer to not keep company with the main character of this book, nor anyone within her business sphere. If you are into addle-brained, neorotic, self-centered people, you may like her, but I’ll take a pass. There were too many times reading this book when I wanted to reach out and slap Ingrid Winter up the side of the head in a most likely failed attempt to wake her up out of her self-absorbed existence.

On the other hand, the book was easy to read. The educational system political machinations that form a large part of the plot to this book surely come from the author’s personal experiences as a teacher and ring true, the same as office politics in any business. In the end, I did finish the book, so I guess it wasn’t too terrible sticking it out.

To each his own, I suppose. Maybe I’m not Norwegian enough to appreciate the story, which was originally written in Norwegian. Let’s mark it up to that, rather than weariness of reading about a woman who will probably never get her shit together in life.

Finished 7/26/19

how long before?

It’s not like it was a new thought, but it hit me pretty hard. I was thinking, hmmm, my mother died at the age of seventy-two. If I were to die at that same age, that would mean that I only have three years left on this earth. Holy Shit! Three years? Do you know how short three years is? And at my age, there’s no guarantee that I have even that long. Let’s assume that I live to eighty-two, like my dad did. That still means only thirteen more years – better, but no brass ring. So what do you do with a thought like that?

First, I’ve already accepted the idea that I’m going to die. That was a tough one, and by “accepted” I mean that I understand the reality of it, not a willingness to go gentle into that good night. No one gets out of here alive. But that acceptance doesn’t mean, “Ho-hum, I guess I’ll just sit here waiting for the ol’ Grim Reaper.” No, it’s more a slap upside the head that says “Hey, DO SOMETHING!”

Why is it that the bucket list gets longer as life gets shorter? I want to do things now that I never wanted to do before, and that includes things that I haven’t a prayer in hell of doing, given the aging of my abilities. Even given the physical ability to do something, you must consider whether you really have enough life left to do some of those things, particularly when it comes to monetary investments. No sense buying a grand piano because the likelihood of becoming a concert pianist in your lifetime is – let’s face it – impossible. However, I would never piss on someone’s dream to accomplish that goal, even at my age, but I might suggest just renting a piano, or buying an inexpensive keyboard.

Anyways, it’s back to actually doing something instead of griping about the limitations imposed by age, and realizing that the limitation isn’t so much your age, but your attitude. I guess mine can use a little adjustment.

bookmark: will not attend

Will Not Attend: Lively Stories of Detachment and Isolation – by Adam Resnick

Okay, I laughed out loud while reading most of this book. Mr. Resnick is a bit of a misanthrope, and I can relate. I particularly like the bit about going to Disney World. However, his description of the family life of his youth left me thinking that no person should have to grow up like that, and that it explained a lot about his current attitude towards life and people. That chapter in the book was depressing and, while it provided relevant background, it was in no way humorous. Once again, I was reminded of how fortunate I have been in much of my life. Still, the rest of the book was snarky and funny. If you’ve got an attitude, too, you might appreciate it.

Finished 7/3/19

bookmark: the spectator bird

The Spectator Bird – by Wallace Stegner

I really enjoyed this book. It was like one old man talking talking to another – the author to me. I fully sympathized with the story. There’s not much good to say about getting older, and Mr. Stegner had a handle on that. I’m not sure if this book would appeal to a younger person. You really almost have to have experienced some of the things he writes about to fully appreciate it.

But more than some grouchy old man complaining about aging, the story is about the constant search for ones self. Sometimes it feels like you are going through life like some “spectator bird,” watching your life pass buy like a remote observer rather than as a direct participant. Feeling like so much of your life has been lived by default instead of by purpose and choice. Constantly searching for the meaning of your life, and then having to come to grips with the likelihood that you will never find that meaning.

Truth be told, the meaning has been there all along, but for some people it is extremely difficult to see. Even catching a glimpse of that meaning from time to time does not satisfy that desire, that longing, to feel like you have had a purpose in this world, other than the responsibilities you have taken on in the course of living. Perhaps they are one and the same, but I can relate to the author’s feeling that someplace, sometime, one will discover the meaning of ones life, and that the search will likely never end.

Finished 6/29/19

bookmark: but enough about me

But Enough About Me: A Memoir – by Burt Reynolds with Jon Winokur

Sometimes I wonder why I like reading biographies and autobiographies. Perhaps it is just human nature since so many others have the same proclivity. The thing that interests me, though, is not the sensational. You won’t find me reading some tell-all book written to satisfy the author’s need to flame everyone in his/her life. What I like is the insight into the humanity of the subject, what the basic nature of that person was, or is.

Burt Reynolds was one of those people who always seemed to be having a good time. In fact, he usually was, though he went through the usual sort of problems that actors seem to encounter – bad agents, bad money managers and management, bad relationships. But what is interesting is the perspective he is able to give it all at this point in his life, which was actually quite near the end. That is the time when the value of every occurrence in a life is able to be compared to the value of the whole.

If you read this book do yourself a favor and watch Burt’s last movie, The Last Movie Star. While not a biographical movie, it feels like it may not be far off and can give a little insight into how an aging movie star can feel.

This was a good book to read in bits and snatches as it is organized that way. If you were, or are, a fan of Burt’s, it gives a good look into his life and is worth reading.

Finished 6/15/19

The Oxford Book of American Short Stories – Edited by Joyce Carol Oates

This was an excellent selection of American short stories. A few I had read before, but for the most part the authors were unknown to me. Ever actually read the story of “Rip Van Winkle” by Washington Irving? It’s in the book, as well as stories by Poe, Hemingway, Twain and other well-known authors. But the best part was finding historically important authors I had never heard of before.

There were a few stories that did nothing for me, but so what? It’s a short story. I can waste the time. Some stories had more impact than others. Some seemed more personally relevant. Some were interesting because they were about things beyond my personal experience. This is what makes a collection like this worth reading, and it is. It’s not a short book, but it is obviously easily read in bits and pieces.

Finished 6/14/19

bookmark: good omens

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch – by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

This is just about what you would expect from these authors. Fantastical storytelling with humor and, in the end, a moral. A story of the forces of Heaven and Hell coming together to, well, actually, to thwart what they should be instigating.

One on hand we have the Anti-Christ living as a normal eleven year old boy and his relationship with his friends. Then we also have Crowley, Hell’s angel, and Aziraphale, Heaven’s angel, involved in what could almost be called a “buddy” story. There’s also witches and witch hunters, myriad others, and, of course, the impending apocalyptic end of the world.

I’m not sure who contributed what, but Gaiman and Pratchett have come up with a story that keeps you turning the pages. It may not find a place on the top 100 books to read in a lifetime, but I found it to be well-written with humor and style. Your mileage may vary.

Finished 4/9/19

bookmark: carrying albert home

Carrying Albert Home: The Somewhat True Story of a Man, His Wife, and Her Alligator – by Homer Hickam

Briefly, this is the story of a husband and wife taking the wife’s pet alligator back to where he came from and where he belongs. What it is really about is a woman who is not happy with her life, her marriage or her husband and is searching for something more meaningful. It’s also about a husband that takes more grief than a normal human should have to take.

The title of this book claims that it is a “somewhat true story.” Well, if even half of this story is true then the couple has more trials and tribulations on their voyage than Odysseus. While I believe that this author may have been inspired by some family story, it goes far beyond that. So if you decide to read this book, suspend your judgment and treat the story as the work of fiction that it is.

The trip takes the couple from the coal mines of West Virginia to Florida, and eventually back to West Virginia. It’s episodic in nature, with the couple going from one sub-plot to another, almost like a bunch of short stories strung together by the overarching theme of the trip. It was an entertaining book, but towards the end I was getting a bit impatient for it to end, mostly because I was so tired of the character of the wife.

For an amusing road story, it was okay.

Finished 3/23/19

bookmark: so, you want to be canadian

So, You Want to Be Canadian: All About the Most Fascinating People in the World and the Magical Place They Call Home – by Kerry Colburn and Rob Sorensen

No, I don’t want to be a Canadian, though it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. It’s just that I was in a relationship with a Canadian for nine years and came to learn about many things Canadian. I kind of wanted to round out my knowledge with this book. In many ways I did.

This is not a book on how to apply for immigration into Canada, something that is a little more difficult to do than one might think, if one is a middle-class, white old man. Rather, it is a humorous look at the typical behaviors of Canadians and the bits of knowledge that those who are not Canadian may be unaware.

As it is, I already know more than most U.S. citizens, and can call a sofa a chesterfield as well as anything else, and am not baffled by an electric bill being called a hydro bill. And skookum has become a true part of my vocabulary.

It’s a fun read and short. Learn about our neighbors to the north. You might appreciate them more.

Finished 3/9/19