kenyon ledford

Is this a novel or a science textbook for Harvard Oceanic students? I quit reading before the end because I was afraid there was going to be a test.

Richard Russo has waited almost 20 years to write a sequel about the  people who were already old when he wrote this book's predecessor, "Nobody's Fool." At first I was loathe to read this because, you know, really old people gross me out. Then I realized I'm at about the same age as the people from the first book and thought, "Ah, what the heck." I'm glad I read it!

Russo doesn't allow his characters to make noises while they eat or sport huge liver spots. Probably because he stirs things up with a young ex-con, some new flashbacks, and killed off enough of the former stars that this book not only retains its freshness, but so do the surviving characters. Not only does this sequel live up to the prequel, it is the book of the year. Whatever year it came out. Whatever, just call it the Book of the Century so that everyone can be represented. Just don't expect this brand to become a trilogy!

                  When I insist that children require a mother AND a father 
               I get slammed for being a homophobic bigot. William Golding 
               writes a novel about it and is hailed as a literary genius. Huh.

Sidi Hamet is a camel trader who is very unlucky. But his luck is about to change because Captain James Riley, who is also very unlucky, and his ship, The Commerce, have just shipwrecked on the African Coast. Suddenly, Sidi has a batch of slaves and Riley and his men have a master. The moral of this real-life account is that it you ever wreck your ship and get rescued by Muslims, kill yourself.

King's account is taken from Captain James Riley's account, which had been published under the title, "Sufferings in Africa." Which is like being a POW in a Japanese prison camp and saying of your experience, "The food was cold."

How much sympathy can you really have for the Joads? They spend the first 
part of the story shooting off their mouths about going out to discover paradise, 
then point their jalopy straight for Bakersfield. I tried to tell them, "Go to Oxnard 
before the Mexicans get there!" but it was too late.

This displaced American family spends the rest of the time getting kicked out 
of camping spots while their group and car scatter parts along the highways.
At one point, Pa Joad is so frazzled that when Woody Guthrie strolls by singing 
"This land is your land..." Joad grabs a discarded banjo and slams it over his head.

If you're having a hard time starting a diet, read this book. The pages reek with 
the stench of animal guts, moldy side meat, people gnawing cooked animal bones 
for the hairy gristle, and sipping old warm milk from discarded tin cans. So vivid was 
the writing I found myself washing my hands each time I'd flipped through just five pages.

Things only turn more frustrating for the Joads in the sequel, "Grapes of Wrath 2" 
when Tom Joad, finding his way from the coast, staggers back to the family and 
shouts, "Hey! Theys loads of Japs back there and the gom'ments just givin' 'em they 
own camps! Ain't that just a kick in the balls?"

James Burke has a lot of liberal opinions. How do I know? Because he makes his main character, Dave Robicheaux spout them all book long.

No matter what situation takes place in this story, Detective Dave Robicheaux has to pause and pontify about the idiocy of conservatives. I wasn't the only on getting annoyed either. Even one of the bad guys had to interrupt Dave at one point to say, "Save the sermon, buddy."

People spend so much time telling activist performers to "Shut up and act," or "Shut up and sing," It's funny that the book was about a singing escaped con. As a fan of James Lee Burke I gotta say this book would have been much more enjoyable if James would just shut up and write.

                    spoiler alert! spoiler alert! spoiler alert!

         Hippy, keep your dog on a leash and he'll last longer next time!
         Other than that, great, captivating book.

                   Umm, where the hell was the balloon in this book?

There were three things I hated in school: chemistry; math; and science.

This book is about three things: chemistry; math; and science. Fortunately,

the author had the good grace to add an astronaut and strand him on

the red planet, just in case the reader wasn't enthralled by the same subjects

as the author.

You may find yourself trying to follow the equations and keep up with

the measurements as you read along. I finally just said to the author the same

thing I ended up telling my teachers: “Screw it, I'll take your word for it, bub.”

I mean, why let my lack of education get in the way of a story about some

poor schlep trying to MacGyver his way off of Mars while the author keeps

zapping him with myriad problems, probabilities, and accidents?

The author may be a typically boring lecturer, but he's one hell of a story


Front cover to back, this story burns, but the author didn't strike the match.

No, Steinbeck dowsed his characters with gasoline, then left a fake golden Zippo

laying around over which they could argue or fight.

Post-WW2 Monterey, California. What Steinbeck called the “Paisanos” back then,

I call “Homeboys” these days. Flip the pages as these hapless slobs give you a lesson

in nobility. They teach it one gallon, by one gallon, of cheap wine at a time.

Read this book under a circle of sunlight on a chilly day.

Under a full moon on a dusty porch near a tiki torch.

On your favorite soiled and saggy mattress with your dogs curled around you,

read this book. Have a fruit jar handy to slog back some more wine while reading.

Don't read Tortilla Flat if you're sleepy. Your reading candle may just tip over

while you're snoring.

Michener makes bullfighting sound as American as...back-alley cockfighting, but does so with the appreciation of a baseball fan talking about the art of bunting. He brings the horns and throws you the cape. What you choose to do with them is your choice. 

Of course, he'll take you back to the time when dirt was invented in order to tell this tale. Then he weaves in an American writer who's more Mexican than Norteno, a redneck Okie oil billionaire and his restless daughter, a crooked bullfighting critic, and adds in the ancient gods, lopped heads rolling down pyramids, the bloody revolutions, glorious cathedrals and then packs it all into a an old beat-up Chevy station wagon and sends you back home to talk about what you did on your vacation.

What I did on MY vacation? I read a Michener book. Best vacation ever!

A bitter, bad-assed dad, home from WW2, chain smoking and drinking, slaps the mom's divorce lawyer around, bullies the mom, and then runs out on his son. Oh, but he comes tip-toeing back...well, for him. Watch a blue-collar town decay around a father and son rebuilding their relationship.

I don't know about you, but if someone asked me if I wanted to go to the 

moon, and it wasn't Jackie Gleeson, I would probably think that that person 

eats dinner at night with talking roosters and no cutlery. If I was intrigued, 

and asked "How?" (to get to the moon, not eat dinner with talking roosters, 

as that one is too easy,) and they said, "Duh, we'll ride a giant bullet." I 

would answer in the affirmative, and then give them a fake name and phone 

number and be on my way. However, that about sums up Verne's premise for 

"Moon Voyage."

You have to love Verne's view of the American gun culture even 150 years 

ago. This Frenchy uses subtle English humor (irony) to ridicule America's love 

of shooting and blowing up things. In fact, the first few chapters of this book 

were worth the price of admission: The cannon makers and explosive makers 

during the Civil War are devastated when the war ends, and hold an 

emergency meeting basically titled: "What can We Shoot, Now?"

I wish Verne was alive today to see America's gun culture! Anyway, the 

president of "The Gun Club" comes up with the idea of shooting a cannonball 

to the moon, until something better, say another war, comes along. 

Everyone thinks this is a brilliant idea, but then a Frenchman arrives from 

his native country, (France,) and demands to be allowed to ride the missile 

to the moon.

Of course, everybody goes crazy at this bit of genius, and they decide to 

make the cannonball a conical bullet capable of fitting three people. Why 

three? Because the Frenchman somehow convinces the president of the gun 

club and his bitter rival that they should join him! (cuckoo...)

I will not ruin the rest of the book, should there be more people reading this 

than have inhabited the moon since Verne's book. I will say that there are so 

many pages  devoted to mathematic calculations and scientific equations, 

that at times it reads as an old textbook, rather than novel.

Reviewed by Kenyon Ledford




The God of Small Things: Arundhati Roy 

This is a beautiful book about big things smashing little things. The book is deliciously summed in the opening paragraph where the author describes the little Indian town where, dissolute bluebottles hum vacuously  in the fruity air, stun themselves against clear windowpanes and die, fatly baffled in the sun. 

Which is what all of your favorite characters in this book will do, as well. If she had just added, "The End," the story would have lost nothing, but she would have lost a fat book advance. 

And so she continues through the pages, the goddess of little characters crushing the god of small things, and doing it all so prettily. Reading this book and turning its pages is like watering flowers that never stop dying.


NOBODY'S  FOOL:  Richard Russo


Donald, "Sully" Sullivan limps. He should, he's sixty-freaking years old. His landlady is eighty-freaking 

years old. Her furniture limps. Jimeny Christmas, everything in this book has a limp: Sully's lawyer 

limps around on a wooden leg, his helper, "Rub," limps along with half a brain, his truck limps along 

with only five cylindars, his son limps around with a wounded ego attatched to him, (Sully's ex,) and 

what doesn't limp either is limp, or is battered, scattered, tattered, dying or dead. Except for the 

prose. And the story. And the dialouge. 

And though the characters are all beat up and need a ride 

everywhere they go they manage to bull, claw, cloy and worm their way into your memory and heart 

and pocketbook. (Well, I tried to lend "Rub" a couple bucks for a "Big 'ol doughnut."

This book reads like an old truck chugging downhill without brakes, smells like old socks and 

mothballs, and feels like bruises. I wisht I used a star rating system so I could give it about a million of '




 Crime and Punishment: Fyodor Dostoevsky


Wow! This book cover looks like an out-take from Bob Dylan's "Blood On the Tracks," but incredibly, 

the book is even more masterful than Dylan's 1974 classic. Maybe the greatest novel ever. I fret, 

though, how many people pass over this book fearing that it is beyond their intellectual reach? Do not 

fear this book! I read it, so you know it's an easy read. (When reading Russian get the Constance 

Garnett translation.)

Raskolnikov is an idealistic student, and a very sympathetic character, who wants to find out what it 

feels like to murder somebody. Like any good student he does his homework and then chooses an old 

woman who runs the local pawn shop--and he hadn't even lost a Gibson SG there!

After the murder, Raskolnikov discovers something about himself. He doesn't like to be a murderer 

and would like a do-over. Well, he can't have one, and now his soul is hurting, he has a new girlfriend, 

his mother and sister, whom he hasn't seen in ages are coming to visit, his sister is dating a crumb-

bum, and everybody wants to know why Raskolnikov isn't his usual fun-loving, sensitive self, and, oh, 

yeah, the local sheriff suspects him and has come around to begin a cat and mouse game with him and 

his sweaty mind.

This is the novel that showed me how much fun true literature can be, and twenty-five years later I 

haven't found a book to match it.  So impressed was I that I wanted to read another book by the 

author right away. I practiced saying the author's name over and over so I wouldn't embarass myself 

when I went to the local high-brow bookstore to ask if they had any books by this guy.

Me: "Hi, do you have any books by...Dove's-toss-key?"

Bookstore owner: "Hmm, yes, we have some Doe-stoy-evski over here, follow me."

I wanted to murder him.








Jack Kerouac

T he Great American Novel..." Writers hear this until they want to yak! Hemmingway shoves one book 

down your throat while Fitzgerald jams another up your rectum. Jackie London will punch you in the 

face while Owen Wister tells you to smile while you eat that. Vonnegut, Salinger--The founders of this 

country wrote a fair few good things as well--and risked their em-effing necks doing it, so forgive me 

if "The Great American Novel" means jack crap to me. Unless we're talking about John Kerouac's "The 

Town and the City"

The best American novel, ever, has the worst title ever. I may as well tell you that the opening is 

pretty bland--okay, the whole book is boring as hell. Well, unless you grew up in a house with a 

family. This book might touch metal to bone in that case.

Before John Kerouc smacked bongos and wrote hippie garbage on scrolls, he wrote this gem; "The 

Great American Novel." He is master and you are his reader. He begins the book by grabbing you by 

the nape of your neck and showing you the town below. He moves you everywhere, from the cemetery 

to Main Street, to the high school, the woods, streams, industrial areas until he finally shows you a 

large house on a huge lot.

The lights are on in this house and it's evening in the fall. You hover around the property and peek 

into the windows of each occupant. You peer into the kitchen, the living room. Kerouc makes sure you 

know everybody in the town, cemetery and the house. Finally, he drops you smack dab into the 

Martin's home you had been watching. You become a ghost member of the family. You see them, but 

they don't see you. You watch their world evolve from town to city and you call out to  them, you 

implore them to make the right choices, but they can't hear you. They are fictional. They have been 

jammed aboard a runaway train by the author, and all you can do is holler at it and pray for them. But 

they are fictional, they can't hear your prayers. God can, and He's real, but he's not saving fiction 

characters today.

By the time the wind whispers the final lines of this book to you, you will start to re-read it, hoping 

you can find something you missed. You want to re-read. You want to help out. You can't. The story 

has passed you by just as time did to the Martin family. You will tell yourself that they are only 


You will tell yourself that because it is the only way you can handle this book. This story. Your life.





Remember in Cool Hand Luke  when Paul Newman said he could eat, like, a bazillion hard boiled eggs? Remember how disgusting it was watching them force the last few eggs into his mouth, making him chew and massaging him so he could swallow them? And how the yolk and whites fell out of his mouth while he turned green with nausea? Huh? DO YOU REMEMBER THAT?  Because I felt like Cool Hand Luke when I started reading this book. I looked at this book and drawled, "I can read three hundred pages."

Unfortunately, George Kennedy had his money riding on me, but by only the fifty-third page I needed a massage. I needed someone forcing the words into me and making me digest them. By page fifty-four I was down for the count. George Kennedy was paying money and I was hurling into a prison bucket, and almost became allergic to books for the rest of my life.

Stever Erickson is a very smart--I kind of assume, and witty, I kind of assume, man with lots of opinions about movies. Fine. And he wants to share his opinions with everybody. No problem! Try a blog next time, buddy, because this book sucked (eggs)

The purpose of this book seemed to be to let everybody know how cool the author was by using a whole lot of steriotypical characters to tell us. Like Erickson's characters were a bizzarre door-to-door bible troupe ringing doorbells and saying, "Excuse me, but have you heard the wonderful news about how clever our creator is? Here's a book you may want to check out..."

The story takes place in Hollywood in '69 and the character-ahem, author, is soooo cool he has monty clift and liz taylor tattood on his shaved head, he plasters anybody who can't figure out who they are, he thinks iggy pop is so much cooler than crosby stills and nash--he was, but he wants you to know that he knows it. The purpose of the character, to be honest, was to bore the crap out of the world while talking about movies.

The author would also do well to take a class in dialogue. Every mother effing character sounded the same. All dialogue was a long diatribe of over cute cleverness and 'rage' from the author's head onto the page delivered with bakeryman enthusiasm from his characters. 

How could the reader tell his characters apart? Well, they couldn't, except the black characters would say, 'motherfucker' a lot, and the old people would say, 'sonny' alot and motherfucker as well just to show you how cool the author--I mean character is.

By the end of the book, (page 54 for me) I was so sick and disgusted I had to throw up my breakfast and throw the book away. I wish a southern sheriff would cock a rifle, point it at the author and say, "What you got is a failure to communicate." I wonder if the author ever said, "I can eat a billion bullets."?


France had a lot of balls. Russia held a lot of balls. Then, during the new year's ball in St. Petersburg some guy paused during a waltz and said, "What was that? Did you hear it?"

His partner shrugged and said, "It sounds like Napoleon and a bunch of Frenchies freezing to death outside."

With a laugh they resumed the dance. "The Blue Danube" I believe it was. 

          Just The &%$@! Facts, Ma'am

Elmore Leonard uses words like his cop, Raylen Givens, uses bullets. So a couple fucking fools kidnap some dumbass with money and keep him in the rotting luxury home of some tool wanna be thug. 

Raylen has to find the dude even as his relationship falls apart faster than these mensas' plans. Oh, yeah, dude is the ex of Raylen's main squeeze and she's leaning on him harder than the downtown boys. 

A psychic gets spilled into the mix. She asks Raylen, "What's wrong with being foolish sometimes?" Elmore says it's a good question. I say it's a great, (effing) book.  

     Not Your Great-Great-Grandfather's Jackie London

The cover of this book may look like L. Ron Hubbard trying to flee hell, but it is the story of a man who indeed, is trying to flee a life of hell.  A prisoner is held in solitary by a sadistic warden who leaves him trussed in a super tight straight jacket for weeks at a time. The prisoner can barely breathe and his beaten ribs are cracked and not helping his limp attempts at drawing a glorious breath of air.

The prisoner discovers that his lack of oxygen can save him into dying, almost. He learns to almost die from lack of air, and his mind believes that he is dead and wanders the universe to relive past lives. Unfortunately for the prisoner, the warden doesn't believe him to be dead and keeps bringing him back so he can punish him more. 

Fortunatley for the reader, the mind continues to escape the prison and torture, reliving the most incredible lives. We are taken to a full-moon grassy field in spain where the protaganist and a greaseball duel until blood greases the grass and our hero dies. Eache time he dies in his past lives he ends up back in the warden's custody.

His mind lands him on a deserted rock island where he can only eat decayed seal meat. His mind makes him wander China, with his wife, the coveted lady of the emporer, who makes them outcasts--unwelcome in the tiniest burogh, surviving like sub-rats. His mind takes him everywhere and his living brings him back to the point of dying.
This is one of London's least known books, yet probably his wildest. Every experience in it is a novel in itself.

                        SUCK IT, STRUNK AND WHITE! 

At a barbecue I was once at I thought that pouring gasoline onto the sputtering grill would get the fire going better. It did. Opening this book was like re-living that moment, times a killion.  

In fact, Eirik Gumeny didn't so much write this book as he did fire-bomb a bunch of pages and launch them at us.  By ending the world many times over he allows his twisted mind to do whatever it wants and the result is a lot of zombie cowboys, zombie cows, werewolfs, cyborg waitresses that put ground up glass into the pancakes of gods who complain about the service, genetically re-engineered descendants of previous world leaders, (William Taft, Queen Victoria, Chester A. Arthur,) some more gods, a caped squirrel, oh, I could go on...

If you forced me to write a brief synopsis, I would say something like, "In a post Armageddon world, many times over, four heroes, a god, and a super squirrel find themselves in the ultimate battle against..." 

That is where I would run into trouble, because Quetzalcoatl was way too lovable to to be the ultimate evil, and, really, ultimate means nothing in this book, or as the author put it, "...the failure of forever in living up to its potential." A better synopsis would just be, "A crazy guy pulled a book out of his ass and it's a damned good read."


                                                CAN WE STILL BE FRIENDS?

I shouldn't review a book while I still have 150 pages left to read, but I think I'm done, which is a shame. It's my fault, I shouldn't have began reading a Stephen King book that didn't start out with a Bruce Springsteen quote either. The characters in this book are very realistic, from the sub-spanglish-speaking Wireman, to the artista, with one brazo, Edgar, to his ex-wife and their daughters. All real, all extremely likeable, well, the ex-wife takes some getting used to. So why am I done? Let's look at that later. Here is the synopsis of this horror story. I think it's a horror story at least:

Edgar is a tough contractor, wrecks his truck, loses an arm and gets free brain damage to boot. This makes him violent, so its probably a good thing he lost the arm. The wife leaves him, and then he realizes he likes to paint. He moves to Florida, meets Wireman, who is the caretaker of an old woman and her casa, and this old bird used to be a painting prodigy. Turns out Edgar paints like no other, and paints things that happen to come true. Let's see, what else...he makes a big splash in the artsy world; check; he...let's see, what else happens in this book...? Um, give me a momento, let's see, the old woman had two sisters who drowned, and they begin to show up...damnit! Chingado! I read 430 freaking pages, I should have more of an idea of what happens. Nothing was scary in this book, I remember that. I remember it made me want to take up painting...aye, que more? I had just gotten to the part where Edgar's favorite daughter says goodbye to him and leaves for the airport, and Edgar tells the reader he never saw her again...dang it, you would think that right there would spur me on to read the rest of this book, but I just couldn't keep picking it up tiempo after tiempo, that's all. 

I guess it's like when a girl breaks up with you and says it's her fault, and not yours. Which means you bored the crap out of her and she's going to go find a guy who beats the shit out of her so she can be happy the rest of her life. This was a nice book, with nice writing and nice characters, and I still want to be friends with them, I wish them the best, but the oils, pastels, watercolors, and sunsets, while nice, just made me aborido--sorry, bored. I'm going to go find either a horror book that scares the crap out of me, or a funny book that makes me laugh. But a Stephen King book that just, I don't know, lays there for crying out loud. Ah, and it lays there still. Still waiting for me to pick it up. Again. Alas, I just cannot pick it up anymore. I'm sorry,, it's not you, it's me...I swear...Hey, but didn't we have some swell times? Remember that big dog that went rabid? Oh my God, I just read the "Afterword" by the author--no, don't look, he's going to...ah, crap, he just thanked me, constant reader. No, don't do this Stephen, I swear to God I'm going to start tearing up...



This screwball comedy is delivered to the reader "ratta-tat-tat" style by a writer with humor dry as a drought, but with the laugh payoff of a monsoon. Nisha and Vinita live with their parents. Their parents live with Nisha and Vinita's grandmother. The girls' father, Rasick, rules the house like the cock of the walk, except for the times the grandmother reminds him who the house belongs to. In response, he barks at his wife, who in turn yips at the girls. The cowed daughters flee to their bedrooms and plot against the suitors their papa schedules for them to meet and marry, provided the dowry is adequate for such a family like themselves.

With this entertainment, the author could merrily pull the reader along by the nose-ring for another 400 pages. However, everybody in this book has desires and goals; some of which are lofty, others, quite petty. Oh, and the girls' aunt is coming out from California to visit for the first time since she ran off to California 30 years before to elope with an American musician, and she's bringing  her two bratty, glamor-girl teens. Who will stay in the same house. In Nisha and Vinita's rooms. While the two sisters stay in the basement and Rasick strains to show who the master of the house is. What could go wrong? I have no stars to give this book; just a sunrise and a sunset.


Dennis will dive from a million feet in the air into a coffee mug of water if you give him a dollar. He is in Tishomingo, Mississippi, looking for a buck. Robert is a black man with a Jag and some serious schwag. Robert is in town to make himself the king of crystal meth. When he watches Dennis dive, sometimes on fire, he is impressed with Dennis' nerve. 

Robert's squeeze, Anne, the wife of Robert's boss, isn't impressed with Dennis' nerve. “Big fucking deal,” she says after Robert forces her to watch one of Dennis' death-defying dives. Jerry, Robert's boss, doesn't know that Robert has already cut him out of the drug king picture. Robert wants to be Jerry, and he wants to make Dennis into the new Robert.

For all of this to work, a whole lot of people are going to have to die, and Elmore Leonard dutifully starts the killing ball rolling. However, because Elmore Leonard probably has arthritis by the time he writes this book, it probably hurts to type out each freaking murder scene, and so he decides to use a Civil War reenactment as the focal point of the book so that a lot of killing can be done in one swipe of the save button. 

You may be wondering how a Civil War reenactment can bring about mass casualties? All of the participants are meth heads, trailer trash, drunks, racists, sheriffs, and parolees, and they all have axes to grind with each other that makes the war to save the Union look like a safe haven in comparison. Dennis, Jerry, and Robert all become involved in the reenactment battle, and Robert is playing the role of a confederate, which just burns the britches of the true confederate soldier players. Oh, they gonna git him, and all the characters in this book are gonna git you, and they gonna make you keep reading them words till the end...or till you die, but they ain't gonna bore you to death, that's fo show.