The Writer’s Dilemma

A few days ago. I made the mistake of scrolling too far down on one of my books listed on Amazon and noticed two new reviews. Both of them were 1 star, so of course I was curious as to what these people had to say. One mentioned how they liked the story and that characters, blah blah blah. The other made some short statement about spelling and grammar. This had me pissed off for several hours until I went back trying to figure out why I still had a 4-star rating with these kinds of complaints. It turns out that these two people account for 4% of the reviews on this particular book.

I guess the question is why do I care? Who are these people to say such things and why does it matter to me? One of them I have yet to figure out how they even came across my book. Was the algorithm choking on a virus? I looked at other reviews the person had done and none of the martial was anything like my book. As for the other person who said they liked the characters and story, none of the things they reviews were anywhere near similar to things they preferred. I don’t know their story. I don’t know how they came across it.

The reviews pissed me off. People see that shit and while I wish I could wash it away it is there to stay. If that is how they felt I can’t deny it. They don’t know me and I don’t know them but it does help me understand why Hemingway would show up at the newspaper office with two pairs of boxing gloves and would hound the reviewer outside until he was able to knock him out for the poor review that was published. What a fucking legend!

The first response that comes to my mind is “where is your damn book?” These are the same people that while they criticize my work have not written anything of their own. Did they pay for the material they read? Yes. Besides sitting there and reading it what work did they put in? They paid $2.99 for a book. The last time I bought a new book it was $30 and it was the last book that Anthony Bourdain had worked on before he died. I’m not one to pay large sums of money for a book and since I’m not exactly a professional writer by any means charging more than $2.99 is out of my league. That fact they rad the whole damn things says a lot considering the number of books a put aside unable to finish it for various reasons. And here is where I come to my point.

Who am I writing for? Ultimately it is for myself. I write the books that I would want to read. Action? Check. Fast paced? Check. Situations that make you think? You can check that one off as well. A book written for someone like me isn’t going to appeal to everyone. Much like the books I sat down and forgot about not everyone who reads my stuff is going to appreciate it. There is also the other factor that has been suggested to me several times. “Write at a 3rd grade level to appeal to a larger audience.”

Why do I have to dumb down my writing? What the hell is happening in out public schools that this is the level that is expected for a mass audience? Shouldn’t this be a wake-up call for most of society and why aren’t people challenging themselves to something that works their mind? Imagine trying to publish Infinite Jest today. It would never happen. Our society it lazy and wants a whole lot of things for nothing. I charge $2.99 for digital copies of my books to make myself available to a mass audience. If I make money cool. If I could make a living at it, even better. The number of readers in today’s society is small. I think it might be the smallest percentage that it ever has been. Hundreds of books are published every month and those books fight for a really small number of customers who might buy their product. Then there is me. Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed it. If not, I hope that you find something of mine that you might enjoy. If not, thanks for the short review. I’m glad you put as much work and thought into it as I did writing the entire book. Take care.

adventures in cooking

The lost books of Bourdain

Three years ago, the world lost an example of the American dream. A bottom level chef, dope addict, and workaholic wrote a book that transformed his life and the life of others. Kitchen Confidential boosted Bourdain from a kitchen to television. There were books that came before and after but none of them were as successful as his culinary opus. For some reason his path did not take him into the literary world as he inspired to do, instead he ended up on television throwing insults at Rachel Ray and Emeril Lagasse. That trip didn’t appear to have an ending and somewhere along the way there was the idea for Bourdain to help others become published. An Anthony Bourdain Book became a subdivision of Ecco publishing, the company that published Kitchen Confidential. Every year after 2011, Bourdain picked books, some of them by people he knew, and they were published with his Oprah like stamp on the cover. For seven years this trend continued until Bourdain’s death in 2018. I have come across these books over the years and I have enjoyed every single one. I became curious, how many of these were published? Are there more on the way? Is there a list of all the Bourdain books with his stamp of approval? Sadly, Ecco stopped the publication of Bourdain books in 2018. The last books that Bourdain picked that year were the last to be published with that stamp of approval. The other questions took my down a Google rabbit hole that left me in a world of disappointment. Ecco didn’t have a list of books they had published, only listing items that were still available or still in print. Amazon doesn’t have a category for Anthony Bourdain books although they carry many of the titles I found. eBay was hit or miss with the deciding factor being how the seller listed the item. Even Wikipedia, while it had a listing for Ecco and their subdivision, did not have a list of books that Bourdain published.

The following is the list that I have been able to put together so far:

You’re Better Than Me by Bonnie McFarlane

Pain Don’t Hurt by Mark Miller

Start the Fire by Jeremiah Tower

WD50 by Wylie Dufresne

The Prophets of Smoked Meat by Daniel Vaughn

We Fed an Island by Jose Andres

The Mission Chinese Cookbook by Danny Bowien

Prisoner by Jason Rezaian

Vegetables Unleashed by Jose Andres

Grand Forks by Marilyn Hagerty

L.A. Son by Roy Choi

They call me Supermensch by Shep Gordon

Eating Korea by Graham Holliday

Eating Vietnam by Graham Holliday

Rice Noodle Fish by Matt Goulding

Grape Olive Pig by Matt Goulding

Pasta Pane Vino by Matt Goulding

Hawker Fare by James Syhabout

Adios, Mother Fucker by Michael Ruffino

Stealing Green Mangoes by Sunil Dutta

The publisher stated that the Bourdain portion of the company would publish 3-4 titles per year. There are 20 titles listed here and I’m not sure if they are all of the books published. I have a feeling there might be some missing. After this, there is the question of the introductions Bourdain wrote for other authors, books that Bourdain edited like the 2008 Best of Travel Writing, and the documentaries that Bourdain created like Wasted! The Story of Food Waste. Besides No Reservations and Parts Unknown Bourdain did a lot of projects on the side and some of which were released after his death. To stay on track here let’s focus on the books that Bourdain thought were worthy of being published.

I don’t know if this is a complete list or not. If there is anything missing, please comment on this post so that I can add and edit anything that had been forgotten. For one reason or another Bourdain thought these books were important and while some became popular for obvious reasons there are some that were forgotten the moment they hit the shelves. I find it interesting that Eating Korea appeared to have sold well and was an enjoyable read. However, Eating Vietnam was forgotten and I didn’t even know about it until I started doing this project. Even Goodreads appeared to have dropped the ball on that one.

Where should I go after this? Documentaries? Obscure writings that Bourdain contributed to? Let me know. In the meantime, I have some reading to do.


Goodbye January, Hello February

January is gone and looking back it was a busy month. Over all I read 39 books, worked out everyday except for 2, and paid about $800 towards the principle on my house. This last week took its toll with the whole household coming down sick with a chest cold. I was the last one to submit to the germs floating around my house. This weekend could have been better, Saturday started out with a light cough and then by Saturday night I felt like pieces of lung where going to start coming up. Sleep was a joke with the little cough coming from the little person in the other room. Blankets made the room too hot or too cold. I’m three days into February and I haven’t done a single workout. Being sick has its advantages though, when was the last time heard of someone gaining weight while they were sick?
At the moment I have six Louis L’Amour books logged into good reads. I own two biographies about the man and I haven’t decided which one I will pick up for the month. I was told by a friend that the stories are dated, especially when it comes to female characters, personally I don’t care. It’s nice to read a tale once in a while that doesn’t try to make up for some social injustice that I didn’t have a part in. the stories are fast paced and I can see how easy it is to lose yourself in the tale as it is being told. L’Amour gives you all that you need to follow along and nothing more. Things are not overly thought out, there isn’t a hidden message to the stories, and one doesn’t have to search for a deeper meaning after reading one of his books. I have heard of these books referred to as “literary trash” but I would have to argue that it is the opposite. Sure, it will never be declared high literature and there is no telling if these books will still be around a hundred years from now, but in their defense, I have to that that they are honest, exactly as described and nothing more. I wish dating was as easy as this when I was in my teens and early twenties. The covers depict what is happening in the story, it isn’t some flashy design to make you question the contents. The titles are blunt. Hell, the only mystery one can find picking these books up off the shelf is the author’s name, something that could be mistaken as French Canadian or from the bayou. I’m three days in and I am not disappointed.


Will By Will Self

I was able to find a uncorrected proof of Will on Ebay while searching for other books by Will Self. At the time I was disappointed to see some unflattering reviews, but considering that some of them admitted to not finishing the damn thing or complaining about things like the English spelling and Vernacular of the dialogue I had to give a go.
considering the subject matter and where Mr. Self is currently in his life I was not surprised that he referred to himself in the third person. As a man in my 40s now I have to say I am not the same person I was back in my 20s. The stories at appear to jump back and forth connecting here and there and ultimately coming back to the beginning. There are catch phrases that are repeated “Againanagain” being one and “Waste not want not.” there are several of these and a few appear to be song lyrics appropriate for the time. there is an odd mix of writing in Italics but I took it as pointing out the importance of the phrase and it of course came up in the story at some time later tying the book together in these fine threads.
I’m not an addict and have never gone to AA or tried hard drug ever in my life, but I do know people who have gone that path and most of them are no longer with us. from what I saw and the things I know that happened I can say that regardless of this book taking place over the pond and in India, for a short period of time, the life of an addict is the same and I for one am glad that Mr. Self was able to pull himself out of it. I doubt this book will ever be turned into a movie or a Netflix series and it doesn’t need to. The format of the novel was the perfect format to tell it and there is should remain.

letters to Harrison

Letters to Harrison: 10

How is it that the dead are able to stay with us for so long after their body is buried, covered by the earth? Business is never finished and that is true also for the dead. It has been over a year since my father in law has passed away and we are still handling his possessions. Those who don’t believe in immortality have never dealt with an estate after death. Items remain, bill collectors come calling, houses sit dormant, family photos with people unknown to those who remain are tossed into boxes and stored away in the hopes that somebody still knows or cares about the ghost in the pictures, and there are the clothes. A family of foxes have taken up residence at the old house and it is hard to say if this is a good omen or bad. The fox is known to be sly and could be mocking us at our choice to sell the place, or it was a warning to get rid of the property as soon as possible. Either way you never know until you are looking at the end result and hind sight is always 20/20. Immortality is different for writers, successful ones that is. While your books will appear on store shelves for the next hundred years mine just started to appear in the used book stores. There was a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment in seeing my book sitting in a pile of donated material but it was sad to find the bookmark halfway through. The person who doesn’t finish reading your book is the ultimate critic. I was listening to a book yesterday called Inadvertent and the writer, a superstar from Norway, was talking about why he writes. The goal in his mind was to express an idea on paper and to say it so clearly that anyone can understand it. Then in a separate interview he talked about how his essays and books are about nothing and how well he can write about nothing. I started to wonder if these were the same thing, after all in this world where you can find anything on the internet and it would appear that anything that had to be said has been said, then is nothing the new thing to share that people can understand? Nihilism is the new cool and I can tell you this coming generation does not care about the people who came before or the ones who will be here in the future. The 80s notion of not caring because we are all going to die in a burning inferno of our own doing is alive and well, without the cocaine. I’m waiting for the day that someone out there writes a book called “Nothing Matters” and when you open the pages to start reading you find a title page and everything is blank afterwards. That would push the point home. Of course, the book would be declared a piece of genius, the critics would ask the symbolism of why it was 350 pages instead of one or two hundred. People will spend ungodly amounts of money for a signed first edition and people would still spend money to download and almost blank file onto their phones and computers because it is the cool thing to do and nothing matters. Physicist will claim this was the breakthrough they were looking for in quantum mechanics and wars would stop for five minutes. Then one person, the only one who can still think for themselves, will point out that the book is a fraud and that the world had been swindled by a giant hoax. In the end the author, whoever it may be, will still live long after death in the public mind for the grand book they never wrote because it didn’t matter. I laugh at these professors who try to say what the author really meant and what the story was really about. You and I both know that the author wanted to write. If the book was published it was good enough to make money on. If the public liked it, then it was a good story. If it becomes a classic then it was written well. In the end it comes down to the author needing a paycheck, needed to fight boredom, was trying to get out of his own life, or heaven forbid they were hearing voices. People are not perfect and we know that writers are far from that. Will Self is too lazy to write in paragraphs. David Foster Wallace was bitten by the Thomas Wolfe bug and thought good writing was determined by weight and not style. The Russians found a way to make depression a communicable disease. As for you, well we know how you felt about nature, sex, and food. Things that anyone, especially the French, could understand. Through a book we can learn what a person was thinking about at a certain time in their life. In that sense a part of us lives on. Is there anything more we could hope for?

letters to Harrison

Letters to Harrison: 9

I came across a signed copy of Julip Saturday and bought it. Maybe you would think of me as an idiot or maybe you would be surprised that someone would keep such a thing, who knows? What is the point of collecting something just because a person signed it, one that you have never met and never will? Your grave is still a mystery and yet you would visit the graves of those that you admired if you had the chance. I can hope that you had your ashes spread and by chance a part of you is somewhere close, inhabiting the landscape in a way that haunts that which you enjoyed and loved so much. There is a film crew tracking your steps, visiting the bars and walkways you once traveled. I don’t know what they will find along the way or how accurate their movie will be. Everything is about perspective and if they want to paint you in a positive light or make you out to be the crass asshole you could be at times. I personally hope they find a middle ground and point out that you were just a man. Your aversion in being compared to Hemingway is understandable, a high marker that no man should be compared to because no matter how hard you try nobody could live up to the expectations one would immediately have on you. How fair is that anyway? It was a different time, a different world and only one person could possibly live the life is the one that he lived. That mold was filled and it was not reproduced with you. I was tempted to try my hand at ordering off of a menu as you had done, pointing to various items and saying “this… and this… oh and this too” going on until the table was filled and I would have to sit there until my buttons popped and people looked at me like I was a crazed individual that had just escaped from a concentration camp. Instead, I ordered the pork belly BLT and called it good. I’m not at that point yet plus I need a reason to go back and try something else. My life isn’t on the road and if I am to be in towns often that I don’t know I need something to look forward to. The sky finally cleared today, the weekend was clouded in gray and the cold rain hung over like a wet blanket of despair. Winter is not here yet and already I dread the lack of sun and the depression that comes with it. On the other hand, it leaves no option than to sit down and write, something I am lacking these days. I have noticed that once in a while you will mention books that you have read over your lifetime and I’m thinking about starting a list. Of course, I don’t know what exactly you enjoyed and what you didn’t but I have to assume that if you liked something that’s what you would have recalled, if I’m wrong you can always haunt my ass and set me straight. The deer are on the move lately, roaming the streets searching for food to prepare for winter. A giant buck has made it clear to me who owns this neighborhood and I am nothing but a nuisance in his eyes. I have considered going deer hunting this fall and after seeing him I wonder if I could actually pull the trigger this time if the option presented itself. There is a big difference between shooting a squirrel, catching a fish and having that disconnect between yourself and the life you took. The deer on the other hand seems to be a beast that knows you are out to get him and has an opinion about it. I suppose if I was hungry these thoughts wouldn’t come to mind and that could be the trick to a successful hunt. Leave with an empty stomach and you won’t have any qualms about taking a shot and dragging something out of the woods. Sorry bucko, I have mouths to feed and you looked pretty good at the time. It is the nature of things. Would things have been different this weekend if I had to shoot the pig behind the brewery to enjoy that BLT? I would like to say not but I know better. There is something different in a person that can take a life and even though I have been the end to many squirrel and fish I don’t know if I have it in me to take something bigger. That could be the next challenge I face this year. What is the worse that can happen? I have a nice day out in the woods? One couldn’t ask for less on a good day.

letters to Harrison

Letters to Harrison: 8

Esquire has a podcast now where they go back and look at old articles that had been popular over the years and you will not be surprised that they covered your food column The Raw and the Cooked. They discuss your article The Days of Wine and Pig Hocks which I found to be funny and highly entertaining. Having never been on a book tour, only slinging paperback copies at local libraries and different venues where the odds of finding anyone who reads is like finding bigfoot, I have a hard time understanding the dreaded tour. I was glad to see you made a go of it, ingesting anything that looked or smelled good, and bringing a little extra weight back home with you. Bud is doing a gallery at the Lansing library and I have to say I’m excited to go. You must be the one person on the planet that doesn’t have more that five pictures of yourself on the internet but your friend Bud has enough to do a show. Have it be my luck to drive over an hour one way only to discover Bud has five photos to share and no prints. I could try to be less pessimistic but what is the point. Living my life as if the world is out to get me leaves me with a lack of surprise and yet it still finds a way to throw me a curve ball and beam me in the head. I heard that you had a knack for going into restaurants and ordering everything on the menu. I have never tried this for several reasons, for one my wallet would not allow it and I was raised not to waste food regardless of how bad it is. Well, until my parents tried it and almost threw up in their own disgust. I have always played the Guinea pig and while it has worked in my favor most of the time, I have to admit that there have been long days sweating in bed and mornings that drifted into afternoons while sitting on the toilet. This was in the days before cells phones so a good book came in handy. Try to grab something you checked out from the local library and share the love. There is a local Mexican restaurant that serves traditional tacos not far from my house and while I will say they have the best food in this category their service for the longest time was lacking. My wife convinced us to try it out again and forget the nightmare that happened a few years ago. There was only one thing I wanted to do when I arrived and that was to order every style of taco they had and try them all, which I did. I tried this before and I must have had the order that the cook decided was a pain in the ass. Still, how hard is it to make seven corn tortilla tacos with only onions, cilantro, and a wedge of lime? I waited one hour and fifteen minutes before my food arrived and the server never came back to check on me. The tacos were delicious, that wasn’t what left a bad taste in my mouth it was the lack of apathy to the customer. I ate the food and therefore paid for it but when it came to recommending the place years later, I pointed people to their reviews online and I wasn’t the only one. At some point the manager that the place was presumably named after, a tall blonde-haired white man with Buddy Holly glasses, either left or was finally fired, and the place named the Big White Cock in Spanish finally turned things around. I should do this more often, go into a place and order random things, but isn’t that what a buffet is for? Is the buffet just another form of cheating when it comes to good food even when you simply want to sit on your ass and stuff your face? I had a really good Sangiovese from Tuscany last night and slept like a rock. One of the five wine racks in the basement is drying up and I think it’s time to fill it up again. Maybe I will pick up some lunch along the way.

letters to Harrison

Letters to Harrison: 7

Your movie Wolf was about cocaine, right? I haven’t read the book of the same name but I have to assume that with your discontent for Hollywood and the drug seen that the reason Jack Nicholson is running around feeling good, able to smell everything, have a boost in unwarranted confidence, and sleeps for 20 hours after a bender isn’t a coincidence. I have never taken the drug myself but know a few who have. The last man I ran into had just received his disability check and snorted the funds up his nose in one day. All of the Narcan training that people had been given was useless, his heart had stopped from the opposite of heroin. The woods visited me last night, a giant two-hundred-pound deer with a rack that would have made Dolly Parton jealous was standing in the neighbor’s yard when I came home.

We exchanged some snorts and he didn’t seem to care about my presence. It wasn’t until a few trucks drove by that he decided to leave. Before entering the swamp across the street, he turned at me and grunted one last time reminding me that he was the boss. I’m surprised that the neighborhood cats haven’t tried to take him down but it would be like the democratic party trying to take down a republican president. Cats do not form an army well and a liberal party with thirty agendas doesn’t accomplish much. When my non-disclosure agreement expired with my old Hollywood job, I wrote a book called Golden. Maybe it was to burn some bridges and not become caught up in the glitz and glory of a false god. Things must have been different back in your day because if I tried to live off of what I was paid I would have been homeless eating an endless supply of Top Ramen noodles. The last two days have been good except for the endless assault of my daughter who doesn’t have an off switch. The terrible twos is a horrible name for this disease. Maybe it should be called the traumatic twos or the terrifying twos, or the Trumpian twos. the last one might be considered a low blow but there isn’t too much to aim for down there from what I have been told. How is a writer supposed to make a living in a world where people don’t read anymore? Even I have been guilty of this, pulling out my voluntary bugging device and looking at the latest mind-numbing content on the internet. Before we clean up Washington, we should do a thorough flushing enema of the internet first. We can start with rotten tomatoes first who gave your movie between a 62 and 43% rating. I guess the audience didn’t see the point. I will have to grab Wolf from the self sooner than later and see for myself what your first novel was all about. These days good literature doesn’t get publish because nobody reads it and if you want to make a buck these days you have to conform to one or several options for prostitution that are available to be exploded by. I’m tired of getting screwed these days. You spend your time and effort trying to create something real and in the end all you end up with is a bill, lost time, and a sore ass in the end. That reminds me, I need to pick up a new cushion for my chair.

letters to Harrison

Letters to Harrison: 6

There is something to be said about isolation, the forced disconnect from people that gives you a new perspective on things. I should have known that being in trouble would free up my time and give me a break from my normal routine. Watching the charlatans and shit stains of previous jobs taught me that the worst of us will be promoted, a polite way to say “shut up and just go over here.” Meanwhile the victims have to deal with their mental scars with the same pay and eventually fewer benefits. If women could figure out a way to procreate without us men would disappear and the world would likely be a safer place, except for that time that the full moon was out and then all hell would break loose for a week. I know you didn’t care working for universities but I’m considering a change. There has to be something better out there for a writer. Today was a bout of self-induced cabin fever. Seeing more people than I have to is not high on my list of things to do and maybe less contact with the outside world will be better for my daughter in the end. Afterall she will have her own fair share of disappointments she gets older. I don’t know where the magic age is for teaching this lesson. If I start her too young, she will trust no one, but if I teach her too old then she will trust everyone and that’s no good. Maybe I should leave some books about the buddha lying all over the house as she grows up, a constant reminder that life is suffering. Maybe she will also follow her own path and continue to be the unique individual that I know her to be. The world is good at many things, most of all destroying what makes us special. I have forgotten that lesson so many times you think I would have tattooed it somewhere on my body by now. My current job is to live as a Hobbit and while that would be fun the only part of it that applies is living underground and keeping things tidy, minus the food and drink that a Hobbit enjoys in the meantime. Its been two days and I wish I was back out in the woods. Morning is coming. Sleep is in short supply. Coffee will be my first real friend of the day.