A Freedom to Frag

This entry comes from June 2011, when a Supreme Court decision announced the day before allowed me a chance to exercise that political science degree and civil liberties muscle with this (too long) essay.

TOWER GROVE — The government can fine a store for selling a minor Camels, can punish a shopkeeper for passing a Playboy across the counter to an adolescent, and can revoke an exemption for a bar that lets a toddler stop by for fried chicken. But when it comes to violent video games, the Supreme Court assured this week that the government can do nothing but grin and frag it.

The message is clear when it comes to slaughtering zombies, knifing drug dealers and celebrating the virtual brutality of Duke Nukem.

Smoke ‘em if you’ve got ‘em, kids. Continue reading

A Guiding Star Behind “Star Wars”

JUPITER, Fla. — When we first moved to Colorado, we lived for a stretch at the Hotel Boulderado and Pearl Street Mall was my backyard.

The hotel and my tiny room may or may not have been referenced in Stephen King’s book Misery — as a kid I swear it was; as an adult I doubt it — and it had the wonderful grand, historic feel with that little twinge of unsettling gothic-ness. We’d breakfast at the restaurant on the first floor. We’d stroll Pearl Street in the afternoon. I learned how to leapfrog on these metal pylons that were designed to keep cars from barreling into the pedestrian mall. And we made a second home of the nearby used bookstore. It wasn’t too far from The Daily Camera, right down by the top shoppe Grand Rabbits, and just past the place we’d later go to get my violin repaired — several times.

This bookshop, Boulder Used Books (I think), had the classic smell and look of its name. The main room was a jumble of misfit shelves, drooping with the weight of paperbacks stuffed at various angles. The place reeked of old paper, ink, dust and that slightly vinegary mix of all three that can only can described as wisdom. It’s the same smell I Iater found at a university’s library in Oxford, one that outdated, oh, America. And picking through this island of misfit books and dog-eared novels one day I found a treasure that inspired.

I was 7.

And it wasn’t a book. Continue reading

Et Tu, Mark

As I finish up some new entries for here — I’m making my way through the Curacao trip and all the notes I took there — I’ve been sorting through things (call them short essays… sashays?) that wrote in the past year. This is from late July 2011, and it’s fitting because in a month I plan to call in my first exemption from Book Fast 2012 and purchase the new Mark Leyner book.

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TOWER GROVE — In the wilderness of read, half-read and unread books that are piling up on and all around the bookshelves of my office, I found this morning a thumbed-over copy of a book that I abused in college: Et Tu, Babe by Mark Leyner. I’ve read stories of writers, like Hunter S. Thompson, who would retype their favorite books to get a feel for how sentences created rhythm, momentum, and the changes in tempo that powered a story. Judging by the dog ears in the book and Post-It notes that fell out of it when I pulled it off the shelf, that’s what I did with Et Tu. Guess that says a lot about what I was thinking at the time. I read some of the pages right out of the binding, apparently, and recently realized a quote from the book has been taped to my desk for, oh, about 18 years now. Continue reading

Book Fast of Champions (Month 1)

TOWER GROVE — It’s time for a confession: I arrived home yesterday to find a package from Amazon.com lounging on the front porch. Here I was nearly a month into my year without buying a book (see here) and I knew that nestled inside that envelope was the very thing that I swore I wouldn’t buy this season, wouldn’t even think of buying until I’ve made a dent into the pillars of books that surround my office. It was a book.

But it wasn’t a break from my resolution.

Inside the envelope was John Jeremiah Sullivan’s Blood Horses: Notes of a Sportswriter’s Son. Technically, I put the book in queue for purchase in 2011 — yes, near the end of 2011 — so that it wouldn’t spoil my resolution before it truly had a chance to start. It took several weeks to arrive (or find, not sure which), and here it was — a nice, tidy package from the past. The resolution continues.

Within days of starting my book fast, I put it to the best test I could think of: Continue reading

My Year Without Books

TOWER GROVE — Evidence of my problem is all over the office, and the movers unwillingness to schlep it up there should have been the first clue.

When we moved into the house more than 10 years ago, the fine folks helping us transport our furniture and clothes and doodads from the apartment stopped at the bottom step when it came to carrying 42 boxes of books up to the tree house, the name for the office on the third floor. I carried them up myself in as close to 21 trips as their weight would allow. Labor didn’t teach me the lesson. I kept buying books. I buy them as souvenirs from bookstores around the world, from the bookstore near Charing Cross or in Pirate’s Alley in that little re-purposed military shelter in Malta. I buy them on Amazon.com because it’s a good deal or it will arrive the day it goes on sale (a miracle of modern post!). I buy them downtown when I’ve read a good review in The New York Times or elsewhere. Some shelves are double-stuffed with books, and pillars of my problem have grown in front of those bookshelves, some stacked 32 paperbacks high. I’ve bought and been given so many books that movers would again leave the moving to me — and 21 trips won’t make a dent this time.

My name is Derrick. I’m a bibliophiliac.

So, I’ve made a New Year’s resolution. Continue reading