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Monday, May 22, 2017

The Writer's Life 5/23 - Clowns & Rats

The late Morris West, an Australian, had an excellent literary run that spanned decades. He wrote 27 novels, five plays, four radio serials and four works of non-fiction. Six of his novels were adapted to the big screen. His books were translated into 27 languages. 60 million sold. He traveled extensively, living in several European countries as well as in the USA. He died in 1999 at 83. I just finished what was his 18th novel, The Clowns of God, which was published in 1981. It is one of the most disappointing I've ever read. The plot is simple, the pope has a vision of the second coming, referred to as "Perousia." When he decides to publicize it, he is forced to abdicate by the Vatican hierarchy. He then must decide whether to speak out or remain silent. With the world on the brink of war, the decision is made for him. Unfortunately, the novel doesn't work as either a thriller or illumination, although its heart is always in the right place. My lack of enthusiasm is not due to the failed prophecies: lack of oil, crop failure in Russia, which is blamed on drought, without a hint of the incompetence of the Soviet system. After all, the novel may just as well have been written today, as the existential threat is just as real as it was nearly forty years ago, with terrorists taking center stage. If the most fanatical got their hands on a number of nuclear devices, there's no telling what might happen. No, my problem with the narrative is that it goes nowhere, despite believable and interesting characters, solid prose and dialogue, and impressive vocabulary and scholarship. My only quibble with the writing is the overuse of the exclamation point, which always reminds me of that marvelous episode of Seinfeld when Elaine breaks up with her writer boyfriend because of his failure to use one in recording a message from a friend who just had a baby. Anyway, I think the novel's appeal is restricted to the devout. I'm not a believer. I don't think God, if He exists, involves Himself in the affairs of men. The hardcover edition I read is 370 pages, and seemed a lot longer. Now here's a dissenting view. 77 readers at Amazon have rated The Clowns of God, forging to a consensus of 4.5 of five. The book is still selling modestly, ranked 200,000th at last check. I would be thrilled if my books hovered at that mark, as there at least 13 million titles listed. The title refers chiefly to the pseudonym the pontiff adopts in writing the book that predicts the apocalypse and prepares the faithful for it. It also refers to the most helpless of humanity, such as the handicapped.

There are weird ideas and then there is... The San Francisco Dungeon is giving people the unique chance to dine with the most unlikely dinner guests - rats. The restaurant is giving customers a chance to enjoy the Black Rat Cafe. For $49.99 one can sip coffee at a bistro-style table while surrounded by rodents. People who opt for the experience will also enjoy all-you-can-drink coffee, water, tea and pastries. However, all of the food will be taken away before the rats join the guests. All of them are from a nonprofit rescue, Rattie Ratz. The rat dates are July 1st and 8th. Get your tickets now. Can't wait 'til one opens in Brooklyn - not! (Story & photo from, edited by yours truly.)

The floating book shop was washed out today. After completing the book and the Sunday crossword, I went out for some air. I was standing under the scaffold that has been erected at my regular nook. It does not provide enough shelter to sell books during steady rain, but might do so for drizzle. While I was there I ran in to Vinnie, whom I hadn't seen in a long time. He was pissed off about an argument he had in Bank of America. He has lost his debit card four times, so the manager's impatience with him is understandable. I sense he has a drinking problem. I let him vent without interruption, even though he kept calling me Chris. He had to make several calls to get approved. He again has access to his money. I suggested he change banks, although it won't help if he keeps losing his card.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
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