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Time for a vacation from politics

Date: 9/12/2014

As you read this column I hope to be dipping my pink form in the Atlantic Ocean for a day as part of vacation. My only fear is that a whale watch boat will mistake for a seafaring mammal.

I intend to undertake some tasks around the house, get together with friends, take some short day or half-day jaunts – based on the time limits of my aging dog’s bladder – and unplug as much as I can without leaving the country.

Therefore there won’t be a hint of politics in this week’s rant. The primary is past us and there is plenty of time to consider the November election. I’ve said too much.

Instead among my aspirations is to finish one of the books I’ve started. I have a pile of books next to my bed, several of which are in various states of being read.

Among the books are “Monuments Men” – the basis of the George Clooney movie is one of the volumes – as is “John Dies at the End,” a wildly entertaining horror comedy novel and “Tough Sh*t,” the new memoir by film director Kevin Smith. 

There are more as well.

My renewed interest in finishing these books and more stems in part from a recent Facebook post from a friend of mine who asked for a list of books that helped shaped our lives. His instructions were not to overthink the request but to do it quickly.

I thought this was a very interesting exercise so I swiftly wrote the following: George Orwell’s “Down and Out in Paris and London;” Sinclair Lewis’s “Main Street;” Ray Bradbury’s “Dandelion Wine;” Ambrose Bierce’s “The Devil's Dictionary;” Don Marquis’s “Archy and Mehitabel;” and Roy Chapman Andrews’ “All About Dinosaurs.”

“All About Dinosaurs” was among the first books I remember and Andrews was my first literary hero. The book detailed his trips to Mongolia where he discovered fossilized dinosaurs eggs. It seemed to me at age 5 or 6 to be the most amazing trip imaginable. I still do.

In high school and college I discovered two authors who I thought combined journalism with fiction to present truths about human nature: Orwell and Lewis. I read as many of their books as I could and I recommend them to anyone.

“The Devil’s Dictionary” is just one of the volumes of Bierce’s work I have at home. He was a wildly talented and cynical newspaperman who was as adept at fiction – “The Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” – as he was in journalistic endeavors.

Bradbury’s “Dandelion Wine” is among his most sentimental books, a novel about growing up in a small town. It’s beautiful and its sequel sits in the pile next to my bed.

Marquis was another newspaperman who wrote a celebrated column. Among his creations was a cockroach poet who jumped in the keys of his typewriter to compose free verse poems. Here is an excerpt from his first work:  

“expression is the need of my soul
i was once a vers libre bard?but i died and my soul went into the body of a cockroach
it has given me a new outlook upon life
i see things from the under side
now?thank you for the apple peelings in the wastepaper basket?
but your paste is getting so stale i cant eat it
there is a cat here called mehitabel i wish you would have
removed she nearly ate me the other night why dont she?
catch rats that is what she is supposed to be fore
there is a rat here she should get without delay”

I love his work. By the way, Archy couldn’t manage the shift key on a manual typewriter.

I’m not sure which book I will complete first, but high on my vacation to-do list will be finishing one of the books I’ve started. I have about 10 cigars and half a bottle of Scotch to help accomplish the task.

What books have played a role in your life? Drop me a line and I’ll read it when I’m back in the office.

Agree? Disagree? Drop me a line at or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.