This is the tragedy and the recording that finally made me a fan of The Bard. The narrative commentary is beyond amazing and the voices of the actors is perfect. This is my favorite Shakespeare and I look forward to using this audio when teaching my AP English Literature class every year.
As Nadia’s Children, the latest novel in The Werewolf Saga, nears release I’d like to give you, readers, the Gift of Lycanthropy to get you ready for this latest installment. To do that, I’m offering the Kindle e-book editions of both Shara and Ulrik absolutely free today and Monday.*
Remember, this is the MoonHowler Press edition of each, which includes about 10,000 words of Shara that have never been available before. Ulrik includes a sampling of Nadia’s Children.
If you enjoy them and want to leave a review, that would be very kind of you. If you don’t enjoy them, pretend you never heard of them. haha
Look for Nadia’s Children within the next couple of weeks!
I’m sorry I can’t offer Murdered by Human Wolves for free. That title is currently not in my control. However, you can buy the Kindle edition here for just $3.99. Think of it as a buy one get two free deal.
*With any luck the delayed publishing of this post will coincide with the time Amazon begins the promotion…
Something about this novel drew me for a long time. It was on my wish list for over a year, and when I finally bought it, I started it immediately. I don’t know why. It isn’t the kind of book I’d normally be in a rush to read, but for some reason the idea of these three guys coming together and battling personal demons — metaphorical demons, even — really compelled me. Demons. Compel. See the influence of what I usually read? haha
Anyhoo, I loved this book up until the end. The three characters are beautifully drawn and their interaction with one another seems very real, the way these kind of men would talk to each other. Ron Carlson’s writing is lyrical and sweeping and minute and beautiful. Carlson moves from poetic descriptions of the vastness of the Idaho desert to the sparse dialogue in a way that perfectly contrasts the men and their surroundings, while at the same time showing how they fit together perfectly.
I had pretty much forgotten about the title of the book until the phrase “five skies” is used toward the end. Once it came up, though, the light bulb went on and I understood it. It’s a very appropriate title.
My problem with the ending is that it is simply too abrupt. I can’t go into why I think that without spoilers that would just ruin the book, so that’s all that I’ll say. The defining moment happens without anyone actually seeing it, and then the wrap-up comes too soon.
I listened to this as an audio book. As beautiful as Carlson’s prose is, he was not the best choice to narrate the book. It was as though he was trying to keep his voice detached. The narration came across as flat, without a variance of inflection or accent for different characters. It wasn’t as bad as, say Toni Morrison reading Beloved, but the audio would have been more enjoyable with a narrator as skilled in his craft as Carlson is with a keyboard. This is a book I will likely buy in paper to let the voice in my head reread.
I don’t post about my job as a high school English teacher a lot. Too much information makes administrators nervous, and once I start it’s hard for me to decide where to draw the line. But this post isn’t so much about my specific school, so maybe I won’t end up in the principal’s office. Again. We’ll see.
Today I read what apparently was already an old column by Joel Stein in which he discusses “How I Replaced Shakespeare.” In it, he talks about some of the objectives of Common Core, a method of teaching that most schools — including mine — will adopt by the 2014 school year. In some ways this is simply “replacing one piece of nonsense for another,” as Winston Smith would say in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four. But soon kids won’t know that. (We’ll come back to that.) Common Core replaces P.A.S.S., which replaced something else, which replaced something else, etc. If you’ve ever worked in the corporate world you can relate this nonsense to Six Sigma and all the other philosophies somebody who got paid more than you dreamed up to make you a better worker.
Now, I’m often accused of being too negative. So before I make a startling revelation about why Common Core won’t work, let me state that there is some good here. Oklahoma’s current end-of-instruction exams are primarily multiple choice. The English exam has an essay component, but it only accounts for 14 percent of the final grade. Common Core will require students to write, and to do that they must THINK. Here’s how I think it will work. Students currently read a short passage — fiction, poetry, or nonfiction — and are asked MC questions such as, “The theme of this story can best be described as ___________” and they answer A, B, C or D. What do we know? Lucky guess, or the kid really knew the answer? A Common Core question would be more like, “What is the theme of this story? Support your response with examples from the text.”
Ah. Now we can see what the student really knows. Does he know what theme is? Does he understand how to distill that theme down to a simple sentence? Can he find evidence that supports his hypothesis? And hey, while he’s doing that we can evaluate his spelling, grammar, punctuation, diction and syntax. This is good. This makes the kids think. Thinking kids make happy teachers.
In his column, Stein discusses a conversation he had with Gene Wilhoit, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers – who, along with the National Governors Association, created the Common Core. According to Stein, Wilhoit said CEOs and university professors pushed for Common Core to happen. The only people who opposed it were lovers of literature. Stein writes:
“That happens to be a lot of high school teachers,” Wilhoit said. But students aren’t reading nonfiction on their own, he added, and their history-class assignments tend to be short textbook summaries, not primary sources. “It’s not a good trend, ” he said. “I guess it’s a by-product of the media world we live in.”
So … the only people opposed are the ones who have to actually implement the plan? Hmm. Success is assured! Stein, who seems a sensible man, points out the ridiculousness of this.
But if you ask me, that’s a failing of history classes, not English. Among the nonfiction the Common Core curriculum suggests are FedViews by the Federal Reserve of San Francisco.
Who the hell wants to read FedViews? The boringness of the very name makes my head wobble toward the point where it wants to slam against my desk while I reach for my cell phone to check Facebook for news of the zombie apocalypse. We would give up Orwell for FedViews? C’mon!
Switching to a focus on non-fiction doesn’t excite me and I think it’s a bad idea. But most any English teacher would tell you that. If we really want to fix education, I have a different idea.
And this is where I might get myself in trouble. The CEOs and university professors and even Stein himself seems to have missed a vital variable here. This was true in the 1980s when I was a student and it was evident in full force when my son graduated from his high school a few years ago and it’s a real problem where I teach. You see, history classes are often … overseen … by guys who were jocks in school but not good enough jocks to go pro, so they decided to become high school coaches. The way to do that is by getting a teaching certificate. This requires they sit through a few hours per day with kids before they get to plan and practice for the next game or meet or match, but movies and worksheets they don’t grade will keep those kids busy while he watches ESPN or reads the sports page.
Hold on! I know many history teachers who really teach. Yes. Some are good friends of mine and I respect and admire them for what they do and they are intelligent enough to know that if they truly teach their subject I am not including them here. If they’re honest, they’ll also admit they have colleagues who do exactly what I have described. My son’s history teacher was the head football coach. My son would often turn in papers on which he’d written … well, things that were not the correct answers over and over and he’d earn a grade of 100. I have a student who is failing six of his seven classes, but he has a 100 average in his history class. This is not new, and sadly it is not uncommon.
English teachers typically take on their job because we love literature. We love language. We love communicating and we know that nonfiction will teach us facts but fiction teaches us truths.
What am I getting to? We don’t need Common Core anymore than we needed P.A.S.S. How about we hire laymen as coaches and teachers as teachers? And make athletics an extracurricular activity that has to be earned instead of a blow-off class that pulls half the teachers out of the classroom one (and sometimes two) period(s) every day? How about we get rid of schools’ help wanted ads that read, “Football coach wanted. Teaching field open.” No, I am not joking; I have seen those ads. How about we get the politicians and the booster money out of the school and put in teachers who love their subjects? How about we enforce some discipline among the students and hold parents accountable? Can we instill respect for themselves and their school and community so that they want to learn and improve themselves?
It won’t happen, of course. Common Core will follow P.A.S.S. into the ashes. Students like mine who took their American History EOI a couple of weeks ago will continue to realize that watching movies and getting easy 100s on every assignment left them totally unprepared for the test that will determine whether or not they have to retake the class. And schools will continue to look for good coaches and will continue to do what the state tells them to, even when they know it’s wrong.
And soon the proles won’t remember that we were at war with East Asia yesterday. We have always been at war with Eurasia.
I have so much stuff going on I can barely keep up with it all. I have two big announcements, but this one was released first, so I’ll do it today. The new MoonHowler Press edition of Book 3 of The Werewolf Saga is available right now.
Is it different than the out-of-print version from Scrybe Press? Essentially, no, it’s not. Unlike Shara, I didn’t have chapters I’d cut from the original draft that I could put back into this one. It has a different cover that fits into the new look for each of The Werewolf Saga books (once again designed by my son Alex Wedel). And it has a sample chapter from the upcoming Nadia’s Children.
You can get the summary and all the juicy details on my page dedicated to Ulrik. Or you can skip the sales pitch and just get your copy at:
I’m in the midst of listening and approving the audio performance of this novel. Narrator/producer Gene Blake has turned in an amazing performance that I think you’ll love. It looks like that release is still a few weeks away, though.
I would give this one 3.5 stars (out of five). It was at times very frustrating, quite boring, and then, at the end, very, very moving.
Clyde Griffiths has to be one of the most dislikable characters in all of American literature. Sure, one can relate to the young Clyde not wanting to be part of his parents’ street mission, wanting a job, then wanting a better job, but once he has a pretty decent job as a bellboy he quickly becomes droll and boring until an accident sends him fleeing Kansas City. He soon ends up working a low middle management job in his rich uncle’s shirt and collar factory, and that’s when he really becomes a shallow, self-serving little … Well, not a good person.
This incredibly long book could easily have been cut by several hundred pages without losing anything, but perhaps gaining in momentum. Dreiser really dragged out some of the descriptions, repeating things over and over sometimes. Also, a good deal of the action was told to us passively instead of in an active voice that let the reader experience it.
That said, the end of the book, after the trial, I found to be very moving and insightful. Sure, it was filled with Christian overtones that may turn away some readers, but when you consider the time period it’s to be expected. However, that soul-searching that Clyde, and especially his mother, has to go through at that time really redeemed the book in my opinion.
The audiobook is over 34 hours long. Whether you listen or read, plan to devote a good chunk of time to this one. I found it worthwhile, and it’s one of those stories I suspect will nag at my memory for quite a while now that I’ve finished it.
After being out of print for a little over a year, I’m very pleased to announce that my first novel, and the first full-length novel in The Werewolf Saga series, is back in print. This edition features about 10,000 words that were cut out of the previous editions, offering more insight into the actions and motivations of some characters in the early part of the story.
The cover for this edition was designed by my son, Alex, under my direction. We went for a simple, subtle design and a pallet of only three colors that will be used again on the upcoming release of Ulrik and Nadia’s Children. Unlike previous versions, these covers will really serve to tie the novels together visually as a series.
Also, for the first time ever, Shara is available electronically and exclusively for the Kindle market. In time it will be available for the Nook and other readers.
So far, the book is not showing up at Barnes & Noble online, and I’m told it could be a few weeks before that happens. For now, it’s available here:
The Shara page of this site has been completely updated with more description and blurbs and such. You can see that here.
If all goes as planned, Ulrik will be available within two weeks and Nadia’s Children will see its first ever publication two weeks after that.
Many, many thanks to all the fans who have waited patiently for this series to resume.
My American Lit classes finished reading this today. I’ve read it many times and it just doesn’t get old. I’d give it five stars if the ending wasn’t so abrupt, but I suppose it’s hard to simulate a hanging on the stage, so Miller didn’t have much of a choice.
The kids (high school juniors) really get into it. Part of it is the story, but I know a lot of it has to do with getting to shout “whore” and “harlot” as we read it out loud. Hey, whatever gets them to like literature.
I have to admit I love this little play. I especially love teaching it to my AP Literature students. It’s short, but rich in character study and provides some excellent examples of symbolism. Someone from my class has used this play to answer Question 3 of the AP Lit exam every year since I began teaching the class. That’s how loaded with literary merit this piece is.
The Glass Menagerie is the final piece in what is really the backbone of my class, beginning with The Great Gatsby, then The Grapes of Wrath. What we read before and after these three changes, but I can’t imagine ever teaching the course without Gatsby, Grapes, and Glass.
It had been years and years since I last read this, but Audible.com offered it as a free download for Easter. (I love Audible.com!) It’s a very cute little tail about a disobedient bunny who narrowly avoids the tasty fate of his late father. If you like The Poky Little Puppy, you’ll like this one, too.