A Weekly Literary Celebration: LitBash 2

Writers who were born, or died, this coming week. Read books, and meet the fascinating people who wrote them. Above all read, because, as Charles Eliot said: "Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers."

Born this week:

Stephen Leacock, Writer.
"I detest life-insurance agents: they always argue that I shall some day die, which is not so."

Paul Bowles, Writer.
"I think we all really thrive on hostility, because it's the most intense kind of massage the ego can undergo."

Horacio Quiroga, Writer.
He wrote stories which, in their jungle settings, use the supernatural and the bizarre to show the struggle of man and animal to survive. He also excelled in portraying mental illness and hallucinatory states. His influence can be seen in the Latin American magic realism of Gabriel García Márquez and the postmodern surrealism of Julio Cortázar.

Fumiko Hayashi, Writer.
Many of her works revolve around themes of free spirited women and troubled relationships.

Veijo Meri, Writer.
Author of a series of anti-war novels.

Mariano Azuela, Writer.
A follower of Pancho Villa, he wrote a novel, first-hand description of combat during the Mexican revolution.

J.D. Salinger, Writer.
"There is a marvelous peace in not publishing. ... It's peaceful. Still. Publishing is a terrible invasion of my privacy. I like to write. I live to write. But I write just for myself and my own pleasure. ... I don't necessarily intend to publish posthumously, but I do like to write for myself. ... I pay for this kind of attitude. I'm known as a strange, aloof kind of man. But all I'm doing is trying to protect myself and my work."

Isaak Asimov, Writer.
"The true artist is quite rational as well as imaginative and knows what he is doing; if he does not, his art suffers. The true scientist is quite imaginative as well as rational, and sometimes leaps to solutions where reason can follow only slowly; if he does not, his science suffers."

Died this week:

Theodore Dreiser, Writer.
"The most futile thing in this world is any attempt, perhaps, at exact definition of character. All individuals are a bundle of contradictions — none more so than the most capable."

Susan Sontag, Writer.
"The truth is always something that is told, not something that is known. If there were no speaking or writing, there would be no truth about anything. There would only be what is."

Romain Rolland, Writer.
"Be reverent before the dawning day. Do not think of what will be in a year, or in ten years. Think of to-day. Leave your theories. All theories, you see, even those of virtue, are bad, foolish, mischievous. Do not abuse life. Live in to-day. Be reverent towards each day."

Aleksis Kivi, Writer.
Noted for the first significant novel written in Finnish and by a Finnish-speaking author.

Paul Adam, Writer.
Wrote a series of historical novels that dealt with the period of the Napoleonic Wars and their aftermath.


What you read is what you are

"Eating anything you come across does not contribute to good health; the content of what we eat is of vital importance. The same is true of reading. ...

It is less the act of reading that reaps benefits and rather the content of what is read. Beyond a basic grasp of grammar, reading baseball reports is fundamentally different from reading Jane Austen.

And too often teachers and librarians are unwilling to assume their core responsibility — to guide young people to acquire knowledge. Too often books recommended to students today have limited value and are incapable of helping young minds navigate today’s social complexities. In fact, they make the passage through adolescence, a time when identity is being developed, even tougher.

Certain authors may need to aim at the most commercially viable, lowest common denominator of modern society. What is dispiriting is that librarians and educators largely acquiesce..." SOURCE

A writer writes what readers read, and what publishers publish.


A Weekly Literary Celebration: LitBash 1

Celebrate literature: fascinating people and writers who were born, or died, this coming week. Buy or download their books, or books about them. Read, because, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said: "In the highest civilization, the book is still the highest delight. He who has once known its satisfactions is provided with a resource against calamity."

Born this week:

Rene Bazin, Writer.
Author of "novels of great charm and delicacy"

Yevgenia Ginzburg, Writer.
Upon sentencing to 10 years, and loss of property: "To live! Without property, but what was that to me? Let them confiscate it -- they were brigands anyway, confiscating was their business. They wouldn't get much good out of mine, a few books and clothes -- why, we didn't even have a radio. My husband was a loyal Communist of the old stamp, not the kind who had to have a Buick or a Mercedes... Ten years! ...Do you [the judges], with your codfish faces, really think you can go on robbing and murdering for another ten years, that there aren't people in the Party who will stop you sooner or later?"

John Cowper Powys, Writer.
Author of Wolf Solent, "the only book in the English languiage to rival Tolstoy."
"Man is the animal who weeps and laughs — and writes. If the first Prometheus brought fire from heaven in a fennel-stalk, the last will take it back — in a book."

Jean Baptiste Racine, Writer.
"Today, let us make haste to enjoy life. Who knows if we will be tomorrow?"

Heinrich Boll, Writer.
"One ought to go too far, in order to know how far one can go."

Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, Writer.
"When a peasant gives me his bit of cheese he's making me a bigger present than the Prince of Làscari when he invites me to dinner. That's obvious. The difficulty is that the cheese is nauseating. So all that remains is the heart's gratitude which can't be seen and the nose wrinkled in disgust which can be seen only too well."

Julien Benda, Writer.
In The Betrayal of the Intellectuals, Benda argued that French and German intellectuals in the 19th and 20th century had often lost the ability to reason dispassionately about political and military matters, instead becoming apologists for crass nationalism, warmongering and racism.

Henry Miller, Writer.
"This is not a book. This is libel, slander, defamation of character. This is not a book, in the ordinary sense of the word. No, this is a prolonged insult, a gob of spit in the face of Art, a kick in the pants to God, Man, Destiny, Time, Love, Beauty ... what you will"

Alejo Carpentier, Writer.
Travel, Music and Writing... my dream.

Jesus Christ
Makes the list for having inspired plenty of works of literature ;)

Died this week:

Yury Tynianow, Writer.
Author of historical novels and biographies.

F. Scott Firzgerald, Writer.
"All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath."

James Hilton, Writer.
Hilton found literary success at an early age. His first novel, Catherine Herself, was published in 1920, when he was 20. Several of his books were international bestsellers and inspired successful film adaptations, notably Lost Horizon (1933), which won a Hawthornden Prize; Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1934); and Random Harvest (1941). Lost Horizon, which sold briskly in the 1930s as one of the first Pocket Books (it in fact bore the serial number "1"), is sometimes referred to as the book that began the paperback revolution.

John Steinbeck, Writer.
"The discipline of the written word punishes both stupidity and dishonesty."

Carl Sagan, Writer.
"I would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But much as I want to believe that, and despite the ancient and worldwide cultural traditions that assert an afterlife, I know of nothing to suggest that it is more than wishful thinking."

Giovanni Boccaccio, Writer.
"I have always been given to understand…that whereas a single cock is quite sufficient for ten hens, ten men are hard put to satisfy one woman."

Kurt Tucholsky, Writer.
"For four years, there were whole square miles of land where murder was obligatory, while it was strictly forbidden half an hour away. Did I say: murder? Of course murder. Soldiers are murderers."

Lion Feuchtwanger, Writer.
Feuchtwanger served in the German Army during World War I, an experience that contributed to a leftist tilt in his writings. After studying a variety of subjects, he became a theater critic and founded the culture magazine, "Der Spiegel", in 1908. He soon became a figure in the literary world, and was sought out by the young Bertolt Brecht, with whom he collaborated on drafts of Brecht's early work, The Life of Edward II of England, in 1923-24. According to Feuchtwanger's widow, Marta, Feuchtwanger was a possible source for the titles of two other Brecht works, including Drums in the Night (first called Spartakus by Brecht).

George Eliot, Writer.
"My own experience and development deepen everyday my conviction that our moral progress may be measured by the degree in which we sympathize with individual suffering and individual joy."

Nikolay Ostrowski, Writer.
"Man's dearest possession is life. It is given to him but once, and he must live it so as to feel no torturing regrets for wasted years, never know the burning shame of a mean and petty past; so live that, dying he might say: all my life, all my strength were given to the finest cause in all the world- the fight for the Liberation of Mankind."

Benito Lynch, Writer.
An eccentric, Lynch's quirky short stories, (he wrote more than a hundred) in a neo-gauchoesque manner that sometimes evokes magic realism, have been often filmed and dramatized. He also strikes a genuinely and authentically popular vein.

Samuel Beckett, Writer.
"I think the next little bit of excitement is flying. I hope I am not too old to take it up seriously, nor too stupid about machines to qualify as a commercial pilot. I do not feel like spending the rest of my life writing books that no one will read. It is not as though I wanted to write them."

Anatoly Rybakov, Writer.
His most popular novel Children of the Arbat was written and distributed via samizdat in the 1960s, but was not published until 1987 despite having been officially announced for publication in 1966 and 1978 (in both cases publication was canceled at the very last moment by the Soviet government). The eventual publication of the novel and its sequels - 1935 and Other Years («Тридцать пятый и другие годы», 1989), Fear («Страх», 1990) and Dust & Ashes («Прах и пепел», 1994) - were considered a landmark of the nascent glasnost, as the first in the trilogy was one of the earliest publications of previously forbidden anti-Stalin literature.

William Makepeace Thackeray, Writer.
"Dare, and the world always yields: or, if it beat you sometimes, dare again, and it will succumb."

Arturo Barea, Writer.
His The Forge (La Forja) tells the story of his childhood and adolescence growing up in Madrid between 1905 and 1914. ( It was reviewed favourably by George Orwell in Horizon, " a fragment of autobiography, and we may hope that others will follow it..if the Fascist powers have done no other good, they have at least enriched the English-speaking world by exiling all their best writers. "

Louis Aragon, Writer.
As a novelist he encompasses the whole ethos of the Twentieth century: surrealist novel, socialist realism, realism, nouveau roman. Indeed he was one of the founding personalities of the novel of his time.

Harold Pinter, Playwright.
"The U.S. is really beyond reason now. It is beyond our imagining to know what they are going to do next and what they are prepared to do. There is only one comparison: Nazi Germany... Nazi Germany wanted total domination of Europe and they nearly did it. The U.S. wants total domination of the world and is about to consolidate that...
Blair sees himself as a representative of moral rectitude. He is actually a mass murderer. But we forget that — we are as much victims of delusions as Americans are."

Vladimir Korolenko, Writer, Activist,
"Violence feeds on submission like fire feeds on dry grass."

Paul Charles Bourget, Writer.
"At certain moments, words are nothing; it is the tone in which they are uttered."

Karel Capek, Writer.
"Much melancholy has devolved upon mankind, and it is detestable to me that might will triumph in the end ... Art must not serve might."

Louis de Vilmerin, Writer.
"Francis Poulenc nearly literally sang her praises, considering her an equal to Paul Éluard and Max Jacob, found in her writing "a sort of sensitive impertinence, libertinage, and appetite which, carried on into song [is] what I tried to express in my extreme youth with Marie Laurencin in Les Biches."


There is fiction, and there is history, and the author in the middle

"There is fiction, and there is history. Certain critics of no discernment have considered that fiction is history which might have taken place, and history is fiction which has taken place. We are, indeed, forced to acknowledge that the novelist's art often compels belief, just as reality sometimes defies it. Alas! there exists an order of minds so sceptical that they deny the possibility of any fact as soon as it diverges from commonplace."

Andre Gide in Caves of the Vatican (also published as Lafcadio's Adventures)


Life without writing, or Death because of writing?

Considering becoming a writer? Health.com lists writers in the category of one of the top 10 "careers" most prone to depression:

"These jobs can bring irregular paychecks, uncertain hours, and isolation.

Creative people may also have higher rates of mood disorders; about 9% reported an episode of major depression in the previous year.

In men, it’s the job category most likely to be associated with an episode of major depression (nearly 7% in full-time workers).

“One thing I see a lot in entertainers and artists is bipolar illness,” says Legge. “There could be undiagnosed or untreated mood disorders in people who are artistic…. Depression is not uncommon to those who are drawn to work in the arts, and then the lifestyle contributes to it.”"

Rainer Maria Rilke suggested:

"No one can advise or help you — no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write."

One must ask what is more painful: living without writing, or knowing that one may die because of writing?

If you are one of those true writers for whom writing is not a choice, you are perhaps in a much better position from one who sets out to write on the premise of building a career. The stress comes from seeking publication and / or income from writing.

When a career is your primary consideration in becoming a writer, you can extend your chances of living to a ripe old age by adopting a pet.


How to reach your life's goals

A University professor to his loving students:

"You may be thinking of me as a man who achieved his life's goals. Yet, I'd be delighted to swap places with you. ...  Man never reaches what he set out to achieve. Behind the goal is a horizon, and behind it another, and another; the closer we get to it, the farther it becomes, it no longer seems quite as alluring from a close range, as it did from afar. Most importantly, the closer you get, the less appealing is the target, it is as though you are seeing it through haze. Yet, it is those vague objectives that are most alluring to individuals, as they are to entire nations too.

More important than reaching the goal, is how we tread the road to the goal. On this road we often lose so much that in the end the goal doesn't seem worth it. Many lose themselves on this road. Why are we in such a hurry to reach the end sooner? Is it not strange? The end of the road is completely different from its beginning, and often when we approach it we no longer know the purpose that sent us out in the first place. Sometimes we no longer need that for which we searched our whole life. It happens to entire nations too."

Grigory Baklanov, The Youngest of the Brothers (my translation.)


What memory will you leave behind

I must admit that I based my recent book purchase on the cover, or rather on the author's name. How could I resist the description -- the planned flooding of a village, written by Rasputin! Why, that sounded like James Dickey's Deliverance. Turned out however, that  Valentin Rasputin's novel, Farewell to Matyora, is a beautiful and lyrical tale of the changing world, departing of the old, and the coming of the new. It's an absorbing story about human destiny, penned by the author who has devoted his writing to spiritual dilemmas, and ethical and environmental issues. It's about the inhabitants of Matyora, farmers who must leave their village, and move to a city.

The following is my [imperfect] translation. Grandma Darya to her grandson Andrey:

"You praise the machine. That machines are working for you. Well, well. They no longer work for you, but you're working for them. And they have a lot of needs! Machine is not a horse, which you can feed oats and let it out to pasture. Machine will tear your veins open. Look how fast it runs, how it plows, scoops the earth. You're drawn to it. Machines get away from you, and you pursue them. You either catch up or not catch up with them, and these machines have created the next, without your input. Self-born, iron from iron. These new ones are faster. And you have to rush furiously so as not to be left behind. You no longer have time for each other... soon you'll ride over each other on the road, in pursuit of living faster. You know, in earlier times people had worked too, they did not sit with folded hands, but they worked leisurely, not like that. Now everything is done on the run. You run to work, and to the table - there is no time for anything. Even children are born in a race. And these children barely had time to be born, they barely stand on their feet, and are already out of breath.

You do not have to act like that, you do not have to rush blindly. Why not live your life in some order, think about the memory you leave behind. A memory remembers everything, it freezes the time, every little crumb of it…"


Why every citizen should support the wars

"Alba wondered where so many Fascists had come from overnight, because in the country's long democratic history they had not been particularly noticeable, except for a few who got carried away during World War II and thought it amusing to parade in black shirts with their arms raised in salute - to the laughter and hissing of bystanders - and had never won any important role in the life of the country. Nor did she understand the attitude of the armed forces, most of whom came from the middle and working class and had traditionally been closer to the left than to the far right. She did not understand the state of civil war, nor did she realize that war is the soldiers' work of art, the culmination of all their training, the gold medal of their profession. Soldiers are not made to shine in times of peace. The coup gave them a chance to put into practice what they had learned in their barracks: blind obedience, the use of arms, and other skills that soldiers can master once they silence the scruples of their hearts."

Isabel Allende, The House of the Spirits

Support the wars our mercenary armies are fighting overseas, because when they run out of external enemies the barrels of their guns will turn at you… ;/


Have books at home, will succeed in life

"For years, educators have thought the strongest predictor of attaining high levels of education was having parents who were highly educated. But, strikingly, this massive study showed that the difference between being raised in a bookless home compared to being raised in a home with a 500-book library has as great an effect on the level of education a child will attain as having parents who are barely literate (3 years of education) compared to having parents who have a university education (15 or 16 years of education). Both factors, having a 500-book library or having university-educated parents, propel a child 3.2 years further in education, on average. [...]

The researchers were struck by the strong effect having books in the home had on children's educational attainment even above and beyond such factors as education level of the parents, the country's GDP, the father's occupation or the political system of the country.

Having books in the home is twice as important as the father's education level, and more important than whether a child was reared in China or the United States. Surprisingly, the difference in educational attainment for children born in the United States and children born in China was just 2 years, less than two-thirds the effect that having 500 or more books in the home had on children (3.2 years)." source


Latin-American Literature, my reading list

I have been a great admirer of Latin-American literature ever since high school. Magical realism has that effect on teenagers that it sweeps them entirely off their feet. In my case it still keeps me on my knees. I read new writers, and re-read some old favorites. It's a fascinating journey into self, and a great retrospective on literary tastes. Some things just don't change, in other cases it's hard to believe the early infatuation:

Cortazar remains as fascinating as ever, Borges' philosophy seems shallow now, Marquez is as ambivalent as ever, Vargas Llosa still indigestible, Carpentier climbs to the top of the list, etc...

Of course, Latin-American literature is more than just magical realism. Here's my partial reading list for the next weeks and months, something new and something old:

Eduardo Galeano
Isabel Allende
Jorge Luis Borges
Macedonio Fernandez (mentor of JL Borges)
Ricardo Paglia
Enrique Anderson Imbert
Jose Agustin
Julio Cortazar
Maonica Lavin
Elena Poniatowska
Alfonso Reyes
Carlos Monsivais
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Adolfo Sanches Vazquez
Victoria Ocampo
Rebeca Orozco
Eduardo Mallea
Felipe Soto Viterbo
Adolfo Bioy Casares
Boris Vian
Octavio Paz
Farael Ramirez Heredia
Eladia Gonzalez
Ernesto Sabato
Jose Antonio Michel
Alejo Carpentier
Antonio Skarmeta
Gabriela Mistral
Ezequiel Martínez Estrada
Jorge Molist
José Ortega y Gasset
Carlos Fuentes
Raciel Trejo
Guillermo Cabrera Infante
Juan Carlos Onetti
Mario Benedetti
Manuel Peyrou
Jorge Semprun
Francisco Ayala
Leonardo Padura


Spying, nothing to brag about

"Life of spies excites the imagination by various adventures, exotic trips, luxury and everyday risk. As in the movies about James Bond. However, today the cult of spies seems to be declining: the attitude of media and society toward Bond‘s colleagues is mostly negative.

Although the roots of espionage or spying are very deep, it gained impetus only in 19th century. The role of spies has especially increased during the World War I, and the Cold War could be considered as the golden age of the military intelligence. Although today there are no global conflicts, local wars and international tension increases the importance of secret services. Though required to be more transparent and honest, these services at the same time must be more open to the society. Activities of the spies are no longer considered taboo for the media, therefore everybody must have heard about at least one scandal related to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the British Secret Intelligence Agency MI6, Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) or Israeli „Mossad“.

The society‘s aspiration to influence secret governmental political spheres is mostly expressed in the struggle against terrorism when radical actions are taken against independent actors. There the intelligence plays one of the key roles. CIA is active participant of this struggle, but at the same time it is one of the most criticized agencies out of the four secret services mentioned above.  The recent CIA‘s actions shocked the public when it became aware of the methods applied in the struggle against terrorism."

Continue reading


When a book is too long (don't blame the writer)

A columnist with The Guardian wonders why today's books are so darn long:

"Christos Tsiolkas's The Slap is almost 500 pages and Ken Follett's doorstopper Fall of Giants, if anyone's counting, is about 850 pages, probably to appeal to his American readers. Is anyone editing these books? The truth is that they all bear the imprint of marketing, not editorial, values.

Literary elephantiasis starts across the Atlantic. North America has a lot to answer for. In the "pile 'em high" tradition, US bookshops love to display big fat books in the window. The cut-and-paste technology of word processors must bear some of the blame, but overwriting is part of the zeitgeist. Jonathan Franzen's Freedom is highly enjoyable but who's finishing it? The novel is at least 100 pages too long."

Danny Finkelman, of the Finkelman's 45s, wondered about long books, and what happened to those 250 page novels of his youth? I read recently "A Choice of Enemies", by Mordecai Richler, a novel from 1957, set in Europe, and portraying Canadian and American artists exiled by McCarthy and his criminal disciples. The protagonist is a thriller writer:

"His agent in New York had sent him a copy of the letter from the publisher. They liked his latest thriller, but they wanted it expanded to a minimum of sixty thousand words."

60,000 words is about half of what one is expected to deliver these days. Let me rephrase it: a writer might not even be considered by a publisher unless her novel is looong enough. A book's length doubled in just 50 years even though the days of Charles Dickens and being paid by the word are over. When a book drags on and makes a reader yawn it may be, just may be, that a perfectly good story was made indigestible in order to fulfill the publisher's word count requirement.


Reading literature helps you understand life

Feeling foggy about the world around you? Read literature:

"Literary works are portrayals of the thinking patterns and social norms prevalent in society. They are a depiction of the different facets of common man's life. Classical literary works serve as a food for thought and a tonic for imagination, creativity and national integration. Exposing an individual to good literary works is equivalent to providing people with the finest of educational opportunity". source


Cold War cultural propaganda

"For decades in art circles it was either a rumour or a joke, but now it is confirmed as a fact. The Central Intelligence Agency used American modern art - including the works of such artists as Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko - as a weapon in the Cold War. In the manner of a Renaissance prince - except that it acted secretly - the CIA fostered and promoted American Abstract Expressionist painting around the world for more than 20 years.

Why did the CIA support them? Because in the propaganda war with the Soviet Union, this new artistic movement could be held up as proof of the creativity, the intellectual freedom, and the cultural power of the US. Russian art, strapped into the communist ideological straitjacket, could not compete.

The existence of this policy, rumoured and disputed for many years, has now been confirmed for the first time by former CIA officials. Unknown to the artists, the new American art was secretly promoted under a policy known as the "long leash""... source

Let's not forget that Hollywood was a propaganda weapon too, intended, and quite successfully, to spread American values abroad.


Mass Media on trial

The Institute for Economics and Peace and Media Tenor have released "Measuring Peace in the Media":

"The results show broad inconsistencies across geographies and networks, with US broadcasters much more focused on violence and conflict than their European and Middle Eastern counterparts. Al Jazeera was found to be the network providing the most balanced coverage on Afghanistan. BBC World led the way when it came to breadth of coverage. ...

Positive-peace stories make up just 1.6% of the total number of stories examined in the study.

CNN International, BBC World and Al Jazeera English all had similar number of reports on the topics that received the most total coverage – warfare, elections, crime and international politics.  However, Al Jazeera had the greatest breadth of coverage, including more coverage on topics which related progress in creating peace."


November 11, a memorable day for literature

November 11th is a memorable day for literature... Some of the greatest writers were born on this day:

"Well, I've worried some about, you know, why write books ... why are we teaching people to write books when presidents and senators do not read them, and generals do not read them. And it's been the university experience that taught me that there is a very good reason, that you catch people before they become generals... and presidents and so forth and you poison their minds with ... humanity, and however you want to poison their minds, it's presumably to encourage them to make a better world." Kurt Vonnegut

"I think the devil doesn't exist, but man has created him, he has created him in his own image and likeness." Fyodor Dostoyevsky

"Don't classify me, read me. I'm a writer, not a genre." Carlos Fuentes

The One Book to read on Veterans Day / Remembrance Day

If there is a single book that one ought to read on this Veterans Day / Remembrance Day, then it ought to be the All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque. You will gobble it up and ask for more. In which case go for The Road Back, Arch of Triumph, A time to Love and a Time to Die, Three Comrades, and The Black Obelisk, by the same author.

"But now, for the first time, I see you are a man like me. I thought of your hand-grenades, of your bayonet, of your rifle; now I see your wife and your face and our fellowship. Forgive me, comrade. We always see it too late. Why do they never tell us that you are poor devils like us, that your mothers are just as anxious as ours, and that we have the same fear of death, and the same dying and the same agony--Forgive me, comrade; how could you be my enemy?"

"He fell in October 1918, on a day that was so quiet and still on the whole front, that the army report confined itself to the single sentence: All quiet on the Western Front. He had fallen forward and lay on the earth as though sleeping. Turning him over one saw that he could not have suffered long; his face had an expression of calm, as though almost glad the end had come."

Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front


The Lost Russian Tsar, one of the CIA's greatest ass[ets]

"Colonel-General Michael Goleniewski is widely credited as being one of the most important Western agents ever to have operated within the Soviet KGB and its satellite agencies. He was the vice chairman of Communist Poland's military intelligence when he escaped to the West in 1960, bringing thousands of Top Secret Soviet documents as well as information identifying hundreds of highly placed Soviet agents in western governments and intelligence agencies. Among the important communist agents Goleniewski exposed were Kim Philby, George Blake, Gordon Lonsdale, Morris and Lona Cohen, Henry Houghton, Ethel Gee, and Stig Wennerström. So strategic, timely, and reliable were his revelations that the House of Representatives of the 88th Congress passed House Resolution 5507 to honor Goleniewski's exceptional contributions to American security."

"Goleniewski later made the claim that he was Tsarevich Alexei Nikolaevich, who, by most accounts, was killed with his family by Bolsheviks at Ekaterinburg, Russia on 17 July 1918. Goleniewski claimed that Yakov Yurovsky, one of the assassins, saved the family and helped them to escape. The whole family supposedly traveled to Poland via Turkey, Greece, and Austria. According to his story, the family lived in hiding in Poland. As author Guy Richards (one of Goleniewski's supporters) has pointed out, he was not the first Tsarevich Alexei cliamant to emerge from Poland; several decades earlier, in 1927, a pretender named Eugene Nicolaievich Ivanoff had appeared from the same part of that country and generated a brief flurry of publicity in Europe and North America.

Tsarevich Alexei, who was born in August 1904, was a haemophiliac. Goleniewski, whose identity card gave his date of birth as 1922, making him eighteen years younger than the Tsarevich, claimed that the haemophilia made him appear younger than he really was and he had been "twice a child." He claimed that his haemophilia had been confirmed by Dr. Alexander S. Wiener, who had co-discovered the Rh factor in human blood. This claim was never confirmed.

He met one of the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia claimants, Eugenia Smith, in 1963. The meeting was covered by Life magazine. Goleniewski claimed that Smith was his sister Anastasia. Smith also recognized Goleniewski as her brother Alexei, even though she had claimed in her book that she had been the sole survivor at Ekaterinburg.

Goleniewski's claim was an embarrassment to the CIA. He was put on a pension and his employment with the agency was ended in 1964.

In 1942 Wehrmacht soldiers transiting through Lemberg were told that near the town of Radom an old Polish landowner named Goleniewski lived on a large estate guarded by the SS and that he was in fact Tsar Nicholas II..."

sources: 1, 2.


Literacy rates by country

Literacy rates by country, top 10:

Georgia, Cuba, Estonia, Latvia, Barbados, Slovenia, Belarus, Lithuania, Ukraine, Armenia... (see complete list).

World Map of Literacy:


Military Intelligence Interrogation Secrets

In 2003, during the Second Gulf Invasion, the US military intelligence came up with a strategy to extract sensitive information from captured Saddam's soldiers and intelligence operatives.

The advanced technique the US Military devised was: forcing the enemy to listen to heavy metal music, such as Metallica's "Enter Sandman", interspersed with children tunes from the Sesame Street, or Barney the Dinosaur.

As one official reported to the Newseek: The strategy worked.

I do not doubt that it did, because it makes me want to admit to anything, as long as they stop that music!

Most horrific tools of torture:


Sesame Street



How to Persuade a Literary Agent or an Editor to reply to your Query Letter

So, you wrote a book, and want it published. You follow the established path: query literary agents, only to find, and likely to great perplexity, that most don't bother to reply. You may be puzzled, or angry, and wonder what to do next.

Turn to psychology. Randy Garner presents details of an interesting study, published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology (2005).

Researchers studied the art of persuasion based on similarity. They mailed surveys of varying information on the cover letter: one set of surveys where the name of participants matched the name of the scientist, and the other set where the names did not match.

In the matching surveys, the name of the researcher was Fred Jones, and the participants' names were Fred Smith, Fred Something-or-Other, etc. On the non-matching surveys the names of researches were different from the participants'.

"Four studies examine the influence of attaching a seemingly insignificant Post-it note to a survey packet on the likelihood of completing the survey. Participants who received a packet with an affixed Post-it note request had significantly higher return rates than participants who received the identical survey with (a) no sticky note, (b) the same message written on the cover sheet but without a Post-it or (c) a blank Post-it with no message provided. Furthermore, they returned the materials more promptly with higher quality responses. A more personalized Post-it appeal increased returns when the survey was long and time consuming but was no more effective than a nonpersonalized Post-it when the survey was easy to complete. Results suggest that the Post-it leads the request to be interpreted as a solicitation for a personal favor, facilitating a normative compliance response."


  • Surveys sent to non-matching names resulted in a 30% return rate

  • Name-Matching surveys were returned by 56% of participants

What's behind it? Another study concluded that we like people who share certain similarities with us, such as name, dress, habits, political preference, background, etc.

Thus, one may conclude that by finding literary agents, or editors, who share your name may result in higher response to your query letters. Adopting a pen-name makes the list virtually limitless...

The point: Never address your queries to "To Whom it May Concern", or "Dear Agent". Always address your recipients by their name. It's not just common courtesy. There's basic psychology in it, too.

More tips in:


The Scariest Book for Halloween

Looking for thrills this Halloween? Look no further than the book, described by the LA Times as: "... a far more frightening work than any of the nightmare novels of George Orwell ... the thesis that propaganda, whether its ends are demonstrably good or bad, is not only destructive to democracy, it is perhaps the most serious threat to humanity operating in the modern world."

Jacques Ellul writes in his book Propaganda:

"... propaganda destroys all individuality, is capable of creating only a collective personality, and that it is an obstacle to the free development of the personality.

Everywhere we find men who pronounce as highly personal truths what they have read in the papers only an hour before, and whose beliefs are merely the result of a powerful propaganda. Everywhere we find people who have blind confidence in a political party, a general, a movie star, a country, or a cause, and who will not tolerate the slightest challenge to that god. Everywhere we meet people who, because they are filled with the consciousness of Higher Interests they must serve unto death, are no longer capable of making the simplest moral or intellectual distinctions or of engaging in the most elementary reasoning. Yet all this is acquired without effort, experience, reflection, or criticism -- by the destructive shock effect of well-made propaganda. We meet this alienated man at every turn, and are possibly already one ourselves."

What is particularly frightening, and the author makes a compelling point of it, is that propaganda is omnipresent, and over time humans became dependent on its effects, they crave it, and cannot function without it.

Louis-Ferdinand Celine, another French writer, puts it very simply, and succinctly, though perhaps not without male chauvinism: "The public is like a woman, it wants to be fucked."


The Truth about the Enigma Cipher Machine

"The cracking of the “unbreakable” Enigma Code by analysts at Bletchley Park is believed to have tipped the balance of the war, by allowing the Allies to learn of German military plans. It was the initial work by [Polish Intelligence Officer] Colonel Langer’s team which paved the way for the British to unlock Enigma.

But for decades after the war, the role of Polish cipher experts went unrecognised. Canadian historian Witold K Liliental said Polish mathematicians broke the code before the outbreak of World War Two. Three young maths students took up posts as codebreakers in the Cipher Bureau of the Polish Army, under the command of Colonel Langer.

He said: “Realising the looming danger of impending war with Hitler, the Polish High Command decided to share the closely guarded secret with her Allies, Britain and France. This happened at a meeting in Warsaw in 1939.” He added: “For many years the role of Poles was either totally ignored or skimmed over with only vague references in historical literature.”" SOURCE

It's one of the saddest examples of selective history making: the Enigma Machine was captured, copied, and cracked by Polish Intelligence before the outbreak of the Second World War, as every Polish child knows, and Polish literature is rich in exploring the subject. Unfortunately, readers in the Anglo-American world, with access to only 2-3 % of books translated from other languages, will not have the opportunity to read the true account of breaking of the Enigma.

The Original, Real-Life, Ian Fleming's Bond Girl Inspiration

"Krystyna Skarbek was a Polish Special Operations Executive (SOE) agent. She became celebrated especially for her daring exploits in intelligence and sabotage missions to Nazi-occupied  Poland and France.

She became a British agent months before the SOE was founded in July 1940 and was one of the longest-serving of all Britain's wartime women agents. Her resourcefulness and success have been credited with influencing the sabotage organization's policy of recruiting increasing numbers of women.

In 1941 she began using the nom de guerre Christine Granville, which she legally adopted after the war.

A friend of Ian Fleming, Skarbek is said to have been the inspiration for Bond girls Tatiana Romanova and Vesper Lynd.

Skarbek became a legend in her lifetime. Soon after her death, she entered the realm of popular culture. It has been said that Ian Fleming, in his first James Bond novel, Casino Royale (1953), modeled Vesper Lynd on her. According to William F. Nolan, Fleming also based Tatiana Romanova, in his 1957 novel From Russia, with Love, on Skarbek.

After the war, Skarbek was left without financial reserves or a native country to return to. Xan Fielding, whom she had saved at Digne, wrote in his 1954 book, Hide and Seek, and dedicated "To the memory of Christine Granville":

"After the physical hardship and mental strain she had suffered for six years in our service, she needed, probably more than any other agent we had employed, security for life. […] Yet a few weeks after the armistice she was dismissed with a month's salary and left in Cairo to fend for herself ... [Alt]hough she was too proud to ask for any other assistance, she did apply for […] a British passport; for ever since the Anglo-American betrayal of her country at Yalta she had been virtually stateless. But the naturalization papers […] were delayed in the normal bureaucratic manner.

Meanwhile, abandoning all hope of security, she deliberately embarked on a life of uncertain travel, as though anxious to reproduce in peace time the hazards she had known during the war; until, finally, in June 1952, in the lobby of a cheap London hotel, the menial existence to which she had been reduced by penury was ended by an assassin's knife.

In that latter period of her life, she met Ian Fleming, with whom she allegedly had a year-long affair, although there is no proof that this affair occurred. The man who made the allegation, Donald McCormick, relied on the word of a woman named "Olga Bialoguski"; McCormick always refused to identify her, and she is not included in his list of acknowledgments." SOURCE: WikiPedia

British Female Spies of WWII

"One of Britain's most-decorated female spies was initially dismissed as "scatterbrained" and "not very intelligent" by her superiors, documents released for the first time today reveal.

When Eileen Nearne was buried last month, details of the 89-year-old’s heroism came to light. One of a select number of Special Operations Executive (SOE) agents, she was parachuted into France in 1944 as a radio operator codenamed Rose, transmitting vital intelligence until she was captured. She endured torture at the hands of Nazi interrogators, refusing to reveal any details and eventually managing to escape. She was later awarded the French Croix de Guerre and the MBE for her “cool efficiency, perseverance and willingness to undergo any risk”.

Known as Churchill’s Secret Army, the SOE was set up in 1940 to encourage and facilitate espionage and sabotage behind enemy lines. Two years later Winston Churchill gave his approval for women to be sent into Europe after it was argued that they would be less conspicuous than men." SOURCE

Eileen Nearne on WikiPedia


JFK, Lee Harvey Oswald, and the Cure for Cancer

What do JFK, Lee Harvey Oswald and the Cure for Cancer have in common?

According to Oswald's lover, Judyth Vary Baker (she was accepted as a political asylum seeker in Europe, the first ever non-combatant American woman to succeed in gaining asylum seeker status in the world), the underlying reason for the assassinations were Biological Weapons / Cure for Cancer.

"What happened is far more impressive and sinister than anyone could have imagined. Beyond the facts that the death of JFK opened the way to more wars, such as in Vietnam, ostensibly to fight communism while enriching the war industry, with the Mafia free of Bobby Kennedy's pesky presence countering corruption, we now know there is now a whole new angle to the story. And it is perhaps more important and worrying than even the assassination of a beloved President. Behind it all was the development of a biological weapon capable of killing anyone by injecting virulent cancer cells. Any such murder would, of course, look like a natural death.

This is what Lee Harvey Oswald, a US government agent, was working on with Judyth Vary Baker in the summer of 1963 in New Orleans, along with David Ferrie, Dr. Mary Sherman, and Dr. Alton Ochsner from the Ochsner Clinic, with the government and the Mafia waiting in the wings. [...]

Judyth Vary Baker had only one wish when she was a young and promising lab researcher hired by Dr. Ochsner -- to discover a cure for cancer -- and everyone believed then that she could do it. She and her fellow research associates were led to believe that the New Orleans Project -- developing a biological weapon designed to assassinate Fidel Castro -- could have prevented the death of JFK and World War Three. Then, after Kennedy was killed, she was told to keep her mouth shut and to never again work in cancer research."


Would you like know what we shall find when they declassify the information on the JFK assassination?


The Great Gold Conspiracy

"The precious metals markets have tremendous potential for investors. But they are also wrapped up in great mystery -- deliberately so.

Gold is the worst understood financial market. Most official data about gold is actually disinformation. [...]

Many of you have heard about the looting of Europe that was undertaken by the Nazi German occupation during World War II. But most of that looting did not take place at the point of a gun. No, it took place through the currency markets.

This looting through the currency markets was spelled out by the November 1943 issue of a military intelligence letter published by the U.S. War Department, a letter called Tactical and Technical Trends. Of course the Nazi occupation seized whatever central bank gold reserves had not been sent out of the occupied countries in time. But then the Nazi occupation either issued special occupation currency that could not be used in Germany itself or, in countries that had fairly sophisticated banking systems, took over the domestic central bank and enforced an exchange rate much more favorable to the reichsmark. Or else the Nazi occupation simply printed for itself and spent huge new amounts of the regular currency of the occupied country. This control of the currency markets drafted every resident of the occupied countries into the service of the occupation and achieved a one-way flow of production -- a flow out of the occupied countries and into Germany."


There are several fascinating accounts of German Intelligence operations involving gold and currency in occupied countries, including concentration camp money production. Look them up.


Every writer's dilemma: How to begin a novel?

Every writer dreads the beginning. How, oh how, to begin the novel? Is there a magical formula, one applicable to every genre, and to every writer? Many literary agents, and numerous editors believe so, hence the oft repeated dogma: If your story does not grab the reader's [read: the literary agent's] attention from the very first page then it only warrants a rejection slip.

What is a writer to do?

Be true to yourself, as this celebrated author of numerous works suggests:

"I am an author without talent who doesn't even have a complete command of his own language. But it matters little. Read on at any rate, kind public. Truth is a good thing which compensates even for an author's faults. This reading will be useful to you, and you will experience no deception, since I have warned you that you will find in my novel neither talent nor art, only the truth.

For the rest, my kind public, regardless of how you may love to read between the lines, I prefer to tell you everything. Because I have confessed that I have no trace of talent and that my novel will be faulty in the telling, do not conclude that I am inferior to the storytellers whom you accept and that this book is beneath their writings. That is not the purpose of my explanation. I merely mean that my story is very weak, so far as execution is concerned, in comparison with the works produced by real talent. But, as for the celebrated works of your favorite authors, you may, even in point of execution, put it on their level; you may even place it above them; for there is more art here than in the works aforesaid, you may be sure. And now, public, thank me! And since you love so well to bend the knee before him who disdains you, salute me!

Happily, scattered through your throngs, there exist, O public, persons, more and more numerous, whom I esteem. If I have just been impudent, it was because I spoke only to the vast majority of you. Before the persons to whom I have just referred, on the contrary, I shall be modest and even timid. Only, with them, long explanations are useless. I know in advance that we shall get along together. Men of research and justice, intelligence and goodness, it is but yesterday that you emerged among us; and already your number is great and becoming ever greater. If you were the whole public, I should not need to write; if you did not exist, I could not write. But you are a part of the public, without yet being the whole public; and that is why it is possible, that is why it is necessary, for me to write."

From the preface to "What is to be done?" by Nikolay Chernyshevsky
Play your best card:


Support literature for a better society

"Literature is about social liveliness, it's a life-blood [...] It enriches life. Culture enriches people, it makes for a better society, it makes for a better educated and more cultivated and humane society. Literature is part of that [...] It was hugely important for corporations, such as banks, investment firms, construction companies and property developers to support literature as part of the arts, and for us to say to them: You can't just develop properties, you have to let people develop as well" SOURCE


Literature can bring an end to extremism

"Minister for Information and Broadcasting Qamar Zaman Kaira said on Monday that we have distanced ourselves from literature and art which has resulted in the predicament of our society and recent wave of extremism.

Kaira lamented that in the past dialogue used to be weapon in our society, but now weapons have taken the place of dialogue in our society and there was urgent need to fight this mindset and literacy figures can play a crucial role in winning this war against terrorism.

Kaira said that as a nation we have tried to find political and administrative solution of the problems being faced by us but real solution lies in revival of arts and literature in the society.

Our society has stopped giving respect to poets and writers which they deserve and as a result of this attitude our approach has become stagnant and retrospective.

He said that no single person can bring a revolution. Literary personalities and politicians all play their role in revolutionizing the society."



The XXth Century's Robin Hood

"Salvatore Giuliano (November 16, 1922 – July 5, 1950) was a Sicilian peasant. The subjugated social status of his class led him to become a bandit and separatist who has been mythologised during his life and after his death.  He is commonly compared to the legend of Robin Hood in popular culture, due to stories pertaining to him helping the poor villagers in his area by taking from the rich.

In the Sagana mountains, Giuliano collected a gang of approximately fifty bandits, criminals, deserters, and homeless men under his leadership and gave them military-style marksmanship training. The gang took to robbery and burglary for the money they needed for food and weapons.

Giuliano led small-scale attacks on government and police targets in the name of this movement. Reputedly, Giuliano himself would have liked to have seen Sicily become a state within the United States of America. He sent president Harry S. Truman a letter in which he urged him to annex Sicily.

Giuliano also fostered a number of myths around himself. One tale tells how he discovered a postal worker was stealing letters that contained money Sicilian families had sent to their relatives in the USA; he killed the postal worker and assured the letters continued to their correct destinations. When he robbed the duchess of Pratameno, he left her with her wedding ring and borrowed a book she was reading; he returned it later with compliments. He fostered cooperation of poor tenant farmers by sending them money and food. Contrary to some claims, he was not a Mafioso."

"The Sicilian bandit Salvatore Giuliano entered legend in 1950 when his bullet-riddled body was found in the courtyard of a house in Castelvetrano, having apparently died in a shoot-out with the Carabinieri.

A controversial figure in life – seen by some as a Robin Hood-type figure and by others, more realistically, as a terrorist – Giuliano appears to have become even more mysterious in death.

Far from being a romantic “Sicilian Robin Hood”, Casarrubea says, Giuliano’s gang worked first at the orders of a German SS Colonel, Herbert Kappler, before switching at the end of the war to the service of the US intelligence agency.

The band’s most infamous exploit was the Portella della Ginestra massacre, a response to an electoral victory by the leftist People’s Bloc.

The massacre, on Labour Day 1947, claimed the lives of 11 Socialist party supporters and injured 71 others.

By the end of his criminal career Giuliano was believed to have been responsible for some 430 murders, his victims distributed promiscuously among the police, the mafia and civilians."

SOURCES: 1 and 2


"The remains were exhumed in order to ascertain, once and for all, whether Salvatore Giuliano had a lookalike buried in his place and then escaped Italy for a new life in the United States. If still alive, he would be 88.

Surviving relatives of Italy's most famous bandit chieftain insist that he was at least 5ft 9in tall.

But the skeleton found in his grave in Montelpre, in western Sicily, belongs to someone who was between 5ft 2in and 5ft 5in tall, investigators said.

A local coroner has instructed police to check documents which may record Giuliano's exact height in order to confirm the apparent discrepancy.

The remains were exhumed last week, 60 years after the man dubbed The King of Montelpre was supposed to have been murdered by his cousin, one of his most trusted lieutenants.

Experts plan to carry out DNA tests on the skeleton and to match the samples with those of Giuliano's living relatives. " Source


Read Literature to Understand the World

William Penn University advises students to "become more interested in the world instead of becoming more interesting to the world", about "literature, oppression and the need for college students to seriously consider their roles in the global marketplace. ... To have a global market successful at meeting people's needs, it is necessary to understand the market from the viewpoint of the poor, the 'best advisers in the global marketplace.' ... the literature of various cultures can yield a better way to understand 'this world of technology, in which we constantly communicate but hardly connect.'" SOURCE


Tools of the Spy Trade

Here are some boys' toys, or espionage gadgets

A pocket watch gun, 3mm caliber:

A pocket watch camera, from 1886:


Voting, Elections, and REAL Change

In a few days we will be voting in municipal elections. Elsewhere people will be voting for Change, again. Is Change possible at all, what with the plutocracy that runs for office and decides the outcomes of elections?

Novelist Stanislaw Lem (Author of Solaris) had an idea:

"At midnight all people of our country make a switch, someone who yesterday was a gardener, today becomes an engineer, yesterday’s building contractor becomes a judge, sovereign becomes a teacher, and so on. What remains unchanged is the society as a whole.

In every society of the old type most citizens perform their occupational functions poorly, and still the society does not seize to go on. Someone who is a poor gardener will ruin the garden, and a poor sovereign will ruin the entire country because both have the time to cause damage, time they do not have in our type of society. Furthermore in the old type of society, apart from poor skills, there is additional negative, even destructive effect of individuals’ private wants. Jealousy, egoism, conceit, vanity, want of power, all have a negative effect on the life of the society. This negative influence does not exist in our society. In our world one cannot do things to enrich oneself, or to make longer egoistic plans, hoping to enrich oneself in the long run, because tomorrow one becomes someone else, without knowing today what it will be." Stanislaw Lem

Now, imagine that citizens are drawn at random to advise governments on issues such as the environment, the economy, domestic and international policy, etc, much as jurors are called in to decide the outcomes of judicial cases… What if the midnight switch applies to the highest offices in the Government? Now, that's change.

Literature and History are Inseparable

"While armed confrontation constituted part of the strategy to liberate societies from the yoke of colonialism, literature in the form of poetry, prose and drama also played an important part in educating the oppressed populations of their plight and by so doing urge them to fight that oppression.

Literature that emerged from the continent at that time precisely looks at the consequences of Africa’s contact with Europe. The Berlin Conference of 1884 had granted European powers the "mandate" to occupy territories on the continent. Francophone writers like Ferdinand Oyono seek to explore the brutality of the European settler administration in Africa.

The coming in of missionaries in Africa is a specific historical process that is seen preceding colonial conquest in a number of localities. It is missionaries that established mission schools with the aim of creating a subservient population in the colonisers’ areas of influence." ...



How to make invisible ink

Invisible Ink in espionage:

"Well, invisible ink is of course one of the key ways of communicating all the way through this period and there is a formula. He did employ an early scientist, a fellow of the Royal Society later, who produces a formula for invisible ink.

But then someone discovered, apparently to Cumming's delight, that semen makes a very good invisible ink and the Head of Station at Copenhagen took to this with some enthusiasm apparently... and his letters arrived stinking of high heaven and he had to be instructed that a fresh operation was required for each communication.

Now we haven't actually tested this but if there are any volunteers out there I'd like to, you know, I'd like to hear from them and perhaps we could arrange some kind of field test for this."

Read the complete interview with the author of The Secret History of MI6

War Plan Red

"War Plan Red, also known as the Atlantic Strategic War Plan, was a plan for the United States to make war with Great Britain (the "Red" forces). It was developed by the United States Army during the mid 1920s, approved in May 1930 by the Secretary of War and the Secretary of Navy, updated in 1934-35, and officially withdrawn in 1939, following the outbreak of the Second World War, when it and others like it were replaced by the five "Rainbow" plans created to deal with the Axis threat. However, it was not declassified until 1974.

The war was intended to be a continental war, waged primarily on North American territory between the United States and the British Empire. The assumption was that Canada would represent the ideal geographic forum through which the United States could wage war against the British."

Canadians had a counter-plan:

"Defence Scheme No. 1 was created on April 12, 1921 and details a surprise counterattack on the northern U.S. as soon as possible after evidence was received of an American invasion of Canada.

According to the plan, Canadian troops stationed in Pacific Command in Western Canada would immediately be sent to seize Seattle, Washington; Canadian Forces stationed in Prairie Command in Western Canada would be sent to attack Great Falls, Montana and then move to Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Canadian Forces stationed in Quebec Command would be sent to seize Albany, New York in a surprise counterattack while Canadian Forces in Maritime Command[clarification needed]would counterattack into Maine.[1] Meanwhile, according to the plan, the Canadian Forces Great Lakes Command in Ontario was assumed to be fighting on the defensive against the main attack from the Armed Forces of the USA; if Canadian forces were successful in defending in the Great Lakes area, they were encouraged to launch counterattacks in the area of the Niagara River and the St. Clair River.

When resistance stiffened, the Canadians would retreat to their own borders, destroying bridges and railways to hinder American pursuit.[1] The purpose of the invasion would be to allow time for Canada to prepare its war effort and to receive aid from Britain, or to limit the American invasion before the US government opted to discontinue the incursions. Defence Scheme No. 1 has as a counterpart in the American War Plan Red, a plan to invade Canada drafted in 1930."

Read more on the Rainbow War Plans

When the war is not going as planned

"There they lay - badly wounded cases or men who could not walk any farther - wrapped in rags and bedded down on dirty straw or simply on the floorboards, keeping themselves warm by huddling together or by means of bonfires. There was no one there to attend to them, if there had been, it would not have helped them much, for the Army Staff had canceled the sixty-gramme bread ration for the wounded on the ground that those who cannot fight, shall not eat. The walking cases dragged themselves to a near-by pump to wait for the horse-drawn carts. Before the unsuspecting driver understood what was happening they would throw themselves with pocket-knives, pieces of metal or just their bare hands on to the trembling horse and cut it to pieces, carrying away with them the shreds of steaming flesh."

German soldiers in the winter of 1942 / 43, during the battle of Stalingrad -- hungry, wounded, sick. The war wasn't going as planned...

"The Lieutenant was silent. He remembered the alcazar and thought of the General with the message who wasn't able to speak when he came into the Presence. Frederick the Great's generals had thrown their daggers on the ground in front of the King. How was it that the generals of today won battles and wore decorations, if they were so cowardly?"

Heinrich Gerlach, in "The Forsaken Army". The novel is considered in line with Erich Maria Remarque's masterpieces.


Novel Writing

"Announcer:     And now it's time for Novel Writing, which today comes from the west country on Dorset.

Commentator:     Hello, and welcome to Dorchester, where a very good crowd has turned out to watch local boy Thomas Hardy write his new novel "The Return Of The Native", on this very pleasant July morning. This will be his eleventh novel and the fifth of the very popular Wessex novels, and here he comes! Here comes Hardy, walking out towards his desk. He looks confident, he looks relaxed, very much the man in form, as he acknowledges this very good natured bank holiday crowd. And the crowd goes quiet now, as Hardy settles himself down at the desk, body straight, shoulders relaxed, pen held lightly but firmly in the right hand. He dips the pen...in the ink, and he's off! It's the first word, but it's not a word - oh, no! - it's a doodle. Way up on the top of the lefthand margin is a piece of meaningless scribble - and he's signed his name underneath it! Oh dear, what a disappointing start. But his off again - and here he goes - the first word of Thomas Hardy's new novel, at ten thirty-five on this very lovely morning, it's three letters, it's the definite article, and it's "The". Dennis.

Dennis:     Well, this is true to form, no surprises there. He started five of his eleven novels to date with the definite article. We had two of them with "It", there's been one "But", two "At"s, one "On" and a "Dolores", but that of course was never published.

Commentator:     I'm sorry to interrupt you there, Dennis, but he's crossed it out. Thomas Hardy, here on the first day of his new novel, has crossed out the only word he has written so far, and he's gazing off into space. Oh, ohh, there he signed his name again.

Dennis:     It looks like "Tess of the D'Urbervilles" all over again.

Commentator:     But he's...no, he's down again and writing, Dennis, he's written "B" again, he's crossed it out again, and he has written "A" - and there is a second word coming up straight away, and it's "Sat" - "A Sat" - doesn't make sense - "A Satur" - "A Saturday" - it's "A Saturday", and the crowd are loving it, they are really enjoying this novel. And it's "afternoon", it's "Saturday afternoon", a comfortable beginning, and he's straight on to the next word - it's "in" - "A Saturday afternoon in" - "in" - "in" "in Nov" - "November" - November is spelled wrong, he's left out the second "E", but he's not going back, it looks like he's going for the sentence, and it's the first verb coming up - it's the first verb of the novel, and it's "was", and the crowd are going wild! "A Saturday afternoon in November was", and a long word here - "appro" - "appro" - is it a "approving"? - no, it's "approaching" - "approaching" - "A Saturday afternoon in November was approaching" - and he's done the definite article "but" again. And he's writing fluently, easily with flurrying strokes of the pen, as he comes up to the middle of this first sentence. And with this eleventh novel well underway, and the prospects of a good days writing ahead, back to the studio."

Spook spotting

"The [ARMY] regulation  presents an extensive description of suspicious behaviors that are reportable to authorities, including “attempts to expand access to classified information by repeatedly volunteering for assignments or duties beyond the normal scope of responsibilities.”

It also provides guidance on how to respond to the discovery of a clandestine surveillance device (“do not disturb the device”) or an approach by a foreign intelligence officer (“remain noncommittal, neither refusing nor agreeing to cooperate”;  also, “do not, under any circumstances, conduct your own investigation”)."



Writers and Social Media

Recently Malcolm Gladwell weighed in on the relevance of Facebook and Twitter. His answer was a vigorous headshake, so vigorous the head could actually unscrew. Seems Gladwell unnerved a touchy subject. Everyone is running in circles, like headless roosters. Are Social Media of any use to writers / novelists?

Louis-Ferdinand Céline answers (and long before the emergence of these services):

"Let's talk about work, the job of writing. It's the only thing that counts. And even that calls for a good deal of indiscretion. Too much publicity in the way people talk about these things. We're objects of publicity. It's revolting. It's high time people took a cure of modesty. In literature as in everything else we're befouled by publicity. It's disgraceful. I say: do your job and shut up, that's the only way. People will read it or they won't read it, that's their business. The only thing for the author to do is to make himself scarce."


Reading makes you better

"Have you ever, as a reader, felt misunderstood? Do non-readers around you ask why you read so much? Have you ever had to defend your choice of books because you prefer fiction to self-help? And have you ever found the words to make non-readers truly understand the impact books have had on your life?

Reading makes you better at anything you want to do. By filling your mind with thoughts and stories, it removes the possibility of tediousness in any activity, the edge from suffering and the despair of loneliness. Knowledge is power but imagination takes that power even further. Imagination is the basis of empathy and compassion." SOURCE

Alberto Manguel, A Reader on Reading

Spy Balloon

Ethical Civilization

"The contradiction between modern problems, new scientific knowledge and the inadequacy of our prevalent source of morality or of ethics, led me to ask what kind of values would be required to face the new challenges. What would our civilization look like if we were to adopt them?

In a such a civilization,

• All human beings would be equal in dignity and in human rights.

• Life on this planet would not be devalued and seen as only a preparation for a better life after death, somewhere beyond the clouds.

• The virtues of tolerance and of human liberty would be proclaimed and applied, subject only to the requirements of public order.

• Human solidarity and sharing would be better accepted as a protection against poverty and deprivation.

• The manipulation and domination of others through lies, propaganda, and exploitation schemes of all kinds would be less prevalent.

• There would be less reliance on superstition and religion to understand the Universe and to solve life's problems and more on reason, logic and science.

• Better care of the Earth's natural environment—land, soil, water, air and space—would be taken in order to bequeath a brighter heritage to future generations.

• We would have ended the primitive practice of resorting to violence or to wars to resolve differences and conflicts.

• There would be more genuine democracy in the organization of public affairs, according to individual freedom and responsibility.

• Governments would see that their first and most important task is to help develop children's intelligence and talents through education.

Yes we can, if we try."

Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay


From 500 rejections to bestsellers

"I'm just a guy trying to make a living. It took me 12 years and over 500 rejections before I was published, and once I landed my first print deal I was determined to learn all I could about the business in order to succeed.

I learned--as most authors have learned--that the publishing industry is fatally flawed. A small number of top-brand authors get the overwhelming majority of the marketing dollars, making it nearly impossible for a midlister to succeed. The practice of returns and remainders is archaic and ridiculous. Books are successful based on the amount of coop they get, and there is little a writer can do to improve their station.

I beleive my goal is one that many writers share: to earn money doing something we love. Prior to my first novel, WHISKEY SOUR, selling to Hyperion in 2002, I'd written nine other novels that failed to find a publisher. In 2009, some fans emailed me, asking if I could make my early, unpublisher work available on Kindle. I went to http://dtp.amazon.com and uploaded my ebooks, which is free.

Now, 14 months later, I've sold 55,000 ebooks, and I'll make over $100,000 this year on books NY publishing rejected." JA Konrath

Geez, and I thought I held a record with the number of rejections to publication ratio.




The US Book Publishing Industry

"The US book publishing industry consists of about 2,600 companies with combined annual revenue of about $25 billion. [COMPARISON: The Motion Picture Industry's annual revenue is approx $55 Billion] The industry is highly concentrated: the top 50 companies generate about 80 percent of revenue.

Publishers produce books for general reading (adult "trade" books); text, professional, technical, children's, and reference books. Trade books account for 25 percent of the market, textbooks 25 percent, and professional books 20 percent.

About 150,000 new books are published in the US every year; however, most are low-volume products. The number of books produced by major trade publishers and university presses is closer to 40,000."