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I'm the co-host of THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO with Dana & Carl (Sunday nights, 9 to Midnight Eastern, www.westcottradio.org).  As a freelance writer, I contributed to Goldmine magazine from 1986-2006, wrote liner notes for Rhino Records' compilation CD Poptopia!  Power Pop Classics Of The '90s, and for releases by The Flashcubes, The Finkers, Screen Test, 1.4.5., and Jack "Penetrator" Lipton.  I contributed to the books Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth, Shake Some Action, Lost In The Grooves, and MusicHound Rock, and to DISCoveries, Amazing Heroes, The Comics Buyer's Guide, Yeah Yeah Yeah, Comics Collector, The Buffalo News, and The Syracuse New Times.  I also wrote the liner notes for the four THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO compilation CDs, because, well, who could stop me?  My standing offer to write liner notes for a Bay City Rollers compilation has remained criminally ignored.  Still intend to write and sell a Batman story someday.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Words In Books (The Fifth Sentence On The 56th Page)




I love books. I accumulate them faster than I can read them, but that's okay; very few books have fixed expiration dates. I continue to buy them and read them as whim dictates; books borrowed from the library are always top o' the queue, because those do have expiration dates. I go through periods where the only things I'm reading are comic books and on-line commentaries, and other periods where it's one book after another. I love reading. I love books.

Recently, my pal Jeanne Chu posted this on Facebook, copied (I presume) from another source:

It's National Book Week. The rules are, grab the closest book to you, turn to page 56, post the 5th sentence as your status. Don't mention the title. 

Now. There are four tall stacks of books piled on top of the filing cabinet near my desk, another shorter stack atop the same cabinet, a full book case behind my chair, a row of DC Comics Archives hardcover collections beneath the shelves of encyclopedias, and still more books crammed onto two more shelves nearby. The book closest to me? Er...lessee. That stack has a comic book trade paperback collection on top, that has a pop encyclopedia, that has some CDs on top of the books, and that one has a paperback novel based on a largely-forgotten TV series. I picked one, found the page, counted down to the fifth sentence, and listed as my Facebook status:

"'But--Mr. Vincent,' the woman's strained voice came back."

Hmmm. Hardly Shakespeare, nor even Spillane, but that's where the exercise took me.

But when it comes to pop culture obsession, as with Lay's Potato Chips, I never stop with just one. Here are a bunch more fifth sentences from the 56th page of a few of the books here in my home office. In each case, I skipped any partial sentences at the top of the page, and started counting with the first complete sentence:

"'Before this goes any further,' he said, 'you should know that I might not be coming back, myself."

"I have no choice...give me the address."

"Smith."

"What a name for a rock writer: Bang! Bang!"

"He had a powerful stage presence, an amazing voice and, we soon discovered, like Van, a knack at writing songs that were a cut above."

"She sat down on the edge of the bed, and looked at him carefully."

"'I'm Veronica Mars."

"Captain Smythe from The Awkward Squad, the factory owner's dim-witted, public-school-educated son, spoke in a ridiculous voice, like the Queen if she'd been born simple."

"His drumming is not up to snuff, and he fails the audition."

"So did Townshend and Daltrey."

"I needed that money."

"'Now let's get back to the festivities.'"

"As the interview with John Broome--and its Afterword--will reveal, such is far from the case."

"It was Detective Sergeant McGrath and he looked as though he meant business."

"The piece was titled 'Psychotic Reactions And Carburetor Dung: A Tale Of These Times,' and that name of course would later be given to a well-known anthology of Lester's writings."

"Byrnes liked to brag that 'UBC is a young network, but we don't put up with ageism,' though he neglected to mention that he could get away with paying older pros like Phillips half, or less, of what the big boys had."

"'Solve the mystery of the hand-outs.'"

"I got signatures of the first two Batman-suspects, but neither of them match Batman's handwriting!"

"There it lay and flamed."

"'I want you to meet Bobo.'"

"Startled at his wife's sharp interruption, York turned to look."

"She conceived it, birthed it, and named it Jubilant."

"Like Kelly, and Daley, Kennelly was born in Bridgeport."

"The man was plainly a hardened revolutionary who had been planning revolt against the Romans for years and had slowly been building up enough followers to make the attempt successful."

"Turning it to read the three initials, E.D.W., she shivered with anticipation."

"It's not on."

"Talk Hall is very histerical with old things wot are fakes and King Anne never slept there I tell you."

"He was tireless."

"'Well, the buttonhole job oughtta be a cinch for a mayonnaise champion,' I said."

"Then Doc's real appearance is never described in the super-sagas, and the discrepant descriptions by Dent and the other Savage writers might be explained."

"'Why don't you go on home, Scout?'"

"Sent from another planet, landed near the lake of shadows."

"As it struck, the beast voiced a horrifying scream of pain and rage; then it charged."

"'I hear him,' she cried."

"(There's another gn--and gno help either, I bet.)"

Okay. Just to spread this pure pulp love around, I grabbed a few more paperbacks from the many, many more stashed in my garage:

"Nothing could ever rob us of the pleasure of seeing Von Bork's face when he recognised us."

"Occasionally he thought he was sterile, with an inclination to be pleased rather than concerned if it was true,"

"My taste didn't run to exotic French cuisine, but the change could be different and I made a one o'clock date to meet him there."

"That would be okay."

"His face seemed bleach-white, but I could not for the soul of me make out his features or find even his eyes."

"Spade watched them burn while she put away his hat and coat."

"He tore the wheel round right-handed, and there was another shot that missed high."

And there you have it: a mix of fiction and non-fiction, comics and prose, the amputated works of Dashiell Hammet, Bill FingerPhilip Jose Farmer, Paul Zindel, Eando Binder, Harper Lee, Ian Fleming, John M. BorackMax Allan Collins, Mike RoykoPhilip Wylie, Fritz Leiber, Dave DiMartino, Mickey Spillane, Dave Wallis, Michael Moorcock, Ken Sharp, Donald Westlake, Richard Bissell, Aldous Huxley, Nick Hornby, Harlan Ellison, Lee Falk, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Elliott S. Maggin, Rob Thomas, Jim DeRogatis, Edmond Hamilton, T. Mike Childs, Mike W. BarrG. Wayman Jones, Steve Englehart, and John Lennon, the milieus of Tarzan and Batman and The Black Bat and James Bond, Sam Spade, Doc Savage, Veronica Mars, The Spectre, and even the above-mentioned TV tie-in novel, The Invaders by Keith Laumer. I just picked that one up last week.

I have a reserve request in at the library for Sara Paretsky's new V.I. Warshawski novel; there's a new Sue Grafton due out in the summer, I think. But maybe I'll read this Lester Bangs biography while I'm waiting, or that book about The Monkees and their movie Head, or I could see what The Man From U.N.C.L.E. has been up to. Or Operator 5. Or Jim Boeheim. Or...or...or....

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