Posts

Showing posts from May, 2015

A Tribute to Edward F Callahan, PhD

Image
It was thirty-four years ago when I walked into his classroom, and although I have only a scattered recollection of the works we studied, I will never forget Dr. Edward F Callahan, Professor of English at the College of the Holy Cross for over thirty years. He was a short, stocky man with a squarish head and thick-rimmed glasses, with a predilection for button-down shirts and cardigan sweaters. Nothing memorable there. But his lack of being memorable ended there, as soon as the door closed and he began consulting the list of students who had signed up for his class.  "Herr Hogenkampf?" He pronounced my name with a distinct Bavarian lilt. I nodded. He lowered his glasses and peered at me. "What kind of name is that?" "It's Dutch." He scratched his forehead. "Sounds German to me." I shrugged.  Ed left his glasses low on his nose and looked around the room, filled mostly with female students I didn't know,

Why Writing a Bestseller is like picking a Blockbuster Stock, on the Saturday Evening Blog Post.

Image
  The Saturday Eveni ng Blog Post presents: Why Writing a Bestselle r is like Picking a Blockbuster Stock. We have all heard the adage , buy low, sell hi gh. It is a simple concept to understand, of course , but a difficult one to exec u te. Oftentimes, the oppos it e happens: after reading the buzz and the hype about how well Stock A is doing, the average investor buys Stock A only to see its price dwindl e. It might make you feel better to know that the exact same thing happens to authors trying to write a bestselle r. The author is affected by almost the same buzz and hype as the investor, and similarly wants to get in on the action , o nly in this case the a ction is writing a book t o take advantage of the trend. Think of all the blockbusters that spawned scores and scores of copycats and lookalikes and me-toos : Dan B rown's The DaVinci Code ; JK Rowling's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone ; St ieg Larrson's The Girl with the Dragon Ta ttoo ;

Three Lessons from my Mother. #MothersDay

Image
My mother is not a perfect person, but she's a happy one. It's #mothersday, and as I got up early to make breakfast for my wife (family tradition) I thought about why my mother has always been able to remain happy in an increasingly distressed and dysthymic world. As I waited for the griddle to achieve the perfect temperature, here's what I came up with: My mother is a not a great cook (she never waited for the griddle to be thoroughly heated through) but her less than stellar performances in the kitchen never bothered her. The first lesson I learned from my mother: Don't dwell on the negative, emphasize the positive aspects of things. When my brothers and sisters would grouse about the pancakes being burned on the outside and uncooked in the middle, she would respond, "you're not starving are you?" And she was right, she raised four healthy children. The devil's advocate might rebut by saying, "that approach precluded her from learning from

Book Review: All the Old Knives, by Olen Steinhauer

Image
There comes a time in a writer's life where he really hits his stride, and that time is right now for Olen Steinhauer. You can tell a book is written well when the first thing you do upon finishing it is go back to the beginning, which is precisely what I did when I finished Steinhauer's latest novel,  All the Old Knives . Having just read the end, I wanted to enjoy again the beginning; the way Steinhauer sets up the end, (but without giving it away); the way he ratchets up the suspense from the word Go; the way he immerses you into the story in the first few pages. I will say it again: All the Old Knives is written by a writer at the top of his craft. All the Old Knives is unlike any other book you've read, as the entire book takes place during the course of a dinner shared by two old friends. It is a constraining story structure for sure, or would be if not for Olenhauer's skill, his ability to roam freely despite the limits. One gets the feeling he set out to