Conversation and Community, by Anne Gentle

I just started reading Conversation and Community by the amazing Anne Gentle. I'm a few dozen pages in, and already recognize that I'm sitting at the feet of a guru.

I've been doing documentation for 15 years, roughly, making it up as I go along. I've done pretty well, considering, with 8 or 12 books (depending on what you count), and large portions of the Apache httpd docs to my credit, but Anne has made a science of it, and I've been continually impressed with the way that she wrangles groups of people into producing great content in literally a few days.

I'll have to write more, later, once I've finished the book. I find that books like this tend to clarify and focus things that I've observed, but never taken the time to really analyze, about documentation and "customer support".

Authors

Sword of Shannara I've had the rare good fortune to meet many of my favorite authors. Notably, Douglas Adams, Arthur C Clarke, and, a few weeks ago, Terry Brooks. I've also met Cory Doctorow, Mo Willems, Will Wheaton, Frank X Walker and a host of other authors, and each time was struck by the humanity of great people. I deeply regret that I never had an opportunity to tell Ray Bradbury how much his work means to me.

Two of the authors I've met have since died, and I remember meeting them - particularly Sir Arthur - as high points of my life. Shaking the hand that penned Rama was an inexpressible honor.

(Indeed, I've had the fortune to meet many of my heroes over the years - that's a post for another time.)

Several weeks ago I met Terry Brooks, the author of The Sword of Shannara which, for a long time, held the title of Favorite Book Ever. That spot has since been usurped by Dandelion Wine, and I somehow think that Terry might not begrudge Ray Bradbury that spot.

Mr. Brooks was signing books at Joseph Beth Booksellers, in Lexington.

Mr. Brooks answered a *lot* of questions, and really gave them thought, and spoke to the people asking them as though they mattered. He read a *long* section from his new book, but carefully chose a section that didn't actually give anything away. And he signed books. Boy, did he sign books. He signed everything that anyone brought. One guy brought a suitcase. I am not making this up. A suitcase which purportedly contained The Complete Works. And Mr. Brooks signed them.

When we went up to have our books signed (alas, I only took three!) he spoke with us as though we were people. He made eye contact. He wrote our names in the books, and made sure he was spelling them right.

I was so impressed that I've now started buying and reading all of his books that I've missed over the years. And, somehow, having heard him read makes the books come alive a little more. I think Sword might be creeping back up my favorite book list again.

The Masked Rider

I have finally finished reading The Masked Rider, by Rush drummer Neil Peart. It was both wonderful and disappointing.

Wonderful, because of the story that he tells, of the journey that he took across some of the hardest, as well as most beautiful, land on earth. For reasons that were apparently not even clear to himself, he biked across Cameroon with a handful of other North Americans, staying in all manner of hovels and hotels, meeting peasants and chieftains, and enduring difficult (and non-existent) roads and roadblocks. But, wow, what an experience.

Disappointing because in so many places Peart's contempt for the portion of humanity not himself, comes through loudly. Much of the book was a tirade against his fellow travelers, or with the people around him, or with the pointlessness of West African inefficiencies. One wonders why someone would choose to bike across Cameroon if one wasn't expecting abject poverty, terrible road conditions, and long stretches between running water. I'd love to see the marketing brochure.

Strangely, for his grim painting of the experience, I came away from it wishing that I could do it myself. Always a junkie for an experience, I would *love* to see the things that he describes, even at the expense of the physical difficulty it took to get to it. And in many of his disgusted tellings of interpersonal turmoil, I found myself siding with the person he was berating. He is *so* completely goal-oriented, that even when describing the beauty around him, he seemed to miss out on the experience he was complaining about - a bit of a paradox, I suppose.

Peart remains my favorite lyricist, writing song lyrics that actually mean something. But I have, so far, found his books frustrating - a wealthy traveler expecting the world to be a place of luxury when he arrives at his destination, and not get in his way getting there. I, on the other hand, love the journey more than the destination. For me, the experience is the thing, and actually arriving there is less interesting.

Or, to quote my favorite lyricist:

From the point of ignition
To the final drive
The point of a journey
Is not to arrive

Anything can happen...

From The Inkwell

I'm delighted to announce the publication of my newest volume of poetry, From The Inkwell, which is (almost) my complete works from 2008, minus a piece here or there that's best kept to myself.

You can see my other volumes of poetry on My Lulu Store.

I'm hoping that this volume will sell more than the last one, which sold a grand total of three copies, including the one I bought for myself. :-)

Shardik

Over the last few years, I've read a number of books that were suggested to me by Steven King, by reference to them in various of his books. The most memorable of these were "Bartleby the Scrivener" and "Rebecca", which were both mentioned in "Bag of Bones".

I just finished reading "Shardik", which is mentioned in one of the volumes "The Dark Tower" series.

It was a work of will to finish it. It was plodding and heavy reading, with a very good story, but told slowly and with many lengthy pauses between anything of consequence happening. It's the story of a religion, centering around an enormous bear, and much of it is told in artificially archaic scripture-like language.

This was something of a surprise, coming from Richard Adams, who also wrote "Watership Down", which I greatly enjoyed both times I've read it.

So, on the whole, I don't much recommend it.




About

Some people are heroes. And some people jot down notes. Sometimes, they're the same person. (The Truth. Terry Pratchett)