Thursday, April 28, 2005

You Are What You Read

Watch out, everyone. Ladies in particular.

According to grad student Susan Darker-Smith what you read shapes who you are, and who you will become. When little girls read fairy tales they are bound to live as helpless, unconfident worry warts when they reach adulthood. Apparently all those princess desires as a kid places women into an eternal holding pattern, always waiting for Prince Charming to come to the rescue and solve all of their problems.


This is actually an old idea.

Nowadays we remember Gutenberg as an icon for free speech. By bringing the world the printing press he gave society the potential for free thought. But at the time, books were often feared by the general public. People didn't understand them and they thought words on a page were a way to control people. If you happened to read a text written by the devil, his arcane words would work their way into your eyes, past your brain and infect your immortal soul for eternity. The only defense, many thought, was simply not being able to read and these people were more than happy to leave reading, and higher thought, to the church.


I know all of this to be true.

As a wee child, when I only read publications with Marvel Comics emblazoned on the top corner of the cover, I developed interesting abilities.
I could lift cars over my head, swing to school everyday on long strands of webbing, and I possessed a supernatural sense for any and all troubles around the playground. Unfortunately, it didn't last forever. My mom introduce me to Beverly Clearly, and my spider-powers were promptly replaced with a house full of rodents flying and driving around in all my star wars vehicles. And later, when I hit high-school and only read books with dragons on the cover, I refused to go anwhere without my trusty magic sword and goblin sidekick.

Nowadays I mostly read books about disaffected youth and adults. Directionless people searching listlessly for meaning in empty jobs, hobbies, and relationships. So it's really not my fault I'm in a job I don't enjoy. And it's certainly not my fault that I don't write or play bass as much as I would like. It's the fault of all these damn books I read.

How nice to be removed from any and all responsibility for my life!

Now that I know the real problem, the solution is easy. I'm on my way to library to check out the complete works of Mitch Albom and all the inspiring essays I can scrounge by Dr. Phil.


Tuesday, April 26, 2005

After the Quake

On January 17, 1995 a powerful earthquake hit Kobe, Japan, killing hundreds of people, causing millions in property damage, and reminding a world just how fraglie and precious life truly is. The aftermath of this horrible event functions as a cultural backdrop for Haruki Murakami's collection of short fiction, After the Quake.

An obvious choice for a story following these events would be tales of the direct effects of the earthquake. Startling sensory descriptions of the devastation, the lives of those who were killed, and the struggles of those who managed to survive. Murkami opts for a subtler method, focusing on characters only tangentially afffected by the quake. These people live in other parts of Japan and watched or heard about the quake through the media. Some had family or friends in Kobe, although none they had spoken to in years, while others knew no one involved in the tragedy. Despite the events, life for these people moves on.

Like Murakami's novels, these stories move quite gracefully between realism and fantasy. For example, "UFO in Kushiro" features an electronics salesman who receives a dear john letter from his wife. Spurred by friends to take a vacation, he delivers an enigmatic package to some even more enigmatic people. In "All God's Children Can Dance", Yoshiya comes to terms with the idea that he just may not be the son of god, despite what his well-intentioned mother keeps telling him. And loan collector Katagiri finds himself face to face with a giant talking frog, who wants to enlist his aid in a battle against a giant worm that wants to destroy Tokyo for waking it from it's nap.

With his plainspoken, yet poetic language (I'm sure due in no small part to the wonderful translation by Jay Rubin), quirky subject matter and compelling characters, After the Quake carries you into a dreamworld familiar to fans of Murakami's novels. But one key difference on a technique level between Murakami's short stories and novels is the use of dialogue. His novels contain dialogue, but are driven quite heavily through action, descriptive detials and exposition. This collection showcases a wry ear for dialogue, and Murakami makes it the driving force behind most of these stories. This use of dialogue places a little more focus on the characters, their relationships and how they live over the unusual events that happens to undergo during the time of these tales. Placing character over plot and fantasy, I found Murakami has layers and layers of stories to tell about the condition of the human heart.


Monday, April 25, 2005

Events for the Week

These don't cover all the readings in the area, but hit the ones that caught my eye for one reason or another. I haven't had much luck finding ones in Baltimore to list, so if anyone has suggestions on places to look for events in Charm City, please let me know!

25 Monday

7 P.M. Ellen Feldman reads from and signs her new novel, The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank , at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW, 202-364-1919

7:30 P.M. Word Works is co-sponsoring a poetry performance evening (with musical accompaniment) with Donna Denizé , author of The Lover's Voice and the forthcoming Broken Like Job ; Miles David Moore , author of The Bears of Paris and Rollercoaster ; and Jonathan Vaile , author of the forthcoming Blue Cowboy , at Grace Church, Georgetown, 1041 Wisconsin Ave. NW. Call 301-581-9439 or visit Word Works D.C. for details.

26 Tuesday

6:30 P.M. Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Jorie Graham reads from and signs her new collection, Overlord: Poems , at the Library of Congress, James Madison Bldg., Montpelier Room, 101 Independence Ave. SE as part of the "Books & Beyond" series. Call 202-707-5221 for details.

27 Wednesday

8 P.M. B.H. Fairchild will be awarded the biennial Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry for his collection Early Occult Memory Systems of the Lower Midwest (which also won a National Book Critics Circle Award) at the Library of Congress, James Madison Bldg., Montpelier Room, 202-707-5394.

28 Thursday

7 P.M. Ann Beattie reads from and signs her new collection of stories, Follies , at Chapters Literary Bookstore, 445 11th Street, NW Washington, D.C. 202-737-5553.

29 Friday

7:30 P.M. Open Mic Poetry and Prose reading. All poets and prose writers are welcome. In celebration of the 150th anniversary of publication of Leaves of Grass, we're inviting poets to read work inspired by Walt Whitman. At the Writer's Center 4508 Walsh Street, Bethesda, MD 20815.

9 P.M. Poetry Showcase Features poets Talaam Acey, 13 of Nazareth, and Archie the Messenger. Tickets available through and Tickets $15-$25. Wyndham Inner Harbor 101 W. Fayette St. Baltimore EVENT PHONE: 410-752-1100

30 Saturday

6 p.m. Richard McCann, director of the creative writing program at American University, has written ten interwoven stories of suburban life in post-World War II Washington. In spare but lyrical prose, McCann moves through the dark waters of gender identity, coming of age, and loss. He will read from and sign his newest book, Mother of Sorrows, at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave., NW Washington, D.C.

1 Sunday

3 P.M. Susan Coll reads from and signs her new novel, Rockville Pike: A Suburban Comedy of Manners , at Books & Crannies, 15 South Madison St., Middleburg, Va., 540-687-6677.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Rampant Pessimism

Author Charlie Stross has a good essay on the state of sf on his blog today. Basically, it looks at a growing sense of pessimism in American sf and places the cause on 9-11 and the political climate that developed in its wake. Given a couple of years for authors to create their books, plus another year or so for the publishing process, it makes sense that books written in a direct reaction to 9-11 would start hitting the shelves this season.

But the reactions aren't limited entirely to sf. The critics of Salon recently ran a set of reviews of novels by Ian McEwan, Jonathan Safran Foer, and Frederic Beigbeder that all focus on 9-11 and its after-effects in different ways. While I doubt any these will become the definitive 9-11 novel that precisely describes all our fears and confusion over that day, it's good to see works of art finally making the attempt. And no, I'm not counting Spiegelman's In the Shadow of the Towers; despite my admiration for him, I found it pretty ineffectual and dissapointing.

While pessimism seems to drive all of these works to one extent or another, it's the first real sign I've seen in the publishing world towards healing the deep wounds those plane crashes caused when they ripped into our psyche. A nice change from the countless books of theories and scare texts that still fill the display tables at the local books stores. While I don't expect reading these works will transform and heal a nation, they should prove effective band-aids to at least help us on the way.


Tuesday, April 19, 2005

And the Award Goes To....

In catching up on my magazine and newspaper reading, I ran across an interesting article in the Post's Book World by Marina Krakovsky. Part of the continuing Making Books focus, this article looks at literary contests; why we have them, how they work, who they benefit. Although a little cursory, it takes a pretty good look at this side of the publishing industry.

I have mixed feelings about contests. They certainly provide exposure for writing that often wouldn't get it otherwise. The article mentions Richard Russo and how the Pulitzer transformed his writing career, and he's definitely not the only one. And readers often need guidance to break out into reading authors different from their normal staples. But the general arbitrariness of dubbing one book "the best" really is pretty ludicrous. But we, meaning readers, always want to know. We have to know.

Unfortunately, anytime you judge art by committee, there's an unavoidable middle ground that's found or created. Work that's controversial, either by technique or by subject matter, is likely to have some avid fans, but also some rabid opponents. It gets pushed aside for work that all can agree on. This little snippet from the article says it best:

"It happens all the time in prize committees," says Freeman, "where two books that have a lot of supporters split the vote, and a third book comes in from behind." One such upset occurred in 1998, according to the NBCC's Hammond. "There was a huge contest" between Don DeLillo's Underworld and Roth's American Pastoral. The winner? The Blue Flower, by British author Penelope Fitzgerald. "We can say it, now that she's died," says Hammond. "It wasn't the book that people felt passionate about."

Personally, I get more from the end-of-the-year lists by various critics. We all have our favorite critics and magazines, and I'm more willling to take a chance on a suggested book from Michael Dirda than I am from the National Book Award commitee.

But would I turn an award down if one came my way? Hell, no!


Sunday, April 17, 2005

Napolean, You're Just Dynamite

Friday night, after some shenanigans in the afternoon sun, Miss L and I rented Napoleon Dynamite. Miss L wasn't too keen on it, but after some cajoling I got her to agree.

Napoleon is an unattracitve, geeky high-shool kid just trying to get through life in a rural town in Idaho. His brother Kip, an even more geeky 30-something, lives at home and plans his days around his online chat schedules. When the movie opens Grandma heads out on a motorcycle vacation, leaving them in the care of Uncle Rico. A door-to-door salesman, Uncle Rico longs for the days of his football-playing youth. The story has three main storylines: a growing love interest for Napoleon’s brother, an election for high school president, and an odd but developing relationship between Napoleon and Deb, a fellow high-schooler who earns extra cash by taking photos at a Glamour Shots salon.

The high geek-factor of the main characters, their drive to pull one over on the popular kids, and a number of off the wall situations all reminded me of Welcome to the Dollhouse. Napoleon has a bit more rage and internal frustration than Dawn "Wiener Dog" Wiener, but he's that same type of frustrated, outsider teen that most anyone can identify with.

Two things really surprised me about the movie. First was the "love" story between Napoleon and Deb. The awkward silences, their discomfort but interest in touching each other, the ineffectual attempts at flirting, and a cute match of tetherball make up most of the romance. But I enjoyed the hints without the major payoff that comes with a kiss at the prom followed by a round of applause so typical of teen movies. It was different, and actually more real, at least alongside my own high school experiences.

The second surprise was a complete lack of cussing. To be honest, I didn't even notice it myself until it was brought up in the DVD commentary section. Most teen-oriented movies shovel in the expletives whenever possible, so it’s kind of refreshing to see this movie work against that.

What really makes it work are the characterizations of these outsider characters; as odd as they are we cheer for them and want them to succeed. Because no matter how popular you were in high school yourself, we’ve all had those moments of the more popular crushing you down.

Overall a fun little independent comedy. Highly suggested if you’re looking for a slightly oddball flick.


Saturday, April 16, 2005


In general, I try not to get into anything polital in this space. But every once in awhile writing, the arts and politics collide.

President Bush announced this week that he would back legislation enforcing general broadcast decency standards on cable and satellite broadcasts. This would mean that when companies like HBO run a movie, it would be edited for t.v. just like it would for ABC. Likewise, shows like The Sopranos and even the award-winning specials like Angels in America would become almost impossible under these restrictions.

In a defensive move, Congressman Bernie Sanders of Vermont has proposed HR 1440, an act that would prohibit the goverment from regulating the content of cable and sattelite broadcasts, as well as the internet. His position is that customers pay specifically for the content provided by these services, and should not come under the control of the FCC.

I have little personal investment in this, since my cable channels are comprised wholly of TBS and MHZ. But censorship on any level bothers me. It all seems very unnecessary, especially when you consider technolgies like the V-Chip for television and Web Filters for the internet. But that's me.

Whatever your feelings, contact your Reprentatives and let them know how you feel about this issue.


Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Genre Discrimination

A new person started working with me a couple of weeks ago who's also a writer. Let's call her Miss Dramaturgy. Athough she's a playwright and holds a very different perspective, we've have some pretty good chats on issues of writing: work ethics, building ideas, how to make a living and still make time to write. A fellow soldier in the literary army, I suppose.

I shouldn't have been all that surprised when she finally asked, "So what do you write?"

I launched into my standard answer. "After growing up on a rather (un)healthy diet of comic books, I moved up the chain to mythology and then sci-fi/fantasy novels. I got more interested in literary work in college, and then into experimental material. At my best, I try work all of it into a story through a variety of ways".

"Interesting," said Miss Dramturgy. "What are you working on now?"

And I told her about the current sword-and-sorcery style piece I'm working on now. The celtic society, the lion-worshipping religion I have yet to name, the werewolves.

She peered at me through her narrow glasses for a moment and said, "Oh. You do genre work. I just assumed you did something more literary."

I wanted to scream at her. I wanted to rant and rave, to pull her up into the stars and see the spaceships and fabulous future worlds of Samuel Delaney and Octavia Butler. Or maybe hop on a dragon and fly to the imaginary lands of Ursula Lequin and China Mieville. But instead I just looked at her and said, "Yeah. I guess I'm genre guy."

I went home that day a little miffed. Not mad enough for mass murder, but mad enough to glower at people who stood a little too close to me on the sidewalk while we watched for the crossing light to change. I finally made it to the metro station and tapped my foot impatiently while I stood waiting for my train. A woman stood a little to my left, and she was a typical D.C. worker. Late 20's or early 30's, conversative black business suit with a blue shirt, hair pulled back behind her head nice and neat. She was a reading a John Grisham paperback, and I caught myself scowling at her, wondering why she'd waste time reading that crap when there's so many better books out there.

So, little lady on the metro platform. I'm sorry I had some bad thoughts about you. I've never been a big fan of Grisham, and I caught myself putting a box around this poor woman just for reading his book. I read as much crap as the next person, it's just a different kind of crap. I guess we all have our own little literary prejudices.


Monday, April 11, 2005

Weekend Recap

My weekend ended up being a pretty nice, if somewhat unusual.

Saturday night I went to the Baltimore Museum of Art for the 2005 Annual Recital for the Daughters of Rhea, a loose-knit collective of sorts of belly-dance performers. There was quite a wide range of, from beginning level dancers to real veteran performers. There were dancers with veils and dancers with canes. Dancers with swords and dancers behind screens. Some stayed true to the older traditions of the dance, while others worked in small threads of R&B, performance art, and even heavy metal. The highlighted performers were Piper, who dances with a sword balanced on her head, Lotus, who brought a high level of sass and sultriness to the stage. How she struts and dances like she does in high heels, I'll never know. I admittedly mainly went to support Miss Anonymous L and the rest of the Blue Orchid Dancers, but still enjoyed myself.

Afterwards, we enjoyed some post-show eats with some of the other performers at the nearby Paper Moon Diner. One of the other performers teaches dance and sells belly dance costumes and gear out of her husbands comic book store in Baltimore. The other is a dancer and pianist with a degree in anthropology, and she's apparently won some Maryland awards for her Ragtime Piano playing. The whole evening was, in a phrase, very Baltimore.

The fun of the weekend continued into Sunday night with the Fatomas show at the 9:30 Club in downtown D.C. Fantomas, for lack of a better description, is melodic hardcore. This supergroup, fronted by Mike Patton of Faith No More/Mr. Bungle fame, features musicians from groups like the Melvins and Slayer. Most of their music is instrumental, and come highly influenced by movie themes and cartoon music (they do a wicked-evil cover of the the theme from the Omen). With the thundering double-bass drums, the near-grating guitar and bass, it was a very loud, energetic, and near-violent show. Patton brought in most of the melodies with his unique vocal gymnastics. It had been awhile since I'd seen live music quite like theirs, and I had a great time.

But now, unfortunately, it's tax time. And I've procrastinated enough. Time to break out the adding machine.


Saturday, April 09, 2005

Dearest Reader.....

Today I'm thinking about the ever-vague concept of the reader. Who they are, what they want, and how much should a writer even care about them.

It's been on my mind a lot lately, ever since reading the novel Tumbling After by Paul Witcover. The book does passable balancing act of telling two parallel fantasy stories at the same time. The first and primary story focuses on Jack and Jilly, a set of young twins who may or may not possess near-godlike powers. Kestrel, and half-man/half-bird mutant, stars in the second story, which features a highly detailed, complex fantasy world. Although very different, Witcover develops relationships in theme and character between the two threads.

What I'm questioning is the way Witcover introduces us to the second story. Set in the late 1970's, Jack and Jilly are obsessed with a Dungeons and Dragons style game called Mutes and Norms. Kestrel's story is told by way of this of this game. The game is ruled by a series of complicated rules and rolls of 20 and 100 sided dice, and the rules echo within Kestrel's fantasy world to the point that they make some of their own choices by way of a dice roll.

I enjoyed this angle, particularly since I was a little bit of a D&D geek as a little kid. I didn't play it that often, but I loved reading the books of different monsters, and the odd little plots that people developed. Problem being, I'm over 30 and Witcover's book flows like a Young Adult/Teen book. The rules and details of it all wore a little on me at times, but the teens of today play games on the computer, not on tables with sets of dice and long, complicated rule sheets. I just can't see them wading through the longer sections that explain the rules of Mutes and Norms, much less responding with the same level of understanding that I did.

And so the big question for today: who is Witcover writing to? And does it even matter?

When I'm writing here, I obviously have some idea of an audience in mind. Aside from the people I know who look here, I keep things relatively directed towards books and writing in general. But when I'm writing fiction I don't really think about an audience until I get to the place of selling the piece. Then I try to think about where it fits, and possibly how to reshape things for the particular publication.

An argument could be made that thinking about audience stifles, perhaps even destroys, all chance at creativity and originality (enter Tom Clancy). But if no one reads it, if that book just sits coated in dust on that lonely shelf in the back corner of the library (you know the one I mean) does the book matter?

I'm not sure.

Part of my conflict comes from my liking the book. And I'm not the only one. It's getting some raves in a variety of spots. But if, despite glowing reviews, the intended audience doesn't read it, it's likely it will be forgotten. While I hope this doesn't happen to Mr. Witcover, I unfortunately think it's pretty likely.


Thursday, April 07, 2005

The Rise of the Indian Rope Trick

It's the most wondrous of magic tricks every devised not just in India, but anywhere. A performer pulls out a long rope and with a combination of words and gestures coaxes it to climb high into the open sky without any sign of support. The magician then calls upon his young boy of an assistant, who climbs up the rope so high that he vanishes from view. When the boy doesn't return the magician angrily climbs up after the boy and carries the assisant back down with him to a resounding round of applause from the audience.

Quite an amazing trick, to be sure. The trouble is, it never happened.

Not ever.

Peter Lamont's fun but very informative book details the history of this unusual myth: who invented it, who embellished it, and why so many wanted to believe in it so deeply.

By all accounts the first "hard" reference came from a fabricated eye-witness report that appeared in the Chicago Tribune in 1890. Although the inventive journalist John Elbert Wilke, a man who would strangely become head of the U.S. Secret Service years later, printed a retraction of his original story by way of a letter to the editor a few months later it didn't make any difference. The story had already captured the attention of readers in the
U.S. and Britain to the level that others claimed to have witnessed the trick themselves.

Pulling in a variety of supporters over the years from
famed mystic Madame Blavatsky to contemporary
journalist John Keel of Moth-man fame, the Indian Rope
Trick became a touchstone reference point for anyone
trying to prove the existence of real magic or psychic
powers. Strange and often sometimes frightening stories developed around the swamis and magi who supposedly performed the trick, and the dangers experienced by those who attempted to discover its secrets.

Professional magicians divided into two camps over the issue. The first emcompassed performers who embraced this image of the Indian; they darkened their skin with greasepaint, put turbans on their heads and made wild claims of mystical powers to fill the seats for
their performances. The second camp saw the Indian Rope Trick as an impossibility, and they went out of there way to disprove all claims. Many explanations were offered: magnetism, hidden wires, drugs, and even mass hypnosis. Unforunately, none of these were able to perfectly duplicate the trick. In the early 1900's a bizarre cabal of magicians in London formed to disprove claims of mystic powers, with the rope trick high on their list. The cabal went so far to offer a substantial reward for anyone who could perform it, but no one ever claimed the prize. In the end the story of the Indian Rope Trick begins and ends with man's love of a good yarn and an unending ability to believe in the impossible.

Amidst all the campy historical facts Lamont manages to develop some interesting conclusions. The late 1800's brought us a huge rise in science and a growing disbelief in superstitions and the spiritual side of life. The educated westerner knew things like faeries and goblins didn't exist, but this story of a crazy, impossible trick fulfilled some need to believe in something that can't be understood. Placing it in the faraway land of India, a place westerners had difficulty dicovering anyway, only added a level of mystique. A fascination with the east began that continues to press on us even today. Lamont wisely makes the point that the stories we tell about others say more about us than about the subject matter of the story.


Tuesday, April 05, 2005

On the Street with Mary Kay

I was running a bit late to work today, and rushed a little more quickly than usual in my short jaunt between Metro Center and the office. In my haste, a lovely plastic shopping bag, dancing merrily on the wind, smacked me in the face as I cruised by the display windows of the local Bums and Valiant Bookstore. I peeled off the Safeway bag (Safeway Shopper #4387656, you should really consider some more fiber in your diet) and a book in the window caught my eye.

Two pudgy but strong Japanese men wrestled on the cover, one draped in red and the other in plain colors. Done up in a painterly style, it it stuck out from the political fair the store usually showcases. Intrigued, I looked at the title: The Bowl Is Already Broken. And from there to the author's name, Mary Kay Zuravleff.

It was exciting for me, finding a new book by her. Not only is Mary Kay local to D.C., she taught a class of mine in grad school. It was good timing on my part. Up to Mary Kay, my professors were all card carrying members of the realist camp and I was feeling pretty antagonized by the whole program. It wasn't a writing class, but kind of a theory class on the structure of novels. But I still found her suprisingly open-minded to different styles and content, and it encouraged me to stick with the program. I haven't run into Mary Kay in probably a year and a half, and the last time I saw her she was still strugggling with the novel (along with working part-time and raising kids).

Her first novel, The Frequency of Souls, mixes unusual characters with a unique balance of realistic and fastastical plot twists. Bowl appears to be more realistic, but I'm sure it will hold substantial wackiness. If I'm reading the summary right, it's set in The National Museum of Asian Art, and I know she spent time as an editor for the Smithsonian. I'm hoping for lots of good behind-the-scenes stuff.

Congrats to Mary Kay. Featured that prominently in a store that rarely showcases fiction at all is a good sign that there's some buzz behind the book. It's on my to-buy list, and I hope a lot of other people pick it up as well.


Monday, April 04, 2005

Local Writer Takes it Home

Yep, cheesy headline.

Just a pointer to today's USA Today. In amongst the articles of the opening of baseball season and the return of basball to D.C. sits a wonderful poem and interview with D.C. poet, author and Gargoyle Guru Ricard Peabody.

Peabody's written a number of stories and poems over the years about the Washington Senators and the sense of loss that spiralled to everyone in the area when the team got ripped away from our town. I'm particularly fond of the baseball related stories in his collection Open Joints on Bridge.

I hope now Peabody will find that special something he's been looking for now that baseball's back.


Friday, April 01, 2005


WAMU's Metro Connection today offers up an interesting interview with Kim Roberts, editor of Beltway and a Walt Whitman scholar.

The interview mostly highlights the connections between Whitman and Washington, D.C. His time as a nurse in D.C. during the Civil War as well his admiration of Lincoln and fascination with the politics of war make for an interesting segment. They do make a little too much of how Whitman treated the wounded of both sides; this was actually quite common for nurses and doctors during the war. Other than that, it's worth a listen. Also interesting, because D.C.'s direct involvement with the Civil War is so often forgotten. With all the battlefields in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania people forget how involved the people of D.C. (and by this I mean the people who actually live there, not the politicians) were.

I remember the first time I ever heard of Whitman. It was in the 3rd grade, and I remember being amazed that this man was both a journalist and a poet. And then a nurse during the Civil War on top of it all. Even today, something indefinably American hides within his words. Maybe it's plain accessability of his words, despite his lyrical flow. Unlike so much poetry, and art in general, it has a flow that easy to track with and still holds up well today. I have a few Whitman books---Leaves of Grass, a Best of, and a bio on his time as a nurse---sitting on the bookshelf behind me. It's past time to dust them off and remind myself why I bought them.