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Giving Thanks Should Be a Daily Duty For Me

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Taking a run at Five Rivers and thankful for it. I don’t think about what I’m thankful for often enough. Instead, I tend to get caught up in the negative, I dwell in the dark rooms: things gone wrong, failures, mishaps, misfortunes. It’s hard for me to admit this, and nothing to be proud of. I have to fight against the shadows and remind myself to experience gratitude. I have family and friends...

It’s Time to Play Keep or Cull

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I have left the era of acquiring and now entered the age of dispersing. There are 14 bookcases in my house, most of them stuffed. The kids each have a bookcase in their rooms. Harriet has one for all her cookbooks. The rest are mostly mine. Our two feature bookcases, on either side of the fireplace, I’m trimming out and painting. It’s time to do something about the all books. The time of...

LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND — Rumaan Alam

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I eagerly awaited my opportunity to read LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND, by Rumaan Alam, a novel that has received a lot of attention and hype this season. I have mixed feelings. First, what I really liked. Some of the writing is stellar, the novel moves briskly along, and it clocks in at a trim, bloat-free 241 pages. The premise itself is powerful and promising: a white Brooklyn family heads out to the...

It Gets Inside You

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I haven’t tested positive for COVID yet, but it’s gotten inside me in other insidious little ways. Here’s a first-time occurrence for me: I’m at my desk novel writing, deep in a chapter. I pause. Part of the work of storytelling is asking questions: Is this authentic? Could this happen? Is this behavior believable? These questions came to mind and I’m suddenly wondering whether my characters...

A PALE VIEW OF THE HILLS–Kazuo Ishiguro

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Delicate, elegiac, mysterious, haunting. If those words describe the kind of novel you like, A PALE VIEW OF THE HILLS is for you. It’s on my list of The Most Important Novels in My Life, which I’ve been revisiting during the coronavirus pandemic, and a recent rereading of Ishiguro’s first novel reminds me that it belongs. I first came to this novel in 1993, while I was working on a...

The Not So Lonely Path

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I had to get out for a hike this morning to think some things over. I went to a trail that’s new for me, Bennett Hill Preserve. It was overcast, chilly, and windy — perfect conditions for me. The trail started up a ridge with a view of a dairy farm and cows through the trees and I kept a vigorous pace as the elevation increased and the gray and brown forest thickened. Pretty soon I...

The Most Important Novels in My Life

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I have set myself a task for 2020: reread the ten most important books in my life. To qualify for the list, the novel (or novella or short story collections; I’m including those also), must meet one or more of the following criteria: It was so profound and meaningful to me that I’ve read the novel multiple times.It significantly influenced my own development as a novelist.The...

I Honor My Father on Veteran’s Day

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I honor my father today, Bob Klein, veteran of World War II. At the too-young age of 17 he enlisted in the Navy and served in the Pacific. Here’s a photo of him, a long-legged sailor, on his ship. He came back from the war in one piece and lived a long and I believe mostly satisfying life. He didn’t talk much about the war. I remember asking him if he was afraid of getting killed and...

THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT

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I love the opportunity to read a novel and see the film adaptation in a back to back sequence. This was the case with The Queen’s Gambit, which I thank Owen for bringing to my attention. This novel, written in 1983 by Walter Tevis (The Hustler, The Man Who Fell to Earth), centers around Beth Harmon, a young female chess prodigy who is orphaned, discovers her talent at chess by playing the janitor...

Cheapskate, Environmentalist, or Minimalist?

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I’ve developed an aversion to shopping, both online and in person. Because when you shop, you buy things, and I don’t want more things. I want fewer things. I want to get rid of stuff, not accumulate more. Maybe I’m getting obsessive about it. Last year, I wondered if I actually owned enough clothing to see me through my remaining projected lifespan. Turns out, I don’t. You know those technical T...

My Ten Commandments for Social Media Use

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The other day I did what I hate doing on social media: I experienced one of those knee-jerk, angry reactions to what someone posted and I kind of lashed out in the comments. That did nothing good for my state of mind. I don’t use Facebook often and when I do I mostly lurk. But occasionally I share one of these blog posts on my Facebook page because I think there might be one or two people...

Solitude

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Julia and I had a conversation about solitude. I was telling her I went bow hunting over the weekend, and although I was with friends, I spent many hours alone in a tree stand, apart from the others. She wondered if that was difficult for me—all that solitude. She says she can struggle in those moments because her thoughts can turn negative and get the better of her. I’m with her on that one: the...

Fly Your Flag

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Most of my interest in flags has concerned the U.S. flag. I’ve flown it upside down and right-side-up, and after the election I’ll be flying it one way or the other depending on the results. The U.S. flag is such a powerful symbol, but I don’t “Pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, under God...

CULTS: The Girls, a novel, and Martha Marcy May Marlene, a film

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Sometimes I do a two-for-one, packaging a thematically-linked novel and film review, such as the novel The Revenant and the film 1917. Today’s theme is cults, which I’ve become interested in recently, although I have no interest in joining or starting one. The two works of art: The Girls, by Emma Cline (2016), and Martha Marcy May Marlene, written and directed by Sean Durkin (2011). Apparently...

No Satisfaction–Yet

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I was out inspecting the perimeter yesterday and I saw a flash of red in the bushes. I pulled out this sign that someone must have tossed here. They probably stole it from another lawn and flung it here, hopefully in disgust, but I wish they hadn’t tainted my property. It landed not far from my Black Lives Matter sign. The Trump sign was high quality: heavy plastic and sturdy wire frame. It...

Six-Word Memoirs

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There is a legend about Ernest Hemingway responding to a challenge to write a six-word story with this: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” That’s about as devastating and definitive as a story can be–whatever its length. And it has inspired many writers to construct six-word stories and memoirs. Here’s another one, unlikely written as a six-word memoir, but...

Chained to the Power Grid

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The power went out at 4 pm on October 7 when a fierce 10-minute wind and rain storm blitzed the area. Trees were down all over town. Not in my yard, but in the one next door. The power lines dangled on the ground. Electricity was scarce, but firewood aplenty. Thus began 77 hours of living off the grid. We lit our candles and wore our headlamps because night came early. We emptied our chest...

It Hurts Getting Punched in the Mouth

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I’m not a boxing fan, I’m not even a Mike Tyson fan, but I’m a big fan of this quote attributed to the fearsome warrior: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” There are a number of military variations on this quote, such as “Plans are great until the shooting starts” or “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.”...

Playing in the Neighborhood

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I looked out my window the other day and saw this going on in my front yard. I had kept one of the swings from the playset we had in our back yard when my own kids were young and I hung it out front from a maple tree. Every once in a while someone will come by and take a ride, usually a mom with her toddler. I watched these two girls take turns pushing each other. Swinging as if they owned it...

David Klein

Published novelist, creative writer, avid reader, discriminating screen watcher.

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