Finished L’Amour’s ‘Last of the Breed’

My father, who died last year at 81, was a big Louis L’Amour fan, so decided to finally read one of his books. The next one I’ll read is more era appropriate: The Quick and the Dead.

Recently, I “read” Louis L’Amour’s book Last of the Breed. It’s about a Native American who becomes a pilot in the Air Force. In one flight, he’s forced to land in Siberia during the time of the Soviet Union. A reference is made to Mikhail Gorbachev, meaning the story takes place sometime in the mid-1980s.

I say “read” because I listened to it on CD while driving to work. David Strathairn provided the narration, and he does an impressive Russian accent.

Major Joe Makatozi (or Joe Mack, for short), is a Lakota whose gray eyes are the mark of a trace of Scottish ancestry. He’s taken to a prison camp run by a man named Col. Zamatev. The colonel’s plan: to interrogate Joe Mack so he’ll reveal American aviation secrets, and then execute him. Zamatev, who wants a cushy job back in Moscow, is hoping Joe Mack’s capture and interrogation are his tickets.

Zamatev escapes and, using his skills as a Native American, decides to ultimately head east toward the Bering Strait, entering America the same way his ancestors did millennia before. He lives off the land and is pursued by Alekhin, a Yakut native (for lack of a better term, a Native Russian) who’s an expert tracker and knows every square inch of the land. Alekhin realizes, unlike Zamatev, that in order to capture a Lakota, one must think like a Lakota.

I’ll not reveal the ending, except to say I liked it a lot, even though I normally am not a huge fan of open-endings where the reader is left to decide what ultimately happened.

L’Amour, I observed, writes in a balanced style where he gives you enough description to set the scene, but doesn’t let it overpower.

I have many books to read, and in the fiction realm are two sets of Westerns: those by L’Amour and those by Larry McMurtry.

Richard Zowie is a writer. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardzowie@gmail.com.

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Travel writing, something I’d LOVE to do someday

Something I’d love to do someday is travel around the world for a year or two and chronicle my experiences. Among the many places I’d love to go: Germany, England, Scotland, Russia, Israel, Greece, China, Mexico, Argentina. Among the places here in America: the Grand Canyon, the Devil’s Tower, Seattle, Philadelphia, New York City, Los Angeles (even though I’ve already been there a few times), New England and The Four Corners.

I imagine one way to do it is to go out, observe, talk, write and then put your adventures into 300-500 word blog postings.

That does pose one question: travel writing also is an easy way of saying, “I’m not home.” Does one travel write when one is done traveling…?

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Reading Garry Kasparov’s autobiography ‘Child of Change’

Reading it, it doesn’t surprise me at all that former world chess champion Garry Kasparov majored in English (as a foreign language) when he attended college in his native Azerbaijan. His English is better than that of most Americans.

garry kasparov

Some consider Garry Kasparov the world’s all-time greatest chess player.

Including, admittedly, mine.

Kasparov’s book is so far a fascinating read. His full name is now Garry Kimovich Kasparov, but apparently it was originally Garik Kimovich Weinstein. He was born in Baku, Azerbaijan and was the son of an Azerbaijani mother (who, herself, was of Armenian descent) and a Russian Jewish father. Kasparov’s father died when he was young, and since his mother’s Kasparian family did not have any males to carry on the name, he chose to do so and Russified Kasparian to Kasparov.

I often have thought the key to success in life is find people you admire (for good reasons) and read about them. Learn from them.

Perhaps something else about Gospodin Kasparov that appeals to me is that he is well-read and well-traveled and very active. Those are three things I aspire greatly to. He notes how much English literature he’s read but marvels at how few Americans have read Russian literature extensively.

It’s not the fastest reading book in the world, but it’s an enjoyable read so far.

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Richard reviews Vladimir Sorokin’s ‘Day of the Oprichnik’

While perusing a monthly magazine of published novels, I read that retired Russian chess champion Garry Kasparov recommended Vladimir Sorokin’s Day of the Oprichnik. I like Kasparov, so that was good enough for me.

The novel, translated from the Russian (original title: День опричника), is about a day in the life of head oprichnik (a KGB-type agent who serves the Russian tsar) Andrei Danilovich Komiaga. We follow him around as he maintains order for the tsar. It’s set about 15 years in the future, and the tsars again rule Russia. Komiaga maintains order by murdering a treacherous noble, gang-raping the noble’s wife (we learn Komiaga has a foot fetish), and traveling around Russia to subdue uprisings and gather information. He also has to deal with a major scandal in the tsar’s family, and we learn Komiaga has the hots for one voluptuous member of the family (she is strictly off-limits). He and his fellow oprichniki indulge in activities strictly prohibited for normal Russian citizens. Then there’s a homosexual orgy near the end as they indulge on Viagra.

I suppose the drugs and weird sex are products of a very busy, stressful schedule that allows for little sleep.

Ray Bradbury famously said he wrote Fahrenheit 451 to prevent the future, and I wonder if Vladimir Sorokin wrote this novel as a way of reminding Russians what it would be like to be ruled by a tsar again. Terror, oppression. For many Russians who view their country objectively, there is little difference between the corruption of the tsars and corruption of the communists. The happy balance would be some sort of democracy, but of course, the situation is far more complicated.

I found this book to be fascinating, overall. It’s an introduction into Russian literature for me. I’d love to read the classics along with read Russian science fiction.

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New poems for 12-1-2011

9-29-2011 — Fun With Cooking

Life is far too boring

                        dull

                        lackluster

To microwave TV dinners

To cook with premade sauces.

The kitchen should be a playground

                                           lab

To cook

      experiment

      taste

      create

To smile

When your culinary crdeations

Make your children

                    and others

Happy.

11-23-2011 — Sky, China, Russia

The sky, the heavens

Silver, gold,

Fiery red, blue, purple, green

Playground

Showcasing

God’s creativity

中国人们说:

你好,水星,火星,木星!

Русские говорят:

Здравствуйте, Солнце и Плутон!

We say,

Hello, sun, Sirius B, Proxima Centauri, Betelgeuse, Andromeda Galaxy!

11-26-2011 — Sylvia Plath 

At the bookstore

Within the sea of books

I found

Ms. Sylvia Plath.

Sky-high talent,

Sky-high surreal imagery,

Sky-high sadness,

Even across time,

My heart hurts.

11-26-2011 — Haiku about Jupiter 

Bright, bright moving star

Far East they call you 木 星

Mysteries endless!

11-26-2011 — Thirty Years as a Christian

Even at тридцать лет

There is still

So much

Of God

Of Jesus

Of the Bible

Я еще не понимаю.

11-26-2011 — When sleep is evasive 

When sleep is evasive

My head feels warm

My thoughts can’t connect

Everything’s uphill.

I’m in a haze

Many things seem hilarious.

My pillow, sheets

Become a

Freshly-laundered and dried cotton cloud.

11-29-2011 — Sun, moon, brightness

One day,

Countless 月 ago,

日was lonely

As was 月.

They consoled each other,

Found brightness in each other.

Soon,

日and 月

Became 明.

11-29-2011 — Michael Jordan? Wasn’t he an athlete?

The day will arrive

Perhaps untold, countless

Lunar orbits from now

When space stations orbit Jupiter

To try to unlock the under-the-cloud mysteries that abound

When a basketball player

Will hear the name

Michael Jordan

And will respond with a

Blank, void, gaze.

Even superheroes

Eventually are

Superforgotten.

11-29-2011 — Solomon’s books

Proverbs,

Ecclesiastes,

Song of Solomon.

Three books

Solomon wrote

With this message:

THIS is what I

SHOULD HAVE DONE

with my life!!!”

11-29-2011 — Jupiter and other gas giants hold emergency meeting

I wonder if

The day will come

When

Jupiter

will gather

Saturn, Uranus, Neptune

And tell them:

“Someday

People from that tiny round blue ball

Will orbit us

And extract our hydrogen

And other resources

Until all that’s left

Are our rocky cores!

We must do something!”

11-30-2011 — Chinese haiku about astronomy, planets and telescopes

[I spent eight months of my life formally studying Mandarin Chinese at the Army’s Defense Language Institute. I also have access to online Chinese dictionaries. Any errors in writing in Chinese characters are solely my own. — Richard Zowie (or, as I was called in Chinese, 左瑞查)]

我看了木星

每天在天明烽火

望远镜在哪?

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