Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Dewey Decimate System

Mr. Crutcher, you have one obedient computer. You send yours to the library, I can’t even make mine go downstairs for a donut. And I’m sorry, but this Dewey Decimal has to go. When I was a boy in rural Colorado (at a one room school where my mom taught first through fifth grades – and hit me with a ruler when I was unruly – where at the end of every day we stood beside our desks and sang Onward Christian Soldiers like the angels we were) the bookmobile came once a week! It was like Santa Claus! -- except for this twirp Dewey Decimal that they were always trumpeting about. I already knew the real Dewey. Dewey Duck, with his brothers Huey and Louie. It was years before I discovered the truth about Mr. Decimal and his arcane “system.” As if three numbers weren’t enough, he added that point at the end and then added more letters and numbers after ... really? A whole 3x5 card just for the book’s number? Got so’s I would read the number and skip the book. That accounts for the richness of my literary understanding. Remember 142.780973 C826e? What a number! What a concept!
            Researching, I use several search engines for articles and images and I love the online thesaurus when I’m considering non-repetitive word choices. I made a deal with myself to stop and think --- THINK --- before I access these tools in the hopes that my brian doesn’t atropine completly . . . hmmm. 
            This week I’m caught up with my researching but I’m in the process of rearranging a new book’s fifteen beginning chapters to establish the character-building and the plot momentum that I believe will be most effective. I’m aware how difficult it is for me to hold entire chapters in my head and move them around like building blocks. I see now why some authors use storyboards to give themselves a visual anchor. Or maybe I should use scissors and scotch tape . . . but wouldn’t the pages tear after the eleventh reconstruction? Surely you have suffered the pain of beginningitis . . . or wait, maybe you’re one of those scalawags who write the first draft through to the end before you monkey with it. Well, fie on thee, penman, may your ship scrawl to the doldrums - - an old curse I learned from 216.818974 K353r.

Monday, April 8, 2013


To me "research" is just an eight letter word.  Where I come from that's twice as ugly as a four letter word.  Our different perspectives on it may explain why you went to Stanford University and I went to Ed's Junior College and Latte Stand.  I have library cards for libraries in some of the most obscure cities and towns in the United States of America.  The reason is that, until I discovered I was offending librarians all over this great land by telling them the last library card I had was for the Cascade, Idaho Public Library in 1955 (to which I could go any and all Saturday mornings to check out donated books nobody else wanted) it was a part of my standard presentation.  Those offended librarians started sending me cards.  The Cascade library was housed in the back of the fire station where Dewey Decimal had never set foot.  My mother, a champion of community betterment coerced - or should I say forced - her children to check out at least one book a week.  Because of this, I discovered that the Edgar Rice Borroughs' Tarzan smoked cigarettes and spoke like the English Lord he was.  I preferred the movie Tarzan, whose vocabulary consisted of "Me Tarzan, you Jane.  Then he took off with Cheetah.  Forever traumatized, I swore off libraries and research and literacy.  Later I discovered another way to research is to "live it" and began digging up many of my facts from my own experience and, more importantly, the experiences of others.  As I've grown older, and I have grown older, I've discovered I need to write about things I haven't experienced and therefore must change my ways.  How fortunate I discovered this need at a time when I can send my computer to the library and don't have to get my skinny butt out of my chair.  But your point, Mr. Price, is well taken.  If you don't get the details right, the readers will catch you and they will slay you.