Mencken’s Worst Trade

H.L. Mencken

I love H. L. Mencken. He is intelligent, witty, and a prolific writer. I use the present tense because, even though he is technically dead, the words he left behind are still alive. They speak to the present moment. Here is an example:

Why do men and women take to literary endeavor? The answer must be another question: Why does a hen lay eggs? The impulse to say something to make people sit up and take notice is universal to humankind. The ego craves attention almost as violently as it craves life. Well, who can think of an easier, safer, and more effective way to give it what it wants than by writing? Alone in his gloomy cage, the writer addresses, at least potentially, the whole human race, not only of the living generation but also of the generations to come.

“The life of a man of letters,” said Gustave Flaubert, ” is a dog’s life, but the only one worth living.” His judgment was probably sound on both counts. Rewards of the author at their best are stupendous—and every one knows they are. His troubles are easily forgotten.

I have tried in these paragraphs to set forth a few of them. If I printed the whole list, the readers of this magazine would drown the nation with their tears and many would curse the day they learned to read and write.
H. L. Mencken ~ The Worst Trade of Them All

Thank goodness, I am not a writer; I am merely an observer who writes.



Into the Woods

The following is a sequel to a story posted by The Ceaseless Reader. It’s titled Sick Day. I recommend you check out other posts from his blog.

The dim light of a gray dawn failed to elevate my mood as I locked my door then turned toward my car, and a sudden cloudburst doused what little cheer I had begun trying to muster.

As I exited the highway and turned onto the treacherous county road winding through the rocky hills on my final approach to work, I found myself once again bemused by how I’d arrived there.  The drive had become so routine that my mind disengages, and muscle memory takes over.

But when a sudden, stentorian ripping sound drew my eyes skyward as I approached the tunnel bored through Crummer’s Knob, and I saw an enormous, hairy arm begin to emerge from the slit in the torn clouds, I was instantly present.  Heart pounding and coated in a sheen of chill sweat, I entered the tunnel, pulled to the side, killed the ignition, and reached for my phone.  “B-Boss,”  I stammered, “I don’t think I’m gonna make it in today.”

My Sequel:

In my rearview mirror, I watched the arm crash to the ground. Silence. Then I heard a faint whimpering sound.

Oh, no, I thought, that giant arm has landed on someone. I have to check it out.

“Er, Boss, I might not make it in at all.” Like forever.

I eased out of the car and crept to the edge of the tunnel. The whimpering grew louder; it was coming from the direction of the arm. I looked around and MY CRIMINY! That arm was just an arm! I mean, that was all there was to it! No body attached to it! OH, MY OTHER CRIMINY! It was the arm that was crying!

Now I’m telling you, if you have never heard an arm cry, the sound is downright heartbreaking. I tiptoed closer until I was near the hand.

“Er, Mr. Arm,” I began; then I noticed the fingernails.

“Er, Ms. Arm,” I said, “are you alright?”

The hand started horribly at the sound of my voice and began to shake.

“Hey, hey, it’s okay,” I said. “I’m here to help.”

Oh boy, I thought, how do you help a disembodied arm? And a very large one at that!


Truth vs. Fact

The following is an excerpt from The Book of Rhino ~ The Reckoning. It is based on the Daily Press WOTD Fact


Master Altman surveyed the view from the window of his room. He intended to spend one more night at the inn in order to tour the village and put his thoughts in order. He appreciated the inn’s tranquility and the sense of peace that pervaded the atmosphere. It was a perfect environment for reflection and writing.

I could spend a year just thinking about what Brother Simon told me. What I wouldn’t give to travel with him! He is such a good man for a Christian. I wonder how he has survived church doctrine all these years. I wonder if there are others like him. I wonder what that knocking is…

“Oh…I beg your pardon.

Master Altman came out of his reverie and looked at Virgil, who was standing in the doorway with a pitcher of water and a towel.

“I apologize for the intrusion, but you did bid me enter,” said Virgil, who deposited the pitcher and towel on a small table. Master Altman laughed.

“I am quite certain I did, but I have no memory of it, “ he said. “I do go on sometimes. It was always a great mystery to my students that I could say one thing and be thinking another. I could say the number sixteen and write the number forty-seven. I was so involved in thinking about whether the facts I know are the truth that the fact of your knocking at the door did not register.”

Virgil nodded.

“I understand.”

“Do you?” asked Master Altman. “For the relationship between fact and truth has long been a puzzle for me. For example, yesterday I arrived at the inn at sunset. That is an unchangeable fact. If I then state that I arrived at the inn at sunset, then I have spoken the truth about the fact. If I state I arrived at the inn before sunset, then I have not spoken the truth; yet the fact exists that proves otherwise.”

“And what do you find so puzzling about that?”

“Just this: A fact can exist whether or not it is used truthfully. And there are those that ignore or discount a fact if it does not support what they want to believe. Moreover, people will fight and die for what they believe is true whether or not it is factual. Such an intriguing facet of human nature—I could spend weeks just thinking about it. But forgive me; I digress. Thank you for seeing to my comfort.”

“It is my pleasure,” said Virgil. “Is there anything else you require?”

Master Altman nodded.

“Yes!” he said. “What is the ‘why’ of Albion?”

Virgil coughed and looked disconcerted.

“Ah…well,” he began. “I am not quite sure what you mean.”

Master Altman sighed.

“It’s all right,” he said. “Truth is wiser than me and will reveal itself at the appropriate time. Sometimes I think it is my ordained task in life to ask ‘why’ as an exercise in patience. So I must allow patience to have its perfect work. In the meantime, if you could point me in the best direction from which to explore your village, I would be most appreciative. I am up for an adventure this morning.”

Man must have just enough faith in himself to have adventures,
and just enough doubt of himself to enjoy them.
G. K. Chesterton, The Eternal Revolution


Reading Her Story


Life reminds me of a book I’ve read. This could mean either I have read a lot of books or I don’t get out much. I’m not too fussed about it either way.

I do enjoy reading my own story as long as I remember it’s a mystery, not a biography.

(Artwork by James Christensen)



Writing Between the Lines

Daily Prompt:Imagination


“Flights of fancy are random acts of kindness from the heart to the mind.”

The Book of Rhino

Painting by James C. Christensen


On Knowing That You Know (Or Not)


In the sun born over and over
I ran my heedless ways…
Nothing I cared in the lamb white days, that time would take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
In the moon that is always rising,
Nor that riding to sleep
I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Dylan Thomas ~ Fern Hill

 When does one know and know that one knows? When does one know that he or she does not know? The transition into knowledge is as mysterious to me as it is beautiful. One day a child runs her heedless ways, and the next she knows her ways were heedless. Like a universe observed, the heedless ways vanish once they are acknowledged. But they can be remembered.

All children deserve their heedless ways.
I recently realized why I did not finish Thomas Wolfe’s novel Look Homeward, Angel. I did not like the fact that he did not allow his character, Eugene Gant, to be heedless. From the moment of his birth, Eugene was born with a headful of heed. He knew. Who wants to give a child that kind of knowledge? What is he going to do with it? It was depressing. (The novel is considered to be autobiographical; if so, I pity Wolfe.)

All children deserve the lamb white days.
One of the reasons I love The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman is that he allows his character Lyra her share of lamb white days. She prowls around Oxford with her friends, playing games, making war, and telling tales. One of the themes of Pullman’s His Dark Materials is the transition into knowledge, but he honors the innocence that precedes it.

“All children deserve a strong name.” Bill Martin
The reason I chose the name Amalia for one of my characters is because it fits the name of Mole; Mole is Amalia’s childhood name. Mole is the evidence that Amalia was allowed to run her heedless ways before she makes the transition into knowledge. However, I wonder if I gave her enough heedless ways, enough lamb white days.

All children deserve the high hills.
The great thing about creating characters is you can give them wonderful things. I can write about Amalia between the lines. I can give her any number of high hills in which to prowl with her friends. I can allow her to run her heedless ways. It will be easy because I remember.

For me the high hills did not forever flee the childless land; they merely took a break. Now they are running around, playing games, making war, and telling tales. I just have to ask them to come in and sit with me a while. I can take their tall tales and spin them into stories about Amalia and Skandar and Rhino. It will be great because, once in while, even we adults deserve our heedless ways.


The Liebster Award


A. J. Reeves, who writes milesofpages, has nominated me for the Liebster Award.

What is the Liebster Award?

“The Liebster Award 2017 is an award that exists only on the Internet and is given to bloggers by other bloggers. The earliest case of the award goes as far back as 2011. Liebster in German means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome.” The Global Aussie

The Official Rules of the Liebster Award 2018

  • Link to the Liebster website.
  • Answer the questions given to you.
  • Nominate up to ten bloggers that you follow who (a) meet the criteria of Liebster and (b) have no more than 200 followers.
  • Create more questions for your nominees to answer.
  • Comment on this blog post with a link DIRECTLY to your Liebster award.

What is milesofpages?
A.J. Reeves maintains an interesting and informative website of book reviews, literary analysis, writing advice, original fiction, and M. A. L. C. O. L. M, an ongoing romantic comedy about Olivia Moore, her friend Addison Lockwood, and M. A. L. C. O. L. M, and human-like machine Addison has created.

I especially appreciate Reeves’ book reviews. She gives an overview of the setting, characters, and plot outline, and then explains what she likes and does not like about the book. She is very thorough.

I also appreciate that A. J. Reeves nominated me for a Liebster award; it is an honor and an act of kindness on her part.

Questions From milesofpages Which I Answered Truthfully

  1. What book had the most impact on you? The Bible
  2. What movie would be greatly improved if it was made into a musical? Children of the Corn – call it “Children of the Con” and make it about people who are conned into giving their life savings to children.
  3. If giving the choice with literary man or woman would you like to have a relationship with? and what relationship? (friend/co-consiprator/love interest/enemy/etc.) I would like to be one of C. S. Lewis’ close friends.
  4. What is the most embarrassing thing you have ever worn? The back end of a horse costume–I should add, it was a dancing horse.
  5.  What part of a kid’s movie completely scarred you? I cannot recall being scarred by a kid’s movie.
  6. If you were arrested with no explanation, what would your friends and family assume you had done? They might assume I had written a political letter to the editor.
  7. What is your weirdest hobby? Looking for number patterns in my car’s odometer and rejoicing when I find one.
  8. What secret conspiracy would you like to start? I would not start a secret conspiracy; conspiracies are too complicated for me to think about.
  9. What mythical creature would improve the world most if it existed? A unicorn would be most helpful; here in California, it could lead us to water. There is an implied unicorn in the world of Albion, which I think is an improvement.
  10.  What’s the most imaginative insult you can come up with? My math study group had a great one: “You are undefined.”

My List of Liebster Nominees
Oh, dear. This is the one rule I cannot follow. Of the blogs I follow, only four of them meet the criteria for number of followers. Of those four, only one meets the criteria for the Liebster award, and that blog has already been nominated. This is disturbing to me because I always strive to follow the rules. If this disqualifies me from the Liebster award, I understand.

However, in my own defense, I admit to reading under the influence of H. L. Mencken, a writer whom no one would accuse of being a Liebster. A glance at the books on my bookshelves reveals there are no Liebsters among their authors.

Nonetheless, I do want to respect the intent of the Liebster award and honor the blogger who nominated me. To do so, I decided to make all of my questions about the books on one’s bookshelves. I love to peruse the titles on people’s bookshelves; they speak volumes about a person’s tastes, values, and interests.

My Questions About The Books Are On Your Bookshelves

  1. Are the majority of the books on your bookshelves fiction or nonfiction, or are they approximately an equal amount of both?
  2. Are the majority of the books on your bookshelves written by men or by women, or are both genders equally represented?
  3. Which of the following is the predominant time period for the settings of your fiction books: the ancient past, dark ages – medieval times, 16th – 18th centuries, 19th century, 20th – 21st centuries, or the future?
  4. Which of the following is the predominant topic of your nonfiction books: History, Language Arts, Mathematics, Philosophy, Religion, Science, or Social Science?
  5. Which book on your bookshelves would you make mandatory reading for high school students?
  6. Which of your books would you require members of Congress to read in order to qualify for office?
  7. Which fiction book on your bookshelves have you read the most?
  8. Which nonfiction book on your bookshelves have you read the most?
  9. Which fiction book is your latest acquisition?
  10. Which nonfiction book is your latest acquisition?


Even though I do not have a list of nominees, I hope that people who read this blog will take the time to answer my questions. Thank you for sharing.

Curious Hart




Appreciation and Gratitude


Thank you, all you lovely people who are following my blog. I really appreciate it. I am honored and feel motivated to make sure whatever I write is worth reading. It’s like my number one rule for teaching: Do Not Bore the Students.

In the light of that, I am going to reduce the number of times I regularly post from three times a week to once a week. I do not want to publish mediocre content just to get something “out there.” Quality is preferred over quantity, (unless one is H. L. Mencken who could apparently produce both.) Reducing the number of posts also avoids inundating you with articles to read. I might feel inspired to publish more than once but only if the content is worthy.

I needed to pick a day on which to post so I decided on Wednesday because it starts with the letter “W” and so do the words Writing and Why. I think that those are two of the loveliest words in the universe. It is as great a privilege to ask why as it is to write about it. I also picked Wednesday in honor of Wednesday’s Child. According to the rhyme, “Wednesday’s child is full of woe.” When I was a child and first read the rhyme, my heart was moved with compassion for Wednesday’s child. I wanted to comfort her (I thought it was a girl.) I still feel the same about Wednesday’s children. I want to comfort and care for them and be their advocate.

Enough said. I hope that whoever is reading this has a very lovely day. Many blessings to you all.

Curious Hart






“Mathematics gives a voice to the vision inspired by real world phenomena. The best writing does the same.”
The Book of Rhino

(Painting by Jose Alvarez)


A Dab of Dobbin


Please, release me, let me go, for I don’t love you anymore.

To waste our lives would be a sin. Release me and let me love again.

(Song written in 1949 by Eddie Miller and Robert Yount)

The Daily Press word-of-the-day is Release . If there is one literary character that personifies the song Release Me, it is William Dobbin in the novel Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackery. Dobbin remains faithful to Amelia Sedley for years, even after her marriage to George Osborne. His name crops up occasionally in other literature as a byword for faithfulness and unrequited love. In one of Agatha Christie’s novels, a character is described as “a regular Dobbin”; that one word reveals volumes about the person.

There is another “Dobbin” in Vanity Fair and that is Amelia Sedley, the character about which Dobbin is so Dobbinish. She marries Dobbin’s best friend, George Osborne and when he is killed in battle, makes her life a shrine to his existence. Cherishing the memory of George, she rebuffs Dobbin’s offers of marriage, treating him very shabbily.

Now whenever I encounter a literary Dobbin, I always analyze the object of their devotion. Many times it’s a real head-scratcher. Take, for example, George Osborne. He is the spoiled son of a rich man. A vain, self-centered spendthrift, he squanders his inheritance and leaves Amalia pregnant and penniless at the time of his death. He also flirts shamelessly with Amalia’s best friend, Becky Sharp. While reading the book, I could find no qualities he possessed that compelled his wife’s steadfast devotion. Over and over, I asked myself, “Why, Amelia, why?”

I can understand why there are Dobbin characters in the first place. They can be interesting. However, when I consider all of the Dobbins I have encountered in literature, most of them are like Amelia. Why is that? Why do the worst characters bring out a person’s Dobbinishness?

(Note to self: Don’t be a Dobbin—if you must, make sure that he or she is worthy.)

So my advice to all you literary characters out there is this: If you are considering being a Dobbin, I suggest you dabble in it first. Begin by being a Dob and investigate your Dobbee thoroughly and objectively. It could save you a lifetime of grief.