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I have thoughts. Sometimes I share them. Here's where. Enjoy! --Frank S. Joseph, Author
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Thoughts on Amazon

Amazon bookstore in Bethesda MD.

Dear Friend of Frank,

Amazon is closing its bookstores. Every single one.


Failed experiment.


Doesn't happen often.


Maybe they were just too different. Maybe they were just too Amazon.


I don't know whether you've ever visited an Amazon bookstore but I have. The one in downtown Bethesda MD is within walking distance (a long walk). I've also been at the one in midtown Manhattan. The Manhattan one is bigger but otherwise they're pretty much the same.




They're not much like ordinary bookstores. Hot-off-the-press bestsellers are up front but similarities end there. On the shelves you'll find … Amazon bestsellers. During the Trump years, for example, 1984 by George Orwell was an Amazon bestseller even though it was first published in 1949.


And books are shelved along Amazon lines: 'if you liked this then you'll like that'. For example, other dystopian science fiction classics would be shelved near 1984, with a helpful sign along the lines of 'if you liked 1984 then you'll like X'.


Amazon bookstores shelve lots of Amazon stuff too. Kindle readers in every flavor. Book paraphernalia, reading paraphernalia, etc. Not an awful lot of books, however. And definitely missing are cozy chairs in which to plop down and page through a discovery. The staff, while young, eager and smiling, don't really seem to be book people. I'd be disinclined to ask one for recommendations. Compared to a corner bookshop, Amazon bookstores feel cold and sterile to me. They aren't places for browsing.


The public seems to see it that way too. I never see many shoppers in my local Amazon bookstore. And in any case, Jeff Bezos has pulled the plug, which I take to mean I'm probably correct.


It's still surprising though. Amazon rarely missteps.


I'm not a disinterested party. While I don't currently own Amazon stock, I've done so in the past. Having been in the direct-marketing business myself as a publisher and consultant, I understood the brilliance of Amazon's gobble-'em-all-up strategy. I put moral and ethical reservations aside, held my nose and invested. Made out like a bandit.


Say what you like about Jeff Bezos, he did the world a great service by buying The Washington Post. The Post was in a lot of trouble when Bezos and his millions came along. To Bezos' credit, he opened his checkbook while keeping his nose out of their business. The paper started coming back almost immediately, and today it is one of our three great national newspapers. (I include the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, which – as an ex-newspaperman – I view as the best-edited newspaper in America.)


But while Bezos has admirably kept strict hands-off regarding Post editorial policy, he doesn't hesitate to stick his nose elsewhere. Another of his retail endeavors, Whole Foods, is getting a real Big Brother vibe. Read this New York Times story [https://www.nytimes.com/.../whole-foods-amazon-automation...] about the latest experiment at Whole Foods.


And such things are the mere tip of a corporate iceberg. Take Amazon Web Services, the data processing subsidiary. Created as an in-house service bureau, AWS has burgeoned into perhaps the biggest and most profitable arm of the Amazon octopus. Amazon is so big, and does so many things (outer space anyone?), that it's really hard for ordinary mortals to grasp what Amazon actually is.


So: break it up?


OK by me.


Moves are afoot in Congress to do so. As I understand it, breakup could be difficult under current antitrust law. The Sherman Act, the fundamental antitrust law, was enacted in 1890. The other pillars of antitrust, the Sherman and Robinson-Patman Acts, are similarly old (1914 and 1936 respectively). Back then our economy was coal and steel. Now it's bits and bytes.


There's precedent for breaking up industrial giants. Think about Ma Bell. The government broke mighty AT&T into pieces with names like Bell South, Bell Atlantic, etc., giant companies in their own right but way smaller than the parent. That parent, AT&T, survives today. So do those others, and one, Bell Atlantic (now Verizon), may itself have become as large as Ma Bell once was.


Something like this might happen with a broken-up Amazon, I'm guessing. Jeff Bezos built an empire based on integration, each piece enmeshed with the others, but each piece could do fine on its own. I wouldn't be surprised if one or the other of these pieces – Amazon Web Services? – grew as big as present-day Amazon by and bye.


With the Bells though, "by and bye" took generations to happen. It might take generations with Amazon too. In the meantime, the octopus would be shorn of its tentacles. Cozy independent bookstores might get a new lease on life. Even flailing Barnes & Noble might stumble off the ropes.


Bring it on, I say. Let the chips fall where they may. However things shake out, Jeff Bezos still will be sitting pretty as – depending which day you look (watch out, Elon Musk!) – the world's richest man.


Frank S Joseph Author
https://frankjoseph.com / frank@frankjoseph.com


P.S. Publication of the Chicago Trilogy is on course. I renew my offer of a free copy of the previous (2006) edition of To Love Mercy, the first Trilogy novel. All I ask is that you post a review if you like it. Send your request for a free book to frank@frankjoseph.com.


P.P.S. And if you haven't already done so, I invite you to join my e-mail list. You'll receive these occasional posts quicker, and there may be the occasional goody too. You can opt off any time, of course, no harm no foul, and I promise never to share your email or other personal information without your express permission.

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Notes from Lockdown

Philip D. Harvey, 1938-2021

Dear Friend of Frank,


On Sunday I put on a necktie. It felt great.


Pre-covid, I didn't particularly enjoy suiting up. Mostly I didn't have to; I was in business for myself from my late 30s on so I could come to work dressed however I pleased. Then we sold our company in 2005 and I kinda-sorta retired. Then covid hit. Whatever shred of reason existed to suit up, vanished. The sweats came out. You know the rest.


But last Sunday was a memorial for my fellow writer Phil Harvey, who died last month. His death was utterly unexpected and sent shock waves through our writers' group. We writers have been together 20-25 years; Phil and I have been group members the entire time.


I could have participated via Zoom but that would turn it into a spectator event. Not what I had in mind. Phil's stories sometimes soared, especially when writing about the outdoors, which he did lyrically. His terse, penetrating critique helped make me a better writer. Despite covid, despite omicron, I wanted to honor Phil's memory with my presence. I wanted to put on a tie.


The event was held at the Cato Institute in downtown Washington DC. It was an uber-typical Washington event -- classy hors d'oeuvres, top-shelf liquor, waiters in livery. I was enjoying all this while feeling a disconnect. We were here to honor a dead guy, after all, not celebrate some policy victory.


Why Cato, the libertarian think-tank? Phil was a Cato supporter and staunch libertarian. Libertarians tend to be lumped with conservatives but that's not exactly right. Their core belief is in personal freedom: Let people do whatever they please, as long as it doesn't harm others.


Acting on those beliefs, Phil created Adam & Eve, a mail-order sexual-aids business that empowers people to live whatever sex lives they wish in the privacy of their homes.


Adam & Eve made Phil rich. Then, libertarian that he was, he spent much of that fortune spreading birth control and family planning in the Third World. Women, especially impoverished women, should be the ones who decide whether or not to become mothers, Phil believed; and he should be the one to help them do so.


Adam & Eve also got Phil into a huge pile of trouble. The Reagan Administration, charging obscenity, came down on Adam & Eve with both feet. Phil didn't take it lying down. Unlike most people, he had the will -- and the resources -- to fight back, especially when the matter in question was the First Amendment right of free speech. Phil and his lawyers went to the Supreme Court and won against a super-powerful opponent. The story is set forth in his book The Government vs. Erotica: The Siege of Adam & Eve.


I'd known little of this impressive back-story though. Phil was a modest guy.


Four of my writing buddies also attended. Aside from paying respects to Harriet Lesser, Phil's widow and an artist of reputation, we writers stuck together. I wasn't there to mingle. I love these writer people. They've become family. Losing Phil was like losing a cousin.


As mentioned, our group has been together going on 25 years. That's remarkable until you consider how much we get from participating. We get the truth. This group is that rare place where we can count on it.


We meet to critique -- read one another's work, offer constructive comments, try to help each other deal with the strengths and flaws. You have to be careful how you do that. Truth hurts, they say, and critique can hurt bad -- real bad. You're picking apart someone's baby, y'know? In a successful critique group, participants learn how to speak truth so it helps, not harms.


(Doesn't always work. Snark can emerge. I've been snarky myself, I'm ashamed to admit. But snark is the dark side of support. It's what comes out when you try to shower pearls and the other guy thinks you're throwing rocks.)


But I'm digressing. This is about covid and how it has affected my life, our lives. It's about what used to be little things -- neckties, suiting up, being among people dear to you and strangers in nice clothes rather than staring at a screen. About washing down a tasty tartlet with a fine Bordeaux. About spottng a great free parking space  in downtown Washington, then walking two blocks in freezing cold to a haven of warmth and light, manners and grace, reverence for principle (albeit principle to which one doesn't necessarily subscribe) ... while offering tribute to a guy, Phil Harvey, who deserved it.


Frank S Joseph Author


P.S. More covid thoughts to come. It's time, methinks. I invite you to share yours too. Email me at frank@frankjoseph.com.


P.P.S. Radio silence from TouchPoint Press. I'm not worried. They have other authors in the queue. When I next hear from them, the subject probably will be covers. Stand by.

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Are Editors Evil? Part II

       [In Part I, I chewed on this question
       without resolving it. In Part II ...
       ... some answers.]
Dear Friend of Frank,

   I've held many editor jobs in my working life, starting with proofreader when I was in high school and my buddies were bagging groceries. (I bagged groceries too. I lasted one day, at the end of which I knew shoulder pain I'd never imagined.)

   At 27, I was Night City Editor in the Chicago bureau of The Associated Press, a grand title for a young pup. During the Watergate years I was an editor at The Washington Post, one of a long string of folks massaging the Pulitzer-bound copy of Woodward & Bernstein. Then I left Big Journalism to become editor-in-chief of a newsletter publishing company; then held that same title with a newsletter company I co-founded; and finally held the title in my own publishing company. (I was chief cook and bottle washer too.)
   All along, I'd rather have been a reporter/writer.
   I was a reporter, a damn good one if I say so myself. Damn good writer too. Trouble was, I was also no slouch as an editor. I kept getting offered the title, always with more money and more authority. Hard to turn down.

   When I finally jumped ship, leaving The Mighty Washington Post for a newsletter publisher with six employees and offices above a furniture store, it was due to a) more money – lots more money, b) great title, editor-in-chief, c) boss authority, d) a company devoted to kick-ass journalism, and e) the clincher: I'd still be a reporter-writer.

   (I may have been kidding myself on this point. It was a small company, albeit an extremely successful one. There were two reporters plus myself, challenged to fill eight pages a week with kick-ass stories. I'd have had to be a reporter regardless.)

   Once I adapted to the limitations, however -– an audience in the thousands vs. an audience of the entire world; working in a niche, petroleum marketing, about which I knew nothing (I could barely spell 'gasoline' at first) -– I thrived. Niches can be cozy.

The Present Moment

   I've dwelt on the journalism model because I've spent so much of my working life there. Now I'm in the literary world and it's different. There are no runny-nosed cub reporters. Authors, it's assumed, know what they're doing. Editors really are there to elicit the best.
   Which brings me to TouchPoint Press, which is to bring out my "Chicago Trilogy" next year. We've finished editing two of the three Trilogy novels, To Do Justice (#3) and To Love Mercy (#1). So far I've never met nor spoken to my editor.
It's been great.

   Remember my friend Richard from Part I? Richard argued that editors are out to crush your spirit and your dreams. My TouchPoint editor, Mallory Matthews, is not a Richard nightmare. She is an author's dream.

   She edits with a light touch: if it ain't broke, she doesn't fix it. But there's nothing so good it can't be made better. If she spots something problematic, she doesn't make the change, she proposes it. If I don't understand, she explains. If I don't agree, we discuss. Sometimes it's substantive. More often it's small stuff, down to the comma level. Commas are important. We both think so.


   Eventually we resolve. Sometimes she prevails, sometimes I do, but nobody "wins" because it isn't a contest of wills. The relationship is entirely via email but that matters not. We're working with the same goal: to make the good better.

   It could easily have been otherwise.

   Put yourself in my position: A new author with an unknown-quantity publisher. Assignment to an editor I've never met, never talked to, whose qualifications I don't know, nor even where she's located.* Yet she has all the power. I'm scared.

          *The Norfolk VA area as it happens

   But we start out on just the right foot. She likes my novels. A lot. Hey, I'm cooked. Stick a fork in me.

  It could easily have been otherwise. My friend Richard isn't wrong, you know. Some editors are hounds from hell. One of my National Journal editors was a very sadist. He took grim pleasure in humiliating me, to a point that I found myself fantasizing about murdering him.

   But I confess it: I have been such an editor myself.

   OK, I was young. I'd had drill-sergeant role models of my own. I was under the usual pressures to keep the work moving. And over time I'd had some bozos writing for me, four of whom I fired.

   So I emulated my drill-sergeant role models. I came down on copy with my elbows. I chastised. I made fun of. I embarrassed and shamed.

   Shame on me.

   The drill-sergeant model may be OK with hatchling journalists, I've come to see, but not with professionals. They've paid dues of their own. They have egos too. They deserve respect.

   Besides, it works better.

Frank S Joseph
Author, the Chicago Trilogy [forthcoming from TouchPoint Press]
P.S. To Love Mercy, the first novel of the Chicago Trilogy, was published previously by Mid Atlantic Highlands (2006). I'd like to share this five-star review of the 2006 edition just posted on Goodreads by Jennifer Rupp, who writes sexy Highland romances under the pen name Jennifer Trethewey.



  Jennifer Rupp rated a book 5 stars. "It was amazing!"

  To Love Mercy
    by Frank S. Joseph


  In a time when even having a discussion about race can erupt into controversy,

  this gentle but forthright story reminds us that we are not born with prejudice,

  we learn it.


  From chapter one, the reader is plunged into the deep end of Chicago during

  an era many readers won't remember, but will picture clearly because of the

  author's skill and because, ultimately, we are not all that different as people.

  Like the Old and the New Testament, moments of love and beauty temper the

  ugliness and fear of the real world. We may never achieve the equality and

  freedom the tenets of our constitution profess, but we can do more than hope.

  We can strive to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly.


  I received a signed copy of To Love Mercy from the author, Frank S. Joseph. I

  wanted to share the story, but I loved the book so much, I wanted to keep it for

  myself. So, I bought another copy to give to a friend and I recommend To Love

  Mercy to you. Read it with love.


    -- Jennifer Rupp a/k/a Jennifer Trethewey, Author



P.P.S. Would you like to write a review too? I still have a limited number of copies of the 2006 edition on hand. Drop me a request at frank@frankjoseph.com. Be sure to include your postal mailing address.


Copyright © 2021, Frank S Joseph Author. All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
5617 Warwick Pl., Chevy Chase MD 20815-5503 (USA)

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Are Editors Evil? Part I

Dear Friend of Frank,
   "If my experience is any guide," writes my pal Richard, "editors are there to kill you."

   And he's just warming up.

   Referring to my TouchPoint Press editor, Richard goes on:

   "Warning: Like all editors, she will be ruthless and uncaring and imperious, with no imagination or sympathy or kindness, with blinkered vision and a hard heart. Given half a chance, she will kill the best things you write. Kill them and be oblivious to what she is doing. Your heartfelt pleas will avail you nothing. She will be deaf and dumb and stupid. She will slash and burn. Wear a hazmat suit in her presence and carry a flame-thrower."

Sylvester Stallone, doing his thing.


   Richard doesn't know my TouchPoint editor, not even her name. He has never met her, never spoken nor emailed nor texted nor communicated with her in any fashion. He's just having fun here.

   It's serious fun though. Richard knows whereof he speaks. During an illustrious career, he wrote editorials for the Chicago Sun-Times, Des Moines Register and Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, much of the time from Washington DC bureaus. His copy went through many hands.

   So has mine. I was a reporter,  writer and, yes, editor at many news organizations including The Associated Press, the Washington Post and my own publishing companies. I'm retired now, writing novels, and once again I am working with an editor at TouchPoint, which will issue my "Chicago Trilogy" novels sometime next year. I've been thinking a lot about the editing process, thoughts I'd like to share.

Is Richard Right?

   Resolved: Editors are sons-of-bitches, out to do you dirt. Let's start there.

      Richard's editor, hard at work.
   The obvious answer ought to be no. Why would they? Assuming you are the writer/reporter/author, isn't the editor's interest the same as yours: to help your copy sing?

   The actual answer is no/yes/maybe/it depends.

   Editors can be lots of things: facilitators, polishers, killers; acquirers, rejecters; spell-checkers and grammarians; cops; bosses with bosses of their own; human beings.

   That last is where the fun starts.

   Because in this relationship, that only-human editor has all the power, at least at the outset. And you know how humans can be when you give them unlimited power.

   Consider the roles. Assume you're the writer/reporter/author. The editor's job is to improve your work. That's problematic right there because your work already is ... perfect. I mean, it is, right?

   Now assume you are the editor. You have these piss-ant writers tugging at your skirts. One or two know what they're doing but the rest are bozos. You are under pressure yourself – to keep things moving, to send good stuff up the line – and you've been doing this long enough to know that your judgment is better than the average writer, your experience deeper, and probably you're a better writer too. Not to mention smarter.

   You see the problem.

   Two problems actually.

·       The writer's problem is humility. Everything can be improved. This is something writers learn over the years ... or don't. Looking at you, Richard.
·       The editor's problem is humanity. Being a drill sergeant may work in the military, where it's all yessir and nossir, and it can be satisfying to persons with ego issues. But it doesn't work so well in creative workplaces, where other egos may be fragile too and work products often are viewed the way a mother views her newborn.

   After all, this relationship really is – or ought to be – about improving things. That's the editor's role. He* is there to put his judgment, experience, talent and brains to work helping the good to become better.

   *For simplicity's sake, I'll use "he" going forward instead of "he/she/they."

What Editors Do

   There are a lot of ways to help the good become better.

   At the base level, there's copy editing and proofreading. Proofreaders check spelling and grammar; copy editors do that and more. A good copy editor sends a clumsy locution back to the author or rewrites it himself; catches 'missed leads,' e.g. where the story starts in the wrong place, and advises (or imposes) improvement; identifies potential legal liabilities such as libel; and sometimes kills stories outright.

   Moving up, there are boss editors. In a journalistic setting they have titles like foreign editor, national editor, city editor. They make assignments, generate story ideas, deploy manpower, hire and fire, deal with emergencies (there are always emergencies), go to bat for their people or discipline them. They're drill sergeants, coaches, cheerleaders, mentors, confessors. They can even friends.

   Above them are big-boss editors with titles like managing editor, executive editor, or just plain Editor with a capital E. They set policy and direction. They may hire and fire. The buck stops with them.

   There are other sorts of editors. Acquisitions editors acquire stories and books and cultivate writers. Celebrity editors do god-knows-what but they do it awfully well, viz. the New Yorker under Tina Brown and now David Remnick.

   And the lines aren't always clear. Book editor Maxwell Perkins, legend has it, discovered Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and Thomas Wolfe, then may have rewritten Wolfe's work. The celebrated minimalist author Raymond Carver didn't start out all that minimalist-y, the story goes; his editor Gordon Lish allegedly invented and imposed the style that made Carver famous.

   Next: How it's gone for me.

Frank S. Joseph, author, the Chicago Trilogy

P.S. I have a new website! Visit www.frankjoseph.com for the latest news on forthcoming publication of the entire Trilogy from TouchPoint Press.

P.P.S. And don't forget to use my new email address going forward. It's frank@frankjoseph.com.


Copyright © 2021 Frank Joseph, Author, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:

Frank Joseph, Author

5617 Warwick Pl.

Chevy Chase, MARYLAND 20815-5503


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Dear Friend of Frank,


   News comes that MacKenzie Scott, ex of Jeff Bezos, can't give her money away fast enough. Despite dropping $2.74 billion the other day, she keeps getting richer.


   What a problem to have.


   No need to remind you that Ms. Scott's former husband is the genius behind, and principal proprietor of, Amazon.com. He is also the world's richest man with a fortune estimated at $177 billion, mostly in Amazon stock.


   Amazon's market value is $1.7 trillion. That's trillion with a T.


   In 2019, Ms. Scott walked away from the marriage with 4% of Amazon's stock, trading at some $2,000 a share at the end of that year. Amazon's stock is trading at $3,403.49 as I write these words, so do the math.


   But back to Ms. Scott who, with a net worth of $57 billion her ownself, is the third wealthiest woman in the world. She has pledged to give it away "until the safe is empty." I'd say she's not trying hard enough.


   She is trying hard though. This latest tranche went to places that maybe never saw a handout of any sort, let alone googobs in the $10-million-and-up range. Places like the College of the Desert, a community college in Palm Desert CA with about 12,500 students, mostly part-time. I had to look that one up.


   I also had to look up William Rainey Harper College and Kennedy-King College, both of which turn out to be in or near my hometown of Chicago.


   Yet all is not peaches and cream for MacKenzie Bezos. She caught flak from one Maribel Morey, founding executive director of the Miami Institute for the Social Sciences. "MacKenzie Scott is a private citizen but she is playing a public role," Ms. Morey was quoted in today's New York Times, which is where I get most of the facts for this rant (Wikipedia too plus good old Doctor Google). "Much as a judge has to explain their [sic] logic, or a senator has to answer to their constituents [sic, sic], a philanthropist owes it to the public to explain how and why they [sic! sic! sic!] came to their [uh, you know] decisions."


   Well, now.


   A judge is an elected or appointed public servant, accountable to his or her constituents. Same for a senator. MacKenzie Scott is a successful novelist, ex-wife of the world's richest (and baldest) man, and stone babe. According to common courtesy, not to mention the Iron Law of Beauty, she doesn't need to explain herself at all.


MacKenzie Scott, stone babe (r.), and Baldy (l.). Source: Kubilive.com.


   No. What MacKenzie Scott is, is John Beresford Tipton, "The Millionaire."

Remember "The Millionaire"? Wonderful show. Ran on CBS from 1955 to 1960. Every week the fabulously wealthy Tipton would give away a million smackeroos ($9.66 million in 2020 dollars) to some totally unsuspecting but immensely telegenic and deserving individual or individuals.



Poster for "The Millionaire." Source: IMDB.com.


   You saw how the money affected their lives (spoiler: usually heartwarmingly) but you never saw Tipton. Heard his voice, saw his arm hand the $1 million check to his executive secretary to deliver, that was it. Like the College of the Desert, which I daresay never saw MacKenzie Scott coming.


   It is true that MacKenzie Scott hasn't been going by the book. Unlike Bill and Melinda Gates, The Times notes, she doesn't have her own foundation, saving her the bother of a big staff and a lot of stuff to fill out. She simply writes a blog post on Medium giving a hint as to why she's doing what she's doing, then does it.


   This time she gave lots and lots of money to obscure two-year colleges like That of the Desert, as well as bigger pops ($40 million) to more recognizable but ill-endowed higher-eds such as the University of Illinois-Chicago. Last year she gave $800 million to a bunch of HBCUs and other cash-starved higher-eds serving Black, Latino, Native American and other minority communities. But she also gives to food pantries and Jazz at the Lincoln Center. I mean, sheesh. What's not to like?


   Rock on, MacKenzie.


   I'm left wondering about Maribel Morey, the grammar-challenged individual quoted above. I think she's jealous. I certainly am. What about you?


Frank S. Joseph, Author, The "Chicago Trilogy"



P.S. Publication of the "Chicago Trilogy" proceeds apace. Just this morning, TouchPoint Press notified me that my editor will be one "Mallory" and that I'll be hearing from her shortly. Onward!

Copyright © 2021 Frank Joseph, Author, All rights reserved.


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Dear Friend of Frank,

   I was out walking this morning when a 17-year locust dropped down my back—where I couldn't reach it, natch.

   Dive-bombed right into the collar of my T-shirt and quickly found a nice warm home.

   I jumped around in a St. Vitus Dance that moved a fellow walker to ask whether I was OK. I was not.

   I did the shimmy and the shake, the twist and the shout. Thought I'd worked it on out when I felt it wriggling again (climbing actually, that's what they do).

   Thought about taking off my shirt. Then thought what if I were a woman and wanted to take off my shirt.

   I was freaking out by the time I got home. I did take off my shirt then. Carol assured me I was bug-free but I itched as if the cursed thing were still there. Only her patented back-scratch was equal to the moment.

   Yes, I live in the Land of the Locust*, though I could hardly tell it until this morning. Despite daily scare stories interspersed with tasty locust recipes, unusually cool weather has kept the locusts from behaving like … well … locusts.


   *OK, not locusts but cicadas, as readers didn't hesitate to point out.

   But now it's hot, typical late-May Washington-hot. I expect the song of the locust to be heard throughout the land soon.

   It likely will be my last locust rodeo. I'm of an age when another 17-year wait isn't a sure thing.

   How inconvenient.

   The pandemic is passing. I'm seeing friends for lunch again—inside the restaurant, thank you, not freezing my buns under some weak outdoor heater. I'm in fine health. I've rejoined the gym and am working with a trainer to get back in shape. (He was impressed with my ability to hold a plank 30 seconds. When I said I could go lots longer, he responded, "How old did you say you were?") Our son gets married in July in Taos NM and we get to fly on an actual airplane. We'll be there 3½ weeks, celebrating. And I'm about to fulfill a dream, publication of my Chicago Trilogy.

   You'd think at least I could look forward to more locusts.

   Maybe this morning, that little guy was not a pest after all. Maybe he (She? It? They/them?) was sent to show me the upside to growing old. No more locusts down my back.

   Yup, that's it. An angel from locust heaven. This would explain the downward trajectory.


Frank S. Joseph, Author, The "Chicago Trillogy"



P.S. The contract with TouchPoint Press has been signed. Next comes introductions, working with their editor, getting covers designed and other necessities of production, discussing publishing and marketing strategies. Stay tuned.

Copyright © 2021 Frank Joseph, Author, All rights reserved.

You are receiving this email as a friend or acquaintance of author Frank S. Joseph. To be removed, simply send Frank an email at frank@frankjoseph.com. You'll be removed at once and not see these messages again.


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Some COVID Good News

Dear Friend of Frank,


   I've found a publisher at last.


   TouchPoint Press will publish all three novels of my "Chicago trilogy"­—To Do Justice, To Walk Humbly and To Love Mercy. I just now signed the contract.


   To Love Mercy already was published. Thousands read and loved it, as evidenced by 28 Amazon reviews averaging five stars. But you read it right: TouchPoint plans to republish it!


   Props and kudos to my literary agent, Latoya C. Smith of LCS Literary Services, for making this happen. Love and kisses to everyone who's helped me along this thorny path, most especially the stalwarts of the Holey Roaders writers' group who've been unmatched critics and friends for going on two decades. And there isn't enough love and kisses in the world with which to thank Carol, Sam and Shawn, my beloved family.


   I'll be telling you more in the weeks and months to come. Today is just for sharing some great news.


Frank S Joseph, Author



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The Disappearing Dr. Seuss

Dear Friend of Frank,

   With credit to a clever author:

     Alas they've come for Dr. SEUSS, they wish to hang him with a noose.
     They claim his tales were racist bent, they judged him fast, missed what he 

     But if we look inside his tales, you'll find the balance of the scales.
     Remember when Horton heard a Who, and we heard the wisdom of the Lorax

     The lesson behind Green Eggs and Ham, that changed the mind of Sam I am.
     Remember too the rotten Grinch, who once would never give an inch.
     He taught us lessons, one and all, boys and girls, big and small.
     So if you've judged his works as poor, you should re- read them, I implore.
     The man we know as Dr. SEUSS, turned our imaginations loose.
     His impact was beyond compare, he taught us it was good to care.
     To accept the red, the blue, the green, and on each other we can lean.
     So if you still won't give an inch, your heart has hardened like the Grinch.
     Release the grudge, the hate, the rue, and embrace the hope of Cindy Lou.

Posted on Facebook by a friend, Jeff Smullin, who reposted it from an unnamed other friend, the anonymous author.

   I am ancient enough to report that I read and loved McElligott's Pool and To Think that I Saw it on Mulberry Street as the kid for whom they were written. I even remember where I read them: The neoclassical Blackstone Branch of the Chicago Public Library.


The Blackstone Library today. Source: Wikipedia

   These two titles, plus four others from Dr. Seuss's early work, are now officially out of print, withdrawn by the estate of the good doctor. ("Dr. Seuss" was the pen name of Theodor Seuss Geisel, the late, beloved author of dozens of books for children illustrated with his characteristic quirky drawings. All but these six works will remain in print.)

   The six titles were withdrawn for depictions now viewed as offensive, including Chinese characters drawn with slits for eyes, and Black characters attired as if for the African bush.

   Mulberry Street, the first children's book published under the Seuss pen name, came out in 1937.

   Gee, 1937. America was a really different place in 1937.The Depression was still on. The Communist party had millions of adherents and was semi-respectable. War was on the horizon. And Blacks were being lynched in the South. They were fleeing North by the millions, boarding the Illinois Central in Mississippi and coming to my sweet home Chicago in pursuit of the American Dream: A better life with good jobs, good homes and respect. They found the first, if not the second or the third.

   And "Amos 'n' Andy" was on the radio. In 1937 it had already been on the radio for nine years. It was hugely popular—with everyone. White, Brown, Black ... everyone. If you had a radio, chances are you caught "Amos 'n' Andy"—and everyone had a radio. There was no TV, there was no Facebook, no Twitter Instagram Parler 4Chan 8Kun yada yada. Radio was popular culture.

   "Amos 'n' Andy" was often criticized, with good reason. It featured stereotyped Black characters voiced by white actors (Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll). But these characters were human beings -- flawed, laughable, but lovable too. It was their humanity, I believe, that endeared them to Blacks.


   That and the fact that Blacks could see themselves. Amos drove a cab and was a hard-working dedicated family man. The Kingfish was a henpecked braggart full of get-rich-quick schemes that often ended with him getting egg on his face. Of a summer night, the voices of The Kingfish and his shrew wife Sapphire would waft from every window in the all-Black neighborhood known as Bronzeville, a/k/a Chicago's Harlem. You can look this up. I have.

Gosden ("Amos") and Correll ("Andy"), 1929. Source: Wikipedia

   And "Amos 'n' Andy" was not an isolated phenomenon. It's uncomfortable to say what I'm about to say after the cop murder of George Floyd and everything else we've been through, but I feel compelled to remind you just how different those times were.


   Take foreign accents. Today many of us detest comedy that makes fun of them but "Life with Luigi," featuring an Italian immigrant who spoke in a dis-a dese-a accent, went on CBS Radio in 1948 and didn't leave the air until 1953. Today many of us reject portrayals of Blacks as less than strong, less than powerful. But one of the most popular movies in 1948 was Disney's "Song of the South," based on the tales of an ex-slave ("Uncle Remus") as told to two camera-ready white children who, despite their ages, are clearly are his social superiors.

   The Uncle Remus tales are based on the work of a white Southerner, Joel Chandler Harris, during the 1870s and 1880s -- the height of Reconstruction, when the South won back its racist past despite losing the Civil War. They feature a wily Bre'r Rabbit outfoxing a flummoxed Bre'r Fox and a bumbling Bre'r Bear. In the movie, the human characters are actors but the animals are animations. They may look like Disneyfied bunnies, bears and foxes, but they're unmistakably stand-ins for Black Americans during slavery and Reconstruction times.

Bre'r Rabbit statue in Eatonton GA, Joel Chandler Harris's birthplace.Source: Wikipedia

   The Uncle Remus tales were a hit with readers and Song of the South was a hit for Disney. "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" won the 1948 Oscar for Best Original Song.

Song of the South was a hit with little Frankie Jober too. I read the book, reread it and reread it again. In fourth or fifth grade, I went before my class and told (and acted out) those beloved tales, complete with y'alls and yassuhs.

   I'm, um, white. Yeah, I know, nothing to be proud of. I meant no harm. I was sharing what I loved. I was 9 years old, for crying out loud. It was a different time. A really different time.

   There were protests though. The National Negro Congress put up picket lines around theaters. The movie was withdrawn from circulation. You can't watch it on Netflix now. I scored a DVD. The kindest thing I can say about Song of the South is that it's patronizing. The worst is that it's a rather crummy movie.

   Which brings us back to Dr. Seuss.

   Books should not be suppressed. Never. Even the worst trash, even racist trash. Let people read and decide for themselves. That's what I believe.

   Take Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, published in 1884 but set in slavery times. Huck makes liberal use of the N-word. Huck has been banned, burned, excoriated and condemned, removed from reading list upon reading list, kept from inquiring teen minds coast to coast because of that word alone. Stripped of context, it turns off readers of all races and colors.


   I loathe that word. I never use it myself and I cringe when others, whether Black or White, do so. But context matters. When I read the word coming out of Huck's mouth, it's natural, it's right. If Huck said "African-American" instead, wouldn't you throw the book in the trash? I would.


   Because if there is a Great American Novel, it is Huckleberry Finn. And the reason hinges on that offensive word.

   With humor, grace and gritty reality, Huck addresses the American dilemma of race. Huck himself is a child of his times, a racist little good-for-nothing piece of white trash. Every other word out of his mouth starts with N.


   But Huck's fortunes become tied to those of the escaped slave Jim. Huck believes, as did most Whites in slaveholding Missouri, that Blacks didn't deserve the kindness of whites. But Huck loves Jim. And when he must decide whether to help Jim escape to freedom and therefore burn in Hell forever, Huck says: "All right, then, I'll go to hell." I can't read that line without choking up.

   And this: Mark Twain wrote Huck Finn for adults and young adults, while Dr. Seuss wrote Mulberry Street for 6-year-olds. Uh oh. What is it I actually do believe?

   I believe it's a good idea to take these six books out of print, is what. If I were the father of a teen-ager (I was), I would defend Huckleberry Finn with all my heart. But a 6-year-old and a teen-ager are not the same thing. Teen-agers are in the business of getting life experience to think and judge for themselves. Six-year-olds are ... 6-year-olds.


   Dr. Seuss published more than 60 books. The six that have been withdrawn are less than 10% of that total. The Cat, the Grinch and the Lorax aren't going anywhere. Let those six books fall out of print and Godspeed.


   Were he alive today, I think Dr. Seuss would agree.


Frank S Joseph, Author, The "Chicago Trilogy"


P.S. You haven't heard from me in ages. That's because I have nothing to promote. I've always been open about my ulterior motive for writing this e-blast or blog or whatever it is. I'm an author promoting my novels. Well, right now I'm an author in search of a publisher to publish said novels and hey whaddya know, there may be a publisher in sight. No deal yet but watch this space.


Frank S Joseph, Author · 5617 Warwick Pl. · Chevy Chase, MARYLAND 20815-5503 · USA

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