19. Spit in the Ocean, vol #2, "Getting There From Here!"

edited by Ken Kesey.

This has been my honest reading for the past year. Ken Kesey founded the literary journal Spit in the Ocean in 1974. As planned, there was to be only 7 volumes. Six were produced during Kesey's life, between 1974 and 1981. These slobs nevr got around to the seventh, what with having lots of exploring and pot smoking to do. Kesey had created a weird travelling theater and most other contributors were either dead or lost or hobos or drunk somewhere pissing on the side of a building. The seventh was produced in 2002, after Kesey's death, and was devoted to the king nutter himself. It's a truly great dedication to him.

As might be obvious, there weren't many copies produced. But, alas, Sandy found me an entire set of the first six journals by calling the Kesey farm and asking his son, Zane. He sold them to her for fitty bucks, god bless him.

These journals, written by the literary bunch within that loosely connected crowd called The Merry Pranksters. Some are poets hiding in the various literary hills around the country, producing some of the most honest, original works out there. Others are thinkers who have figured it out, whatever it is. As a collection, they capture the intelligence and spirit of a group of kick-ass, enlightened Americans.

But few will read this stuff. Few are interested in being disturbed or ungrounded. Even if the trade-off is freedom of mind, of joy.

This stuff is great. They are frickin nuts, but absolutely truthful and telling us what they see from the happy outside.

18. Monster

by Walter Dean Myers

What an interesting novel. Monster, is about a 15 year old on trial for felony murder. He was allegedly the lookout for some older guys who planned to rob a local convenience store. The robbery went bad and the store owner was shot and killed with his own gun. In New York State, causing the death of another while in the act of committing a felony amounts to murder, even if the death was an accident.

The novel is Steve Harmon's voice, which is delivered in the form of excerpts form his diary entries and a film script he has made of his own trial. He writes his story as a film in order to cope with the reality he finds himself in (being seen as a monster). The effect is a combination of his very human, emotional side as depicted in his diary entries, and a very singular, focussed account of his trial proceedings.

Most interesting is the structure of the novel, the contrasts amde by the two modes of writing. It sort of reminds me of how The Sopranos is structured: the weepy, emotional therapy sessions contrasted with the cold-bloodedness of mafia life. Monster was very effective in revealing what court proceedings fail to reveal in the argument over "facts": the person who is the accused.

Overall, this is a young adult book and a very good one.