Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Day in the Life at 50: Magnificent Desolation



Paul McCartney had it right. At the recording session to dub the orchestral portions of “A Day in the Life,” the closing song for “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” he attempted to calm down a nervous session member.


“I think that, at first, people are a bit suspicious,” he says on the session tape, “like, what are you up to?”


“A Day in the Life” has been compared to T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” and the comparison is absolutely valid. The song brings an end to “Pepper,” which is turning 50 this month. To celebrate, a brand new stereo mix of the album arrives in stores along with studio outtakes to show how the Beatles arrived at the sound of their most famous album.


The new mix, which sounds a lot like the old mono mix, is well done. Some songs, like “Good Morning Good Morning” benefit from the new listen. Numbers like “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” offer new revelations, since much of “Pepper” is stuffed with sound effects, strange licks and the “clues” that used to drive the Beatle fanbase into drug-induced dot connecting.


“A Day in the Life” brings the curtain down on the album – sometimes referred to as the first concept album. Except by John Lennon:


“Sgt. Pepper” is called the first concept album, but it doesn’t go anywhere. ... All my contributions to the album have absolutely nothing to do with the idea of Sgt. Pepper and his band, but it works ’cause we said it worked, and that’s how the album appeared. But it was not as put together as it sounds, except for Sgt. Pepper introducing Billy Shears and the so-called reprise. Every other song could have been on any other album.”

I think there may not be an absolute concept to “Pepper,” but there are certain themes that recur – and they all get an airing in “A Day in the Life.”


Lennon sat down at his piano with a copy of The Daily Mail of Jan. 7, 1967, looking for inspiration. John and Paul had just finished several weeks of recording both sides of their next single – “Strawberry Fields Forever/Penny Lane.” Both songs dealt with their childhoods in Liverpool. Perhaps mortality was on his mind.


Lennon was beginning to struggle with what he perceived as the stultifying nature of his married life as a father. He was experimenting with LSD and moving into the middle part of his twenties. He was beginning to brood on the idea that he needed escape, rescue. The song that came out of those forebodings touches on age, mortality and the terrifying banality of modern life, gleaned from the pages of a newspaper.


According to John, he was starved for a song to present in the studio and stumbled in the pages upon the news of 21-year-old Guinness heir Tara Browne’s death in a December 1966 car crash.

Browne was a friend. He had been driving his Lotus with his fashion model girlfriend at speeds above 100 mph when he failed to see a traffic signal. He died of the resulting crash a day later. (It should be mentioned that when McCartney recounts this, he says he was thinking of a politician taking drugs in a car stopped at a signal. I think Lennon’s memory is probably the more sure one.)


The story of a friend of roughly the same age in this kind of misadventure had to be sobering. Yet the voice – acoustic and narrative – that Lennon employs is detached. As producer George Martin later said, even in the first take of the song, Lennon’s voice sends shivers up the spine. There is a dreamy quality to it, nightmarish even. When he counts in the first studio take, he does it with the words, “sugarplum fairy, sugarplum fairy.” In the Nutcracker, this fairy is “the universal signifier of everything sweet and delectable and lovely.”


The song's DNA is the news of the day – what at times seems a parade of car crashes, murders, fires, rapes, robberies and scandals that are world-ending tragedies for those involved, and the backdrop for the rest of humanity. At least, the ones who hear about them.


John’s imagination, and Paul’s inspiration, transforms this into a tableau of modern life – A man, possibly on drugs, has a fatal accident because he doesn’t notice a traffic light. But the sight of it causes the singer to laugh. In the modern world, even the tragic is funny, detached from humanity.  A crowd forms for the inevitable cleanup. They feel they should know the victim. “Say, isn’t that…?” But life goes on, a subject the Beatles would revisit again in a more whimsical way.


When I later heard a 1968 speech by Robert F. Kennedy, saying the nation’s $800 billion gross national product also included “ambulances to clear our highways of carnage,” I was reminded of “A Day In the Life.” In the modern world, tragedies are as ubiquitous as the pebbles of broken glass on a roadway that one crushes on the way to somewhere else, or, on the way to another accident that may await you. Better hurry…


The song then shifts to a war film on television – the horrific as entertainment. Others might turn away, but the singer watches. He knows the story.


John Lennon had just finished filming “How I Won the War” the previous fall, his sole big screen acting gig apart from The Beatles. His performance as Private Gripweed in this sort of British Catch-22 might have been on his mind. However, several songs on “Pepper” might be counted as Empire Nostalgia – from the Pepper uniforms themselves to the lyrics of “Mr. Kite!” stolen from a Victorian poster. Rule Britannia has given way to Cool Britannia, but the forms of the past are still present. There’s always a war somewhere.


The music up to this point has been John’s acoustic guitar, accompanied by Paul on piano and bass. The piano rings with something approaching grandeur, while the bass lopes along with a bit of menace in the background. This is the dark side of “Fanfare for the Common Man,” where the sinister heartbeat of the city is looking for another victim. Don’t look back.


What follows is the song’s most distinctive sound -a slowly escalating cacophony of noise – an orchestra rises for 24-bars from nothing to “the end of the world.” “A crazy big swing storm,” as McCartney termed it. 


The new stereo mix gives this sound a much more chaotic force, and one can pick out the swirling notes between trumpets and strings, as well as the clacking undergirding from the piano. Listening even now, one gets the feeling of acceleration, (like in a car crash?) as though time is speeding up to the direction of a murderous force, life spinning out of control until we arrive at…


A ringing clock. One of the happy miracles of the song was that the Beatles, when recording, weren’t sure how to fill that space. So they had roadie Mal Evans count off the bars, his voice in heavy echo. When it was time for the song to recommence, an alarm clock was triggered. The alarm is appropriate - It’s time to get up.


Paul’s voice appears, not with the sliding detachment of Lennon but with the sleepy sound of a casual commuter who wakes up late and must get to work. He runs for the bus, but even in the middle of meeting his obligations to work and the grind, he “went into a dream.” We might ask what was said to inspire the dream, but it probably doesn’t matter. As Lennon said in an earlier song, “I’ve got nothing to say, but it’s OK.”


McCartney said his lyrical contribution here was just a fragment, but the grafting works, bookended by the orchestral sections. The juxtaposition of a man dying a careless death in a racecar with a man watching a war movie, then with a man working in an office, is intentional. Much of the menace of modern life isn’t the car crashes. It’s the terror of the routine – seen in “a heap of broken images” : the sobering, drowsy ride to work, the eyes of your fellow toilers, the quick puff of a cigarette to deal with it all, the slow and steady knowledge that time is passing and your closest held dreams remain unfulfilled. This is existential detachment, the same as the narrator of "The Stranger." When you retreat into imagination, it is escape from the inevitable, the inexorable.


The orchestra resumes, only this time it soars into comment: There is something grand and glorious about all of this, a feeling that people are dimly conscious of, in the course of a single day, the music that runs out of our lives and into eternity. 


But that returns us to John’s detached narrator, who is back to reading the news. There are 4,000 holes in the roads of a particular stretch of highway. How ridiculous, one might think, that someone had to go and count all of them, and how typical. And to what end? Or is this another comment on life? What’s the point of counting the holes, or counting the days?


That is our problem – the holes. They swallow us. They consume us. There is a hole inside of us that we are unable to fill. We consume. We choke. The hole swallows our dreams, our time, our hopes.

Here we are, whipsawing between two extremes – the grand and the banal.


One can look at the moment of “Pepper” as the beginning of the Summer of Love. People make much of the bright tone of many of the songs, but ignore the menace within. "Getting Better," for instance, tells the story of a man who seems to teeter on the edge, who admits physically and emotionally abusing his woman but resolves to change his "scene." But it is one year before the chaos of 1968. It’s the time when that wonderfully political euphemism “unrest” was used to catalog the social upheavals of the era. The idea of barriers being crossed excited some, terrified others. Even a decade after the Beats, the best minds of the generation were seeking destruction, or in Bob Dylan's case, desolation. Two years later, Buzz Aldrin would be the second human being to step onto the lunar surface with the words, "Magnificent desolation." In every avenue, the world would never be the same again.

In fact, McCartney alluded to this in recounting his fear of trying LSD in 1967, the fear that the drug would change him so he could “never get back home.”

The awful daring of a moment's surrender
Which an age of prudence can never retract

Both of John’s sections end with the phrase that begins the orchestral sections – “I’d love to turn you on.” I was surprised to learn this was Paul’s creation, which John was only too happy to credit. It also sounds menacing, even though that may be simply because of that voice Lennon uses.


It’s an obvious drug reference, but what is being said? What is being turned on? What are we being turned onto? John’s narrator may be saying that each day of our lives has moments of wonder, if we can but comprehend them. Perhaps he is saying, “Let me show you the true nature of things. Behold your life, in an instant! Does it amount to anything?” Whether that’s under a psychedelic drug haze or higher consciousness is up to the beholder.


There is plenty of wonder in the song, right up to the final build-up, and the final chord. But that wonder can come in moments we might otherwise look away from – sudden death, war, the trip to work, or even the traffic on our roads. That’s an idea that predates the sixties, all the way back to the beginnings of humanity. Finding the beauty in waste, squalor, even evil, “a handful of dust” – it’s well to ask what it makes us. Do we detach ourselves, or is there something in us that forces detachment? If we care too much, does it all consume us?


Whatever may happen, a splendid time is guaranteed for all. 


Set Your Fields on Fire

The award-winning novel by William Thornton
Available now

Some of the coverage of "Set Your Fields on Fire"

 You can order "Set Your Fields on Fire"for $14.99 through Amazon here.
It's also available on Kindle at $3.99 through Amazon here.
Read an interview I did with AL.com on the book here.   
Here's my appearance on the Charisma Network's CPOP Podcast. 
Here's an interview I did with The Anniston Star on the book. 
Shattered Magazine wrote a story about the book here. 
Here's a review of the novel by Robbie Pink.
This piece appeared in the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal.
Here's the write-up from The Birmingham Times.
Read a story for Village Living here.
This story appeared in The Trussville Tribune and this video.
Here's my appearance on East Alabama Today.  
Story and video from WBRC Fox6 here. 
Here's the write-up in The Gadsden Times on the book.
Read a piece I wrote for WestBow Press about writing the book here.
A piece about some inspiring works for me.
This is another interview with the fleegan book blog here.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Joan Didion goes South

Portions of this were previously published at AL.com.

There is a conversation in Joan Didion's newest book that shows much of how Alabama has changed over the last half century.

Didion, famous for her non-fiction observations on California in "Slouching Toward Bethlehem" and "The White Album," spent the summer nearly 47 years ago in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. In July 1970, she was in Guin, Ala., eating at a diner, when she asked for iced coffee. 

"The waitress asked me how to make it," she writes. '"Same way as iced tea,' I said. She looked at me without expression. 'In a cup?' she asked."

I laughed at how one can now buy iced coffee at gas stations in the most rural parts of the state. Several scenes in Didion's "South and West" play out like this, and to read it is like taking a trip back in a time machine. Didion and her husband made a swing through Alabama that year looking for something, and her observations are recorded in the book.

Didion made notes for a piece that was never published. She didn't come South because of desegregation or murder trials, but because she had "only some dim and unformed sense... that for some years the South and particularly the Gulf Coast had been for America what people were saying California was, and what California seemed to me not to be: the future, the secret source of malevolent and benevolent energy, the psychic center."

Her trip begins in New Orleans, continues into Mississippi and through Alabama. She visits the Mississippi Gulf Coast just after the devastation of Hurricane Camille, long before casinos, when the only gambling is illegal and in the pinewoods. She buys a Rebel flag beach towel in Biloxi. As she crosses over into Alabama, she is greeted with a sign: "782,000 Alabama Baptists Welcome You!"
Instead of movie sets and the halls of power, Didion roams the Demopolis Library, the Eutaw City Hall, and has dinner at The Club in Birmingham. Her bikini draws attention at a motel, she surveys a Walker County cemetery's tombstones and she sweats talking with women in a laundromat in Winfield.

It's hot. Air conditioners whir in the background everywhere they are found. She is stymied by blue laws that close everything on Sunday and restaurants that rarely stay open past 8 p.m. Ice is hard to come by. The food is fried, everywhere. The Jackson Five and Neil Diamond play in the background at roadside stops. Men brag about hunting. Women chat about housework and soap operas. The white southerners, especially in Mississippi, are reflexively defensive about their state's image in the media. There is a constant squeamishness among the locals about alcohol that would amuse our present craft beer connoisseurs.

In Tuscaloosa, she sees several different bumper stickers - "Red Tide, Crimson Tide, Go Tide, Roll Tide." In all the small towns, she writes, the most "resplendent" part of the high school is the gymnasium, which seems to carry the hopes of the community.

 "Athletes who were signing 'letters of intent' were a theme in the local news," she observes, long before signing day press conferences.

I am old enough to dimly remember some of this, when it was nothing to drive through a small town and see most of the older men in overalls. When white people tossed around bloodcurdling racial slurs in the presence of blacks they worked with and everyone laughed - for vastly different reasons. All of the book's moments fit in with the traditional view of the South -where hardbitten manhood is celebrated in sports and recreational activities, genteel womanhood venerated even in the drudgery of washing clothes, where clear borders of class and race survive, and lurking behind every corner are the specters of the Lost Cause and how the rest of the nation views this defeated, backward section.

But something else is going on, beyond the pages. At the same time Didion came South, most of the region's public schools were finally undergoing a largely peaceful segregation after a decade and a half of adamant and occasionally bloody opposition. Only two years before, Martin Luther King Jr., was murdered in Memphis. Five years before, marchers were beaten on the Edmund Pettis Bridge. Fifteen years before, Emmett Till's body was found floating in the Tallahatchee River. The South was still in a throes of an absolute transformation.

There is also an interesting theme that runs through Didion's encounters, of a South straining to overcome its rural character and redefine itself. During an extended conversation with a Mississippi businessman, he talks about the unexploited territory for the big chain stores and restaurants, saying McDonald's isn't even in Meridian, a city of nearly 50,000. He calls the South "the greatest business opportunity in the country," pointing to the climate, low levels of union activity and the willingness of government to give tax breaks to attract business.

In his words, one can immediately see auto plants and parts assemblies decades down the road, and Dollar Generals and Walmarts yet unbuilt. One can see the tide of regional and national businesses that will choke off downtowns and populate strip shopping centers and malls. But Didion senses something in the ambition when she asks if not wanting industry is a death wish, or is wanting it? What is striking is how the South in these pages, where the Civil War still seems like yesterday, was disappearing just as she got it down on the page.

Didion isn't celebrating this South as much as marveling at how impervious it seems to what is happening in the rest of the nation. That insularity will not last though. An extended introduction by Nathaniel Rich laments that the Southern culture Didion writes about in 1970 has migrated out into the nation, as evidenced by the election of Donald Trump. It's not the first time I've heard that thesis, but I sense that is too pat an answer, as if battalions of ham-fisted Buford T. Justice clones seized power in voting booths throughout the nation. 

Much of the surface culture of what Didion wrote about doesn't exist anymore, and anyone who thinks the South has resisted new technology hasn't visited its major cities. To say so also ignores the cultural and societal shifts caused by the migration of professionals here from around the nation, and from the rest of the world. Big cities and rural areas have been transformed by mass migration from Latin America. Go to the major cities of the South and you will find as modern and as liberal a culture as in any other part of the country. Because of the ubiquity of popular music, films, television, streaming entertainment and other outlets, you can find Southerners in rural areas with barely a trace of a regional accent.

But the terrain of this small book nudges us with the idea that even as we form an image of the unchanging South in our minds, we are in the same moment walking through it, disturbing the air and the picture, rewriting its story with every step.

Set Your Fields on Fire

The award-winning novel by William Thornton
Available now

Some of the coverage of "Set Your Fields on Fire"

 You can order "Set Your Fields on Fire"for $14.99 through Amazon here.
It's also available on Kindle at $3.99 through Amazon here.
Read an interview I did with AL.com on the book here.   
Here's my appearance on the Charisma Network's CPOP Podcast. 
Here's an interview I did with The Anniston Star on the book. 
Shattered Magazine wrote a story about the book here. 
Here's a review of the novel by Robbie Pink.
This piece appeared in the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal.
Here's the write-up from The Birmingham Times.
Read a story for Village Living here.
This story appeared in The Trussville Tribune and this video.
Here's my appearance on East Alabama Today.  
Story and video from WBRC Fox6 here. 
Here's the write-up in The Gadsden Times on the book.
Read a piece I wrote for WestBow Press about writing the book here.
A piece about some inspiring works for me.
This is another interview with the fleegan book blog here.



Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Alchemy of "The Alchemist': The Treasure Beneath Our Feet

"The Alchemist," Paulo Coelho's synthetic myth of treasures, happenstance, destiny and endurance, is one of the bestselling books of the last century. It spread largely through word-of-mouth, affecting nations and tongues through its somewhat familiar tales and motifs regarding the high and the low, the meek and the mighty. I enjoyed reading it, but I read it more or less out of curiosity about why this book has been embraced by so many.

It is a familiar story, in more ways than one, which is one reason for its success. The tale is told in very short, simple sentences. It could happen any time, though it sounds both old and current, perhaps from a few decades ago. It mixes Jewish, Christian, Islamic and Eastern mystical images and ideas in one convenient package, so it gives the illusion of antiquity while at the same time sounding fresh. By doing so, it feeds into the popular idea that all religions, despite their internal discrepancies and contradictory aims, are all saying basically the same thing. It speaks of innocence and experience. Its characters spout lines that sound simple, easily memorable, and strike us as profound. Its big ideas come with repeatable phrases that are helpfully turned into proper names - Personal Legend, the Soul of the World, the Language of the World. We think we know what these concepts mean, and it would spoil the spell of the book to have them made concrete. In writing about it, I am not so much interested in an evangelical refutation of the ideas within as much as examining why they were chosen and what ramifications they have beyond the story.

The basic plot: A poor shepherd boy - an image that would affect the Jew, the Christian and even the ancient Greek - makes a journey from Spain to Egypt to see the pyramids, in search of a fading dream of treasure. Along the journey, through a series of chance meetings, the boy Santiago encounters the mystical and the scientific, only to find that the treasure he sought was back at his home. Along the way, he discovers true love, which will presumably never ask a person to sacrifice his or her Personal Legend.

Along the way, the shepherd boy, who prays to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, encounters several Biblical motifs - dreams, a woman at a well, Joseph of Egypt, the story of Jesus and the Centurion, Melchizedek, and the Urim and Thummim. Take Melchizedek, a very old man who identifies himself as the King of Salem and introduces Santiago to the idea of the Personal Legend. The book states that this is something different from destiny, which is presumably chosen for someone, perhaps by an impersonal will. Instead, the Personal Legend is what the person wants for himself, or perceives is attainable. Melchizedek, of course, was identified in the book of Genesis as Priest of God Most High, to whom Abraham gave 10 percent of his riches. Having no identification of where he came from, Melchizedek is later identified, in the Psalms and in Hebrews, as a precursor for the Messiah, Jesus. The Urim and Thummim were, according to Exodus, stones kept in the breastplate of the High Priest that were used to ask questions of God. So we are introduced to the idea that Santiago has been visited by something profound, and something grand awaits him out on the road.

But what does Santiago learn of God? The God that is portrayed in "The Alchemist" has a little more presence than The Force of Star Wars. Though He seems aloof at times, He is much more active than would seem at first glance. In fact, the story seems to be telling us, He is on the side of people who pursue their own Personal Legend. By incorporating these Biblical characters and devices into the story, Coelho gives his tale the authority of Scripture and legend to illustrate one facet of his story - life is sometimes a question of coincidences that are not coincidences. If we learn to read omens that are always around us, we will know what God wants us to do. And what does God want?

One facet of books like "The Alchemist" is that they feed into our suspicion that there is a secret to life that we have not yet discovered, a hidden rhythm to events that, if we could only discover it, would make our lives that much simpler. We sense that the answer might be found in ancient wisdom, if we had the patience for archaic texts. It might be in the Bible, but we never can manage to read past all those dietary laws in the Old Testament. It might be in philosophers, but their words are even harder than the King James English. It might be in politics, but the sought after ends are never completely arrived at, and there are the examples of the politicians themselves. It might be in pop songs, but look at what happened to all the singers? We are unable to shake the sense that life is comprehensible, but perhaps it has not yet been comprehended. Along comes a thin book with presumed profundities, and we nod when we hear something like, "When you possess great treasures within you, and try to tell others of them, seldom are you believed." Ministers for the last 20 centuries would agree, as would writers of would-be self-help bestsellers.

Alchemy was a largely-medieval belief that base metals could, by manipulation, be transformed into gold, and that immortality could be attained through certain chemical practices. In our age, it's one of those crank ideas we laugh about - sounds mystical, sounds fascinating even, but we have grown past that. "The Alchemist," though tells us, "Wait a second. You and I both know there's nothing to this, but what if that's not the whole story? Maybe there are little bits of wisdom in there. Wouldn't it be cool if there were?" It serves the same purpose as radioactivity in the origin stories of countless superheroes, just as magic used to in legends - we can't explain totally how such a thing would happen, but it helps us get to the action in the story. It also helps us add another layer beyond just the trappings of religion.

The Alchemist takes these familiar words of Jesus:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." - Matthew 6:19-21

And in its place, we get "Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure." The difference? Jesus is talking about focusing our attention on the things that God is interested in - prayer, for example, the poor, showing love for others, forgiveness, the Gospel. It involves actively seeking the will of God - a little more complicated than simply the will to be a nicer person. But Santiago is on a journey toward a treasure. Of course, Coelho's indeterminate treasure is that the boy will accumulate experience, wisdom, love and meaning, things of infinite value. God is presumably part of that. But Jesus' equation puts God at the center, not at the margins. "The Alchemist" is, at its base, about a journey of self. One can believe that God tames Santiago's nature along the way, but that is done through the normal trials of a journey - the theft of money, for example, or the tortures of distance. But it is still, at its base, a journey of self. When Santiago encounters his love, Fatima, her presence only serves for his happiness. What are her dreams? What does she want, beyond Santiago?

One might also laugh at the idea that the world wants us to succeed, or that the Will of the World is bounded up in our happiness. We would think God would be behind this, but there is little in daily life for the majority of the human race to support the idea that a benign force wants us all to be happy. Instead, humans tend to find happiness where they can in the ways that they can, world be damned, and most of those avenues for happiness do not involve others as much as their own narrow concerns. Luck and endurance for those people usually pays off in other, darker ways. As for the mass of humanity - those who can't or don't have time to read books - they survive on faith in a benevolent force that perhaps has their best interests at heart but it doesn't serve much purpose to question. Faith teaches us that the outward trappings of suffering should not be confused with the ultimate aim of existence - not our dreams, but God's will. "The Alchemist" echoes this, but through the self.

"The Alchemist" also incorporates the story of Jesus and the Centurion in a novel, brilliant way. The title character of the novel tells the story of an anonymous Roman man who receives an angelic visitation, revealing that one of his two sons will be remembered for all time for his words. The father assumes it is his son the poet. But when he dies, he discovers it is the soldier son stationed in an obscure military post, who impressed Jesus with his faith. All the Centurion asks is that Jesus give the word that his servant is healed. The lesson: Every person's life plays a central role in the history of the world, and most are unaware of it. This is also a Gospel-sounding lesson, but it is only the life, death and resurrection of Jesus that proves its veracity.

Like other books with this kind of mystical, self-help aim, "The Alchemist" also talks of the illusion of time - the idea that we are too concerned with becoming instead of merely being. This chokes off the present possibilities of happiness with our own pressing expectations, which are inevitably frustrated, leaving us unsatisfied. We pass by people every day who live in the wreckage of their lives because they pursued dreams, in spite of all reason, and slowly watch themselves age bitterly. 

Even Santiago has a hard time learning this lesson about time, though he arrives at the pyramids to learn the secret - the treasure he sought was all the time buried beneath his feet back in Spain - the gold of a New World, buried beneath a ruined church. I have to confess this was a wonderful touch, a human comment on one of the oldest story tropes - the thing you seek is always right besides you, or even back where you started. You hardly had to leave home. But think of the treasure - some conquistador who forgot to tell his family of the gold he took from a distant land, following his own omens and dreams. That gold was forged by the slaves of a nation with its own omens and dreams and its own Personal Legend - a nation that no longer exists. Assume what you will about the Will of the World from their fate.

We read books like "The Alchemist" because we want to believe in something. It tells us, against our better judgment, that we can believe in ourselves. That the answer lies within us, if we can only find it. Through patience, persistent listening to our own dreams, we may yet reach our destination and our treasures. For some people, this is unmistakably true. But those people usually pay some price for what they seek, for hidden treasures rarely reveal themselves easily. And for the rest, they read books whispering fables that inspires a smile. Then the next day arrives, and they struggle to remember what it was they read that made them happy, staring into the morning coffee. 

It isn't the Gospel, but it gets us to the next thing, whatever that may be, for however long. The suspicion that there is more to life still persists, irritates and agonizes us, whether we read or not.

Set Your Fields on Fire

The award-winning novel by William Thornton
Available now

Some of the coverage of "Set Your Fields on Fire"

 You can order "Set Your Fields on Fire"for $14.99 through Amazon here.
It's also available on Kindle at $3.99 through Amazon here.
Read an interview I did with AL.com on the book here.   
Here's my appearance on the Charisma Network's CPOP Podcast. 
Here's an interview I did with The Anniston Star on the book. 
Shattered Magazine wrote a story about the book here. 
Here's a review of the novel by Robbie Pink.
This piece appeared in the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal.
Here's the write-up from The Birmingham Times.
Read a story for Village Living here.
This story appeared in The Trussville Tribune and this video.
Here's my appearance on East Alabama Today.  
Story and video from WBRC Fox6 here. 
Here's the write-up in The Gadsden Times on the book.
Read a piece I wrote for WestBow Press about writing the book here.
A piece about some inspiring works for me.
This is another interview with the fleegan book blog here.

Set Your Fields on Fire

The award-winning novel by William Thornton
Available now

Some of the coverage of "Set Your Fields on Fire"

 You can order "Set Your Fields on Fire"for $14.99 through Amazon here.
It's also available on Kindle at $3.99 through Amazon here.
Read an interview I did with AL.com on the book here.   
Here's my appearance on the Charisma Network's CPOP Podcast. 
Here's an interview I did with The Anniston Star on the book. 
Shattered Magazine wrote a story about the book here. 
Here's a review of the novel by Robbie Pink.
This piece appeared in the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal.
Here's the write-up from The Birmingham Times.
Read a story for Village Living here.
This story appeared in The Trussville Tribune and this video.
Here's my appearance on East Alabama Today.  
Story and video from WBRC Fox6 here. 
Here's the write-up in The Gadsden Times on the book.
Read a piece I wrote for WestBow Press about writing the book here.
A piece about some inspiring works for me.
This is another interview with the fleegan book blog here.