When you wish upon a book, you dream of getting a review such as this

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When you invest all your dreams in writing a book, you never expect to receive the Ultimate Revew—you know, the review of all reviews, the review that shows that the reviewer not only read every word, but that the reviewer understands the book, actually gets what you are trying to say.

I’m lucky to have received enthusiastic reviews from people I respect. They mean so much to me. Just a few of these folks: Ray Bradbury, Abigail van Buren (Dear Abby), John Shelby Spong, Fannie Flagg, Robert Inman, Charles Ghigna, Irene Latham, Howell Raines, Allen Johnson Jr., Martha Hunt Huie, Paul Zahl, Pat Bleicher…and on and on. I am grateful.

But I want to share with you the Dream Review, the review that is so honest, negative and positive at the same time, that it sweeps you off your feet. The review that indicates your book forced the reader to FEEL, to RISE UP, to REACT, to CHANGE DIRECTION.

Here’s Kellye’s review (for my book, HOW TO BECOME YOUR OWN BOOK):


Dear Mr. Reed,

I have spent the afternoon contemplating the purpose of this letter, among distractions, and concluded that my true intent is simply to share with you the effect your book, “How to Become Your Own Book: the joy of writing for you and you alone” has had on my little world. I have read it, shut it, written in it, threatened to rip it to shreds, and cried into its pages. I guess I thought you should know.

I have experienced a roller coaster of emotions. I put in on the shelf for a while because there was an invisible shield that reflected a blinding light any time I saw a prompt about family secrets. Then one day, I opened it and discovered a light and whimsical side to it…I took colored magic marker pens and doodled on a few pages…I allowed myself to write outside of the provided boxes. There were times of laughter and color and music, there were times of bitter, painful remembering, when black ink spilled into the margins like ivy. I hate this book. I can’t wait to turn the page. I love that quote! I want to burn it…yet I am afraid of forever losing the previous parts of my life that seeped into the pages and hardened, past the point of no return, bled with ink confessions. So instead of torching it I throw it across the room, having to lunge across the room soon after to smooth out the bent and crinkled pages because that drives me crazy. So I put it on the coffee table and stack four or five books on top of it (also to help with the crinkled pages) and pull it out again only when I am compelled to. Like now…because I know there is a page inside where I can impeccably articulate the last few days, and all that I felt and remembered and smelled and tasted. Where I can describe how Birmingham has opened me up in indescribable ways. Birmingham Festival Theatre, Horse Pens 40, Lake Logan Martin, my little studio in Forest Park and under four books on my coffee table…Reed’s Book.

So here is my feedback: I love your book and I hate your book. I cherish it and I loathe it. I wonder if other purchasers have had similar feelings…the wretched torture of breaking through fear in writing…in an unassuming place. It has been a wonderful and horrible adventure. Thank you for sharing what you write and for sharing your charming store with me. Birmingham and I wouldn’t be the same without it.


Kellye Marie Whitmer


See what I mean? How can any review of any of my writings, past or future, compare to this outburst?

I’m a lucky writer

© Jim Reed 2014 A.D.



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Robots R Us

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“Oh, man!” I mutter to myself as I turn the pages of my 1950′s Popular Science Magazine, way back when the mag was new and hot off the press.

“Oh, boy!” I’m looking at all the swell illustrations of what life in the 21st Century will be like and, checking my Boy Scout wall calendar, I see there’s a good chance I’ll be alive to see these predictions come true.

Just look at what life will be like in the year 2014, a mere 60 years from now. Wall-sized television sets will entertain us by voice command, everybody will own a jet pack, colonies on the Moon will be readying their vehicles for Mars settlement, everybody will dress like Buck Rogers characters, and poverty will be a thing of the past.

Oh, yes, there will be robots to serve our every need.

Robots will do all the dirty little tasks and all the great big jobs for us, leaving us free to spend our time enjoying recreation, bettering our educations, improving our management of crimeless cities, reading all the great literature that workaholics in the 20th Century never could get around to.

Well, here we are. Everything came true, but in grotesquely disguised ways. Be careful what you dream of.

Jet packs exist in the form of drones. Everybody will have one any day now.

Large TV sets and computers arrive packed with their own nightmarishly mistranslated instruction manuals which only 7th graders can understand.

We can’t get up enough politics to settle the Moon, much less Mars, but we do fund satellites in large cluttered orbits.

We don’t read books anymore.

We don’t dress like Buck Rogers, but we do love our week-long fashion trends…and isn’t that the cutest tattoo she’s wearing—wait, it might be a patterned stocking.

Poverty is still poverty, but we put lipstick on it once in a while to make ourselves less conscious of it.

And so on. The good, the bad and the ugly still exist side by side, but it’s all very shiny and disguised and, well, Modern.

Then there’s the thing about robots.

Robots serve us every moment of our lives. Computerized robotics run our refrigerators, toasters, alarm systems, automobiles, surveillance systems, communications networks, prisons, telemarketing companies, warfare readiness conglomerates, social media devices, city halls, political campaigns.

Yep, robots have made us so comfortable that we are only faintly aware that, in order to earn that comfort, we have to obey these robots, wait patiently while they re-boot our machines, carefully follow their instructions, maintain and finance them. And the worst thing that can happen is for us to be without these creatures for even a moment. The horror!

Where was I?

Well where I am is in the midst of spending hours hoping my IT guy can repair my busted computer this week, sitting strained but quiet while my wife and son spend hours trying to make the streaming function on our television set work properly, hoping against hope that The Cloud doesn’t crash with all my writings and records thereon, crossing my fingers to boost the chances that a sunspot burst won’t destroy my flash drives and troves of word programs upon which I depend.

I wait patiently and quietly for my robots to give me an all-clear signal so that life can get back to normal.

Back in 1954, I’m putting down my Popular Science Magazine and picking up an Astounding Science Fiction Magazine, which weaves tales of robots that will take over the world and eventually do away with humans.

Here in 2014, I’m becoming aware that the dominant population is now robotic, that we humans are the real robots, that at times robots act more fairly and justly than we do.

A twist in time is all it took for humans to become slightly unnecessary

© Jim Reed 2014 A.D.



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Oh, Glendora, What Did They Do to You?

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Oh, Glendora, What Did They Do to You?

Right now, I’m bouncing my automobile into the 3rd Avenue North parking lot a few feet from the bookshop. It’s Any Day. Could be rainy could be sunny could be hot and humid could be breezy.

The morning routine is like all morning routines.

It’s always the same, always different.

The same because I accomplish my goal each day, that goal being to park safely, walk unpanhandled to the shop, gain entry and get rolling on attempting to make a living one more day.

Different because each habitual act is confronted with small variations on a theme. A gigantic scientist examining from above might see just the pattern, the routine, the sameness…tiny human rolls down the avenue, stops in a lot, scurries to the booknest. But a writer might see the intriguing variations…bookdealer wears a different shirt today, the load of books he’s hodcarrying is different from yesterday’s load of books, he’s walking more confidently than yesterday when he had a gout attack.

From the bookdealer’s point of view, it’s all the same, all different…first thing I smell as I exit the car is cigarette smoke produced by the addicts in the lot and on the street who take frequent breaks all day to breathe in breathe out the fumes that will eventually—but that’s another story.

Second thing I see is Glendora.

Glendora is the name I’ve given to the woman sitting in the window of the first office I pass.

Now, Glendora is pleasant-looking. Her dark hair clarifies a pale complexion. She is sitting in a desk chair in full side profile to passersby. There is a plastic device in her ear, and her fingers remain on the keyboard of the computer before her. Glendora stares at the screen each time I see her during the day. She looks neither left nor right.  She misses the changes in weather through the large window. She misses the odd variety of humans passing by at various speeds on various obscure missions.

She does not seem to be aware that, like a show window mannequin, she is on full display to all window shoppers.

Sometimes I nod at Glendora, hoping that, like many other folks, she will nod back with a smile. Never happens. She’s encapsulated in her world as securely as I am in mine. We are two planets treading space in parallel orbits, destined never to engage.

The irresistible force of observation takes over when I see interesting people. What is Glendora like? Does she have a family? Is her boss kind to her? Is she happy frozen in place each day? Is she working for the company on the computer or is it all facebook and chatter in between tasks? Does she read books? Never been in the bookshop, so that answers that. Does she dream of better things?

Where did I get the name Glendora? Why, from Perry Como, of course. As a kid of the 1940′s and 1950′s, Como sang about another Glendora who was frozen in time until Something Happened. Listen to the entire song. It tells a story:


Here are the words to the song GLENDORA, written by Stanley Ray:

I’m in love with a dolly named Glendora
She works in the window of a big department stor-a
Eyes of blue, hair like gold
Never been young but she’ll never get old

Oh Glendora, I wanna see more of you
O’ Glendora, o’ Glendora
O’ Glendora, I wanna see more of you

She’s so shy that I don’t know how I found her
With three big body guards always workin’ around her
One just nods an’ two just grins
An’ three got a mouth full of safety pins

O’ Glendora, I wanna see more of you
(You, more of you)
O’ Glendora, o’ Glendora
O’ Glendora, I wanna see more of you
(More of you)

I stand left an’ I stand right
Outta my head ’cause I’m outta sight

O’ Glendora, I wanna see more of you

Late last night at the store they did some changin’
An’ I stood watchin’ when they started re-arrangin’
She lost her wig, she lost her arms
An’ when they got through, she lost all of her charms

O’ Glendora, what did they do to you?
What they do, what they do, what they do ?
O’ Glendora, o’ Glendora
O’ Glendora, what did they do to you?
What they do, what they do, what they do ?

O’ Glendora, o’ Glendora
O’ Glendora, what did they do to you?
Do to you, oh, what did they do to you?
O’ Glendora, what did they do to you?

Here’s to all the Glendora’s of the world with whom I’ll never converse. I hope they are as happy as they are fascinating

© Jim Reed 2014 A.D.



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High School Reunion: The Good The Not-So-Bad and the Gorgeous

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High School Reunion: The Good The Not-So-Bad and the Gorgeous

It happened right in my face: the sudden realization that attending high school might not have been the nightmarish experience that I always thought. Well, it was nightmarish in a kind of entertaining way, if you think about it.

Nightmares can be much more interesting than the regular plodding, mind-numbing boredom of everyday living.

Where are these thoughts originating? Well, they began last night, when I attended my high school reunion.

This wasn’t just any reunion. Don’t laugh—it was my 55th reunion. No joke.

Reunions are peculiar phenomena. Lots of people never attend them, for a variety of reasons.

1. Maybe school was awful and you assume the reunion will be, too.

2. Maybe you are ashamed of the fact that you’ve put on weight, lost hair, acquired skin blotches and eyeglasses and a cane. Just don’t want to be seen like this.

3. Maybe you assume that the same old clique of popular kids will lord it over everything and fail to look you in the eye in much the same way they acted in hallways between classes.

4. Maybe you fear that you will see small sadnesses everywhere—beauty queens become bloated, wallflowers blossom and turn lovely, sexy students look sad, brilliant classmates morph into dullards, bullies become milquetoasts.

5. Perhaps you think you’ll be judged by how your career has turned out.

So, was last night fraught with fear and loathing?


It turned out to be quite fun and exciting.

In truth, all us geezerly post-high schoolers are at a point where pretension and social structure and charisma matter not at all. We are just a roomful of people who all look very much alike in advanced age. We seem to be in about the same social class now. We’re not on the make, we’re not trying to sell anything, we’re not busy trying to top each other, and all judgmental observations have been replaced by empathy.

Empathy—that’s what makes this special reunion so special. Empathy.

When young, you don’t realize consequences, your jokes are about subjects you know nothing about, your casual acts and remarks don’t bounce back on you.

Once you’ve lived a number of decades, you’ve gone through just about everything you swore would never happen to you. Mother-in-law jokes fall flat because you once had a lovely mother-in-law, depression and illness and accident and conflict are not as easy to dismiss, because you’ve been through them in one way or another.

In other words, superficiality has gone down the tubes.

At the reunion, I have a chance to chat openly with people who didn’t seem to be aware of my existence. I get to catch up on the lives of people who were once great pals and friends. I become the absorber of many great anecdotes and stories I’ve never heard before. I get to check out reality—did I really once publish a diagram of the social structure of the school cafeteria in our class newspaper, and get in trouble for doing so? Did this particular person know I once had a deep crush on her? Did this guy ever know I existed? And so on.

This magical leveling of class and structure is fascinating and actually enjoyable.

We are all geezers who have gained wisdom and experience…and we seem to be the only ones with whom we can share this wisdom and experience. Nobody else wants to listen.

Anyhow, I feel good about last night. Some measure of closure is occurring.

Now, the importance of each of these classmates in my life is clear. Whether they know it or not, their very presence in the dusty red clay halls of Tuscaloosa High School helped shape me, helped guide me in my exploration of the larger world outside. And I didn’t even know it at the time.

Does this resonate with you? It would be interesting to know where your life stands along this continuum—er, Timeline to you youngsters—and whether you, too, are beginning to acknowledge the great influence of others on your journey.

Last night was a hoot. Wish you could have been a fly on the wall

© Jim Reed 2014 A.D.



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