By Way of Deception

While visiting my parents, I borrowed a book, one of those Reader’s Digest Today’s Best Nonfiction–you know, with four book-length selections in it. I began one and just finished reading it. It’s called By Way of Deception: Inside Mossad, the Israeli Intelligence Agency by Victory Ostrovsky and Claire Hoy, originally published by St. Martin’s. The book is a memoir of Ostrovsky’s days in the Mossad. He paints an illuminating, albeit unflattering portrait of this most secret of government organizations. The book will certainly be a valuable resource, not only about the Mossad specifically, but for pieces I might write that touch on crime, assasination, spying, government propoganda, manipulation of people (which the Mossad are experts at), and human nature generally. The memoir also reveals how the American public has been shielded from the true news behind the sanitized and often inaccurate news we are fed through the government and the news media. I gained some insights into the dynamic tension between Israel and the Arab world. I also learned the Mossad are not accountable, somewhat cultish, extremely brutal, and have access to almost unlimited resources. I must confess, when I read of the money they spend and pay people, I tried to think of a way I could be useful to them, but I failed to come up with anything other than suggesting a few rednecks I’d like for them to interrogate. Pitch it as knowing they are spies for Iran, perhaps?

There were many quotations I could have used, but I settled on this one, as a reminder of how my characters must be sufficiently motivated. It concerns Mossad recruitment: “The idea of recruitment is like rolling a rock down a hill. You take somebody and gradually get him to do something illegal or immoral. You push him down the hill. The whole purpose is to use people. But in order to use them, you have to mold them. If you have a guy who doesn’t drink, doesn’t want sex, doesn’t need money, has no political problems, and is happy with life, you can’t recruit him” (61).

As I reflected upon that last sentence, I tried to think of people I knew who were unrecruitable. I’m still trying to think of someone.

The Orchid Thief

12/24 I just completed The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean. I discovered this book serendipitously. I think I first came upon the title in a small review of the book in one of those book review magazines you can get at Books a Million. Then, a friend told me of her love of Black Orchid perfume, and I thought the imagery might lead to a good poem or story, so I researched the perfume, then black orchids, then orchids, then orchid hunters. I kept coming upon the title of this book, so I read some more reviews and then ordered it.

I was not disappointed. The book is a wonderful example of creative nonfiction.
Of course, Susan Orlean is a fascinating writer, passionate for and dedicated to her craft. You can read a good bio and review of her writing here: or at her personal website:

The book is captivating. In fact, if I were to ever teach a course in creative nonfiction, I would use this book. There is a prologue with Susan Orlean

Semester Exams

This week Bastrop High School is giving semester exams. My exam for honors freshman and regular sophomores (I love the literal Greek meaning of “sophomore.” It means wise fool!) is a hundred question test centered on definitions, vocabulary, literary terms, and cultural literacy questions. 7th period was yesterday, Monday; today is 1st and 2nd; tomorrow, 3rd and 4th; and Friday, 5th and 6th.

Novellas of Jim Harrison

The past three days, I’ve read three of Jim Harrison’s novellas, and wanted to post some observations before the memory of the read fades. I read Revenge, The Man Who Gave Up His Name, and Legends of the Fall. Harrison seems to be a master of narration, his prose so tight and his diction so carefully selected that he doesn’t need to follow the standard conventions of using dialogue. Absolutely amazing writing. All three pieces had a dark side. After reading a couple of bios about him on the Net, I am even more impressed. He is the kind of writer I’d like to be. I’ve posted quotes from Revenge already. Though there were many I could have used, I want to post one quote each from the other two novellas in this trilogy I read that I thought might be worthy of reflection, and perhaps provide story ideas.

The Man Who Gave Up His Name: “[T]here was nothing particularly undesirable or repellent in his life, only a certain lack of volume and intensity; he feared dreaming himself to death” (114).

Legends of the Fall: “His heart ached over the confusion and pain he had caused on earth” (264).

Revenge: A Novella by Jim Harrison

I finished Jim Harrison’s Revenge last night. A great read. I wish I had read this novella long ago. I am certain that I will try other works he’s written. I have two more novellas in this book, and if I like them, I’ll move on to his novels.

Revenge has a gripping opening scene, and Harrison, whom I would describe as a master storyteller, primarily uses narrative to move the story along. Jonathan Miles, in a review of Harrison’s writing, says Harrison possesses a “wounded narrative voice.” I think that is a fair description of Harrison’s technique. (You can read Miles interview here: Miles says Harrison is a man who been prowling the literary edges for four decades.

Here are some quotes from Revenge that I thought might be food for thought or sparks for my own writing.

Daily Grind

After two nights of late performances with my Scots-Irish band, Angus Dubhghall, I am a little on the tired side. High school midterm exams are only a week away, the Bastrop Rams won the football state championship, I

Angus Dubhghall

My band, Angus Dubhghall, will be playing at a private party (SCV) Monday, December 11, in El Dorado, Arkansas, Monday night, and at a private party (SCV) in West Monroe, Tuesday, December 12. It looks like the next year for the band will be very full. I’ll keep you posted.