Howard McEwen

Novelist — Beekeeper — Cocktails — Book Reviews

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Bow Tie Articles

January 14th, 2016 · No Comments

Since last summer I’ve been posting pieces on Bow Tie Aficionado but not posting them here. So here they all are so far.

Bow Ties at a Funeral

It’s  Bow Tie…Not a Bow Untied

Bow Tie Review: Tie Room Marvin and Pilou

Bow Ties are NOT Cool

Pensee Bow Ties Review

Bow Tie Review: Bow Tie Club Excelsior

Disappointment When I Don’t Wear a Bow Tie

How to Get Your Fella to Wear a Bow Tie

Weight Loss and Bow Tie Courage

Bow Tie Questions

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2015 Reading Goal – The Old Testament

January 14th, 2016 · No Comments

When I was young, my grandfather told me he had read the Bible cover to cover when he was young. I was impressed by that and had a desire to do it myself.

But never did. I mean. It’s the Bible. Who wants to read that for pleasure?

Finally, in 2015, I did. And not for pleasure. Just to do it.

My thoughts:

First off, my perspective of the Bible stories was so off. Things that loom large in my mind – Jonah and the Whale – for instance, is just a few hundred words of narrative. Before reading, I would have given a much larger estimate. In fact, most of the most memorable stories are told almost in passing.

Second, if you wanted to write a book and have a people of the book that had guilt encoded into their DNA, this would be the book. If you want to feel horrible about mankind and it’s place in the world, this is the book. If you want to really feel like you were born with original sin, dive into this.

Third, aside from the laws and the stories what I was most left with is the relationship between God and his people. And that relationship was pretty messed up. As I kept reading again and again about how his people were special and chosen but had disappointed God and he was going to punish them, I felt like I was in a couple’s psycho-drama. I felt like it was the telling of a classic abusive relationship. A masculine God telling his ‘chosen’ people that they were alternative loved and horrible. That they were special and in need of punishment.

I wanted to take his people to a shelter and get them away from this guy messing with their head all the time.

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2015 in Review – A Year of Tolkien. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings

January 14th, 2016 · No Comments

My reading goal in 2015 was to really get to know Tolkien. I wanted to read the Hobbit, LOTRs, and the Silmarillion.

I almost did it.

When I read the last page of the Return of the King in early December and started looking at the Silmarillion, I just couldn’t. I debated but I’d had enough of Tolkien. It isn’t naturally my cup of tea and reading what one reviewed wrote of the Silmarillion – a cross between the Bible and the phone book – just put me off.

As noted in my notes on the Hobbit, I’m not a fantasy guy. I don’t lean that way and after reading the LOTRs, I still don’t. I especially didn’t enjoy Tolkien. Yes, this is blasphemy. But it’s not a critic of Tolkien, as I confess, it’s not my thing and I simply don’t have the education or appreciate for all that Tolkien was doing.

I get the hero’s journey and all that. I can see much of the symbolism. But as a story – as just a story – there were two huge faults keeping me from enjoying the story. If you’ve not noticed, it’s all about story for me.

First, there needed to be an editor. I feel like the emperor in Amadeus saying there’s “too many notes” but…there’s too many words. So much of the book is padding that doesn’t add to the story. Maybe it adds to the atmosphere or the world Tolkien was creating but all those extraneous words deflates the story and simply drags it out. It just wouldn’t end.

Second, far too much of the story is told off-page. A beginning writer dictum is to “show don’t tell”. How many times in the LOTRs does a character (often Gandalf) reunite with some of those of the Fellowship and then goes on for page after page TELLING us what he’s been up to. I would have far preferred to go on that journey with him. And with Gandalf after the Balrog.

Overall, I’m glad I did it. I’m glad I put this series of books behind me and brought what has become so much of the culture into my own mind.

But I’m glad I didn’t punish myself with the Silmirillion and I’m glad it’s behind me. If I want to revisit it, I’ll rent one of the films.

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The Fellowship of the Ring

August 14th, 2015 · No Comments

One of my reading projects for 2015 was to read the Hobbit, Lord of the Rings and the Silmarillion.

As I wrote about The Hobbit back in January, I’m not a fantasy guy. Wizards, magic, dragons, elves and the like make me go running. But I read the books incompletely as a teenager and knew so so a more thorough reading was always out there as a challenge.

After reading The Fellowship, I still don’t get fantasy but not long after starting it, I did know enough to know I wasn’t educated enough to appreciate half the novels – it’s history, it’s roots, it’s background in Northern European traditions. So I found a lecture series to guide me a bit. I would recommend that to anyone. If the importance outside the novel of the novel wasn’t explained to me, I would have lost interest in the middle of an argument between a dwarf and an elf.

As for the story telling…it’s imaginative but…that old writers dictum about showing and not telling? I wish Tolkien had done more of that. So many thinks are described by one character to another character. Gandalf, mostly. He has all the adventures off stage and then comes back and tells Frodo or someone about it.

Just show us what’s happening, Professor Tolkien. Jeez.

And the talking…so much talking…which is often my thing…if it gave any insight. Maybe it does and I’m missing it. I may be blinded by my prejudice against fantasy. And I see that as something I lack, not the novel. I wish I could sink into that world a bit more…or at all. It would be a wonder, I’m sure, to be immersed in it.

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Bow Ties are the Wave Runner of the Men’s Fashion World.

August 14th, 2015 · No Comments

And here’s why I think that.

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Here’s How I Wear My Bow Tie…But You Do Your Own Thing

August 14th, 2015 · No Comments

And here’s how I wear my bow tie.

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Bow Ties are the Practical Tie

August 14th, 2015 · No Comments

My newest piece for Bow Tie Aficianado is here.

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The Courage to Wear a Bow Tie

July 8th, 2015 · No Comments

Here is my second post for Bow Tie Aficionado.

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Bow Tie Aficionado First Post

June 23rd, 2015 · No Comments

Here’s my first post for the site Bow Tie Aficionado.

There will be more to come.

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Observations on The Hobbit

January 26th, 2015 · No Comments

Here’s the thing: I’m not a fantasy guy.

I never got it as a young reader. I was more practical minded. A story had to be real. Dragons and wizards and elfs were…well, they were silly. And not a road to go down for a teenager looking to lose his virginity.

But I had friends who read fantasy. They were big thick books that they lost themselves in. So i was curious but I just couldn’t get pas the silliness of them.

Tolkien, however, seemed different. I read the Hobbit very early. I read started The Fellowship of the Ring a few times. There was something there. I wasn’t sure what but something I couldn’t quite understand or wrap my head around. At the Georgetown Public Library in Fort Wayne Indiana the trilogy was bound in these large heavy volumes that lent weight to the story.

As I said, I could never get through them. They simply didn’t hook me like other authors did. Again, I think it was the fantasy element. I have a irritating habit of being unable to suspend my disbelief. This has served me well in places like casinos or strip clubs where I see men believing they could win or that the nude girl really did like him for things other than his dollar bills.

So fantasy and Tolkien, in particular, remained an unanswered challenge from my youth.

Could I read a 1,500 page trilogy about elves and dwarves and hobbits and dragons, etc.

We’ll see in 2015 when I commit to binge reading Tolkien.

I began at the beginning with The Hobbit.

My thoughts?

Nice story. Well told. One thing I didn’t remember from reading as a kid is how often and effortlessly and unself-consciously Tolkien the author inserts himself into the story with little asides and remarks. Just like a story telling father would do. Obviously he wrote it as if he was telling a bedtime story to his children. And that’s how I read it. As if someone was telling me a story. And, truth be told, that’s 90% of what I want in a novel. Deeper meaning and insight is great but nothing if the story doesn’t make me turn the page.

Another characteristic I didn’t remember from reading as a kid was how in-your-face Bilbo gets. My memory made him something of a wimp who was dragged along on this adventure all the way but there are nice moments where he takes control and, for lack of a better expression, ‘man’s up’.

The only let down was that Bilbo and company didn’t kill the dragon. Somehow in my mind, I had Bilbo killing him when it’s rather plain that he didn’t. No, the bete noir of the entire novel was killed by a character that was introduced right at the end. And hardly at all.

It did set up the Battle of the Five Armies which was nice but that seemed somewhat lacking. Bilbo finds the dragon’s weak spot but isn’t able to do the dead himself. The small versus big play that could have been done would have been fun. I found it a flaw.

My only wish: I wish I would have gone back to The Hobbit earlier, when my children were young enough that they would have let me read it to them. It is fun.

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