It is a whirlwind in here



Kafka’s Secure Burrow For World Book Day


{Books by Franz Kafka]


A burrow offers security and comfort, and Kafka found both in his sister’s tiny house on the Golden Lane.

Ottla – his sister – had rented it so she could spend time with her lover and not be bothered by parents and comments. Her lover was a Christian and ready to go to war. Time was precious.

However, she rarely had opportunities other than the weekends, so she offered Franz the use of the tiny house for most of that time. And use it he did, though he never stayed the night.

Through fall, winter and spring Kafka wrote a whole book of short stories. For one single block of time, it was one of his most creative periods.

When I visited, even under Communist rule, it had been converted to a book store. Of course (which he would have appreciated) there were no books by Kafka for sale. Today he is displayed in the windows.

It was only when I went thorough the small rooms, and looked out the window into The Stag Moat, that I realized how important the house would become in my novel about Kafka. It was cozy – even with the space cramped by tourists. It had been little altered and I easily imagined Kafka looking through the same glass and walking through the same doorways. No doubt stooping because he was tall. Research met reality.

One of the last stories Kafka wrote, during his final year in Berlin, was called The Burrow. A version exists and is published, though a longer version is supposed to be among his ‘missing’ papers.

In it, a tiny animal keeps incessantly burrowing to keep away from an enemy. A vague noise convinces the animal to burrow deeper, and deeper, and deeper.

Something Kafka himself attempted to do.

(Image) https:/

Amazing Elephant Stories Please The Nun



A number of years ago I received a phone call from a rather panicked Government Administrator. There was a huge weekend Arts Conference being held, for all disciplines in the province. A reader who was to present – well, entertainment – at lunch was unable to attend. Could I fill in for him. It was two days away.

Yes, said I.

My Elephant stories are all under five minutes, and they are all amusing. They read themselves. Why not.

What I did not realize was the extent of this conference. Nor did I fully appreciate that the readings were to be held during the luncheon. Something like an after dinner speech. In the middle of the day.

There was one other English reader, the late Bill Bauer. Bill is a genius, a wit, a funny fellow, and an excellent reader. A tough act to follow so I was glad to be a co-participant. The other two readers were reading in French (New Brunswick is a bi-lingual province). They were to go first, Bill and I second.

The venue – for a reader – was a hell-hole (if I may be blunt). Two large rooms filled with tables and post-meal listeners. There was no way to face them all at the same time. Bill seemed fazed by nothing but I was uncomfortable. I was glad enough the French readers went first.

They were both poets (as was Bill). My French is far from the best but, by their reading method and the reaction of the audience, it appeared that they read the most dour and angst-filled poems imaginable. Sadness and despair crept through the room(s). At least Bill and I would be a contrast.

Bill is an excellent reader – a performer, in fact. He knows when to show them and knows when to hold them. He is insightful, philosophical, inovative and just damned funny. I will laugh at a poem of his which I have read a dozen times. Few can successfully end a poem with the main character screaming the immortal words: “Aphids, aphids, aphids.” Bill does.

It may be that we were both assisted by the dour poets, for Bill’s applause was enthusiastic. I was admittedly disconcerted by attempting to read to these hundreds of people scatted upon two sides of me. But – let’s face it – ya gotta laugh at The Elephant as he takes his concerns to God. And (I hope) appreciate God’s thoughtful and kindly replies. If Bill left them laughing (and he did) then The Elephant left them laughing more.

At the end it was time for all the participants to bustle back to their conferences. But some did come up to make comments to the readers. And then occurred an event which I will cherish to my grave. An elderly French nun (in real nun garb) came up to me. She was assisted by a younger nun. The old sister put her hand on my arm. She looked up at me, and in a conspiratorial voice, thick with her French accent, said: “Ah, that Elephant.” And she smiled.

The Books That Shakespeare Read (And Used)

I have always found it odd  that so little is known about Shakespeare (and not just because I’m in an era where you can stick a couple of pieces of information about a person into a search engine and usually find out a lot more about them).
What did the Bard own – a shredder?
Anyway, although I usually find infographics too twee, and do not often look at them, I’m hypocrite enough to glom onto one which is of a topic that fascinates me. I find this information about Shakespeare’s reading habits (and about books themselves) well worth the perusal.
“Sir, he hath not fed of the dainties that are bred in a book; He hath not eat paper, as it were; he hath not drunk ink; his intellect is not replenished; he is only an animal, only sensible in the duller parts… ”  Love’s Labour’s Lost Act IV, Scene II

Who was on Shakespeare’s bookshelf? [infographic]

George Bernard Shaw once remarked on William Shakespeare’s “gift of telling a story (provided some one else told it to him first).” Shakespeare knew the works of many great writers, such as Raphael Holinshed, Ludovico Ariosto, and Geoffrey Chaucer. How did these men, and many others, influence Shakespeare and his work? The process of printing a book in the 16th century was demanding and expensive, and a printing house’s products were only available to a fraction of the English population. We explore the English Renaissance reading environment in the infographic below.

Download the infographic as a PDF or JPG.

– See more at:

The Gun Is Mightier Than The Book In Austin, Texas

“So, is that a gun in your holster? Ain’t ya glad to see me?”

“Lookin’ for a book!”

“What book?”

“Doesn’t matter – all I want to do is shoot it.”

“Shoot it?”

“And any bastard unAmerican enough to read it.”


“If he can read he ain’t a real American.”

“But you’re in a book store.”

“Yeh – well, we’ll soon be burning all those down.”

“You’re going to torch bookstores?”

“They’re full of Commie/leftwing/socialist/wetback/baby-killin’ Christ-killers. They get it from books.”


“And readin’.”


“Jesus never read a book.”

{As if I could ever make this stuff up.}





Bookshop’s prices shot down 10% for customers openly carrying guns

Brave New Books in Austin is celebrating relaxation of Texas laws by offering a discount to shoppers who ‘open carry’

Is that a gun in your pocket? Austin bookshop will be pleased to see you ... a man at a rally in support of open carry gun laws in Austin, Texas.
Is that a gun in your pocket? Austin bookshop will be pleased to see you … a man at a rally in support of open carry gun laws in Austin, Texas. Photograph: Eric Gay/AP

A bookshop in Texas is offering a 10% discount to customers who are legally “open carrying” a handgun while shopping for new reading material.

Brave New Books, which says it stocks a mix of “conspiracy, economic policy, history, and politics” books, as well as “selections about sustainability, survival [and] preparedness”, made the announcement in late January. It follows the loosening of gun restrictions in Texas at the start of the year, allowing the visible carrying of handguns.

“Brave New Books is the only open carry friendly bookstore in Austin TX and now we have a special promotion where we are offering 10% off all purchases when legally open carrying a handgun. Be sure to recognise the four firearms rules while at Brave,” wrote the store on Facebook.

Brave New Books, which describes itself as “anti-war, anti-state and pro-market”, also hosted an “open carry and firearms freedom symposium” last weekend to answer questions about the legislation. “We’ll here [sic] from owner of Central Texas Gun Works, Michael Cargill. We’ll take part in a firearms safety course from our good friend Stephen Sheftall. And we will hear from a panel of gun rights activists about the latest in the fight for firearms freedom in Texas,” the shop wrote. “And for a limited time only if you come in to Brave New Books safely open carrying a firearm, you can get 10% off anything in the store! That’s right. We want to celebrate your decision to take security in to your own hands by giving you 10% off any product in the store for safely open carrying your firearm.”

General manager John Bush told KVUE: “We appreciate it when people take security and defence into their own hands. In a world where mass shootings are happening more and more, when seconds count, it’s up to we the people to protect our community.”

Other bookshops in the city have taken a different approach, said KVUE: Half-Price Books and Book People have both said no to customers open carrying in their stores. But publisher Melville House, on its blog MobyLives, speculated that Brave New Books’s move looked less like a “political stand” than a “canny marketing stunt that preaches to the converted”.






The Time It Takes To Read A Book



I am wary of gimmicks that the internet allows and – indeed – encourages. And maybe I am a bit wary of this one but, I gotta say, it interests me.And when I went to look, it offers more than just the come on.

“How Long To Read This .com” is just as advertised.Put in the title of a book, and you will be told how long it should take you to read it. There is even a timer you can set as you read a sample.  You are told how long it takes you to read the sample, and then extrapolates how long it will take you to read the book.

One of the nicer aspects of this site is, when you put in a book title, a number of different issues of the book appear. You can click on the image of the issue most appealing and get information about it.

Two of my favourite books (which I re-read) are Thomas Mann’s “The Magic Mountain” and  James Joyce’s “Ulysses”.

I’m told about Mann: “You read 95 words in 23 seconds and your average speed is 248 words per minute. It will take you 12 hours and 37 minutes to complete this book.

I’m told about Joyce: “You read 67 words in 20 seconds and your average speed is 201 words per minute. It will take you 15 hours and 13 minutes to complete this book.”

Kafka’s Metamorphosis, on the other hand: “You read 62 words in 19 seconds and your average speed is 196 words per minute. It will take you 0 hours and 57 minutes to complete this book.”

I know you are also shown where you can buy each book on Amazon, but, I can live with that.




About Us


How Long to Read is a book search engine that helps you find out how long it will take to read books and provide reading time data that is tailored to you. With our simple WPM (words per minute) test you can find out how long it will take you to read almost anything, and also use our search engine to find books that will fit the time you have to read. How Long to Read has been featured in, Yahoo! News, and other well known websites and blogs.

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Live Reading From: “The Elephant Talks To God”

Tracked down to my own apartment, I give a sample reading from my book of short stories, “The Elephant Talks To God”. And I explain the genesis of the book. Gotta say, it might have been more entertaining to emote some of the Elephant’s poetry.

The book itself:


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