Thursday, December 29, 2022

Finished: McCarthy's 'The Road'

 Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" is just another example of how I don't get it as far as what is considered great literature of modern times.

He won a Pulitzer Prize for it; it was a best-seller; and chosen for Oprah's book club. All together now: Oooh, aaah.

I gave it a 5 on the 10-point Haugenometer.

According to Amazon, whose readers gave it a 4.4 of 5:

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don't know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other.

The Road is the profoundly moving story of a journey. It boldly imagines a future in which no hope remains, but in which the father and his son, "each the other's world entire," are sustained by love. Awesome in the totality of its vision, it is an unflinching meditation on the worst and the best that we are capable of: ultimate destructiveness, desperate tenacity, and the tenderness that keeps two people alive in the face of total devastation.

I don't argue that McCarthy is a great author. His shtick of not using commas and quote marks is cute. Heck, I wish it had been the rule of the land when I was kid. Imagine how much easier grammar and composition classes would have been.

But this is just a dull story of a man and boy trekking across barren, burned-out land. They mostly have monosylabic conversations, if you want to call them that. (I think I made that word up.) Nothing profound about it. They don't have names, and you don't know how the world got to this point. If he was going for bleak and boring, mission accomplished. 

McCarthy did a good job of showing probably what a post-apocolyptic world would look like. People not trusting each other, every man for himself kind of thing.

It just didn't do it for me and hardened my resolve to never join the Oprah Book Club.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Books for the kids

 When I was a kid my great-aunt Nora could always be counted on to give us kids gloves or mittens for Christmas. Assuming I lost at least one glove in between holidays, I would freeze my hand or hands until the next Christmas, knowing I'd get a new pair.

So it is that I have the Christmas tradition of giving a sure thing to my kids and their significant others for Christmas. Every other gift they get from ma and pa is labeled "From Mom and Dad," but this one is labeled only from me. And so their brains don't freeze, like Aunt Nora took care of my hands, I give them books. I know four out of the six usually get read. The ones that don't aren't because they aren't a great selection, it's because Junior doesn't read much unless it fits on his phone or it has to be carefully tailored to to his interests. 

After much thought and research during the course of the year, I picked up the following for them:

For history professor and son-in-law Stetston: The Good Country - A History of the American Midwest 1800-1900 by Jon K. Lauck. Even though there was a flagrant omission in the book (no mention of the Haugen empire) I bought it because Jon is a coworker and a friend and I wanted to do my little part to help his sales hit double-digits. 

According to Amazon:

At the center of American history is a hole—a gap where some scholars’ indifference or disdain has too long stood in for the true story of the American Midwest. A first-ever chronicle of the Midwest’s formative century, The Good Country restores this American heartland to its central place in the nation’s history.

Jon K. Lauck, the premier historian of the region, puts midwestern “squares” center stage—an unorthodox approach that leads to surprising conclusions. The American Midwest, in Lauck’s cogent account, was the most democratically advanced place in the world during the nineteenth century. The Good Country describes a rich civic culture that prized education, literature, libraries, and the arts; developed a stable social order grounded in Victorian norms, republican virtue, and Christian teachings; and generally put democratic ideals into practice to a greater extent than any nation to date.

For my son, Luke, the catcher of bad guys: Killing the Mob by Bill O'Reilly. 

The tenth book in Bill O'Reilly's #1 New York Times bestselling series of popular narrative histories, with sales of nearly 18 million copies worldwide, and over 320 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

O’Reilly and co-author Martin Dugard trace the brutal history of 20th Century organized crime in the United States, and expertly plumb the history of this nation’s most notorious serial robbers, conmen, murderers, and especially, mob family bosses. Covering the period from the 1930s to the 1980s, O’Reilly and Dugard trace the prohibition-busting bank robbers of the Depression Era, such as John Dillinger, Bonnie & Clyde, Pretty Boy Floyd and Baby-Face Nelson. In addition, the authors highlight the creation of the Mafia Commission, the power struggles within the “Five Families,” the growth of the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover, the mob battles to control Cuba, Las Vegas and Hollywood, as well as the personal war between the U.S. Attorney General Bobby Kennedy and legendary Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa.

For Katie's Kwinn: Killing the Killers: The Secret War Against Terrorists by Bill O'Reilly.

In Killing The Killers, #1 bestselling authors Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard take readers deep inside the global war on terror, which began more than twenty years ago on September 11, 2001.

As the World Trade Center buildings collapsed, the Pentagon burned, and a small group of passengers fought desperately to stop a third plane from completing its deadly flight plan, America went on war footing. Killing The Killers narrates America's intense global war against extremists who planned and executed not only the 9/11 attacks, but hundreds of others in America and around the world, and who eventually destroyed entire nations in their relentless quest for power.

Killing The Killers moves from Afghanistan to Iraq, Iran to Yemen, Syria, and Libya, and elsewhere, as the United States fought Al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, as well as individually targeting the most notorious leaders of these groups. With fresh detail and deeply-sourced information, O'Reilly and Dugard create an unstoppable account of the most important war of our era.

For daughter, Katie, and because she requested it: The Night Shift by Alex Finlay.

It’s New Year’s Eve 1999. Y2K is expected to end in chaos: planes falling from the sky, elevators plunging to earth, world markets collapsing. A digital apocalypse. None of that happens. But at a Blockbuster Video in New Jersey, four teenagers working late at the store are attacked. Only one inexplicably survives. Police quickly identify a suspect, the boyfriend of one of the victims, who flees and is never seen again.

Fifteen years later, more teenage employees are attacked at an ice cream store in the same town, and again only one makes it out alive.

In the aftermath of the latest crime, three lives intersect: the lone survivor of the Blockbuster massacre who’s forced to relive the horrors of her tragedy; the brother of the fugitive accused, who’s convinced the police have the wrong suspect; and FBI agent Sarah Keller who must delve into the secrets of both nights—stirring up memories of teen love and lies—to uncover the truth about murders on the night shift.

For daughter, Rylee: The Lost Girls of Willowbrook - A Heartbreaking Novel of Survival Based on a True Story by by Ellen Marie Wiseman.

Sage Winters always knew her sister was a little different even though they were identical twins. They loved the same things and shared a deep understanding, but Rosemary—awake to every emotion, easily moved to joy or tears—seemed to need more protection from the world.

Six years after Rosemary’s death from pneumonia, Sage, now sixteen, still misses her deeply. Their mother perished in a car crash, and Sage’s stepfather, Alan, resents being burdened by a responsibility he never wanted. Yet despite living as near strangers in their Staten Island apartment, Sage is stunned to discover that Alan has kept a shocking secret: Rosemary didn’t die. She was committed to Willowbrook State School and has lingered there until just a few days ago, when she went missing.

Sage knows little about Willowbrook. It’s always been a place shrouded by rumor and mystery. A place local parents threaten to send misbehaving kids. With no idea what to expect, Sage secretly sets out for Willowbrook, determined to find Rosemary. What she learns, once she steps through its doors and is mistakenly believed to be her sister, will change her life in ways she never could imagined ...

For daughter-in-law Kayla, I'm starting her on a new detective series I've heard about but haven't read myself. Hopefully they're good and she can lend them back to me. They're the first two paperbacks in the 18-book series.

Still Life: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel (#1) by Louise Penny.

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surêté du Québec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montreal. Jane Neal, a local fixture in the tiny hamlet of Three Pines, just north of the U.S. border, has been found dead in the woods. The locals are certain it's a tragic hunting accident and nothing more, but Gamache smells something foul in these remote woods, and is soon certain that Jane Neal died at the hands of someone much more sinister than a careless bowhunter.

Still Life introduces not only an engaging series hero in Inspector Gamache, who commands his forces---and this series---with integrity and quiet courage, but also a winning and talented new writer of traditional mysteries in the person of Louise Penny.

A Fatal Grace: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel (#2) by Louise Penny.

Welcome to winter in Three Pines, a picturesque village in Quebec, where the villagers are preparing for a traditional country Christmas, and someone is preparing for murder.

No one liked CC de Poitiers. Not her quiet husband, not her spineless lover, not her pathetic daughter―and certainly none of the residents of Three Pines. CC de Poitiers managed to alienate everyone, right up until the moment of her death.

When Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, of the Sûreté du Quebec, is called to investigate, he quickly realizes he's dealing with someone quite extraordinary. CC de Poitiers was electrocuted in the middle of a frozen lake, in front of the entire village, as she watched the annual curling tournament. And yet no one saw anything. Who could have been insane enough to try such a macabre method of murder―or brilliant enough to succeed?

And granddaughter Josie begins her literary journey with: My First Disney Classics Bedtime Storybook. It includes: The Lion King, Dumbo, The Jungle Book, Bambi, Alice in Wonderland and 1001 Dalmations.

I hope you Aunt Nora or Santa were good to you as well.

Friday, December 23, 2022

'Bags' books free for a short time

 One of my distributors,, has a year-end promotion going on (never end a sentence with a preposition). 

Since I'm in a good mood I've made all three Bags Morton books available for free. Go to, sign in and search my name (it's listed at the top of this blog) and download away.

Then you will be properly prepared for the fourth book in the series coming in early 2023.

The Haugen Christmas letter, unthawed and uncensored

 It's time for the annual Haugen holiday communique in which I highlight all the good things that happened in our family in 2022 and leave out the bad stuff because you don't want to get me on a rant about the people who really pissed me off this year. 

The big news is the expansion of the Haugen Empire. 

Josie Jayne Kastengren came into the world on Easter Sunday, daughter of Rylee and Stetson. She's named after my dad, Joseph, and Stetson's grandma, Jayne. Sorry to break it to you other grandpas and grandmas out there, but yours is now only the second cutest granddaughter in the world. Smart as a whip too: Josie already knows her multiplication tables and babbles in English, Lakota and Norwegian. She's got a killer smile and more cheeks than the Kardashians in string bikinis. 

All three of them (the Kastengrens, not the Kardashians, thank God) spent a couple months this summer with us at the Haugen compound by Rapid City. Rylee made a small but positive career change this fall - going from teaching science to 130 seventh-graders and all the drama that middle-schoolers bring, to teaching 23 fifth-graders who actually still listen to adults and want to learn. Stetson is teaching at the University of Illinois and wrapping up his doctoral studies. They were back for Thanksgiving and seem to have taken well to parenthood.

The other newbie has been around for a few years but officially became a Haugen and is enjoying all the perks of that lofty title (including, but not limited to, free ice water at Wall Drug). Kayla and Luke were married in October here in the City of Rapids. They make their home in a Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C., where Kayla recently attained her Master's Degree from Drexel. She is managing a store in Tysons Corner while job hunting for something more in her public health field. Luke continues to track down bad guys during the week and hunting deer, turkey and bear on weekends. He continues to impress and amaze me with the quality young man he's become.

Katie put another notch in her belt last month, managing another winning campaign for her boss, Congressman Dusty Johnson. I run into her a lot as our jobs often intertwine. It's fun watching her in action and seeing how she's adopted some of my better qualities while forgoing my grumpiness and cynicism. Those will come with time. Her longtime boyfriend, Kwinn, is still around and has become one of the family. He'd become a bigger part if he'd let me know where some of the gold deposits are in the Hills.

Our adopted son, Kirk, is doing a heck of a job leading his band of Norsemen. I'm still not ready to utter the "SB" word but if he manages to pull that off I promise to leave the family fortune solely to him (I hope he enjoys the riding lawn mower and 1,000 books).

Nancy, aka Wifey, continues assisting her chiropractor boss and they moved into a glitzy new office. She's still the social butterfly of our household and pries me out of the house on occasion to make me talk to people. Otherwise, she's a regular in her gym and enjoys long hikes away from me.

I'm wrapping up 18 years with Senator Thune. His recent blowout reelection (sorry, DT) should take me into retirement down the road, though no plans on that front, since I enjoy my job and coworkers and don't really see anything I'd rather be doing. My golf game sucks and I can't shoot straight, so it's not real enticing to pursue those hobbies any more regularly than I already do.

On a sour note, the day I'd been regretting for a while finally came last spring when we had to put down my buddy, Stanley. I still get choked up when I think about it and really miss him.

Ol' Huckleberry was similarly hit hard by the loss, so with that as my excuse, we added a puppy to the household. Finn is a chocolate lab who is high energy from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. He carries his orange ball with him everywhere, constantly begging anyone to throw it for him. He's really turned into a momma's boy but is really good company on my many walks and jogs. Looks like he's going to be an acrobatic Frisbee player too, though without opposable thumbs he's not very good at throwing it back.

So that's it from the Haugen house in 2022. Another memory filled year. I don't often look all that enthused about things (I suffer from Resting Bored Face), but when I reflect back on the years with these retrospectives I am reminded of what a wonderful life and wife I have. And I am so proud that we have three kids who are good people, each excelling in three very different occupations, of which the only thing in common is that they are helping people and making the world a better place. What more could a guy ask for?

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Grandpa Haugen