The Right to Read and Write: Thoughts on Independence Day 2016

Since I was a young guy I have been an omnivorous reader of just about anything and everything I can get my hands on.

I don’t care if it’s the latest’s Hemingway biography, a literary classic or the back of a shampoo bottle – I read it.

Like travel, regardless of your age or stage, reading expands your mind – makes it more limber, anyway – while enhancing the mental clarity, vocabulary and insight required for living a deeper, more inspired life.

If you teach your children and grandchildren nothing else – teach them to read well.

I don’t know how your summer book list is shaping up, but I always find it interesting to see what other people are reading.

The New York Times Insider series “By the Book” will periodically post interviews with authors, journalists, editors, celebrities, political commentators and Washington-types.  They always begin with the very interesting question, “What books are currently on your nightstand?”

The answers have always intrigued me and give an oblique insight into the individual’s personality, interests and values.

I currently have several great reads in active rotation (literally on my nightstand – or Kindle) which include:

Stephen King: On Writing.

Part memoir and part master-class tutorial on the craft of writing.  So far, superb.

Red Right Return – A Buck Reilly Novel by John H. Cunningham.

When I was a child, the Hardy Boys got me hooked on reading.  Soon, Joe and Frank were replaced by the fabulous Travis McGee novels by John D. MacDonald (simply delightful books).

Red Right Return is proving to be a great Florida-based gumshoe adventure.

I also enjoyed the Hoke Mosely detective series by Charles Willeford.  Pure fun.

Both the Travis McGee and Hoke Mosely works are crime/detective fiction set in Florida’s murky underworld and I enjoy the familiar locations and plot lines that often read like a Carl Hiaasen or Dave Barry column.

If you haven’t yet read Tim Dorsey’s “Serge Storm” series, your missing out – classic Sunshine State characters and hands down one of the funniest, most engaging series you will ever read.

In Red Right Return, Buck Reilley lives in the La Concha Hotel in Key West and operates Last Resort Charter and Salvage aboard a 1946 Grumman Widgeon flying boat.

So far, a great read.

The Raw and the Cooked: Adventures of a Roving Gourmand by Jim Harrison.

From the New York Times Book Review, Jim Harrison is not your average foodie. He is no pinkie-in-the-air fusspot who finds delight in taste-testing balsamic vinegar or drizzling sea salt from some distant shore on his blanched asparagus stalks. In this collection of his essays and correspondence, ”The Raw and the Cooked,” he presents himself as the Yosemite Sam of dining — a rootin’, tootin’ culinary combo plate of Hunter S. Thompson, Ernest Hemingway, Julian Schnabel and Sam Peckinpah. He eats with vigor and writes with unbounded gusto. His enthusiasms are so visceral that readers may put the book down feeling as if they have just been trampled by the bulls at Pamplona.

I highly recommend anything written by the late Jim Harrison – outstanding.

Ballet for Guys by Will Kern.

This novel was written by my high school friend, Will Kern, and published by Canopic Publishing, a small, quality-over-quantity publishing house owned and operated by another high school friend (and one of the finest writers practicing the craft today) Mr. Phil Rice.  (

In addition to this first novel Will is also the author of “Hellcab,” one of the longest-running shows in Chicago theatre history.  He is also an accomplished screen writer and producer of award-winning short films.  A true Renaissance man.

Will Kern currently lives with his wife and son in South Korea.

I look forward to starting Ballet for Guys as my first fun-read of our summer vacation in Key West later this month.

And please check out Phil Rice’s latest work, “Winter Sun: A Memoir of Love and Hospice.”  An important and poignant chronical of Phil’s end-of-life journey with his late wife Janice.  Incredibly moving.  Winter Sun is available on Amazon.

How It Was by Mary Welsh Hemingway.

Through the years I have read virtually every Hemingway biography ever written.  Trust me – there are a lot of them.  I recently found this excellent first-person account written by Papa’s fourth wife.  First published in October 1976, Mary tells the story of her often tumultuous life with Hemingway from Cuba to that tragic morning in Ketchum.

While I realize that there is very little new material that can be written about the great man’s life and times (many of the recent bios are little more than psycho-analytical bullshit mixed with supporting anecdotes) I do think the thoughts and revelations of his most intimate partner should make for an interesting and thought-provoking read.

And that completes my summer reading list, for now anyway.

I would love to hear about yours.

I am also interested in how people read today.  Do you prefer hard/soft cover tomes or electronic platforms like Kindle and Nook?  I use both.

The convenience of downloading books on my iPad-based Kindle cannot be ignored.  But most out-of-print or obscure material can only be enjoyed the good old fashioned way.

My wife Patti takes the technological short-cut of books on tape.  She regularly loads up her iPod with novels of all genres – mysteries, historical romance, fantasy, you name it – and she listens to them everywhere.

I’m convinced it’s actually her way of effectively ignoring me – put the old earbuds in and tune out the moans and ravings of the old man…

Smart woman.

In addition to books, I have always been a prolific consumer of daily newspapers.

On any given day I skim four or five (always online) in addition to the morning electronic edition of the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

I also very much enjoy Henry Frederick’s always informative take on the local political scene on his online site Headline Surfer.

Sometimes, just for fun, I’ll select an English language paper from some weird Third World hellhole, or a location I happen to be interested in from a geo-political standpoint, and see what’s going on in their backyard.

During one of these recent forays into the foreign press, I came across a piece in an online aggregator called “Caribbean News Now!” written by Arley Gill – a magistrate and former minister of culture on the island of Grenada – entitled, “Politicians are the same everywhere.”

The lede immediately caught my eye.  I have always suspected that about politicians.

Essentially, Mr. Gill described the ‘gutter’ politics inherent to the process in most areas of the Caribbean basin.  As he chronicled the current U.S. presidential election, he equated the ugly tone and name-calling by certain candidates to the historical enmity seen in his own local politics.

In short, Mr. Gill wrapped up his thoughts by saying, “The Yankees now have taken it to a place where we have been for the longest while.”

Interesting how others see us when viewed from afar.  Something we should learn from.

I thought about sending Mr. Gill some clippings from Volusia County – talk about your gutter politics.  Whoa.

Since I began writing this blog I have enjoyed the opportunity to interact with many readers – some I know, some I’ve never met – and discuss their various thoughts and insights on the issues of the day.  They are almost always incredibly kind and generous with their criticism of my posts and provide so much moral support and “stick with it” encouragement.

Needless to say, I have been most impressed by the remarkable intelligence and thoughtfulness of the Barker’s View readership.

I have also been contacted by several candidates for local political office who ask for my advice or take on one topic or another.  Sometimes I feel the need to remind them that I am essentially a retired dude hunched over a keyboard in my boxers – clearly, with too much time on my hands.

But I appreciate the fact that they value my opinion and try hard to help when I can.

Some regular readers call or text and take me to task for something I’ve said that they disagree with – sometimes vehemently – and that keeps me humble, focused, and on my toes.  They often give me “the rest of the story” that perhaps I missed, and urge me to do my “F-ing” homework before blathering on about things I know nothing about.

It shows the length to which some very special and intelligent people are moved by local issues and politics, and they want me to get it right.  Dammit.

Of course, there is a very small percentage of readers who, for some reason, just don’t get it.  Unfortunately, I have to remind them that this forum is like a television – you can simply turn it off.

Please feel free to keep me honest.  I value the constructive criticism.

Trust me – I’ve got some thick skin and I can take as good as I give.  We can still be friends.

I try hard to stick to the facts as I know them, but let’s face it, these missives are purely my own jumbled thoughts and weird opinions – I’m not publishing the Washington Post here – but I try to keep it in the middle lane while having some fun with Volusia County’s self-important politicians and pompous ruling class.

As citizens of the greatest nation in the history of the world, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees us all the right to form independent opinions, speak our mind and write what we feel.

It also affords us the right to a free and unfettered press, to peaceably assemble for lawful purposes and to petition our government for redress of grievances.

I can’t think of anything more important.  These rights form the very backbone of our American way of life.

We keep these rights and freedoms limber by exercising them.  Regularly.

On this Independence Day, please take the opportunity to read something provocative, speak out passionately on an issue, enjoy a newspaper and form any opinion you want on any issue that is important you.

Then take a minute to remember the millions around the globe who live under the iron boot of brutal and oppressive regimes, and the thousands imprisoned for daring to speak their mind or hold viewpoints contrary to those acceptable to the state.

Folks, that’s what it’s all about.

These freedoms are the very reason we are being attacked by radical Islamic terrorists and bashed by every tin pot dictator in the world.  They hate us because we represent everything they despise – basic human rights, religious freedom, protection from oppression and the inalienable right to determine one’s own destiny.

Take a stand.  Exercise your right to read, speak and live your lives as free and equal citizens.

And, most important, let’s remember those heroes who sacrificed their lives to preserve this incredible, and extremely fragile, way of life.

It’s important.

Have a wonderful Independence Day, everyone.




5 thoughts on “The Right to Read and Write: Thoughts on Independence Day 2016

  1. Good read! (Pun intended) Here in Debary we frown on freedom of opinion (and fact) regarding the written word. The council just essentially told the mayor that if he didn’t stop tweeting about city staff and council that they would find a way to remove him. It is so outrageous to me. He is up for re-election in two years. Let the people who don’t like it vote against him. As I enjoy the fireworks I will feel a little less proud. I enjoy hearing what’s on the mind of my elected officials. So, politicians are the same everywhere? Maybe they don’t start out that way.

    Thanks for your blog. Happy Independence Day! 🇺🇸🇺🇸


  2. Good reading list, but you left off:
    “Eat, Bray, Love: My Life as a Jackass” by Mule Brenner, and
    “Donkey Hoetee” by Burr O. Longears.
    Other than that, it’s a complete list.


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