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Richard W Moss

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by Richard W Moss   

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Publisher:  Hats Off Books ISBN-10:  1587360454 Type: 


Copyright:  Jun 1 2001

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Northspur is a yarn of a young poet and family man in search of truth. On the way, he wrestles with self-doubt, his ego, his uncontrolled male sexuality and his family's expectations.

From avoiding a race riot to avoiding the Vietnam War, this dusty young soul with family in tow travels from east to west to east, only to become an unwitting nomad trying desperately to come to terms with the hypocrisy and the hairsplitting of American culture. Along the way Richard comes across a multitude of interesting characters and ideas, some of those he cannot understand and many who cannot understand him. In his desire to retreat and hide from a 'world of warriors', he grapples with morality and loses. Richard gets on the same train that all the rest of us get on and spends many a day during his journey trying to figure out just where the hell we're going. Northspur heralds the stops along the way. Excerpt
Crab boats run up and down the river, devoid of purpose if you watch them from shore. Not quite able to figure out what the hell they are doing, until armed with binoculars, you see these crusty old and young hard working fools reach down and pull up crab pot after crab pot and then you realize the point of these absurd looking boats. High at the bow and low at the stern, surreal in their frothy plow through the water, as if someone painted their pictures on the lens of the binoculars, Iíve been on one of these boats, long ago when I was young, only for a visit, not to work because that would be unthinkable. Thatís real honest-to-god backbreaking work. I was out there, merely to visit, to laugh at them silently for I was better than they, smarter than all those fools because I knew how to avoid such work. I was a fool too, haughty, arrogant and unlike them but very much like the end of the crabbing day when all the many baskets of these little monsters were removed from the boat. I have since become as empty as that boat, as empty as the hot, unclouded July evening, not yet as empty as the universe, not yet as empty as the soul of every god they ever told me about, but simply, clearly and sometimes delightfully full of nothing.

Full of nothing. That is me now. I add up to nothing so I am now uncountable and content.

Also, and I almost forgot, I am a crab now. Or, I was a crab. Iím not sure when I was or if I still am because often I confuse the past with the present, as if mentally-challenged. Sometimes, itís all very confusing anyway and I am so glad that I am sane and straight about the future. Nothing to it. In the future I am dead. It is very comforting. And scary. Relief and fear. Almost as good as rum and coke.

And keep in mind that the past is the future and the future is the past. That leaves us with the present which is an illusion. That leaves us with nothing, which is okay with me.

Yes, I am a crab but I am not the walrus. When I was young, the Beatles insisted on telling me that we were all the walrus and egg man and so on and so on. I sometimes feel as fat as the walrus. Friends and family tell me I am not fat, merely well proportioned but what do they know.

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Reader Reviews for "Northspur"

Reviewed by Shelley Moss 11/7/2007
Northspur by Richard Wilson Moss is undoubtedly foremost a piece of poetry guised as prose and self described as a poem of love (per the author: the ultimate poem and the heart of all poetic creation). The structure of the book contains recurring themes, beats and stanzas that giveaway this first intention while interspersed with more formal bits of poetry within this semi-autobiographical story to punctuate slight changes in mood and tone. Whereas the first half of the book contains many comical episodes and interesting observations throughout Richardís youth the last half shifts focus to more mature musings (the kind of thoughts most of us turn toward when selfishness has begin to lose itís luster and we begin practicalities of raising a family) without losing itís playful irreverence for all things authority.
On the first read this shift created a feeling of unevenness for me, however after a second reading I was able to pick up on the common themes in both halves and reconcile them, smoothing the transition. The authorís humor works well in blunting some of the occasional sharp statements he makes about American society, itís hypocrisies and the trivial banalities that have helped shape his life (such as the psychological impression left on him by societyís strange responses to the cold war: teaching children to hide under their school desks in the event of WWIII). Thus, the introduction of a major theme of the story: to take life seriously only to the extent needed and not a bit more. In other words to respond with urgency to the basic necessity of paying the rent but not losing ones basic enjoyment of life in the process and ignoring the incessant pursuit of the chimera of American ďsuccessĒ (that is: material wealth = happiness, the countryís GNP = GOD).
Another major theme concerns the confrontation of manís spirit with the blunt realities of the world including those of poverty, war and every human misery life has to offer, wrestling for answers, failing and continuing to wrestle. These themes clearly grow from the authorís knowledge of eastern philosophy with itís implications that life contains a constant undercurrent of suffering, as is evident while reading about Richardís internal struggles, addictions and weaknesses. Also, in numerous chapters he writes openly about the death he has both witnessed and contemplated, come to terms with and makes fun but not light of. The author has laid bare the bones of his life experiences, consumed them without a honey glaze, and still manages to affirm their sweetness and potentiality of self-instruction. To assuage those readers who think Richardís writings are at best pessimistic or reek of nihilism, let me state that this reaction is an old and common misinterpretation of Buddhist/Taoist thought by westerners. This may make the book more difficult to decipher for some readers as they donít understand how quite to take it but let me assure you that the story is quite life affirming and not at all a sad exercise in morbidity.
Richardís use of rich pointed language, poetic language, underscores these intents by using ďuglyĒ descriptions of life as well as the more orthodox beauties of the world, he purposely confronts the reader with these images of the profane not to shock, titillate or instill a negative reaction but to show life as it is and accepting the wholeness of it. The book embraces all experiences as beneficial and chooses not to gloss over that which most would find ďuglyĒ, by a shifting of perspective then (perhaps the Zen way?) the underbelly of life as human being is no longer ugly just another part of the whole person. Richardís story illustrates these aspects specifically through a self-reflective progression throughout the novel that comes to fruition in the later chapters. He stops at Northspur, finds a glimmer of Nirvana and accepts himself and everyone else for who they are, realizing the futility of trying to stop constant change in the universe, he knows he cannot linger at Northspur for it is antithetical to the very significance of Northspur, so he steals himself home to his family, his spirituality, the world and most of all himself.
To deconstruct the book is of course doing it a disservice in as much as describing a sunrise to someone is as pale in comparison to pointing it out with your finger. I think the book is written in such a way as to leave it somewhat open to interpretation and will mean different things to different people. I have learned as much while discussing it with others and that is one of the best parts of Richardís design. Again, the poetic nature of the book is expressed this way and I think you will find it as enjoyable as I have.

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