Sunday, December 14, 2008


Here’s a hint for Christmas!
by Charlie Leck

Sometimes stories are just too wonderful! No?

Sometimes they also seem highly unlikely – something you wouldn’t find believable if it were the plot of a novel – but then you find out said story is actually true and happened precisely the way I am now going to tell it. Wow!.

Such is the case with the story of the book, Ectopia, which, because he couldn’t find a publisher, was first privately produced by its author in the early 1970s. It became a bit of a cult novel and sold nearly a half-million copies. The dust jacket contained a blurb from Ralph Nader. Its author, Ernest Callenbach, seemed something of a dizzy dreamer.

What I find so wonderful here – get this straight – is the story about the book and not so much the story in the book.

The book’s story is about the secession of the Northwestern United States from the Union – Oregon, Washington and Northern California.

What really caught people’s attention were a whole bunch of real goofy ideas – recycling receptacles everywhere (including on trains), a national sustainable economy, hanging ferns and small plants on the public transportation vehicles, and, funnier than everything else – a woman president of this new nation in the northwest.

Now – in 2008 – the book is being assigned as required reading in many college environment classes. Thought of as fantasy in the 70s, it is thought of as highly possible today.

At the time he wrote it, the book was rejected by every publisher in front of which Callenbach could get it. “The environment kick was over,” they told him. After he sold over 2,500 privately published copies, Bantam decided to publish it and the first printing sold out. So did the next.

Scott Timber, in the NY Times, explains the essential character of the book…
“Set at what seems to be the turn of the 21st century, and told through the columns and diaries of a reporter from the fictional New York Times-Post, the novel is not especially literary. Its characters are flat; its prose — well, call it utilitarian. And the plot, in which the narrator drops his skepticism and settles into Ecotopian life, thanks in part to a love interest, lacks sophistication. And yet the book has managed to find its place in the here and now.”
What makes Ectopia so sensational today? Well, it seems to have predicted Portland – creative public transport, slow growth, local foods, organics, and neighborhood restaurants that prepare with local, fresh foods only.

Problems? There are plenty of them. Black people withdraw into their own Soul City. I can see the effect of the Black Power Movement on thinking like that. It was written during the birth of that movement.

Some women’s groups don’t like it either. Sometimes I want to tell them to get a sense of humor.

Callenbach says he wouldn’t write the book the same way today, under terribly different social conditions.

Yet, this is a dream story, this story about the book. Today it is being read in college classrooms all over the nation and not just up there in the drizzly Northwest. People are inquiring about it in bookstores all across our country – the real nation, that is, -- in all 50 states.

Santa, I want a copy for Christmas!

Fred the Fruitcake

I hate to say it, but we may have to do something about one of my readers!
by Charlie Leck

I guess I’m seeking advice from some of my readers about another of my readers. I don’t know what to do about him anymore. I think, early on, I gave him too much encouragement to respond to my blogs with comments.

He’s been particularly taken by my blogs about my dog, Jasper, but here’s what’s going on now that has me worried about the stability of this reader.

He claims that my dog, Jasper, is sending him emails. Can you imagine? And, that the dog also catches replies to his email and takes them off-line before I can see them. He claims my dog is a very good reader and has an extended vocabulary. Granted, my dog is very smart. As I told you the other day, he has his M.A. in dog obedience. The woman of the house, against my objections, is pushing him toward a PhD.

This reader in Denver is claiming that my dog is complaining about the academic and scholastic pressure! Jasper also is telling my friend that he is Jewish and is not happy about being in a gentile home, especially when the Christmas tree went up a couple of weeks ago. He also tells me that my dog is complaining about the food, that there is really nothing to “nosh” on and that in a good Jewish home there would be food out for him all the time.

The reader is threatening to have the dog knapped and taken away to his own home in Denver.

The fellow has really gone round the bend. He’s talking about the “dogland security agency” showing up at my door and putting “a black bag over your head and abduct Jasper and take him to the land of happy dogs… where he’ll learn what good living is all about.”

When I first started communicating with this fellow, he seemed innocent and sound enough and completely rational. Now, he’s gone round the bend and I think I must lodge some complaints about him with the proper authorities.

I guess all of this is one of the hazards of the blogosphere.


  1. Charlie,
    Regarding your post on your dog, Jasper - I too have a Jasper. The minute he springs from the fenced-in back yard he is at the neighbors doorstep begging to be welcomed in. There he dines on the cat's food and sleeps in his bed of choice. He is of the mindset that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence (literally). This is a voice from the past - you and Anne met my brother and sister-in-law, Jim and Maura Tierney while campaigning for Franken this summer. I thought that I would see what you were up to. I read a few of your blogs and find them very interesting. I think I will put Ectopia on my christmas list as well.
    Molly Tierney Schomburg

  2. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


    Term Life Insurance

  3. Molly, of course I remember. How often we talk about you and how beautiful you are in our memories. We should get together again -- perhaps with Sam and Maura and Jim.

    Doug and I don't communicate anymore. We had some kind of falling out over politics. I said something his royal hind-end thought was terribly wrong (and he knows, eh?).

    Keep coming back and let's nosh sometime. Charlie

  4. Christina...
    Thanks for visiting and for reading. Leave whatever comments you wish, especially when you think I'm wrong.