Standing At an Angle to the Universe

Author Cliff Burns presents a limited series on books, literature and the writing life. He offers no quarter to the amateurs and fanboys/girls who have eroded critical standards and dummied down discourse by trolling anyone who dares offer a dissenting voice or pans their favorite genre or author. Ten episodes, each guaranteed to offend some segment of the reading or writing world.

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Saturday Oct 21, 2023

After I finished recording the final episode of my podcast I felt there was something left unsaid, a monster in the closet that needed to be exposed to the light of day.
On  October 20, 2023, a week before my 60th birthday, I gave a presentation at my local library on "The Art of Failure". 
So many people enter the arts thinking they'll be an overnight sensation, only to be disappointed when they come to realize just how much time and effort will be required to even have the slightest chance at success. This speech is a sobering look at the creative life, the toll it exacts on its practitioners, the years of hours it takes to master your craft. It is a call to arms for those who will persist and persevere, no matter the obstacles and frustrations, the visionaries who stubbornly resist any attempt to dummy down their work or make it more palatable to mainstream audiences. 

Friday Aug 11, 2023

Last year, I gave a presentation celebrating my local library region's 50th anniversary. I spoke of my lifelong relationship with libraries, how they fueled my love of books and reading, and, also, the important role they have assumed during a time when we need authoritative, trusted repositories of information and wisdom. 

Episode 10: ”Kafka & Me”

Monday Aug 07, 2023

Monday Aug 07, 2023

A very personal tribute to Franz Kafka, not only a literary hero and major influence on my work, but someone I consider in many respects a soul brother. An original and unprecedented author, someone who never shied away from depicting the dark side of human nature. You think you know Kafka, but you really don't. This episode dispels some of the myths surrounding his life and oeuvre, and reveals a courageous, flawed man, someone ideally suited to write about the struggles of the individual in mass society, the horrors of blind, heedless bureaucracy.
Reading List for this episode

Sunday Jul 30, 2023

Satire and dark, edgy humor have always had an important place in societies, from ancient times to the present day. Let's identify some of the literary masterpieces that have made us laugh, but also carry a sharp sting, reminding us of the immortal words of Steve Martin: "Hey, comedy is not pretty".
Reading List for this episode

Monday Jul 17, 2023

Great stories and novels always feature fascinating, maddening, inspiring and terrifying characters, men and women we feel an immediate connection with, an affinity that seems strange when you consider they are wholly made up, fictional people. This episode touches on some of the compelling characters I've come across in my many years of reading, everyone from Tom Sawyer to Hannibal Lector, and explores why they have become part of the literary canon, as timeless and enduring as the phases of the moon.
Reading List for this episode

Monday Jul 10, 2023

A candid look at the world of self-publishing, the cruel reality all the publishing platforms and vanity presses try to conceal. Four million books are published every year, so how will anyone find yours and why would they take a chance and pay twenty bucks for an author they've never heard of? I've been an indie publisher for over 30 years and it's getting tougher and tougher to secure a spot for my books in stores, or obtain a review from a legitimate publication (and, unlike many authors/publishers, I adamantly refuse to pay for reviews or glowing blurbs). A splash of cold water thrown in the face of wannabe hacks, but a call to arms for serious writers who choose self-publishing to protect the integrity and honesty of their books by doing it their way.
Note: In this episode I plug the brilliant contributions of my longtime cover designer, Chris Kent. To check out some of his artwork, have a look here.
Reading List for this episode

Friday Jun 30, 2023

Uncounted millions of books have been printed since Johannes Gutenberg (among others) brought the printing press to the West. So it's only natural that a good many titles need to be saved from obscurity, brought back into the public eye. This is an episode intended to do exactly that: highlight the neglected classics in my collection, tell you why you should be reading them. An installment of the series that is sure to leave many book-lovers salivating.
Reading List for this episode

Friday Jun 23, 2023

A personal, decidedly non-academic look at poetry. Many of us swear we don't touch the stuff and usually are only exposed to verse when we attend weddings or funerals. But while poets may not be the rock stars they once were, they are still close observers of the world we're living in and provide valuable insights into many of the problems and dilemmas we face, while expertly dissecting and communicating the experience of being alive.
Reading List for this episode

Friday Jun 16, 2023

Horror was once the domain of remarkable writers like Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, Ira Levin and Shirley Jackson. But contemporary horror authors are neglecting the cerebral aspects of dark fantasy and focussing on splatter and gore, to the detriment of the long, outstanding legacy of the genre. This episode is bound to be one of the most controversial in the series, pulling no punches and taking no prisoners.
Reading List for this episode

Friday Jun 09, 2023

An episode talking about my favorite women authors--are there fundamental differences between the way male and female wordsmiths approach their craft? Let's explore these dangerous, murky waters and, in the meantime, chat about some amazing books and writers.
Reading List for this episode

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