In the modern world, events from continents away can be just as influential on our lives as those which take place right in our own community.
However, it's always especially rewarding when people we know and meet regularly, create something of a worldwide quality.
Not long ago, my wife invited me to a reading at the Prendergast Library, by James Goertel, an author who lives in Westfield, who was reading from his first published work: a collection of five short stories, which are published under the title of the first story, ''Carry Each His Burden.''
Westfield resident James Goertel has recently published a collection of five short stories which explore the minds and actions of people who have been made outsiders or misfits by society. It's now for sale and in the libraries. The title is “Carry Each his Burden.”
My wife purchased a copy of the book to donate to the James Prendergast Library's collection, so that many people from our community could have a chance to read it. But I prevailed upon her to delay the donation until I could read it and share the information with my readers.
Let me tell you about Goertel and his book, and with the rest of the column I'll discuss another arts-related book which I have been sent for review by a publisher, and which I suspect might win your affection:
Goertel is a native of North Dakota, who has recently accepted a teaching position on the subject of writing at Penn State-Behrend in Erie. He and his wife, Rachel, and their 2-year-old son, Henry, have settled in Westfield, on the Lake Erie shore, where they are patiently rehabilitating a house with previous life experience.
The author had a 20-year career in television production, and I first met him nearly a decade ago, when he was at the Prendergast Library to film one of the series of lectures, sponsored by the Murray L. Bob Memorial Lectureship. He and his crew were making a documentary on author Mark Twain, and the lecturer was the late Dr. Michael Kiskis, of Elmira College, who has published a book and a number of papers on Twain.
The author credits his wife for his new publication, saying that when they moved to Westfield, after a few days of blizzard, she suggested that he would need to find something to occupy his time, and recommended that he consider writing a novel.
Instead, he created these stories.
Goertel is a very visual writer. His stories swim with images which immediately draw the reader into the reality he is creating. His language choices are colorful and varied, without becoming in any way pedantic.
All of the stories deal with people who are outside the normal circle of human interaction. Some of his characters have chosen their outsider status, while others just don't know any other way to be.
The first story travels back and forth through time, dealing with a father and a son named Charles and Teddy. Charles is a well-known author, who resembles a mixture of Ernest Hemingway and J.D. Salinger. In the more contemporary sections of the story, Charles has withdrawn, both from his adoring public and from his wife and son, and has lived in rural isolation on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for many years.
Now Teddy has reached adulthood, and has written a book about his father. He travels to see the man he hasn't seen for decades, unsure whether he plans to confront the man with his anger and sense of abandonment, or to seek out and finally to have a father. Or...
In the scenes from the past, Charles and his friend, Big John Denton, have taken the pre-teen Teddy into the woods, in the hope of getting his first deer. Armed with what he considers ''a kid's gun,'' Teddy is told that if he shoots a buck, his father will give him a real deer hunter's rifle, which he wants with all his being.
It takes a while for the reader to master whether he's reading about the younger characters or the older ones, but the reality of the story is commanding, and one is almost sorry when it ends.
Another story from the collection - the final one - is surprisingly similar. This time it's about a daughter who seeks out her distant father, who is a wealthy and well-known painter, only this time the story is told from a variety of points of view, which point out how much more complex life is, than it seems from a single point of view.
Each narrator knows elements of the story which the previous narrators either didn't know or didn't tell us, so we constantly need to re-examine what we understand. The title of that story is ''Almost Blue,'' which is the name of the most famous and most valuable of the father's paintings.
''Animal Kingdom'' is the story of a man whose life is made up of bars and fistfights and pretty young women, who suddenly finds himself receiving drinks purchased by a guy in discount store clothes and a modest sedan with a few years on it. You'll be amazed to learn who they are and why it's happening.
''Letting the Days Go By'' is about a toll collector on the New York State Thruway who one day leaves his job, draws all his money out of the bank, and drives off down the Lake Erie shore on Route 5. Even he isn't sure where he's going or why, but he soon finds out.
Finally, ''Memories Can't Wait'' deals with a man whose job is to live in and operate a work station, completely frozen into permanent ice, essentially completely cut off from all human contact. Gradually, as the story progresses, we learn why he has chosen to be in this cold, utter isolation, and what his future is likely to hold.
I hope these small tastes will whet your appetite. ''Carry Each His Burden'' is published by the L.A. Rural Press and has 177 pages in paperbound edition. The title comes originally from the Bible's Book of Galatians, and it has also been quoted in R.E.M.'s album ''Life's Richest Pageant.''
There is no price on the book, but it is available on a popular bookselling website for $12.50. Find it with ISBN number 9781466265813. There are two copies for borrowing from the Westfield Library, and there will be one at Prendergast, as soon as I turn it in to be processed.
Harry Hamlin is a well-known name to movie and television lovers. Among his successful roles have been one of the many aggressive lawyers on the television series ''L.A. Law,'' for example. He was the hero Perseus in the sword-and-sandal movie ''Clash of the Titans,'' which always seems to be playing on one channel or another on cable television.
The Internet Movie Database lists major roles in 15 feature films, 10 television series and four mini-series. He was once voted People Magazine's ''Sexiest Man Alive.''
Hamlin has recently published the first volume of his memoirs, in a commercially titled volume called ''Full Frontal Nudity: The Making of an Accidental Actor.''
Before anyone gets too excited by the title, while the text of the book describes two incidents in which the actor agreed to reveal all to an audience, the only photo which comes close to living up to the title is on the book's cover, and shows the author on a beach at the age of, perhaps, 4 and has a large, blue circle, covering ''the main event,'' as he calls it in his narrative.
The book has very little to do with being naked. It is a rambling recounting of the actor's early life, from birth through his breakthrough stage role as Alan Strang in Peter Shaffer's powerful play ''Equus,'' for San Francisco's American Conservatory Theatre. This was in his early 20s.
According to Hamlin's own version of his life, he seems to have coasted along, almost aimlessly, dealing with whatever circumstances he has chanced to encounter.
He says early in the book that so many people have told him he is good-looking that he gradually came to accept that as a fact, and to behave as though other people would think it a treat to be with him.
Hamlin's parents were certainly unusual. His father worked with Werner Von Braun on creating the U.S. Space Program and invented a rocket engine, elements of which are still in use by NASA, for which he was paid a total of $100, ''minus the usual deductions.''
The actor recounts how his father had fought in World War II, and had brought back from Germany a number of contraband items such as iron Maltese crosses and daggers with swastikas on them. Always fascinated by the unusual items in his basement, the young Harry wrote a book report for his fourth-grade teacher, based upon ''Mein Kampf,'' for which he was expelled permanently from his private school. His mother helped him to write it.
When he was 10, his parents gave him a subscription to Playboy Magazine for his birthday, an event which made him the most popular kid in school.
He earnestly recounts all of this, eventually coming to the curious fact that he was arrested twice for possession of illegal drugs, despite the fact that he very rarely used the things. He claims that he often found himself in the company of people who did use them, and when they were ''busted,'' he never had the foresight to come up with an explanation for his presence, so he spent a number of days in jail.
Ironically, he was eventually working on a major film which was being made in Canada, to take advantage of the monetary advantages which were then available, when members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrived to ban him permanently from the country, as a habitual druggie. It took them a while to research his history, but they did.
The segment about his finding the courage to take it all off in front of a theater full of people is one of the book's most remarkable incidents.
The book won't teach you a lot about the making of a successful film career. You'd have to blunder into the right people under exactly the right circumstances, the way that he did. But it is a great many interesting stories about a most unusual man.
''Full Frontal Nudity'' was published in 2010 by Scribner, and is marked for sale at $24. It has 272 pages in hardbound edition and can be found with ISBN number 978-4391-6999-5. The Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Library system has only one copy of the memoirs, located in the Olean Public Library. The system owns two of Hamlin's many films, but ironically, they're both copies of ''Clash of the Titans.''
The Chautauqua New York Chapter of the National Society of Arts and Letters is inviting young vocalists, visual artists and musical theater performers who will be between ages 16 and 22 on Feb. 2.
The young artists are invited to compete for the honor of representing New York state in the national competition for three separate scholarships. The deadline for submitting applications is Feb. 1. There will be local prizes for the first three places, in addition to the opportunity for national prizes. Local competitors may submit their entries on CD, and need not compete locally in person.
Last year, young artists representing the local chapter took first place in the national vocal competition, winning a trip to the national competition, in Alabama, and a $3,000 scholarship. The local winner in the visual art competition won second place in the national competition and $2,180 in scholarship aid.
The third competition, currently in musical theater, is in a different art form each year. Last year's competition was in dance, and the local winner went on to win third place at the national competition.
For more information about the competitions, consult the organization's website at www.arts-nsal.org. For an application form and more information about the local competitions, you may write to P.O. Box 92, Chautauqua, NY 14722. Vocalists may email the voice chair at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Women are being invited by Creative Arts of Women, to submit work for consideration in their first juried art show, which will be held at the new 3rd on 3rd Gallery.
Competitors may be women of any age, and must live or study in Western New York or Northwestern Pennsylvania. Artists accepted must submit their work to the competition in person. The deadline for applications is Dec. 30. The names of chosen artists will be announced on Jan. 9.
Competing works will be displayed in the gallery from Feb. 11 through March 31. For more information, go by computer to cawwny.wordpress.com/ and click on ''announcements.''
American Repertory Theatre of Western New York will perform the play ''Fred's Requiem,'' written and directed by Chautauqua County native Matthew Lachiusa, through Dec. 3.
Performances will take place at Buffalo East, 1410 Main St., in Buffalo. Curtain time is 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are $15 for the general public, $12 for students, senior citizens and active members of the U.S. Military, and $10 for members of the WNY Arts Community.
To reserve tickets or for additional information, phone 634-1102 or check their website at www.artofwny.org.