A New Ballgame


There are some changes coming in GF posts, one temporary, and at least one permanent.

I’ve been hesitant to enter this stage of self disclosure, but my family life with the missus has entered a new phase, one that has ironically drawn us closer together – – she’s been stricken with an extremely nasty and difficult to treat form of cancer,  and it’s proved consuming emotionally as well as physically. I don’t regret in the least the time I’ve had to spend supporting, transporting and ministering to her, but it has meant little time to read. So until at least summer, I’m going to reprise some of the most important or provocative books I’ve read and posted on in my 1100+ posts, ones you may have missed, but ones you’ll find worthy of a read.

I’ve posted monthly (more or less) on magazines I’ve enjoyed, and some have drawn the most reads and reader comments of all my posts. But magazines I enjoy aren’t always ones you would enjoy, so I plan changes to magazine-related posts.

If you, the reader, wish to suggest changes to GF, or support the ones I’ve mentioned, let me know. After all, this blog is as much for you as for me.

Thanks for your previous and, hopefully, your future support of GridleyFires.


Visit my website here, and my FB Fan Page here for more on ideas and events that matter to me – and possibly to you.


Provoking, Informing, and Magazine Success

The Atlantic, March 2014



In a world in which magazines are closing their doors daily, a few have found the key to success, and The Atlantic seems to have that key firmly in its grasp. What makes its mojo work, then? Simple – find a way to entertain as it informs, and do so in a fairly concise fashion.  Sometimes this involves provocation for the sake of provoking. We all remember what makes our blood boil, it seems, as in the case of Jonathan Rauch’s brief, “The Case for Corruption.”

Did you know that WalMart claims that nearly half its purchases are made on smart phones? Neither did Alexis Madrigal, in a quickie interview with WalMart’s Gibu Thomas.

James Parker tries to overlay today’s polarized political TV talk shows over the film, Network.  He has a point, I think, but it’s a strained one.

This issue takes on hockey, of all things (a sport I liken to professional wrestling), but as Chris Koentges depicts the sport in “The Puck Stops Here,” a Finnish promoter has transformed it from a brawl on ice to  international prestige.

Paul Bloom, in “The War On Reason,” rings my bell loudly by explaining that philosophy, the bedrock of Enlightenment reason, has drifted away from logic and reason into a physiological abyss. In this semi-philosophical world, reason seems devoid of  worth, but Bloom seems to hold out hope: our human need for moral values will trump this straying and bring reason back in new clothes.

I remember how the KA fraternity partied till they puked in my college days. Those well-oiled frat rats even killed a famous horse in the process. In the lead article, “The Dark Power of Fraternities,” Caitlin Flanagan tells us things are even worse, many frat peccadilloes now ending in court.

I’m a Southerner, despite all attempts to be a one-worlder, and I’m compelled to say that Ron Rash’s story “Where The Map Ends,” the story of two escaping slaves in the Civil War South, is the finest piece of short fiction I’ve seen in a magazine in a long while.

These are but my highlights in another fine issue of The Atlantic.


Visit my website here, and my FB Fan Page here for more on ideas and events that matter to me – and possibly to you.

A Good Magazine Article Is Hard to Find

Harper’s Magazine, November 2013



I remember many years ago, when I was just learning to play guitar, I subscribed to a magazine called Guitar Player, and did I ever learn a lot about the nuances from its articles! I cut out tons of charts, musical pieces, and “how-tos. Most of which I still have and occasionally refer back to.  Then a curious thing began to happen. The articles began to repeat – not literally, but different authors would write articles – covering the same player challenges and issues. After a few years of that, I quit subscribing.

I hope that’s not happening with Harper’s, but it certainly seems so. When you manage a magazine specializing in progressive social and political attitudes, it seems fair that you’re eventually going to repeat yourself.

Take Thomas Frank’s essay on payment for fast food workers. Is there anyone who doesn’t know, or at least think about this issue? And in similar fashion, Jeff Madrick wonders about the future of progressivism in a backwards, ultra conservative age. There is another on vets’ coping with return to society, with pointillist artwork, yet.

Nathaniel Rich, in “The Man Who Saves You From Yourself,” pretends to uncover the seaminess of cults, some of which aren’t, and the uncovering only reveals the easiest to catch, those probably not fooling potential cult followers, either. Ken Silverstein’s “Dirty South – The Foul Legacy of Louisiana Oil” enthralls, but again this story is as old as Huey Long’s under-the-table, so-called populism.

There’s art, and the subject is armpits, asses, hairy chests and legs, hitting a deer on a highway, and A Joyce Carol Oates story, “Lovely, Dark, Deep,” the title telling you most of what you’ll get from this most capable writer’s imagination.

Being an editor of such a periodical has to be as difficult as being a major league baseball manager, or any elective office. I won’t drop my subscription (yet), but I will complain, just a little.


Visit my website here, where you’ll have an opportunity to download an audio eversion of my latest, Sam’s Place, as well as select book review podcasts. Then there’s my FB Fan Page here. On both you’ll find more on ideas and events that matter to me – and possibly to you.


Audio From Sam’s Place and Other News



I’ve been spreading the news around, but in case I missed you, or you missed the news, I’ve recorded an audio book of my latest, Sam’s Place: Stories. You can buy them one at a time or as a complete book HERE (I’m betting you’ll be hooked after the first file), and they should play on any mobile device that accommodates sound, or on any desktop geared for audio recordings. You’ll also find a book trailer there for Sam’s Place. Please let me know how you like the audio book, and please pass this news on to anyone who enjoys audio books while driving.

And next week will be magazine week. I post on these magazines, partly because readers need to have some idea of what they’re getting into when spending hard-earned bucks on magazines in this time of constant editorial and format change. And partly to keep you writers up on what’s of value to you in the magazine world.

Quite soon my book review posts will be available on my website as brief podcasts. Please keep checking back, and let me know what you think of those as well.

Magazine Time – – Comin’ Up!

I started to dig into my backlog of magazines and will let you know what I think of them over the next couple of weeks. 

image via zappablamma.com


The trouble with opinions on magazines (and I'm always full of opinions) is that they're edited with the general public in mind. Thus, you might find only an article or two in each to address your concerns or push your buttons. In fact, having done a little of this sort of editing in the dimly lighted past, I have to take my hat off to anyone who edits periodicals – its a mighty task!

Having said that, I may sound cranky in some of my opinions on opinionated periodicals, but what will underlie this alleged crankiness of mine will be how I view the substance of what I read.

As always, I value your opinions of my opinions.

See Bob's Web Site here.

Atlantic Monthly Gets It Right This Time

I've commented infrequently on Atlantic Monthly, a magazine I've read for many more years than I wish to countI've had my problems with Atlantic; the editors have often tackled important subjects in the magazine, but all too often they've done so with provocative articles that did too little to inform. But the March 2012 issue deserves mention.


image via facebook.com

James Fallows presents a very balanced and insightful view of President Obama's first 3+ years as president. Christopher Hitchens in his final essay presents an equally insightful review of a pair of books on the complex life of G.K. Chesterton. And Megan McArdle, with whom I rarely agree, writes astutely on the difficulties inherent in changing organizational culture within corporations such as GM. 

One can hope that this isn't an anomaly; magazines such as Atlantic Monthly can do much to inform in an environment in which much that's written is inflammatory and just plain destructive.