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The Big Cat Conspiracy
A Review of Stupid Time by Richard Barrett
"Stupid Time" Review
Richard Barrett
12:55 PM (1 hour ago)
Hi James!
Here it finally is, the review for "Stupid Time"! I hope I captured its essence. Let me know what you think!
Sincerely,
Richard Barrett
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So you say there’s no more adventure. And you don’t believe in frontiers anymore.
Then take another look, at a different kind of writer, in a different kind of world...not so dissimilar to yours.
He goes by many names.
But his friends call him “Games Lafond”!
That’s the moniker given to everybody’s Ghetto Grocer James Lafond in “Is You Sure?”, the second installment in his two-story children’s book entitled Stupid Time: Children’s Stories by James Lafond.
If you’ve read James Lafond’s fiction, then you know it’s something special. But in Stupid Time, Games wins at his chosen profession, and knocks it out of the park!
The first story, entitled “Tamarno! Emma and Chandler Against the Gloomshine” is the tale of 5 year old Emma and her pet dog Chandler. One day when she wakes up to find the sun doesn’t arise (“it’s sneakin’ and peakin’”) and all the adults are in a state of slavish zombie-like disrepair, she saddles up with her trusty canine adviser (who turns out to be a LITERAL boxing dog...who fights!) to stop the big cat conspiracy to freeze all the parents in Stupid Time and suck all the kids into the Stupid Zone!
The second story, entitled “Is You Sure? The Escape of Felix, Dominic, and Stevedore” is the tale of 9 year old “Dominic the Younger” and 12 year old “Felix the Elder”. When their dad, “Big Tony”, gets busted by the futuristic Dread Minus Police State for showing the homeless thugs whose boss, they face a lifetime of gender-nuetral slavery in the child protection system. That is until an old Black Southern rail-hopping hobo, Stevedore, takes them on an adventure to show them the surprising true nature of their friend and former house guest, “Games Lafond”! Voodoo magic, historical time travel, and America’s urban hellscape are just a sample of the action-packed serving you get that will make you ask yourself: “Is You Sure?”
Reading these twin tails, you get an immediate sense of 2 things.
The first thing you realize is that even though the frontispiece says they are "Children's Stories", the truth is they’re not really for children at all. They're adults for thinking adults.
The world we live in is a strange and changing one, and any man and woman with half a brain feels like a child all over again...helpless, scared, and shocked at the dark and dangerous world arising before them. But they know they’ve got to navigate it, and they’ve got to find someone to teach them how.
That’s the big theme of Stupid Time. Children at different stages of development face off against not just evil, but against their troubles unique to their age range. The 5 year old protagonist of “Tamarno!” is as self-assured as any 5 year old. James Lafond nails this age range as I can attest, for I have a five year old brother, and he and Emma are so alike in their self-assuredness they could be husband and wife or sparring partners or both in 20 years.
At that age, a kid believes he or she can solve all the problems in the world, as long as they get the right information and the right help. But when they face off against the big bad enemy in the final big bad battle, they experience a horror of overwhelming fear. But with the help of their mentor, they “bide it up and spit it out” as Frank Sinatra sings in “My Way”, and stop the evil enemy holding them back in their own life.
The 9 and 12 year old protagonists of “Is You Sure?”, by contrast, are a little older and wiser. They realize that there is a lot they don’t know, and they look around the big wide world in awed, wide wonder, a little more humble, a lot less self-assured. They haven’t been through the rush of puberty that makes them as self-confident as the 5 year old and as nasty and nihilistic as the latest celebrity rehab case. They’re not quite adults just yet, but they are far wiser than most give them credit for, for they sure aren’t little kids.
James not only nails an authentic depiction of each age range, he connects it to the psychological state of the thinking adults reading his books. This is something that to my knowledge, has not been handled with such skill since Rudyard Kipling released Kim way back when.
How many of us in life are like the 5 year old when we start a new endeavor? Just give us the right tools and it’s a done deal. But also give us a little help with that crippling fear that comes from realizing our self-confidence might not be a match for our inexperience.
And after that stage, how many of us in life are like 9 and 12 year old, who realize that we aren’t all that and a bag of chips, and we don’t just need some help from our mentors to become the men and women we need to be...we need all the help we can get!
If you’ve ever felt like that at any time in your life, then you will connect immediately with the tales told in Stupid Time: Children’s Stories by James Lafond.
The second thing you realize upon reading Stupid Time is that James Lafond is the heir and master of Magical Realism in the Pulp Tradition. Not Magical Realism in the Postmodern Tradition, but in the Pulp Fiction Tradition. I don't know of anyone else alive doing that.
The entire schtick of Magical Realism is that you invest everyday occurrences and situations with mythological power, symbolism, and characterization. The supernatural comes, dragons, monsters, fairies, elves, whatever you like, the works.
It doesn’t just do this to make the humdrum of a drab and grey world intended to beat you down more exciting, although at that it most definitely succeeds. It does this to show you the real significance of all those drab grey goings on that you have never given a second thought. Nothing is ever as it seems, and Magical Realism shows you the real deal.
But the difference between the Postmodern Tradition and the Pulp Fiction Tradition is one of Moral Orientation. The Postmodern Tradition operates from a point of base and meaningless Nihilism as it’s guiding principle. Pulp Fiction on the other hand, is the legitimate 20th Century Heir to the Indo-European Confrontational Western Warrior Epics of old trapped in its literary ghetto of “low brow” classification. And because of that, the Pulp Fiction Tradition operates from a point of Stoic Heroism, always fighting to win or die trying, and always doing it to help out the little guy, so that one day, he can take the hero’s place and help somebody else in need.
If that doesn't leave you with a warm feeling, then I don’t know what does.
James Lafond writes from this perspective and captures its essence because that’s his life. The original Pulp Fiction authors did too...WWI Veterans, Cops, Cowboys, Sailors, Mercenaries, Miners, Boxers. Like them, James Lafond has found out the hard through his real life experiences in dangerous environments that the Stoic Heroic mold is the only way to survive. Just like the Masters of Old.
But the lineage goes a step farther than that, for many also do not know that the old Pulp Masters were all classically educated in the myth and literature of Ancient Rome, Greece, and the Medieval Age, and they added this to their first-hand experiences with the beliefs and legends found at the far-flung fringes of the ever-shrinking globe.
James Lafond does that exact same thing, from the deep knowledge of myth and literature of his own culture acquired in the library, and the beliefs and legends of the far-flung fringes of the ever-shrinking globe that have met him in Baltimore.
When you combine these things with the feverish imagination of man like “Games Lafond”, you get the true heir worthy of the Pulp Masters' Tradition.
But there’s one more thing though that James Lafond possesses that makes him a fiction author you’ll want to come back to time and time again.
When a true master of his craft writes, he lets it all hang out, and guns it for fun. You can feel it with every word on the page, and for a brief shining moment, you’ll be gunning it for fun too. And when you put the book down, you’ll have the guts to let it all hang out, in a world seeking to keep you locked away.
So keep your eyes peeled for the big release, for when Stupid Time arrives, you WILL be sure you’ll want to see this masterpiece wrought by a true master at work!
Sincerely,
Richard Barrett

Young man, that is the nicest thing anybody has written about my work.
Thanks, Richard.
Posting,
James
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