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Around the World in 52 Words: Ritual Writing for the New Millennium by Rob Burton
Daily entries of ancient gods to love and despair, from personal memories to public histories, each 52 words long.

"With soothing rhythm and brilliant focus, Rob Burton has created an amazingly broad-ranging mosaic of our time on the planet. We enter one man's consciousness exploring today's world, and his life within it. Documenting Burton's inspiring quest, the book provides reassuring, thought-provoking, fascinating and timely 52 word snapshots of our expanding universe." --Susan Wooldridge, author of Poemcrazy

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"I simply loved Around the World in 52 Words. The vignettes that comprise this volume are inspiring, thought-provoking and starkly honest ... and they read like butter. They represent a beautiful synthesis of Burton's creativity and discipline. His testaments are accessible, poignant, artistic, timely, and, above all, useful, for they offer direction to ordinary people who might otherwise have cause to despair and be cynical in these delicate, volatile times. The author is obviously affected by the world around him, and he is equally affected by the difference contained in that world. Readers of a variety of perspectives will be able to relate to Burton, for his stories tell the human story. Burton appreciates with uncommon sensitivity just what it is that is special about being a human being, and he conveys his insights with the clarity and vision of an inspired prophet."--Andrew Flescher, author of Heroes, Saints, and Ordinary Morality

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"It seemed appropriate, somehow, to be cruising some six miles up in the air while I surveyed the planet through the lens of Rob Burton's economical prose. It was a clever strategy to set himself that writing discipline, and the results must have been pleasing as well as surprising to the author." --Scott Sanders, author of Writing from the Center

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"I think I most enjoyed 'Descriptions,' 'Places' (not just the section so titled), 'Autobiography,' 'Travels,' 'Seasons' and the writings which follow Nabokovís dictum 'Caress the details!'  What emerges to my mind is a feeling for spirit -- a word which I think defies definition and has to be taken in the original (and metaphorical) sense of breathing. Certainly there is an awareness of and concern for the spirit of the time and place -- and, so far as I can see -- a debt, philosophical and otherwise, to Rousseau." --Clark Brown, author of The Disciple

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"Ö his book is a quiet reminder of the wonder of disciplined words." --Dan Barnett, The Buzz

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"... In mid-1999, Chico State University English Professor Rob Burton assigned himself a project: Every morning, for an entire year, write just 52 words on a subject of his choice. What followed is a collection of 365 short pieces organized into 52 topics. There are seven entries for each topic, and the topics range from heady bits like 'Ephphanies' and 'Nowness' to antitheses like 'Saints' and 'Sinners.'

"Is this scholar of multicultural literature really anal, really creative or both?

" 'I wanted it to be as ritualistic as possible,' says Burton, who found that the project made him pay more attention to the world, his own words and the craft of writing in general. 'This whole activity helped me to find a voice.

" 'There's a whole lot of volume, there's a lot of noise, a lot of excess words circulating,' he says. 'Readers don't want that. Readers don't need that.'

"... Some of the entries are lighthearted, while others are deadly serious, with themes of war and peace and the social inequities both in developing countries and here in the United States. Most are thoughtful and reflective; a few come off as quick and fun. ...


If, as post structuralists tell us, the signifier (sign-system used to convey meaning) is ruptured from the signified (the meaning itself), what role does the narrator or a story assume?

Should she take pleasure from disruption narrative order, or from constructing a narrative shape that, in turn, gives pleasure to the reader?

(June 25, 1999)

There was this storyteller, see, who was savvy enough to know that popular taste determined commercial success.

What the people wanted in a story, he realized, was a mixture of religion, royalty, sex, mystery and high drama.

So he wrote: "My God!" explained the princess. "I'm pregnant. I wonder who did it?"

(Nov. 30, 1999)


"... As for the structure of the entries -- fiction or nonfiction, full story or not -- Burton didn't box himself in. 'Sometimes I felt hanging. I didn't feel I needed a resolution every time.'

"He didn't feel pressured to make every entry a deep commentary. Some share his views on HIV in Africa or gun control; others fall into categories of 'Jokes' or 'Riddles.' He reads a lot and travels, but Burton said the main thing was paying attention to what was going on in the world around him. 'I just seemed natural. It's a part of the business of having our antenna buzzing.' ...


Marijuana is an evil in American society and a serious threat to people." So says a federal judge while sentencing a user to prison.

In China, Fulan Gong, the breathing and meditation sect, is outlawed and its followers arrested.

Why, I wonder, are such simple pleasures demonized as enemies of the state?

(Aug. 8, 1999)


He is tall and slim with a chiseled face like George Orwell's (minus the moustache).

He has dark hair, blue eyes, and a pointy nose (broken in a soccer match yet subsequently repaired).

He likes to wear Scottish sweaters (Shetlands) and English shoes (Clarks) and American blue jeans (Levis).

This is my self-portrait.

(April 15, 2000)


--Devanie Angel, News and Review

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Order Around the World in 52 Words, ISBN 0-9708922-1-7, $13.95

Order Around the World in 52 Words: Ritual Writing for the New Millennium by Rob Burton

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