Since shortly before the last time I wrote this letter, a short time indeed, a madman killed 68 people and wounded hundreds in Los Vegas. Another madman, a short time after that, shot up a small community church in Texas, killing two dozen, many of which were just harmless babies and young children.
Also, now that I’m back in my hometown of New York City, I was in close proximally with the two terror attacks by once again, madmen. I could have been a target. To top it off, the little “rocket man” in North Korea has once again threatened to fry us all, with NYC the place with the biggest bulls eye on its back.
Like it or not, I could not help but think that what is it in my genetic makeup that fosters these madmen, with many sane women sitting on the sidelines wondering the same thing?
But, not withstanding madmen, and as mind-blowing as all these threats and carnage were, what I remember most in the weeks between my last letter to you, is while riding a bus down 125th street in Harlem. I watched a well-dressed young couple, the man black, the woman white, holding hands with a small child walking between them. The couple looked to be in their early 30s.
Another couple, around the same age, and just as chic-looking, both black, turned the corner at Morningside onto 125th Street and almost physically bumped into the couple with the child. Both couples let loose spontaneous, combined shrieks that even we in the bus could hear, and loudly, with real joy in their voices, started hugging and talking to each other.
All kinds of things came to my mind as I saw the sheer delight in that chance encounter: Lonely Car Culture vs street walking and bumping into friends that can turn a so-so day into something fun. The magnet that Harlem is now for young, educated, well-heeled people like them, and, strangely, the only place left in Manhattan that is not apartheid.
But beyond all of that, what came to mind and stuck there for days and days on end, was this is what we humans are all about. We have had millenniums of bad days: hungry animals wanting our flesh, roving bands of other humans seeking to kill or enslave us, floods, earthquakes, fires, terrifying weapons of war, and yes, madmen, who kill just to kill. Still, we are at heart, joyful at little things, like bumping into friends on a crowded city street. And that is what gives us the courage to go on.
Enjoy this issue of Neworld Review. It’s issue number 75, and it’s a wonder. And, you are a wonder, dear reader, for once again clicking on to us.
This above book is a strong, compelling story of an ordinary middle class, Italian-American woman, overcoming extraordinary problems.
This non-fiction narrative begins with naïve hope, joy and high expectations for the future. Soon, reality sets in. Dysfunctions by the name of alcoholism, gambling and spousal abuse played their ugly hands.The proverbial icing on their cake of misfortune comes when Mary Ann’s husband is destined to become the recipient of a heart transplant
Jan Alexanders review of Bao Dai's book is precise and honest. She does not hesitate to be hostile to his "veil of mist" over his time as a Red Guard, but also celebrates his more typical honesty and courage. Good review of a basically good book. I will buy it.
My American Jewish Writers class in the small liberal arts college I attended on the West Coast was filled with goyim like myself, but Professor Martin Blaze had a full black beard and wore a black suit with no tie (unusual for those days) and could have easily passed for a friendly new rabbi before his worshippers.
A new professor on campus, this Milton scholar by training would shepherd us through a remarkable survey of a particularly rich vein of Twentieth Century literature.
The syllabus for the class led from Abraham Cahan’s The Rise of David Levinsky to Michael Gold’s Jews Without Money chronologically up to the recently published The Armies of the Night by Norman Mailer and Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth.
Mailer was at the height of his powers. It was before, like his hero Hemingway, his public persona smothered his reputation as a writer. And it was before Roth had written his Zuckerman saga and The Plot Against America, which imagined a fascist takeover of America. Marty, which he preferred over Doctor or Professor Blaze, who was now teaching children of the Sixties across the continent from his native Bronx, would laugh until his face turned red, and his whole body shook over passages from Portnoy, while we marveled over a professor who so freely exposed his feelings to twenty-five callow undergraduates.
If he were teaching that class now—he has long since retired—he might include Michael Chabon, Nathan Englander, Nora Ephron and Cynthia Ozick, perhaps Susan Sontag, although they reflect their Jewishness in a way distinctly different from the children and grandchildren of exiles from the pogroms of Eastern Europe, who were at the forefront of creative writing and critical thinking for three-quarters of the Twentieth Century. Saul Bellow near the end of his career said in a letter to Philip Roth they had had a pretty good run of about seventy years, but that it was ultimately over.
When Philip Roth retired from writing seven years ago, it was officially over. We are not likely to see their kind again, although immigrants from other continents are emerging to tell tales of adjusting to diasporas.
While Roth is rightly considered one of the best fiction writers to be overlooked by the Nobel gods, he also has a body of nonfiction writing that bears consideration, a selection of which is contained in the newly published Why Write? Collected Nonfiction 1960-2013. The pieces are selected by Roth, so presumably they are the essays, public addresses, and interviews that he most wants to be remembered for.
I missed some of the satirical pieces he wrote in the Nixon and Reagan era and his sparing in Harper’s Magazine with the lesser novelist Tom Wolfe over the future the American novel. But maybe that is.....Read More
To open up Tina Brown’s The Vanity Fair Diaries: 1983 – 1992 and peruse any of its 416 pages is like having a passport to a bygone era in another country. It is surreal. It is also captivating, literate, enlivening, galling, intriguing, and endlessly observant about the works and days of a trailblazing editor, who made a legend of herself as she put her stamp on a succession of high-profile major magazines. This was at a time when such magazines were newsstand icons and subscription must-haves.
Englishwoman Tina Brown is a bold, intelligent, savvy, and visionary person whose unique career trajectory led her to the editor-in-chief positions of London’s Tatler and then America’s Vanity Fair. (And later, The New Yorker.)
She turned 30 in 1983, after arriving in America and leaving behind her Oxford-and-Fleet Street past. Mission impossible was to try to rescue what was then a flopping attempt by publishing conglomerate Conde Nast to revive Vanity Fair as a cutting-edge, contemporary magazine.
After decades in mothballs, Vanity Fair magazine had been brought back in 1983 with prodigious effort and little to show for it. The top editors who preceded Tina Brown had crafted what the masses decided was dull, cerebral, and predictable.
Big money was at stake. Reputations were on the line – especially that of mega-rich publisher Si Newhouse. In one of her Vanity Fair Diaries earliest entries, he is sized up by Tina Brown in her educated-but-pugnacious style: “Conde Nast is like ancient Rome with all the politics and secrets, everything revolving around Si as Emperor Augustus.” It was soon thereafter that Brown stepped in as the new editor-in-chief.
She had already proved back in England with Tatler that she could reconfigure a sagging magazine and revitalize it with new blood, new ideas, and most of all a new sense of buzzy and eye-catching elements. Newhouse needed just that or the talk on the street was that his newly reincarnated Vanity Fair would be dead by year’s end.
Throughout this entire book—which truly is a Time Capsule of an epoch that now is mysteriously remote, although not that long ago—Tina Brown captures again and again the energies and initiatives that caused a turnaround she commandeered, resulting in Vanity Fair becoming the ultimate chronicler of the gaudy 1980s.
As such, we have in these Vanity Fair Diaries an insider’s up-close-and-personal recapitulation of the Reagan Era; the last pre-Internet age of print-based and paper-oriented reading habits; and most of.....Read More
“He stands alone as a creator of worlds and a weaver of tales.”
Guillermo del Toro
“I met Tony during the making of The Spiderwick Chronicles and his work has enthralled me ever since. Tony’s imagination holds no bounds. His creatures are whimsical and otherworldly in the best sense and his flair for stories captivate, charm and transport all of us to new and wondrous worlds.”
Kathleen Kennedy, President of Lucasfilm
I caught The Norman Rockwell Museum’s highly interesting exhibition Never Abandon Imagination: The Fantastical Art of Tony DiTerlizzi, an exhibition of works by the #1 New York Times bestselling author. It will be on view at the Museum through May 28, 2018.
Known for his multi-million bestselling book series The Spiderwick Chronicles, DiTerlizzi is celebrated the world over for his images of such fantasy creatures as fairies, trolls,.....Read More
Strange because it wasn’t really like an ocean at all. Didn’t have that steady roar you’d expect. No, it was silent. Which was even more threatening than your typical screaming, warrior ocean. After all, noise is only that- just clamor made in defense, out of fear. Howls of the killed, not the killer. Now, silence, silence is as valuable a weapon to the predator as horn or tooth or nail.
That night, the ocean was hunting. It didn’t linger. No, it was too sure of itself to linger. It lay flattened and stretched and seemingly relaxed, with its gray static waves and undetectable breath. Stillness was just another part of the strangeness. Oh, and the patience. It was less like an ocean and more like a painting of an ocean. It was big and still. It was still but mobile, crawling across the city- crawling faster than the lampposts in the street could flick off in genuflection to the sun. Not eroding the city but becoming the city. More accurately, the city was becoming the ocean. No, not a conqueror ocean. No active consumption; nonetheless, it grew from what it was given. The city gave itself out of fear. The stars, disappearing ten by ten, gave themselves out of fear.
The ocean curved through and around the planet, its magnificence gleaming in one beautifully structured obsidian wave. And, when the starry ocean met the rippling sky, that was it. God, in his dark, quaint heaven, lost control over the predator that tore, reared, bucked, and soon fell asleep, content with the night.
Only the Hotel gave that all-consuming ocean pause. A cold night, when molecules of water turned flighty, inconsistent, toggling back and forth between flowing and freezing. That animal ocean stopped short at the foot of the very bright and ugly Baltimore Hotel. Where a motionless man- more a bearded fog than a man- sat on his hands to warm them. The water pressed right up to his toes, receded, left black beads around his feet. Stars peeked white through night like cracks in old leather.
Eleven vacant years, eleven years forgetting to breathe. Time had a strange way of passing at the Hotel, he noticed. It was pulled, or exorcised from him, taken from him; only existing outside his body, outside his mind, would it latch onto him. With eleven years latched to him, he had nowhere else to go, and yet, he didn't want for anything. He had never desired to be anywhere else or tend to anything else.
That, however, was not the same thing as being happy.
He hated the hotel. He hated how the place was never hot nor cold. He hated the indoor pool on the second floor that never had any water in it. Above all, he hated the vastness. Robust and neon and expanding still, expanding with the universe, faster, even. Where Hotel met predator ocean in hushed chaos, all war, quarrel, and conflict merged and converged on the connecting border. And that line, that jagged furrow between stupidly glowing building and ocean defined the threshold for mankind. That line separated man from God, it was the chasm between heaven and hell. A chasm named planet Earth. Maybe? Earth, where he would live all his life? Earth which, by the ocean, had been reduced to that hotel and the small trimmings of beach behind it. That was planet Earth, all his He was stuck there, while everyone else lived like Gods beneath the shade of the ocean’s beautiful black curve.
He had a dog, Dolores. She was big and smelly. Her hair tangled like the wooden carving of a fire. It felt beautiful, her hair.
The hotel had a tower attached to the roof, a little water tower, and he and his beautiful dog would climb the tower and pace along the walkway, guarding it like the watchful eye of a lighthouse, pushing back the towering ocean. He loved the rain, he loved the ocean spray. He loved to be outside, standing, running his fingers through.....Read More
Barney Rosset. Remember the name? As a publisher, he was a maverick and renegade, who battled the status quo of American literature and film by challenging obscenity laws in conservative courts. Rosset widened the consciousness of the straight-laced Puritan culture, moving readers and viewers into the outer realms of sexual expression and cultural mischief.
Those who loved literature and avant-garde film mourned greatly when Rosset died in 2012 after a double-heart-valve replacement. For a writer, I count Barney Rosset and his groundbreaking Grove Press to be a part of my creative foundation, skirting the traditional boundaries of fiction and non-fiction. He made a lasting impression on me.
Two recent books about the outlaw publisher, Rosset, have come on line. His memoir, Rosset: My Life in Publishing and How I Fought Censorship and Michael Rosenthal’s Barney: Grove Press and Barney Rosset – America’s Maverick Publisher and His Battle Against Censorship, provides a multi-faceted view of the man who “was unquestionably the most daring and arguably the most significant American book publishers of the Twentieth Century.”
For my money, I trust the words of Rosset in his memoir. But, the publisher started My Life in Publishing in 1987, in the confused lull of two years after the wealthy Ann Getty assumed control of Grove Press. The feisty Getty fired Rosset for being reckless with his editorial choices. In his late 60s, he recorded large sections of the manuscript, writing and re-writing portions of it, hiring staffers to research the facts of his life.
Things took a turn for the worse when Rosset’s agent sold the manuscript to Algonquin Press in 2007 and the new publishing house enlisted celebrated novelist Brad Morrow to whip the project into shape. The former publisher felt his reputation had suffered from the opening of a new documentary, Obscene, released that year, depicting him as a demented pornographer rather than a noble warrior against censorship.
Rosset fell into bad health and died in 2012 before he could get control of his memoir. His estate gave his papers to the rare books and archives at Columbia University. Rosset’s manuscript was snatched from Algonquin and presented to OR books. OR Books retained Christopher O’Brien, a freelance editor, to augment the project with additional information from the Columbia archives.
Needless to say, one of the staffers who worked with Rosset, complained the final OR book did not resemble the book of his illustrious life. “I worked on the book at different times,” he told an interviewer. “For ten years. The book Barney envisioned was nothing like it is.”
If there are problems with the final OR product, then the Arcade book by Michael Rosenthal, the former Campbell Professor in the Humanities at Columbia, where he taught for almost four decades, presents the flawed, larger-than-life man behind the crusader myth.
Of Rosset, Rosenthal writes in the introduction: “A man with a joyous, fully-fleshed sense of his own importance, he believed his mission as a publisher was to serve as “protector and guardian” of the creative spirit, dedicated to opposing anything that might restrict the liberty of writers.”
Born in 1922 in Chicago, Rosset was the only child of his family. His father was a wealthy banker, who lavished attention on him. He attended the progressive Francis Parker School, where his rebellious spirit bloomed. It is said in high school that he published a mimeographed journal, “The Anti-Everything,” showing a streak of ornery behavior already existed. Later, he joined the ranks of the left-wing American Student Union.
With a restless mind, Rosset studied at four colleges, including Swarthmore and UCLA, finally earning a degree at New York’s New School for Social Research in 1952. However, he was a.....Read More
It's just past 2 a.m., can't sleep for being hurled about in the Drake Passage from Antarctica to Cape Horn. The cabin thumps, creaks and rolls as if it alone was on the high seas. And though the bow camera shows nothing but blackness and the occasional snowflake, something your ancestors downloaded into your DNA registers alarm.
No, this isn't as bad as the time you were caught in a gale off Corsica--when you had to hang onto the bed or be thrown off. But it's a reminder that Antarctica was never just about grand vistas and frolicking penguins, but an uncorrupted, indomitable energy that you glimpsed the......Read More
Helen Benedict’s latest novel, Wolf Season (Bellevue Literary Press)--her seventh-- cuts right into the current tenor of American culture, with characters who are haunted by the violence of war, including sexual violence, and bursting with rage.
Wolf Season is set not in quite the present day, however, but in that distant era of 2015. It is her third book about the Iraq War and its lasting impact on American veterans and Iraqi refugees. According to figures from the Pew Research Center the number of Americans who served in the Gulf Wars since 1990 amounts to only about two percent of the total U.S. population, but when Benedict spoke about her new book at Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn in October, it felt as if she were describing seeds of anger and mistrust that have been germinating in the country for at least a decade and a half.
Every war changes the societies involved, but also brings self-examination of society through art and literature. Benedict interviewed more than 40 Gulf War veterans for her 2009 non-fiction book, The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq, then followed up with her 2011 novel Sand Queen, a story that revolves around 19-year-old Kate Brady, an enlistee guarding the prison at Camp Bucca in 2003, and Naema Jassim, a young Iraqi medical student whose father and little brother are being held behind the razor wire there.
Wolf Season catches up with Naema 12 years later, when she is a refugee in upstate New York and her life intersects with those of Rin, a traumatized woman veteran, and Beth, the wife of a Marine deployed in Afghanistan as the story opens.
With these three books Benedict has become part of the pantheon of contemporary novelists who write about war. Matt Gallagher, David Abrams, Phil Klay, Kevin Powers, and Elliot Ackerman are all writers who are Gulf War veterans themselves. Benedict is not, but she’s been covering violence against women as a journalist and fiction writer throughout her career, and has testified to Congress on sexual assault in the military.
In recent months she has been speaking out on the importance of imagining life from the perspective of one’s ostensible enemies and how fiction, by forcing the reader to imagine other lives, creates compassion. Hosting a panel about literature and conflict at the Center for Fiction in New York in November with Dalia Sofer, Matt Gallagher, Cara Hoffmann, and David Abrams, she talked about her experience counter-demonstrating at the Charlottesville white supremacist rally, saying “These white supremacists had clearly never given a moment’s thought to what it was like to be an African American, or an immigrant, a Muslim or a Jew or anyone else they were targeting. On the contrary, they were invested in not thinking about these matters, the better to demonize the people they wished to hate.”
Benedict, 65, was born in London and grew up peripatetic, with American anthropologist parents who took her with them in their fieldwork. She is a professor at the Columbia.....Read More
When we moved into our first house,
we marveled at its history, guessing
at what the house had withstood since 1915.
Then we threw out the mattress in the attic,
trying not to breathe the dust that billowed into the air,
all the while knowing the same man who’d had no knack
for plumbing fittings and knob and tube wiring
had died in the house years ago.
We sanded and painted and refinished,
Patched the crumbling lathe with mesh and putty,
but we refused to strip those old walls.
Ours was a decision born of money and sweat, but still
we could claim nostalgia and laugh at the way
each picture and nail produced another hopeless gap.
Our new, young neighbors......Read More
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