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This Month's Articles

REVIEWING

HOME

By Toni Morrison

Reviewed by Emily Rosen


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Toni Morrison’s latest effort, Home, is an uneven homage to her universal theme: the residual and everlasting effects of slavery in all of its various betrayals of human dignity.

This slim book about FrankSmart Money (Morrison’s bold and symbolic choice of character names is her trademark), who is perhaps some distant relation to Macon Milkman Dead III in her 1977 masterpiece, The Song of Solomon -- is a young African American Korean War veteran, one of the first to fight in an integrated Army.

A man who is naturally prone to violence, Frank watched his two best friends die in the war, and landing in a mental hospital, he spends his time plotting an escape, an act which turns out to be as easy as a first-grader obtaining a pass to the bathroom. Frank’s life is a constant struggle to exist with dignity as a free man.  

In his early childhood, Frank witnessed his family being driven from their home and property by hooded men. Now in his early adulthood in the 1950s, he tries to make his way “home” from Chicago, where integration is more language than reality. He heads back to Lotus, Georgia, “the worst place in the world, worse than any battlefield,” where “there is no future, just long stretches of killing time … no goal other than breathing, nothing to win, … nothing worth surviving for.” He is, nonetheless, determined to return there and to rescue his mentally .....Read More

ESSAY

The Color of War: How One Battle Broke Japan and Another Changed America

By James Campbell

An essay by Fred Beauford


American History 101

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From the very first, I thought author James Campbell had a brilliant insight when he decided to marry the story of the horrific event that occurred on July 17, 1944, at the Port Chicago Naval Magazine in Port Chicago, California, and one month earlier, the gruesome and bloody invasion of Saipan, an important island in the Marianas chain, in the War in the Pacific.

As I finished the book, however, I noted that he never alluded to my idea anywhere in his book: what happened to the black sailors at Port Chicago was the same mindset that led up to 52 million losing their lives, as the tribal conflict that began in earnest in 1914, where casualties, in the end, were over 35 million -- restarted with little regard for human life.

Adolf Hitler’s praise of America in Mein Kampf wasn’t for nothing.

Here are the basic facts: The bombardment.....Read More



REVIEWING

Canada

By Richard Ford

Reviewed by Sally Cobau


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Sweet Ennui

Mention the name Richard Ford to a bunch of writers and chances are there will be some strong reactions. Generally, the writers will fall into two camps: those who love him and those who loathe him. I’ve mentioned in the past that I left the east coast and fled to Montana (a strong word now, but at the time it felt natural) because of a writer’s words. That writer was Richard Ford. He wrote about Montana so eloquently and so persuasively that I felt it would be a sin not to go. His writing convinced me that Montana was a provocative, rousing place where the sky itself offered the reward of greatness.

He was right—although he later moved to New Orleans and then Maine, confusing me because I couldn’t understand why someone who seemed to feel so deeply for a place would leave it--but now that I’ve read more of his stories I feel I have an understanding of his wanderlust.

Why do other writers dislike him? I was once talking to my friend’s then boyfriend. I found myself in a debate over Ford. I was saying what I used to say about him, essentially that what Ford wrote just felt true and inseparable from how I felt about life. His delicate descriptions, the endings that revealed yet another layer of feeling, the attention to nuance…how could anyone not love it?  But he countered. My friend’s boyfriend found the writing cloying and overly.....Read More



MONTHLY QUIZ

What was the most read article in the year 2010 (Issues Vol. 3 No 8 - 16)

It's issue Vol. 3 No 14, Twilight Forever Rising by Lena Meydan, teviewed by Katherine Tomlinson



REVIEWING

Witness the Night

By Kishwar Desai

Reviewed by Steve Kates


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I enjoy serendipitous coincidences, so imagine my delight at being assigned the novel, Witness the Night, to read and review since I had just recently returned from a three-week trip to India, the setting for this intriguing and disturbing book.

Witness the Night, Kishwar Desai's first novel, a book deserving much praise and a wider audience, won the Costa First Novel Award in 2010. (The prestigious Costa Book Awards, originally known as the Whitbread Awards until 2006, confer recognition on writers from the UK and Ireland; Desai resides in the UK).

It is a cerebral mystery, with enough twists and turns to make even Agatha Christie lay down her teacup and study the plotting of this Byzantine story. More alarming is the fact that the novel is based on a true-life case of murder, augmented by a compendium of several other cases that the author covered as a journalist.

Money, rape, child abuse, murder, corruption,.....Read More



PORTFOLIO

Portfolio: Suzanne Gagnier - One Good Eye

by Kara Fox

surf boader

Suzanne Gagnier has the “eye.” Learning how the camera operates is one thing, having the eye is quite another. It is just not something one can easily learn. This month's portfolio illustrates both the power and grace of surfers gliding their boards over powerful waves, as seen through Suzanne's gifted eye. 

Surfing is one of the oldest practiced sports on the planet. The art of wave riding is a blend of total athleticism and the comprehension of the beauty and strength of nature. Surfing is one of the few sports that creates its own culture and lifestyle.

    There is no exact record of when stand-up surfing became a sport. Early historical records of surfing appear in the late 1700s, when Europeans and Polynesians made first contact in Tahiti. The first Polynesian settlers to land in Hawaii were most likely skilled in simple surfing. In the late 1700's Captain James Cook described how a Tahitian caught waves with his canoe just for fun.

The first surfers were fishermen who discovered riding waves as an efficient method of getting to shore with their catch. Eventually catching waves developed from being part of everyday work to being a pastime. This change revolutionized surfing. After a few hundred years of riding the waves of Hawaii, the well-known Hawaiian form of the sport emerged.

    There was a spiritual component to surfing. The surfboards underwent a sacred ritual before construction. The board,.....Read More

NOVEL

The African Gentleman

…and The Plot to Re-establish The New World Order

A Novel by Fred Beauford

Chapter 47

47

“So, sir, how does it feel to be a big shot now and not have to mixed with the little people anymore?” Daji asked, grinning with his wide, toothy smile.

“Well, I still have to deal with you two low-lives.”

The three of us shared a hardy laugh together. Admed and Daji and I were sitting in my cubicle, and we were having one of our little meetings as I gave them their work assignments for the upcoming week. It was decided that they would remain down on the second floor, which was fine with them

I liked working with these two guys. Both were young males in their late twenties, with extensive education in their backgrounds. They were tall, handsome, striking looking men. It was that full-bodied, rich looking black hair that caused the most envy in me.

And for both, I knew that they saw this job as a stopping off point, until they were able to start their own businesses, perhaps even joining forces

They never told me what they had in mind, and I didn’t probe. I was just glad to have them, especially after my experience the first year on the job. My first set of writers included a middle-aged....Read More



BIOGRAPHY

Excerpt from Grief Too Sad For Song: A Biography of Novelist James Jones

By Michael J. Moore

james jones across the decades

From Chapter Eight, THE WAR IN THE WINTER OF '43

Toward the end of his life, looking back more than three decades to this crucible, Jones asserted that the most noteworthy contradiction was in the before-and-after status of those with whom he served: “No living soul looking at us, seeing us come hustling ashore to stare in awe at the hollow-eyed, vacant–faced, mean-looking First Marines, could have believed that in three months from that day we would be known as the famed Twenty-fifth Infantry ‘Tropic Lightning’ Division, bearing the shoulder patch with a streak of lightning running vertically though it. In the interim we had taken over from the First Marines, prosecuted the final offensive on the ‘Canal, chased the Japanese to Tassafaronga in the whirlwind windup which gave us our name, and begun to move up to New Georgia for the next fight of our campaign. By then we would have had a fair amount of casualties and sick, and as a division and as individuals have made our....Read More


REVIEWING

THE WHIPPING CLUB

By Deborah Henry

Reviewed by Jane M. McCabe


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I liked The Whipping Club for its redemptive quality. The novel is set in 1960’s Ireland—while the Beatles and bell bottoms were gaining international popularity, Irish society was still dominated by the medieval tyranny of the Catholic Church/government. They ran many orphanages and reform schools, where unfortunate youth were physically, psychologically and sexually abused by the nuns and priests who ran them.

Ms. Henry, an Irish- American writer, has used this background for her debut novel. Its story is of two young people, Marian and Ben, who have fallen in love and want to be married. They are well matched but Marian is Irish and Ben is Jewish. When Marian becomes pregnant before they are married, her uncle, a priest, Father Brennan, persuades her not to force Ben into marriage because then he may come to resent the baby and her and “whatever love’s between you will be lost.”

Marian allows herself to be manipulated by this rhetoric—she bears the child, a boy, Adrian, and gives him up for adoption. Believing<.....Read More

REVIEWING

The House I Loved

By Tatiana de Rosnay

Read by:Kate Reading

Reviewed by Michael Carey


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Tatiana de Rosnay adds The House I Loved to her growing and impressive bibliography. Written with Parisian flair, The House I Loved delivers the story of Rose Bazelet, a widow living in her late husband’s family home on rue Childebert, facing the destruction of all she holds dear due to the modernization of Paris. As the demolitions creep closer with every word she writes to her dead husband, Rose reminisces on her life, her love, her losses, her secrets, and how she came to sit in their basement waiting for death. She is determined not to abandon the house that had meant so much to her husband and has been the setting of so many meaningful and painful memories.

The House I Loved resonates with life, begging the question, “What is needed to make life worth living?” Rose struggles with the loss of her husband’s death and finds the tenants that rent the shop below her home to be her saviors. Each of Rose’s neighbors face the same predicament, but each reacts based on their answer to the question de Rosnay poses. Rose’s brother moves to a rural area and couldn’t be happier......Read More



REVIEWING

Long Island Noir

Edited By Kaylie Jones

Reviewed by Loretta H. Campbell


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A Place in the Shun

In the classic noir film, The Lady from Shanghai, a husband trails his wife and her lover to the hall of mirrors in a fun house. Although he’s trying his best to shoot her, he keeps shooting the mirrors instead. Unfortunately for him she has a gun, too, and the reflections don’t fool her.

In this anthology, one of several of the outstanding Noir series published by Akashic Books, the myths about bucolic, wealthy Long Island are shattered like glass in a carnival. In the 17 stories included within, the characters are the underserved, the lower-middle class, the poor migrant and immigrant workers, and the elderly

Each story takes place in a different town on the island and highlights the unknown dysfunction of its residents. The authors clearly know the interior and exterior terrain of the natives. In this book, the land mass is more a culture than a point of geography.

In “Semiconscious,” by Steven Wishnia, the protagonist has lost his sense of belonging, of home. “He’d been cast out east by successive waves of layoffs and two divorces.” A reporter for a Lake Rokonkoma newspaper, he covers a story in which a Mexican immigrant has been beaten to death. The journalist has a computer whiz research local hate websites, and learns that all of the writers on these sites endorse the killing. Their comments make the reporter feel cut off from civilization and morality. Unlike the victim’s community, he doesn’t believe that God will bring the killer......Read More



REVIEWING

What Dies in Summer

By Tom Wright

Reviewed by Janet Garber


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Garden of Evil

Tom Wright’s mesmerizing prose grabs you from the very first page. His sentences seem to rethink their purpose and change course with the passing of each clause. His words flow like a stream, branching off into little rivulets, leading us we don’t know where.

As a driver, Cam never seemed to be in a hurry, but he stayed alert as he drove, kind of the opposite of Jack, who was one of those kill-or-be-killed drivers, always seeming to be on the verge of having some kind of seizure when he was behind the wheel, like he was flying a fighter in a sky full of bogeys and he was out of bullets.”

Wright’s style brilliantly captures the swift currents of a young boy’s mind. He takes us inside that mind, trying to make sense of too much stimuli, too many secrets, and too little trust in himself. He/we need to make sense of our surroundings pronto or more lives may be lost. For he’s living in a Grimm universe, as we all are.

Two innocents in the woods, a boy nicknamed Biscuit and his girl cousin, L.A., both in their early teens, wind up living with Gram for the summer. Their parents are, shall we say, lacking in the maternal and paternal feelings department. Gram, cultured, educated, loving -- the one person in their lives that they can count on for some measure of normalcy, nurturing, and hopefully, safety, turns out to have a fatal......Read More



A WRITER'S WORLD

A Writer's World

Listen Up! Your characters are speaking!

by Molly Moynahan


“When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.” Ernest Hemingway

Iwas on my annual bike trip in Illinois celebrating the end of another perfect day when I heard a farmer from Ohio who had just received his new state-of-the-art combine from John Deere, enumerate his acreage, number of cattle, exactly how much of something he harvested, the number of years his family had owned the farm and a few other statistics.

As I listened to him express his pride in ownership it occurred to me that these encounters were an absolute necessity to a writer because now I knew how an Ohio farmer might have the hubris of a big city millionaire. I was thinking about that encounter the next day as a biking friend described something that happened with a drug seizure she had just supervised. She’s a state’s attorney in southern Illinois where the meth dealers are putting a lie to the concept of a recession. Her sense of humor and method of describing the incident were priceless

When I lived in New York City the majority of people I knew were artists or professionals with jobs connected to publishing or education. I rarely encountered a policeman or a backhoe driver in my daily life, although I had spent two years working for New Jersey Bell ......Read More



DVD News

A Mormon President?

A Documentary by Adam Christnig

A Column by James M. Morgan


What Is a Mormon?

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It's a topic that is very much in the political forefront these days. For the first time in history, could a Mormon Presidential candidate be elected to the White House? A recently released documentary looks into the history behind the Mormon links to the U.S. Presidency.

A Mormon President: Joseph Smith and the Mormon Quest for the White House has been released on DVD. According to A Mormon President director, Adam Christing, who is both a filmmaker and a member of the Mormon History Association, opposition to the candidacy of Mitt Romney is rooted in the historical battles that have gone on between Mormon members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) and other Americans. He believes that his film will shed light on that rift.

"Most Americans don't know that the first U.S. Presidential candidate to be assassinated was a Mormon," noted Christing. "In fact, he was the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith. The Mormon Prophet was murdered a few months after he announced his candidacy.....Read More