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This Month's Articles

REVIEWING

King of Cuba

By Cristina Garcia

Reviewed by Janet Garber

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Brothers From Another Mother

Two old men, whose stories intersect at crucial points in their history, narrate this novel. They are men on opposite sides of the political poles, both Cuban.  One, Goyo, has been a successful expatriate, living in Florida since the Revolution, running a successful Cuban diner, investing in real estate and various business ventures.  The other, identified throughout simply as El Comandante, needs no further description: a fictionalized Fidel Castro himself.

Both men are on a slippery slide towards death and they know it; both have certain objectives they want to realize before the end.  Goyo has decided that he can redeem himself and his checkered past of countless loves, wives and mistresses, a son lost to drug addiction and mental illness, real estate that is literally crumbling, in only one way: revenge.  His goal is to assassinate the great leader or to live to the day where he sees him die, even if it means outliving him only by a few minutes.

El Comandante, on his side, though he has handed off a lot of his power to his brother, is still very active behind the scenes, between health crises of various sorts.  He does not want to admit that the sixty-year revolution is at an end, or that it has failed in any way to deliver on its promises to the Cuban people.  He too has had a rich and varied love life, but has mostly failed to recognize the offspring he has produced with multiple women. 

Both men are driven to their inexorable end and we track.....Read More



ESSAY

The Best of the Best American Poetry

Edited by Robert Pinsky, series editor, David Lehman

An essay by Sally Cobau

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Poetry, Alive and Well

As a happy coincidence, I received a copy of The Best of the Best American Poetry just as I was about to begin teaching poetry in my class “College Writing.”  The class was an introductory class, and for all my students their first attempt at college.

Not exactly delinquents, these students had dropped out of high school for one reason or another—they were bored, did drugs, had criminal records, etc.—and chose a military-style academy in which to earn their GED before taking my class. 

In other words, they were not, as a whole, what I’d consider “poetry readers.”  Yet surprisingly, they were excited to begin the poetry unit (maybe they were bored with hearing yet another version of how to write a personal narrative). 

And so I began with a film about Sylvia Plath, but the somber, somewhat morbid film did not seem to catch their attention.  I was enthralled when I was a teenager with Sylvia Plath.  They were not.  And so I tried other poets to my liking—Lucille Clifton, Joy Harjo, and Philip Levine. They seemed to respond to these poets better.  When I finally got around to using the The Best of the Best, I introduced the students to Sherman Alexie with his poem “Terminal Nostalgia”:

The music of my youth was much better
Than the music of yours.  So was the weather.
Before Columbus came, eagle feathers
Detached themselves for us.  So did the weather.
During the war, the country fought together
Against all evil.  So did the weather.
The cattle were happy to be leather
And made shoes that fit.  So did the weather…

The poem continues like this with the refrain “so did the weather” juxtaposed against money, medicine, and the.....Read More



VIDEO

The Author Speaks:

Produced and edited by Alexis Beauford

Marcus Guillory talks about his debut novel red now-n-laters: a Mass in 3 parts to be released in 2014 by Atria Books and answers questions about how he managed to become a first time published author by a major publishing house.



ESSAY

On Opinion
Excerpt from The First Decade: Essays 2000-2010

An essay by Fred Beauford, Los Angeles, 2004

Here was my dilemma, and quite a dilemma it was. I was a 64-year-old black man, in sometimes questionable health, which was bad enough. My funds, which are typical for a black writer of serious topics in modern day America, tended to go up and down like some kind of terrifying amusement park ride, and were totally unpredictable.

And, although I had many readers and admirers in both New York and San Francisco, in Los Angeles I was ignored, down-trodden, and living in a one room hotel on the very edge of the infamous downtown Los Angeles where unsung losers ended up.

There were no friendly writer’s conferences or workshops to be taught in Los Angeles that I knew of, where I could earn a few bucks, like the ones I had just attended in Brooklyn as a feature speaker. Back there, I proudly walked through crowded rooms of fellow writers, being lionized, and patted on the back for my good work over the past few years because I had boldly stepped up to the plate as a late bloomer in my mid-fifties, and swung away.

In Los Angeles, Hollywood rules. There was a firm artistic.....Read More



PORTFOLIO

Portfolio: Vicki Whicker

by Kara Fox

cicki whicker

A gossamer thread spins in the universe and as it creates its magical web, it serves to connect us. Vicki Whicker's story is a gentle reminder of how I observe this movement in that which we cannot see. My path to Vicki is but a piece of this magical thread.

  My friend, Babs, who came to me via a chance encounter in an airport on the way to Cuba, has a daughter, Alyse, who has a friend, Maili, who is a friend of Vicki Whicker…my invisible thread has entwined us all, and is the basis for this month's portfolio. We do not need to know someone for them to resonate in our lives and when I read Maili's piece on Vicki, I felt compelled to learn more about this amazing woman's adventure. You are about to read the story of a brave woman's journey into the beautiful unknown as captured with her iPhone…vibrant iPhoneography.

"I bought a house sight unseen from a post on Facebook by a man I barely knew. "Who wants to be my neighbor?" was his query along with the picture of a small white farmhouse mired in snow. It was March. That snow looked fresh. I was in LA, where the sun was relentlessly shining as it had been for the past 25 years of my time there. I was so done with LA."

From her first home in Florida, to Quincy, Illinois where she earned her BA in psychology, then off to California for a successful career as a shoe designer, and now to her new home in central New York, Vicki has left her creative mark throughout.....Read More



REVIEWING

Flat Water Tuesday

By Ron Irwin

Read by: Holter Graham

Reviewed by Michael Carey

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Flat Water Tuesday: Where to start? Let’s see. It’s a novel by Ron Irwin, a writer in residence at the University of Cape Town, a man who writes what he knows. He is a rower from New York State who attended boarding school in New England and has spent time making documentary films.

Why do I almost completely reiterate the author bio? Because, the main character in Flat Water Tuesday, Rob Carrey, is at a glance Ron Irwin. Rob is a skuller (a singles rower) from Nichol City, New York taking a fifth year of high school at Fenton Academy, a school founded for rowing greatness.

As a grown up, he is a documentary filmmaker who takes a lot of work out of Cape Town. In reading the synopsis and author bio, I was not intrigued and, as a non-rower, not excited in the least. I copied the CDs to my computer to find they were broken into fewer and longer tracks (each chapter a full track or two), a format I’ve found makes short sprints of listening while on the go more difficult. From the outset, I felt this book had everything to prove.

The beginning went much as I expected. The cocky, fish-out-of-water, Rob Carrey, was annoying in his inability to rationalize his situation of being required to row on the four-man crew rather than.....Read More



REVIEWING

The Transhumanist Reader: Classical and Contemporary Essays on the Science, Technology, and Philosophy of the Human Future

Edited by Max More and Natasha Vita-More

Reviewed by Steven Paul Leiva

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The general misunderstanding of evolution has truly been monumental.

There are those, of course, who don’t believe that the natural process of evolution through natural selection exists at all, preferring to believe that some supernatural entity willed all manifestations of life into being in one go, fully formed, complete, and ready for extinction.

No monkey uncles for them, they contend, in fact insisting that the continuing existence of monkeys is the proof against evolution, for if we evolved from monkeys why are they still around?

The flaw in their thinking, outside of the fact that we did not evolve from monkeys, but rather share a common primate ancestor with them, is assuming that evolution is a smooth process of one species not so much evolving as morphing into another species, like the misleading animations of the evolution of particular species (especially us) we have seen in science documentaries for years.

Even people who accept the evolution of life through natural selection seem to have this image of it in their head. And the mistake many of them make, displaying the universal solipsism we seem to have evolved into, is thinking that we today, Homo sapiens in the Twenty-first Century, are not only the end goal of all our past evolution, but of all of life’s past evolution.

The evolutionary buck, it is felt by.....Read More



REVIEWING

Dreadful: The Short Life and Gay Times of John Horne Burns

By David Margolick

Other Press | June 2013 | 400 pages

Reviewed by M. J. Moore

Meet John Horne Burns

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Let’s deal first with the title.  Dreadful: The Short Life and Gay Times of John Horne Burns.  

Translation: “dreadful” was a code word used by novelist John Horne Burns (a gay man) in his personal letters; he used the code to indicate a homosexual person.  Labeling someone “a dreadful” or referring to any “dreadful” antics signified gay orientation.  The military censors never caught on during World War Two, thus the euphemism was exceedingly useful. 

In 1947, John Horne Burns (an Andover-born, Harvard-educated, Irish-Catholic ex-GI) published The Gallery, an unusually structured WW II novel comprised of linked short stories and autobiographical ruminations.  

The Gallery was a critical and commercial success in the late 1940s (lauded by Hemingway and John Dos Passos; selling more than a half-million copies), often cited in subsequent years by fellow “war writers”--from Joseph Heller to Gore Vidal, Norman Mailer, and others--as one of the best narratives by an American to emerge from the war.

Unfortunately, after his Pulitzer Prize-nominated debut, Burns’ career was derailed by the savage reviews that greeted his subsequent two novels.  He died in 1953, at age 36, soaked in alcohol and furiously self-exiled in Italy. 

It’s an understatement to say that Dreadful is superbly researched.  It seems as if Margolick has retrieved almost.....Read More



BOOK NEWS

The Global Librarian

Metropolitan New York Library Council and Association of College and Research Libraries - 2013

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Libraries and our Brave New World

In the US and around the world, talented librarians are asserting themselves anew in the digital age, proving that they continue to be invaluable resources in the 21st century. An exciting new book, The Global Librarian, sets out a new vision of librarians across the globe. Produced by the Metropolitan New York Library Council and the New York Metropolitan Area Chapter of the Association of College and Research Libraries, The Global Librarian demonstrates that librarians have designed and implemented creative ways in which to serve the information directly and remotely. 

While libraries worldwide face public perception challenges, public libraries in the United States continue to set exciting new standards and enjoy immense support from the communities they serve.

With the advent of the Internet and the digitization of books and special collections, many people would expect the numbers and use of libraries to decline. However the success of US libraries shows how this can, in fact, be a misconception; the number of public libraries in the U.S. has increased over the last 20 years to approximately 17,000; and astonishingly, outnumbers the globally popular fast-food chain McDonald’s. 

The Global Librarian highlights these crucial industry trends and insights that will allow librarians and libraries to continue to evolve with the rapidly changing technological environment.

"This book is a response to the shortsighted perceptions that libraries and professional librarians are obsolete in the age of the internet,” says Jason Kucsma, Executive Director of .....Read More