As most of you know, the novel "Gone Girl" has been made into a motion picture. This novel by Gillian Flynn was reviewed by Sally Cobau in Volume 5 Number 36. Check it out if you haven't read it.
This Month's Articles
Rebel Souls: Walt Whitman and America’s First Bohemians
By Justin Martin
Reviewed by Fred Beauford
Seeking A Caliphate
The one great thing about living in this country, because of its newness, and vast space, is that my follow countrymen (and women) can still organize societies based on religion, race and income. Rich people, middle class folks, Jews, Amish, blacks, white and others, can live most of their lives in America and never interact with anyone other than their group, and be happily left alone.
There is one group, however, where this is not the case: creative artists, once even labeled Bohemians. Wherever they have tried to build a community, be it in North Beach, San Francisco; Venice Beach in Los Angeles; or Greenwich Village and SoHo in Manhattan, they were soon overrun by their arch enemy, the mighty money grubbers who follows them everywhere they go, grimly determined to find out what their secrets are, and how could they get some of it for themselves.
Now, politicians all across the country have gotten in the act, hoping to prop up rundown city centers. They are courting artists to come and save them. In Detroit, for example, they even have a plan where they will sell a house to an artist for one dollar if they promise to stay in it for four years.
But just whom are these politicians trying to fool anyway? They don’t really want these unkempt artists; and by now, the artists know it. They know that they are just being used as bait, because anyone in the know, knows that the evil moneygrubbers will quickly descend on them, despite their being the blazing wits and cutups that they are-- like a pack of hungry hyenas; and, bring with them countless millions in new revenue.
Rebel Souls offers us a highly informative look at the very first attempt here in America where novelists, poets, actors, dancers, visual artists and journalists, came together and tried to create a society. They called themselves Bohemians.
Martin first gives us a detailed history of the term “Bohemian.” “The term Bohemian,” he writes, “dates to roughly 1830. Its coinage is rooted in a misperception, namely, that the Romani ....Read More
LETTERS TO THE WRITERS
Thanks so much for your fine review in Neworld Review. Yours is the first true review by a scholar in a scholarly publication. Readers certainly will gain a very good idea of what is in the book from your thorough treatment. I deeply appreciate all that you have done in support of Harlem's Rattlers.
I hope to see you at Adelphi in November if not before.
Jeffrey T. Sammons
You touched me so deeply with this review (A Replacement Life). Incredibly deep, sensitive read, not least because of the Malamud echoes
By Laura Lane McNeal
Reviewed by Janet Garber
Scratch away at the veneer of Fanny Bell, an aristocratic-seeming white Southern gentlewoman, and uncover the beating heart of a runaway white-trash-teen-turned-dance-hall-girl who got lucky and married the rebellious son of a wealthy family. She’s as eccentric as they come and mysteriously frail of body and mind although midway through the book we learn she is only 52 years old.
Well, the events that pile up on her and her devoted maids might throw anyone for a loop: shooting deaths, lethal accidents, rape, suicides, illness, unplanned pregnancies, murder, to name a few. McNeal lays it on a little thick toward the end of the book with last-minute revelations that she throws at us rat-a-tat-tat.
Overall this book is fast easy read with engaging characters, particularly the maids, though they seem a bit too giving and loving and wise and self-sacrificing and. . .stereotypical.
They have no faults; they make no missteps; they always know how to right things. They are, in short, wonderful, but are they for real? They absolutely steal the show from the main characters: the matron, Fannie, and her granddaughter, Liberty Alice Bell (“Ibby”) who shows up on her rundown Queen Anne Victorian doorstep when she’s 11.
Ibby, in particular, remains somewhat of a cipher as a character. Though a rank outsider, hailing from Olympia, WA, totally ignorant of the racial divisions so carefully observed in her new location, and only just made aware that she even has a grandmother, Ibby seems to adapt with nary a protest.
In the course of a few weeks, she loses both parents, gains a grandmother. All this upheaval presents no problem evidently. She vaguely wonders about it all, but does her best to blend in to her new environment. We rightly expect more fireworks, more emotional fallout, a tantrum or two--but what there is, is clumsily handled.
The story takes place in New Orleans in the heady 60’s and 70’s amid references to sit-ins at lunch counters, anti-war demonstrations, LBJ’s Civil Right Act of 1964. Of course, it brings to mind The Help by Kathryn Stockett, but that book was far more interested in portraying the era when civil rights took hold in the South, the tense political climate, the courage it took to stand up against the bigots, and the internal lives of the black maids.
Doll-baby focuses more on an accumulation of tragedies that shape the lives of both black and white families, and the inseparable intertwining of all their lives as they choose to spend – in this case – more than 40 years together. One by one the secrets, that have kept the windows shuttered and doors to the....Read More
By Virginia Woolf
Reviewed by Sally Cobau
An Imperfect Heroine
One evening not so long ago, I was searching my shelves for a good book to read. I picked up everything from the Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens to Songlines by Bruce Chatwin, but nothing seemed to fit. Then I saw my old copy of Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. Why not? I would give it a go.
Does the book “hold up”? Does the book feel dated? Mrs. Dalloway is highly stylized so it takes a while to get into the modernist style, but I have to say that after an initial adjustment, I tore through the book.
The world Woolf describes (post WWI, London) is both precisely described and fragmented. Dare I say I was surprised by the almost trippy nature of the perspectives, a word I would never in a million years associate with Woolf. Dreamily, the characters move through the world, in both a fog and in a state of hyper-awareness. They become excited by the brilliance of a single item—a flower, a bell, a homeless person.
Woolf may have been trying to mimic the “fragmentary” world after WWI. The books I’ve read about WWI seem to suggest a gruesome reality, where the men who survived were inexorably damaged. It seems that very few came through the war unscathed, and the word “shell-shocked” was invented around this time to describe the illnesses these men endured.
The end of the war is the backdrop for a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway. Clarissa is preparing for a party and everything must be perfect. The book open with these famous lines: “Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.”
This line tells a lot about the character and the story to come—that she is preparing for something, that she doesn’t have to buy the flowers herself (a maid could do it), that ....Read More
All Thy Conquests
By Alfred Hayes:
Reviewed by M.J. Moore
Disillusion. Confusion. Inexplicable grief.
All the above dominate All Thy Conquests by London-born Alfred Hayes, who became a naturalized American and whose poems, novels, and screenplays retain their power. Although now out of print, it’s worth searching libraries or other resources for this remarkable novel.
Published in 1946, two years after Rome was the first Axis capital to fall, Hayes’s debut novel (yes, he was with the U.S. Army during the Italian Campaign) evokes the agonized disarray of Italian civilian life, the feckless omnipotence of the occupying Allies, and overlapping incidents of broken dreams amid much relentless yearning.
Instant acclaim from The New Yorker proclaimed in 1946: “The author, in a beautifully written, expertly constructed novel, illuminates . . . the dead fruit of victory . . . with cruel brilliance,” deeming All Thy Conquests to be “an admirably unpretentious first novel that shows a sharp talent.”
And John Hersey (Hiroshima, etc.) averred that “Mr. Hayes has written a kind of impression of failure—a many-toned failure: Failure to purge the Fascists or their ideas; failure to live up in personal terms to the demands of democracy.”
Even CBS radio chimed in: “It may shed a little light on why the peace hasn’t set in solid.”
That idea, voiced at the Cold War’s dawn, dovetails with the novel’s epigram, a line from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar lending the novel its title: “Are all thy conquests, glories, triumphs, spoils / Shrunk to this small measure?”
Hardly the stuff of big parades, flag waving, swaggering G.I. Joes, and all the other Hollywood clichés that have helped Americans (and the world at large) cultivate a thoroughly skewed, idiotic, inaccurate picture of the way things were in 1944 and 1945.
Contrary to the Yanks as Saviors stereotype perfected on movie soundstages and equally contrary to the America the Disaster riffs patented by the Howard Zinn-Noam Chomsky-Gore Vidal school of thought, novelist Alfred Hayes offers in All Thy Conquests a panorama of exhausted, distressed personae (European and American alike), all of whom remain disoriented by their recent shared crucible.
Actually, they’re not just disoriented or even discombobulated. As noted in The Saturday Review of Literature, the women and men in All Thy Conquests illustrate “the demoralization that beset conquered and conqueror alike.” One senses this in the novel’s opening paragraph, which echoes “The Waste Land” of T.S. Eliot (“I had not thought that death had undone so many . . .”) with these words: So many people and the sun so bright. One would not have thought there would be so many people. So many of them, from all the quarters of the city, and the sun on the,....Read More
by Kara Fox and Steve Fisch
Is what we see with our searching eyes what truly exists? Is the truth of our vision the same truth as the vision of another? Stephen Fisch and I present to you, our experiment in how we individually perceive the grandeur of the iconic Watts Towers.
As the tallest peak of the Watts Towers explodes through the bright blue sky one is reminded of the greatness man can create. It all begins with the idea, and Simon Rodia, an Italian immigrant, a tradesman, had the idea most didn’t understand or believe in. He wanted to build something ‘big.’
So with a dream in his heart, on a small triangle of land in the city of Watts, Mr. Rodia devoted 33 years of his life constructing a complex set of 17 towers, two of which reach nearly 100 feet into the infinite sky, separate sculptural pieces, crafted from ‘found’ materials: steel pipes and rods wrapped with wire mesh, coated with mortar, and embedded with shards of porcelain, tile, broken sea shells, and slivers of glass.
From 1921 to 1955, alone, he created this monument as a testament to the spirit of individuals who turn their dreams into realities.
Stephen and I, cameras in hand, drove to the city of Watts with an idea, our dream…to photograph this collection of structures, once called, by Mr. Rodia, “Nuestra Pueblo,” Our Town, and present to you, this National Historic Landmark, through two separate points of view.
As a native Angeleno living in the city for over six decades, it had never occurred to me to visit the Watts Towers until after a conversation I had with colleagues. Together we thought it would be fun to make the drive to South Los,....Read More
A WRITER'S WORLD
A Writer's World
A Column by Molly Moynahan
Close your eyes and kiss me
When I was three years, apparently I had a huge crush on a boy with something- Down's syndrome possibly. Anyway, this boy kept inviting me to stand on the crest of a hill and close my eyes so he could kiss me. Which I did.
But instead of kissing me, he pushed me down the hill. According to this unreliable but enthusiastic source, I kept getting up, smiling, running up the hill, closing my eyes and waiting, only to be pushed back down the hill. The person who told me this anecdote was trashed but I vaguely remembered the whole sad situation. Part of me is appalled while another part, the writer part, thinks that little girl is awesome in her hopefulness.
Well, I'm really not sure but let's call it defeat, rejection, no, failure, runner-up, you're a loser baby...
Yes, I have three published novels and at least four that went absolutely nowhere except to a shelf in my study where they will remain until I pitch them down the garbage chute without rereading them, and either thinking I am so gifted no one understands poor me, or that I may be the worst writer in the entire world and I owe a number of editors a letter of apology for subjecting them to my drivel.
I've been on both sides, the excitement of an auction, the generous advance, the marketing plan that told of advertisements, a book tour; lots and lots of time and money devoted to my success.
Then the gradual erosion, even after a rave review in the Sunday New York Times Book Review and a number of other honors. My marketing person is now an assistant, the phone calls ebb, the excitement,....Read More
By Nancy Shiffrin
“Salaam Aleichem”. “Shalom.” “You would like to taste Persian?” The restaurant is fragrant well-lit. I nod. “Please sit”; The Proprietor bows. I peruse the menu. “What’s the best?” He serves lamb tongue in clear broth flavored with saffron shallots lime
pita bread in a basket hot tea in a glass. At the next table the Girl chatters into her cell phone. She must shop for a dress. She will buy pink lipstick. She will attend a party for the Oscars. I frown. She giggles. “You teach English at the College, don't you? You're the one who goes ballistic over cell phones.” Yesterday my class read “Theme for English B 'go home and write a page tonight let that page come out of you then it will be true'”
I unpack my briefcase. “'I wonder if it's that simple'”, Layla ....Read More
Thank You for Your Service
By David Finkel
Read by: Arthur Bishop
Macmillan Audio | 2013 | Running time: 8 hours | 7 CDs | $34.99
Reviewed by Michael Carey
David Finkel has carved out a career as a journalist of brilliance, guts, and heart with eye opening reporting in the thick of the issues. In a previous book, the best-selling The Good Soldiers, Finkel spent time on the ground with soldiers in Baghdad. In Thank You for Your Service, Finkel reunites with some of the soldiers; only this time it is back home where these young men and their families face a new battle.
Thank You for Your Service is at once a testimony to the very real, very horrific trials our servicemen face, a testament to the rough state of our military’s mental health care system, and homage to the fight many individuals are waging to keep our troubled soldiers afloat.
Finkel gets intimate with several of the soldiers and their families, telling of the struggles, the fights, and the dark hours they’ve seen in their ongoing struggle to get back to some semblance of a normal life.
Thank You for Your Service also gets close with the army personnel working to help the broken soldiers adjust and overcome. Some of these workers carry their own injuries and burdens making each soldier they can help a personal goal and victory (but also making the lost ones more demoralizing).
Then there is the story of General Peter Chiarelli who became Vice Chief of Staff and made it a priority to reduce suicides in the army. His efforts and the pomp and frill of events in Washington are juxtaposed to the struggle of the broken soldiers in Middle America.
The effect of Finkel’s narrative and the skill of the narrator, Arthur Bishop, create empathy. The listener knows how real and how awful these events and struggles are. We don’t have to see the burning man asking why we didn’t save him to know that the soldier suffering from that particular nightmare is consumed by his experiences in Iraq.
We feel a small portion of his struggle. Just the other day I heard on the radio a mention....Read More
The Pinioned Birds
By Janet Trask Cox
Reviewed by Jane Madson McCabe
When in high school in Billings, Montana, in the late 1950’s, Janette Trask was a favorite of mine. She was a tall girl with light brown hair and had a mysterious air about her, as though she had secrets she wasn’t about to tell. I recall that she was a cheerleader.
We were in the advanced English class for students who showed “promise,” (where we discussed short stories published in the Atlantic Monthly.)
After high school we went our separate ways—Janet to the University of Montana in Missoula where she earned a BA in Journalism and then to the University of Washington where she earned an MFA in Creative Writing. She married an artist. That’s about all I knew about her, until recently when high school classmates began to surface on Facebook. One of them told me that Janet had published a book. Since I too am a writer, I was curious to read it.
In the acknowledgements Janet thanks our eighth-grade English teacher, “Chalkeater Johnson” (because she used to lick chalk dust from her fingers,) for teaching us sentence structure. Miss Johnson was big on having us diagram sentences. She gave us such a firm foundation in English grammar that teachers at Eastern Montana College claimed they could identify those of us who had been her students because our grasp of grammar.
Miss Johnson always seems to wear the same navy blue dress. The aisles creak when she walked between our desks. One day she banged on the black board and yelled, “There’s good men and bad men in every race, and don’t you ever forget it.” And, I never did.
I hope I can be forgiven my tendency to recall those halcyon days when the world was safe, the country prosperous, and we in the excelled English assumed we had bright futures…
While I read The Pinioned Birds I thought of how Janet looked then. She seems to be looking elsewhere—perhaps she was imagining the book she would one day write.
The Pinioned Birds is set on the plains of eastern Montana, on a sheep ranch near Ballantine not far from Billings. Its time period is from 1929 to 1940. Both world travelers, Virginia, a college graduate who has sailed the globe, and Will Matthews, a WWI veteran, come together and marry.
The Matthews family owns a sheep ranch. R.T. and his wife Clara homesteaded the,....Read More
The Old Man Who Thought He Was Still Twenty-Five
By Fred Beauford
My name is Richmond St. Jacques. Once, my many, many dear departed friends either called me Saint, or Rich, although I was seldom a saint, and only rarely rich for that matter, what with all that bouncing around from one grand idea to the next, not quite ever getting it just right.
Or, if I did become so proficient in what I was doing, I became so bored by what I had accomplished through nothing but sheer force of will, that I just walked away.
Money and fame, such that it is, have never kept me anywhere.
I have also often, unwisely, sought out adventures in areas that perhaps I should have left alone, only because I double dared the adventure to defeat me.
This was clearly bravado.
In more times than I can remember, I am deeply regretful that I tested 149 in an U.S. Army IQ Test years ago when I was a soon to be a lowly teenage grunt in the Army.
I think that that accounts for most of my problems: a mind that never sleeps and can see connections everywhere.
I picture big ideas first in my mind. I can suddenly see how some simple little thing could be done that would cause something else to happen, and soon you will have a big, exciting project going, with friends, family and enemies all acclaiming your genius; although, I should point out, things can sometimes go terribly astray, and sometimes things just don’t quite work out as planned,
Just ask Einstein, General Patton, and many more who were blessed, or,....Read More