This Month's Articles
Portfolio: Attacking The Wave
by Kara Fox
I recently received an invitation to join my daughter and grandsons on a road trip to “The Wave” in Arizona, assuming this was a large water park exploding from the desert, not really of interest to me.
I quickly said yes, however, as I love road trips with my family! Shortly after I agreed to go, I learned The Wave is a multi-colored wonderland in America's Southwest Grand Circle. A diverse land of carved stone that fascinates the eye and mind. This remarkable sculptured sandstone rock formation sits in the shadow of Coyote Buttes and is reached, not by trail, but by navigation using landmarks or GPS coordinates—a 6 mile round-trip hike through soft sand and steep rocks.
Due to the fragile nature of the area, the number of guests allowed is limited. A permit is required to hike to this natural wonder, and only a lucky few are privileged to enter on any given day. The Bureau of Land Management issues permits by lottery, 10 in advance and 10 for walk-ins. We were walk-ins and no less than thrilled when they called our number. Our permit was issued for 2 days from the lottery and we found ourselves with ample time to explore this area of power and grace.
We began our adventure at Bryce Canyon. It's more an amphitheater than a canyon, bursting with red, orange and white rock. Bryce takes your breath away. .....Read More
Booker T. Washington Rediscovered
Edited by Michael Scott Bieze and Marybeth Gasman
Reviewed by Fred Beauford
“Cast down your bucket where you are.” Booker T. Washington, 1895, in a speech before the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta.
Once, when I was an undergraduate at New York University, I participated in a public debate. The question on the floor: Resolve, who was right, Booker T. Washington or Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois in regard to which direction Negroes should go?
Since I organized the debate, I assigned myself the role of Booker T. Washington, the second ever nationally known black leader in America, following in the giant footsteps of Frederick Douglass, and who has been called a founding father of African American education in the United States because he founded the famed Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in 1891.
To this day, I am convinced that I could have won that debate if my opponent hadn’t gone Baptist Minister, and stomped all over me.
He quickly took over, and soon had .....Read More
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
By Cheryl Strayed
Knopf | 2012 | 336 pages | $25.95
Reviewed by Sally Cobau
Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
We all probably fantasize about “escape” at one time or another, a seductive, thrilling challenge—climbing Mt. Everest or backpacking through… In our minds, the journey will be transformative, shaking us out of our malaise or easing our deepest pain.
Few of us act on these impulses, however—they seem too extreme, too indulgent, and in many cases too physically difficult. But for some the pull is too hard to resist. They are the ones who actually go to REI and buy the backpacks and ice picks. Cheryl Strayed, who hiked 1,100 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail, a wild landscape which stretches from Mexico to Canada, is one of these fearless souls and her recent memoir Wild is a testimony to her spirit.
Wild is a riveting .....Read More
The Slush Pile
A Column by Sarah Vogelsong
The Espresso Book Machine: The Resurgence of Print Publishing
If you heard that your local bookstore was installing an Espresso machine, you could be forgiven for thinking that, like so many other struggling literary peddlers these days, it was diversifying into coffee.
But the truth would be much more exciting. Instead of dispensing a single steaming cup within minutes to jolt the mind and stimulate the senses, the Espresso Book Machine dispenses a single book to the waiting customer—any book that he or she chooses of the almost eight million that currently line the “shelves” of its digital catalogue—within minutes.
Need that book on the New York Times bestseller list that’s been sold out for weeks? Need an obscure book on farming that hasn’t been in print since the nineteenth century? What might once have taken months to track down can now land in your hands within five minutes—just enough time to enjoy a real espresso.
At a time when authors, book review sections, and national magazines are mourning the demise of print publishing, the Espresso Book Machine (EBM) is quietly swimming against the tide, seeing digital publishing as not an end, but a means to better book production.
The arguments in favor of electronic publishing are substantial: ebooks can be downloaded and accessed anytime and anywhere; they are less expensive than paper volumes to produce; and they eliminate the enormous waste that accompanies the process of issuing, warehousing, and eventually pulping inventory.
The EBM tackles these problems from a different angle. A print-on-demand (POD) machine.....Read More
Midnight in Peking
By Paul French
Reviewed by Andrea Janov
Midnight in Peking by Paul French is the story of a murder filled with money, beauty, gore, deception, and cover up—everything a great mystery needs to capture readers. What makes Midnight in Peking even more gripping is that it is the true story of the 1937 murder of Pamela Werner, a British girl living in Peking, China.
In the winter of 1937 dead bodies were not an uncommon sight, poverty, suicide, and political killings were the most common causes, but this murder was different. Pamela, the daughter of former British consul, E.T.C. Werner, was visiting her home of Peking on Christmas break when her body was found so severely beaten and disfigured authorities noted it as one of the worst cases of mutilation they had ever seen.
Though this is a non-fiction book, it reads like a novel. French uses a story telling style to establish the setting and the characters that we will be following throughout the investigation. More importantly, though the book is loaded with facts, he shows us those facts instead of merely telling them to us. As the detectives are learning about Pamela’s life, we the reader are learning about the society, culture,.....Read More
By Esi Edugyan
Reviewed by Loretta H. Campbell
Jazz. If there is one word for the musical genius of Black people, jazz is that word.
From New Orleans to Cape Town, from Canada to Cuba, thousands of Africans in the Diaspora have turned their triumphs and tribulations into brilliant music.
This art form is both documentation and vehicle, according to Esi Edugyan (The Second Life of Samuel Tyne) in Half-Blood Blues. In this book she recalls the little known fate of Black people trapped in Hitler’s Germany.
The narrative centers on the fictitious and ill-fated Hieronymus Falk (aka Hiero). He is a self-taught jazz genius on the trombone. Not yet 20, Hiero is the heir apparent to Louis Armstrong. The boy is also a Mischling, meaning he’s half German and half Cameroonian, the half-blood of the title.
Like thousands of Black Germans, Hiero is kidnapped by the Nazis. Because he is Black, he is labeled a defiler of the pure Aryan race, a “Foreign...Stateless person of Negro descent.” At the beginning of the novel he is taken away, most likely to be killed in a death camp.
The novel is told in flashbacks. While it centers on Hiero, his story is not the main one of the book. The real story is that of the narrator, Sid. He is Hiero’s.....Read More
By Anne Cherian
Reviewed by Janet Garber
Melting. . .But Sticking to the Sides of the Pot!
What a potent theme–The Other. Is all literature written by someone standing outside in the rain with her nose pressed up against the windowpane? The great French philosopher/writer, Simone de Beauvoir, saw Man as The Human, Woman as The Other. With this setup, she noted, the chances for a soul-sustaining experience of Love were seriously compromised: “On the day when it will be possible for woman to love not in her weakness but in strength, not to escape herself but to find herself, not to abase herself but to assert herself -- on that day love will become for her, as for man, a source of life . . .” (The Second Sex).
Cherian concerns herself here with the way the lives of four people play out, all but one of whom hail originally from India, four friends (two couples) who reunite 25 years after their graduation from UCLA. In college they called themselves the Gang of Four and included a fifth hanger-on in their circle. As Indians living in America, they are definitely The Other, trying, as immigrants, to adapt to a vastly different culture, new mores, and behaviors, while somehow squaring their actions with their traditions, religion, cultural beliefs, and habits from the old country.
Couple Number One: Frances and Jay were considered a love match; he defied his parents’ expectations by picking his own bride and marrying well beneath his station in life. Did they marry because he felt obligated after dating for a year? Possibly. They have.....Read More
The African Gentleman
…and The Plot to Re-establish The New World Order
A Novel by Fred Beauford
He wasn’t fooling me. I saw him quickly look up from his old fashioned reading devise, and then look back down again. Everyone knows that we Africans—and those few remaining African Americans who are still blessed to have this unique gene—can see out of the sides of our heads.
I knew he was following me everywhere, watching my every move. This was no pot-induced paranoid. This was real.
I looked around to see who I could possible turn to for help as by now I was growing tired of the constant surveillance. But then, just who was watching me? Could it be the FBI? The Anti-New World Order? The New World Order? New World People? Plutocrats? My “colleagues” at transglobal.com? Count Eric? Lovely, sexual Gladys? Wise woman, Liz Gant?
Or, all of the above?
I quickly spotted two National Guardsmen coming toward me. One was carrying an automatic assault rifle, the other, the taller one, was holding on loosely to a big, sleepy looking German Police dog, who looked glad that they were walking slowly, and seemed to be thinking that perhaps they might stop soon so it could take a nap.
I acted quickly, on unthinking impulse. I ran up to them in sheer panic.
“Please help me,” I started pleading to the two soldiers.
The one with the assault rifle, a female, white, middle-aged Staff Sergeant, motioned for me to step back. I could see why. The Police dog had suddenly come to full life, and was barking loudly at me, bearing ugly, dangerous looking big, sharp teeth.
When I first spotted them, the police dog seemed bored out of it head. But no longer.
The handsome, well-built young Hispanic PFC, despite his obvious grandeur as a human specimen, could barely hold it back.
The Staff Sergeant .....Read More
HOUSE OF STONE—A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East
By Anthony Shadid
Reviewed by Jane M McCabe
I’m ambivalent about Anthony Shadid’s House of Stone—after he died during the recent conflict in Syria, I wanted to review it. But I was spoiled—I had just finished reviewing Hugh Thomas’s The Golden Empire and Robert Massie’s Catherine the Great, both weighty tomes and very well written. In comparison House of Stone was a lightweight.
Soon after starting House of Stone my pace lagged, a sure sign that I wasn’t as interested as I expected to be. This is because it falls into the category of dairy writing. As such, it doesn’t make for compelling reading—it’s too open-ended and has little dramatic tension.
Anthony Shadid was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, to a family of Lebanese Christians, who had settled in Oklahoma at the end of the 19th Century. They came to the United States from Marjayoun in Southern Lebanon. His maternal great-grandfather, Isber Samara, was a merchant who built a house in Marjayoun and then sent most of his children to the United States to escape the regional conflicts of the time. This is the house in House of Stone. The house was abandoned soon after its construction but was still owned by Samara family.
In 1990 Shadid, a graduated of the University of Wisconsin-Madison with.....Read More
Reading for My Life: Writings, 1958-2008
By John Leonard
Reviewed by Amanda Martin
“...I found that to get free copies of books from New York publishers, all you had to do was promise to review them, ”writes John Leonard at the start of Reading For My LIfe. “So while I worked on my third first novel, I also scheduled myself to talk about brand new books like V, Herzog, Hall of Mirrors . . . And I talked about new novels from abroad like The Tin Drum, The Golden Notebook, and The Mandarins. . . Loving such books wasn’t exactly molecular biology or particle physics; you merely had to trust the tingle in your scalp, a kind of sonar, and their deeper chords possessed you.”
Reading for My LIfe, Writings, 1958-2008, is a collection of Leonard’s reviews and essays culled from a career that spanned more than 50 years. Edited by his wife, Sue Leonard, it is a book whose publication Leonard, who died in 2008, did not live to see. Besides the essays and reviews, from 1958’s The Cambridge Scene, written when Leonard was 19-years-old, to the 2005 review of Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, it also includes a lovely introduction by E.L. Doctorow and a final section of appreciative essays and remembrances by friends and family who loved and valued him.
Being a lover of books myself and therefore an avid reader of book reviews, I had probably ....Read More
C.G. JUNG – A BIOGRAPHY IN BOOKS
By Sonu Shamdasani
Reviewed by Emily Rosen
First, let’s get physical. This 11 ½ by 10 coffee table book, is, before anything else, an artistic treasure. Your eyes will linger on the front cover for many minutes, before you venture beyond. The heavy high quality paper, the reproductions of color plates and lithographs of treasured writings in every form and, yes, even the heavily inked fragrance within its bindings are all momentary distractions from the actual copy. If ever there was a book to “fondle,” this is it.
Sonu Shamdasani, considered to be the ultimate authority on Jung, is the Philemon Professor of Jung History at the Centre for the History of Psychological Disciplines at University College London. Born in Singapore in 1962, he grew up in England, and first discovered Jung in his teens when traveling through India in search of a guru. There he came across the text for The Secret of The Golden Flower, his first encounter with psychology. Engaged in further study, he concluded that psychology and psychotherapy “was in a mess” and he was determined to figure out how it got that way, thus his immersion in its history.
In this book, we enter the virtual world of Jung’s library, an almost holy place where learning is elevated to a transcendent experience. This is.....Read More
An American Spy
By Olen Steinhauer
Read by: David Pittu
Reviewed by Michael Carey
Olen Steinhauer is, as declared by the synopsis, by far the best espionage writer in a generation. And An American Spy is the coup de grâce that ends his trilogy of spy novels wrapped around the secretive Department of Tourism and our star spy, Milo Weaver. Fear not though; with an ending that opens itself to a new series involving a new agency and a changing of the guard, er, characters, I am certain that we haven’t heard the last of Steinhauer, nor have we listened to his last thriller.
An American Spy is a self-contained novel allowing the listener to want for nothing in terms of the prequels. The back-story blends in seamlessly as the Chinese are at it again and the Americans have scores to settle. The storytelling follows each of the main players in turn, unraveling the plot and raising questions as it rolls along. Olen has a gift for creating empathetic.....Read More
A WRITER'S WORLD
A Writer's World
by Molly Moynahan
Start again. Do better.
“Honest criticism is hard to take, particularly from a relative, a friend, an acquaintance, or a stranger.”
Recently I had the great privilege of receiving criticism on a rough draft of my novel from a renowned literary critic, a phenomenal novelist and an intellectual who is considered unparalleled in his field: my father. Prior to receiving my manuscript back from him, the first 100 pages marked with marginal comments such as: “I don’t get this” “nonsense” “huh?” “unlikely” “what?” “cliché,” my mother said helpful things like, “We love you,” and “Remember, your father is treating you like a professional writer.”
Never mind that they are both 87 and I just turned 55. This entire episode reminded me how fortunate I am to have such a resource, but also how it can feel to be handed your heart on a platter, neatly dissected. My dad would have called that previous metaphor, “overblown, unoriginal, what heart?”
So, how do you proceed? In this case I called him immediately, thanked him for his close reading, asked a few questions, recognized how much he wants me to succeed and after hanging up the phone, I cried a bit and then took his advice and started over.
My experience with criticism has run the gamut from praise beyond anything I could have imagined to specific and detailed negative feedback that has caused me to question my choice of careers.
I was a babysitter years ago for the fiction editor of the New Yorker in Maine, a lovely job that enabled me to observe the secret life of famous writers on vacation, some of which I had already experienced, but some of which provided me with a lifetime of .....Read More
Beatlemania: Technology, Business, and Teen Culture in Cold War America (Johns Hopkins Introductory Studies in the History of Technology)
By Andre Millard
Reviewed by Steve Kates
On a cold, blustery night in February of 1964, a seismic blow struck the music industry in the solar plexus: The Beatles debuted on the Ed Sullivan TV variety show. One can hardly imagine a more disparate confrontation of show biz talents – Sullivan, the dour, almost somnolent gossip columnist turned omnipotent TV host, and the youthful, exuberant, irreverent, and pixyish British quartet.
The studio nearly burst its seams as the Fab Four (not yet so named) went bouncing through their act.
Appearing on Sullivan was the precursor equivalent of a star turn on the Johnny Carson show – it could make or break a career, and on that momentous evening, the Beatles began, in earnest, their conquest of American and, ultimately, worldwide popular music.
Why it has taken forty-eight years for Beatlemania to be published is a moot question, but the more relevant query is: Was this book truly needed?
The Beatles were young men in skinny three-button collarless suits, shirts, and ties, with soup bowl haircuts, castigated as the devil’s spawn and the downfall of American youth. Times change. In the glaring spotlight of hindsight 48 years later, they ....Read More
The End of History
A short story by Jan Alexander
A bottle of Chateau Lafite made Adam Green a visible man. A single bottle, sold to the young man in the third row, for two hundred and fifty-three thousand dollars. A record price. Thomas Jefferson had etched his initials in the glass along with 1787, a very fine year.
A rising young hedge fund manager, the Wall Street Journal called Adam.
He kept the bottle on his mantel for a while. His emerald god of double-digit returns. Sometimes in the translucent hours when stock markets slept, he would pace, and he’d ponder the glass with its living cells still crawling beneath the surface, some forgotten craftsman’s breath preserved in embryonic bubbles. He imagined stomping on grapes, blowing sand into crystal, and felt strangely sad that the only alchemy he knew was to plant a million dollars somewhere and hope it would grow. Of course, he was also learning to savor good things. He told himself that was a sort of talent that ancient hands and feet had plucked and squeezed those grapes so that someday he could taste immortality.
New investors came to him, the young hedge fund wizard who could afford Thomas Jefferson’s wine. He talked about his possession sometimes, with the discretion befitting a man who could afford such things, and strictly in the company of those who wore their own armor of.....Read More