This Month's Articles
Farewell, Dorothy Parker
By Ellen Meister
Reviewed by Janet Garber
The Bitch from Beyond
"Bring your inner bitch into the light where she belongs," counsels Dorothy Parker, newly resurrected, between gulps of scotch and gin. She’s holding court in the home of one sharp-tongued movie critic, Violet Epps, a could-be successor, who needs help in the assertiveness department when it comes to everyday life.
Violet is fighting for custody of her niece, pondering how to dump a dopey boyfriend, defending herself against the backstabbing moves of a junior associate, and making goo-goo eyes at her hunky kung fu teacher. A little backbone is what she needs and Dorothy Parker is just the one to give it to her.
“You’re far too gentle,” she [Parker] said. “You don’t want to hurt Malcolm.”
“You make it sound like ‘gentle’ is a character flaw.”
“It’s not,” Mrs. Parker said, “if you’re a poodle. But for a woman trying to make her way in the world, there is a lot to be said for acrimony.”
If the real Dorothy Parker did not utter these words, she certainly could have. Ellen Meister has done a fine job of imitating her and placing her in a modern context.
As always, Meister delights in sprinkling fairy dust into her otherwise realistic stories of contemporary folks confronting the issues.....Read More
Portfolio: A Conversation with Anita Getzler
by Kara Fox
Anita Getzler currently lives and works in Las Vegas, Nevada. Raised in Brooklyn, she moved to Los Angeles as a teenager. After earning her BA from the University of California, Berkeley and MA from California State University, Los Angeles, Getzler pursued a career as a museum educator as well as a fine art photographer.
She has participated in numerous group art exhibitions and several solo photography shows. Her photographs are represented in corporate and private collections. Getzler is captivated by the natural beauty of environments and presents them in photographs essentially unaltered by digital processes.
Getzler broadened her vision and sharpened her photographic eye while directing education programs in contemporary public galleries in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. She also designed and implemented the Education Program for the Guggenheim/ Hermitage Museum in Las Vegas as the Head of Education.
Through her ongoing explorations, Getzler’s works continue to evolve into new approaches to abstraction and metaphor.
How did you start your journey into photography?
When I first began backpacking through the Sierra and the Rocky Mountains, I would meander along the creeks, often bathing in small pools and under icy waterfalls. Later, I began my study of the ancient Chinese text, The I Ching, or Book of Changes. One afternoon, when being lulled to a quiet mind next to a running brook, I looked up the hexagram "Water", and water was never the same. I watched the small droplet floating.....Read More
The Good House
By Ann Leary
Read by: Mary Beth Hurt
Reviewed by Michael Carey
The Good House, Ann Leary’s latest novel is already a national best seller, receiving praise for its moving and comedic perspective of alcoholism. The story takes place in Windover, MA, a fictional town on Boston’s North Shore, and is narrated through the eyes of Hildy Good, a descendent of the Salem witch, Sarah Good, and at one time the area’s most successful real estate agent.
Since her intervention and month in rehab (an event in her life she thanks her daughters for), Hildy’s business has dwindled along with her social life and sense of companionship.
She drinks alone at night and delights in this secret of hers. The story starts with arrival of the McAllisters in Windover. Brian is Mr. Boston, and Rebecca is a trophy wife with rich, historical roots. Hildy has a learned gift for reading people by their living environments and can clearly see Rebecca is struggling with depression.
When the two of them strike up a friendship, Hildy gains a drinking buddy (which only increases her drinking habit) and Rebecca gains a friend and confidant, someone she can talk to about her inappropriate, but exciting relationship with the town psychiatrist.
The novel starts slow, as novels often can, and the focus swings from the newcomers to Hildy. The depths of denial and alcoholism roll over her like the waves of Manchester Bay as she tries to improve her business and reestablish a relationship with an old lover. Hildy continually pushes her drinking limits, at.....Read More
A WRITER'S WORLD
A Writer's World
By Molly Moynahan
Writing about the Unbearable
“I have a duty to speak the truth as I see it and share not just my triumphs, not just the things that felt good, but the pain, the intense, often unmitigated pain. It is important to share how I know survival is survival and not just a walk through the rain.” Audre Lorde
During the nineteen-eighties I found myself putting an embargo on dead children books. For some reasons there were multiple novels featuring dead, kidnapped, abused children and I could not get past that plot point believing it to be completely plausible yet somehow manipulative or, possibly, unbearable.
My sister told me that after I had my own child I would find myself unable to sit through films depicting children in peril, deceased or otherwise in bad trouble. I was very pregnant when I went to see Schindler’s List with my then husband and during the scene where they took the children away from their parents and drove them off to be gassed, I became hysterical and had to sit in the lobby, the faces of the parents reflected my own deepest fears of losing this unborn baby. There was the contrast between what I envisioned for my little boy--soft blankets, cuddles and lullabies--and what can happen to children in a brutal society--death, terror, separation and abuse.
Writing about tragedy is very hard and frequently feels ridiculous to me, and yet, after my first novel was published I was told repeatedly that I had a handle on the subject of grief that few could duplicate. But I didn’t want that gift because the price I’d paid was much too high. Both my best friend and my eldest sister had been killed in separate accidents when I was in my twenties and both deaths had left me in a state of devastation, unable to recover from the idea that both these women had deserved to live while I, an untreated alcoholic who .....Read More
Alif the Unseen
By G. Willow Wilson
Reviewed by Jane M McCabe
Who is G. Willow Wilson?
Her life is as interesting as her name. Born on August 31, 1982, (which makes her a Virgo, a good sign for a writer) she’s an American comic writer, prose author, essayist, and journalist, who, after converting to Islam while attending Boston University, moved to Cairo. Now there’s a lady right after my own heart, someone who is doing some of the things I would do, if given the chance to relive my life…
Wilson has written a graphic novel, Cairo, with art by M.K. Perker, and several comic series—Air, Vixen: Return of the Lion, and The Outsiders. Willow is currently writing Mystic, a four-issue miniseries for Marvel Comics (are they still in business?) Wilson began her writing career at the age of 17, when she free-lanced as a music and DJ critic for Boston’s Weekly Dig magazine.
She spent her early and mid-twenties living in Egypt and working as a journalist. Her articles about the Middle East and modern Islam have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the Atlantic Monthly and the Canada National Post. Her memoir about life in Egypt during the waning years of the Mubarak regime, The Butterfly Mosque, was named a Seattle Times Best Book of 2010—it’s an impressive résumé for a young woman who now is only 31 years old.
A reviewer at Metro in the United Kingdom says of Ali the Unseen that it’s “the first decent novel about the Arab Spring—no mean feat, since G. Willow Wilson had finished 90 percent of it before the revolution kicked off in Cairo in February, 2011. Yet much of the book—a kinetic, China Miéville-style .....Read More
Leo Politi—Artist of the Angels
By Ann Stalcup
Reviewed by Jane M McCabe
As a recent newcomer to Los Angeles I’ve discovered there are actually three distinctly different Los Angeles’—West Los Angeles, which contains the things for which this fair city is known—Hollywood, Beverly Hills, making movies, the Santa Monica pier; then, there’s East Los Angeles including downtown and the historic area of the city’s first settlement―Olvera Street and El Pueblo plaza; and, finally, there’s South Central extending to Long Beach and other beach communities, where the Watts Towers were built by Simon Rodia and the area was made famous by the riots during the 1960’s. Maybe there are other Los Angeles’ that I’m yet to discover, but the area I’m privileged to get to know somewhat in depth is that of East Los Angeles, specifically Olvera Street and the El Pueblo plaza—this is because I’m down there four days a week drawing portraits of people.
Before this time I was aware of the books written and illustrated by Leo Politi because when I worked with children I had the pleasure of reading some of them to children, but I didn’t know that he was an artist who lived and worked primarily in the downtown Los Angeles area. Off the plaza on the lower outside wall of the El Pueblo Administrative Offices (the Biscailuz Building ) there is a charming mural of The Blessing of Animals, which was completed by Mr. Politi in 1978. I could characteristic the style of all of the Leo Politi’s work as colorful, gentle and loving. Seeing this mural awakened an interest in me to find out more about him.
The tradition of blessing the animals by the priests from La Igelsia de Nuestra.....Read More
Ray Bradbury: Masterheart of Mars
An Excerpt from Searching for Ray Bradbury
by Steven Paul Leiva
Mars beckons us.
Like Melville’s elusive white whale it tasks us — to come, to see, to explore, eventually to colonize as humankind’s first step towards an outward-bound migration to the stars.
No one understood this more, or more poetically, than Ray Bradbury, who died this year on June 5, and who is currently, I like to think, hitching a ride on the latest Mars rover, Curiosity, and will land with it on his beloved red planet on August 5. Ray was not a scientist. He was not even, really, a science fiction author. Ray was a romantic with a nineteenth-century imagination combined with twentieth-century anxieties. He was an artist of pure instinct who understood the call of a beck, the necessity of a task, and the blood-quickening need to answer an urge.
The mission of Curiosity to Mars, and all the other past Mars missions, might very well not have happened without Ray Bradbury. It would probably be difficult to find a space scientist, especially one concentrating on Mars, who was not inspired by Ray’s The Martian Chronicles, despite the fact that the novel contains not one concrete factual detail on the difficulties of get- ting to, landing, and living on Mars. The Mars that has been and will continue to be explored by these scientists bears little resemblance to the Mars that Ray wrote about in his stories of humankind’s disturbing annexing of the red planet. But what it does contain is a portrait, or maybe better said, the music of the urge to leave the relative comfort and safety of our home, our backyard even, to go out into the extremely inhospitable space beyond our atmosphere to explore — and it must be said, to exploit — its few equally inhospitable islands of matter that we can stand on.
The Homo genus first migrated out of its cradle continent of Africa around 1.8 million years ago, and repeated that migration often, especially after the near extinction of humanity 73,550 years ago when Mount Toba, a .....Read More
THE NEW AUTHOR & THE OLD EDITOR:
An Excerpt from AMERICAN PHOENIX: A Life of James Jones
by M. J. Moore
Things had changed, the twenty-four-year-old James Jones wrote to Maxwell Perkins:
"But [now] I have nothing to go on except certain people I knew in the army and what made them tick,” Jones elaborated. “There is no plot at all except what I create. I’m not even a character in the book myself, except in so far as I am every character. What I have to draw from is 5 ½ years experience in the army.”
All of which reminded Jones that he was working with material that set him apart from the vast majority of the more than fifteen million men who donned uniforms after 1941. Most of the veterans now being discharged in record numbers had enlisted after December 7, 1941 or had been draftees whose civilian lives were truncated by Pearl Harbor and the three and a half years of America’s war effort in 1942, ’43, ’44 and the larger half of 1945. But Jones’s story far preceded all of that. “My material is the peacetime army,” he insisted. “The war has nothing to do with this material, except as it overshadows, unmentioned, the whole book.”
And yet, he knew all along that "From Here to Eternity" would climax with a full-blown re-creation in fiction of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He explained to Max Perkins: “The climax is tied in with the event of Pearl Harbor,” which of course begged the question of how all of his characters’ lives would be altered, affected, upended, transformed or summarily ended by that event.
Throughout 1946, Jones repeatedly discovered that no matter how matter how many outlines or notes he prepped for his new endeavor and regardless of how boldly he proceeded to pile up the first one hundred typed pages (or more), he had to halt. He was impelled time and .....Read More
Masters of the Word: How Media Shaped History from the Alphabet to the Internet
By William J. Bernstein
Reviewed by Fred Beauford
An editor, please
When I first received this book, my immediate reaction was a big thank you to Grove Press for sending it to me. This is a subject I know well, having taught The History of the Mass Media for many years; and although I last taught the subject at Cal State Northridge in 2001, I knew that there was still that little voice in me that said who knows if I will be back in the classroom again, and just maybe this is a book I can recommend to my students, or even require it for the course.
Three quarters of the way through Masters of the Word I recognized that I could do neither, not that Bernstein didn’t give us a detailed account of the growth of the media, starting with the birth of writing, onward to the development of the internet.
Interwoven with the technical developments, from clay tablets, to papyrus, to paper, to harnessing the conductive power of electricity in the world we now live in, author Bernstein also gives us a detail history lesson on how rulers and elites over the centuries used this new ability to extend and preserve human thought, to oppress and control their subjects; that is, he so aptly points out, until enough people became proficient in whatever became the latest medium, to shake off the people who controlled them.
Bernstein points to the ancient Greeks as an example, who because they developed a large enough literate population, were able to invent democracy, where the concept of ordinary citizens, admittedly literate, had a say in the rules that governed their very existence. (In south of the Sahara Africa at the same time, everyone in the village had a say; they just didn’t have a fancy name for it.)
Another example he uses.....Read More
HELLO IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD
By Nancy Shiffrin
yellow tape blocks my jogging route
someone shot last night Gloria found him
he seemed asleep like a baby in his truck
she shivers in the early morning chill wonders
"is he Mexican or Salvadoran? was it gangs?"
tells the history of violence on Beck near Victory
how they finally had to call the police
when Bill tried to .....Read More