bellevue literary press

In the Shadow of King Saul by Jerome Charyn

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By g emil reutter

Charyn opens this collection of essays, written 1978 through 2005, with an introduction that flows like a fast moving stream. He writes about the sadness that consumes Saul, a king without a song. David is a singer of songs and admired by many much as Charyn’s father was a silent man without a song and Charyn himself a singer of words. He tells us at the end of In the Shadow of King Saul:

“If David is history’s darling, then we, all the modern fools—liars, jugglers, wizards without song—still have Saul.”

In Ellis: An Autobiography, Charyn writes of the hard knock neighborhood he grew up in, of the gangs and peacemakers of the scars left upon families that were processed through Ellis Island into America. He visits Ellis on a tour and tells us:

“She took us step by step through an immigrant’s day, and for me it was like going through the Stations of the cross, rituals of suffering every five or ten feet.”

Charyn writes of the discrimination of not only Jews but of other groups gaining entry:

“The Irish came here and discovered another ruling class: politicians, bankers and grocers. The natives clamored to send them back to Ireland, organizing into secret societies like the Order of the Star-Spangled Banner and other Know-Nothings, who were a kind of northern Klan.”

He tells us of the arrival of Italians and Jews from Eastern Europe after 1880. “..they were no more dirty than the Irish had been. Other nativists opposed this “eastern horde.”

I find this essay timely for today’s world for many of the descendants of those who entered Ellis Island and suffered great discrimination are now in the role of the natives who opposed their forefathers entry into this country and now oppose others coming to America.

Charyn writes two essays on the writer Isaac Babel who wrote in Stalinist Soviet Union and had a love for all things French. Charyn explores Babel, his public and private lives, the great conflicts and Babel’s own influence on Charyn’s writing.

In Haunch Paunch and Jowl he writes of those who were for a time forgotten. Herman Melville, Scott Joplin and Henry Roth all who were discovered later and now have influenced generations of writers and musicians. He tells us of the author of Haunch Paunch and Jowl, Samuel Ornitz and how the novel was condemned by critics:

“…published in 1923 as “An Anonymous Autobiography” has more to tell about the relationship between Jews, politics, and crime than any other work of fiction or nonfiction. The novel reads like a sociological song.”

He enlightens us to the past and our current events once again writing:

“The nativists had finally won. The National Origins Act of 1924 put an absolute quota on the number of Italians, Slavs, and Jews that could enter the United States…stopped the flow of immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe.”

In the ten essays in this collection Charyn writes of literary figures, Saul Bellow, Lionel Trilling, and Anzia Yezierska. He writes of the great baseball player, Josh Gibson, recounts his visits to the movies and his fascination with Rita Hayworth and Errol Flynn and even the comics and the character Krazy Kat. He is a writer of great passion, lyric and empathy. Charyn tells of the fleeting fame that comes from pop culture and the literary world. Of the pain of immigration and its lasting effects on families, of bigotry and the battle of all to become one with America. My own father once told me you have to know where you come from. It was advice I have always carried with me. A son of the Bronx he grew up during the great depression and he would have enjoyed these essays that flow from the page with realism and from an author who knows the truth.

 

You can find the book here: https://blpress.org/books/shadow-king-saul/

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g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories. He can be found at: https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about/

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Hap & Hazard and the End of the World by Diane DeSanders

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By Lynette Esposito

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Hap & Hazard and the End of the World by Diane DeSanders is a 286 page novel written from the viewpoint of a young girl trying to understand the adult world around her.

Set in Texas during the 1940’s, innocence is challenged by situation, choice and misunderstandings.  The observations of the young narrator draw a clear picture of how a youngster can see but not understand the mysteries of adults, their issues and the choices they make.

It is difficult to sustain the strength of the storyline when it is presented from the viewpoint of a juvenile but DeSanders does an adequate job for the most part. She is creative with her chapter titles which serve as guides to the points made and symbolic messages suggested. For example, Lone Star Oldsmobile and Cadillac is the first chapter title and the situation involves a car ride with our narrator in the backseat and her father driving. In the chapter, I Call Him Nathan, the narrator details a friendship with a boy who is a foster child whose choices are not very good and the adults who choose to turn him out.  In the final chapter, The Bullfrog, our young narrator tries to interpret the frog’s situation allegedly trapped in a chlorinated swimming pool and relate it to her understanding of reality.

 DeSanders places the narrator in family situations where, while she is present, the adults do not really notice her and talk more at her than to her. The young girl details the happenings to the reader without realizing the complexities of what is going on.  It is as if the reader is in the room and is reviewing, with the narrator, the mundane family happenings and the stark loneliness\ of some of the characters. The characters exhibit much psychological pain in their reactions to every day life and our young narrator is confused as to why the adults around her are acting as they do.

Although this is not a novel about solutions, it is a novel about situations that are common to the majority of average people who have hopes and dreams often unrealized.It is a novel about the vulnerability of childhood and all of us.

DeSanders is a fifth generation Texan and a history buff.  This is her first novel.

She also has an active interest in the theater arts and sings in New York. The paperback is published by Bellevue Literary Press. For information on their titles go to blpress.org.

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Lynette G. Esposito has been an Adjunct Professor at Rowan University,  Burlington County and Camden County Colleges. She has taught creative writing and conducted workshops in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Mrs. Esposito holds a BA in English from the University of Illinois and an MA in Creative Writing and English Literature from Rutgers University.

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A Wilder Time by William E. Glassley

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By g emil reutter
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Notes From a Geologist at the Edge of the Greenland Ice
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Glassley chronicles the expedition of three geologists in search of a truth that is in dispute. Along the way Glassley writes about the wilderness and nature of the massive walls of the fjords they are excavating. He writes of the hillocks, ridges, cascades of rocky knolls where plant life anchored itself in ice-wedged cracks and linchen attached to bare rock and of tundra pockets. There is a silence to the place as there is an absence of trees, houses, streets and people.
 
Glassley documents a mirage dancing along the horizon, thick horizontal blade of sharp turquoise blue cut along the land stretching hundreds of feet into the air. He writes of sailing on the water when the three hear a sound generated from more than two miles away, a mournful, wrenching sound, morphing into a feminine symphonic chorus, staccato screeches that turn out to a disturbed rookery where hundreds of gulls be gulls cried. Yet, the three believed they had just heard the sound of the Sirens, mythical, the sound Osyesseus had heard 3,200 years ago.
 
He writes in beautiful prose about his encounters. Such as just off camp in the bay a purplish color below the surface only to find thousands of sea urchins so densely crowded that their spines tangled together, of hundreds of small comb jellies, each shaped like a lantern, iridescent colors propelled as slowly turning lanterns in the sea. Always the observer, Glassley notices small ice blocks from a calving ice sheet floating lazily and that may have enough for some but Glassley notices more. Just under the murky water a river of fish were swimming, a school of herring like fish many feet wide unknown depth stretching in both directions as far as the eye could see. Suddenly the fish exploded, frantic panic possessed them as an Artic sculpin grabbed a straggler slowly sinking back down into the murky water as the herring regrouped and continued on their journey to an unknown destination.
 
During a thunderstorm he tells us of atoms that had once been part of the rock enclosing the sea were scrapped from surfaces by pounding boulders, released to float freely with the tides… mingle with other atoms whose origins were wind-blown dust, interstellar particles, dissolving dead animals and decaying plants… evolving into unities, become things that construct living forms… become part of snowfall on the high Himalayas, cause seasonal floods of the Ganges or just part of us. In this simple observation Glassely connects everything on earth, at times separate yet always part of the whole.
 
On a journey to bathe in the ice cold waters he returns to walk up a small bluff to a tundra bench. There while walking through the grasses, short stemmed flowers of the tundra carpet he encounters a female ptarmigan who appears and disappears as her colors blend in with the patterns of brown, tan and black color and texture of the plants. All the while she was protecting her hatchlings. Glassley speaks of the vertical and how much is missed. He knelt down taking in the sweet flower scents of Artic poppy, bell-heather, mountain sorrel, hairy lousewort and more. He describes it as being awash in a botanical sea. Had he not knelt he would never had experienced this beautiful event.
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The purpose of the expedition was to prove that Greenland was formed by the collision of two continents. That the ocean between them was sucked down into the earth. The three geologists examine rock formations, individual clusters and patterns. Their work is fascinating and the story telling ability of Glassley brings the reader into geology in an unexpected way. He brings us into the mystery of ice and rock and along the way his simply beautiful observations of tundra and fjords, the wild life and plants that populate the place are amazing. A Wilder Time is a book for those who love nature and have that longing desire to learn the unknown, all hidden along the walls of the fjords of Greenland. 
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The official release date is February 2018 but you can check out the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Wilder-Time-Notes-Geologist-Greenland-ebook/dp/B06Y1RY67T

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g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories. You can find him here:About g emil reutter

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Wolf Season by Helen Benedict

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Reviewed by Lynette G. Esposito

In Wolf Season, published by Bellevue Literary Press, New York, 2017, Helen Benedict reveals lessons in interpersonal relationships of average people who have survived horrific war experiences.  Benedict addresses both the psychological and physical damages as well as changes inflicted on the survivors whose stories stay with you after you have finished reading the book.

Juney, veteran, Rin’s nine-year-old blind daughter, Tariq, son of Naema, the widow of an Iraqi war interpreter, and Flanner, son of a deployed marine, represent the innocent sufferers of wars from which their parents try to keep them safe. Beth, Rin, Naema, Todd, and Louis represent the damaged adults who try to protect the children from the aftermath reality of their complicated war experiences.  All the characters are well drawn and believable.  To accomplish this, Benedict follows the characters’ every-day activities of normal American living and their sometimes extreme reactions to seemingly simple things.

Rin, a widowed war veteran, tries to fulfill her husband’s dream of raising wolves in the woods outside of fictional Huntsville, New York.  Her PTSD and flashbacks from being raped by her comrades contribute to her paranoia and prevent her from normal interactions with other humans.  Naema, a doctor from Iraqi, tries to adjust to American life with her son who has lost his leg to a bomb in Iraq.  Beth, Flanner’s mother, suffers the loneliness of a deployed husband who comes back so changed, she believes he is two people—the before and after.  When a hurricane hits this small community, these characters are whirled in to a crazy soup that only mother nature can cook up.

The novel is divided into four parts each with a title that suggests the focus in each section. The wolves and other animals in the book provide a symbolic backdrop of interdependency on each other and the humans who love them.  Benedict’s use of nature and natural instincts gives readers a deep sense of what it takes to survive and the terrible toll war and loneliness extracts not only on those who go to war but also those waiting at home.

It is a good read and engaging on many levels.  It has a light touch of politics as all war stories do, but the focus is on the consequences to people and their stories of coping when back at home.

Benedict is a professor at Columbia University and is the author of seven novels. She has also written nonfiction and a play.  She currently lives in New York. For more information, visit www.helenbenedict.com .

You can find the book here: http://blpress.org/books/wolf-season/ 

 

Lynette G. Esposito has been an Adjunct Professor at Rowan University,  Burlington County and Camden County Colleges. She has taught creative writing and conducted workshops in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Mrs. Esposito holds a BA in English from the University of Illinois and an MA in Creative Writing and English Literature from Rutgers University.