bellevue literary press

The Bear by Andrew Krivak

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By Lynette G. Esposito
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In a short poem, Robert Frost posed the question, how will the world end–in fire or ice?Dylan Thomas in his famous villanelle Do Not Go Gentle in That Good Night called for us to rage against the dying of the light. Andrew Krivak, in his novel, The Bear, published by Bellevue Literary Press (released February 2020) suggests the end of human beings is not the end of the world but more a natural cycle of events: not fire, nor ice nor rage but almost like going to sleep.  He blends mythological understandings with the quiet natural extinction of a species.
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The story reads like an epic poem with images both literal and figurative leading the reader along the path returning everything to nature before humans existed.
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He begins his novel with: The last two were a girl and her father who lived along the old eastern range on the side of a mountain they called the mountain that stands alone.  The setting, the human relationship and the naming of the mountain are all gently symbolic of the storyline. Krivak focuses on how the father teaches his daughter survival techniques handed down from one generation to another interlaced with legendary tales of a bear.  The father begins the training before the young girl is five as if he has a premonition of things to come.  The father is right.
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The father and daughter are well drawn through the educational and protective concerns for the daughter by the father. Krivak’s presentation through the father’s understanding of how to clean and tan a hide, how to weight an arrow, how to make shoes from animal skins and other skills are believable.  When the father is teaching his daughter, he is also teaching the reader these forgotten skills once so important.
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Krivak writes clearly and effectively of a girl’s journey away from and back to the only home she has known. Along the way, a mythical bear serves as her guide even while he is in winter hibernation.  If the reader allows suspension of disbelief to work, the reality of the fable becomes plausible and the storyline more pleasurable.
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The novel is made up of 223 pages and is well paced.   Krivak refreshes an old theme of the end of human existence and its consequences.   The last chapter begins:
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                  In her final years, the old woman spoke to all the living things of the
                  earth between the mountain and the lakeshore, for they came to
                  her without fear or dominion,,,
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The fiction presents a clear appreciation for nature and all life.  The mythological bear works well as a literary device and symbol of continuousness.
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Krivak’s is well skilled in using universal themes such as the symbol of  an animal guide, the journey home, the last one, and belief in all nature’s living things  This is a very enjoyable read.
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Andrew Krivak is the author of two previous novels, The Signal Flame, and The Sojourn., a National Book Award Finalist and winner of both the Chautauqua Prize and Dayton Literary Peace Prize    He lives with his wife and three children in Somerville, Massachusetts.
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The Bear is available from Consortium Book Sakes and distribution: www.cbsdcom and http://www.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.

Pain Studies by Lisa Olstein

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By Lynette G. Esposito
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Are you in pain?  Its 2020 and maybe there is a need for a qualified author to discuss this issue.  Pain Studies by Lisa Olstein and published by Bellevue Press does just that. Olstein redefines the understanding of pain through an extended lyrical essay that includes poetry, conversation and perceptions of pain.
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The opening chapter begins with:
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                            All pain is simple.  And all pain complex. You’re in it and
                            you want to get out.  How can the ocean be not beautiful
                            today?
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                            Pain is pain:  vivid even in its opacity, vague even in its
                            precision.  Pain reduces and expands, diminishes and
                            amplifies, bears down upon us, wells up within us, goes by
                            the as often as by my, and only rarely by our. 
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The next paragraph uses the words: “Fuck-fuck-fuck-fuck as Olstein begins to describe the birthing of her child.  This honesty about birth pain alerts the reader that this is a no holds bared author and the discussion of pain will be real. Starkly refreshing, this honesty brings the reader close to the writer as well as to the subject of pain in an intimate way women have with other women who have given birth and endured the choices of how to give birth and how to handle the pain.  Her style of writing is crystal clear and although the subject is pain, it is like watching a rider and horse jumping rope:  fascinating.
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In thirty-eight short chapters comprising 181 pages, Olstein explores the notion of pain with a variety of writing styles. Her creative nonfiction employs personal revelations such as her birthing experience, conversations about pain and poetic techniques.  In chapter thirteen she refers to Antiphon the Sophist in the late fifth-century B.C. who suggests people should not fear dreams and was criticized for this philosophy.  He is believed to have written a treatise The Art of Freedom from Pain.  Olstein explores the surviving fragments of Antiphon’s discussions and expands the discussion into chapter fourteen discussing the language used by Antiphon and other Sophists concerning pain. In chapter fifteen she brings the reader into the present with her neurologist attempting to define migraine pain.  Pain is old, pain is new, pain is present she seems to observe.  She explores how we are trying to avoid it as well as understand it. Some of the interpretations read like poetry; some like analysis, and some like a conversation with a therapist.
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 On page 151, Olstein talks about perception and how it affects us in attempting to make sense of the world.  She quotes Jonah Lehrer a science writer and one-time lab technician who suggests that the brain is redefining cellular forecasts.  The wide scope of her references opens the discussion of pain to a broad spectrum…perhaps too broad.
She ends the book with a poem on hearing voices.  This technique to end a full-length creative nonfiction essay this way is a little risky to bring the discussion to closure.  If the intent was to leave the discussion at an open door, I think this technique succeeds.
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 Olstein teaches at the University of Texas at Austin and has authored four award-winning poetry collections published by Copper Canyon Press.  She is a member of the poetry faculty at the University of Texas at Austin where she teaches in the New Writers Project and Michener Center for Writers MFA programs.  She also serves as an associate editor for Topeka Quarterly.  Pain Studies is her first book of creative nonfiction. For further reference, the author’s website is LISA OLSTEIN

Pain Studies is available in March 2020 from Consortium Book Sales and Distribution www.cbsd.com or www.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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Cesare by Jerome Charyn

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By Lynette G. Espositio
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Just in time for 2020 reading, Jerome Charyn gives us a novel of war-torn Berlin and a love story extraordinaire.  Published by Bellevue Literary Press and just released this month, Charyn takes the reader back to a World War II timeline and the dangers and complexities of war intrigues, plot twists and character revelations.
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Before the novel’s first chapter begins, Charyn uses several literary techniques to prepare the reader.  He presents a list of major and minor characters; a glossary of definitions, and a dated letter to set up time, place and situational attitudes.  I like these techniques because it helps the reader have more intimacy with the storyline.  The letter in particular sets the time and situation:  February 11, 1943 from the desk of Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, Berlin.  The reader is ready for war.
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The 367 pages of intrigue presented in seven chapters moves at a quick but controlled pace.  The reader is introduced to Erik (Cesare) in a Jewish orphanage sent there by a council of whores who, according to the narrator, sent their “little wolf” there for a better life.  The whores subsidize the orphanage.  War changes this.
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So the main character is in an orphanage going hungry, is Jewish and alone in World War II  Germany.  How can the plot twists turn to positivism?  An uncle saves him, his mother reappears, the Nazi movement flourishes.  Great reading as the characters reveal themselves and their survival techniques in troubled times.
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One of techniques Charyn uses to reveal who a character is involves common stress relievers that an average person might employ when dealing with poor solution scenarios.
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One of techniques Charyn uses to reveal who a character is involves common stress relievers that an average person might employ when dealing with poor solution scenarios.
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                              Erik went on fewer missions.  He’d walk the streets
                              at night in his black leather coat, but he could not save
                              the Jews of his own district.
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In a later section he reveals
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                               He’d kill himself, fall under a moving truck, if he had
                               to follow the admiral’s prescriptions.  He’d save entire
                               families or no one at all.
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It is easy to perceive Erik’s anguish and frustration and for the reader to identify with the character and his situation.  But yet, for all his self conflict and remuneration, Erik  survives.

Charyn  presents the journey of Cesare, rescued by a conflicted Nazi, as he finds his way from his Jewish childhood, the loss of his father at two, the disappearance of his mother, to the life of a Bavarian aristocracy through his sister’s brother and to so much more.  The search for self as the self is changed and changed again is clear and well presented.

Cesare who was Erik seems to be living the preverbal nine lives.

There is a love story that propels the storyline forward.  Joyce Carol Oates says of Charyn in a New York Times Review. “Among Charyn’s writerly gifts is dazzling energy—a highly inflected rapid-fire prose that pulls us along like a pony cart over rough terrain.”

I agree. The prose keeps the reader aware and interested throughout the novel. The storyline shows how love does not conquer all but at least gives life meaning.  Cesare is a well-crafted book and well worth reading.

Cesare is available from www.b.press.org and www.cbsd.com

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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.

The Wreckage of Eden by Norman Lock

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By Lynette G. Esposito
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The Wreckage of Eden by Norman Lock has a storyline that includes literary giants such as Emily Dickenson, Thoreau and Emerson. Written in the first person narrative, the reader becomes deeply involved in this semi-confessional fiction
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The pre-chapter introduction uses a love letter to Emily (Dickenson) written to her before she secluded herself.  When the writer (Robert) asks Do You Blush?  He states he hoped for intimacy and speaks of only being welcome in her ante room where the lights are dim.  When the first chapter opens:  After Chapultepec, I succumbed to vainglorious fantasies unworthy of a man of the cloth, Lock has set a complex scene of introspection and observation, pleasure and regret, understanding and confusion into motion.
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Lock uses literary convention and technique to reveal the human side of a man who both admires and loves Emily, the poet and the woman.  For such a legendary seclusionist as Emily, the fiction here is very believable and realistic.  Presented in plain language, the suggestions pop as do questions of how far did this love affair go outside the conjectures of the narrator’s mind.
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Mixed in are references of historical events discussed in letters between the narrator and Emily and in the narration of the story.  The literary convention of letters to and from each other is used throughout the  278 page novel.  The characters of both are revealed as politics and conflicts of the day are discussed with conversations included about Abraham Lincoln, the Mexican War and the Mormon Rebellion.  Lock is excellent at giving detail of time, place and situation. Even though this is fiction, it is artistically presented as real.  Lock uses references that work historically. For example,  he quotes “The day of compromise is past…  There is no peace for the South in the Union?”  decried the Charleston Mercury. He references events in history throughout the book as an  effective tool for place and time.
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In traditional literary technique he uses the “letter” convention.  The novel begins with a letter and it ends with a (post script) letter written, of course, to  Emily.
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             I have wronged you in this effusion as often a I have shamed
             myself. To my mind, one cancels out the other, and by the
             arithmetic of compensation, we are acquitted—you by me
             and I by you.
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It is as if Lock has framed the story with book ends  This novel is both interesting in technique and storytelling. Lock quotes Emily Dickenson::: She dealt her  pretty words like blades– .  Lock does much the same in this novel.
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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.  Her articles have appeared in the national publication, Teaching for Success; regionally in South Jersey Magazine, SJ Magazine. Delaware Valley Magazine, and her essays have appeared in Reader’s Digest and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Her poetry has appeared in US1, SRN Review, The Fox Chase Review, Bindweed Magazine, Poetry Quarterly, That Literary Review, The Remembered Arts Journal, and other literary magazines. She has critiqued poetry for local and regional writer’s conferences and served as a panelist and speaker at local and national writer’s conferences.  She lives with her husband, Attilio, in Mount Laurel, NJ.
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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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