book review

Gathering View by Jack C. Buck

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By Stephen Page

A couple of years ago I traveled with my wife to my home state Michigan, north of the city of Detroit. We were to stay there during the last week of March and the first week of April. The last few times I went to Michigan it was either in June, August, or October. And even though I grew up in Michigan, I had not been to Michigan in March or April in quite some time. I packed a couple of cotton sweaters and a rad waxed-cotton motorcycle-style jacket with a picture of Steve McQueen imprinted on the lining. It had no snap-in wool lining and I thought that I would not need it.  After all, March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. Right? As the plane carrying me and my wife was descending for a landing in Detroit Metropolitan Airport, we looked out the fuselage window and saw what looked like at least three inches of snow on the ground. The pilot came on the air and announced that the wind chill was 5 degrees Fahrenheit. I looked at my wife.

The shuttle bus drove us to a car rental and we chose to pay for a mid-size car.  The cashier told us we would get a Ventura.  We stood outside shivering, clenching our teeth, hugging each other while we waited for the valet to arrive with the car.  The valet drove up in front of us in a brand new Charger. He said he took one look at my cool jacket, and new I would need a sporty ride. I thanked him and gave him tip.  We leaped in the vehicle, drove to the first shopping mall we saw alongside I-94, ran inside, and bought wool sweaters, down jackets, Detroit Lions beanies, and gloves.  Sorry McQueen, you would have looked very cool in that new Charger.

Driving to my sister’s house, I remembered that when I was a kid I walked one mile every day to school and one mile back. Sometimes during January or February, no matter how many layers of clothing I wore, the cold bit all the way down to the marrow of the bones.  The cheeks on my face felt like they had been scorched with ice.  And then the cold would grip my lungs and heart and I thought I was going into cardiac arrest.

Reading Jack C. Buck’s “Gathering View” harked back those times.  I had again forgotten that winter in Michigan can last well into May.  Mr. Buck has kindly reminded me. I wish I had read this book before that expedition with my wife.  Winter in Michigan is either chilly, cold, freezing, polar, bone-chilling, face-peeling, or heart-stopping. There is no warm, cuddly, soft-fleeced March lamb. Mr. Buck encapsulates this face-blistering phenomenon in his vivid collection of short poems. In his book, warmth comes only in human contact, literally and lovingly. His succinct poems paint the grandeur of Michigan in all its beauty—rivers, lakes, forests, flora and fauna.  He also alludes to the Michiganders penchant for football.  The book is divided into three sections: one is the late autumn and first few months of winter (including references to football); two, the long bitter middle of winter; and three, the ending of winter and the beginning of spring (which can still be quite nippy).  In this book, Buck has produced empathetic poems about loneliness, solitude, and those ever-saving Persophonic graces, acts of humanity.

You can find the book here:

https://www.amazon.com/Gathering-View-Jack-Buck/dp/0998890235/ref=sr_1_9?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1533473293&sr=1-9

Stephen Page is the Author of The Timbre of Sand, Still Dandelions, and A Ranch Bordering the Salty River. He holds two AA’s from Palomar College, a BA from Columbia University, and an MFA from Bennington College. He also attended Broward College. He is the recipient of The Jess Cloud Memorial Prize, a Writer-in-Residence from the Montana Artists Refuge, a Full Fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center, an Imagination Grant from Cleveland State University, and an Arvon Foundation Ltd. Grant. He loves his wife, reading, travel, family, and friends.

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Winters of Content by Osbert Sitwell

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By Ray Greenblatt

The Sitwells were an aristocratic and talented family; they were eccentric but all accomplished writers. Sister Edith (1887-1964) wrote poetry; younger brother Sacheverell (1897-1988) became an art critic. Osbert (1892-1969) was multi-talented as a poet, art critic, novelist, and best-selling autobiographer of five volumes.

The Sitwells loved the Arts. They attended gallery openings, concerts and hosted what became historically famous artistic soirees. They financed the young musician William Walton; Edith, especially, encouraged the Russian painter Pavel Tchelitchew.

When Osbert wrote travel books, he was able to break free from any cloying family pressures to write in his most free style, a richly poetic one. In Winters of Content (1932) he takes the fresh approach of traveling in Italy in the winter months, often comparing the northern and southern climates. First he gets us onto the train.

“Men in blue uniforms push trolleys, deal in clean, white pillows for night-journeys; pillows that are suspended in rows from a rod of a hand-wagon . . . drag behind them rattling tables on which are hot macaroni, under a silver shield, cold macaroni, grey railway chickens, every kind of sausage, edible and inedible, and bottles of red and white wine, all the time loudly hymning the names of their delectable commodities.” (112)

“The mind of the train-goer, therefore, must employ itself in other, interior directions, engage itself with remembrances, hopes, or the material difficulties of keeping clean, since to look out of a rattling and dirty window, through the smoke of a fast-moving, mid-nineteenth-century factory, quickly palls.” (15)

This gives him time to muse about northern winter in his city of Scarborough, Yorkshire: “Day followed day, and the ice still spread its flat, colourless flowers at the edges of the drive. The grass all round had been struck, as it were, by winter, that doleful magician, into the blades of knives and scissors . . . The empty flower-beds, frosted mounds, resembled freshly dug graves in the foreground of this dead expanse of country, and the frost could be seen lying white on the farther, bigger hummocks wherein are thrown together the bones of the first Danish invaders, killed so long go, when this land was all forest and fen.” (31)

In stark contrast he remembers grapes on sale in Italy during the winter: “A display of grapes, for instance, at the time of the vintage was a thing never to be forgotten; grapes of a thousand different species, unimaginable in their beauty, of every shape, round, oval, or pointed like the ears of fawns, showing an infinite variety of invention, even in the way the fruit was clustered on its wooden stalk, while in colour they ranged from emerald and azure, to dark blue and purple, mauve, maroon, and almost primrose yellow, but all translucent, and thus conveying a warmth of tone denied to all other fruit save red currants, until one wondered why they were not grown, like flowers, for their beauty as much as for their flavour?” (95)

He, likewise, finds beauty in an Italian winter garden: “The garden, deficient in summer qualities, acquires a fresh merit in this patient, spiritual waiting for new birth, while the trees, although bare, except for the cypresses, have assumed a more intricate beauty. Now, as we passed on our way to the picture gallery, ice crackled round the feet of the goddesses in the wide fountains, and the last, few, yellow leaves drifted slowly down through the still air, turning over and over, and seeming to flash as they fell. “ (198)

He then compares the Palladium architecture used in England: “Not only must they Palladianise their homes, but the very landscape itself. And in this respect, with their parks and groups of trees, their canals and statues, they were more successful. They must build their grottoes along the river, their stucco, pagan shrines on a knoll, their pillared bridges across the end of a lake.” (74)

While in Italy even though the Palladian villa is old, “The original mouldings of window and door, the ceilings, garlanded and vaulted, and all of the most exquisite order, the painted balustrades and painted columns, have been allowed to remain in the state to which time has reduced them, and in the world which these things frame, unhindered by furniture and bric-a-brac, exists a whole mythology called back to being after a century’s neglect” (78).

Sitwell posits an important factor why fine art was so abundant in Italy: “An enlightened discernment in such things then increased the prestige of a royal person more than any individual prowess in the killing of beast and bird; and an eye that at once detected a fine picture or a rising artist was recognized as being of more value to the State than one which, with an alarming and blue-rolling rapidity, immediately discovered any aberration in the matter of buttons upon a single uniform in the whole army corps.” (294)

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Venice is such a unique city built upon the water: “Composed of gigantic stone rafts, weighed down with marble and white, cut stone, as it floats on the green, flat surfaces of the lagoons, of necessity Venice supplies its own landscape and offers no other. Here slender towers and top-heavy Venetian chimneys replace trees, domes compensate the absence of hills, and the facades of palaces form the most shining and precipitous of cliffs.” (17)

“Although it may have been an exception for this time of year, Fortune sent a series of golden days, sequined with sunlight but cold enough to make walking a luxury rather than a fatigue, while in the narrow streets the crowds, inspired by the weather, jostled and laughed, and even in the smaller canals there would be little green waves, flopping and fluttering with bird-like wings under the gondolas and traghettos.” (48)

Sitwell sits at Florian’s café where winter alters the scene:“Here it was very pleasant. The café had reverted to being Italian. There were no foreigners, but Venetians of all ages sat hunched for hours over a small cup of coffee, or played draughts or chess in corners. The little rooms, which with their painted glass panels so delicately resemble Victorian bon-bon boxes—and are thus most appropriate to their use—could, now that the glass doors were closed and frosted by breathing, be admired in all their minute and delicious proportions.” (58)

Many mysterious buildings wait to be explored: “That exquisite little patrician Casino which lies just off the Merceria; a place which, though so near, is hard to find and difficult to see. Here the rooms are very small and of the finest, jewel-like workmanship. One lovely little apartment bears, high up on a wall, over the space between two diminutive doors, a bellying gilded grating, behind which the musicians—two of them at the most—could ensconce themselves.” (53)

Churches play a special role in man’s life, like St. Mark’s:  “They created this great church, set in the white spray of fretted stone that so well expresses its origin, to protect and assure them. And this fabric contained in it every colour of the earth and of the sun, and was full of growing things—trees, leaves, and flowers—but ones enduring day and night, winter and summer, because fashioned of gold mosaic, agate, alabaster, or marble; and singing, light, and incense were no doubt exhaled from it unendingly, then as now, into the void outside.” (90)

So many buildings in Italy are superb like the Castel del Monte: “The rooms are high, and the vaulting of their marble roofs is most graceful, for it springs lightly from above groups of three slender marble pillars clustered together. The windows, both the larger ones facing the country, with the smaller ones, giving on to the court, are exquisitely lovely. The walls are, again, lined with a square pattern of dark marbles, while the floors are composed of alternate grey and black marble, or of slightly contrasted stone.” (138)

In another palazzo: “The paintings match the architecture in a truly amazing fashion, for they represent arcaded galleries, from which people of a past age and of the utmost verisimilitude are gazing down, in front of niches in which stand tall statues, upon the interlopers of today. These frescoed figures, although they must be considerably over life-size, appear completely natural, absolutely real.” (48)

Sitwell theorizes why elephants are included in the architecture in southern Italy: “Fifty or so miles away is the site of Cannae, where Hannibal, doubtless with the aid of his African elephants, inflicted a fearful defeat upon the Roman troops. And the sight of these fabulous beasts, imported by the Carthaginian armies, may well have abided, between dream and nightmare, for many centuries in the folk-memory, and thus, after a period of digestion, have found its strange perpetuation in stone.” (130)

He also intuits how the painter El Greco was influenced by the landscape: “From the window of his house, noticing how the ashen and cinder-coloured hills, so improbably streaked and dappled, altered the shapes of the muleteers, of the townspeople strolling into the country, and even of the beasts that were trying to find pasture on these bare humps; and how, further, the strong light, pouring down, changed utterly in its turn the forms of the hills and of the crenellated walls and sharp, dog-toothed towers of the city.” (226)

Books of that era were also superlative: “Nearly all of them contain, in addition to countless full-page engravings, often the work of the most distinguished artists of the day, other ones which open up from the centre of the book, leaf after leaf, growing and diminishing like an ancient dining-room table . . . Because of the talented artists employed on it, because of its massive, even cumbersome, proportions, exquisite binding and the lavishness of its printing, the expense of any volume of this kind must have been very heavy.” (236)

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Sometimes touring was a chore and a disappointment:  “Not a soul stirred. Across the side-streets, a line or two of patched and mended clothes gaped on the air. The sky above, too, betrayed in its tone a peculiar blue vacancy, the sun, round and distinct, appearing to be its sole inmate, just as, below, the Renaissance warrior prince, posturing so solemnly—and quite alone—in the centre of this deserted square, would seem to be the only occupant of his realm: a realm frozen by some curious plague.” (273)

Sitwell wonders what Dickens, whose books are his sole companions, would do: “Rising from my chair, I looked out of the window down into the long and empty street, wondering how he would have begun a story here, with the footsteps sounding out far away under a distant arcade in such a staccato and frightened pattern; footsteps walking briskly for the comfort of their owner, in the same way a man may sing to himself to ward off the terror of empty places, and only muffled for an instant in the moaning of a bitter wind.” (109)

Wind can play tricks on a traveler: “Sweeping up here, high into the air, a piece of paper, and here lifting a journal out of one traveller’s hand and dashing it in the face of another, snatching the breath suddenly out of one man, or ventriloquist-like, carrying some word spoken by him many yards away, so that his companion cannot hear it, and then depositing it of a sudden where it will startle and affright a stranger.” (112)

“Every now and then comes a spell of the particular clattering, jingling rain of these latitudes, its long, grey strings dangling past the windows of the bedrooms down into the high, narrow street for three days at a time, until they seem to form one of those curtains, composed of hollow portions of bamboo, alternating with beads threaded upon a number of cords, that are peculiar to jugglers, mediums, and the cheaper kind of public-house.” (156)

But one day it clears: “The extraordinary and unexpected vision of this enormous range lying so lightly over the blue and marbled sea, so distinct, each mountain veined where the streams flowed down it, the contours so plainly marked, and the snow appearing from here as though stained to various intensities of colour with spilt wine, almost compensated us for the wasted weeks.” (163)

Sitwell has learned to relax, unlike others: “What ideals of sport inspiring the rich young Englishman to face the tsetse-fly and malaria in order to kill animals, striped, elegant and lovely, or armoured and grotesque, in their native swamps and jungles, and to wonder what hardships they will endure, what sandstorms, siroccos, and agues, what typhoons, monsoons, and hurricanes? . . . All these reflections lend a contrasted serenity to the onlooker.” (119)

In peaceful contemplation, memories are triggered: “Rings of light, moving with the particular fluttering, as of butterflies, that is their rhythm, flickered in swarms across the low, painted ceiling of the dining-room next morning. The presence of these tangible, golden insects in itself repays the longest of cold journeys: for, wherever you are sitting—let us say, with your back to the window—each of them is a continual and instant reminder, just as much as would be the most exquisite view of canal or church, gondola or lagoon, of the city in which you are staying.” (36)

He revels in the fact that real life is never far away from the past captured in art: “Thus, while I looked round, examining doors and widows, plaster reliefs and painted ceilings, and realizing with delight the subtle, melodious planning of this house, the golden afternoon was slipping away outside, so that sometimes it called me to the window, to watch the lengthening shadows of the trees, or the tall, thin-waisted, Paleolithic shadows of the gardeners.” (79)

Sitwell observes the people with as much interest, such as an ancient waiter: “This wizened, whiskered old man was so much the epitome of his profession that it is impossible to summon up his image unless one allows it to materialize, as might a spirit, out of the steam issuing from the dishes he uncovered; an amiable but obstinate little phantom, thus for a moment drawing sustenance from the food he carried but never ate.” (247)

Or a mock argument between two old friends: “They were immensely enjoying a row; nothing dangerous or vital, but a delicious, forensic quarrel, packed with rhetoric and gesture, a tear melting in the eye, a sob, or, more rarely, a snarl of anger. Either of them, moreover, was liable suddenly to interrupt his pace, and stand stock still, as though rooted to the spot by the fervency of his own argument, and  would then proceed to harangue his friend with passionate eloquence.” (150)

He even loved the sound of the names of towns: “Cremona, a bone-thin, lemon-coloured city of music, assuming in the mind the shape of a three-arched bridge, of which the middle syllable forms the chief span; then follow Guastalla, like Gonzaga, the prouder of sumptuous Spanish names, cities of tents, pitched, it seems, for conquering grandees, of black and sepia velvet heavily encrusted with gold; Mirandola, most perfectly balanced of musical sounds, associated for ever with poetry.” (269)

Osbert Sitwell wrote three other travel books, all with poetic sensibility: Discursions on Travel, Art and Life (1925), Escape with Me (1939), and Four Continents (1954). Being the men of the family, Sacheverell’s son inherited the English family house “Renishaw.” Osbert Sitwell was given the Italian palazzo his father had renovated “Montegufoni,” in a country where this book Winters of Content proves that he was most at home.

You can find the book here:

https://www.amazon.com/Winters-Content-More-Discursions-Travel/dp/B000OKVPOQ

Ray Greenblatt is an editor on the Schuylkill Valley Journal. His book reviews have been published by a variety of periodicals: BookMark Quarterly, Joseph Conrad Today, English Journal, the Dylan Thomas Society, and the John Updike Society. His new book of poetry, Nocturne & Aubades, is newly available from Parnilis Press, 2018.

Leaning into the Infinite by Marc Vincenz

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By Larissa Shmailo

I am not a fan of the unadorned vernacular in poetry, no matter how sincere its sentiment or pertinent its message. In my book, what a poet should do is invent wonderful turns of phrases, new syntax, head-turning semantics. There should be a dialectic of differences which interacts to ­­create the magical, entirely new, entirely necessary synthesis. A poet should bring brilliant LANGUAGE to the reader, by which I more nearly mean semiotics, meaningful, culturally rich, innovative signs that the reader gets to deconstruct time and time again. If you are tired of reading monosyllabic laundry list poetry, then you will be delighted by Marc Vincenz, a poet who trucks in the unpredictable and unexpected, and who conjoins words like gems for jewelry.

In Leaning into the Infinite, Vincenz displays a magical imagination that mines from three continents and a dozen cultures. The language is literate and sparkling. Look at a typical title: “When Uncle Fernando Conjures Up a Dead-Bird Theory of Everything,” where Fernando is “Portuguese poet, Fernando Pessoa and his many alter egos . . .  written under more than seventy heteronyms.”  Other inspirations are Li Po, Wang Wei, Kafka, Paracelsus, Heraclitus, and Robert Bly. If Auden multitasked, if cummings studied alchemy, if Borges reincarnated into a Hong Kong-born British-Swiss living in America on a green card, you might get a Marc Vincenz.

 If Auden multitasked, if cummings studied alchemy, if Borges reincarnated into a Hong Kong-born British-Swiss living in America on a green card, you might get a Marc Vincenz.

Vincenz’s Infinite is a poetry of mind, a garden of images and ideas and characters that is uncannily aware of its reader. Perhaps all good poetry has this in common, this drawing of the reader in, like an accomplice to its art. Vincenz’s poetry engages and questions, implicitly and explicitly: “How?” “Should I?” “Who?” In “Unreliable Narrator,” he asks “Should I be / stumped / by the greatness / of God . . .”

Who then is

the protagonist

when trillions

of single cells

all think

for themselves?—or together?—

The poet asks and the spare Basho–like verses —and rich longlined poems later in the collection—wait for answer. The poet’s elegant use of line breaks and sculpted white space seem to invite readers to reply, to mark Leaning into the Infinite up with all kinds of marginalia.

We have a tradition in the European canon of the philosopher-poet, in which a poet offers insights into the human condition. Modern poets do so ponderously as a whole. Vincenz’s touch on this is so light and his language so original that you scarcely know you are being enlightened. His temporal range is from the nascent prehistory of cave paintings to the post-relativistic twenty-first century. His worlds are populated with extraordinary beings, including the aforementioned Uncle Fernando and his interlocutor, the oracular Sibyl. In “Uncle Fernando & Sibyl Exchange Curt Words,” Fernando asks for “that mythical moment” and the oracle replies, “Hush,”:

Carbon first.

Then light.

Sibyl, Vincenz’s untamed muse, also appears in dialogues between Prometheus and Orpheus:

 

Orpheus:                                             Prometheus:

The voice                                             & what

of time                                                 is that perfume—

 …                                                       . . .

within the planes                                 the word made

of being                                               Thing

…                                                        . . .

Sibyl:

whenever I start

to try & explain it

I forget words

altogether

My favorite characters in Leaning into the Infinite include a finch singing to his mate from a tree-top which he thinks is a mountain, the Tree God Saluwaghnapani, and Milen, a Filipino wet-nurse who sings a song she “claimed drove off demons that grew within Javan / smog clouds: Ai-Li-Ma-Lu-Ma-Nu — . . . “

Leaning into the Infinite ranges from Olympus to “The Penal Colony” and is vivid and visceral:

Not from the gagged mouth—it knots & tangles in the larynx

& the chain simply groans: ‘Have done it.

Have it etched to the bone.

 It’s all in the pointed nib of the writers’ dark truth.

 In an enlightened moment the Bewildered gasps alone—

The Orwellian/Kafkaesque boot stamps:

Just                 Be                     

             a        

      good Citizen 

Be                    Just

And then the poet escapes to his natal Asia:

O to be born reforested in Borneo

 where water doesn’t run off in disappointing sloughs,

 but cascades & careens within the bejeweled heart

of a single fruiting tree, where a child is a rambutan

(or the fleshy dumpling-pulp of a mangosteen)— . . .

Vincenz speaks to the childlike longing in us to have a storyteller/mentor introduce us to the world’s mysteries, to share its secrets:

If only I had a good uncle to sit me down at an uneven hearth

with a hot cup of mulled wine, a twinkle in his eye

& this background whiff of ancient pine:

To hear how the world begins green, fresh, tabula rasa:

& late at night or early morning through air still as glass,

to eavesdrop upon the grasses & their endless philosophizing.

You have this uncle in Marc Vincenz. Drink up.

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You can find the book here:

https://www.dosmadres.com/shop/leaning-into-the-infinite-by-marc-vincenz/

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Larissa Shmailo’s latest novel is Patient Women and latest collection of poetry is Medusa’s Country. www.larissashmailo.com

 

The Gospel According to the Son by Norman Mailer

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By Samantha Seto

Norman Mailer’s The Gospel According to the Son is written as if it were an  autobiographical account of the narrator, Jesus, who presents a firsthand coming-of-age story. The novel traces the linear trajectory of Jesus’ life story. Mailer, writing in the 20th century, is mindful of the original, historical Jesus and his story in the Bible. The novel has biblical verses embedded into the narrative that reflects the progression of Jesus’ life as related by the authors of the four Christian gospels: Mark, Luke, Matthew, and John. Mailer adapts Jesus’ unique voice by using a persona. Jesus’s first-person narrative voice creates a distinct account that retells yet perceives the series of events that compose the gospel differently. Mailer uses an analytical lens to make his point within the religious context of Jesus’ story. He provides keen insight into the role of character of Jesus. He gives the reader a glimpse of the good morals in Jesus that build the power of highest good from God. The good in Jesus is a noteworthy attribute because it contrasts the evil that God also tolerates. Mailer’s novel provides insight into the gospel by establishing Jesus’ presence and great impact that made all the difference in the world.

The novel portrays Jesus, who is the Son of God, making a very significant mark in history. Jesus was once a child gifted with divine power and a genuinely good heart. Jesus prefaces his retelling by relating such events not found in the Bible as a memory of his father, Joseph, “I could still see the strain on his face on the day he told me that he was not my father” (23).[1] Mailer takes creative license that varies from the original account of the Bible. I think Mailer needs to take creative liberty to create an effective story. By taking creative liberty, Mailer has made this book his own. He imagines Jesus to have thoughts that spark deeper feelings within him. Jesus precisely has a distant relationship with his father Joseph. Mary always fears for the life of her son. She listens to a still small voice that belongs to God. The character of Jesus parallels the Scripture because he has moral and altruistic qualities who is also the Son of God. He also befriends John the Baptist, son of Zechariah. John the Baptist baptizes young Jesus in the river and they remain friends until the day John dies. His character symbolizes the light and good of the world. Jesus travels throughout the lands and his disciples, or followers, express great faith in him. Mailer’s choice of narrating from Jesus’ point of view allows readers to empathize with his great struggle to obey God’s commands and walk in the righteous path of the Lord. The reader can visualize the pain that this human soul endures. He is just one heartbeat. Jesus obeys the word of God because he puts his trust in the Lord. Jesus can walk on the water too. He sets the example for his disciples to have a strong faith in God. For instance, Moses obeys God and parts the Red Sea in order to lead the Jews out of Egypt. Abraham almost sacrifices his son Isaac for the sake of his great trust in God. Jesus claims to be the Son of God but his teachings are banned by law according to King Herod’s men in Judea. In fact, the rabbis do not believe he is the King of the Jews or the Messiah and regard Jesus’s teachings to his disciples at the temple upon a hill as treason. Yet the disciples sacrifice and devote their days to follow Jesus. The disciples’ view of the world is quite interesting. Their walk with Jesus is profound evident in the record of life events that provides input for the Bible. On the journey to obey the word of God, Jesus performs miracles such as turning water into wine for people at a wedding or splitting bread to feed the Jews. The wedding captured my attention due to Mailer’s detailed portrayal of Jesus finding the vase-like jars, walking to the fountain to fill them with water, and then miraculously having red wine at every table. The passage states, “Indeed I could feel an angel at my side. In that instant, the water in the jars became wine. I knew this. It had been accomplished by no more than the clear taste of one grape and the presence of one angel.” (61) It is simply a beautiful image of God’s wrath to grace people with good and peace on earth. Jesus describes that he feels “near to the Kingdom of God” as the beauty of the miracle occurs. The reader is in awe of the miracle that brings Jesus to a divine, amazing sight.

The story is a fairly good, interesting read. Mailer offers a unique perspective. The novel refers to the Gospel of Luke as it directly quotes the angel of the Lord who says, “Mary, thou hast found favor with God. Thou shalt conceive in thy womb and bring forth a son. Call his name Jesus. He shall be great and he shall be called the Son of the Highest.” (Luke 1:30-32).[2] The narrative surprised me at times such as when Mailer puts words into Jesus’s mouth. I did not imagine Jesus to have thought in the same way. Mailer clearly takes creative license by writing this story from the point of view of an omniscient narrator that knows the mind of Jesus. Jesus argues with Satan in an epic of good triumphing against evil. Mailer invents the dialogue from his own imagination. Jesus speaks of God, “He is all-powerful. The heavens and the earth, the stars and the sun, bow before Him. They do not bow to you.” (48)[3] Jesus’s firm belief in God might be so, yet he puts-down the enemy. Jesus further indicates, “your words are poisonous,” which is directed to Satan. (53) The self-evident truth remains that Mailer lived after Jesus, thus we can never take this story as fact but rather a fiction. The subjectivity which Mailer introduces to Jesus’s familiar narrative arises in Jesus’ deeper internal state during his lifetime. Jesus narrates, “but according to my mother, the angel said little” (25).[4] Sorrow dwells in his heart. As a reader, I sense Jesus’s melancholy in part due to his solitary walk in life. Joseph is not Jesus’ biological father. Mary cares deeply for Jesus and considers him to be different from the rest. This may allude to God taking the role of the Good Father. Mailer identifies with the narrator’s predicament because he feels that he must “give my own account” and “yet I would hope to remain closer to the truth” (13).[5] Thus, Mailer invents his own point of view of Jesus, which characterizes Jesus in new, compelling light. The novel is centered around Jesus’s life such as his resilience against the struggle he faces. Since Mailer focuses on Jesus’s character, it gradually molds into a story rather than simply presenting a fact of history.

Mailer’s story accurately reflects the history of Jesus’ life in the gospel and follows a chronological order. It begins with Mary, a virgin from Nazareth, and Joseph, a poor carpenter, before Jesus is born. Jesus remains the true narrator throughout the entire novel. The angel appears to Mary to declare that she will conceive a baby in her womb who will be the Son of God. The white dove in the blue sky represents the Holy Spirit. Joseph thinks that if the Essene priests knew, “Mary could be stoned to death.” (13) Although she is innocent, the strict law would never allow her to be pregnant without a husband. A passage states, “Mary, however, went to visit her own cousin, Elizabeth, who lived in the hills to the east, for Elizabeth was six months pregnant” (26-27).[6] The historical reference is quite accurate and parallels the biblical story. Elizabeth is also pregnant even in her old age with John the Baptist. Jesus retrospectively explains, “‘only when Elizabeth saw me,’ she liked to say, ‘was John able to quicken in the womb.’” (29) Elizabeth’s dialogue remains very close to the Scripture. The narrative mirrors the Immaculate Conception by illustrating the history of Mary’s life during the times that she is pregnant with Jesus. The Lord’s presence allows Joseph to listen to God’s word, “And while Mary was gone, a voice came to Joseph in his sleep” (27).[7] As Mary conceives the baby, three wise men, or magi, are sent to find the Messiah. The three wise men set out on a journey to follow the North Star. The baby is born in Bethlehem. The baby’s name is “Yeshua,” which in their “rough dialect” means “Joshua” and translates in Latin to Jesus (27).[8] Jesus essentially retells the truth of his birth. One passage states, “Mary was now heavy with me but willing to travel for three days from Nazareth to Bethlehem…it is also true that I was born in a manger by the light of a candle.” (15) On the night Jesus is born, the three wise men bestow gifts to Jesus: gold, myrrh, and frankincense. King Herod of Israel comes to know of a holy birth in Bethlehem from the shepherds. I anticipated the angel who appears on the clouds proclaiming, “‘this day is born Christ, the Messiah of the Lord.’” (16) King Herod is mad that the baby might be a threat to his reign. A baby watched over by a guardian angel may become a king. He orders for all the first born sons in Bethlehem to be killed. The Roman soldiers invade the city walls. The light from their torches contrasts the heavy rain pouring from the dark clouds in the sky. The soldiers violently slaughter every first born son. Blood pours from their bodies as they lie dead on the ground. Mothers weep into their son’s damp clothes. The sons of Bethlehem were no more. God’s delivers love and guidance to Mary and Joseph as they set out on a journey. They walk over sand dunes. God is with them. Jesus lives.

Mailer points to the traditional miracles that Jesus supposedly gave yet the narrative is filled with suspense and fear, making the novel a real page-turner. The suspense builds in the steps taken to perform the miracle. Mailer creates Jesus’s actions in real time that contribute to the miracle. I take the side of the protagonist. At times, Jesus faces a problem in which the good of the people is at risk. God never fails to bring the cure or solution. I fear will he make it? My heart races knowing that the good always wins yet I cannot help but doubt it. Jesus even brings a dead child who is sick back to life by means of a miraculous, powerful healing. The narrative perfectly describes the way in which Jesus breathes a person back to life. Mailer writes, “I held her hand and recited words I remembered well from the scroll of the Second Kings, saying: ‘When Elisha was come (came) into the house, behold, the child was dead, and he prayed unto the Lord. And he lay upon the child and put his mouth upon the child’s mouth and his eyes upon the child’s eyes and his hands over the boy’s hands, and he stretched himself upon the child and the flesh of the child was now warm, and the child sneezed seven times and opened his eyes.’” (98)[9] The heroic character saves the sick and poor in spirit to restore his vast creation. Jesus dearly shows compassion. His compassion is evident in his kindness and care for others. Furthermore, Mailer provides a researched, historically accurate backdrop to the stories recorded in the Bible, describing to his readers how strict Jewish laws against preaching the word of God to masses of people stood in the way of the disciples sharing the gospel. The strict Jewish law is comparable to the historical fact of paying taxes to the king. Meanwhile the city of Jerusalem undergoes turmoil like a wave that spreads, creating tension. A rabbi recites a prayer at the temple upon a hill to the nation of Israel.

The author Norman Mailer won the Pulitzer Prize in 1969 (The Armies of the Night) and 1980 (The Executioner’s Song) for his literature.[10] Mailer’s books were nominated for the National Book Awards and he received a lifetime achievement award. Yet, this novel seems more ambitious compared to his earlier works. He uses a primary source, the Bible, to establish the basis of his story. The gospel that supposedly contains the truth about Jesus was created before Mailer’s time. The novel is derived from the classic roots of the Bible. In the Christian tradition the four gospels are the canonically recognized accounts of the life, words, and deeds of Jesus, but Mailer clearly adds his own interpretation to these Biblical accounts. Mailer interprets the Scripture in his own way. He projects his own unconventional view of the gospel in the first-person narration. The characters of the epic story in the Bible are transformed into humans with common attributes according to the emotions that drive their character. Mailer presents Jesus without flaws in his character, which is a quality reflected in his sound mind, voice, and thought. Jesus’ traits reveal his identity. In the end, Jesus is sacrificed on the cross for the sake of humanity. Jesus precisely gives readers hope of salvation from his death and resurrection. God the Father created the world knowing that mankind would fall and needed a savior. Jesus’s sacrifice is part of a plan ordained by an omniscient God. The power of God has worked through Jesus Christ for people to inherit eternal life and enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The traditional story of the gospel through the eyes of Jesus combines history with the psychology of the human mind. Jesus must have a been an active thinker in addition to experiencing feelings during the time that he lived on earth, which is evident in the role of his character. In the Current Era notation, history is measured according to the year of the Lord. Scholars separate dates in history according to the term B.C. referring to “before Christ” and A.D. meaning “after death.” The story brings the reader’s attention to the character of Jesus. I recommend The Gospel According to the Son to readers interested in the human mentality and emotional state of Jesus, who may appreciate this work of fiction.

To conclude, I desire to pay tribute to Mailer’s novel. I read this novel on the train that took me to and from Penn Station in Baltimore, Maryland and Union Station in Washington, D.C. I did not mind the long chapters. Mailer essentially invents the character of Jesus to present him in a new, favorable light. Yet, Mailer remains accurate in his portrayal of the gospel. The author has done his research using valid sources. He conveys a story that is strongly rooted in the Scripture even when he adds his own interpretation. Therefore, readers should not shy away from a novel that has a fresh lens. It may take a leap of faith. Nevertheless, I trusted Mailer from the very first page of the novel. I was interested to read this famous writer’s view of Jesus in the gospel. I turned each page believing that Mailer reflected on Jesus in his own way. Mailer fashions his novel with a new perspective and establishes the narrator’s voice to share the good news of the gospel. Although it is not possible for Mailer to know the mind of God, I praise this novel because Mailer’s intuitive sense is so powerful. He imagines it this way to offer a story, rather than retelling the historical fact presented in the pages of the Bible. I have learned a great deal from reading this story that I may have never thought of otherwise. Mailer’s story gives rise to contemporary writings that derive from timeless pieces of literature. Most love stories written in the 21st century have minor details that allude to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and so forth. The novel keeps the message of the gospel alive.

You can find the book here: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/106285/the-gospel-according-to-the-son-by-norman-mailer/9780345434081/

[1] Mailer, Norman. The Gospel According to the Son.

[2] The Holy Bible. New International Version (NIV).

[3] Mailer, Norman. The Gospel According to the Son.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] The Executioner’s Song, by Norman Mailer. The Pulitzer Prizes.

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Samantha Seto graduated with a B.A. as a Writing Seminars major and History of Art minor at the Johns Hopkins University. She is a third prize poet of the Whispering Prairie Press. Samantha has published in many journals including Ceremony, Soul Fountain, Black Magnolias Journal, Scarlet Leaf Review, Breadcrumbs, and Chicago Literati. She lives in Washington, D.C.

Music For A Wedding by Lauren Clark

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By Lynette G. Esposito

Lauren Clark’s Music for a Wedding published by the University of Pittsburgh Press presents 82 pages of reminiscent poetry with visual images and interpretations of every day occurrences and locations..

Vijay Seshardi, Judge says Clark’s poems take the reader into “a relationship with the invisible and the ineffable, bringing image and language (as if by magic) to the page and to the reader.” Take for example on page one in an untitled poem:

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       There is a sorrow being outside your body
         even when I am in the places where it has been.
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This generalization brings this sorrow to the heart my naming a place, the kitchen, in the next stanza and the bedroom thereafter where the narrator measures her lover with the palm of her hand so that when he is gone, she can remake him.  He does not awaken.

In Aubade on page 32, she takes the reader to the bathroom and we all know what goes on in there.  Yet, she graphically shows the act of recreation with our panties down and in the washing of hands…reproducing the life it has known.  She visualizes a common act with judgment and appraisal about how life works.

On page 63, the narrator takes us into the bathroom again in the poem Afterfeast.

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         There is no absolute aloneness on this island
         and so it is for me to understand there is none
         on any island, and so it is or me
         in the white bathroom light.
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It is not the bathroom but the commonness of the room where there should be privacy for all things and where one should be alone.  As presented, the reader finds the illumination of the white bathroom light and the realization about interpreting absolute aloneness.

She ends this poetry tome with Illinois in Spring, outside and thinking of endings.

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            ….The place that is big enough to hold every
            absence. That things grow here, pale and small from enormous land,

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            inspires abject panic. The wonder of watching a flying bird land
            on water.  The end of the line will always give you that feeling.
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The natural elements of air and water and reaching a conclusion for this narrator is panic. A reader cannot help but react to this image because it happens so often and to so many beside lake, and rivers and oceans.

Clark is an effective writer juxtaposing the common with the uncommon and twisting the images to fit a fluid form. She leaves the window open for the lace curtains to fiddle in the breeze to form a  shadowed pattern on the mind of the reader. This is a good read for lovers of poetry.

Lauren Clark holds a B.A. in classics from Oberlin College and an MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan.  Music for a Wedding is the winner of the 2016 Donald Hall Prize for Poetry.

It is available at www.upress.pitt.edu

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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 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.

Follow the Sun by Edward J. Delaney

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By Lynette G. Esposito

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Paul Harding, author of Tinkers and Enon says Follow the Sun by Edward J, Delaney is just plain fantastic.  I agree.

The seven-part, 287 page dramatic story explores a family’s trials, tribulations and daily life experiences in its quest to find both answers and resolutions in its search for its missing parts. This search leads the reader to a deeper understanding of family and what family represents.

The lead character, Quinn Boyle, has “bugs” in his head from the first line of part one. While the author clarifies the bugs are lobster and the location is on the lobster docks and boats, the relationship of psychological issues is crystal clear. His brother, Robert, who takes time off to visit the local bar, again gives a clear relationship for the need of psychological relief even if it comes from a bottle. Daily life is depicted in a realistic way  for these fictional characters who live on the edge of poverty.

The story line addresses contemporary issues of not being able to make a living and still have to pay child support; problems with drug addiction, and despair when few options are left in making life choices. The locations in which these decisions are made do not take place in upscale homes and fancy places but on lobster boats, in prison, newspaper offices and  local bars.  The despair of the human journey for the hard working but  poverty-stricken brothers leads one to his supposed demise and the other on a quest for truth.  The family legacy becomes an analysis of the burdensome past, the acceptance of the present, and a questioning of the future.  For example, Robbie muses:

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There’s too much in the space between then and now, an entire

continent worth of unanswered questions.

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The lead character makes some of his own problems as he struggles to survive and yet Delaney represents Quinn as a man who believes he can leave his problems behind and start a new.  Quinn believes he can make himself  “not remember.” The dialogue is realistic and the characters are believable.  Delaney uses contemporary language as if he  has listened to real people conversing and transformed their conversations  into this piece of fiction. Quinn says

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“I guess people can make themselves see what they want to see.”

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While this phrase fits well into the story, one hears it in real life all the time and the reader understands the truth of it.

The book is a good read with its clear language and characters who try to make their lives  work but cannot always reach their goals just like most of us.

Delaney is an award-winning author, journalist and filmmaker. Besides Follow the Sun, he has published Broken Irish and Warp and Weft as well as a short story collection, The Drowning and Other Short Stories.  He has also directed and produced documentary films including The Times Were Never So Bad: The Life of Andre Dubus and Library of the Early Mind.  He edits the literary journal Mount Hope.

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Follow the Sun is available fromwww.cbsd.com and published by Turtle Point Press: www.turtlepointpress.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.  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 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.

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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