memoir

Revealing Self in Pictures and Words by Tom Taylor aka the poet Spiel aka Thoss W. Taylor

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By g emil reutter
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“… every Saturday morn, I lay upside down on my self-upholstered wrought iron radio bench to listen to opera from New York City even though I knew that a boy, plus opera, worried my third generation farmer father.” – Tom Taylor
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Tom Taylor is a painter/poet, a child of the 1940s he grew up on a farm, learned at a congregational Sunday school, active 4-H guy and Boy Scout. At an early age he knew he was different. His road would be difficult and different from many he grew up with. He embraced his sexuality at an early age and fought the battle that many fight when afflicted with mental illness. He escaped to Los Angles where he became known as Thoss W. Taylor- Painter. He gave up the L.A. lifestyle and returned to Colorado later in life with his partner.
Taylor’s beautiful images populate this 118 page memoir of his life. Surreal and real he is an exquisite creator as a painter as when one looks upon the images, one feels the artist’s passion, pain and joy. Coupled with the images are the poet’s words, like his paintings are devoid of fiction, excerpts that roll from page to page boldly revealing his life without any pretense.
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He tells us:

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“Gravity wants me back but I’m not ready to eat dirt—just like all the previous
times when I face the door to the end. Though the worldwide rubbish of
deception and discontent mount, there’s too much beauty and revelation in
rare moments of universal connection and clarity that set me up to soldier
on—such positive insight seldom prevails more than two winks and a nod.”
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“I am a rambling maverick man. I’ll be sleeping with new light to maintain my
stance against the knives and when this cloth becomes too-small, my sword is at
my side.”
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This memoir of images and words by a “maverick man” is a must read for all those who have lived a full life, who know the struggles and joys, who take the hard stand to be who they are no matter what the hardship. It is not just a memoir for those who are gay or those who struggle with mental illness but for all who live a full life and overcome the obstacles the brutal reality of life throws at us. I for one am glad that Taylor has avoided gravity and is not ready to eat dirt. This memoir is a gift to all of us and we are better off for Taylor’s continued living, creating words and paintings.
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g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories. He can be found at:
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Recently Received Books

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We update this link on a regular basis. These publications are available to reviewers for possible publication at North of Oxford.

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2017/11/12/recently-received-books/

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Letters to Memory by Karen Tei Yamashita

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By g emil reutter
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Governor Brown of California issued a proclamation on February 19th, A Day of Remembrance: Japanese American Evacuation in the State of California. The proclamation read in part:
That thousands of Japanese American citizens were wrongfully interned in American concentration camps without charge and without a fair hearing continues to trouble the conscience of this Nation. The internment of Japanese Americans should serve as a powerful reminder that in defending this Nation and its ideals, we must do so as faithfully in the courtrooms and the public squares of this country as upon the battlefields.
 
It was by Executive Order 9066 issued by President Roosevelt on February 19, 1942 that American citizens were placed in internment camps, losing all freedom, all property but not their dignity or loyalty to the idea of the United States, a great number who served in the military of the United States. Many of these citizens remained in the camps until the end of World War II. The internment would not only have a profound impact on those forced into camps but on future generations.
 
In 1995 Karen Tei Yamashita went to Chicago where her Aunt Kay Yamashita had passed away. On her arrival she found packed clutter of boxes. She found two folders of interest. Kay’s wartime correspondence for Nisei Student Relocations and a second, personal correspondence. Gradually with her sister Jane Tomi an archive of their parent’s correspondence, photographs, audio tapes, homemade films, records and diaries were added. Letters to Memory is a history of the Yamashita and Tomi families, the internment camps taken from the archives blended with fiction in a fascinating historical account of this disgraceful act by the United States.
 
There are of course informants who reported back to the FBI on conversations, the idealistic Kay who once out of the camp to testify in a court case returns to the west coast and travels about to meetings against the internment, meeting with progressive religious leaders and such until she too returns to the camp. Yamashita engages with composite characters through a series of letters that are actually written to the reader exploring the internment, its meaning beyond just her family and the gross violation of civil rights these Americans had to endure.
 
Karen Tei Yamashita has written a chilling account, powerful in its presentation not only of the internment camps but of life that followed. Letters to Memory is a book that is a must read for those who have an interest in history but also for those who value civil rights and how quickly those rights can dissolve in the chaos of war.
 
You can find the book here: Letters to Memory
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g emil reutter can be found at: https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about/

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Recently Received Books

Review copies of the following books are available 

Updated:  10/27/18

Novel: Caina by Joe Albanese – Mockingbird Lane Press

Poetry: Bombing the Thinker by Darren C. Demaree, (PDF)- Backlash Press

Poetry: The Pink House of Purple Yam Preserves by Aileen I. Cassinetto – Little Dove Books

Anthology: Humanity Edited by Eileen Tabios – Paloma Press

Poetry: Jack Jar’s Lady Parts by Charles Rammelkamp – Main Street Rag

Poetry: Library Rain by Rustin Larson- Conestoga Zen Press

Poetry/Art/Hybrid- Revealing Self in Pictures and Words by Tom Taylor, (Poet Spiel)- Eye Point Press

Poetry: One, Two, Three – Selected Hay(na)ku Poems by Eileen R. Tabios. (Paloma Press)

Poetry: Take Out Delivery by Paul Siegell. ( Spuyten Duyvil Press)

Poetry: Masterplan by Eric Greinke and Alison Stone. (Presa Press)

Poetry: Two Towns Over by Darren C. Demaree. (Trio House Press- PDF File)

Novel: Mourning by Eduardo Halfon – Translated by Lisa Dillman and Daniel Hahn. (Bellevue Literary Press)

Poetry: Let’s All Die Happy by Erin Adair-Hodges. (University of Pittsburgh Press)

 

 

 

 

The King of White Collar Boxing

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Review by Thaddeus Rutkowski

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A friend of mine took me to see the only boxing event I’ve ever been to. This friend was a large man, a mixture of black and Asian, and he was a tough guy. He told me he was once attacked by a man with a knife, and to protect himself he simply took the knife away.
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He and I had seats close to the ring in Madison Square Garden’s Felt Forum, where we could see everything—including flying sweat and spit—clearly. But what was appealing was not the boxers’ punches or footwork, it was the sight of blood. Whenever a gash would open on a boxer’s face or blood would drip from a nose, a roar would go up from the audience. The only thing better than blood was a knockout blow—a quick, final stun.
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Imagine being in the ring, trading punches, hitting and getting hit. That’s where David Lawrence takes us in this memoir, with vivid descriptions of breaking an opponent’s ribs or, conversely, being knocked senseless. Throughout much of the book, Lawrence lives the lifestyle of a “white-collar boxer”—a professional who trains, spars and occasionally fights in scheduled matches. Most mornings, Lawrence (an insurance-company owner) is driven in his Rolls-Royce to a Brooklyn boxing gym, where he can get some action before starting the day in his Manhattan office. The Rolls, the associated wealth, and an exhibitionistic personality bring Lawrence media coverage. He becomes a niche celebrity, featured in society and fitness magazines, as well as on television. He craves the attention and continues to fight, even though he “turns pro” at a relatively late age, in his mid-40s.
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Here is his description of one of his fights, against one-time welterweight champion Buddy McGirt: “Midway through the (third and last) round he caught me with a pretty good hook to the head. It was just a short tight little punch, but I saw stars for a moment. I shook my head and smiled, just to let him know I was a little shaken and I’d appreciate it if he didn’t take my head off. The bell rang and we tapped gloves. I didn’t want it to end. Yet I couldn’t wait to get into the office and tell everyone I had just fought a world-class fighter.”
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This description contains more than a touch of humor and displays Lawrence’s writerly skills. He holds a Ph.D. in English literature from City University of New York, has taught at Hunter College, and is a published poet, with a collection out from Four Way Books.
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On another occasion, Lawrence is invited to the “celebrity fights,” held in Donald Trump’s casino in Atlantic City. Former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes is Lawrence’s dressing-room mate, and Trump himself drops by to say hello to Holmes. Lawrence describes Trump as follows: “He was a chubby, arrogant man with hair that lay over his head like a gull’s wing. … He gave me a nod as if to say I didn’t exist. He was the supreme egotist. Worse than me. I’d seen him speak at an insurance engagement. Mindless. He had some sort of idiot savant talent for building.”
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This description is prescient, written several years before Trump’s presidential candidacy. It can be taken as an exaggeration or a joke, but Lawrence has a gift for stating truths through hyperbole.
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A couple of sub-storylines run through the memoir. One concerns a federal investigation of Lawrence’s insurance company—the crime is money laundering, and the feds have a strong case. Another subplot involves Lawrence’s relationship with his wife and son. It’s not easy being a family man, a successful business owner and an obsessive boxer, and something has to give. (What suffers is not the boxing.)
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Still, what comes across most strongly is the deep psychology of the sport (or martial art) of boxing. Once addicted, the boxer never really loses the craving or love for the activity. He can never get enough. He just gets a little older, maybe a little slower. Throughout the journey, I’m glad to say, he stays feisty as ever.
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Thaddeus Rutkowski is the author of the books Violent Outbursts, Haywire, Tetched and Roughhouse. He received a fiction writing fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts. http://thaddeusrutkowski.com/

 

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