Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Blow Out the Moon Remembrance Reality Reflection

Gaze at a page of anoxic brain injury explanations and definitions, causes and effects, then turn to Philip Hasouris’s Blow Out the Moon Remembrance Reality Reflection. The first gives you the impression that removing oxygen from a human brain is like taking an eraser to the blackboard, gone. The second gives you the blood, memories, and scent of the beloved who remains. Anyone in a longtime relationship can feel the immediacy of love in these poems; feel the gut wrenching punch of loss, the need for continued connection, the need for ritual familiarity in unchartered waters, and the rage against an inexorable fate. Philip Hasouris ‘s gift to us is this collection of poems that takes us on a spiritual journey of a love shared from hip to hip. He gives words to those of us who are mute.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Where Did You Sleep Last Night?

Danzy Senna’s latest work, Where Did You Sleep Last Night?, ratchets up the need for more memoirs by African Americans, people of color, and biracial Americans. As she notes, her mother’s WASP side of the family fill library shelves with their reminiscences, histories, poetry, and learned opinions, but her father’s mother doesn’t even have a complete birth certificate to document her parentage! Even her father’s parentage is open to speculation until DNA and further government immigrant documentation confirm the identity of his father. Certainly anyone who has been adopted can appreciate the difficulties of surmounting bureaucracies, but this story goes further into the secrets and lies that await any family genealogist. At the same time, the search for family history on the Senna side reveals the warmth and cohesiveness of the Southern African American community and extended family. Getting past Senna’s obvious trauma from her parents’ rocky marriage and divorce, one finds the treasured nugget of family love in the center of the story.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

The novel Mudbound by Hillary Jordan raises a lot of questions, not the least of which is when did women start feeling so comfortable writing about war? Our last book group discussion dealt with a Korean War hero in the midst of a friendly fire massacre, the infamous No Gun Ri massacre. In Lark and Termite the author Jayne Anne Phillips, uses a stream of consciousness to depict the situation confronting Sergeant Robert Leavitt while under fire and protecting the lives of women and children from his own American troops. Mudbound follows the building conflict of two psychologically war damaged veterans of World War II, one a white airman and the other a member of the proud 761st “Black Panther” Tank Battalion. Set in the post war Mississippi Delta, this page-turner moves implacably towards tragedy, exposing racism, bigotry, and adultery. Much like a Greek tragedy, each chapter is told through the voices of the main characters. Unlike a Greek tragedy, redemption and love await at the end. This is the author’s first published novel. You will wonder, as you look at her very young face, from where did this story emanate? Mudbound can sit proudly next to The Color Purple and To Kill a Mockingbird.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Lemur by Benjamin Black

Looking for a beach-tested novel? Try Benjamin Black’s The Lemur, an Irishman’s noir mystery set in New York City. Among his credentials, the author, nee John Banville, acquired a Man Booker Prize for The Sea. His style and subject is slightly more Fitzgerald’s Gatsby than James Cain’s Postman, moving quickly from a Bleeker Street studio to a penthouse on the Upper East Side, along with appropriate homes along the west coast of Ireland and the Hamptons. The main character is a card-carrying journalist, now tethered to a wealthy wife and a hefty commission to write her father’s biography. Billuns, the wife’s patronymic for her dad, had been a high up operative in the CIA before he entered the business world. His partner died with a bullet through his eye, now decades later, a young researcher collecting information on him dies the same way. It’s a fast paced tale, in a thin paperback format that can pack easy and be finished before you burn.

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