Tuesday, February 20, 2007


About Alice by Calvin Trillin

Calvin Trillin's very short but terse book about his late wife, About Alice, is bound to touch even the most impersonal types.

What I mean by this is that although I really am not a reader of Trillin, except for a short excerpt here and there, when I first began the book, I wasn't sure where it would lead me. In truth it is a tribute to his wife--her life and influence. From reading about her, I became found of her as told by Trillin. Certainly readers tend to think that writers and/or their families have often had easy lives and though Alice was "privileged" in the common sense, she certainly didn't have a cake walk as she tended to her parents.

So in this terse book, one can find inspiration to continue his/her life regardless of one's physical condition.

While I was reading the book--it is a very fast read at 78 pages with gracious spacing--I recalled Grief by Andrew Holleran, also a very short novel, and thought the age of the long novel--at least from the book club I belong to--has passed. That is to say, who has the time to sit and read a 900-page novel these days? So many of us are so pressed with work, emails, phone calls, and the like that one is more inclined to buy/read shorter novels than longer ones these days.

Harry Potter perhaps might change a younger generation but the students (ages 18 to 50+) I teach certainly aren't reading much these days. Perhaps if there were more shorter books, they might actually pick up a book and read one. When I look at book sales nationwide, my take on this is not off the mark.

I do love a longer novel, it's just that I don't have the timeframe needed to complete one. In the 19th century, there were fewer distractions and people's lives were less stressed or at least for some, perhaps the literate.

So shorter books seems to be the way to go, I believe, or at least books that one can read quickly.

Sunday, February 18, 2007


Capuçon Brothers and the NSO Gave a Great Concert

Last night's concert by the NSO conducted by Leonard Slatkin was music for the gods, smooth enough to calm one's nerves and hot enough to melt the snow.

Debussy's Prelude to the The Afternoon of a Faun was truly lovely, with echoes of Stephane Mallarme's poem "L'Apres-midi d'un faune".

Then we were treated by the Capuçon duet, though they are truly unique and equally talended in their own right. Renaud Capuçon plays a 1737 Guarneri del Gesu violin from which gold spewed. His brother, Gautier, plays a 1701 Matteo Goffriller cello which was incredible. Together they gave and took and produced a performance I shall not forget of Brahms' Concerto in A minor for Violin, Cello and Orchestra, Op. 102. And, of course, the NSO was at its best.

Intermission came and went and then Slatkin gave us a short introduction to John Adams's Harmonielehre. I really like his short talks, for they help us connect with the music, and like a poet talking about his work before reading, it makes perfect sense for me to hear such a short intro to music as well. It helps to put things into perspective and Slatkin has not only made his audience connect with him and the music but he has also educated us at the same time. Add to that that he has transformed the NSO into a Class A orchestra since he joined it. I just wonder what Tim Page of the Washington Post was up to when he made his tacky comments recently. In any case, Slatkin still pleases many of us and that says a great deal.

Way to go NSO!

Thursday, February 15, 2007


Ellis Avery's The Teahouse Fire Is a Gem

Ellis Avery, author of the recently released novel The Teahouse Fire (Riverhead Books), has given lovers of things Japanese a gem.

From the moment one reads the first sentence: "When I was nine, in the city now called Kyoto, I changed my fate." one is fascinated by the narrator's voice and energy. Avery lets us know that the characters in this novel will not be dolls to be moved about or toyed with.

I suppose one might ask, what does Avery know of the Japanese or tea ceremony? I have to confess that I know her and that I also know she spent time in Japan while working on this novel to master the tea ceremony, so need I say any more. Certainly her fondness for the Japanese culture and history comes through in this book. The delicacy of what one says, when one says it, and how one says it is so important. For the essence of meaning is like colors in a landscape much like the limited words in a haiku, which happens to be one of my fondest forms of poetry, which directly contributed to the Impressionists. Ah, all is a life cycle.

So my advice is to make yourself comfortable with a good cup of tea, beside a fire, if possible, and escape into this exotic period of Japanese history.

To purchase a copy, click here for Amazon.com:
The Teahouse Fire

And if you get a chance and want to read other work by Avery, might I suggest The Smoke Week: Sept. 11-21, 2001 (Gival Press) which is an eye witness account of the events that changed us.

To purchase a copy, click here for Amazon.com:
The Smoke Week: Sept. 11-21, 2001


New at ArLiJo

Recently featured on ArLiJo are Therese (Zrihen) Dvir in Issue 9 and Gary Zebru nand Stephanie Sherman in Issue 10.

A chapter entitled La Mort de Pepe / Death of Pepe, written in French and English, is from Dvir's unpublished non-fiction book, Life Gates. Life Gates is the story of a young Jewish girl born and raised in Morocco in the late 1940’s. As the girl’s amazing life story unfolds, the reader is offered glimpses of the colorful heritage and lifestyle of the Jewish communities in Moroccan cities and particularly in Marrakech. Superstitions and values, innocence and corruption, equality and social snobbery, arranged marriages and intermarriage – the book opens up a complex society full of contradictions and fascinating, steadfast customs.

Featured in Issue 10 is Kalashnikovs by Gary Zebrun, a chapter from his recently finished novel, Only the Lonely. Also in the issue is poetry in Spanish and English by Stephanie Sherman.

Click here for the link to ArLiJo:


Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Gargoyle 51 And Counting

Gargoyle 51, the 30th anniversary edition, edited by Richard Peabody and Lucinda Ebersole and published by Paycock Press, is nicely put together collection of poetry and fiction. Though it has taken me a while to get around to writing something about the edition, today's ice and snow day has given me the extra time I needed to tie up some lose ends.

As much as I would like to comment on everyone in the collection, I simply can't but I would like to highlight the following:
Naomi Ayala's poem entitled "Twelve Days" rings true to many of us who have Spanish ancestry and dear 'abuelas' (grandmothers) who will forever remain with us, even if gone from this plane, for "The last of this blood / is the last of my mother in me. / And she will never be here / to sing."

Tod Ibrahim, an Arlingtonian, also caught my attention as he writes about his father in "Decorating the Nursery During a War" and the difficulties he had as an Egyptian in Ohio.

Sad that even today, perhaps due to right-wing bigotry that has flourished under the Republican Regime, that many dark-skinned folk are still faced with untoward hostilities. I cringe at the hatred Americans continue to hurl at Hispanics/Latinos simply because they don't look like the "average American"--whatever that means.

As the Commonwealth of Virginia gets ready to celebrate its English historical legacy, how often people forget that everyone except an original American Indian is an "alien" by definition in the eyes of the original peoples of these United States.

With regard to the fiction in the collection, Pat MacEnulty's "The Cannibalized Woman" and Elizabeth Oness' "Spillover" merit mention both for the uniqueness and quality of their work.

Finally, Richard Peabody and Lucinda Ebersole continue to offer readers food for our literary stomachs and may they continue to do so as this magazine has become a legend in its own right.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Signature Theatre's Into the Woods Hits the Mark

If you love Stephen Sondheim's music and James Lapine's scripts and add to that Eric Schaeffer's productions, then I hope you already have tickets to see Into the Woods at Signature Theatre's new home at Shirlington in Arlington, VA.

Not having been to the opening of the theatre, I was both surprised but pleased that Signature has kept its signature approach to theatrical productions; that is to say a la black box, but with a higher ceiling. Where else can one see theatre with actors practically passing by you to the point you notice every move--mind you this works both ways--nothing passes by the actors but they do a wonderful job of staying in character regardless of the state of the audience. I say this because with Tuesday's wine tasting, those who rise at 5.30 am each morning and have a glass or two of wine can sometimes be challenged notwithstanding the superb performances literally in front of one.

To that end I would like to say that Eleasha Gamble as the Witch shone in this production. Though I lean towards her performance as the bad witch more than the beautiful witch, her acting and singing are highlights of the production. Then too was the rather sexually charged scene with the Wolf played by James Moye. Moye's performances with Sean MacLaughlin, Rapunzel's Prince, were perfectly in sync and one simply enjoyed the electricity that was going back and forth as they sang and moved about the black box floor--not really a stage in the Broadway sense--but a good thing. Again, where else can one have such fine theatre and practically see every makeup mark on actors' faces and their expressions.

Dana Krueger was also quite effective in her roles and her voice as the giant was super--I can still feel the floor shake. All in all this is a very good production and actors all worked extremely well; of note were Daniel Cooney, the Baker; April Harr Blandin, the Baker's Wife; Donna Migilaccio, Jack's Mom; and Stephen Gregory Smith, Jack--just how old is he?

Well, Signature, you done good and glad you made good to stay in Arlington!

Friday, February 09, 2007


Call for Papers for Conference with Andrei Codrescu


APRIL 4-5, 2007

is currently seeking proposals for the presentationsof papers, commentary, criticism, studies, articles, and readings ofcreative works (ie, poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, drama, music,you name it) having to do with the subject of THE TABOO!!! Proposals maybe for individual or group sessions and should be 10 to 20 minutes long. Panels will be grouped according to scheduling needs and what makesthematic sense.

Please send a 1-2 paragraph abstract that includes the title of proposed presentation, a brief description, and some bio information. If you have any tech needs, please include that info as well. Conference will include catered events and an informal barbecue extravaganza for vegetarians, carnivores, and sundry socio-visionaries who dare to enter into the dialogue on what is appropriate, acceptable, perverted and off the hook!!

All disciplines and non-disciplines welcome!!
The Deadline is March 9, 2007 and there is no registration fee!!!!
Submit abstracts via email (no attachments please) to mmayhan@truman.edu
Please put "SHAKE YOUR TABOOty" in the subject line.

For more info contact http://gradeng.truman.edu
Asst. Prof. Mark Spitzer
Language and Literature Division
Truman State University
Kirksville, MO. 63501

Saturday, February 03, 2007


The Commonwealth of Virginia Unanimously Passes Resolution of "Profound Regret" Acknowledging Historic Role Against Native Peoples & Those Enslaved

I am profoundly moved that the legislative body of the Commonwealth of Virginia acknowledged its historic role in the inhumanity done to other humans.

The fact that Bill HJ728, as written and listed below, passed unanimously has changed how I view the state I now live in. Though I am deeply sad that acts against humanity took place in this state, I am both relieved and encouraged by this act by the legislative body. May this be an example to other states that have similar histories and may this be a directive to guide the behavior of future individuals who live and make laws in all jurisdictions of the USA.


(Proposed by the House Committee on Rules
on January 31, 2007)

(Patron Prior to Substitute--Delegate McEachin)Acknowledging the contributions of varied races and cultures to the character of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and expressing profound regret for slavery and other historic wrongs rooted in racial and cultural bias and misunderstanding.

Whereas, 2007 marks the 400th anniversary of the first permanent English settlement in the Americas, at Jamestown; and

Whereas, the racial, ethnic and cultural diversity that has uniquely defined America began at Jamestown, in the Virginia colony, with the early encounters and interactions among the native peoples, Europeans, and Africans; and

Whereas, despite the acute hardship, conflict, cruelty, and oppression that characterized those first encounters and interactions, Virginians of native, European, and African descent persevered and made indispensable contributions to the survival of the colony, the founding of our good Commonwealth and nation, and the forging of our national character and culture; and

Whereas, the legacies of the Jamestown settlement and the Virginia colony include ideas, institutions, and a history that have been central to the distinctive American experiment in democracy and the global advance of democratic principles, including representative government, the rule of law, and recognition and protection of human rights, among them, religious freedom, property rights and free enterprise, freedom of expression, and the whole constellation of liberties enshrined in the Virginia Declaration of Rights and the Virginia and United States Constitutions; and

Whereas, the foremost expression of these ideals that bind us as a people is found in the Declaration of Independence, which proclaims as “self-evident” the truths “that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”; and

Whereas, despite its “self-evident” character, this fundamental principle and moral standard of liberty and equality has been transgressed during much of Virginian and American history, and our Commonwealth and nation are still working toward fulfillment of the ideals proclaimed by the founders and toward the “more perfect union” that is the aspiration of our national identity and charter; and

Whereas, these transgressions include egregious wrongs visited upon Virginia’s native peoples, including dispossession of their lands, violations of solemn covenants and agreements, enforcement of “racial integrity” laws and other policies that denied their ethnic identity and undermined their cultural heritage, and other forms of discrimination; and

Whereas, these transgressions include the immoral institution of human slavery, an institution directly antithetical to and irreconcilable with the fundamental principle of human equality and freedom, and which, having been sanctioned and perpetuated through the laws of Virginia and the United States, ranks as the most horrendous of all depredations of human rights and violations of our founding ideals in our nation’s history; and

Whereas, the abolition of slavery was not followed by prompt fulfillment of those founding ideals, but rather by systematic discrimination, enforced segregation, and other insidious institutions and practices toward Americans of African descent that were rooted in racism, racial bias, and racial misunderstanding; and

Whereas, despite our collective pursuit of freedom and justice for all, and our Commonwealth’s and nation’s remarkable progress toward that noble end, no people or group in the four centuries since Jamestown’s settlement has been untouched and unaffected by racial and cultural bias, bigotry, and misunderstanding, resulting discrimination, and their sad legacies; and

Whereas, the government of this Commonwealth of Virginia, like all governments in free societies, is but a manifestation of human will, animated by high ideals but admitting of irremediable flaws, and thus susceptible to evil and error even as it aspires to goodness and truth; and

Whereas, even the most abject apology for past wrongs cannot right them, nor can it justly impute fault or responsibility to succeeding generations or justify the imposition of new benefits or burdens, yet the spirit of true repentance on behalf of a government, and, through it, a people, can serve to bring closure, to reconcile and heal, and to recall and remind so that past wrongs may never be repeated and manifest injustice may not again be overlooked; and

Whereas, in recent decades Virginians have affirmed the founding ideals of liberty and equality by, among many other acts, providing some of the nation’s foremost trailblazers for civil rights, giving formal legal recognition to the state’s Indian tribes, and electing a grandson of slaves to the Commonwealth’s highest elective office; and

Whereas, such acts affirming the founding ideals of liberty and equality have provided a wholesome example for the nation, a form of leadership befitting the Commonwealth’s unsurpassed tradition of leadership since the founding of Jamestown, and suggest that this legislative expression, the first of its kind in this country, may likewise set a positive example for citizens and their governments in other states; and

Whereas, racial and cultural diversity, and the distinctive contributions of peoples from all around the world, have enriched and prospered this Commonwealth during the four centuries since the settlement of Jamestown, and are cause for much thanksgiving and celebration; and

Whereas, the story of Virginia and its diverse peoples during these first four centuries is a story of unparalleled achievement despite adversity, of great struggle and sacrifice, vision and virtue, as integral to the larger American story as hope is integral to the American spirit; now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the House of Delegates, the Senate concurring, That the General Assembly acknowledge and recognize the many contributions made by people of diverse cultures and backgrounds that have shaped the character and enriched the culture of our Commonwealth; and, be it

RESOLVED FURTHER, That the General Assembly hereby acknowledge and express its profound regret for the Commonwealth’s role in sanctioning the immoral institution of human slavery, in the historic wrongs visited upon native peoples, and in all other forms of discrimination and injustice that have been rooted in racial and cultural bias and misunderstanding; and, be it

RESOLVED FINALLY, That on the occasion of Virginia’s 400th anniversary, the General Assembly call upon the citizens of the Commonwealth to enter into a spirit of thanksgiving for the contributions made by Virginians of diverse cultures and backgrounds to the advance of freedom, justice, democracy, and opportunity in America and the world, of solemn remembrance of the struggles and sacrifices that attended those contributions, and of celebration of the promise the future holds for fulfilling our shared ideal of “one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.”

Thursday, February 01, 2007


Richard Peabody Offers a Novel Workshops Beginning in March

Richard Peabody, local writer and editor of Gargoyle Magazine, recently sent this notice about his upcoming novel workshop. If you live in the Arlington/DC/Maryland area, go for it. See details below as Peabody wrote himself:

Peabody’s Novel Workshop: Critique Your Complete Just a Couple of Chapters. It's time for another round. Please pass the word to the usual suspects. Limited to 5 students.

We meet every two weeks on Wednesday day nights 7:30 until 10 pm at my house in Arlington, Virginia. Four to five blocks from Virginia Square Metro station.
1. March 14
2. March 28
3. April 11
4. April 25
5. May 9
6. May 24 [Thursday]
7. May 30

Cost is $500 to be paid before the first night. Due to people dropping the class at the last minute and forcing me to cancel the entire session I now require that $125 of this fee be non-refundable and paid before the class begins.

Every participant turns in their complete novel and synopsis the first night along with 5 copies for everybody else and me. That way you get handwritten notes on everything from everybody. And you should feel free to recommend cuts, improvements, make suggestions, mark the manuscripts up at will. That's what this class is all about. By meeting every two weeks each participant should have plenty of time to complete their critiques.

If you can't attend every meeting (which I demand save for unforeseeable illness or death in the family as it's a question of fairness and honor) please don't bother signing up.

Why do I teach this class? Because you can go to your favorite bookshop and lift any number of contemporary novels off the shelf and read a few chapters only to discover that they fall apart at chapter four. Why? I’ve found that most MFA programs only critique the first three chapters of your manuscript. Plus, I’ve learned from the hands-on experience of teaching this course that a complete reading and critique is absolutely the best way (dare I say only way) to go. What’s the advantage of a small class like this one? There’s nothing quite like having five people discuss your characters as though they were living people for 2 ½ hours. What sorts of novels are eligible? Generally I handle serious literary fiction (both realism and experimental works), but the class has included YA, Sci-Fi, Mystery, Horror, Thriller, and Romance novels.

If you are interested do please email me a chapter and a synopsis. I'm only considering completed novels in the 250-350 dbl. spaced page range. (That’s one-sided, double spaced, 12pt. in Courier font.) Anything longer than that is pretty much wishful thinking right now due to grim market economics and politics. Most first novels are 300 dbl. spaced pages which equals 200pp. in book form. Simply a fact of the biz. Second novels are frequently a different story.

Katharine Davis (from the fall 2003 class) recently sold her novel to St. Martin’s Press. Alumni from Peabody’s 22 years of university, Writer’s Center, and private classes with filmed screenplays, books in print (or forthcoming) include: Mark Baechtel, Doreen Baingana, Toby Barlow, Maggie Bartley, Jodi Bloom, Sean Brijbasi, Peter Brown, Robert Cullen, Priscilla Cummings, Lucinda Ebersole, Cara Haycak, Dave Housley, Catherine Kimrey, Adam Kulakow, Nathan Leslie, Redge Mahaffey, Charlotte Manning, Meena Nayak, Matthew Olshan, William Orem, Mary Overton, Carolyn Parkhurst, Sally Pfoutz, Nani Power, Lisa Schamess, Brenda Seabrooke, Julia Slavin, and Yolanda Young.

My address is 3819 North 13th Street, Arlington, VA 22201. My house is 2 blocks from Quincy Park and the Central Library on Quincy Street. We are 3 doors from Washington-Lee High School where Quincy crosses 13th Street.

My phone number is (703) 525-9296. My cell is (703) 380-.

If that’s not your cup of tea, I will also be teaching another round of “Experimental Writing” at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD. Their site and info are at The Writer's Center. My class runs for eight weeks on Thursday nights beginning March 8th. 7:30-10 pm.

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