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  • The Vale of Cashmere

  • by Sean Elder

    green forest

    This story first appeared in Voice from the Planet, FREE from March 30 – April 3, 2017 at Amazon Kindle US, and Kindle UK among others.

     

    Truth was, she used to be able to organize her thoughts, until Floyd retired. Now he was always hanging around talking to her, asking what she was doing. Every time he went out, which wasn’t often enough for her taste, he would ask her if she needed anything and then look angry if she did. Sometimes he’d look angry if she didn’t. Now she looked for errands for him, just to get a moment’s peace. When she sent him off for milk this morning she could have lived without it. But she couldn’t have stood listening to him complain about the bus ride to Atlantic City before it happened, not non-stop for the next two hours.

    “You’re creating your future,” she told him. “Whatever you’re thinking and feeling, that becomes your reality.”

    “Don’t give me that shit,” he’d said, putting on his coat and hat. He had been wearing that same damned hat with the stingy brim so long it had come back in style.

    “It’s the law of attraction,” she’d continued. “You can deny it all you want but that don’t mean it’s not true. “Everything coming into your life you are attracting into your life. You’re like a magnet.”

    “Well, this magnet’s going to attract some milk,” he’d said before going out the door.

    He had made fun of her ever since she first heard Oprah talking about The Secret but deep down she thought that maybe he believed her. Or would, if he would just give it a try. He would come home so angry about something that happened out there – the security guy asleep in the chair, or someone who wouldn’t give his seat up on the subway – and she would tell him, “Every bad thing that comes into your life, you make happen.”

    Sometimes that really made Floyd angry. “Is that right? Every bad thing? I made happen every bad thing that came into my life, Marcy?” He would tower over her, breathing heavily, staring at the top of her lacquered hair until she was silent.

    She looked closely at the big digits on the clock by the bed. It was almost 8:30 and she still had not done her makeup. From the drawer in the nightstand on her side of the bed she looked for her own pill organizer and then realized she had already taken it out. She put it under the light, right beside that picture of her two boys, smiling in the lap of a black Santa, and looked at Wednesday. There were still pills in the morning box but the evening box was empty. Maybe she took the evening pills by mistake. Not that it mattered ‘cause they were basically the same. Or maybe she hadn’t filled the PM part.

    Looking at the rainbow colored compartments (Wednesday was green, Thursday red) she thought of Wilson, who had the hardest time with his R’s when he was little – “Weeding Wainbow,” he would say about his favorite show, and his brother would laugh at him. She felt overcome for a moment and then heard her husband’s keys in the door.

    She took the morning pills, four altogether, as Floyd shouted at her from the kitchen.

    “Do you know how much they wanted for a half-gallon of milk?” She imagined his face as he said the price and the way he would look at her afterwards. He might be looking that way right now, even though she wasn’t there.

    “Cost of everything is going up,” she yelled back. Then she stood and headed for the bathroom. “I got to get a move on.”

    “Ain’t you even going to drink your milk?” She heard him swear as she closed the bathroom door.

    The bus driver turned out to be some white guy who’d been sleeping in the back while people waited outside. The whole bus was talking about it, even after they got out of the Holland Tunnel and were getting on the turnpike, people tisking and hmm-hmming until Floyd wanted to yell, “Who told you to stand out there in the first place? It’s not even cold.” But he kept quiet and sat by a window, alone thank you very much, though Tommy insisted on sitting right in front of him, while Marcy huddled on the other side with a bunch of ladies. They outnumbered the men five to one anyway; he let Tommy represent, going back and forth across the aisle like some congressman making a deal. Each time he went over to the ladies he would say something so low that Floyd couldn’t hear and they would all laugh and holler.

    “I think it’s about time for some music,” Tommy said after one of his sorties. He had a gym bag with him that also said Mets on it, and from it he pulled a boom box that he tried to balance on the seatback in front of him. He pushed play and Johnnie Taylor started in on “Who’s Making Love” and the ladies all laughed, even though the sound was kind of wobbly. From the front of the bus the driver said something, they could see him looking at them in the rear view mirror, but no one tried to hear him. In fact Tommy stood up, with the boom box on his shoulder, and started to shake it in the aisle, which made the driver get on the mike.

    “Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to sit down.” He had some kind of accent, Russian or something, but no one really paid him any mind.

    The hits kept coming; it must have been some kind of collection since Floyd never heard a deejay. Tommy jammed the boom box between the headrest and the window so it wouldn’t fall down and turned around to look at Floyd, but not before looking at the driver, who had his eyes on the road again.

    “How ‘bout a little taste?” Tommy said, taking a half-pint in a brown bag from the pocket of his jacket.

    “Too early for me,” Floyd said, looking out the window. To him it always looked like New Jersey was halfway through being torn down.

    Across the aisle Marcy was in the middle of a conversation with the other ladies but she didn’t feel quite right. It started as soon as she left the building; she had picked out a brooch to go with her blue blouse, a little gold tree with red apples on it, but she had left it sitting in front of the mirror. Now she felt naked, all that blue stretching out below her chin like an empty ocean almost and she felt like she was being pulled back from drowning each time one of them stopped talking. That meant somebody was supposed to say something, you were supposed to jump in like it was a game of double-Dutch.

    “What I value most is the privacy,” Marcy said, but no one answered. She had a feeling she had said that before. The topic was assisted living and how to know when you needed it.

    “Until you wake up privately dead,” said the lady in the Kente cloth. Marcy didn’t remember meeting her before, a friend of Helen’s was how she was introduced, but she didn’t like her now. She had these gray and white streaks in her hair, extensions by the look of it, but it reminded Marcy of mud. Besides she was probably the youngest woman of the bunch, what was she talking about dying for?

    “My boy checks in on us every night,” said Marcy and immediately wondered why she had. It wasn’t true. Most times she had to call Eric and he never sounded too happy to hear from her. He did come to visit though, once a month at least. They saw less of him after his divorce, though you’d think it would be the other way around.

    “Where are we?” she said suddenly, looking out the window. Everything looked the same.

    “You keep asking that,” the lady in the Kente cloth said, or maybe she said. Marcy wasn’t looking at her and the music Tommy was playing made her feel lost.

    “Sending this one out for all you ladies,” said Tommy, like he was some deejay, and they all laughed but Marcy didn’t think it was funny. It was that song about sitting on a park bench that always made her sad. “I see her face everywhere I go/on the street and even at the picture show/have you seen her?”

    There was a hospital up there high on a hill and for a second she felt that the bus was going to take off and fly straight up to its doors. She closed her eyes and felt herself rise.

    They parked in the lot of the Showboat casino. Though they could have gone anywhere they wanted, the thirty odd passengers that disembarked made for the Showboat as if summoned, shuffling and limping toward the entrance in a broken conga line.

    “No one says we got to go to this casino,” Floyd said to the crowd of ladies leading the way.

    “The Showboat has a Mardi Gras theme,” said the lady in the Kente cloth. She turned around to give Floyd the fisheye, pulling down her glasses as she did. “Besides, we got coupons for the Showboat.”

    He fell in line sullenly beside Tommy who offered him another drink. Floyd took a swallow this time without pulling down the brown paper to see what it was. It tasted like mouthwash.

    “Jesus, what the hell you drinking?”

    “Little peppermint schnapps.” Tommy tried to slap Floyd on the back but the big man danced away, handing the bottle back as he moved.

    “What she mean by a ‘Mardi Gras theme,’ anyway?” Floyd said.

    Tommy shrugged. “As long as they got free drinks and blackjack I don’t much care.”

    Seagulls screamed overhead. Floyd saw his reflection scowling in the window of a parked Humvee. He went to New Orleans during Mardi Gras when he was in the Navy, how many years ago? He got lost and someone stole his wallet. A man dressed as a woman tried to put beads around his neck, he remembered. You could have your Mardi Gras.

    Marcy was among the first of the women to enter the casino and the air conditioning hit her like a cold wave. “Good thing I remembered my shawl!” she said but no one answered. The music and the sound of the slot machines, dinging and ringing with sirens going off every five minutes as if some crime was being committed, swallowed her voice.

    Marcy had thought to bring rolls of quarters and silver dollars. While the other ladies were getting change she was already pouring her silver into a red plastic cup provided to her by a girl in the shortest skirt she had ever seen.

    “You must be freezing!” Marcy said but the girl didn’t seem to hear her. Maybe she just got tired of people trying to talk to her.

    The slots area had thousands of machines and at noon it was already half filled, mostly old timers like her and Floyd. He and Tommy had set off in the other direction like there was a sign saying ‘Men, That Way.’ The carpets were in a pattern of red and orange and gold that reminded her of a kaleidoscope and the ceiling was made up to look like stained glass, though she knew real stained glass when she saw it and this wasn’t it. She felt like if she didn’t sit down she might just fall into the colors. She sat down at a quarter machine and began feeding it. She didn’t know where the other ladies had gone and looking over her shoulder left her none the wiser.

    “Y’all gonna have to find me,” she said and as if summoned a different lady in a short skirt appeared.

    “How you doing today?” she said. She had a tray filled with drinks and a notepad tucked into her belt. “Can I get you something to drink?”

    “Well I suppose you can!” Marcy turned in her chair to show her appreciation. “My name’s Marcy by the way, I come here from Brooklyn with a bunch of folks from my church group.”

    “Now isn’t that nice? My name’s Kim Sue. What can I get you?”

    Marcy smiled and opened her mouth. But she could not think of the names of any drinks, not just the fancy ones but any drink. She felt a trickle of sweat run down her back underneath her blouse.

    “It’s funny,” she said, embarrassed. “My mind’s just a blank today.”

    “Sure, no problem!” Kim Sue smiled back at her like one of those Chinese dolls, her name right there on her badge. “We have beer and wine and soda and mixed drinks.” She kept smiling at Marcy and continued. “I could make you a nice white wine spritzer, if you like.”

    “Oh, that sounds nice,” said Marcy, and it did sound nice, like a sprinkler in the summer time, the kind the boys used to play in. Kim Sue left and Marcy returned to the machine. Cherries and plums rolled past, never stopping at the same time.

    Eric used to chase Wilson through the sprinklers in the park and sometimes when Marcy wasn’t looking he would hold his little brother down and try to pull off his shorts in front of all the other children. She would get so mad at him, always teasing like that, knowing it would make Wilson cry and come looking for her, but she had a job then, looking after a little white boy named Oskar whose parents lived in Park Slope and worked all the time. Oskar’a parents didn’t mind too much when she brought her boys with her when she took him to the park. “As long as you remember,” the father said, “that Oskar is your first priority.”

    Well of course he is, mister doctor man! Why would my own flesh and blood come before your little prince? Good gracious, the things that man would say. If the wife heard him she would weigh in and try to soften the blow. “What my husband means is that we don’t want you to get too distracted. Three children is a handful.”

    Now that was the kind of thing only a white person would say. Where she came from three children was just getting started, even if she was done after Wilson, something her own mother could never understand.

    “Oh, don’t worry, ma’am,” Marcy would say. “I won’t ever let Oskar out of my sight.”

    All these people thinking someone was going to steal their child then, like the whole country had gone crazy. Soon they’d be putting their pictures on milk cartons and billboards and on TV during the news – “Have you seen Brandon?” Usually white kids. If a black kid went missing generally people know who took him.

    “Here you go, ma’am.”

    Kim Sue was back with her drink. It was in a big plastic cup with a straw that went in curlicues, like a roller coaster, like this was for a child. She started fishing in her coin cup.

    “Drinks are complimentary, ma’am.”

    Like I didn’t know that. She pulled out a Susan B. Anthony and put it on her tray. “That’s for you,” she said.

    “Very nice of you, ma’am. And if you need anything else you just let me know.”

    She turned to leave and Marcy was afraid to see her go. “Kim Sue, it’s like your momma gave you two names.”

    “Kim is my family name. Family name comes first in Korean.”

    “Is that right?” said Marcy. “Well I think family should come first, don’t you?”

    “Yes, ma’am.”

    Marcy thought that was something else she should write in her book but realized that she hadn’t brought it with her, and then forgot what she had said. “But they probably don’t spell it like that in Korea, do they? The Sue, I mean.”

    “No, ma’am, we have a different alphabet.”

    “Now isn’t that something?”

    She was balancing a tray full of drinks while she talked to Marcy so she let her go, disappearing into the big Tiffany lamp around them. A band was playing Dixieland and Marcy strained her eyes to see them. The music seemed to be coming from everywhere at once, “When the Saints Come Marching In.”

    “Let me tell you another,” she said, sipping on her drink. The lady at the machine next to her looked at Marcy and then moved away, taking her quarters with her. She watched as the drink spun up the straw when she sucked. Here we go loop de loop.

    Sometimes Eric would help her push the stroller as they went around the park, and Wilson would run so far ahead she would shout after him. “Don’t go where I can’t see you!” she’d holler, and Oskar, too big to be pushed around in a stroller, would try and stand up and yell after her. “Go where I can’t see you!”

    Wilson would hide like that at home as well; hide so good she couldn’t find him sometimes. They were living in Prospect-Lefferts, more house than they needed but you could afford those big limestone buildings then even on a Con Ed salary and Wilson would go into different rooms and be so quiet that she would get hysterical, be practically beside herself by the time her husband got home. Then they would hear him laughing. “Got you!” he would say and emerge from the cupboard or from behind the sideboard and Floyd would get so mad. That one time he came out of her closet wearing her bra and Floyd just about went crazy; took off his belt and chased him.

    She put in a coin and pulled the lever: a watermelon; a bell; the number seven in gold.

    “What numbers are you playing today?”

    She turned her head but nobody was there. Who had spoken? Just turning her head made the colors around her move and when she looked at the floor she saw the pattern there was moving too. It was like a flying carpet, the Vale of Cashmere –

    The Vale of Cashmere! That was the name of that strange corner of the park where she took the boys now and then. They were getting older; other boys took the place of Oskar, and Eric got too big to want to be with them. But Wilson kept her company as she made the rounds, bought them ice cream and wiped their sticky hands. People used to call it The Swamp and there was a muddy pond okay and some hanging trees.

    “How come you don’t play with boys your own age?” one of the kids had asked him once.

    “I just like to help my momma,” he’d said.

    He was the one who found out the real name of The Swamp, checked an old book out of the library and showed her on the map. There was a poem that went with it and Wilson stood up by the pond and put one finger in the air as he read: “Who has not heard of the Vale of Cashmere/With its roses the brightest the earth ever gave?”

    Another babysitter saw them by the pond once and came over to warn them. “You shouldn’t be down in there,” she said, afraid to come too close with her stroller in front of her. “They say men get together down there.”

    And after that Marcy noticed them, lurking about, standing in the trees. Once when she came down with Wilson and a stroller two men ran out, going in different directions.

    She didn’t think about it again for years, until Wilson was grown and still living at home, and he came back one night that first time with his face all bloody, drunk or high on something and smiled at her, blood on his teeth.

    “Hey, Momma, I been to the Vale of Cashmere!”

    That’s when Floyd said no more.

    “What numbers are you playing today?”

    She turned and the colors whooshed like a scarf being wrapped around her head. She saw her this time, a little woman, no bigger than a dragonfly like the ones the boys chased in the park, Wilson would put them in a jar with holes punched in the top, while Eric tried to cover it up with his hand so they would smother.

    “I’m looking for three sevens,” Marcy said to the dragonfly woman. “Are there some other numbers to play?”

    “That is the question, isn’t it?” said the faerie. “Are there other numbers to play?”

    And then she flew away, just like a little hummingbird, and Marcy got up to follow her, passing into the pattern of colors and leaving her cup of coins behind.

    Floyd went through all his money the first hour. Not all his money but all the money he’d meant to spend, the money he put in his shirt pocket, seemed to fly off the table. Dealer beat him every time: if Floyd had 18, the dealer had 19; if Floyd sat on a 19, the dealer hit him with two bricks.

    “I guess this lady feels like she has to show us what a blackjack looks like,” said Tommy, when the dealer drew her third in ten minutes. She apologized to them both, even though they didn’t tip her, and Tommy’s luck was better than hers: He doubled down twice and made a hundred bucks in the blink of an eye. All Floyd could do, once he had spent the money he had earmarked for this outing, was sit there and simmer in his resentment while Tommy’s chip pile grew.

    That was when Helen, the lady in the purple pantsuit, came and asked if he knew where Marcy was.

    “I thought she was with you,” said Floyd. It came out like an accusation.

    “Well, we agreed to meet for lunch at three,” she said, “but then nobody could find Marcy. We figured maybe you two went off together.”

    And that’s how well you know us, Floyd thought. “Maybe she just went off to another casino by herself,” he said. Even though he was losing, and wasn’t even playing at the time, he didn’t want to have to leave his spot and go look for his wife. “There’s no law says we got to stay here.”

    “Blackjack,” said the dealer, flipping another ace.

    But after a minute he did get up to look, as he knew he would, leaving Tommy, who still had a hot hand and no doubt wondered what all the fuss was about.

    “Did you try the ladies room?” he asked Helen.

    “That was one of the first places we looked. They have sofas in there, you know.” She paused. “Do you think we should call security?”

    The suggestion made his blood pressure rise. “No, I don’t think we should call security. Christ sake, grown woman goes off for a few minutes and you want to call the cavalry?”

    “Does she have a cell phone?”

    “Our son gave her one but she couldn’t figure out how to use it.” This was literally half true: Eric had given them each one last Christmas, and neither of them could figure out how to use it. By the time Floyd got the hang of it he realized that the only person he would call was his wife, which was kind of stupid since he saw her all the time anyway.

    They looked all the places that they had already looked and the lady in the Kente cloth joined them, acting more concerned that Floyd felt. “We need a system,” she said, as they circled the room for the second time. The place was more crowded than ever and Floyd could hardly hear what she was saying. “How about I go stake out the buffet and you stay here?” she suggested to Helen.

    “How ‘bout I go stake out the buffet?” Helen said. “I haven’t had lunch yet.”

    Floyd said they could both go feed themselves and take their time doing it; Marcy would turn up. He stood like a sentinel beneath the bells and sirens of the Mardi Gras slots, scowling most of the time. He hated slot machines; there was no sport in it, as he often told his wife. Blackjack at least you were playing the odds. Slots to him was just dumb luck, like a rabbit betting it wouldn’t get run over when it ran across the road. Twice he thought he saw his wife, and each time he took pleasure in anticipating just how much grief he was going to give her. But each time he was wrong.

    By four o’clock they were back together, Tommy too, and they began to set out in search parties. They were a small group: most of the travelers didn’t want to leave their stations, since the bus was scheduled to leave at six and this whole business had already cut into their time as it was. The lady in the Kente cloth, who finally introduced herself as Niobe, took charge. She contacted the hotel security, who seemed to have some experience with old folks wandering off, and as the witching hour neared, and the day-trippers started heading back toward the bus, she went out and argued with the bus driver, who was pretty adamant about leaving on time.

    “You can’t just go off and leave an old lady alone,” she scolded him. The engine was already running, gently shaking the bus, while the AC gusted out the door in heavy welcoming breaths.

    “I won’t be leaving her alone,” the driver said. “I will be leaving you to find her.”

    He agreed to wait as they made one last search. A handful of them fanned out, going to neighboring casinos and restaurants, off the boardwalk and into the side streets. Floyd couldn’t help but think that Marcy was messing with him the whole time, and when he saw the impatient faces of the other folks on the bus – they’d lost their money and had their fill, they just wanted to go home – he couldn’t help but side with them.

    Most of the people he saw as he wandered were wearing shorts and T-shirts. Used to be people would get dressed up to go someplace. And when did everybody get so fat? Walking down the boardwalk, bag of French fries in your hand, what did you expect? The new motto for the city was “Always Turned On,” which he found kind of creepy. There was nothing that he saw that turned him on.

    Doors were open, air conditioning blasting out, cooling nothing. Floyd took to popping into places and doing a quick look around, not even asking half the time if they’d seen anyone who looked like his wife. One, they couldn’t hear you with all that noise and two, half of them couldn’t speak English.

    “You seen an old black lady?” he shouted at one girl scooping ice cream. Her nails were so long he figured they might end up in somebody’s cone. “Blue shirt, about this high?” She stared at him like he was the one with the language problem.

    He kept walking. Going in and out of the summer sun was making him dizzy, to say nothing of thirsty. He wished for the first time that Tommy was with him. That man would always stop for a drink. He saw people in those rolling chairs, being pushed by young people, girls sometimes. And you wonder why you so fat?

    Down at one end of the boardwalk he found what looked like a real bar. The crowd had trickled off as the sun sank lower in the sky. Go on, get out of here. A lot of good you been. Floyd ducked inside and felt the rivers of sweat roll out from under his hat and chill on his face and neck. His glasses steamed as he took a seat at the bar and ordered a gin and tonic. He perched on the stool and looked up at the game on TV. The waitress brought him his drink and man did that taste good. No skimping on the gin, either. He forgot to ask her about Marcy. His wallet was bothering him, he felt like he was balancing on it. When she asked him if he wanted to start a tab he simply nodded.

    “You got a phone?” She pointed to an old-fashioned booth in the back, kind Superman used to change in. The place was filling up, young couples waiting for dinner. Went back to the hotel to put your dress shorts on? Once inside the paneled wood booth he forgot who he was going to call. Eric, right. He searched the scraps of paper in his wallet for the number he never had cause to memorize and let it ring, go to voicemail, and then dialed again.

    “Hello?”

    “This ain’t no telemarketer.”

    “Hey, Pop.” He did not sound happy to hear from him and Floyd had already put enough change in the machine so he cut straight to the point.

    “We in Atlantic City and your mother’s gone missing.” He backtracked from there, explaining the whole afternoon in greater detail than Eric needed, but never did his son sound any more excited than Floyd felt. He asked the obvious questions – had they called the police? Who else was looking?

    “Did she have her cell phone?” he asked, pointedly.

    “That’s why I was calling,” Floyd said. “I figured maybe she’d called you.”

    Eric was silent, and Floyd knew that he knew he was lying. He imagined him at home, still in his work clothes, the sound on the TV muted, his eyes on the game. From his perch in the booth Floyd could see the TV over the bar. Jeter was trying to steal.

    “I’m sure she’ll turn up, Pop. I mean, where’s she gonna go?”

    “I know that.”

    “You got your cell phone with you? So I can call you if she does?”

    Floyd muttered something and got off the phone. That boy would go to his grave asking about those damn phones. He should just wrap them up and give them back to him for Christmas. Turn ‘em into salt-and-pepper shakers.

    When he got back to his seat at the bar Jeter got picked off and he ordered another drink. Now they could send the search party out for him. The tumblers were tall and when he turned in his seat he found he had company. Big old white dude with long hair and a pointed beard. He was sipping a Budweiser longneck and looking at the screen. His arms were covered in tattoos; dragons, snakes and skulls disappeared into his shirtsleeves.

    “Fuckin’ Yankees,” he said and turned to look at Floyd. “Nice hat.”

    Floyd turned to face his own reflection in the mirror behind the bar. “You wouldn’t believe how long I had this hat,” he said.

    “There isn’t much I wouldn’t believe,” the man said.

    They got to talking. Turned out he worked in a tattoo parlor on the boardwalk, which explained all the ink. Half way through his second drink and Floyd was feeling generous in his opinions.

    “Back in the day,” he said, “man had a tattoo it meant he’d been someplace. In the service, in the joint, you know.”

    “I hear you,” the man said. “These days it just means you been to the mall.” He drained his beer and held up the empty. “Buy you a drink?”

    “Let me buy you a drink,” said Floyd, and pulled out the fat wallet that had been giving him such a pain and laid it on the counter. Soon he had the pictures out and was showing him snaps of Eric, bragging on his job even if he wasn’t exactly sure what he did. Then one of the whole family, when everyone was young.

    “Where’s your other boy?” the stranger asked.

    Floyd made a face like he was sucking on a lime. “Wilson got killed in a hold-up ten years ago,” he said.

    “Oh, man, I am sorry. They catch the guy who did it?”

    “No, it was in Prospect Park one night. Lot of crime in there.”

    “That’s why I could never live in the city,” the man said, which struck Tommy as funny. Most people would be scared of him, even in Brooklyn.

    “So what happens when folks get old?” said Floyd, changing the subject. “Maybe they don’t want all those tattoos any more.”

    “Shit, you don’t have to wait ‘til your old to regret something stupid you did.” The man laughed and Floyd got a glimmer of a gold tooth in his head. “People come in all the time wanting to have tattoos taken off, usually the name of some girl that don’t love them anymore.”

    “Can you do it?”

    “Sure,” the man said. “Hurts like hell and costs twice as much. But we can do it. Easier just to change it, though.”

    “How do you mean?”

    “Well, there was this one girl who loved a guy named Chris and had it tattooed on her ass. Until she found Jesus and then we just added a ‘T’.”

    He didn’t smile at first and it took Floyd a minute to figure it was a joke. He smiled first. “Hey, I got one,” he said. The stranger’s eyes gleamed in anticipation. “There was this guy who loved this old girl so much he had her name tattooed on his Johnson.”

    “Now that’s gotta hurt!”

    “Hell, yeah.” Floyd wiped his mouth. “Then they broke up, you know, and soon he started missing her real bad. So he went all over looking for her, from Wisconsin all the way down to Jamaica. Then he’s in the bathroom one day and he looks over and he sees this other guy’s dick.” He stopped for a minute. The stranger kept staring at him. “Now I can’t remember that girl’s name.”

    “Is it important?”

    “Yeah, it’s the whole punch line.”

    “Uh, oh. Better have another drink.”

    He felt flushed and excused himself to go to the bathroom. There he stared straight ahead at the wall and read all the graffiti as if looking for a message. And by the time he got back to the bar he was not surprised to see the stranger was gone and with him his wallet though all Floyd could feel was a keen sense of disappointment: He remembered the end of the joke now. He had remembered that old girl’s name.

    ______________________

    voice from the planet

    ‘Vale of Cashmere’ was first published by Harvard Square Editions in Voice from the Planet, FREE from March 30 – April 3, 2017 at Amazon Kindle US, and Kindle UK among others. Sean Elder’s writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, New York Magazine, Salon, Slate, Vogue, Elle, Men’s Journal, Men’s Health, O: The Oprah Magazine, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Details and many other publications. The essay he contributed to the collection of men’s writings The Bastard On the Couch (Morrow, 2004) was reprinted on three continents; his essay on ecstasy, included in the collection of drug writings entitled White Rabbit (Chronicle Books, 1995) was called “seminal” by Granta; and a piece he wrote about being a stay-at-home dad for Oprah was included in her best of O collection, Live Your Best Life (Oxmoor, 2005). He has co-authored several books, including Websites That Work with designer Roger Black (Adobe Press, 1997) and Mission Al Jazeera with former Marine captain Josh Rushing (Palgrave, 2007). He also works as a book doctor and helped edit the forthcoming Making Rounds with Oscar by Dr. David Dosa (Hyperion, 2010). He lives in Brooklyn, New York with his wife and daughter.

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Vigil

 
By Rajani Kanth

Let not the

Idle mind

mentor

The secret

heart –

*

In its

sanctity

Let no

anarchy

Intrude –

*

When all

Fails

It will yet

Succor

the restive

current(s)

Of the

Splint’ring

Spirit

*

voyaging,

lost –

in a forlorn

world

where

water wraiths

wail

and

lone curlews

cry

*

In a

piteous

Wake

Of the

Lorn –

In Vigil

for Souls

About

to be

Born

[©R.Kanth, 2019]  

______________

Professor Rajani Kanth, Author of Coda, and Expiations, is Trustee of the World Peace Congress

 

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Literary Culture Decentralized at LA’s Little Literary Fair

 

A brand-new book fair premiered in Los Angeles in July. LitLit, the Little Literary Fair was free and open to the public, and featured more than 20 exhibitors ⁠— independent publishers, booksellers and cultural creators from Los Angeles and the rest of the West Coast.

Charles Degelman, author of Gates of Eden and A Bowl Full of Nails, enjoyed the streams of people flowing by Harvard Square Editions’ booth and the “extraordinary variety of the festival participants. LitLit proved to be as diverse as Los Angeles can be! Beautiful space, wonderful interaction between readers, writers, and publishers.”

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Left, Susan Rubin, playwright and author of forthcoming novel ROAD NOT TAKEN. Right, Charles Degelman, author of A BOWL FULL OF NAILS, fields a question about Harvard Square Editions’ titles winning awards such as the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35, IPPY and Nautilus prizes.

“We were most excited by the enormous amount of interest in small literary houses on the part of the general public,” said Diane Haithman, journalist and author of the diverse, debut novel Dark Lady of Hollywood.

The fair is meant to highlight the burgeoning small-press scene in L.A., according to Tom Lutz, founder and editor-in-chief of the LA Review of Books.

“The small press world of Los Angeles is exploding,” Lutz said. “At least half the small presses that are in the fair have been born in the last decade. It is part of L.A., which had always been home to great writers, really coming into its own as a literary city.”

“They each have things they do best, and some are the best in the country at what they do,” Lutz said.

Exhibitors included California-based presses Harvard Square Editions, Red Hen, Not a Cult, Unnamed Press, Angel City Press, Rare Bird Books and Kaya Press.

The Los Angeles Public Library, Words Uncaged, and the LARB/USC Publishing Workshop were among other exhibitors at the fair, which featured interviews and panel discussions focusing on “themes such as activism, art, and absurdity,” organizers said.

The new book fair grew out of a partnership between Hauser & Wirth Publishers, a branch of the Zurich-based art gallery, and the Los Angeles Review of Books and took place at Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles, the arts complex in L.A.’s Downtown Arts District. The arts complex, located in a former flour mill, is the home of Hauser & Wirth gallery, the Artbook bookstore and Kris Tominaga’s restaurant Manuela.

Michaela Unterdörfer, publisher of Hauser & Wirth Publishers, said the fair was inspired “by the vibrant ecosystem of West Coast publishing.”

“Los Angeles has such a rich history of cross-disciplinary cultural production, and for decades there’s been a strong, if under-recognized, tradition of artists and publishers who have shaped Southern California’s literary scene through their dedication to the potential of publications as artistic mediums,” Unterdörfer added.

“Recently, this has been furthered by the significant emergence of collectives, small presses and independent publishers that’s allowing a discursive and highly engaged community to flourish in new and innovative ways.”

Los Angeles Review of Books editor Lutz said, “L.A. has played second fiddle to New York in so many areas of culture for so long, but now the city is recognized as on a par in many of the arts. At the same time, culture is decentralizing and diversifying — this is part of a nationwide and worldwide phenomenon — L.A. is prepared for this shift and is building the new infrastructure for it.”

No photo description available.

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INVICTUS Launch

Invictus Fr small

In early June, Harvard Square Editions author, L.L. Holt, read from her new novel, Invictus, at A Novel Idea on Passyunk, one of Philadelphia’s most exciting small bookshops with a bohemian flair. The book launch coincided with a South Philly street fair, and there was music and the scent of delicious ethnic food in the air.

Book launch

Visitors entered the bookshop as Holt shared some surprising information about the tumultuous early years of the composer Beethoven and brought her theatrical training to readings that included a vivid depiction of a family crisis.

“Two of the people Sunday came up to me with tears in their eyes after I read one of the domestic violence episodes from the book,” said Holt. One man said it really hit close to home for him. A woman said that the book reassured her that there is hope for those who escape from domestic violence. “If he could go on and make something of his life, then there’s hope for others, too,” she said.

 

LLHolt and Diana Antal at book launch Invictusaudience

By presenting Invictus in public readings, Holt has discovered aspects of the book, such as its dramatic retelling of incidents of prejudice and domestic abuse, that have struck a responsive note with the public. “It’s not just a book about a beloved composer,” she said, “but a guidebook for confronting and moving beyond the obstacles that others put in our way.”

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The Cats of Rhodes

by Carrie Tuhy

CatinArmour

PHOTO VIA MEDIEVALIST ERRANT

 

The cats of Rhodes are black—and white;
White with a black tail,
One cat of Rhodes.
Poised, paralyzed, possessed,
Eyes fixed on a lizard descending the center wall,
He waits, then pounces and pounces again.
And again.

The cats of Rhodes are tri-colored, and variegated:
Black and white and smoky gray,
Caramel, calico, tangerine.
They sit, they sprawl, spreading out
fc075511-b4db-460d-8248-d56b4771065cOn car tops and stone paths
Heated by the Mediterranean sun,
Even in October winds.

The cats of Rhodes are furry, furtive creatures,
Hiding in shadowy corners, under arches,
Perched on pebbled stoops of shuttered houses,
Asleep among the bustling caverns of merchant kiosks.
They are the tourists who never leave;
The ship-less hordes freed of hurry.
They rule this empire of mythic gods,
This island kingdom born of Aegean waves,
All verdant beauty now.

IMG_0879bThe cats of Rhodes are the Knights of St. John—
Without a crusade.
Lazy, grazing, scavenging.
Feed me, they purr
To food sellers hungry for more human customers.
I am the connoisseur of your kitchen.
Throw me your scraps, and I will feast,
Cries the white cat with the black tail.

The cats of Rhodes recline in sun-kissed splendor,
Tummies turned skyward, mouths agape—
All tiny teeth and curling tongues,
Tails swaying slowly, back and forth.
They rise and stretch–primp and preen for greedy photographers.
Then strut, a parade of kittens in their wake
Until one halts—frozen, eagle-eyed, on guard.
He waits, and waits,
And waits some more
For another elusive lizard.
_______________

45153588_1434142383401925_5613475672656707584_nCarrie Tuhy (top row, third cat from right) wrote and performed ‘The Cats of Rhodes’ to saxophone accompaniment during her stay at The Three Seas Writers’ Retreat in Rhodes, Greece, sponsored by Harvard Square Editions, the Three Seas organization and the Municipality of Rhodes.

Carrie TuhyCarrie is a long-time journalist who spent many years at Time Inc. as a magazine editor. Along with her positions at LIFE, Money and InStyle, she was also editor-in-chief of Real Simple where she published many accomplished fiction writers. She has also reviewed both fiction and non-fiction tiles for Publishers Weekly as well as having written author profiles including interviews with Joan Didion, Joyce Carol Oates and Robert Gottlieb, the former editor of the New Yorker. She is currently working on a book with the working title Second Lives of Women.

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The Circle, by Brussels expats

THECIRCLE Front10.19

The editor of the new anthology by members of the Brussels Writers’ Circle talks about community, pride and providing an outlet to new writers

Are you the type who would sell your brother out to space aliens? Set out to complete someone else’s bucket list? Deal in priceless stolen goods? Then you’ll find comrades in The Circle, a new anthology of short stories.

Though you’ll find your comrades there in any case: All the stories and poetry that appear in The Circle were written by Brussels expats. Now in bookstores, it is being launched next week at a reading at Waterstones.

The title is a clever reference to Brussels Writers’ Circle (BWC), a community group made up of expats who write in English. It’s the group’s second anthology; the first, A Circle of Words, was published in 2016. Both are published by Harvard Square Editions, based in Hollywood.

“It’s a collection of short stories and poetry by people who at some moment have made Brussels their home. That’s the unifying element,” says Patrick ten Brink, who edited the book. “The second unifying element is that they all link to the Brussels Writers Circle.”

groupSome members of BWC are published authors or journalists, while other are simply enthusiasts, putting pen to paper (so to speak) for their own enjoyment. All of them had the chance to publish in the anthology, which includes 55 pieces by 34 authors.

New voices in fiction

The group is publishing anthologies to find an audience for the works, many of which aren’t published elsewhere. Though they might eventually be; some of the works are first chapters of novels yet to be completed.

“We have a range of writers, some of whom are quite experienced, who have published, who have won some prizes,” says ten Brink. “But others are very much new enthusiasts. So what we thought we’d do is have something to show to the world, to allow new voices to get a little bit of exposure.”

Andreas

BWC counts about 350 members, and 10 or so usually show up to one of the two weekly meetings. Two or three authors read their work and get direct feedback from the rest – about plot, voice, tension, character development, story arcs and structure – all aspects of the writer’s craft.The anthologies, explains ten Brink (pictured below), “give a sense of completion to the process. We all talk about each other’s work, and then once in a while we get an email saying, ‘I’ve got this published here and published there’, and we thought it would be nice to have something in which we can all collectively be proud.”

He thinks The Circle can also inspire other writers in Brussels to join the group. “Because they can see that the work is actually leading to something.”

Patrick Ten BrinkPatrick

The numerous works are eclectic in both style and content. Some have been published elsewhere, such as Colin Walsh’s beautifully written “The Flare Carves Itself Through the Dark”, winner of Ireland’s Francis MacManus Annual Short Story Competition.

Other standouts in the anthology are Aisling Henrard’s “Lining Their Pockets”, in which an average evening in a new housing development turns into a celestial cock-up, and Martin Jones’ “Shimmer”, which brings the secrets hiding in the wooded outskirts of Moscow startlingly to life.

Many of the authors, however, do not have English as a first language, making the trip to getting published in the anthology a bit more rocky. “The ambition, of course, was to be as inclusive as we could, but we didn’t want to end up with a lack of quality,” explains ten Brink. “So we created guidelines; everyone who submitted a piece for the anthology had to fulfil certain criteria.”

Mauricio-2 That included reading at one of the BWC meetings and taking the comments on board. Then three members of the group read through the submissions and gave another round of comments. Two rounds of edits followed that.

That means a lot more effort than a normal collection of short stories would require, but that’s the point of the BWC after all – to make the writing better. “Some people wrote brilliantly straight off and only had to be tweaked,” says ten Brink, “while with others we had quite a few back-and-forth sessions. So the process was meant to get people included.” In the end, only a few people who submitted stories didn’t make the anthology.

‘Positive and necessary’

While some of the works in The Circle are based on reality – ten Brink’s own intriguing story, “The Half-Apple”, is about a recurring sight on a Brussels pavement down the street from where he used to live – just one is purely non-fiction. And while caving isn’t something I ever thought I’d be interested in, I have to admit that Nicholas Parrott’s description of the cave systems snaking through the Pyrenees had me pretty riveted.

Joost Hiltermann’s “Kawa’s Calvary”, meanwhile, is a riveting account of one Kurdish rebel fighter’s experiences in Northern Iraq. A programme director at the International Crisis Group, Hiltermann is working on fictionalised accounts of witness testimonies to reach a broader audience. Because, he says in his anthology bio, “if we are to be an international community, tragedy must be shared”.

Like most of the book’s contributors, neither Hiltermann nor ten Brink are authors for a living. ten Brink – born in Germany, but raised mostly in Australia and Japan – is the policy director at the European Environmental Bureau. Writing is a hobby, and BWC is, he says, his way of contributing to the local community.

“I think in these times, a group of people getting together across cultures and across languages to actually write in English, with a common purpose, is something that is empowering and positive and necessary,” he says.

When asked why someone might choose this anthology out of a rack of others if they are, say, at the airport and about to board a plane, his response is again compelling. “If you’re getting on the plane from Brussels, and you’re flying away to somewhere else, then you are very similar to many of the authors who have written pieces here. It’s a sense of the community of the international world that has made Brussels their home.”

Authors of The Circle will read from their work at 19.00 on 22 November at Waterstones, Boulevard Adolphe Max 71, Brussels
 
Written by Lisa Bradshaw, Via The Bulletin

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Finding discipline and inspiration among writers

A colleague shares his experience of the Brussels Writers’ Circle

Interview by Ciprian Begu, CEND, via Commission en Direct

 

DavidEllard068

When he is not busy helping Europe’s citizens and businesses navigate Single Market rules in DG GROW’s SOLVIT team, David Ellard writes epic science fiction. A self-described ‘aspirant writer’, David has been an integral part of the Brussels Writers’ Circle, a club he has chaired for years, where both beginners and seasoned pros gather weekly to share their work. Commission en direct talked to David about his experience.

What drew you to writing?

I think it started off with an interest in reading. Then, at a certain point, I began to wonder, well how do they make those words I’m reading on the printed page in the first place? And then the more geeky side of my personality has always been interested in imagined worlds, and wondered, how do I go about interesting other people in the products of my own imagination? So, that drew me inevitably to science fiction and fantasy as genres for writing.

And then I start analysing the world in terms of, how can I transcribe this stuff into a novel? The people I meet, situations I encounter, articles on science and philosophy that I read and so on… I think there’s a sort of ‘aspirant writer’s eye’. Most of us will walk past a beautiful building and think, wow that’s nice! But an architect (or someone who aspires to the part) will look at it and note the symmetry of the columns or the construction of the portico…

What have you written already?

I’m most proud of a short novella I wrote which is dream fiction. It actually came out of a dream (or rather nightmare) that I had one night at about 3:00 in the morning. I woke up and was too scared to go back to sleep, so I noted mentally the main points and then started to write it up as a sort of post-facto rationalisation of what the nightmare was actually about.

I am also working on an epic science fiction novel. I started with the idea of the opening chapter, and the end, and worked my way to the middle from two directions. I set out with the concern that I would not have enough material for even a short novel. And I spawned a monster in the act of writing it! Needless to say, I’d probably write the next one differently.

What is the Brussels Writers’ Circle (BWC) and what role did you play in its development?

I started going to the Circle in about 2001, and took over running the group in 2010 until 2016. I’m very pleased by how things grew from there on. It was a once-a-week group that subsequently expanded to two, and even three sessions a week, for a while. During my time, the BWC blog was launched and the annual retreat became a fixture.

I should stress that there were many other people who were involved in all these new activities, but I like to feel that I acted as a sort of point of encouragement, even when I wasn’t directly involved! We also moved location from the Cercle des Voyageurs to the current venue of the Maison des Crêpes on rue du Midi. Very close to where I live. That may not be a total coincidence, I concede…

How has being part of the Circle helped you develop as a writer?

Partly it’s the discipline provided by, in my case, announcing I am going to read out on a given evening before I have written the damn piece. So my back is against the wall. That’s how I wrote my novel In Search of Y at least. It’s also inspiration. Sometimes seriously good writers come along to the group. That can make me jealous, frankly, but it’s also the best way to learn, by analysing what makes really great writing great.

And then of course it’s also the specific concrete feedback people give. Actually, it’s more than that. Some of the feedback is well intentioned but not very useful. This teaches you to filter advice and that is an amazing advantage if you can do it. Filter too little and you will be blown about by the wind. Filter too much and there’s no point in asking for feedback in the first place. The trick is to find the golden spot in between.

THECIRCLE Front10.19

Are there any upcoming events?

A very exciting event is the upcoming Waterstones soirée to launch the second BWC Writers’ Anthology, The Circle – a collection of writing from a broad range of our members including short stories, prose and poetry. This will be taking place at Waterstones bookshop in Brussels (boulevard Adolphe Max 71-75) from 19:00 on 22 November.

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The Memory That Keeps Me Going 

by Fidelis O. Mkparu, MD, FASNC to medical fellows

(via asnc.org)

On a summer evening in 1993, four advanced cardiac imaging fellows set out for a walk by the banks of the Charles River in Boston. We were on a quest to discover our new city after a busy day. The allure of a river close to the hospital led us to a pedestrian path on the Boston side. On our mission to nowhere in particular, we followed the path, bantering with each other while admiring the lush greenery and prototypical boat houses. A carefree moment for us, until fatigue set in. Conversation dwindled, and our pace slowed. Giving in to the heat and humidity, we sat down. Our eyes on the ground, it must have appeared we had given up, defeated.

Soon cheers erupted from across the river. Looking up, I saw two rowing teams making extra efforts to compete. Coordinated exertion by dedicated but spent men in the quest to reach their goal. I saw determined teammates ignoring their fatigue and the humidity to persevere. Each was contributing to their success and none of them giving up. We stood and approached the river. Admiring their determination to complete the race, we joined in cheering for them. It felt natural. Our support for perseverance. For never quitting.

En route back to the hospital, we walked faster and occasionally sprinted with sudden, energetic passion. Our disposition was influenced by the determination of the rowing teams.

Never Give Up

At many times in ensuing 25 years, I have shared that experience with medical students, residents, fellows, and attending physicians as I encourage them never to abandon medicine if it is their passion—even if the challenges feel overwhelming. My charge is to muster the courage and determination to tackle the challenges we face, including resolving insurance preauthorization issues, learning electronic medical records software, and working longer hours for less money.

Our goal should be to never give up. We find solutions to problems by focusing on clinical competency to deliver quality care and achieve better outcomes for patients.

Our commitment to persevere has resulted in immense advances in medicine.

Newer pharmaceuticals, interventional techniques, better imaging modalities, improved medical devices, an expanded medical knowledge. All of these are, in general, the results of dedication and a commitment to excellence.

Fellows, make it your goal to practice kindness, embrace lifelong learning, accept the challenges of learning new skills, and commit to providing competent medical care—and to do all of these with fervor. Even with your busy clinical schedules, devote some time to the education of our future healthcare providers.

When challenges emerge in your work or life, avoid solutions that would be harmful to your patients. To avoid doing harm, embrace perseverance. Never forget, your commitment is to provide the best medical care to your patients, no matter what it takes. At all times, your purpose is to provide competent medical care. Quitting is not part of the commitment you have made.

Through perseverance, you will experience the profound joy of knowing that your patients are trusting you with their lives and that you are making every effort to improve the quality of their lives.

_____________


Fidelis O. Mkparu, MD, FASNC, is a cardiologist based in Canton, Ohio,
and an associate professor of medicine at NEOMED in Roostown. He is the author of the award-winning novels, 
Love’s Affliction and Tears Before Exaltation.
He penned this challenge to cardiology fellows.

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Powells’ Staff Pick TITLE 13

Michael A. Ferro SMALL
TITLE 13 is a Powell’s Staff Pick!

 

Read what Powells’ staff had to say about Michael A. Ferro’s debut novel

 
 
Via Powells

Staff Pick

For a book that started out with a lot of breezy and absurdist humor, Title 13 takes a sharp dive straight into heartbreak and sorrow. Heald is an office cog with a fierce sense of humor, slogging away at the census bureau; he’s half in love with a coworker, somewhat inconvenienced due to a recent security breach, and desperately casting about for some meaning in his small life. When there’s an illness in his family, Heald returns to his childhood home, and things begin to seriously fall apart.

9781941861462-Perfect.inddExploring themes of addiction, loneliness, self-protection, and the facade we present to the world, Title 13 packs a much bigger punch than I originally expected.

The best of authors would be hard-pressed to write such a painful account of a life slipping into alcoholism, but Ferro does a beautiful and wholly devastating job.

Heald’s story carries with it an urgent hope of redemption; it’s intense, but Ferro will hold your hand to the end. Do not miss this gorgeous read. Recommended By Dianah H., Powells.com

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Jack Clinton talks about CLOVIS on National Public Radio

Extracted from Montana NPR

 

Jack Clinton talks about his debut LGBT eco-novel Clovis in an interview on Montana Public Radio to air on KUFM this Thursday evening, May 31st, 2018–Listen now!

 

Jack Clinton, book signing 2“Clinton’s novel is an artful literary response to the unutterable and largely ignored decline of our collective natural wealth. Clinton mixes a sardonic misanthropy of our own current environmental course with jubilation, and the joy of love, the celebration of the human condition, and the intense passion of being immersed in the natural world. Clovis will continue Harvard Square Editions’ tradition of promoting fiction that furthers civil and environmental causes in a market that would rather leave such voices unheard.”      —Eco-Fiction.com

 

About the Book:

In the opening pages of Clovis, Hanna traverses an ancient glacial moraine at the edge of an American desert, to revisit the obsidian Clovis point (Spear point) that she had found and hidden on a previous archeological survey.  She feels a fundamental attraction to the point, and as she contemplates it she can envision the ancient race that left it for her there on the vast sage steppes at the foot of the Rockies.

Cover CLOVIS final.inddHanna lives briefly out of a hotel while she completes an archeological survey on the multi-state, CanAm gas line.  It is here that Hanna reunites with Tim, Hugh, Dog, Gina, and Paul.  While running in the desert alone, two men attempt to rape her.  She escapes by dousing them with mace and flattens the tires of their truck.

The attempted rape forces her to go to the northern camp where she finds chaos and filth.   The ever-faithful Paul is there and he helps her through the reorganization of the camp.  It is the damaged and angelic Paul whom she dotes over.  It is Paul who tells her the unspoken histories of America.  It is Paul who steals the most controversial artifact in North America.

Although Hanna harbors a deep affection for Paul, she gravitates towards Tim in the field camps, the deserts, and to climb challenging routes in the mountains.  Her liaison with Tim forces her to face the contradictions of her life: She is a vegetarian surrounded by carnivores.  She is a marginalized environmental regulator against a Goliath of a gas industry.  She is a transcendentalist who can’t catch the wave of nothingness.  She is the guardian of Paul, who she loses in the mountains.  And finally, Hanna is a lesbian, but she cannot deny that she also loves Tim.               

After Paul’s death in the mountains, Hanna comes unhinged.  Then CanAm belligerently bulldozes a culturally rich valley, and Dog retaliates by burning two of their vehicles.  Hanna senses the impotence of the act and realizes that all the work they do simply facilitates the power of such companies.  She leaves and she drifts towards the magnetism the mountains where she runs a mountain route that challenges her to the very limits of her endurance. On her rest day, she joins a small party for dinner and is assaulted by a man from a petroleum company and she stabs him.  This sends her head long back to the desert to answer the sirens’ song of the Clovis.  She goes out to desert for lack of any other plan and climbs the distant desert buttes that seem to hold her in their orbit.  It is here, in the vacuum of a high desert night, during a long, nightmarish epiphany that the cicadas sing out their perspective of her tribulations.

About the Author:

Jack Clinton lives in Red Lodge, Montana and works as a Spanish teacher.  Jack spent most of his adult life living in Wyoming, working as kitchen help, laborer, carpenter, and mountain guide. He earned his undergraduate and graduate degree in Spanish at the University of Wyoming, in Laramie, Wyoming.  During these University years, Jack started writing freelance, covering environmental news. His work regularly appeared in the Caspar Star Tribune, and in diverse periodicals such as High Country News, Western Horseman, E-magazine, Rock and Ice, and Climbing. During his years at the University, he also won the Neltje Blanchan award for fiction.

After a long hiatus from writing to engage in raising his daughter, Emma, he has returned to writing and produced a new novel. Clovis, an environmental novel, is a fictional composite of many of the stories and people who filled those Wyoming decades.

               

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Screencraft Winner Next Gen at Cannes

 

cannes-facts-croisette

May 13, 2018, Cannes, France –
Screencraft winner Next Gen was acquired for a reported $30 million at the Cannes Film Festival yesterday.

 
photo by Melanie Meder

The animated film stars the voices of Charlyne Yi, Jason Sudeikis, David Cross, Michael Pena and Constance Wu.  Directed by Kevin Adams and Joe Ksander, the film was written by ScreenCraft Fellow Ryan W. Smith, alongside directors Adams & Ksander, with story-by credit going to Wang Nima. 
The animated feature film centers on two friends who form a close bond in a world populated by robots.

This acquisition deal for Ryan’s film Next Gen marks Netflix’s first at Cannes this year. Netflix has been in the news lately after pulling all of its films at the world’s most glamorous film festival after Thierry Fremaux, director of the Cannes Film Festival, refused to screen any Netflix films in competition due to pressure from French exhibitors.

Ryan W. Smith won the 2017 ScreenCraft Screenwriting Fellowship and attended the 1-week program in Los Angeles, receiving meetings at top Hollywood studios and mentorship with 3 Academy Award-winning screenwriters. Ryan said of his ScreenCraft Fellowship experience:

The ScreenCraft Fellowship experience has been incredible! Each step of the way, John and Cameron have not only met, but far surpassed my expectations. They have opened a whole slew of doors for me, and introduced me to many wonderful, talented people. I would say that I’ve benefited most from the ScreenCraft team sharing their industry knowledge and vast network of relationships.

 
Give Ryan a warm round of congratulations on Facebook here!

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How Sci-Fi Can Help Fight Climate Change

BillMcKibben-byNancieBattaglia-TopArt

Bill McKibben (photo by Nancie Battaglia)

Via Wired

Environmental activist Bill McKibben is known for writing grim volumes like The End of Nature, widely regarded as the first book about climate change. But his latest outing, Radio Free Vermont, is a major departure, a humorous novel about a fugitive radio host who agitates for Vermont to secede from the United States…[more]

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A Mountain of Beans

by JL Morin (via Huffington Post)

Tuk-TukA tuk-tuk ride into the sea of humanity flowing down the kaleidoscopic streets of New Delhi is vital proof that we are all connected. The street traffic here is surely a divine manifestation, with so many pouring into the river of life within centimeters of other vehicles without causing an accident—only a single brain instructing our ‘cells’ could achieve such a feat.

Then, what is bringing meditative India to the point of ecocide in an apocalyptic veil of smog? Is it our Western religion of growth? I sought some answers at the New Delhi World Book Fair.

(more…)

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Barnes & Noble Announces More Than 100 Italian-American Authors Marching Up Fifth Avenue in the Columbus Day Parade

Columbus Day Parade, Monday, October 9, 2017
 
New York, New York – September 21, 2017 – This year’s theme for the parade: “A Celebration of Italian-American Authors.” Author Joe Giordano is proud to say that he’ll join 100 authors marching with Len Riggio, Chairman of Barnes & Noble, up Fifth Avenue on Monday, October 9th.

(more…)

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Are small publishers doing all the hard work for the big ones?

Extracted from The Guardian, UK

by Ilana Masad

These days, it is minimally staffed and funded firms who invest in new authors. The giants avoid such risk, only picking the writers once their names are made

Independent publishers have existed since the 19th century; it wasn’t until the 20th and the 21st that we saw the industry dominated by a few corporations. “The Big Four” publishers – Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House, Hachette and HarperCollins – have grown big by buying up small publishers. Hogarth, for example, was founded by Leonard and Virginia Woolf in 1917; now it is an imprint at the Crown Publishing Group, which is in turn a part of Penguin Random House – which itself used to be Penguin and Random House before their merger in 2013. Phew.

Some success stories have already been written about, both on the Guardian and elsewhere. His Bloody Project, published by Contraband – a imprint of Saraband, which is run by two people – was nominated for the Man Booker prize, for example, and Transoceanic Lights by S Li was published on a shoestring budget by Harvard Square Editions and named as one of the National Book Foundation’s Five Under 35.  (…more)

 

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Stu Krieger Wins the Lifetime Achievement Award in Screenwriting

Stu Krieger SMALL

The 2017 Riverside International Film Festival is presenting Stu Krieger with its Lifetime Achievement Award in Screenwriting at their opening night gala on April 21, 2017

 

“I’m incredibly honored and flattered by this unexpected recognition from the RIFF,” says Stu Krieger.

Stu Krieger is a professor of screen and television writing in the University of California Riverside’s Department of Theatre, Film & Digital Production and in the Creative Writing for the Performing Arts MFA Program at UCR. Each fall, he also teaches the Producing the Screenplay class at USC’s Peter Stark MFA Producing Program.

“As someone who spent the majority of my career in family oriented film and television, it’s especially rewarding that the award ceremony on April 21 will feature clips of my work along with comments from current UC Riverside students talking about what my film and TV projects have meant to them over the years.”

Krieger co-wrote the Emmy award winning mini-series A Year in the Life and was nominated for a Humanitas Prize for co-writing the Disney Channel original movie, Going to the Mat.

Among his more than 25 produced credits, Krieger wrote the animated classic The Land Before Time for producers Steven Spielberg & George Lucas

He also wrote ten original movies for the Disney Channel, including Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century and its two sequels, Tru Confessions, Smart House, Phantom of the Megaplex, and Cow Belles.

He has been a story editor and writer on Spielberg’s Amazing Stories and the supervising producer on the ABC Television series Jack’s Place. He served as the head writer and story editor of the animated preschool series Toot & Puddle on Nickelodeon in 2008-2009.

His first full-length play, Chasing Smoke, debuted in a staged reading at Garry Marshall’s Falcon Theatre in Burbank in July 2014. His short film script Bad Timing was produced by the UCR Department of Theatre, Film & Digital Production in March, 2016.

TOC_Cover - SMALL He is an Executive Producer of The Binding, a 2016 feature film written and directed by his son, Gus Krieger and also served as an Executive Producer of My Name is Myeisha, Gus’s second feature film which Gus co-wrote with UCR TFDP Professor Rickerby Hinds. Myeisha was shot entirely on location in Riverside in October 2016.

Stu Krieger’s first novel, That One Cigarette, a story of ordinary people making extraordinary ripples in the ocean of life, will be published by Harvard Square Editions in the fall of 2017.

Watch his TEDx Talk, “Choose Joy.”

(Via Riverside International Film Festival)

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Author Abda Khan Honored for Her Work

Abda Khan

Abda Khan, Author of STAINED

The Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation named lawyer and author Abda with a ‘True Honour Award’ Honouree for her work on women’s rights. Harvard Square Editions published Abda’s debut novel Stained, which has won acclaim for its depiction of a young woman struggling for her right to an education and to consent in all its forms.

(more…)

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Harvard Square Editions Author S.Li Receives National Book Foundation Award

Debut author S.Li received his National Book Foundation ‘5 Under 35 Award’ at the Ace Hotel in Manhattan on November 14th–a wonderful night for S.Li and Harvard Square Editions.

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S.Li’s debut novel Transoceanic Lights, Harvard Square Editions, 2015, chronicles the hardships of a Chinese family after immigrating to the US. China-born author S.Li, graduated from Harvard College and took up creative writing as a hobby when he was in medical school. Now he has a dual career, as a neurologist and as an award-winning author.

“A tender and persuasive portrait of Chinese-American immigration in the post-Mao era.” —Pleiades Book Review

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HSE authors from left: Abda Khan, S.LI, Harriet Levin Millan

Transoceanic Lights was selected by an author who won the award last year, Karen Bender (below, right, with Harriet Levin Millan, left, author of How Fast Can You Run, Harvard Square Editions, 2016). Next year, S.Li will select a ‘5 Under 35 Award’ winner.

 

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“For me it was especially wonderful because I got to meet other HSE authors!”says HSE author Harriet Levin Millan, pictured left. “What a treat to actually meet them.” With Harriet pictured below, are New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Literature winner Kelvin Christopher James (People and Peppers, Harvard Square Editions, 2015), center, and debut author Abda Khan (Stained, Harvard Square Editions, 2016), right.

 

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The HSE authors and the other ‘5 Uner 35’ winners will also attend the 67th annual National Book Awards, hosted by Larry Wilmore, live on FacebookTwitter, and at nationalbook.org, are November 16th, 2016 at New York’s Cipriani (below, left).
 

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5 Under 35 Award winners, photo via Publishing Trendsetter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[…more]

 

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Available at booksellers everywhere

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Thoughts on People and Peppers: A Romance

9781941861981-PerfectPP LS upload 1.inddPeople and Peppers: A Romance, by Kelvin Christopher James, Eco-friendly, Diverse Fiction Romance, released March, 2015

Review by Eric Darton

 

Kelvin C. James’ latest novel People and Peppers: A Romance is a delightful tale for a wide general readership. My enthusiasm is based on two factors. First, the book presents an engaging “problem”: the love affair between an attractive young, unmarried pair, who, it turns out, will soon be parents. This could become, in the hands of a lesser writer, a very turgid business. But Kelvin Christopher James has the knack for telling his story with the quality that Italo Calvino, in his Six Memos for the Millennium, suggests as a primary virtue, i.e. lightness.

It is this lightness that leads the reader into an evermore intimate engagement with the characters and the playing out of their lives. It also permits Kelvin Christopher James to deal with quite serious material of a personal and social nature – what James Baldwin calls “the price of the ticket” – in a way that acknowledges the vicissitudes of history, including colonialism, without derailing the essentially joyful forward momentum of his tale.

Second, People and Peppers serves as a transparent, and therefore very effective, introduction to contemporary life in Trindidad and Tobago. James conveys a great deal of cultural – and culinary – information by weaving it seamlessly into the “romance.”

 

“I finished this volume with a lot more knowledge about this two-island nation, its people and customs, than when I began, without feeling I’d worked hard to gain it.

 

A third factor, one that arises from the timing of the book’s publication, gives it a measure of added value, particularly in light of the issues raised into public discussion by the recent police shootings of black men in Ferguson, Missouri, New York City and elsewhere. Trinidad and Tobago, while hardly free from social conflict, have an entirely different perception of “race” than we are used to in the U.S. It is instructive to find oneself, via James’ culturally-informed writing, living, albeit fictionally, in a society where race, that very real and deadly absurdity, is not the dispositive factor in people’s ways of seeing or dealing with one another. The genetic and cultural “callalloo” of T&T makes reduction to “black” or “white” impossible, so James’ characters, while hardly blind to skin color, hair texture or any other distinguishing feature, must, in the end, come to terms with one another based on – to paraphrase Dr. King’s words – the content of their characters.

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billmckibben 17 mins agoSuch outrageous respect to the Houstonians who went out in the middle of #Imelda--and the middle of the fossil fuel… https://t.co/FUCqmrYpUh

Erika Raskin

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    • Traits

    • The head’s
      replete
      with Reasons
      Too multifarious
      To know

      The heart only
      Two Seasons:
      The high and the
      Low

      No
      Intervenient
      stakes
      No neutral
      stance
      It takes

      But all that
      it feels:
      either
      Cleaves –
      Or forsakes

      O the head
      is so
      conjugated:
      The heart,
      simple,
      syncopated

      But O what
      A difference
      That dissimilitude
      Makes !

      [© R.Kanth 2018] 
      Professor Rajani Kanth is the author of Coda, and Expiations
      and trustee of the World Peace Congress

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    • Song for Ahed

    • By Rajani Kanth

       

      Ahed Tamimi

      Stood , Fearless,

      up to Power –

       

      A mere

      Schoolgirl:

      become Heroine

      Of the Hour

       

      Yes, she was

      Arrested:

       

      Her mettle,

      Sore tested –

       

      Sure, Defiance,

      Was bought at

      High Cost

       

      But that should

      Not faze us –

       

      Rather, amaze

      us:

       

      At   Sixteen,

      She ,  the

      One War –

      Zion Has Lost

      [©R.Kanth 2018] 

      Professor Rajani Kanth, Author of Coda, and Expiations
      Trustee; World Peace Congress

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    • Meet the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35

    • s-li

      Excerpted from the LA Times, September 29, 2016

      The National Book Foundation, which presents the National Book Awards, launched its 5 Under 35 program in 2006 to highlight the work of young literary talents; this year each writer gets a $1,000 cash prize and will be invited to participate in public readings.

      Many past 5 Under 35 honorees have gone on to further acclaim. Nam Le’s short story collection “The Boat” won the international Dylan Thomas Prize; Tea Obreht’s novel “The Tiger’s Wife” took the Orange Prize for fiction; and two honorees, Dinaw Mengestu and Karen Russell, were each later awarded MacArthur Fellowships….9781941861301-JacketGray.indd

      One of those writers this year is S. Li, who took up creative writing as a hobby when he was in medical school. The 31-year-old neurologist’s debut novel, “Transoceanic Lights,” was published by Harvard Square Editions, a small independent press.

      “I had sent the book to the National Book Foundation for consideration for the National Book Awards, fully knowing that my chances were zero,” Li said from his home in Burlington, Mass. When he received the email informing him he’d been chosen as an honoree, “I thought it was a scam. And then I realized it wasn’t. I had no idea this was even in the cards.”

      Li’s novel, about a Chinese immigrant family, is based on his own childhood. He was 5 years old when his family moved from Guangzhou, China, to Boston.

      img-41“I was sort of teaching myself the craft of writing,” Li said of his years writing fiction while also learning medicine. “And so it just made natural sense to go with material that comes easiest to you, and that’s your childhood.”

      Li is one of two immigrants honored in this year’s program. Yaa Gyasi, author of the critically acclaimed novel “Homegoing,” was born in Ghana and moved with her family to the United States when she was 2. [more]

       

       

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    • What are the best eco books for children and teens?

    • @EmilyDrabs, excerpted from The Guardian,

       

      Authors including David Almond, Frank Cottrell Boyce and Katherine Rundell plus teen site members share the books that made them think more deeply about climate change and environmental themes. Now share yours!

      This week we’re celebrating the positive power of stories, all kinds of stories, to bring home what we risk losing on our beautiful planet – and what we can do about it. Here authors and children’s books site members share the books that made them think. We’ll be feeding this blog with more recommendations all week, so please share yours – and keep checking back.

      Frank Cottrell Boyce (whose latest book is the remarkably green The Astounding Broccoli Boy)

      First book of Saints

      The book that made me realise that I was part of the environment was The Ladybird Book of Saints. On the cover was this brilliant image of St Francis releasing the caged birds he had he had bought in the market. For ages afterwards I would go into pet shops and zoos and itch to unlock the doors. In fact there are “freeing the animals” scenes in at least two of my books. There are so many environmental messages about how horrible humans are wrecking the planet – that’s obviously true in a way but this image made me feel that I belonged in the World too and that I could cherish and love it.

      David Almond, author of Skellig

      The Promise by Nicola Davies and Laura Carlin. It’s beautifully written, beautifully illustrated picture book. It shows a troubled darkened world being recreated by the human need for greenery, life and colour.

      Louise O’Neill, author of Only Ever Yours

      Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake is a speculative fiction novel that is very much concerned with the damage humans are inflicting upon the environment and the possible catastrophic results that could have. Written in 2003, many plot points now seem eerily prescient and it makes for a disturbing, powerful read. Highly recommended for older teenagers.

      Site member, Patrick

      Carl Hiaasen’s Hoot is true to its name in that it’s a supremely funny YA novel, and one that tends to be overlooked. There’s a real environmental streak running through all of Hiaasen’s works and Hoot is no exception, it deals with a Florida teen who bands together with a couple of new friends to stop the destruction of a burrowing owl colony. It’s a lot of fun with a solid conservationist message at its core and an abundance of charm to boot.”

      Candy Gourlay, author of Shine

      Long ago I wrote a short story called How to Build the Perfect Sandcastle for Under the Weather, the climate change anthology edited by Tony Bradman. About a white sand beach losing its sand because the sea is heating up … the same hot oceans that later whipped up the murderous monster that was Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.

      Perhaps the all too real climate change disaster in the Philippines has made me partial to flood stories. My favorite is Not the End of the World, the lyrical resetting of Noah’s Ark as a Tsunami survival story by Geraldine McCaughrean.

      Lottie Longshanks, site member

      The wild series by Piers Torday. So far I have read The Last Wild and The Dark Wild. Kester has the unusual gift of communicating with animals and it is his mission to save the animals from red eye the disease that is slowly killing them. It is a really exciting story and you soon guess who the villains are Selwyn Stone and his lackeys who want to dictate the way that everyone lives. The amazing rubbish dump in the second book in the series really makes you think about the damage that we are doing to our planet. I can’t wait to read the third book in the series,The Wild Beyond.

      White Dolphin by Gill Lewis Set in the south West of England the exciting story tells of children who take on the might of a powerful fishing business to stop dredging in the harbour because of the damage it does to marine life. I also love Moon Bear by Gill Lewis. This incredibly moving story shows how deforestation leads to misery for the animals whose habitat was the forest. And finally here is a recommendation for small children I read it to my cousin who lives in Oman when he comes to visit us. Dear Greenpeace by Simon James. Emily writes to Greenpeace to find out how to care for the whale that she thinks she has seen in her pond. Emily’s letters and the lovely replies she receives from Greenpeace will give little children a lot of information about whales. (Also see Lottie Longshank’s poem Our Precious world)

      SF Said, author of Varjak Paw

      I recommend Exodus by Julie Bertagna: a brilliantly prescient YA novel about climate change, set in a drowned future world. It’s full of unforgettable visions and characters, and it will stay with you forever!

      ItWasLovelyReadingYou, site member

      My book would be Breathe by Sarah Crossan. It made me think about how we take so many things for granted, such as oxygen. You can’t see it, we use it every day, without it we would not survive; yet many people do not really sit down and feel a sense of gratitude for these types of things, becuase we assume we deserve them, we see them as something that will never go away, we just accept it without question. Breathe really made me feel a sense of ‘imagine if we didn’t have oxygen, or we had limited supplies of it-”, it made me question my unconscious detachment from what keeps us alive, and really feel privelidged to have all of these necessities.

      Katherine Rundell, author of Rooftoppers

      Cosmic, by Frank Cottrell Boyce. Cosmic is a book that makes the world look like something worth protecting. It’s hilariously funny, and also wise – it makes its readers want desperately to go into space, but also to take care of the world while we’re on it. The Earth is, as one of the astronauts says, “some kind of lovely.” The Last Wild series by Piers Torday – these three spectacular books are about a world decimated by humans, and the possibility of that loss feels very real and urgent and frightening – and they’re also fantastic adventure stories, about bravery and animals and human capacity to do huge good as well as harm. And there’s a bossy talking cockroach.

      Site Brahmachari, author of Kite Spirit and Artichoke Hearts

      For me it has to be The Ring of Bright Water Trilogy by Gavin Maxwell. I fell in love with these books as a child because they are set on the West coast of Scotland – a place I love – where wildlife and nature are the biggest characters. It;s a humbling landscape. If you have a love of the outdoors and really want to study the nature of beautiful, playful otters… and can stand to have your heart broken …. you should read these stories. Although they were written 50 years ago they are as timeless as the shingle beaches they are set on. The author lived and breathed the paradise he went to live in… and so will you when you read these books… and afterwards you can watch the film (tissues at the ready!)

      OrliTheBookWorm, site member

      Breathe by Sarah Crossan is probably the book that’s impacted me the most in terms of the environment – it’s a dystopian novel, with people living in domes due to a lack of oxygen – the raw descriptions and harsh realities were wonderfully done and uttery thought provoking, and made me take a step away from my laptop and have a look outside my window…. It’s a brilliant book, which I guarantee will change your perspective on the environment around us.

      Piers Torday, author of The Dark Wild trilogy

      The Animals of Farthing Wood by Colin Dann – the original classic tale of a group of British animals seeking refuge when their precious Farthing Wood is threatened by human development. They overcome incredible obstacles and danger to make it to a wildlife sanctuary. But reading it today there is an extra poignancy – some of the animals in the story, like the red-backed shrike, are now extinct, and others – like the adder, hare and voles – are all under threat.

      BritishBiblioholic, site member

      Watership Down by Richard Adams – When the rabbits in Watership Down are forced to leave their home, it is due to its impending destruction by humans. This potentially can be seen as an allegory for the ongoing destruction for the environment in general – and unlike the rabbits, if we don’t save our environment, we won’t be able to find somewhere else to live.

       

      Mary, curator, eco-fiction.com

      Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta: The novel takes place in the future after climate change has ravished economies and ecologies, and made fresh water scarce. The main character, Noria, is a young woman learning the traditional, sacred tea master art from her father. Yet, water is rationed and scarce in her future world. Her family has a secret spring of water, and, as tea masters, she and her father act as the water’s guards, even though what they are doing is a crime according to their future world’s government, a crime strongly disciplined by the military.

       

      NC front DR TinyNature’s Confession by JL Morin: The eco-novel is wonderful and reminds me of classic science fiction I watched or read as a kid. It was a genre that fascinated me then, and this book has joined that memory. The novel is epic in that it doesn’t just tell a story (which it does do too), but it puts our very survival into question while romping through the universe or discovering new quantum physics that are both scientific and spiritual in nature. In the meantime, universal symbols are unearthed, codes are investigated, fat corporations are dominating, a romance is blossoming, computers come alive, and native tribes and Nature on another planet bring our own treasured past into the future.

       

      Tito intiro Chavaropana by Jessica Groenendijk: Tito intiro Chavaropana means ‘Tito and the Giant Otter’ in Matsigenka. The author, a biologist who has studied giant otters, is now working on a sequel, in which Tito sets off into the forest to hunt a spider monkey and meets a harpy eagle on the way. They become friends but not without a misunderstanding or two!
      61cwBitpcAL._AA160_Spirit Bear by Jennifer Harrington: Spirit Bear celebrates a rare and iconic black bear that is born with a recessive gene that makes its coat creamy or white. Also called the Kermode bear, the spirit bear lives in the delicate, rich, and threatened ecosystem of the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia, Canada. Jennifer’s story is about the journey of a spirit bear cub that gets lost from his mother and has to find his way back.

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    • Publisher Guidelines

    • Publisher Harvard Square Editions is looking for literary fiction of environmental or social significance.

      Its mission is to publish fiction that transcends national boundaries, especially manuscripts that are international, political, literary, sci-fi, fantasy, utopia and distopia. Send submissions of aesthetic value and constructive social or political content, especially manuscripts related to climate change, deforestation, and conservation.

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    • All at Once: Excerpt of the Novel

    • I step onto a wide stone platform surrounded by water and lie on my stomach to peer down over the edge. At my approach, tiny fish scatter like drops of colored light; crabs pause, wary, then scuttle along the sides of the basin, stuffing their mouths as fast as they can with alternate pincers. After a while, a kind of brown finger wriggles out from the shadows. Another one emerges, then two more, and finally the bulbous body of an octopus comes into view. It skims along until the water is too shallow then starts to walk, using its tentacles as legs. When the water gets deeper it pushes off against the sandy bottom to glide, once more, just beneath the surface. It circles round and round my platform.

      aao cover

      My back begins to prickle, and I realize I’ll be burnt to a crisp if I don’t find shelter pretty soonthe ocean breeze masks the sun’s virulence.

      Standing up makes me momentarily dizzy. The tide has gone out, uncovering rocks studded with barnacles or slick with thick green hair. I head back toward the flat sand and continue walking, looking for a place to rest. I’ve just about resigned myself to the idea of a plastic chair, when I spot a barraca that’s not open for business. The beach in front of it is empty, the small structure shuttered; its thatched roof casts a nice, wide stripe of shade onto the sand. Gratefully, I set up camp, taking out the water and crackers I brought, spreading out my towel to sit on, and leaning against the barraca wall with the empty backpack in between for cushioning. A sigh of relief.

      The ocean is now more white than blue. At the horizon, a wavering smudge might be a cruise ship or an oil rig. The great mass of water is barely disturbed by shifting waves, fretful and sluggish like a dog settling down to sleep. There’s an occasional bloom of white spray when a wave breaks against rock; wisps of cloud trail across the sky. I yawn, lie down on the towel, and close my eyes.

      Now the landscape is reduced to the rustle of wind in the palm thatch, the faint piping of a distant bird, and the dull roar of the ocean. I stretch my arms and let them flop back down. Rolling my head slowly from side to side to loosen the tension in my neck, I notice that this movement causes the pitch of the ocean to vary ever so slightly. Intrigued, I try it a few more times, just to make sure.

      There’s a lesson in that, I reflect: reality changes according to your viewpoint. I roll my head once more from side to side then lie still again, listening to the tiny, ceaseless fluctuations within the monotone.

      An insect lands on my footwithout opening my eyes I flex my toe to chase it away, and realize that the gesture produced an infinitesimal shift in the ocean sound. Bizarre! I can understand the position of my head influencing what I hear, but the position of my toe? (more…)

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    • A Moral Atmosphere: Hypocrisy redefined for the age of warming

    • By Bill McKibben (HC ’82)

      This article first appeared in Orion Magazine.

       

      THE LIST OF REASONS for not acting on climate change is long and ever-shifting. First it was “there’s no problem”; then it was “the problem’s so large there’s no hope.” There’s “China burns stuff too,” and “it would hurt the economy,” and, of course, “it would hurt the economy.” The excuses are getting tired, though. Post Sandy (which hurt the economy to the tune of $100 billion) and the drought ($150 billion), 74 percent of Americans have decided they’re very concerned about climate change and want something to happen… (more)
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    • Cambridge divest from fossil fuel

    • We call on the City of Cambridge Retirement System to immediately freeze any new investment in fossil fuelcompanies, and to divest from direct ownership and any commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds within 5 years (more)

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    Around Harvard

    by Ben Mattlin (HC ’84)

    • CONVERSATIONS ABOUT INTER-ABLED ROMANCE, part 5...
      Like all romantic entanglements, the reasons for their tensions—tensions, which eventually led the invisible rubber band between them to snap—weren't quite clear.  Or maybe they were entirely too clear.  Telling me about it, Shane struggled for the right words, but his meaning rang with the clarity of breaking glass. "For a while, she was planning on moving up here to be with me, to be able to help out with all my [...]

    by Teresa Hsiao (HC ’07)

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  • Sheila Connolly (GSA ’79) – Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen

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