Month: October 2023

That was Before my Time, and Other Irrelevancies.

There’s “live,” and then there’s hearing things a bit later, via modern technologies, or reaching way back, generations ago, with crowded memories of what parents and grandparents once said, raved about, remembered fondly. There are visions, still, of the departed dancing, coming alive at the sounds in our kitchens, living rooms, and houses of friends who shared their generation’s songs and moods and collective dreams. And there are young singers today who have much further to go to reach those bygone eras, but want to, want to tap into generations past as well, because even they sense a time less encumbered by 24/7 expectations and never ending competition for eyes and ears and dollars.

C Pam Zhang: Land of Milk and Honey

In C Pam Zhang’s second novel, the focus is on food, but that focus is a bit hazy at times due to a plague of smog and its effects. In the not so distant future, most of the world is lost in smog, and it’s decimated humans, and wiped out most flora and fauna. Cli-Fi, Sc-Fi, and dystopian elements mix with affairs of the heart, taste buds, and our sensory experiences overall. Thought-provoking, unnerving, and deeply moving at times, this is a worthy follow up to the author’s sensational debut novel, How Much of These Hills is Gold.

An unnamed narrator tells us of this wounded world, looking back from roughly four decades to her 29th year.

New Nonfiction and Poetry, Plus Recent Readings

Spinozablue welcomes a poetry review by Hilary Sideris, and poems by John Grey, Dominik Slusarczyk, and Philip Jason.

In Clare Carlisle’s excellent biography of George Eliot (1819-1880), marriage and the work of a lifetime, the novels and her relationships, take center stage, with a unique philosophy of life undergirding both.

Gossip followed the novelist most of her life, mostly for living with a married man (George Henry Lewes), and could easily be central to any retelling. But Clare Carlisle chooses another way. A distinguished philosopher, and professor at King’s College, London, Carlisle critiques this Victorian era chatter at times (which was often brazenly hypocritical), but without a heavy hand.

Hilary Sideris: On the Poetry of Myra Malkin

Myra Malkin’s Sunset Grand Couturier

Review by Hilary Sideris

Sunset Grand Couturier, published by Broadstone Books in 2022, is Myra Malkin’s second poetry collection. Her first, No Lifeguard on Duty (2010), won Main Street Rag’s Author’s Choice Chapbook Prize. Though not “formal” poetry, Malkin’s free verse lines do scan. Weighty, witty, dark, fact-filled, and referential (Sunset Grand Couturier comes from the last line of an Ezra Pound Canto), these poems reckon with illness, grief, and loss. But it might be more accurate to say that the poems in this collection enact— sometimes quite entertainingly—the poet’s relationship with death.

Working the Kinks out, Plus new Paintings

Back in the late 1970s, I auditioned for lead singer of a local Rock band. I sang the Kinks and a couple of Led Zeppelin songs, and had a lot of fun in the process. No preparation. No practice. I just sang the songs the band members wanted to hear. To this day, though, whenever “You Really Got Me” comes on the radio, I think of what might have been, because I kinda sorta botched the transitions. For some odd reason, despite the song’s famously basic chord progressions, I muffed the changes. The band had to step in and help me find that bridge.

John Grey: The Next Generation


Late at night.
Storm, lashes the house.
Lights flicker.
Window panes shudder.

And yet,
I’m cuddled beside you on the couch,
your nearness like headphones
blocking out the world.

Is that thunder?
No it’s breath.
Is that lightning?
No, it’s touch by my reckoning.

Any moment now,
we could lose power altogether. .
So dark,
I’ll take a shine to you.



you can have my watch.

My time
stops at the very moment
I hand it off to you.

And here,
take these sneakers.

I don’t plan
to ever walk again.

And grab this shirt
and trousers.

Two Poems by Dominik Slusarczyk


Time is the same in
The morning as it is
In the evening.
Time is the same
In summer as it
Is in winter.
The only day when
Time is strange is
The day you die:
That day drags on like
A flight over the Atlantic.
You will beg the
World to fade faster;
Everybody does.



Maybe we can work.
They might let us
Hammer nails into planks.
I would like to
Be a big builder.
They might let us
Treat poorly people.
I would like to
Be a minor doctor.
All they make us do is
Work hard all day every day until
Death releases us into the wind.

The 2023 Nobel Prize for Literature Goes to . . .

Jon Fosse – Photo gallery. Nobel Prize Outreach AB 2023. Thu. 5 Oct 2023. Nobel Website Attribution

. . . Norway’s Jon Fosse. I’ve read just one of his novels, Aliss at the Fire, and loved it. Deceptively simple, beautiful prose, striking images, with much lying under the surface. But the Nobel goes for a lifetime of work, not a single book, so there’s much more for me to dig into. His trilogy, Septology, which came out in English as a single edition in 2022, has been on my must-read list for some time now.

This is a fine follow up to the selection of Annie Ernaux last year, though some Nobel watchers thought China’s Can Xue was the odds on favorite this time.

Three Poems by Philip Jason

Through the Roar of the Sun, I Hear the Tiny Yelp of the Other Stars

I lay myself on the ground
like one of your shadows.
There is a tincture
to help you see
through the shading.
Pour some
into your glass and sip. It tastes
like the quietest star.

The ground is not a suitable place
to leave your shadows. They
remind me of bodies broken by
a long inquisition; they look
like an incomplete stain.

On Plato’s cave wall, there is
graffiti. It says
“Justice is a grain of sand
that sinks the less fortunate
of two resting scales.”

Everyday and the Half-Hall of Poetics

I was recently reminded of the importance of grounding the reader in the poem, of setting the stage with variations of specificity, so he or she can lock onto a certain place and time. To see, hear, taste, touch, and smell the landscape in question. This, I agree, is useful, even necessary in some cases, but I didn’t always feel that way. When young, brash, drunk on my own sense of the power of art, I wanted it to soar, and take the audience with it, to lift them out of (and above) the quotidian. It was the job of the artist, I thought back then, to be oracular, to help point the way to a beyond yet to be imagined, to break on through, as Jim Morrison once sang.

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