Weather Report, August 6

Bennington

(Vermont covered bridge)

OUR CURRENTLY FEATURED BOOKS, “LITTLE MOCOS,” BY JOHN PAUL JARAMILLO, “MY BROOKLYN WRITER FRIEND,” BY GREG GERKE AND “IN A FAMILY WAY,” BY ZEKE JARVIS,” CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST, OR BY CLICKING THE AUTHOR’S NAME ON OUR AUTHORS PAGE.

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If someone were to compile a state-by-state ranking of well-known authors per capita, Vermont would have to be near the top.

That list would include Chris Bohjalian, Heidi McLaughlin, Mary Higgins Clark, Jodi Picoult, Dorothy Canfield Fisher, Wallace Stegner, Karen Hesse and Bill McKibben, among lots of others. Robert Frost wrote poetry about Vermont, Rudyard Kipling wrote “The Jungle Book” while living in Brattleboro. Oh, and a guy named Bernie Sanders, better known as a politician, has contributed his own work to the mix.

Meanwhile, of the 466 authors featured on Snowflakes in a Blizzard so far, 12 have Vermont connections. The latest is Beth Kanell, whose young adult novel “Cold Midnight” will be highlighted this week.

Writes Beth: “The book is based on a real ‘cold case,’ the murder of Sam Wah in 1921. It took 3 years for me to pry enough details from the oldtimers in town to realize what had happened, in this multi-ethnic Vermont town as the veterans of World War I brought their pain back to the region.

“Teens Claire Benedict and Ben Riley have been climbing the roofs of town at night — each for a different, and private, reason. When they meet, they realize they’ve seen something related to a recent murder of the Chinese laundry owner. Their struggle to work with the detective on the case, and stay out of major trouble, tosses them into danger from both fire and blizzard. Not to mention the criminal. Or is there more than one?”

At the other end of the East Coast, we have Jen Karetnick, a Floridian and author of “American Sentencing.”  She says of her unique collection of poems:

“I’d always written about medical topics and illness, but I realized one day that I had enough to put together as a collection if I added some glue to the fabric. That glue was a few poems that told a little bit of my mother’s story. Certain conditions are genetic in our family, and in Ashkenazi Jews in particular. I had written about my grandmother, myself, and my daughter, but I realized then that I was missing a generation. Those poems eventually became the raison d’etre of the book, and one of them became the title poem.”

It’s also time for another first Tuesday Replay.

UPCOMING ON SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD, AUGUST 7-13.

“COLD MIDNIGHT,” BY BETH KANELL.

Writes one reviewer: “Cold Midnight is (paradoxically) a warm and beautifully written tale of two idealistic young persons who struggle not only to bring a fire setter/killer to justice, but to create peace and reparation within their own dysfunctional families. I really love this book!

“AMERICAN SENTENCING,” BY JEN KARETNICK

American Sentencing is a book of poems about chronic and invisible illness in all its forms, both physical and mental. It looks at various autoimmune diseases, cancers, bipolar disorder, clinical depression, Alzheimer’s, and more. It investigates prognoses, symptoms, and complications from a variety of perspectives–not just from those who suffer from them, but from the caregivers’ point of view as well. The invisibly ill walk through life on a fraught path, and those who walk with them encounter the same obstacles but in a different manner. As someone who lives with several invisible illnesses, I wanted readers to be able to see what happens to us and to those who take care of us. Eventually, everyone suffers from a chronic condition. Unfortunately, it’s usually not real until it happens to you.

FIRST TUESDAY REPLAY

Thi month, we will revisit Marilyn McCabe’s “Glass Factory,” Charlie Quimby’s “Monument Road,” Arthur Levy’s “Coda,” John Hewitt’s “Reptile Wines,” Kathy Anderson’s “Bull and Other Stories,” and Ed Protzel’s “The Lies That Bind.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Mocos

Little Mocos by [Jaramillo, John Paul]THIS WEEK’S OTHER FEATURED BOOKS, “MY BROOKLYN WRITER FRIEND,” BY GREG GERKE AND “IN A FAMILY WAY,” BY ZEKE JARVIS, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST, OR BY CLICKING THE AUTHOR’S NAME ON OUR AUTHORS PAGE.

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THE BOOK: Little Mocos—a novel in stories.

PUBLISHED IN: 2017.

THE AUTHOR: John Paul Jaramillo.

THE EDITOR: Jennifer C. Cornell and Pamm Collebrusco

THE PUBLISHER: Twelve Winters Press.

SUMMARY: Southern Colorado is home to “little mocos” Manito and his cousin Bea, both curious and sensitive, both tragically doomed and longing to live anywhere else. United in their agreement to escape onion fields and Ortiz family ghosts, the two stumble into their teen years with a stubborn brand of bad decisions and petty crimes. Against the cold and gray backdrop of the looming steel mill, Manito and Bea eventually piece together the unbending reality of their multi-generational family trauma, including an unanticipated close connection to local murderer Raymond “Cornbread” Vigil.

John Paul JaramilloThe Ortiz family stories are minimal and elliptical in Little Mocos and reflect heartbreak and bleakness, but they also mirror strength and resiliency. Manito does not simply recover painful memories from his family; he begins to re-envision them. It is how Manito finds his own way to manhood and a glimpse of life outside of the county of orphans.

THE BACK STORY: I’ve been working on this particular book Little Mocos and a grouping of stories for five years, I believe. I have always known my writing process is incredibly slow and meandering. I often say it is a mis-perspective how writers have an ease with words and language, because I feel it is the opposite—writers struggle to capture the right words and structure. I have an idea and I like to give myself the time to follow that idea and see where the language or my thoughts take me. I don’t think I am the kind of writer who just sits and executes the outline, premise or story—I have to take time and find the story arc and premise and find the surprises. I have to think and re-think and find the ideas rather than drive them. Also I think I am the kind of writer that is always looking for the better angle into the story in terms of means of perception. So there are drafts on my computer in third person and first person and just different experiments to find the right way to approach the stories I want to tell. Drafts that include or exclude different characters. Fragments that fail and fragments that succeed. Writing and drafting a book is incredibly difficult, and taming that and coming to terms with that takes a long while. Also an editor friend and mentor of mine Jennifer C. Cornell has given me advice and guidance to tweak the book to the current organization. I always need help and I am always second-guessing the manuscript as well as my choices.

I feel as though I work in a way to send stories out to get feedback from editors. So my work is intentionally worked out in bite-size chunks. Also I think I am a minimalist so always trying to do more with less. And most publications or lit websites I admire are looking for short pieces—one needs to be a bit more experienced and known for a novel excerpt I believe. I usually label something a short story rather than a chapter though I believe a chapter and a short story are similar in many ways—they both have a beginning, middle and end. I also seem to float back to the same “universe” of characters and that keeps them together. I often say the material comes how it comes and I follow it. I hear stories or read stories about Colorado and just try and get them re-imagined and down into bite-size chunks for publication. I’ve always advised my students to create relationships with editors who publish similar work and I’ve tried to submit and gather feedback from Latino lit publications to help with revision and these aesthetic choices. I guess simply the label “novel-in-stories” or “composite novel” or even “novella” comes back to the writer’s decisions and style.

I mean I’ve always known I have a sort of disjointed sort of style. I have always written smaller stories following the same characters, and I’ve always felt these smaller stories as “complete and autonomous.” Interrelated enough yet at the same time creating a complete whole. Creating a story arc the way a novel would. And I’ve never liked fiction too on-the-nose. I like a rougher feel to the writing. Like punk music or something. But as it comes down to the wire on revisions and I get closer and closer to turning over the manuscript to the publisher I struggle with labeling the work a novel-in-stories, composite novel or just plain stories as well. Making decisions is difficult.

The one guiding organizational principle to the book is thematic but also follows the same characters and quite nearly stays in a similar place. The family I am writing about has a family tree that is broken and winding and shattered and so the structure should mirror that. Astillarse, one character describes in the book, or splintered.

My book features a composite structure from what Chapter 1 from The Composite Novel— a book I read once by Margaret Dunn and Ann Morris— classifies as the following: Setting—(all my work takes place in the old neighborhood); Protagonist—I follow the Ortiz family; Collective protagonist–the family and neighborhood in different time periods and perspectives; Pattern/patchwork—identical or similarly themed stories focusing on trouble, problems, work/joblessness, etc.

WHY THIS TITLE?: Cornbread Vigil is a character based on a man named Ray Baca who is pretty infamous in Colorado—his name appeared in the newspaper quite often. He was a local criminal from my old neighborhood of Pueblo, Colorado, who folks often talked about. Mostly they talked about how they were afraid of him. My Grandfather talked about him since he robbed some local places. He was a person who had multiple crimes attached to him and he was the kind of person who always seemed to get out of trouble—petty crimes and thefts. He became somewhat of a local infamous character but also a weird folk hero/character. In my mind he represents the complex place I was raised and also the moral problem young Latino males or “little mocos” perhaps face growing up. The violent expression that is sometime nurtured. I had so few literary or teacher heroes growing up but my heroes were “around-the-way” kinds of heroes at least when I was very young.

I think in much of my writing I try to take these stories from the newspapers and try to imagine or re-imagine them. To try and make sense of them, especially the darker or the more senseless stories. It felt as if this Baca criminal was from the same place I was from and I always found that to be very interesting. He always represented the myths and flavor of Colorado, and I wanted to re-create and re-imagine his story and how it merged with some of my own family.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? I try to create relationships with Latino lit publications—with editors more sympathetic to the use of Spanish in a manuscript. This seems to be a very American issue. I always try to write the way folks talk in Southern Colorado and they speak Spanish and I guess Spanglish would be the term. A blending of Spanish and English—incorrect Spanish and incorrect English. But I have a collection of emails and responses from editors who were pretty aggressive in wanting me to take out the Spanish or to make the stories somewhat of a caricature of how folks speak in Colorado. Perhaps it was my fault for not knowing the publication well enough. There are so few Latino publications. I guess I want to represent but not sell-out anyone from my old neighborhoods.

Also though there is a professional dimension where Latinos who speak fluent Spanish will question my decision to omit or to use italics with Spanish in the stories. One writer I admire has Spanish italicized in all of his work and yet criticized me for my decision to italicize in my last publication. The idea being the language is not foreign so one shouldn’t italicize it. Until only recently I have become confident enough to edit what I choose in my own manuscripts and fight for more of my aesthetic choices. I see the whole problem as just working with presses who are sympathetic or understanding of these representation issues or not. I’ve received complaints from some editors and emails from some readers who say I’ve captured the way folks in Colorado speak accurately. So perhaps this is also an issue of representation of place as well as representation of the Spanish language in stories.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“Jaramillo’s second novel in stories builds on his debut collection, and fans of that work will likely find much to enjoy here. His writing is crisp, concise, and realistic, with a gimlet eye for the details of his characters’ grim existences.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Little Mocos, as the cover artwork suggests, depicts a grey and hazardous world with only a flower of hope sprouting defiantly against all odds.” —Latino Book Review

AUTHOR PROFILE: John Paul Jaramillo was born and raised in the Southern Colorado “Steel City” of Pueblo, CO. He studied composition and literature at the University of Southern Colorado, and at Oregon State University he earned his MFA in creative writing (fiction). Currently, Jaramillo works as Professor of English in the Arts and Humanities Department of Lincoln Land Community College–Springfield, Illinois. His stories have appeared in the Acentos Review, Palabra, A Magazine of Chicano and Latino Literary Art and Somos en Escrito—most recently in La Casita Grande Lounge and Nat Brut #9. He is the author of the story collection The House of Order, named a 2013 Int’l Latino Book Award Finalist, and the novel in stories Little Mocos from Twelve Winters Press. In 2013 Latino Boom: An Anthology of U.S. Latino Literature listed Jaramillo as one of its Top 10 New Latino Authors to Watch andRead.

His writing explores the Colorado steel industry and neighborhoods as well as the link between family, trauma, and place. As Mary Jean Porter writes, “Jaramillo is writing about working in Southern Colorado farm fields, driving and drinking beer and smoking pot; visiting family members in the state penitentiary; about tattooed pregnant girls, dirty kids in laundromats and their desperate mothers, back through several generations. What saves these stories is the grace in which they are written.”

SAMPLE CHAPTER:

Chapter 1 excerpt — “Animales.”

Tio Neto sat on the bed shirtless and hungover, shaking his balding head at the reality of missing his father’s funeral service. He raised both arms to smell his pits and started digging into his jeans for a comb.

“There’s a lot of the old folks waiting on you upstairs,” I told him.

When he saw who it was, Neto stood up and kicked off his sneakers, coughed and spat at the basement’s concrete floor. He dropped his soiled pants and rolled up in the sheets.

“You the only Ortiz worth a damn left alive in this neighborhood,” Neto said. His clothes were in two great big garbage bags, and he stayed still a minute as I dragged his only collared shirt out from under his stash of nudie magazines and fungus-looking weed.

I put Neto’s clothes down deep in the washing machine and asked out loud about the whereabouts of my own father.

“Listen to what I say. I can tell you this, boy,” Neto lectured before collapsing back down. “Born into this world alone and die alone. Family will leave you. Women will leave you. All you have is your own damned self.”

WHERE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Powell’s Books.

PRICE: Hardcover–$20.30;   Paperback—$10.45.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Jaramillo can be found at his site—johnpauljaramillo.com—or on Twitter @johnpjaramillo.

My Brooklyn Writer Friend

Image result for Greg Gerke + My Brooklyn Writer Friend + photos

THE BOOK: My Brooklyn Writer Friend.

PUBLISHED IN: 2015

THE AUTHOR: Greg Gerke.

THE PUBLISHER: Queens Ferry Review.

SUMMARY: Gloriously meta, My Brooklyn Writer Friend ventures inside the many minds of the writer. Laying bare the struggle with beginnings, the trouble with endings, and every hard-earned narrative step in between, Greg Gerke appreciates that whether writing into truth or lie, what matters is character. Neurotic and funny, earnest and obscure, the voices that echo in these short short stories resound with a clarion honesty that remains—and provokes and teases and endears—long after the final page is turned.

THE BACK STORY: La Naissance of My Brooklyn Writer Friend

I’ve often looked askance at author statements in galleries or museums and people who chose to give an in-depth psychology of prose or verse before reading it aloud. In public dissemination, the art is free of the artist, gone baby gone, and the receiver can chortle, fume, or appropriate as is her wont. I can describe this book’s birth because now, like the parent leaving the child with the agency, my responsibility for it ceases, as Maurice Blanchot says, “Reading is not writing the book again but causing the book to write itself or be written—this time without the writer as intermediary, without anyone writing it.”

And so, I will only act as a literary biographer with no hope of heaping criticism onto this distant enterprise and will try to map the book’s coordinates. With a few exceptions, all of the stories after the first section were written within some weeks of each other, during a very grueling winter just after I moved back to Brooklyn six years ago. I remember sitting on a bench in Prospect Park, looking at its Long Meadow covered in snow and ice, and writing some stories in longhand while gloved. Surprisingly, amidst the chill, a man crunched through the park’s icy walkways and sat next to me (there is only one bench facing west on the meadow proper) without comment—out of deference for my act or in awe of the failing puce sun about to be eclipsed by a large tower on Prospect Park West.

On another occasion, I couchsurfed in Bed-Stuy. Did that engender the story “My Bed-Stuy Friend”? Possibly, though I awoke another morning there, after attending a literary event in Soho that may have filled me with envy, despair, and anomie, and I scribbled “My Brooklyn Writer Friend.” But I have always seesawed while living in New York, usually writing away from my residence, often in the fusty Mid-Manhattan library on 40th and 5th—a kitten of a building, though six floors high, compared to the lionized behemoth kitty-corner to the kitten, the Steven A. Schwartzman building, as only librarians and those fusspots into the proper name thing call it. Much of my output has gone on in this decaying structure that I chose over its Big Daddy for the simple fact of being able to walk the stacks and peruse any book I fancied. It retains a colorful cast of characters, perspicacious librarians, as well as the homeless, who ofttimes line up eighty deep before opening to be the first in, and various older men who go to their self-appointed floors, and sometimes chairs, and open the volumes accompanying them like so many children. This motley crew includes a dapper Japanese gentleman I have seen on and off for ten years and who just last Tuesday refused to acknowledge my stare at the incredible coiffure that is his hairstyle, with a side part and bangs jutting out like freestanding sculpture. In those years, I too assigned myself the third floor because of its proximity to the Belle-Lettres sections, which I often needed for reference and recharge, including Elizabeth Bishops’s Poems: North & South. A Cold Spring first edition, an object holding a poem that forced its way into a story, the way the weed in her eponymous poem, “lift[s] its head all dripping wet/…/ and answered then: ’I grow,’ it said,/’but to divide your heart again.’” Sitting on the wooden chairs, many stories came to light with the awful silent whine of fluorescence overhead, accompanied by the too loud cell-phone conversation or a person yelling at unseen others.

Many were written in between bouts of sending out job applications and worrying where I would live, sometimes not knowing where I would sleep at night. It was a frantic time. I spent five days of the Christmas week stuck in the Upper East Side bed of my friend’s parents (they were all in the Hamptons) with the second worst flu of my life, having to ask my Harlem friend to buy and bring panaceas galore. Then a month’s sublet in Bushwick, home to the most bedbugs per capita, though luckily only small cockroaches crawled about my bed at night in a windowless room. In the midst of this, I went to interview Paula Fox at her semi-palatial house in Brooklyn Heights. I dated a documentarian, but she didn’t make jokes and didn’t get mine. Plus, a few weeks were spent in a second floor apartment off of one of the Lower East Side’s noisiest intersections, Ave. A and 4th, listening for hours to the debaucheries of the new jet set through a thin pane of glass. But it was a glorious time because the muse had pointed her finger and bade me write. I would have never made it through but for the kindness of friends.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT?

“Greg Gerke is a short form wizard; dark, funny and seriously sly. His book will deliver you to new strange thought and feeling.” — -Sam Lipsyte, author of The Ask

“In this remarkable series of ruefully funny and insightful bursts, Greg Gerke manages to reorder the mundanity of alienation into something urgent and vital.” — -Sergio De La Pava, author of A Naked Singularity

“If you put Lydia Davis, Etgar Keret and Philip Roth’s Portnoy in a blender you might get Greg Gerke’s quirkily neurotic, hilariously honest voice in “My Brooklyn Writer Friend.” All the writing about writing probably won’t play in Peoria, but luckily he lives in Brooklyn, believes in truth in advertising and his very short stories are weird and wildly engaging. “ – Susan Shapiro, author of Lighting Up and What’s Never Said

“How is it that Greg Gerke’s short fiction collection makes dislocation, miscommunication, and the anxious knots of the mind seem absolutely worthwhile and even kind of fun? Friends, sort-of-friends, lovers and sort-of-lovers tangle with the loneliness of being apart/together. Get prepared for a writer who wonderfully navigates bumbling, ordinary life with smart, sharp writing and a big dose of compassion.” — – Victoria Redel, author of Make Me Do Things

“These swift, swervy, nervous fictions–as often as not about writers in antic crisis with the language, lovers in trouble with their loves–are heartachingly hilarious and stocked from margin to margin with agony-born brilliances fresh and revitalizing. Greg Gerke’s endearingly self-questioning narrators worry their doubts into a make-do grace that leaves a reader sweetened too.“  –  Gary Lutz, author of Stories in the Worst Way

“A Duchampian travelogue about the nature of how we read and construct the stories, MY BROOKLYN WRITER FRIEND, is as compelling as entertaining. The six interlocking sections present comedic aspects of the American landscape we take for granted, and at the same time challenge our received ideas about the places we visit. As quickly as the writers in the book build the scaffolding of their ideas, others endeavor to shift the architecture. The result is a series of brilliant roller coaster rides that demand to be revisited many times over. “ —  Susan Daitch, author of Paper Conspiracies

“Greg Gerke writes like an anthropologist of love, or like a Brooklyn-based Sigmund Freud, walking down a mobius boulevard, finding the truth as it flowers in the cracks of the sidewalk. Honest, deadpan, personal and smart, these stories conspire, like a dream, to create a world both uncanny and familiar, delirious and quotidian, funny and sad and completely mesmerizing.” — – John Haskell, author of I am Not Jackson Pollock and American Purgatorio

REVIEW COMMENTS:

Electric Literature said, “[t]he thirty-eight stories contained in this collection pendulum deftly between the comic and the heartbreaking.”– Brooklyn Rail Review.

AUTHOR PROFILE: Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I studied film at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee before moving to Eugene, Oregon and getting an English degree. I lived in Germany and France for a year and a half between 2001 and 2002, and have been living in Brooklyn since 2005, primarily doing homeless outreach work for a city organization. I curated a reading series in Brooklyn called the Soda Series, featuring many acclaimed and emerging authors, and I have interviewed a number of writers, including William H. Gass, Lydia Davis, Paula Fox, and John Jeremiah Sullivan. My fiction and non-fiction have appeared in Tin House, The Kenyon Review Online, LA Review of Books, Denver Quarterly, Quarterly West , Mississippi Review, LIT, Film Quarterly, and others. I have published two short fiction collections: My Brooklyn Writer Friend in 2015 from Queens Ferry Press and There’s Something Wrong with Sven in 2009 from BlazeVox.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: Two stories at The Collagist.

WHERE TO BUY IT: Amazon.

PRICE: $8.48 as of now.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: http://www.greggerke.com @greg_gerke gregorygerke@yahoo.com

In a Family Way

In A Family Way: Stories by [Jarvis, Zeke]YOUR BOOK:  In A Family Way

PUBLISHED IN:  2015

THE AUTHORZeke Jarvis

THE EDITOR: Marc Estrin

THE PUBLISHER:  Fomite Press

SUMMARY:  This is a collection of short stories all relating to the theme of family. Many are funny, though most have a thread of darkness as well. Think George Saunders or Aimee Bender, but a bit more Midwestern.

Image result for Zeke Jarvis + In a Family Wayt + photoTHE BACK STORY:  This evolved out of my dissertation. I took the stories that hung together with the family theme, and I wrote some extra to make it a full book length.

WHY THIS TITLE:  The theme was family, and this struck me as kind of funny but kind of folksy, which reflects my background and, hopefully, the stories as well.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT:  It’s hilarious! Or weird, but in an interesting way. There’s a variety of stylistic approaches, so, hopefully, it doesn’t get boring.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

At Christmas, a family drives around town looking at holiday displays—it’s the kind of holiday pastime which for some families, is a family tradition, but in “Displays,” the mother and father are casing homes to rob. In “Eulogy,” a family prepares for the funeral of their father, but it’s not the real thing, just a dress rehearsal. And in “An Impulse Buy,” a couple runs a gamut of emotions while they are out looking for deals at garage and yard sales which becomes a lament for the throwaway materialism of the twenty-first century.

Welcome to the bizarre and dark world of Zeke Jarvis.

In his brilliant collection of short stories, In a Family Way: Stories, Jarvis pulls no punches. These stories are just as much visceral as they are cerebral. These are rich stories which peel back the veneer of any semblance of a neatly ordered life and then grip us with their gut-wrenching honesty and darkness. In many ways, I was reminded of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet. Everything might seem normal on the surface; yet, once you get past the superficiality it’s anything but normal. The stories in this collection are not for the faint of heart. However, if you’re looking for something dark and thought-provoking, you are definitely going to enjoy this collection. —  Jeffrey Miller, Ice Cream Headache.

AUTHOR PROFILE:

After receiving his BA in both math and English from UW-Madison, Zeke Jarvis received his MA and PhD in English from UW-Milwaukee, where he was fiction co-editor and then Managing Editor of Cream City Review. Currently, he is an Associate Professor at Eureka College. His work has appeared in Bitter Oleander, 2 Bridges, Petrichor Machine, The Toucan, Gravel, REAL, KNOCK and Moon City Review, among many other places. His first book, So Anyway… was published by Robocup Press in 2014, and his most recent book, Lifelong Learning, was published by About Editions in 2018.

AUTHOR COMMENTS:  This was my first collection of short stories, and I’m quite proud of it. That said, I actually have a project where I rewrite the stories to look at how I could make them more diverse. That project can be found at zekedotjarvis.wordpress.com

SAMPLE CHAPTER: (Provide link).  https://www.gravelmag.com/zekejarvis.html

Displays Zeke Jarvis My wife is pointing out a big Santa in a chimney on the left. “Watch” she says. Then, to our daughter Kaley, “There he goes”.

 

LOCAL OUTLETS:  Eureka College Bookstore

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT:  Amazon.com  https://www.amazon.com/Family-Way-Stories-ZekeJarvis/dp/1937677990/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1530658249&sr=8-3&keywords=zeke+jarvis

CONTACT THE AUTHOR:  zjarvis@eureka.edu.

 

Weather Report, July 30

Image result for Brooklyn, NY + photos + free

The Brooklyn Bridge

OUR CURRENTLY FEATURED BOOKS, “EVERYONE LOVES YOU BACK,” BY LOUIE CRONIN, “HOLLYWOOD CATECHISM,” BY PAUL FERICANO AND “BECOMING AN ANCESTOR,” BY LUCILLE LANG DAY, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST, OR BY CLICKING THE AUTHOR’S NAME ON OUR AUTHORS PAGE.

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Summer is the perfect time for short story collections, so this week Snowflakes in a Blizzard (snowflakesarise.wordpress.com) is giving you three of them.

Think beach chairs. Think camp fires. Think motel rooms. Short stories are made to fill small gaps in a busy summer schedule.

Two of this week’s collections are somewhat thematic — Greg Gerske’s “My Brooklyn Writer Friend” and John Paul Jaramillo’s “Little Mocos.” The third, Zeke Jarvis’ “In a Family Way,” is just an intriguing mixture of dark and light.

UPCOMING ON “SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD,” JULY 31-AUGUST 6.

LITTLE MOCOS,” BY JOHN PAUL JARAMILLO

From a review: “Jaramillo is writing about working in Southern Colorado farm fields, driving and drinking beer and smoking pot; visiting family members in the state penitentiary; about tattooed pregnant girls, dirty kids in laundromats and their desperate mothers, back through several generations. What saves these stories is the grace in which they are written.”

“MY BROOKLYN WRITER FRIEND,” BY GREG GERKE.

Gloriously meta, My Brooklyn Writer Friend ventures inside the many minds of the writer. Laying bare the struggle with beginnings, the trouble with endings, and every hard-earned narrative step in between, Greg Gerke appreciates that whether writing into truth or lie, what matters is character. Neurotic and funny, earnest and obscure, the voices that echo in these short short stories resound with a clarion honesty that remains—and provokes and teases and endears—long after the final page is turned.

“IN A FAMILY WAY,” BY ZEKE JARVIS.

One reviewer writes:

“At Christmas, a family drives around town looking at holiday displays—it’s the kind of holiday pastime which for some families, is a family tradition, but in “Displays,” the mother and father are casing homes to rob. In “Eulogy,” a family prepares for the funeral of their father, but it’s not the real thing, just a dress rehearsal. And in “An Impulse Buy,” a couple runs a gamut of emotions while they are out looking for deals at garage and yard sales which becomes a lament for the throwaway materialism of the twenty-first century.

“Welcome to the bizarre and dark world of Zeke Jarvis.

“In his brilliant collection of short stories, In a Family Way: Stories, Jarvis pulls no punches. These stories are just as much visceral as they are cerebral. These are rich stories which peel back the veneer of any semblance of a neatly ordered life and then grip us with their gut-wrenching honesty and darkness. In many ways, I was reminded of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet. Everything might seem normal on the surface; yet, once you get past the superficiality it’s anything but normal. The stories in this collection are not for the faint of heart. However, if you’re looking for something dark and thought-provoking, you are definitely going to enjoy this collection. —  Jeffrey Miller, Ice Cream Headache.”

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Everyone Loves You Back

THIS WEEKS OTHER FEATURED BOOKS, “HOLLYWOOD CATECHISM,”  BY PAUL FERICANO AND “BECOMING AN ANCESTOR,” BY LUCILLE LANG DAY, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING BELOW THIS POST, OR BY CLICKING THE AUTHOR’S NAME ON OUR AUTHORS PAGE.

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THE BOOK: Everyone Loves You Back

PUBLISHED IN: October, 2016

THE AUTHOR: Louie Cronin.

THE EDITOR: Sean Carswell, Founder and Editor of Gorsky Press.

THE PUBLISHER: Gorsky Press in Los Angeles, CA

SUMMARY: Everyone Loves You Back is a coming of middle-age novel about love and class struggle in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The main character, Bob Boland, is a native Cantabrigian. He’s a mass of contradictions. He’s quirky, crazy about jazz, incapable of keeping a relationship going, and decidedly not ambitious. He’s just trying to keep his job at the radio station where he works, and get some sleep. But he is a kind soul, a good friend, and in his own way, a hero. He meets two very different Cambridge women, one a professor, the other a colleague at his radio station, and has to chose between them and two very different ways of life.

Image result for Louie Cronin + Everyone Loves you Back + photoTHE BACK STORY: I was inspired to write this book by watching the Cambridge I grew up in disappear. I had come back to Cambridge in the late 80s, after living in San Francisco and Brooklyn. It was still funky then. There was still rent control. There was an ashram on my street. Slowly but surely everything changed. Lots of people like me — artists, writers, bohemians — were priced out. All around me was the constant din of renovation. The book started out as a rant about all that noise and all that money flooding my neighborhood. For years, that’s all I had, this tirade in the voice of Bob Boland, a grumpy but heroic townie whose neighborhood was gentrifying.

Once I committed to it, it took me five short years to write the book, then five long years to get it published.

WHY THIS TITLE?: The title is taken from a line in the book. Bob Boland finds himself in the unfamiliar position of being in love and glowing from the inside. He thinks, in his sarcastic way, “When you’re in love, everyone loves you back. Even in Cambridge.” So the title sounds really sweet, but it’s actually making fun of Cambridge’s legendary standoffishness.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? I set this book in the 90s when Cambridge was going through intense gentrification. I worried that it might be dated by now, but in some sense it has only become more relevant. It’s all about the haves and the have-nots, the pressure that money and privilege create. What I once thought was a Cambridge-specific phenomenon is now countrywide, if not worldwide. For that reason, I think it has a broad appeal.

My target audience are people who enjoy literary fiction with a comic undertone. I meant the book to be serious and thoughtful, but I can never resist the temptation to make myself and others laugh. I always thought that people my age, baby boomers, would get this book. Bob is a sort of counter-cultural product of the 60s and 70s. But I’ve been pleasantly surprised that much younger people identify with it, too.

Also I hope fans of radio will enjoy it. There’s lots of behind-the-scenes action at a local radio station. I worked for years in the turbulent world of radio, both commercial and public, so I’ve mined my own work history of layoffs, buyouts, format change, and hostile takeovers to create what I hope is a fun and semi-realistic portrait of that world.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

KIRKUS REVIEW:

A radio engineer finds his life in Cambridge transformed thanks to tree huggers, job politics, and more in this debut novel.

Bob Boland, single, 48, lives in the Cambridge, Massachusetts, home he inherited from his recently deceased blue-collar parents. He works nights as an engineer at a local radio station, supporting a jazz show hosted by similarly aged Rif. He’s also writing an “unwieldy jazz manifesto” about the ways the current generation of players is “killing” jazz. Bob bristles when Abigail, one of the many academic/yuppie neighbors who surround him, asks him to cut down his Norway maples, claiming that they are an invasive species that is killing her arborist-curated trees. When he learns about a group protesting the uprooting of a perhaps ancient Japanese maple due to a condo construction, Bob attends their meeting, thinking he’ll get help for his situation. He is derailed, however, by his attraction to member Leonie Marshall, a Californian teaching dance at Harvard. They soon sleep together but only after Bob refuses Leonie’s request to do so without birth control because the recent divorcée is eager to have a child. The radio station switches Bob to the day shift, and he contends with a new station manager’s mandate to move to an all-news format. Cronin terms her own family “quirky Cantabridgians,” and such flavor infuses this amusing novel set within the Cambridge milieu. Bob’s wry observations of this world are particularly enjoyable, including that city hall workers are “people whose livelihoods depend on keeping their accents.” This character’s feeling stuck also wonderfully culminates with him being literally so near the end of novel. While somewhat overloaded with yuppie stereotypes (there’s also a meditation-guru neighbor, etc.), overall, this is a colorful, comic snapshot of a community—and a character’s serious growth within it. A funny, atmospheric exploration of midlife evolution.

VOL. 1 BROOKLYN

Inertia, Inner Lives, and Musical Immersion in Boston: A Review of Louie Cronin’s “Everyone Loves You Back”

By Michael T. Fournier

This one’s a gusher, so you might want to keep in mind, as you read, that I’m totally the target audience/demographic for Louie Cronin’s debut novel. Her book is set in Boston, where I lived for ten years. The locales and characters throughout Everyone Loves You Back are immediately recognizable, whether Cronin is referring to specific spots (like the pretentious restaurant with the thick wood door) or, alternately, dealing in archetypes (like Riff, the jazz gormandizer who walks around this book in a permanent cloud of pot smoke).

Main character Bob Boland is such an archetype: pushing fifty, entrenched in a radio production job he doesn’t think he deserves, living in an inherited house in a Cambridge neighborhood well beyond his means, opinionated to the point of being off-putting. At the start of this novel, Boland is sleeping through daylight, working as a nighttime producer for a freeform jazz radio show. He uses his spare time to peck at a Carducci-ish treatise on the State Of Jazz, though he doesn’t have the confidence to show it around.

One set of neighbors wants him to remove or prune a toxic tree in his yard; another wants access to a foot of his property. But rather than making these decisions–rather than making any decisions – Bob Boland repeatedly says he’ll “think about it” and reacts to decisions made by others, rather than proactively making his own. It’s in this narration that Louie Cronin shines. Boland’s repeated decisions to not decide are dealt by Cronin with a light, deft touch–she might easily have bludgeoned readers with Boland’s noncommittal nature. She doesn’t, though. It’s tough to write a character whose natural state is obliviousness, yet Cronin does so here, describing Boland’s thought process well enough to reveal the interior life which leads to his perpetual lack of commitment.

Her in-depth but detached narration allows readers first amusement and then frustration at Boland’s chain of non-decisions, giving readers the means to identify both with him and with the cast of characters that populates the book. Boland’s love interest Leonie bears the brunt of his indecision, and is a well-written, sympathetic character. She comes into the scene when a condo developer threatens to remove an

ancient neighborhood tree. She’s ready to have kids, says so, and deals with Boland’s indecision–but only to a point. Boland, of course, can’t see how his inactions and reactions impact Leonie, but readers can tell change is coming, adding to both sympathies and frustrations.

Living in Boston isn’t a requirement to enjoy this fantastic debut novel. Characters are recognizable and well-developed, and Cronin (whose name readers might recognize from the end credits of NPR’s Car Talk – she’s ‘the barbarian’ the hosts mention) boasts a pitch-perfect, wry comedic delivery throughout. I know people who are stuck inside their own heads, and the people who deal with those people. You probably do, too–making this one recommended for you.

SMALL PRESS PICKS

Everyone Loves You Back

Benjamin Disraeli once commented, “Change is inevitable. Change is constant.” Some advice that may be implied in that: “Adapt or fail”—a recommendation that can feel survival-of-the-fittest cruel, especially when the changes in question threaten to render you irrelevant, at best.

Changes of a threatening variety definitely conspire against Bob Boland, the protagonist of Louie Cronin’s funny, perceptive, and–dare I say–hopeful début novel, Everyone Loves You Back. A stubborn (and cranky) yet pragmatic rebel, Bob charts an entertaining course between thumbing his nose at these changes and adapting to them, so much as he is willing to do so, on his own terms. For that reason I consider him, and this novel, an inspiration, especially in these dark political times.

On the home front, Bob, a longtime resident of a down-on-its-heels house in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is facing growing pressures from an unrelenting drive toward gentrification. (As one example of such pressures, a well-to-do neighbor and her arborist [!] try to convince Bob to take down some maple trees in his yard, ones they claim are invasive species that are dooming the carefully selected, and no doubt expensive, trees in her own yard.)

On the job front, new management at the radio station where Bob works pulls the plug on the nighttime jazz show for which he has long served as engineer, pushing Bob and the show’s former host, Riff, into the dayshift, and into a format that’s unfamiliar to—and far from beloved by—both men: a talk/interview show aimed at boosting ratings. It doesn’t help that Bob has never gotten along with the colleague chosen to cohost the show, and that she’s engaged to the station’s new overlord, Anthony DiTucci. Worse, if Bob and Riff don’t succeed on the new show, it’s all but certain they’ll be shown the door.

When DiTucci takes the helm of the station and offers the first suggestion that, in Bob’s words, “jazz dinosaurs are on the way out,” Bob makes this observation about him, and himself:

“Anthony has a certain glow about him. He looks to be in his late thirties, early forties at the most, the age of the new conquerors. Bob’s generation has somehow skipped the In Charge phase, segueing directly from immature fuckups to over-the-hill budget busters. It’s humiliating really, but Bob can’t quite muster the indignation to protest. He never really wanted to be in charge.”

The novel is full of funny, frank, and perceptive passages like this one, which help us sympathize with Bob’s situation and share his sense of alienation from the forces of change all around him. The novel is also a great comic study of workplace conflict and dysfunction. In certain ways, it reminded me of Joshua Ferris’s darkly funny workplace novel Then We Came to the End. If you enjoyed that book, I’m fairly confident you’ll find Everyone Loves You Back an entertaining ride. (I should also point out that Louie Cronin is uniquely qualified to write from the perspective of a radio engineer and producer, having worked in the radio business for many years, including a ten-year stint producing “Car Talk.”)

I don’t want to reveal the particular ways in which Bob rebels against, or grudgingly adapts to, the changes foisted upon him, but I will say how much I admired the book’s exploration of how it can be possible to respond to change while not compromising on what’s most important to us, including seemingly far-fetched dreams.

As a writer, I was inspired by one of Bob ambitions: a years-long effort to complete a book-length manifesto about the new generation of jazz players who, according to Bob, are “killing” the form instead of reviving it. It turns out that this book has promise, as does Bob’s unlikely romance with a Harvard dance instructor who, along with other residents of Bob’s neighborhood, is trying to keep an old and storied Japanese maple from being uprooted by a condo developer.

In short, Everyone Loves You Back is just the kind of light-in-darkness read I need right now. For me, it is also a reminder that, at certain times, we may need to look to ourselves for hopefulness—by searching for and, if we’re lucky, finding real connections with others and by pressing forward despite what sometimes feel like long and discouraging odds.

AUTHOR PROFILE: I’ve been writing for a very long time, but this is my first novel. Before that I had published short stories and essays. A friend encouraged me to try to expand a shorter piece into a novel and it turned out, I loved the form! I loved the freedom to write long, to explore different paths, to let the story grow slowly. On the second draft of this book, I actually added 100 pages.

I’m a late bloomer. I didn’t start writing until I was 35, though I always knew I wanted to be a writer. And like Bob, I have taken the slow road to adulthood. These days I am writing my second novel and working at WGBH, the first place I ever worked, as a sound engineer for The World.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: What I hope people will take away from Everyone Loves You Back is that it’s possible to be decent and kind, like Bob, and still adapt to the massive changes we all face.

SAMPLE CHAPTER:

CHAPTER 1

Bob Boland is surrounded. Yuppies everywhere. Goddamned professional women with their blunt cuts and power suits, their wimpy men, pale faced and narrow shouldered, their PhDs, MDs and JDs on proud display in their book-lined studies.

The neighborhood has always been full of snobs — half of it belongs to Harvard, the other half to Harvard professors, grads, and wannabes, the type who donate buildings and gymnasiums, who endow symphony chairs in perpetuity — but there used to be room for the little people, who deliver the mail, plow the driveways, clean the teeth, fix the burners. Now the new rich are crowding them out, throwing around so much money that the neighborhood is barely recognizable. Slate roofs, copper drains, specimen trees, heated driveways — nothing is too good for them. If there’s a beautiful front yard, they put up a fence. If there’s a fence, they tear it down

and put in a hedge. Blacktop becomes lawn; lawn becomes groundcover; groundcover becomes brick. And God forbid the house should peel. Bingo! An army of painters descends, airlifted from the latest Third World country in collapse, sanding, scraping, hanging like bats under the eaves, risking their lives to try out matching trim colors.

Bob never thought he’d be singing the praises of the horsefaces, stingy old bastards with their patched tweed jackets and homely gray-haired wives, wearing the same frayed shirts and resoled shoes year in and year out, living in their gloomy mansions, driving their ten-year-old Mercedes, riding their three-speed Raleighs with the cracked leather seats and rusty wire baskets, scarves wrapped around their necks like they were in merry old England, the motherland, the well from which their bottomless coldness must have sprung. But now he feels something approaching affection for them, for mannish old Pricilla Sutton, lurching down the street in her Wellingtons and worn flannel shirt, her white hair escaping from a headband. Even she looks a little uncomfortable now, unsure where she belongs in this new world of conspicuous consumption.

At eleven-thirty at night, when everyone else in the neighborhood is getting ready for bed, clicking off the TV after an IQ-lowering dose of local news, turning down the covers, slipping between the six-hundred-thread-count sheets, curling up with a New Yorker, a mystery, a spiritual how-to, Bob is heading to WJZY. His shift starts at midnight, but he likes to get to the station a few minutes early, pull some CDs, set up the breaks, clean up the studio after that pig BJ, who will watch him clean, never once getting up from his chair. BJ is so lazy he will roll to get another CD, to program the computer, to read the log. He has mastered the soundboard push off; he’s the gold medalist of the chairbound. Every night the trashcan overflows with fast food wrappers, crushed coffee cups, old newspapers, spent ketchup packets. And BJ has the body to show for it. He has grown into the chair; his hips and ass seep girlishly over the sides. Like nearly everyone in radio, BJ has a good voice, deep and round, with a butterscotch finish; you picture James Earl Jones, maybe Gregory Peck in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” but what you get is a pale, fat, thirty-five-going-on-fifty-five white guy who is obsessed with jazz.

Bob is obsessed with jazz too, but he doesn’t look the part. He still has the broad shoulders and muscled upper body of the athlete he was supposed to be. His sports career foundered his freshman year at UMass, when he discovered jazz and pot. The coach threw him off the team. His father stopped talking to him. His mother slipped him tuition money and he graduated with an individually crafted degree in Altered States of Consciousness and the Evolution of Bebop. Find a job with that.

Bob always gets to the station before Riff, who is out in the parking lot smoking a joint. Now that it is forbidden to smoke in the studio, Riff makes do with a before-show toke and a pick-me-up in the men’s room during breaks. Back when Bob started in radio everybody smoked, cigarettes and marijuana, ashtray right next to the microphone, helped your voice get that nice gravelly touch, gave men the balls they might lack, and women the balls they almost certainly did.

Riff is another little white guy pretending to be black, but at least he was one of the first. He’s been around forever, snuck into clubs to see Miles and Coltrane when he was a teen. He has a very low maintenance approach to his appearance: shaves his head once a year, ignores it for the rest. He wears nothing but jumpsuits, which he designs and his third young wife dutifully sews. His only regular upkeep is his pointy little goatee, a must for white guys pretending to be black. After twenty years in radio, Bob could write a treatise on white guys pretending to be black. Like you didn’t already fuck over black people, you have to steal their culture, appropriate their blue moods, envy them their suffering. Most of these white–black guys ended up with drug problems, the only surefire way to shed their middle class privilege and get down with the brothers.

But Bob respects Riff. Back when he decided to become a black man, it wasn’t the thing to do. And Riff still likes white people. He and Bob started working together when WJZY was mostly jazz; now it’s mostly news. They have been together for thirteen years, longer than any of Riff’s marriages, longer by far than any of Bob’s relationships. Occasionally they socialize on the weekends, getting together after midnight. Riff’s wife Sue cooks dinner, and they drink and talk until dawn. Riff always manages to find a woman who will cater to his schedule, breakfast at 4 p.m., lunch at 11 p.m. Sue is up when he rolls in. Maybe you were a little hard on the guy who didn’t know who Johnny Hodges was. You should have let the old lady finish. Riff does a kind of hybrid jazz / talk show. When he feels like it, he plays music; when he gets bored, he takes calls from the audience. Old people, insomniacs, sick people, shift workers, drug addicts, musicians — they’re the ones who are up all night, roaming their houses, spinning the radio dial. They talk about music, sleep, God, food, sex. Bob will cue up a CD — Pharaoh Sanders, Ron Carter — and sneak it in under the conversation. Some nights Riff awakes with a song or artist under his skin, and they play CDs all night, Riff’s head bopping, Bob’s foot tapping out the beat. He used to get stoned with Riff. It made a fairly easy job into a challenge. The control board turned into a cockpit, the On Air light a beacon, the music a message from the other side. But now pot makes him paranoid. He starts reconsidering everything. Why do men wear pants? What if his last relationship was his last relationship? What if there were no heaven and this life mattered? Now Riff smokes alone, and Bob relies on the roiling chemicals his own brain makes to keep up with him.

This fall has been hell for Bob. He can’t seem to sleep. The neighborhood comes back to life in the fall, after the relative quiet of the summer. Students return to their dorms, scientists to their labs, the goddamn squirrels start fighting, designer dogs barking, school kids singing and laughing. And worse, the renovations begin anew. Contractors, plumbers, roofers, landscapers arrive in a convoy of earthmovers and pickup trucks. Bob prefers the winter, the days as tight and silent as the night, the ground frozen, the air forbidding, doors and windows shuttered against the cold. Although snow is a mixed bag for the daytime sleeper. At first it muffles everything, swaddles you in a lovely white cocoon, but then the snow blowers start and plows crash onto the asphalt and roaming bands of kids ring your bell and ask if you want them to shovel. Snow is almost worse than fall.

Bob has tried sleeping pills, ear plugs, a mouth guard, room darkeners, a white noise machine, a fan, an air conditioner, a contoured neck pillow, melatonin, kava kava, St. John’s Wort, acupuncture, vodka, beer, wine, warm milk, and chamomile tea. Nothing works. He has asked the neighbors to keep their workers quiet. He has pleaded with the workers to have pity on a fellow working man. He has stayed up whole days to make himself tired. But something new is happening. Thirteen years on the overnight shift and he can no longer sleep.

Riff has no such problem. He and his wife live in the woods on their own ten acres and they sleep all day, stay up all night. Their house smells like mildew and is developing a mossy green tint. Vines grow over the windows; huge pine trees dwarf the front porch. The backyard has reverted to forest. Wisteria has wrapped itself around an entire patio set so that it is now green and impenetrable. On the weekends Riff will smoke a joint and go out in the yard in the late afternoon and think maybe he should hire someone to hack away at this jungle. Then the light will fade, and the place will morph into an enchanted fairytale of vines and primeval forest. Luckily they live in a rundown part of town. Their neighbors have cars up on blocks, boats that will never again float, motorcycles in pieces, and broken down refrigerators on their back lots. So they are not about to complain.

Riff glides into the control room a few minutes before air. “My man,” he says. “How’re things? You sleep?”

Bob shakes his head. “No. Today the city got into the act. They’re re-bricking the sidewalks. Do you have any idea how loud a brick cutter is?”

Riff shrugs. “That’s a drag, man.”

“Who the fuck wanted new bricks anyway? Some stupid historical commission, I’m sure. Did I tell you, this woman rang my bell the other day at eleven a.m.? Complaining that my trim color was not historically correct. Eleven in the morning!”

“Should be against the law. I think it is against the law.”

“And she had the nerve to give me the name of some historically correct painter, who will come over and do some founding fathers juju on the paint scheme. Probably cost a fortune. My neighbor Abigail’s probably behind it. She left me another message this afternoon.”

Riff is flipping through the CDs, pulling out Billie Holiday, Carmen McRae, Betty Carter. “You should sell that place, Bobby,” he says. “Move out with me and the masses. Relax. That neighborhood is taking years off your life, man, and between you and me, you haven’t got that many left.”

“I was there first. Why should I have to move?”

“Cuz there’s one of you and lots of them, and plenty more where they came from. Sell that place. You could buy a cool pad, doesn’t have to be out in the boonies with me. Could be in the city, Roxbury. Black people wouldn’t give you all that shit.”

Riff hands the CDs to Bob, walks into the studio, sits down at the mic, puts on his headphones, and waits for Bob’s cue.

“Thirty seconds,” Bob says into the talkback.

“Plus those ugly women in your neck of the woods.”

Bob cuts his mic, holds up his hand to silence him, watches the digital clock trip from 11:59:59 to 12:00:00. He starts Riff’s theme music and cues him in.

“Hey, Riff here, Oliver Nelson in the background, you’re up, you’re listening, we’re cool. It’s a nice night out there. Saw some deer on my ride in, heads down, grazing on the yellow line, felt like stopping my car and giving them a lecture, when will you boys learn about highways and automobiles, anyway the moon was pink, pink, that’s cool, the sky was kind of charcoal gray, and I got to thinking what would

it be like to be an animal, roaming around this messed up world that humans created, how are they supposed to know about yellow lines and why shouldn’t they snap the heads off all your tulips? They were here first.” He cuts his mic and motions for Bob to bring up the music. Then he speaks into the talkback. “You could make a lot of money on that old haunted house of yours, Bobby. You could live on a boat. You could buy yourself a penthouse. You could fucking retire.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Bob says into the talkback.

Riff cues him to lower the music. “Tonight we’re going play some Billie, and maybe some Ella, and whoever else you want to hear. If you feel like talking, give me a call. If you don’t, that’s cool. Me and Bob will just groove out for the whole evening.”

Irene, the overnight newscaster, bounds into the control room and hands Bob a script. “Hey, Bob, you hear about Omar?”

Bob spins his chair around to face her. “No.”

Irene leans against a tape deck, pushes a strand of dark hair off her face. “They caught him falsifying health insurance claims and fired him!”

“Omar? He seems like such a straightlaced guy.”

“Yeah. Well. Some insurance company dumped them when his wife got sick. So he was exacting his revenge. Took them for thousands and thousands of dollars over the years.”

“Really? Omar? But how’d they find out?”

“Kathy. Who else? Omar had lied about when she started here, so she could get covered sooner. Do you believe it? He did her a favor and the little bitch turned him in!”

“Doesn’t make sense. Why would she do that? ” “Beats me. Phase one in her scheme for total world domination? I tell you, though. You should never, ever, trust a woman who wears makeup in the middle of the night.”

Bob looks more closely at Irene. Is she wearing makeup? He doesn’t think so, but what does he know? Her cheeks and lips are pale. Her eyes are large and dark, but so are the circles under them. “She’ll be our boss some day,” he says, and turns to load the cuts for Irene’s newscast into the computer. Kathy is just like the people in his neighborhood, claiming the moral high ground as long as it keeps them on top and little fuckers like Omar on the bottom. “Her type always wins.”

Kathy is the new morning drive newscaster, imported from Cincinnati or Cleveland, some place in the Midwest, which she flies back to every three weeks to get her hair cut. She and Bob had gotten into it her first day on the job. She wanted him to record a spot. “Get O’Mara,” he said. “I’m off the clock.”

“News doesn’t follow a clock,” she said.

“But I do. And I get time-and-a-half plus night shift differential.”

She changed her tack, smiled at him, shook her carefully cut blonde hair. “Please? I don’t understand all that union stuff. I’m under the gun. And I don’t know O’Mara.”

He’d stayed and recorded the spot, then edited and mixed it before leaving. The next day he was called into his boss Mitch’s office. “What the fuck are you staying overtime for? No one okayed that.”

“Kathy was supposed to.”

“Well, she didn’t. And she filed a complaint about your attitude, said you were uncooperative, and slow.”

Oliver Nelson finishes. Riff hands off to Irene who starts her newscast. Riff gets up and wanders into the control room. “Something going on between you two?”

“What?”

“Irene likes you, man. I can feel the pheromones right through the glass.”

“Me?”

“Who else is she going to go for, BJ?”

Bob shrugs. “We were talking about Omar. Did you hear they fired him?”

Riff smooths his goatee. “Bet Irene looks great without her clothes on.”

“There’s nothing going on between us. Believe me.”

Riff snorts. “You handsome guys are all the same. Never had to work hard to get women, so you never learned how to read them. But I did, and trust me, Irene likes you.”

Bob looks at Irene, her hand poised over the control board, ready to trigger a flood of haranguing ads for excess stomach acid, muscle aches, white sales, and spreadable cheese. She catches him watching her and breaks into a shy smile. Bob smiles back. For the first time in days he feels like he could sleep.

LOCAL OUTLETS: Available at several Boston area bookstores, including Porter Square Books, Harvard Book Store, Newtonville Books, Paper Cuts in Jamaica Plain, and Brookline Booksmith.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, Gorsky Press, Target.

PRICE: 15.95

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: louiecronin@gmail.com, @louiecronin, http://www.louiecronin.com

Hollywood Catechism

The Hollywood Catechism: Poems by [Fericano, Paul]THE BOOK: Hollywood Catechism.

PUBLISHED IN: 2015.

THE AUTHOR: Paul Fericano.

THE EDITOR: Melanie Villines.

THE PUBLISHER: Silver Birch Press, Los Angeles, CA http://www.silverbirchpress.com/.

SUMMARY: The Hollywood Catechism exposes our addiction to pop culture, our fixation on celebrity worship, and our suspicion of religious ideas. Each poem is a small lens flipped to reveal an alternate universe into which the reader enters bravely with no exit sign in sight. Blending socio-political satire with suffering and sentiment, the poems in this collection manage to acknowledge our shenanigans while celebrating our humanity. In the end, poetry triumphs as our world is hoisted with its own petard.

Image result for Paul Fericano + Hollywood Catechism + photoTHE BACK STORY: I’ve been writing poetry infused with satire since the early seventies and have always found inspiration and encouragement in such poets and writers as Frank O’Hara, Dorothy Parker , Joseph Heller, Sharon Olds, Edward Field, Kurt Vonnegut Ann Menebroker, A.D. Winans, and Paul Krassner–to name just a few. Heller’s post-war masterpiece, “Catch-22,” Field’s groundbreaking book of poems, “Variety Photoplay,” and Krassner’s wicked reporting in “The Realist,” were all catalysts for me to explore the depth and history of satire at an early age. Mining popular culture and using it in service to poetry makes just as much sense to me and my poems as references to ancient Rome and Greece does to certain academic poets and their work. While contemporary satires have always run the risk of being yesterday’s news, they have also provided an urgency and immediacy that directly touched people.

Human action, reaction and interaction have always intrigued me and informed my work. In The Hollywood Catechism, cultural icons like Elizabeth Taylor, Jesus, and Joe DiMaggio join hands with Freud, The Three Stooges, and Ann Landers; Burt Lancaster, Charles Bukowski, and Johnny Unitas break bread with Wallace Stevens, Dean Martin, and Dinah Shore. And while U2’s Bono and Tyrone Power’s Zorro haunt each other’s dreams, the Marx Brothers discuss opera with Oprah. In a wickedly satirical poem like “Sinatra, Sinatra” the crooner’s name is repeatedly taken in vain. The irreverent appeal of such poems as “The Actor’s Creed,” “The Halle Berry” and “Prayer of the Talking Head” is due, in part, to their paying homage to the history and power of the artfully executed lampoon. In addition, the book’s empathetic bridge poem, “Howl of Lon Chaney, Jr.” is not just a parody of Allen Ginsberg’s epic poem “Howl,” but a luminous work that stands on its own merits.

WHY THIS TITLE? I wanted a title that wedded the notion of celebrity worship with the cult of religious zeal. The Hollywood Catechism fit that bill. For the book’s cover, my editor and I decided on the image of Burt Lancaster (as Elmer Gantry) holding a bible, which was an ideal choice to complement the title poem.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: There’s plenty of room at the table for all kinds of poetry, especially the kind that doesn’t fit someone else’s perception of what poetry is supposed to be. I believe one good reason to read The Hollywood Catechism would be for the laughter it might arouse–something we could use a lot more of in these dark and absurd times. Another reason might be to gain a better understanding and appreciation of contemporary American poetry and its place in our lives. This collection does more than just round up the usual suspects. The Hollywood Catechism is an invitation to suspend belief, bend the rules, and begin reading poetry as a means to connect on a level that is more direct and honest than a quick text or a Facebook “like”.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

These are poems that read like the messages in a bottle that might be written by the last sane man on Earth, when everyone else has gone mad.” — Robert Peake, The Huffington Post https://tinyurl.com/HuffPost-THC-Fericano.

Fericano chronicles the mythology of the American celebrity like a modern-day Homer on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.” — Benjamin Schmitt, At The Inkwell https://tinyurl.com/AtTheInkwell-THC-Fericano

“[A] characteristically American blend of flim-flam, movie idols, and popular Christianity sets the tone of this entertaining and original book.” — Jendi Reiter, Reiter’s Block https://tinyurl.com/ReitersBlock-THC-Fericano.

“This is a book…firmly rooted in the American culture and mythology of the 1950s. Anyone, regardless of age or era, will pick up on the humor and rage coming through these poems.” — Patrick T. Reardon, Pump Don’t Work https://tinyurl.com/PumpDon-tWork-THC-Fericano.

Fericano’s poems [are] short and snappily inventive like a fast-talking Raymond Chandler.” –Charles Pitter, Zouch Magazine https://tinyurl.com/Zouch-Fericano “A wonderfully witty and satiric book…what these poems do is make explicit what’s implied by celebrity culture: they pretend to take the idea of celebrity worship literally.” — Jerome Sala, Espresso Bongo https://tinyurl.com/EspressoBongo-THC-Fericano.

AUTHOR PROFILE: I’m a poet, satirist, social activist and co-founder of Yossarian Universal (1980), the nation’s first parody news service (yunews.com). My poetry and prose have appeared in numerous publications and media outlets in this country and abroad, including: The New York Quarterly, The Cafe Review, Inside Joke, Mother Jones, Poetry Now, Projector, The Realist, Saturday Night Live, SoHo Arts Weekly, Vagabond, Mi Poesias, National Public Radio, The Wormwood Review, and Catavencu Incomod (Romania), Charlie Hebdo (Paris), Il Male (Italy), Krokodil (Moscow), Pardon (Germany), Punch (London) and Satyrcón (Argentina). My chapbooks and books of poetry and fiction include: Cancer Quiz (Scarecrow Books, 1977); Commercial Break (Poor Souls Press, 1982); The One Minute President (with Elio Ligi / Stroessner Verlag, 1986); and Interview with the Scalia (Peabody Press, 1992). Loading the Revolver with Real Bullets (Second Coming Press, 1977), a collection of my work partly funded by the state of California, achieved notoriety in 1978, when one of its poems, “The Three Stooges at a Hollywood Party,” was read on the floor of the California State Senate as a reason to abolish the California Arts Council. I’m the founder of Stoogism (1976), the mock-literary school Allen Ginsberg once praised as “the only movement with a punch line.” In 1982 I received the Howitzer Prize for my poem, “Sinatra, Sinatra,” an award I created myself and exposed as a literary hoax to reveal the absurd nature of competitive awards. As irony would have it, the following year my book of poems, Commercial Break, received both the Prix de Voltaire (Paris) and the Ambrose Bierce Prize (San Francisco) for upholding the traditions of socio-political satire. From 2003 to 2016, I served as director of SafeNet / Instruments of Peace, a nonprofit that helped clergy abuse survivors and religious leaders focus on recovery and reconciliation (mysafenet.org). In 2013, along with fellow survivor Olan Horne, I was instrumental in advising Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston on the creation of the Vatican’s international commission on clergy abuse. I currently write a blog (A Room With A Pew) on issues regarding clergy sexual abuse and the healing process (roomwithapew.com). Born in 1951, in the Bayview / Hunters Point area of San Francisco, I grew up in the shadow of Candlestick Park in the nearby neighborhood of Visitacion Valley. I presently live on the San Francisco peninsula. If you’d like to learn more about me and my work, you can read the interviews I gave that appeared on the following websites: “The Best American Poetry” (2017) https://tinyurl.com/BAP-Fericano “Michael Limnios’ Blues Network” (2013) https://tinyurl.com/BluesGr-Fericano.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: Trying to get people excited about poetry is a little like defending Trump’s intelligence. There is so much disbelief, distrust and disconnectedness present that it becomes a challenge just to keep the eyes from glazing over. With poetry, there is an aversion among those who, at some point in their lives, have been turned off by the obtuse language, obscure meanings and/or sheer weight of the corpse they were told to dissect. This is true of many who were exposed to poetry in grammar school, forced to read it in high school, and even of some who reluctantly chose to study it in college (in some form) and then found themselves in the awkward position of analyzing work they either detested or didn’t understand. I purposely set out to debunk a lot of this when I taught poetry in the schools many years ago. Poetry was not dead in my classes. It was alive and vibrant and relevant in the lives of those who chose to meet it half way. Like every collection I’ve published since 1976, The Hollywood Catechism is an attempt to reconnect people with all types of poetry, including poems that utilize humor and satire. In some ways it’s a radical idea to believe that a poem can be enriching, entertaining and (god forbid) enlightening. All poetry (all art) is political by nature. It rebels against the status quo by virtue of having something different to say. At its core is the notion that poetry can be a public service for people to lean into. Some might think this is an impossibly tall order in an easily distracted, smart-phone world. But I believe it’s just as applicable and relevant today as it was when the telephone, movies. and television were first introduced into a society where people read books, magazines and newspapers more regularly than brushing their teeth on a daily basis.

SAMPLE POEMS: Here’s a link to the online journal, Poetry Hotel, where three poems from The Hollywood Catechism are posted: https://www.yunews.com/paul-fericano-poetry-hotel.

LOCAL OUTLETS: Bird & Beckett Books (San Francisco) East Bay Booksellers (Oakland) Diesel, A Bookstore (Santa Monica) Books, Inc. (California).

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Regular copies of The Hollywood Catechism can be ordered online: Amazon – (paperback and kindle editions) – https://tinyurl.com/amazon-THC-Fericano Barnes and Noble – https://tinyurl.com/barnesandnoble-THC-Fericano Signed (paperback) copies of The Hollywood Catechism can also be ordered directly from me (postage paid): Paul Fericano, YU News Service, P.O. Box 236, Millbrae, CA 94030.

PRICE: $16.00 (paperback) $7.99 (Kindle)

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: For more information please visit: YU News Service (www.yunews.com), Poets & Writers, Inc. (https://www.pw.org/content/paul_fericano)