A tribute to Richard Zimler

writerchristophfischer

https://discoveringdiamonds.blogspot.co.uk/p/guest-spot6.html?m=1

I wrote the following Guest Spot: A Thank You to Richard Zimler in

May 2017

Last week I had the great pleasure of meeting the man himself and walk away from Lisbon with signed copies of his work.

Richard Zimler

I came across Richard Zimler’s The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon during an almost unrelated internet search. Fascinated by the subject of the Kabbala and the era of Lisbon of 1506 I devoured the book and soon started to read all of his other novels.

I had developed a keen interest in historical and Jewish fiction and was delighted to have found a writer whose work covered such a wide range of it, not just the holocaust years. What impressed me most was that Zimler never forgets others. While some writers only focus on the fate that befell the Jews, he calls out discrimination and hardships suffered by other minorities…

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A God In Ruins Review

A God In Ruins

This poignant and provocative story of England in World War II is told in a jumble of scenes, mixing together past, present and future in ways that confuse, or challenge the reader, but ultimately in this paradoxical way illuminate the characters’ lives and the book’s themes. Toward the end of the story, you learn why this mish-mash of time does not matter, and why it does matter. The author has worked hard to expose the waste and brutality of war, and leaves a skeleton of what was, what might have been, and what might be.

What begins as banding together to fight an outside threat, which we deem noble, descends into horror and immorality. Teddy, the RAF pilot, experiences so much terror and senseless loss of life that his humanity is reduced to ruins. He has only the most primal desire to survive. All the while, he is participating in a bombing campaign targeting civilians, unknowingly, though perhaps he begins to realize it at some point.  

The United Kingdom’s Bomber Command decided to hit civilian targets in Germany in order to demoralize the population and turn them against the Nazi government. After the war, RAF pilots and crew learned of their true missions. My father was a tail gunner and radio operator on a U. S. Air Force B24 crew stationed in Norwich, England. He would have loved to read about Teddy landing at Shipdham air base and the hearty welcome he and his crew received. For his part, my father’s missions included some cities, and he did know there were people in the factories. As with Teddy, he saw bombers and fighters go down, and the fires in the cities below.

Some at the time and in the following generations criticized the bombing of civilians, as Teddy’s daughter does. Whether Atkinson means to say that UK society (and European and American society) began to disintegrate as a result of the brute realization that people are capable of cold, callous mass atrocities, she does depict a society in chaos, with pockets of nostalgia for days gone by, following the war. This nostalgia is for a time of peace and innocence. But the nostalgic picture is fabricated, as shown in the childhood fantasy stories written by a woman who shuts away the terrible brutality she experienced in World War 1. The post WW2 generation has few of these nostalgic reference points, and those it does have are undermined by the well-documented record of man’s inhumanity.

Teddy’s perfectly unlovable daughter is over the top when it comes to being judgmental, not to mention, selfish and irrational. Atkinson excels at dark humor, giving irony a chance to alchemize cynicism. While Teddy tries to live a decent life, having learned the value of humility and kindness, he is depicted as the skeleton of what was and what should have been. Atkinson paints a damning picture of his daughter and connects it to pre-war progressive social experiments which continue in the form of drugs and communes. These are treated as ridiculous, wrong-headed acts against the time-honored traditions and societal norms that worked – except they did not work, as the world went from one inferno to another.

Both looking back and looking forward engender a hope for the marvel we are at our best, what we yearn for, what we should be able to cherish and continue.

Besides the political and social views, the family and individuals appear in either fuzzy sentimental or critical, severe lights. Teddy is a romantic traumatized by war. He appears to be weak to his daughter, to whom his kindness comes across as an attempt to manipulate her into a shadow life of his childhood. This shadow life is very real to him and gives him strength. Since the war, he has a sense of invincibility, and a fatalism, which makes him aloof. Without much guidance, his daughter and her children slowly mature. Their attempts at banding together with others fall short, until near the end of the book. Atkinson then throws in a twist, one that’s been done before; however, the point she makes with this twist is one that cannot be made too often.

Atkinson deserves credit for her imagination in telling a difficult tale of the personal, social, and spiritual damages of war.

A God In Ruins, Kate Atkinson, publisher Little Brown and Company

A God In Ruins is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and others.

To read this review on Amazon, click here.

The first female detectives

A little Hell’s Kitchen history (and some Australian) of female detectives

historywithatwist

Growing up in Dublin’s inner-city northside, my childhood was filled with crime.

Ironside, Mannix, Banachek, The Rockford Files, Hawaii Five-O, The Streets of San Francisco, Cannon, Kojak, Columbo, McCloud, Petrocelli, Quincy M.E… I watched them all.

They were cops and private detectives mostly, armed with snub-nosed Smith & Wesson’s, screeching around corners in Buicks, Chevrolets and Dodges, hubcaps flying off as they frantically pursued the bad guys.

Sometimes the cars got cooler – like Jim Rockford’s Firebird, or, later, Starsky and Hutch’s white-striped Gran Torino. One thing that was a given, though, was that all crime fighters were men. Then the female detectives Cagney & Lacey came along, and a small blow was struck for feminists. To teenage me, though, that last one seemed a bit, well… contrived.

Am I really expected to believe that these women can haul the killers off the street and lock them in the clink…

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Escaping Ziegfeld: A Short Story

bardessdmdenton - author- artist

My new short story

Escaping Ziegfeld

is now available

Only $.99 on amazon.com

amazon uk

amazon canada

Available in other countries, too

(all profits to be donated: see details at the end of this post)*

For Kindle devices

OR

Download free app to read on your pc, laptop, tablet, or phone

Cover artwork and design © Copyright by DM Denton

The fingering and pedaling of the Mozart piece required her absolute attention. What could be more important than effecting the appoggiaturas, the upper half of her torso leaning and lifting like a dancer, her elbows slightly bent, her wrists almost imperceptibly rolling side to side, her fingers always in touch with the keys and lightly en pointe?

Irene had been a little unnerved by the Italian’s ice-blue eyes, but how could he compete with the possibility of her following in the footsteps of Lillian Lorraine, the Dolly…

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The Storyteller Speaks Review

storyteller speaks

Writers may exaggerate the negative and write dystopian fiction. They may exaggerate the positive and write utopian fiction. In this fascinating collection of short stories, the positive being brought into greater relief is our ability to choose integrity and kindness rather than degenerative and uncaring mindsets and actions. Each story is a core sample of a human moral issue, a history of resiliency and loss, exposed to the light.

In most of the stories the characters are challenged by a tragic or potentially damaging event outside their control; in a moment, their lives are changed drastically, forever. Some of the characters have caused their own dilemma. They go on in a fog or struggle with painful memories and swings of emotion before they reach the tipping point: how will they respond? And it is to their credit they reach this tipping point, because it is done through conscious moral effort. But whether tragedy has come to them or they have made their own mistakes, they eventually recognize the situation through a severe exercise in honesty. This honesty springs from valuing the best sense of who they can be and become. They often draw on enriching relationships with other people and humanizing traditions. Then they go beyond: they make amends. By taking this action, they rise to a new level of moral and ethical consciousness. This is portrayed in clear-eyed fashion, showing how difficult it is to do, and yet liberating.

It is more than interesting for stories like these to be told; it may be necessary for our adaptability and survival, for our thriving as a species. The same could be said for the negative. In fact, these stories blend both in a new and perceptive way.

The flaws in her writing and story composition are small quibbles. For instance, just when I thought the stories would all be similar samples, there was a radical change. It is my hope Annika Perry will continue to hone her craft as a writer. She may yet give us an iconic work.

When You Are Just So Tired

Water for Camels

Tristan was a Special Education teacher in rural Mississippi. He got into the field with a passion for working with special needs children, helping them to reach their full potential. He loved teaching these children, loving each one for their individuality and their unique challenge. However, dealing daily with the politics in education drained him. Budget cuts, administrative changes and poor school management diverted the attention away from the needs of these special children. He wanted to teach, not slay the beauracracy that allowed lower expectations of achievement to justify the rising class size. He watched as his ability to give the children what they needed to develop adaptive skills and improved communication dwindled with every new policy and class change. He loved his jobs and the challenges of the Special Ed. Classroom. But he gave up. Tristan quit to become a car salesman.

Greta was a juvenile probation officer…

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Grandma Wing

KatherineMiller_Florida

Grandma lived in Winter Park,
near Lake Osceola and Rollins College.
The house was two stories, and wide
windows looked out on a fountain
in the circle of the road
On the front porch she waited for us,
shoulders bent forward and in,
but willfully resolute, and keen-eyed;
I felt her cool arthritic palm
Once inside sunlight blazed beyond
Venetian blinds, antiques and a lifetime’s finds,
crystal and china shone in measured light,
and overhead fans kept the rooms cool;
matching the tapestry of her garden
She was never bored: I read,
I think and daydream. At my age
these are the things I do best.

I saw the joys and sorrows of a long life
imprinted on her face, in a window’s sunspot
when we settled in for a game
of double solitaire;
but when she asked me to stay with her
a day or two I made excuses:
parents’ disapproval, homework, school
Don’t you want to?
Yes, I nodded. But I already knew
some wished-for things will never be.
Help me in the garden, she said,
rising from her wing chair
A delicate aroma of tropical flowers
washed over me: I want to stay with you,
I thought, of days in this garden
backlit by water-dappled clouds
She showed me how to water roses
and there’s a right way and all other ways
are nonsense. And we are always there
with the blue beyond us, the blue around us,
the blue within us, and the roses

 

Mary Clark

March Blizzard Poetry

megabenefit2On March 7, 1983, the day of the “Rock’n’Poetry” Benefit for the Poetry Festival at St. Clement’s Church (423 West 46th Street between 9th and 10th Avenues, New York City), a major snowstorm hit the city. By late afternoon the streets were empty.

Allen Ginsberg arrived, shaking off a mantle of snow, about fifteen minutes before the reading. He was friendly, but a little shy. I showed him and a friend into the library where lamplight glowed on the blue, green, mauve and earth-colored leaded windows.

Spalding Gray arrived, and shook my hand. (He’d promised he’d come one day.)

Amiri Baraka called to say he was on his way in from Newark and battling the snow.

“I understand if you can’t make it.”

“The roads are still open, and it will be just as bad trying to go back to Newark. And I wanted to get into the city anyway.”

The audience filled the downstairs theatre and I began to worry about over-capacity. More than a hundred people had braved the storm.

Easing open the door, I saw a mound of snow creeping down the street. The mound pulled over to the sidewalk and Baraka piled out with his family.

I held the church door open. “I can’t believe what you’ve gone through to get here.”

“I was determined to be here,” he said. “There aren’t many places like this.”

I left him with Ginsberg and the other poets and their friends in the small library room next to the front office. Poets sat on the sofa, Ginsberg in a low armchair, and others on the well-worn, wine-red rug.

The reading was segue-ing from poet to poet. Spalding Gray said all he needed was a table and a chair. He sat at the table center stage with one spotlight, reading from his notebooks. His words flowed out intuitively, and the way he coupled the words, tangled, bickered, or united in conjugal bliss, exposed his inner turmoil and joy, his triumphs and losses.

Sheri spoke to me and I was jolted back to my responsibilities.

Applause followed me down the front hall. I counted the box office.

It was time to give Baraka and Ginsberg the heads up. I poked my head in.

Ginsberg looked up, making eye contact. “Are you doing well? Did you make money?”

“We did. We’ll be able to go on another year with the money we made tonight.”

He smiled. “That’s great.”

I stared a moment, not realizing before his commitment to poets and poetry groups.

Baraka went into the theater next, giving a reading filled with stamping meter and hard-edged images tempered by, well more than humor, empathy, or sense of injustice and hope, by love I would say.

When Ginsberg spoke people clapped, stamped their feet, howled, and sang, his voice rising like a cantor. The walls reverberated, the theater was heated by the crowd, a night of wonder.

Outside the snow had stopped. The poets left with the crowd, a beautiful sound in the silent snow-cloaked city.

A Mother’s Gift of Reading … the Brontës

bardessdmdenton - author- artist

Today is my mother’s 89th birthday. Since early November of last year, she has been in the hospital and rehab twice, for a total of nine weeks. The first time was because of infections that caused her to have some scary delirium and the second because of hypoglycemia (low blood glucose), when she almost fell into a coma, and, again, infection, mainly in her legs. I am so grateful she is doing well and returned home yesterday. Our kitty-boys are, of course, thrilled!

To mark her home coming and birthday, I am sharing the essay I included at the back of my recently released novel, Without the Veil Between, Anne Bronte: A Fine and Subtle Spirit. It is not only about how I came to initially read the Brontës, but, also, a tribute to my mom’s own love-affair with their work that she shared with me when I was a…

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Racing The Sun: Diane Denton’s Review

Thanks OODLES to Diane M. Denton for her review, written with her usual sensitivity and insight, of my book, Racing The Sun. Here’s the review, which is also on Amazon and Goodreads.

Racing The Sun Book Cover Small 1

“Racing the Sun” follows on from “Miami Morning” as a novel with conscience, its protagonist, Leila Payson, living professionally and personally with a sense of urgency, yet not adverse to pausing here and there in appreciation of simpler moments. This engaging narrative is full of conversations of purpose and planning, framed by a sense of place and belonging, but, also, exploration, drawing the reader into a diverse community of friends, colleagues, and new and unexpected acquaintances who support and challenge each other and, ultimately, discover collaboration – that “wealth of experience”- is the way to make positive things happen.

Mary’s writing reflects Leila’s “changes in speed and direction” while following her through transitions of gain and loss, work and leisure, friendship and love. Leila is an alert woman, who literally and metaphorically is ready to slow down for those ducks suddenly crossing the road. Practical and sentient, she realizes on both levels—to quote Mahatma Gandhi—she must be the change she wants to see in the world.

This second book in the series is as vibrant with interesting characters as the first. I found it more playful, but never without consciousness of how humans opening their minds and hearts to those seen as weaker through disability or circumstance can strengthen the integrity, effectiveness, and, perhaps, most importantly, the soul of a society.

Once again, Mary Clark offers much to think upon, but not just to think upon. To use the words of Leila’s significant other, Mark, “… we can’t be spectators. We have to act, and to act with ethical courage.”

Racing The Sun on Amazon

Racing The Sun on Smashwords

Racing The Sun on Barnes and Noble

Racing The Sun on booklaunch.io