It is on oncoming anniversaries, that I often wonder out loud to you, the reader, just how magically this magazine came to be, and how someone with little money, openly discriminated against because of his views, with nothing but a laptop, could end up with millions of visitors for Neworld Review—with at least one visitor from every country on earth.
No matter what I have said in the past, however, in the end, we are here because of disrupters; and these disrupters not only are responsible for Neworld Review, but they just might have also saved our fragile Democracy.
I worked for years as a college professor, not teaching literary history, that I so love, but as a Journalism professor, teaching The History of the Mass Media. I watched, and warned, year after year, from USC to UC Berkeley and SUNY/Old Westbury that the consolidation of the media in this country was going to turn us into a plutocracy, where money was going to rule over what we read in magazines and newspapers, saw on television and the movies, listened to on radio and recordings, and what we were allowed to say at places of higher learning.
By 1997, much of this had occurred. But the 90s is also where key disrupters, often lone figures sitting in garages and dank dive bars, began their journey. For example, visionary, prolific inventor and holder of 800 patents worldwide, Benny Landa, an Israeli, changed the course of the printing industry when he unveiled the E-Print 1000, the world's first digital color printing press. He came to be known as “the father of digital printing.”
Most of you have no idea what this meant for someone like me, who was able to start a book publishing company, Morton Books, Inc., and a print version of Neworld Review, before I took it online. Here is something from Landa’s website that explains what I want to say:
“At IPEX (one of the world’s longest established exhibitions for the print industry) in 1993, Benny unveiled the Indigo E-Print 1000, the world's first digital, offset color printing press. This was a major turning point in the printing industry as the E-Print bypassed the printing plate setup process, eliminating over a dozen costly and time-consuming steps. It combined digital prepress with color offset printing, and enabled printing directly from a computer file. The technology enabled short-run printing and on-demand turnaround, and it shook the industry to its foundations. With Benny’s invention, print would enter the digital era.”
Suddenly, now anyone could become a publisher, and I, and many, many others, took full advantage of Landa’s genius.
This was helped along by main disrupter number two: the rise of the internet. In this case, it was not a lone genius, but a series of geniuses, going all the way back to, according to Wikipedia, “The first recorded description of the social interactions that could be enabled through networking was a series of memos written by J.C.R. Licklider of MIT in August 1962 discussing his ‘Galactic Network’ concept. He envisioned a globally interconnected set of computers through which everyone could quickly access data and programs from any site. In spirit, the concept was very much like the Internet of today. Licklider was the first head of the computer research program at DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), starting in October 1962. While at DARPA he convinced his successors at DARPA, Ivan Sutherland, Bob Taylor, and MIT researcher Lawrence G. Roberts, of the importance of this networking.”
Many more joined in until the internet as we know it arrived on the scene on August 6, 1991, but didn’t really catch on until the mighty Dot Com Boom that started in 1995 and came to full fruition by 1998. By 2000, the Boom had become a Bust. It was over, but by no means finished. In fact, it was just getting started.
It was these disrupters that ultimately put Donald Trump in office, nullifying the billion dollars that Hillary spent trying to become President, along with the help given her by the so-called Liberal Media and Hollywood. Michael Bloomberg, one of the richest men in the world, lamented after the horse he bet on didn’t win, “Money can’t get you elected anymore. You are just throwing it away.”
Good point, Mike.
And, it is because of these disrupters that I am going into my 11th year at the head of this wonderful magazine. Thank you for helping us out by clicking on.
No, she sticks her hands in the muck and locates an oar, and slowly makes her way to shore.
Anderson recounts the sexual abuse she endured as a very young child and the domestic abuse (physical and mental) she suffered for years as a mother of three children married to a violent alcoholic with a severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. Astute enough to take her children and run after one incident of attempted murder, she fights the courts for years upon years, seeking full custody of her children with no unsupervised visitation rights for their father. She fears (rightly) that the good doctor will physically abuse, even kill, his own children.
The drama unfolds first on the Mississippi coastline where Hurricane Katrina has wrought a lot of damage. These heavily misogynistic southerners in the family court business look askance at Anderson’s published book of poetry, and wrongly assume that her poems are autobiographical. She’s perverse, they decide. So, she must fight to the death for every little concession. Having most of the town, the PTA, the church, the upstanding families fill the courtroom to vouch for her barely makes an impression on the judges. For years, she steadfastly plays the part of an ultra-conservative, submissive housewife, despite the fact that before her marriage she earned a graduate degree from Sarah Lawrence College, and worked as a fashion model in Paris, as well as a singer, dancer, editor and author.
Some Bright Morning gives us yet another story of heart-wrenching suffering, akin to Jeannette Walls’ wonderfully sad book, The Glass Castle, and other memoirs of adults looking back on childhood abuse. What sets this memoir apart is its simply gorgeous prose:
We make chapels of our scars. They cross our skin and soul, a topographic map of the past. Our scars are built on the delicate yet dazzling scaffolding holding our weary, ragtag hearts aloft. I have in me a scar where my childhood sits, made up of playground songs and the raised-red slap of despair, inside the slate-blue cloudless empty.....Read More
Bei Dao is an iconic poet in his native China—so iconic that the Chinese government exiled him for 18 years and still bars him from making public appearances when he goes back. His reaction has been to keep writing poetry that glorifies individual feelings and senses—poetry that has made him a frequent Nobel Prize nominee. City Gate, Open Up, his ethereal memoir about growing up in Mao-era Beijing, is very much a paean to the human senses and his own youthful resilience in a world gone mad.
The boy, born in Beijing in 1949 just a few months before Mao Zedong declared the birth of the People's Republic of China, was named Zhao Zhenkai. When Zhao grew up and became a poet he adopted several pen names to evade the authorities, and Bei Dao (“Northern Island”) was the one that stuck.
He was the leading figure in a movement known as the “Misty Poets,” a pejorative description the Chinese government gave them on the grounds that their work was obscure and hazy. Actually, the “Misties” were striving for realism as seen subjectively, through the poet’s eyes—which in itself was a radical statement at a time when the revolution was supposed to embody collectivist realism.
Their poetry was also a personalized response to the leaps of logic and acts of terror that were part of Mao’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, and at least in Bei Dao’s case, his own role. Bei Dao’s most famous poem in the Chinese-speaking world, “The Answer," is a tribute to the first Tiananmen Square protests, in April 1976. It begins with the lines:
Debasement is the password of the base,
Nobility the epitaph of the noble.
Members of the 1989 pro-democracy movement chanted those words when they, too, took to Tiananmen Square. Bei Dao wasn’t there—he was living in Berlin as a writer-in-residence at the time—but, because of his strong influence on the movement and because he had instigated and signed an open letter to the government demanding the release of political prisoners, the authorities charged him with inciting the demonstrations and barred him from returning.
Between 1989 and 2006 he lived in Europe, the US and Hong Kong, but he was allowed to visit China in 2001 because his father was ill and dying. The return to a Beijing that was developed beyond recognition was what inspired him to write this memoir.
It was painful to go back, not least because Beijing, now lit up “like a huge, glittering soccer stadium” had changed into a city he didn’t recognize. He couldn’t go home again; developers had razed his whole hutong, a traditional alley of homes clustered around a courtyard.
In the moody first chapter, titled “Light and Shadow,” Bei Dao presents a meditation on darkness, partly a metaphor for history, partly just the way things were. “When I was child, nights in Beijing were dark, pitch-dark,” he writes. Bicyclists would dangle paper lanterns on their handlebars at night, and for children, darkness was a setting for hide-and-seek.
Then, as he does frequently throughout the book, he goes for the jugular of Communist orthodoxy. Darkness is for telling ghost stories, but in a country that didn’t believe in God, ghosts were old superstitious heresy. So, Chairman Mao made appeals to tell stories about why no one should be afraid of ghosts, which presented a troubling complication: “to not fear ghosts first requires that one accept the existence of ghosts.”
In other chapters, memories of smells, sounds, toys and games, furniture, and.....Read More
Still here I carry my old delicious burdens.
Walt Whitman, Song of the Open Road
I carried my mother, though the burden was light,
as she shed her possessions, moving from family
home to senior apartment to assisted living
to nursing home, tethered by a clear tube
of oxygen, a deep-sea diver. When she swam
away to explore new depths, I let her go.
I carried my son, though the burden was heavy,
a thirty-three-year-old with the mind.....Read More
When I moved to San Francisco in 1980, I was struck by how most blacks lived in the large Victorian houses that the city was so famous for. I also soon discovered that in the Bay Area, from as far away as Vallejo, to Richmond, Berkeley and Oakland, there were large communities of blacks living in nice, large single family homes.
“You can thank Harry Bridges for that.” one of my colleagues at my department at UC Berkeley informed me. He also said dryly that those blacks’, “days were numbered because most of those houses were now owned by elderly black women. The gays and the Chinese are going to get them soon.”
I knew little about Harry Bridges at that time. I knew that he was the leading labor leader on the West Coast, and he ran the longshoreman union. But that was about it. But there was a hell of a lot I didn’t know, and this book provided me with a hallowing tale that was well worth knowing about: the 20-year crusade to deport Harry Bridges. But what made so many in the United States so fearful of Bridges?
Harry Bridges was born in Melbourne, Australia, on July 28,1901. He arrived in the United States as a teenage sailor in 1920. By the tumultuous 30s, he was working in San Francisco as a longshoreman. He was also knee deep in union politics and soon became an outspoken, daring and popular labor leader, organizing longshoremen on the entire west coast. Afrasiabi points out that, “Bridges tolerated no racial discrimination in the union,” something few labor leaders did in the 30s.
All of this soon put a huge bullseye on Bridges’ back. Writes Afrasiabi, “at the same time, various quarters had started to take note of Bridges and his perceived agitation. Government agents working for the National Rifle Association had sent messages to Washington, D.C., warning that Bridges was communistic in nature and would lead to communist control of the waterfront.”
Other union leaders, jealous of his growing power and influence among the working class; and ship owners, who did not want to pay the living wages that Bridges demanded, and could no longer just move their ships to another port on the west coast because of Bridges’ organizing longshoremen from Washington state to California-- joined in on the attacks.
Notes Afrasiabi, “These communiques to the halls of power—all revolving around fears of communism on the waterfront, and.....Read More
The Sympathizer has won almost every prestigious award conferred on a book published in the United States—The Pulitzer Prize, The Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, the California Book Award for First Fiction, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, and so on.
I can see why. Viet Thanh Nguyen a tour de force of a writer. His work bristles with intelligence and compassion and bites of satire. He plunges into his story:
“I am a spy, a sleeper, a spook, a man of two faces. Perhaps not surprisingly, I am also a man of two minds. I am not some misunderstood mutant from a comic book or a horror movie, although some have treated me as much. I am simply able to see any issue from both sides….
“But in the month when this confession begins, my way of seeing the world still seemed more of a virtue than a danger, which is how some dangers first appear.
“The month in question was April, the cruelest month. It was the month in which a war that had run on for a very long time would lose its limbs, as it the way of wars.”
The April of which he writes is April, 1975, and the war is the Viet Nam War, and the activity on the 30th of that month is, after seven years of fruitless, bloody conflict that took the lives of many, the Viet Cong army at last smashed through the gates of the American Embassy in Saigon and from its balcony waved Viet Cong flags in victory, while all American personnel and many Viet Nam sympathizers fled by whatever means they could—by airplane, helicopter, and boat—i.e., the Fall of Saigon.
Our Viet Nam narrator, referred to only as “the Captain,” has been an Aide de Camp to a South.....Read More
N ovelists are creators of worlds, and we read novels in large part to be pulled into places different from that in which we lead our quotidian lives. But, we don’t appreciate Anna Karenina only because it allows us to briefly inhabit Nineteenth Century St. Petersburg and Moscow, but also because we grow to care about Anna and Levin nearly as much as we do for those closest to us in our own lives. Or, we may be repelled by the characters while at the same time being sucked into their worlds.
Jarett Kobek is a master at drawing readers into the worlds of his characters.
In a narrative that shifts between the first-person to a third-person narrator who seems to be a part of Atta’s perverse world, Kobek’s first novel, Atta, tells the story of Mohamed Atta, thought to be the ring leader of the 9/11 attacks. It is a meticulously researched and chilling work.
His second novel, published last year, i hate the internet, is in some ways a meta novel in which Kobek steps out of the story to tell us what he is doing, including telling us that “this is a terrible novel.” It is set in San Francisco, which the narrator says is the, “most beautiful city in America… filled with the most annoying people in America.”
The book also introduces us to Adeline, a graduate of Parsons Art School in New York, who moves to San Francisco to become a comic book illustrator, and her best friend Baby, who is a best-selling New York-based science fiction writer. In the novel (and in reality) San Francisco has been overtaken by techies, many of whom live in the city and have driven rents and property values to ridiculous heights, and who are chauffeured to Silicon Valley in the ubiquitous vans emblazoned with the names of Google, Facebook, and Apple.
I loathe the word prequel but Kobek’s new novel The Future Won’t Be Long is a prequel to i hate the internet. And, it is also about a city in decay of another kind than that of San Francisco.
Kobek’s new book is about so many things that it is hard to pin it down to any one thing. It’s about sex in the 1980s and ’90s, mostly gay but also straight; the squalor of a New York City left to rot (it nearly filed for bankruptcy in 1975); the gay club scene set in the East Village whose leader is convicted of a grisly murder; the challenges of writers and artists in a post-literate era; and the solace of friendship.
The book is set mostly in New York’s Lower East Side and particularly the East Village from 1986 to 1996.
There are two narrators with the perspectives shifting throughout the book. One is a gay man who goes by the invented name of Baby (we never learn his real name) and Adeline, the student at Parsons.
The trope is that one comes to New York City to invent a life or to find oneself is truer than for a gay young man like Baby who comes from what he describes only as a “Podunk little Wisconsin town” to the city that doesn’t care what you are or where you come from and where you can shed your old identity and remake yourself.
Right out of high school, where he was a track star (this is important at several points of the narrative), he heads to New York where he says “I am yours. You may conquer me. I submit to your underground system of the soul. I am yours.”
Soon after he arrives, he is rescued from a squalid apartment with drug-shooting roommates by Adeline, who whisks him away to her dorm at Parsons. Adeline is a rich girl and arch ironist from Pasadena. Of her first semester at Parsons, Adeline says: “Darlings, you’ll believe me when I say that in such a heady environment, your Adeline heard some.....Read More
Editor’s Note: When Kara sent me this column, I thought, my God, she has been everywhere since she became Neworld Review’s Director of Photography. I took a look back over her work, and yes indeed, she has been globetrotting around the world, and bringing you, our audience, often breathtaking photography, from the Great Wall of China, The scary Demilitarized Zone(DMZ) between North and South Korea, the cool beauty of Iceland, the color and pageantry of India, and now, in a land that few Americans visit, but is one our great treasures, the state of Alaska.
And speaking of treasures, Kara Fox is a true treasure. Take some time out, and go back and look once more at some of her works. It would be well worth it......Read More
Our very own Neworld reviewer, M.J. Moore, has produced a heartfelt paean to the Greatest Generation, their service and sacrifices in the world wars, their heyday in the 30’s and 40’s, dancing to the beat of Tommy Dorsey and the other big band jazz and swing musicians. He even provides his own suggested soundtrack! He’s focused on recreating the era honestly, telling it “the way it really happened.”
Into the mix he stirs his love for Paris and his fascination with one particular Staff Sergeant and literary icon, J.D. Salinger, a/k/a “Jerry.” In one memorable scene taking place on August 28, 1944, he evokes a party celebrating the liberation of Paris attended by Salinger, Hemingway, Irwin Shaw, Picasso and his fictional protagonist of course.
Evidently a historian, musicologist, gifted researcher, and very gifted writer, Moore has chosen to recreate the era as seen through the eyes of an unnamed heroine, a former World War II WAC and retired college professor who, at 92, lies in hospice, dictating her memoirs into a cassette player.
He has given her one terrific voice—funny, charming, neither lesbian nor slut, contrary to the accepted view of WACS in those days—and the story flows effortlessly between her modern-day existence, befriending her nurses and interesting them in their country’s history and her accounts of the clearly remembered past.
He does a superb job of channeling the thoughts and emotions of this liberated-before-her-time woman—she was so real I couldn’t help but wonder if she was modelled on his mother or another beloved female relative. I am fairly certain that Moore himself did not live through this era, making this feat all the more remarkable. The female impersonation is of course not always one hundred percent successful; I myself did not feel totally convinced by the sex scenes. It was hard to ignore the suspicion that what I was reading was filtered through a male mind. But that’s a minor quibble in an excellent book.
Here’s an example of the main character’s distinctive voice:
Once, when I tried to tell my story to a fellow who was about my age (just a few years older, actually), he more or less accused me of “talking through the wine” and you can safely assume that I swiftly off-loaded that knucklehead. It was......Read More
Tiffany scrawled her name, smoothed the single sheet of paper with her hands, and brought the letter to the couch, combing over the sentences for mistakes. She didn’t know what she’d do if she were to find an error—rewrite the whole thing?—but it was habit. There were a couple of spots where she thought she needed commas, and she was able to squeeze in the little curves. One more time, she read the last paragraph: I know what I saw, Art. I know what I feel. I just wish you’d been honest. Were you confused or just chickenshit? She ran her tongue over her teeth and placed the letter under a tissue box on the coffee table.
So far, the Santa Barbara summer days had been perfection. The heat was alive in the daytime, but now, at six in the evening, the air cooled and gained moisture. As a breeze pushed through a screened window and fell upon Tiffany’s face, there was a knock at her front door.
Her heart jolted and her neck stiffened. The last time anyone had come inside her home, it was months ago, when a handyman had entered to fix the garbage disposal. She didn’t like people, preferring to stay tucked away in her home where she was distant from society’s judgments and stares. “Hello?” a voice that she couldn’t make out warbled through the door.
Excuses for a potential Jehovah’s Witness or solicitor started unfurling: an appointment, sickness, picking someone up at the airport. Then, she thought she heard a little girl’s voice penetrate the hardwood door. “She’s so…”
She’s so what? Tiffany thought. Weird? Lonely? Obese? It was nothing she hadn’t heard before. She fanned her hair off her shoulders and yanked the door open.
Three people stood on the welcome mat. They were Tiffany’s down-the-road neighbors, a young family, who had only moved in a few months ago.
“Tiffany, right?” the man said. He wore smudged glasses and had nice, straight teeth. He was flanked by a waifish woman, and a little girl who couldn’t have been more than nine. The girl’s eyes were watery. “We’re the Gibbons, the new neighbors. We met the other day when a package accidentally—”
“I remember,” Tiffany said, wanting to add, “Why are you here?”
“Anyway… so sorry to do this to you, but could you watch Kayla for a little bit? My brother was in a car accident and my wife and I have to go to the hospital. We can’t reach the sitter, and we can’t leave her alone.”
“The hospital is no place for her,” the woman said. “Would you mind?”
“Please,” the man said.
Tiffany looked down, spotting the girl’s saddle shoes that were stained brown at the toes. “That would be fine,” she said. “I’m sorry to hear about your brother.”
“Thank you,” the man said. “I’m Ben, by the way.”
“Leslie,” the woman said.
“And that’s Kayla,” the man added.
Tiffany nodded, telling herself that she could place the letter in an envelope and address it later. The mail had long since passed anyhow.
“Go ahead,” the man said to his daughter. “It’ll be okay. Tiffany’s very kind.”
Kayla blinked and nervously entered Tiffany’s home.
“Thanks again, Tiffany,” the woman said. She and the man scurried to the road, where their SUV idled.
Once the door was shut, Kayla peered at the floor in the foyer and twisted in place, her black curly hair lifting with each swoop.
Tiffany led Kayla to the couch, thinking about how the evening had changed from open-endedness to responsibility. “How old are you?” Tiffany asked. Kayla held up her hands, showing four fingers on one and three on the other. Then she muttered something softly. “What was that?” Tiffany asked.
Kayla brought her knees up and placed her shoes on the couch. “My uncle is going to die.”
Tiffany stood and turned off the ceiling fan so she could better hear the girl. “You don’t know that,” Tiffany said.
Kayla’s eyes aligned with Tiffany’s stomach and stayed there. “I saw my dad cry.”
“He never cries.”
“It was a really bad accident?”
“I think so.” The girl nodded. “Have a lot of people in your family died?”
“Is it sad?”
“Sometimes it’s sadder when people you love are still around, ‘cause you know they could be better.”
Kayla wiped her eyes with the heel of her hand and asked Tiffany if she had a tissue. Tiffany pointed to the box on the coffee table, then went into the kitchen and returned with two glasses filled with ice and grape juice. They drank and Tiffany turned on the television. After Dusk was on, an apocalyptic film that Tiffany had seen in bits here and there, but never in its entirety. The end of time never frightened her, though. Our current existence—the one where we had to live with our choices—seemed far more terrifying than a world rife with fireballs and ice chunks. The movie, however, did seem to console Kayla. She propped her saddle shoes up on the coffee near her glass of juice, folded......Read More
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