I am entranced with a book that can bring back an entire world. I have been reading Bill Goldstein’s The World Broke in Two: Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot, D.H. Lawrence and E.M. Forster, and the Year That Changed Literature.
I didn’t think that Goldstein completely pulled it off, but what he did do was to jar my memories, and I was taken back to the world of D.H. Lawrence and his wife Frieda; Mabel Dodge, Lytton Strachey, the Woolf’s, the Bloomsbury Circle and an entire world were novels and poems meant so much to so many.
What the author did was to print the many letters and memoirs, then read between the lines of their novels and poems, and craft an interesting look at not only the authors, their interactions with one another and the period in which they lived in: Post World War I, the time of the Lost Generation.
That’s what a good book can do for you better than any other medium. Film, television, audio and visual arts can’t even come close. Yet in this new world that we now live in books are slowly becoming second-class citizens.
But nothing is better than the joy of reading, especially as you grow older, and you have that layer after layer of information that can slowly be peeled away and take you anywhere you want to go and to places you just might not want to go!
I also can’t believe that I have written this column to you, the reader, 80 times. When I see how wonderful and interesting an issue is shaping up, I feel a growing sense of excitement, and I know with certainty that I have another good issue to send to you.
This is especially true when we have an issue, as this one, that not only marks a highpoint, but has become a full-fledged arts magazine with the addition of a theatre and visual art section. This is issue, No. 80. It comes hard out of my mouth and makes the kid in me go, wow!
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For those of you who have not read Book One of …and Mistakes Made Along the Way, it dealt with my childhood when I went from foster home to foster home, a few wonderful years living on my grandfather’s large farm in Northern Virginia, to a harrowing, brutal Dickensian six years in a horrible foster home in cold, snowy Buffalo, to finally living in an all-white, middle class, mainly Italian area in the Upper Bronx, where my two brothers and I were reunited with a mother we barely knew.
But, in many ways, the time I spent with no real guides on how human beings were supposed to function, and especially a black American male living in the most racist society on Mother Earth, or how was I supposed to behave with other human beings, no matter their color-- no one ever said a word to me about all of this.
However, as it turned out, this was my salvation, silently given to me by some unknown, ever watching God. I was a blank slate, with the little do’s and don’ts that became imbedded in my mind, being put there only by me.
That was the good side of my solo encounter with America and the world. For example, I saw little that could stop me from saying and doing whatever I wanted, much to the dismay of others around me. Calling myself an American really bent them out of shape, especially black nationalist and Jewish liberals, who believed strongly in separate but equal, and scoffed at the notion that there is something called just a plain American.
Maybe if I had lived in the South and not New York, it would have been Black Nationalists and WASPS saying the same things, but I never met any WASPS. In fact, a friend of mine who lived in the first low income housing project near me, the Edenwald Houses, and who was first black friend I finally had at the age of 14, James Johnson, said to me one day years ago, that we never saw any “real” white people growing up in the Bronx.
I guess, for him, the Jews, Irish, and Italians that we knew could not be considered white in his eyes.
I was shown the door after my first year of high school, so two years later I joined the Army at the age of eighteen and served with Elvis. I decided soon after my service, as I slowly began to think of myself as a genius, especially since the Army said I had a IQ of 149, that I could become President of the USA because of my love for President Kennedy, who always seemed to be talking directly to me—if only I could get a law degree like him.
By this time, all my friends began to see me as somewhat strange. One friend even laughed in my face at the news that I wanted to be President.
“Nigger, are you crazy! You don’t even have a high school diploma.”
Yet the laughter soon stopped two years later when I had not only a GED high school diploma, but also was now a student at NYU, way before Affirmative Action. I had skipped high school and went straight to college. Who does that! I must be the genius I now thought I was
In addition, I started my journalism career at NYU by starting a student newspaper, The Faith. And at 25, I started a national magazine, Black Creation: A Quarterly of Black Arts and Letters, now proudly in the new African American Museum in Washington; and, for most of my stay at NYU, I was a Big Man on Campus. And, best of all, I have made the history books (55 books and counting) just by Black Creation alone.
All of this was because I never allowed others to tell me what I could or couldn’t do. I had a funny kind of reasoning for my attitude. What I knew from American history was that it was the Northern Europeans that prevented blacks from being free because they had guns, bombs and the rope, and didn’t mind using them against any black they disliked.
My favorite example is what happened to a young black woman, Ida B. Wells, who was born a slave. She co-owned a newspaper, the Memphis Free Speech in the 1890s, and spoke out against lynching and racial injustice. For her efforts her house was set upon by a white mob one.....Read More
I wanted to take a selfie with the world
but her black eye could not be covered
nor the midnight in her gait so I asked
her to dance instead. Two moons in her
feet, two stars, two phosphorescent fish—
how they swam across her strange islands,
dragging behind them lines of tackle and bait.
Protruding from her side, an arrow fletched
with mottled turkey feathers bled splinters
and dust around her own scarred-over.....Read More
Theatre in New York City is the best in the world! People come from all over the globe to experience a Broadway show. So, it is no wonder that in the 2017/2018 season, Broadway shows have grossed $1.44 Billion. As phenomenal as this number sounds I can believe it, because many a times I have left the 42nd Street subway on the 8th Avenue line, exited at the 44th Street exit, and been greeted by lines going around the block of people waiting to get into The Phantom of the Opera.
It is a quite common thing to see long lines outside of Broadway theatres prior to both matinee and evening performances. Lines packed with tourists from around the world or other states across the U.S., coming to New York to experience Broadway’s best. They are coming to New York to experience what the Big Apple is famous for, the Great White Way.
I have been a theatre critic for 33 years and I do it because I absolutely love theatre. To me theatre is a gift from God, because, think about it, for two to two and a half hours an audience can escape from the problems and issues going on in their lives and buy into a created world on a stage.
Now in New York that world can happen at any number of Broadway theatres. And, Broadway is not the only option for theatre, there is Off-Broadway Theatre, Off-Off Broadway Theatre and Black Theatre. There is such an amazing.....Read More
For better and for worse (pun intended), there’s a tradition wherein significant others of famous male writers publish memoirs after the late, great scribe has gone off to that literary pub in the sky.
Mary Hemingway, the fourth and final wife of Ernest, wrote a lengthy account titled How It Was. The last of Norman Mailer’s half-dozen beleaguered brides, Norris Church Mailer, published A Ticket to the Circus – telling us plenty about ol’ stormin’ Norman. Even Philip Roth’s short-lived marriage to Claire Bloom (they lasted five years) yielded a book—the far-less-than-flattering Leaving a Doll’s House.
In a more positive light than all the above, we now have Carol Gino’s new memoir: Me & Mario. It’s a combination of a love story and a whole lot more.
Carol Gino is a nurse, educator, and author who enjoyed her own best-selling success years ago with her novel The Nurse’s Story, and her nonfiction chronicle Rusty’s Story. In Me & Mario, she recapitulates her twenty-year involvement with Mario Puzo, whose third novel (The Godfather) has made him legendary.
Gino met Puzo in 1978, when Mario hired her as a private-duty nurse for his ailing wife Erika. At that time, Erika Puzo was dying of breast cancer, and the Puzo family refused to let her languish in a hospital. So, Carol Gino hired on as Erika’s nurse.
One year later, after Erika’s passing, slowly and with justifiable nervousness all around, Carol and Mario began to incrementally engage with each other more and more. Although they never married, they were partners to each other in every way from 1979 until Puzo’s death in 1999. Those twenty years bookend Me & Mario.
As a natural-born storyteller with a rhetorical verve all her own (along with a remarkable gift for re-creating conversations), Me & Mario is a crisp, energetic, intelligently recounted and compassionately humorous memoir. It really sings.
Here’s how Carol Gino sets the stage (and the tone) for all that follows:
The Mario Puzo I got to know intimately over the 20 years we worked and played together — as lovers and best buddies — was much more than “the Mafia man” his readers thought him to be. Yet, he did possess the same intelligence, cunning, and strategic thinking he gave Don Corleone in his book The Godfather. He was as devoted to family, as reasonable, and as wary of betrayal.
In time, I found that Mario was even more unique and complex than any of the characters he created. And certainly funnier. He had a real understanding of people, and endless patience. In all the years we spent.....Read More
Lynne St. Clare Foster, lives and works in New York City. She is a master of the conceptual portraiture and creates moments of contemplation with her pen, brush and computer. Her work both in illustration, fine art and photography informs, enlightens, amuses, entertains and even disturbs.
Lynne is a professor at Pratt Institute and The City College of New York and also sits on the board of directors of The Society of Illustrators where she the founded the Societies' Tuesday Jazz Sketch night.
She won’t sell the country house. Not yet!
And not because of Locust Lake, sailboats in summer.
Alders in snow. Not because of the long view of the Poconos,
Those graduating waves of forest green fading
To watery sage tiered like a chiffon dress.
Lost in those folds, the dizzy roller coaster
Of marriage, sickness, the push pull of desire.
Paul planted peonies. She, a lover
Of woodblock prints, bamboo, and toro nagashi:
Lit lanterns set free on a river.
Her tears water the earth where peonies proliferate.
In life, he betrayed, but in death transmogrified,
Missed. At night, she denied him.....Read More
Ken Locker has a unique way of memorializing the ordinary. He moves his images from their everyday realm to another-worldly level. In this new body of work, he has eliminated the sky. What the viewer sees is the ordinary with greater drama as he simplifies the viewers’ focus. These images seem purer and yet, they are unchanged from how they would appear if they were in competition with a crisp blue sky. I have admired ....Read More
In The Man Who Fell from the Sky, Bill Fletcher, Jr.’s debut novel, one of his character’s says of the plot, “Amazing, you couldn’t make a story like this up.” But Fletcher does, and the short chapters, suspenseful narrative, and incisive prose keep you turning the pages, waiting to see the next eventful twist, right to the end.
The title alone is enough to draw you in and Fletcher delays explanation of this spiral through space—a World War II crewmember of a bomber who slips from the plane after dislodging a stuck bomb—as he develops his cast, particularly his protagonist David Gomes, an aspiring journalist at a small press in Cape Cod.
When TJ Smith is mysteriously killed by a sniper one morning after leaving his house and entering his truck, the novel engages the reader, and like David you want to know why this seemingly upstanding citizen is the victim of an assassin.
But as the tale unravels there are other victims, and,.....Read More
The Monk of Mokha is a good read, probably because it’s a real-life story told by a skilled writer, Dave Eggers, the author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and other good reads. He keeps the story moving along at a nice pace.
The Monk of Mokha is the true story of a young Yemeni-American man, raised in San Francisco, who dreamt of resurrecting the ancient art of growing coffee in Yemen and had the willingness to put a plan into action. Mokhtar Alkhanshali is 24 years old when the story begins and is working as a doorman when he becomes fascinated with the history of Yemen’s place in the development of coffee as a beverage enjoyed the world over daily by millions of people.
Ask historians where the drinking of coffee started, and some will say it began in Ethiopia in the 9th Century, however, others might say it began as early as the 6th Century, 575 AD in Yemen.
According to the Ethiopian apocryphal story, Kaldi, an Abyssinian goal herder from Kaffa was herding his goats through the highland near a monastery, when he noticed they were jumping about in an excited manner, bleating loudly and practically dancing on their hind legs. He found a small.....Read More
Cold and another storm
coming, the weather liminal,
littoral. I dream of shores
and memory, of my sister
suddenly more herself,
the body of the past.
Bodies are precious.
The Syrian child, a girl,
on the front page of this
morning’s Times, come
home from school to find
no home. Her house razed,
nothing is said about her
family: where were they,
were they killed, does she
have a family living,
a living family?
She is pale, stunned, her
eyes empty. Her shawls,
bead necklace look like
those my five year old
would wear, an.....Read More
Grace L. Jones Who Loved Black Theatre and Loved Her People, Passes at 90 Years Old.
When people think of New York and theatre, they automatically associate it with Broadway, off-Broadway and off-off Broadway, but there is another vibrant and vital type of theatre in the Big Apple.
In New York, black theatre is an enormous component of the theatre fabric of the City. Whether you are going to see theatre in lower or midtown Manhattan, Harlem, Brooklyn or Queens there are black theatre companies out there telling the stories of African Americans. These companies are focused on doing plays and musicals created by African Americans and featuring black actors on the stage. There is so much black talent in New York. They are not just actors and playwrights, there are producers, directors, and technical staff. black theatre is something that has been a part of the City for decades.
Pioneered companies include New Federal Theatre and the Negro Ensemble Company. Now, in Harlem there is Take Wing and Soar Productions, Classical Theatre of Harlem, National Black Theatre, the New Heritage Theatre, the Firehouse Theatre, the H.A.D.L.E.Y. Players, and Harlem Repertory Theatre.
In Brooklyn there’s the Billie Holiday Theatre and in Queens, Black Spectrum Theatre. Many of these theatre .....Read More
His eyes were blue, Utah-blue, and his hands blue-veined in his fortieth year of adolescence. He leaned over the hood of my truck. Knowingly tapped a black metal dome.
“This is your carburetor,” he said with insulting carefulness, as if I wouldn’t have known.
I wouldn’t have known. “Cleaned her right out,” he asserted. “Oughta run like a top now.” He glanced at his young employee, whose overalls said “Jim”; they both were named Jim. The boy nodded, grinned.
I touched the carburetor lid myself. "Good," I said, "that's good. Because I have to drive through Wyoming next week . . . ."
"Never been there," the boy interrupted. Smiled a toothy smile. I stared. I knew I was playing right into it.
"But you only live thirty miles from the border!"
He ducked his head in negation. "Got no reason to go there."
Jim the Elder reeled our attention back in closer to his own fishing pond. "We figured out," he said, his eyes holding mine importantly, "that this truck was manufactured near the ocean."
My mind was still on the young Jim, borderphobic. "Near the ocean?"
"Yeah. Cause look at all this corrosion in the metal. It's from the salt in the air."
I focused where he was pointing. Little white pocks roughened the surface. I ran my finger over them. "No, it's not the ocean," I said. "See, where I used to live in New York, Rochester, they use way too much salt on the streets in the winter--all the cars are like this."
He squinted away from me. "No one uses that much salt. No. That's from sea air."
He turned his back, which meant I should follow him into the office.....Read More