October is always a time that makes me glad to be alive. The reason why? One, Fall always has the best weather, and I know that in one more month, the cold, wild winds of winter are on the way. Also, it was October, 13 years ago, that I first published an issue of Neworld Review.
I remember the moment I decided to start the then tabloid magazine. I had no idea then that it would become an international online publication that over three million folks have logged on in 104 countries and 1,666 cities across the globe!
I was just sitting on a barstool in the Garage, a bar in the Village, watching out a large window at old buildings I have seen since I was a teenager coming all the way from the Bronx to hang out in the famed Village. I suddenly had a profound epiphany.
I turned to Margaret, my favorite bar friend, who was sipping a glass of white wine.
“How about our taking over The City!”
She looked at me with skeptical eyes and took another sip of her wine. “Why not?” she finally said. “What else is there to talk about?”
The bartender, a young white man from Mobile, here in NYC to become a writer, overheard us. “I’m in,” he said loudly.
Lindsay, the gorgeous senior from NYU, now working part time as a “Wait Person,” also overheard what I said. “I’m in!” she yelled at Margaret and me.
The white haired Irish guy sitting at the end of the bar, who also was an online designer, also shouted out, “I’m in.
And so, thus was born, Neworld Review. Only in a time, a short 13 years ago in New York City, could this happen. That New York does not exist anymore. The New York of artists and writers are barely holding on. Most of Greenwich Village is boarded up in that section of Lower Manhattan. This city is now all about money, and little else. The last things the winners want are bar friends. Better a Friday night at NYU in International Finance.
This is now the city that Mayor Mike Bloomberg brought into being.
Meanwhile, we have yet another interesting issue. I just hope that we have 13 more Octobers.
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Theatrical producers who make it big on Broadway often start their climb from the Lower East Side of Manhattan in New York City, not the raucous frontier. Even fewer would dream of becoming a successful theatre owner in the storied West End of London. A third-generation Oklahoman, Max Weitzenhoffer has a life story as unique and colorful as you will find, a remarkable blend of risk-taking, glamour, and glitz that has been enriched by saloon keepers, oil wildcatters, wealthy art patrons, artists, and Broadway and Hollywood stars......Read More
With his prodigious and magisterial biography, The New Negro — The Life of Alain Locke (Oxford University Press, 2019), Jeffrey C. Stewart can take his place alongside David Levering Lewis, Arnold Rampersad and a few other living scholars who have delivered powerful summaries of extraordinary, iconic Americans, Du Bois in Lewis’s case and Rampersad’s study of Langston Hughes.
The book earned Stewart a Pulitzer Prize in biography this year, which is among several awards he has accumulated in an outstanding academic career. Currently, he is a professor and chair of the Department of Black Studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara. While he is the author of numerous books, reviews, and essays, his study of Locke may be his crowning achievement.
What Lewis and Rampersad did in two volumes, Stewart accomplishes in one and the insight and stamina is no less promethean as he harnesses Locke’s boundless intellectual prowess.
In more than 930 pages, 44 chapters and a cast of thousands, Stewart’s approach is meticulous, shadowing his subject as he darts across literary terrain, academic circles, European retreats, homosexual rendezvous, and institutional entanglements too numerous to count.
Many of the presumptions about Locke, particularly his gay proclivities are thoroughly discussed, mainly through letters, notes, and other marginalia. Stewart has thoughtfully amassed a long literary concerto, a bountiful life replete with an assortment of enthralling movements. In fact, Locke’s correspondences are the touchstone of Stewart’s research, and they not only offer an intimate reflection of Locke’s seemingly indefatigable desire to communicate with friends and frenemies, but also the social and political intrigue between some of the movers and shakers of his era.
After navigating my way through Stewart’s opus—and it was beginning to feel like it would take me as long to read it as it took him to write it—I had several conversations with others who had made the trek, most notably and rewardingly with Eugene Holley, Jr., whose article appears in Publishers Weekly. Holley, a prolific writer and a jazz buff of considerable depth, shared some of his opinions on Stewart’s book and suggested I check out his interview with him, which I did.
Several things leap from Holley’s exchanges with him, and one line Stewart gave him is pregnant with guidance: “The black tradition always meant that intellectuals write in a language that people can understand,” Stewart told him.
Stewart follows this preachment unequivocally, which can be a daunting task when he must explain the daunting aspects of Locke’s value theory that wind its way through the text like a leitmotif.
Each of the chapters is laden with complexities, and Stewart deftly unravels them, delineating and then counterpoising Locke’s ideas and conclusions against a coterie of fascinating colleagues and adversaries, many of them icons of the Harlem Renaissance. His relationship with Langston Hughes is a recurring theme—I was curious to see if Stewart would.....Read More
Some years ago, I came across a hadith, attributed to Mohammed, that I so loved that I painted a poster of it: “Acquire knowledge. It enables its possessor to distinguish right from wrong. It lights the way to Heaven. It is our friend in the desert, our society in solitude, our companion when friendless. It sustains us in misery. It is an ornament among friends and an armor against enemies.”
Many a time I have found its message to be true, and I believe the women writers featured in Lyndall Gordon’s book, Outsiders, would agree.
These five women writers are Mary Shelley (1797-1851, author of Frankenstein), Emily Brontë (1818-1848, Wuthering Heights), George Eliot (1819 -1880, Mill on the Floss, Middlemarch), Olive Schreiner (1855-1920, The Story of an African Farm) and Virginia Woolf (1882-1941, Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, A Room of One’s Own). They all lived in the 19th and early 20th Centuries. Perhaps notable is that only one of these five who wasn’t British was Olive Schreiner, who was born in South Africa.
Ms. Gordon writes, “In a period when a woman’s reputation was her treasured security, each of these five lost it. Each endured the darkness of social exclusion.” When, for example Mary Shelley was left friendless in London, “She read night and day. The worse her situation socially or emotionally, the more completely she aligned herself with the greatest minds. To turn to books was her way of restoring or renewing herself. Call it self-education or call it the resource of women with no access to institutions of learning. Mary Shelly, the Brontës, George Eliot, Olive Schreiner, Virginia Woolf—all were on the margins or outside society in one way or another, and all were readers (italics mine). Books were their companions across.....Read More
Fruitless words meaning nothing dangled in front of me like a flag of freedom knowing no liberation
Exasperated sighs lingering in my ears while you ride your stallion through the countryside
Plans to architecture I have no way of climbing while you sit comfortably on the top floor drinking your gin.....Read More
Being on an airplane can be hazardous to your health. Cabin mates sneezing and coughing; babies with runny noses carried through the cabin to keep them happy while they spread their little germs on everything they touch, and people with no visible signs having some weird contagious disease filling the air with every exhale…
Those coupled with the stress of cancelled or late flights can be challenging. Retuning sick from my last trip, probably from an ill passenger sitting next to me and from going 24 hours with no sleep, I decided it was time to vacation at home…my ‘staycation.’
Travel has little to do with miles. You don’t have to leave your own city. This past month I experienced being.....Read More
Someday I’ll meet you again,
and we’ll sleep like the eyes of hurricanes,
lidless in our trek to taste each other’s tongues
as they throw dirt over my face, into the quivers
of my throat. I’ve been meaning to say a little
something each night, to light a candle
in the doorframe, set fire
to the empty church: For you, I’d drive
the people back into each other’s arms,
where they could see, finally, your
softness again. I meant to say I knew you
were unhoused, the original nomad. There were
none living there among the pews. What was left.....Read More
One of the pleasures of no longer being a college undergrad under no compunction to write callow and pretentious essays about books you barely understand to be read by bored professors or TAs is that you can go back to books that suddenly resonate with clarity after you’ve packed away some years of experience.
This is about a massive but rewarding book that deserves attention in a time when attention spans seem to dictate that novels weigh in at under 300 pages.
Sometimes a Great Notion is a monumental work that draws you in and gradually envelopes you like the fog curling through the branches of the sugar pines, tamaracks, silver spruce and acacias spreading up from the Pacific coast of Oregon and into the logging town Ken Kesey calls Wakonda.
Kesey charged down to Stanford from his family’s dairy farm in the Willamette Valley after graduating from the University of Oregon in 1959 and staked his place in the creative writing program led by Wallace Stegner and Malcolm Cowley, asking to be taken seriously as a writer.
He brought a manuscript with him and when he read passages from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest to Cowley and fellow seminarians, Robert Stone, Edward Abbey and Larry McMurtry, Cowley, the top editor at Viking Press, took notice and soon shepherded the book through publication at his publishing house, and Kesey was on the way to stardom. Cuckoo’s Nest made him a writer to be reckoned with. The book would be optioned by actor Kirk Douglas and would be adapted into a stage play and later an Academy Award-winning movie.
But his second novel, Great Notion, is his masterpiece. After reading the manuscript of the 1964 novel, his friend Stone would say “Christ, there is no competing with this guy.”
Kesey would say that he worked on his mammoth of a book—It’s more than 600 pages—30 hours a day, and he would always hold that in this work he had given the best of what he had to offer. But he wasn’t constituted to spend his days alone in quiet rooms. He was a fabulist, a showman, gregarious and sociable—some would later call him the pied piper of hippiedom.
He left his writing loft in the house he shared with his wife and three young children in the hills above Palo Alto and assembled his Merry Pranksters, with whom he would travel the country in the old school bus dubbed Furthur (the later incarnation was Further) and whose adventures would be chronicled in Tom Wolfe’s Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, a book which demonstrated Wolfe’s sharp eye for detail and his tendency to miss the essence of his subject matter.
Great Notion is Shakespearian in its themes. It is the chronicle of the Stamper family, whose patriarch at the turn of the 20th century leaves behind the flatlands of Kansas, ventures to the far western edge of the continent and homesteads land in the forested village of Wakonda—a made up place that for Kesey is emblematic of the rugged, verdant, naturally unforgiving and sometimes rewarding land where the rare sunny day is obscured by arboreal canopies.
It is here that Jonas Stamper would bury a wife and raise three sons, whom he later abandoned to flee back to Kansas, leaving the young ones—Henry is just 16—to finish building the house he started along with his fledgling logging business. Jonas would claim the land had been misrepresented in the real estate brochures. It wasn’t the way he thought it would be. Rather than offering elbow room, “there was nothing…about the country that made a man feel big and important. If anything, it made a man feel dwarfed.”
For old Jonas the land “was permeated with dying; this bounteous land, where plants grew over night, where Jonas had watched a mushroom push from the carcass of a drowned beaver and in a few gliding hours swell to the size of hat.” It spooked him.
His son Henry, who had known nothing else, looks at it differently. He builds a small lumber empire and he grows into a crusty, hard drinking, tobacco-chewing lumberjack with a son, Hank, whom he grooms to take charge of the family business. After Henry’s wife and Hank’s mother dies, the older man—at 51—takes the train back to New York to find a young wife and brings back Myra, 30 years his junior. It isn’t a marriage made in heaven, but it brings into the picture a second son, Leland, who is destined to become Hank’s rival and the antagonist in the story.
This is an experimental novel that hits you from every angle. Kesey uses a narrative scheme that takes some getting used to but finally grabs you by the neck and pulls you deeper and deeper into the story. The narration shifts among characters, sometimes two or three times within a paragraph, or within a stretch of dialogue.
The story is sometimes told omnisciently, but often by a character in the book commenting in italics or parentheses. It takes some time to grapple with the scheme, but it is well worth the effort. You find yourself continuously fact checking the reliability of what you’re reading against what you have come to know about the character telling it.
Early in the book, at the birth of Hank, Henry receives the only gift his derelict father Jonas has ever sent. It is a copper-plated plaque that says, “Blessed Are the Meek, for.....Read More
When you think of going to a Broadway show, do you think that the show starts when the curtain goes up? While for the most part it does, but that is not the case with the Broadway musical, “Moulin Rouge,” playing at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre on W 45th Street. No, in fact, as you sit in the audience waiting for the show to start, the performers come out, clad in costumes from being scantily dressed to aristocrats to clowns. There are people wearing sexy costumes who go into cages and dance. The actors move about the stage and converse quietly. The pre-show goings-on get you into a frame of mind to be open for anything, and that’s a good thing!
What’s brilliant about this musical is its uniqueness; there’s nothing like it on Broadway. It is a decadent Broadway delight! It tells the story of the Moulin Rouge, a club in Paris in the late 1800’s, early 1900’s that was a place for the rich to go and engage in decadent, erotic behavior, along with experiencing burlesque shows.
Owned by Harold Zidler, the club is failing and needs the financial assistance of a conceited, rich Duke, who, of course, has a price for his help. That price is connected to the club’s star performer, Satine, played by former “Hamilton” actress Karen Olivo.
While the club needs her to please the Duke, she becomes attracted to Christian, a struggling, young songwriter. There are multiple storylines going on. There is also the story of Christian and the two struggling artists he meets, Toulouse-Lautrec and Santiago, who are trying to create a musical, get it performed at the Moulin Rouge and have Satine star in it.
*“Moulin Rouge” very successfully tells the story using snippets from popular songs to move it along. Songs from artists including Donna Summers, Whitney Houston,.....Read More
We live in paradox. It’s a "truth," universally recognized and universally denied in contemporary American society, that democracy is dying. Recognition that this "truth" is not a "false-truth" can be enhanced by reading Lynch's book in tandem with Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today's Students (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987) in order to behold what prism refracts conservative and liberal ideologies simultaneously. What Lynch explores at length in Know-It-All Society is illuminated with greater brevity in Peter Pomerantsev's The Info War of All Against All.
The prism is constituted by use of language and some consequences of speech acts which reconfigure ideologies.
The prism is digital technology, the powerful impact of the Internet and our commerce with social media. It is necessary for some thinkers, or at least thinkers who have the luxury to be philosophical, to compare Bloom's conclusion with Lynch's and to recover memory. Recovery is necessary but not sufficient, unless the gesture is transformed from enthralling theory into pragmatic actions.
Behold the conclusions.
Bloom: "This is the American moment in world history, the one for which we shall forever.....Read More
One day when Ming was ten years old, she ventured down to the cave beside the big Buddha dragging runty little Wu Li Nan along behind her. It wasn’t a deliberate plan, just an idea that came to her after the big boys punched him, stupid boy that he was. Li Nan’s uncle in Hong Kong had sent him a shiny green parka, like nothing you could buy in China, and he had to show it off. Ming saw the bullies, Tang, Yeng, and Eng, punching Li Nan and ripping off his beautiful jacket and pulling it to shreds.
Li Nan, Ming knew, would hide in the rice fields until he was sure they’d gone home. It was strange that the two of them were friends: the girl whom teachers described as the best student in the class and the boy who seldom did his homework. Instead of studying, Li Nan was always betting on things—soccer games on television, ping pong at school—and he’d set up betting pools of stones since no one had money to play with.
But in fact, he was Ming’s only friend. There was a group of five girls who used to let her walk home with them sometimes, but ever since she got into trouble for doing their homework for them—the teacher had noticed the similarity of the characters, despite Ming’s efforts to vary the writing—the girls wouldn’t talk to her. They got smacked on their hands for the homework incident, while Ming got a lecture about how she shouldn’t let lazy people take advantage of her. Now, when she passed the five girls they’d make fun of her ugly teeth.
That particular day, Ming found Li Nan crouched behind the stalks in the rice paddy with a telltale stain on his crotch. “Pee-peed in your pants!” She couldn’t resist taunting him; it made her forget, for just a moment, the hunger that was rattling through her brain. That was when she got a big idea.
“You can come with me and I’ll show you something scary,” she told him. “But it’ll eat you in one bite if you cry. Even the big boys are afraid to go there.”
Ming led Li Nan past the pink, scum-covered pond where the bullfrogs were going urp-urrrurrp, then through the grove of pine trees. The clouds were the color of ashes by the time they arrived at the Buddha on the cliff. Drizzle bit through the holes in Ming’s jacket.
“It’s so foggy, if a wolf comes along and eats us no one will find our bones ’til spring,” she told her snively little friend. Actually, he’d stopped sniffling and crying̶. He followed her to the mouth of the cave.
“We’re monkeys. Reeepp’eee eeee. You have to talk like a monkey. There’s monkeys inside and they’ll kill you unless you make like you’re one of them.”
“I’m not a monkey!” he insisted. Still, he got down on all fours, the way she showed him, and they crawled inside the hole. “I can’t see!”
It was pitch black, but as their eyes adjusted they could see crystals hanging from the ceiling like icicles and rising up from the earthen floor like toadstools. Li Nan made a funny sound, like “Aaaarrrrraaaaarrrrr!” that made Ming’s feet tremble for a second.
“Eat the toadstools!” She shouted it out like an order, trying to be louder than his shriek. “They aren’t poison. They’re candy.”
Li Nan pretended to pick one and give it to her. “This one’s free,” he said. “Now you have to buy more from me.”
“I found the candy. You pay me!”
“I stole it. Put your money in my pocket.” The darkness was making him brave. He took her hand and put it in his pocket.
She felt a big hole there, and he was pulling her hand through the hole and then she screamed. She was touching the thing between his legs. He giggled. Maybe it was funny—she wasn’t sure, but since it made him laugh she giggled too, and squeezed the thing, which made him laugh more.
“You wanna know a secret? I’m going to get rich when I’m big,” Li Nan said. Then, suddenly, he made the “AAAARRRRaarrrr!” noise again, even louder. “Look!”
Down on the ground was something white and round. Even in the dark, Ming could see two holes and below them a hollow mouth with a dead grin. Li Nan bent down and picked it up. It was a human head, with nothing left but the bones.
Ming knocked on Li Nan’s head. “It has no brains,” she declared. “Like you!”
This was the best day of her life, she decided.
Then she heard a splashing sound, and smelled the sharp stink of urine. Li Nan was making.....Read More
The morning after daylight savings begins, three weeks early this year. Waking to the darkness, I make coffee black, hot, strong. I need every sip.
The change in spring is harder than the one in autumn: the hour lost is missed, the hour restored spent without thought, an instant not an hour.
I was travelling with my sister in my dream,.....Read More