We are going through an interesting period in our existence as a country. It is not a struggle between black and white, straight and gay, men and women, or even labor and capital.
Instead, it is about are we really a country, and is there even such a thing as an American? This came to a head when Candidate Donald Trump said to a loud, cheering crowd, “Eeither we have a country, or we don’t.”
I knew at that moment that he was going to win. And, I was right. I also knew that the Open-Boarder folks were going to come after him with every asset that they have, and they have considerable assets, including the awesome ability to unleash, at will, foul mouth, unfunny comedians; and that they did, with me being right yet again (and being censored by Facebook for saying who the folks were that was going to try to run him out of office, and why they were doing so. I told Facebook to kiss my ass, and closed my account. They kept emailing me, saying it was all a big mistake).
Speaking of mistakes, one big one that the Open Boarders people make is, “We are all immigrants.”
I came out of the closet years ago and declared myself an American. It was a liberating experience, and I then knew what those gay men during the 70’s felt when at long last, they boldly declared, “This is who I am. Get over it.”
In recent times, my DNA test showed me the truth that I always knew to be true. I am a creature of the New World. I am from Europe (German, Danish, Finnish), Africa (Yoruba, Bushmen of the Kalahari), Asia (Native Americans), and even a whopping 1.3 per cent Neanderthal.
I have been denied teaching jobs because of my saying that I am an American. A Chair of the Africana Studies Department at Cal State Northridge recruited me to come teach in his department. I eagerly accepted his offer. A week later he called me to come to his office. When I arrived, he was looking at a film review I wrote in the Crisis magazine, of the movie, Spike Lee’s School Daze.
“Did you write this?” he asked
He was pointing to a passage where I said that “the One Drop Rule was a bad joke that only a nation of morons could believe in.”
“Yes,” I said. “I wrote it.”
“How could you write something like this. You are an African, period. There is no such thing as mixed race. That’s what you are. An African.”
Well, that was the end of that job. It lasted an entire week. Maybe I shouldn’t have use the word moron because the Ph.D. from Harvard sitting in front of me was clearly not a moron. Maybe nitwit. It has a softer tone.
When I sort out agents for my books, and they read the contents, they quickly showed me the door because of my openly American characters—the baskets of deplorables, now made famous by Hillary—blacks, whites, Asians, and Hispanics bedding down with each other and carrying on outside of their “communities” (in the Mideast, they are called Quarters, like The Arab Quarter, Jewish Quarter, etc.) -- rather than ever knowing each other.
One agent was even so upset with what she read that she told me that, “we will see that you never be published in this country.” She never told me who the “we” were, but I had my guess. She forgot one thing, however, something that is promised to every American, if they care to use it: Private Enterprise. So now I have a book company, Morton Books, Inc., an international literary/arts magazine, Neworld Review, and thousands of readers for my seven novels and two books of essays.
I have nothing against immigrants, and I want to make that clear.
But, there are also a lot of us Americans in this country, and we should be acknowledged and respected and not be called names nor denied work; and do not try to brainwash us to make us think that we don’t exist or try to make calling oneself an American, hate speech.
Enjoy this issue of Neworld Review. Most of America showed up, including a recent immigrant from Ireland, our cover subject Damian McNicholl.
Thank you for clicking on to us.
Damian McNicholl was born in Northern Ireland and is an attorney, literary agent and author. His critically acclaimed first novel, A Son Called Gabriel (2004) was chosen as an American Booksellers Association Booksense (now IndieNext) pick and was a finalist in the Lambda Literary Awards and independent publishers’ ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards. His recently published novel The Moment of Truth: A Novel, from Pegasus Books has been chosen as Houston Chronicle’s 10 Books to Read in June and has been well reviewed by Library Journal, Booklist and Foreword Magazine among others.
Damian has appeared on CBS, WYBE Public Television, National Public Radio and other media outlets in the United States and United Kingdom to discuss his work. A Son Called Gabriel will be republished in Fall 2017 with a new ending and Author’s Afterword. He lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and is at work on a new novel.
Note-Full disclosure, Damian is my literary agent. I was intrigued by how he combined his being an agent with writing novels. I attended a bullfight when I was eleven and we were living in the South of Spain. It was great fun and then awful.
“McNicholl vividly brings to life the bulls and the brute physicality of the art of bullfighting.”
Q. :What brought you to bull fighting?
I’ve always been fascinated by feminism and male female relationships. I’m a strong believer in equality between the sexes, and I wanted to explore that theme. I came across an obituary in the New York Times, which was a report about the death of Patricia McCormick, who was the first female matador. After I read her obituary I thought, this is the novel I want to write because she was a woman way before her time in the 1950’s. She went into the most masculine arena, no pun intended, to prove she was the equal of any man. Bullfighting is perceived as a very masculine activity. I thought this is the perfect arena to have my heroine go into to prove that she could do this, to survive in a man’s world.
Q: So, it wasn’t so much that you wanted to write about a female Bullfighter but you found the perfect story in Patricia McCormick?
Exactly. Bullfighting was the last thing in my mind. When I read about her character I thought, wow, I’d love to base a story on a petite, pretty woman as the protagonist who wants to strike out and be in this masculine world and portray the bigotry, the sexism and the violence that she encounters. The fifties were extremely segregated in terms of the sexes and what was acceptable in that world.
Q: Did you actually go to Mexico?
I’ve been to Mexico and read a great deal about Mexico but I had to do a great deal of research to bring it to life.
Q: Having made the decision about the setting and her I noticed you were very specific about the organization around her—the Maestro who was her teacher and other elements—was it a combination of imagination and research? How did you find out where a female bullfighter would have gone and stayed?
The stepping-stone was Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises. I picked up the skill in law school of how to skim though vast amounts of information and know what I could and couldn’t use. Once I read Hemingway he would refer to other books, which I pursued. Through those I came across Patricia McCormick’s own memoir. It was an interesting read, but in my mind, it was a book of its time because while she faced problems and discrimination she had written her book very carefully, and she didn’t detail all the barriers she’d encountered.
I read between the lines and researched her life because it was very.....Read More
One of the most compelling elements of Americana is the periodic rise of a true polymath. By definition, a “polymath” is “a person of wide-ranging knowledge or learning” (thank you, Webster’s). In other words, that person is all over the place.
For example, there is legendary filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola. Did your mind just flash on a gallery of great movies like The Godfather and Apocalypse Now or his other iconic films? Probably so. Yet, Francis Ford Coppola is also a winemaker and a musician who can still be found in certain orchestral rows – playing his tuba!
One other example: Ezzard Mack Charles. Does that name ring a bell? It should.
Ezzard Charles was the Heavyweight Champ of the world between 1949-1951, but because he defeated Joe Louis, the sportswriters were indifferent to the new champ. However, for solace, Charles did not turn to drink or drugs. Instead, he’d don a suit and tie (a quiet, somewhat mystical man, Charles was always a gentleman) and he’d be found playing the stand-up bass with other jazzmen at Birdland, and elsewhere.
Novelist Edward Kelsey Moore (we’re not related) is also a polymath. He is a professional cellist who lives in Chicago, and his new novel is a joyous, lyrical, graceful, intelligent, funny and downright memorable romp. Yes, it’s that good.
The Supremes Sing the Happy Heartache Blues is not about Diana Ross’ Supremes, nor is it a Motown-related narrative. In this novel, a group of lifelong friends are known to each other (and in general) as “The Supremes.” Their presence is one of the many lively triumphs of character giving this novel its buoyancy.
A routine plot summary would do a disservice to this novel. Too many spoilers. And it’s impossible for such a summary to do justice to the book’s animated tone. Suffice to say that The Supremes Sing the Happy Heartache Blues (a first-rate sequel to Moore’s prior bestseller: The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat) is a musically-informed, bright, spirited foray into late-in-life love affairs amid all human foibles.
Here’s how Edward Kelsey Moore kick-starts his novel on page one: “It was a love song. At least it started out that way. The lyrics told the tale of a romance between a man and woman who made his life worth living. Being a blues song, it was also about how that woman repeatedly broke the man’s heart and then repaid his forgiving ways by bringing a world of suffering down on him. Here, in a church, this piece of music couldn’t have been further outside its natural habitat. But the tune’s lovely mournfulness echoed from the back wall to the baptismal pool and from the marble floor to....Read More
Small-town white men who feel the world owes them something and hasn’t come through. While some are more rabid than others, they harbor a collective rage that makes them an imminent danger to themselves and others, especially when they argue with their wives and ex-wives or trust their money and votes to con artists.
Now there’s a storyline for our times. Jonathan Dee’s The Locals, his seventh novel, set amongst the mostly working-class families of Howland, Massachusetts, a fictitious town nestled in the scenic Berkshire Mountains, is testimony to his finely-tuned ear for the anger that has gripped its tentacles around this American demographic.
That, on the surface, is the theme of The Locals. But, taken with a larger body of Dee’s work, it’s more a continuation of a deeper lament about being adrift in 21st century America.
Previously, in his highly acclaimed novel The Privileges, a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize and winner of the 2011 Prix Fitzgerald and the St. Francis College Literary Prize, Dee took on the opposite end of the socio-economic spectrum. In that novel, hedge-fund manager Adam Morey gets very, very rich, partly through some shady insider trading that he maneuvers with such cold-blooded expertise. He never gets caught.
Excessive wealth makes it easy for Adam and his wife, Cynthia, and their two children, April and Jonas, to live a life closed to outsiders and devoid of memory. Yet, Adam and Cynthia appear as largely inaccessible individuals uninterested in the past right from the first chapter, which takes place at their wedding. It’s the kind of big messy wedding that in some families might be the scene of both sentimental reminiscences and old grudges, but even at this stage of their lives, right out of college, the about-to-wed couple have decided to keep their families out of their lives, while their friendships are mostly frat-party bonds that aren’t resilient enough to withstand adulthood.
The townspeople in The Locals have a similar aversion to acknowledging the past—which negates, say, trying to gain some self-awareness through psychotherapy—and to a large extent, an aversion to one another. They do business together and have falling outs. They marry and divorce. They have affairs for temporary solace, then drift apart. Agreeable conversations are in short supply, and adults never spend time hanging out with friends—in reality, a lifeline in small towns. They have nothing to believe in, and, as one character sees it, that shows up in a willingness to believe anything. They’re especially willing to believe that others are out to get them.
Dee has a signature technique of weaving in and out of myriad points of view, taking us into the heads of about ten different characters in The Locals and changing perspective every few pages. The result is occasionally a Rashomon effect, depicting different interpretations of life, but the greater result is a moral ambiguity that’s so pervasive it forces the reader to wonder what’s happening to us as a collective species.
It’s as if the characters have a bit of the African wildcat in their makeup; that’s the solitary feline thought to be the ancestor of the housecat, and in Dee’s fiction it sometimes feels as if humankind is evolving in the opposite direction, from social, tribal.....Read More
From that point on, Lucy turned to me, discussing with me in great details what she planned on doing. Sometimes she listened to me; sometimes she didn’t. But she got what she wanted: my involvement. I became, in essence, Father, her Joint Chief of Staff, so to speak.
I was still living in Mother’s apartment but was spending almost every night with Lucy. We both just did not want to be away from each other. Ever! And Anna K. Libid? Just months after Lucy and I had started our affair, she took ill. It was almost as if she had kept her good health long enough to know that Lucy would not be alone if she died.
But this also meant that I would soon be faced with decisions. What if something bad happened to Anna; then what should I do? Should I abandon Mother’s apartment at long last and move in with Lucy? That made more sense, in that her place was larger, and in many ways, better than mine.
It sat facing the ocean. Her room, which we stayed most of the time, was large and sun-filled. This was so important because of the 35 watts light bulbs. It was also filled with large, expensive, comfortable Old World furniture.
“This was my father’s room. It’s just as he left it,” she once explained to me. As she made her comment, I saw for the first time the Manhattan Syndrome. I could feel her sadness and sense of great loss.
The lit candles, after we turned the lamp out, gave her room an even more warm, embracing feeling. I could see the ocean and hear it on nights when it became fully alive. Then, the ocean also gave me much comfort—in many ways more than wine or sex or doo wop, mainly because I knew it had seen so much and will see even more, as the life that once crawled out of it to walk on solid ground, lives, dies and lives and dies—until it is all over, and then the mighty ocean once again reclaim everything. We are the water planet despite what we on land might think. That much is sure.
But, could I give up Mother’s apartment? It would mean a breaking away not only from a comfortable space but a breaking away from Mother. Each day I spent in that place, I felt her presence. I saw her sitting on the couch, at the dinner table, cleaning up my room. Could I really fully throw myself in with this often-scary young person I barely knew?
I sat with Anna K. Libid, as Lucy left for one of her meetings.
“Look after grandmother. I don’t think she’s well. Please don’t leave until I get back. Okay?” Lucy spoke in a low ominous whisper, as if Anna might overhear us, as she kissed me goodbye and gave me a hug at the door.
“Really. She getting worse?”
“Are you going to do anything about it. I mean, what can we do to help her?”
“I’m going to go see my caregiver in the morning. I hate that....Read More
In his essay “Among the Disrupted” the great critic Leon Wieseltier writes that, “Aside from issues of life and death, there is no more urgent task for American intellectuals and writers that to think critically about the salience, even the tyranny, of technology in individual and collective life.” Wieseltier cares little about being called a Luddite, which he isn’t, and he is aware of the platitude that the young embrace new technology in ways incomprehensible to the old.
But what he is talking about is the way technology has steamrolled through our cities, bulldozing the bookstores and record stores and transforming the content that writers used to be compensated for, to “content” that writers are expected to produce virtually for free, at the same time serious reading declines precipitously. And more than that, discourse is reduced to that which can be quickly digitized and sped through the ether.
Here’s a recent missive from an alumni magazine from a journalism school I once attended:
“In the world of social media, innovations in 2016 were all about speed, efficiency and frenzied launching—it seemed like every five seconds a major social media app was coming out with a new feature to better serve their communities…. We went from only allowing the world to see your most precious, beautifully curated moments to being able to capture everything that happens in between.”
Infantile grammar aside, but really? “Frenzied launching”? Manufactured urgency may be the true genius of Silicon Valley. Steve Jobs’ brilliance lie at creating a need that we never knew we had; that would eventually have to be added to Maslow’s hierarchy—the need to be digitally connected instantly all times. As for the “most precious, beautifully curated moments.” Can the peak moments of our lives really be curated? And, to what extent are those moments actually unrecognized in the frenzied rush to report everything to invisible and ephemeral “friends”?
This is not new. Henry David Thoreau said, a century and half ago: “Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things.”
Indeed. Here is what Wieseltier wrote: “Everyone talks frantically about ....Read More
[a] all what i know is what
the mountain is the
mountain is true
and here is march
[d] in golden light
and the day where you....Read More
The Tibetans Buddhists know much more about the dying process and the transition into the afterlife than is commonly known in the West. According to Sogyal Rinpoche, author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, bardo means “transition” or a gap between the completion of one situation and onset of another. Bar means “in between” and do means “suspended” or “thrown.”
Tibetan bardo teaching are extremely ancient and are found in what are called The Dzogchen Tantra. The Tibetan Book of the Dead is a unique book of knowledge. It is a kind of guide book or travelogue to afterlife states. To Tibetans, bardo means the intermediate state between death and rebirth.
I bought the Rinpoche book after a dear friend died as means to better understand what he might be going through. What happens when people die is more of interest to me now than it was when I was young and felt that I was immortal.
It was this curiosity that lead me to purchase Lincoln in the Bardo. Even though I knew it would be a fictionalized account, I thought it might give me a glimpse into the afterlife. In it, I knew before I read a line, that George Saunders imagines the grief-stricken Lincoln returning several times alone to hold the body of his son Willie.
In the book, it is February, 1862, and the American Civil War is raging, taking a huge toll of life on both sides. The President’s beloved eleven-year-old son has fallen ill, gravely ill. When Lincoln and his wife Mary think he might be improving, they host a festive state dinner, only to find that he isn’t recovering and, in fact, dies.
The story that unfolds in a graveyard over the course of a single night is the conversation among several cynical ghosts, namely Hans Vollman and Roger Bevins, and others. They are stuck in the bardo because they are unhappy, led unsatisfying lives, and they feel that they are inconsequential and incapable of influencing the living. It reads more like a play than an ordinary novel.
George Saunders writes, “many years ago, during a visit to Washington, DC, my wife’s cousin pointed out a crypt on a hill and commented that in 1862 while Abraham Lincoln was president, his beloved son, Willie died and....Read More
People manipulating other people in the name of science
Our narcissistic anti-hero, a film celebrity named Kurt, is determined to “solve love.” Why does love not last but instead dissolves into indifference, boredom, and antipathy? For ten years he has been working on a stalled project, The Walk, trying to capture his own essence on film, staring at photos of himself from every angle, but incapable of finishing his project. Now he decides an inquest into love should take precedence over everything else.
“He did have this hunch that people had been missing some key element of romantic love. He felt sure there was a way to decode our disorganized reactions to partnership.” He assembles the GX team which supplies him with a woman for every need: The Mundanity Girlfriend, Anger Girlfriend, Emotional Girlfriend, Maternal Girlfriend, and so on. The women are instructed to respond positively to all his suggestions and comments and are even given chemical stimuli to alter their reactions.
Kurt, you see, is not quite happy. He experienced some trauma as a child. He changed his name. His relationships have never lasted more than a month or two. He’s ambivalent about all the paparazzi and media attention he receives. He’s seeking answers.
Enter our anti-heroine, Mary aka Junia, a young woman who distinguishes herself by doing almost nothing, saying little, and letting herself be manipulated. She’s had a childhood mildly reminiscent of The Glass....Read More
I pack the red knapsack with honey and crackers. A notebook. I leave the stuffed bear out. He smells wet, green. My father found him in Grandma’s basement next to newspapers. He’d been Aunt Penny’s before she ran away. The red knapsack has a boy’s name on the back: Eric. Grandma got it at the Retarded Children’s Thrift Store where they sell broken toasters. Children don’t work at the thrift store, Grandma said. They live in the back on white linens stained brown. When people buy things it helps them eat. They eat green Jell-O. We are poor but not retarded.
Yesterday my father got paid for painting a house blue. Money makes him sick. It paints the whites of his eyes red and he forgets me. If he saw me with the red knapsack, he might call me Eric. I feel more like a boy.
I’m too smart to run away, so I pretend by sitting under the tree. I’m a hobo as old as the tree. Grandma said the tree is being strangled by moss. The moss looks pretty, though, like soft carpet or velvet or the inside of a funeral.
I push fingerprints into the moss and wait for my mother to come. She puts needles into veins to feed the dying. She loves me, but she’s three days away, longer by a car that overheats on the highway. And gas is almost fifty cents.
I didn’t want to leave her. He knocked on the door when he knew I would answer, when my mother was at the store buying hominy and oats and a sad red pepper (cut away the rot). He said, Erin, let’s get ice cream. Hop on. I jumped on his back before he could get away. Daddy. It was a miracle, so....Read More
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