This Month's Articles


The Signature of All Things

By Elizabeth Gilbert

Reviewed by Amanda Martin

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The old cobbler (Jacob Boehme) had believed in something he called ‘the signature of all things‘ — namely that God had hidden clues for humanity’s betterment inside the design of every flower, leaf, fruit, and tree on earth. All the natural world was a divine code, Boehme had claimed, containing proof of our creator’s love.”

Elizabeth Gilbert has set her new novel The Signature of All Things, her first foray back into fiction since the “freakish success” (in her own words) of her memoir Eat, Pray, Love--in the 19th century. It is the story of naturalist Alma Whittaker whose life spans the century from her birth in 1800 in Philadelphia through her voyages in the Pacific in middle age, to her final years in Amsterdam in the 1880’s.

Actually it is a story that covers more than one lifetime, as it begins with Alma’s father, Henry Whittaker. Henry’s father works as a gardener in Kew Gardens during the reign of King George III, and Henry grows up with a knowledge of trees.

Determined to escape his family’s extreme poverty, Henry’s teenaged actions stemming from his intelligence, botanical skill, and larcenous spirit bring him to the attention of Kew’s supervisor, Joseph Banks, (one of the real historical figures who populate the book).

Instead of hanging Henry for his illegal deeds, Banks sends the boy sailing with Captain Cook on his ill-fated third voyage around the world to procure botanical specimens for Kew. After many years successfully working for Banks, the still young Henry strikes out on his own and parlays his botanical knowledge and acquisitions into wealth by partnering with a pharmacist to produce quinine and other herbal remedies which they sell at a ....Read More


An Excerpt from a Memoir

…and Mistakes Made Along the Way

by Fred Beauford

Chapter Three—The Bronx

Ed note: This chapter was left out when we originally serialized this memoir. We think that it will give even greater depth to what is a remarkable, deeply American journey. 

We arrived back to our hometown of Asbury Park, New Jersey late at night sometimes in either late summer or early fall. I am reasonable sure that this was the time of year, because the next morning, when we ventured out doors to investigate our new environment, and look around, to my great surprise the street was full of uprooted trees, some of which had toppled onto cars and houses. Debris was everywhere, and the air was still humid with the warm breath of the topical Gulf of Mexico.

It seemed that the day before we arrived, a major hurricane had blown through, leaving this part of New Jersey in shambles.

I was sorry I missed out on all the excitement.

Our mother left the next day, still a mysterious figure. From the brief time we were together you could have imagined the shyness on all of our parts. I can remember only.....Read More


Thinking in Numbers—on Life, Love, Meaning, and Math

By Daniel Tammet

Reviewed by Jane M. McCabe

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I like numbers—especially when written digitally, though, when spelled in words, they can also be titillating. I like the shapes of numbers, especially the number 5, which is made of two straight lines and a curve. The same is true of the number 3, for that matter, unless it’s made with two curves as shown here. When numbers are used to begin a sentence they should be spelled out—as in, “Fourteen hundred and ninety two is one of most pivotal dates in history.”

Numbers are personal and symbolic—the number of our address on Pine Street where I grew up is 2217. It’s an odd coincidence that the last four numbers of one of my sister’s telephone is 2271. My birthday is on the eighth day of the eighth month of the year—once it fell on 08.08.1988, making it, it would seem, a rather auspicious year.

The address and phone numbers of some New York friends are full of 9’s—they live in apartment 9E in a part of Manhattan with the zip code of 10009. I wonder if all those 9’s bring them some kind of luck.

Certain dates in history are watershed dates for me, a would-be historian. The aforementioned 1492 was not only the year that Christopher Columbus sailed west expecting to run into India, it was also the yearl.....Read More


Dry Bones (A Novel)

By Peter Quinn

Reviewed by M. J. Moore

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 Back in 1998, PBS broadcast a startling four-part documentary series titled “The Irish in America: Long Journey Home.”  Part IV is a culminating narrative that oscillates between an exploration of the legacy of Nobel Prize-winning Irish-American playwright Eugene O’Neill, and the Kennedy family’s mythic place in the American imagination.  The only commentator interviewed for both halves of that final episode was Bronx-born author Peter Quinn. 

At that time, Peter Quinn’s first novel, the massively ambitious Banished Children of Eve, had been available for five years.  Chronologically speaking, it was Quinn and Banished Children of Eve who helped set the stage for the success of Irish-related narratives that triumphed in the late 1990s with Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes.

Now comes the capstone volume of Peter Quinn’s “Fintan Dunne Trilogy,” which is a rare kind of literary triptych.  Quinn’s new novel is called Dry Bones, and it brings to an end a three-volume series of novels that all feature the same protagonist (New York-based private investigator Fintan Dunne).  But each of the three books can be read as a stand-alone work.  

Perhaps author James Patterson has best summed up what makes Dry Bones and the first two....Read More



By Jason Donnelly

Reviewed by Andrea Janov

Your personality is what’s holding you back

The very cover of Gripped, by Jason Donnelly advertises a quote from the author’s mother saying, “After the shock of the first paragraph, I actually liked the book.” And all the pre-publication hype included at least one line about the outrageous opening. Needless to say, as soon as I received the book, I rushed to read that first paragraph. I was expecting something really vulgar, something that would make me question if I should read any further, and, while the intro is rather risqué, it wasn’t as shocking as I expected it to be. Maybe it was because that line was so hyped up, maybe it was because I grew up watching CKY videos, or maybe it is because we are so desensitized these days, I needed much more than ejaculation on a cat to make me blush.

That said, what I took from the first paragraph was not only how quickly it grabs the audience, but how succinctly it introduces us to our narrator. It establishes character and voice - telling the world about coming on your cat is a bit depraved, but from this paragraph we see that this character is also witty and snarky.   After this intro I was afraid that the novel was going to rely on shock value, but it pleasantly kept the wry voice and tone of the character, while also offering a compelling plot. It slowly lured me into this world and before I realized it I was half way through the novel.

From the beginning of Gripped we are sucked into the narrator’s world. Marky, the narrator.....Read More


On Boringness

by Sally Cobau

When Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize for Literature this year, my husband texted me on the way to my early morning class.  I was ecstatic and let out a yelp as I made my way across campus.

Munro is my “favorite author,” and I felt personally vindicated—she’d done it!!!  Just this past summer, when my English-teacher father asked what book I would take to a deserted island (a delightful question for a passionate reader to consider to be sure), I answered Alice Munro—Runaway.  Not the Bible.  Not Shakespeare.

Yes, I chose “specific,” rather than grand, but I also chose (obviously, I guess) a book I could read again and again and again.  I read Alice Munro a couple of times a week, usually in the bathtub, letting the dexterity of her language, the subtlety of her thoughts soothe and startle me, Like all good writing, I feel more alive when I read Munro. 

But the closer I got to my class, the slower I walked.  I wanted to share this fantastic news, but exactly what would this mean to a group of freshman who were assigned English 950, a step even below the dreaded comp 101?  And on a larger scale what would her stories mean to this group? 

This was a fabulous class, full of characters and individuals passionately involved in doing their thing—elk hunters and swing dancers and women who brought their horses from far away to attend a university known for equestrian studies.

I had a sinking fear of what they would say about Munro: BORING.  My husband has suggested that you never share your favorite writers with your students because their reactions will only disappoint.  He no longer shares Ray Carver with his students because they do not seem to “get” the enigmatic writer. 

So far I haven’t listened to this advice and I have my students read Junot Diaz, Russell Banks, and Joyce Carol Oates.  I also hand out selections.....Read More


Desert Men Lift Cigarettes To Cut the Dust And Light The
To Hold Vultures At Safe Distances

A Poem by Monica Storss

i need to talk to my medical
maryjane provider about an artistic grant
for my sex-positive ranting in iambic pentameter.

you know the gov't.....Read More



by Kara Fox

The Chloe Capture Way

Photos by Chloe Shields

Women are bombarded with sexy images of beautiful women everywhere, in magazines, on runways, on billboards, in movies, on television. We compare ourselves to airbrushed, photoshopped perfect images. Chloe Shields is changing what many women think they can never attain! From a beautiful Boudoir Photo Shoot, for her clients, can come a new way of perceiving oneself. Her images can have a large impact on a woman's life, and they can have a huge impact in a long lasting way.

Since 2010, Chloe Shields has achieved acclaim as an international wedding and boudoir photographer in the greater Chicago area. Her brand is unique. Watching her grandfather take photographs at weddings, seeing people filled with joy as they viewed his images influenced her path in life, which is her passion.

Chloe feels that every woman is capable of looking glamorous and sexy, but they don't see it that way. We see a woman's confidence soar when she has the opportunity to feel sexy and to know that she is just as stunning as all the ladies in the media. Confidence can be sexy! 

The goal of Chloe Capture Photography is to not only give clients a beautiful portrait, but also to "wow" them with an experience that will leave them feeling like a supermodel. Not claiming to be a psychologist, Chloe has done boudoir shoots for.....Read More



An Essay by M. J. Moore

Age 13: One page in, Salinger’s novel enthralls me.  I’m in 8th grade.  Everything Holden says in The Catcher in the Rye about missing and loving his dead brother Allie and his kid sister Phoebe stirs me up.

Age 17: Newly graduated from high school and working at the mall.  There’s a bookstore.  It’s magnetic.  On each break, I scan the bookshelves.  Finally discovering the Salinger Quartet.  All in a row: The Catcher in the RyeNine Stories.  Franny and Zooey. Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction.  One by one, I make them mine.  I’m still hooked on Catcher.  The other three mystify me.  That changes.

Age 21: Now Catcher seems tired.  I re-read it less frequently.  Just a glance now and then.  After a slew of jobs, broken hearts (theirs and mine), the onset of anxiety attacks and bouts with panic (none of which is discussed openly; it’s a pre-Oprah world) and the increase in two-fisted smoking and drinking, now the Glass Family stories rule.  In Franny and Zooey, in particular, solace is found.

Age 23:  My new Salinger gospel is Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters.  World War Two is between the lines on many pages. I’ve moved several times, always packing the four Salinger paperbacks side by side.  At a café on the .....Read More


Massacre Pond

By Paul Doiron

Read by: Henry Leyva

Reviewed byMichael Carey


Paul Doiron, the Maine wildlife enthusiast is back with the fourth book in the Mike Bowditch series. Massacre Pond follows Bad Little Falls (reviewed in Vol. 5 No. 38) occurring at the end of the following summer. Bowditch’s past adventures have given him a lot to think about, and one of the most unexpected and important developments is his new friendship with Billy Cronk, especially since Mike got him fired from his last job.

Now Billy has a new job working for the multimillionaire, Elizabeth Morse. She made her money with herbal products and has set her eyes, and her money, on saving a large track of the North Woods and turning it into a National Park, a safe haven for wildlife. The community is in an uproar causing Morse to receive countless threats and hate mail, but no one had ever put their words into action until now.

After Mike receives a disturbing call from Billy, he meets his friend on Morse’s private property to find a crime scene the likes Maine’s wardens have never seen. Ten moose have been shot, killed, and left for dead. This blatant disregard for the rules and wildlife has everyone appalled. As firs .....Read More


50 Great Myths About Atheism

By Russell Blackford and Udo Schüklenk

Reviewed by Steven Paul Leiva

book jacket

“There is an old saying about propaganda—probably not a myth—that a falsehood repeated often enough will eventually be taken as truth.”—Russell Blackford and Udo Schüklenk

I am a member of the least trusted group in America. No, not because I’m a book reviewer—or, worse, a novelist (novelists are known liars, you know)—but because I am an atheist. According to a series of studies conducted by Will Gervais at the University of British Columbia, the religious distrust atheists more than members of other religious groups, more than gays, and more than feminists.

The only group they distrust as much as atheist are rapists. Rapists—not Wall Street Bankers or late night TV pitchmen, but rapists! 45% of them also wouldn’t vote for an otherwise qualified presidential candidate if he or she happened to be an atheist. And, for God’s sake (if I may be so bold), don’t ask them to welcome an atheist into the family via marriage. Lock up your sons and daughters, the heathens are a comin’!

Having been an atheist since my teen years, and not terribly religious before that, I am not surprised by this. I have dealt with misconceptions about atheists and atheism for years. But, considering myself to be a trustworthy individual, and not necessarily liking to be aligned with rapists, you will excuse me if I’m a bit annoyed by it. It’s but a small annoyance—I live, .....Read More