Tuesday, November 26, 2013

No More Black Fridays

I used to feel pre-weariness when came the Christmas season. Black Friday meant drowning myself into shopping and finding decent presents under a budget that is neither Donald Trump’s nor the Kardashian’s. In other words, Black Friday was just that —too annoyingly dark. But work would not stop there.  Getting the decorations ready inside and out, if fun, would subversively add to the fatigue. On Christmas Day, when others were relaxing, I, like many women, would be cooking. Hell, I thought, the Christmas of most women actually comes after Christmas.

Busker picture in Key West

So this year I have changed the formula. Pierre and I will be traveling, letting restaurants feed us and the sun give us comfort and joy. Key West, a combo of fun and culture (Hemingway’s home, after all), will be our destination. I’ll let you know later if this was the right choice.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

SHATTERED PUZZLE --- A review of Laura Lippman's WHAT THE DEAD KNOW

    Two girls disappear in 1975 and, as expected, their parents never recover from the atrocious experience. One survives, however. Doesn’t live, but survives and does it rather well. Now, Laura Lippman builds a puzzle around events, time, and psychology. It is an ambitious project, often successful, frequently hanging on to dear life. Going back and forth between mom and dad, daughters Sunny and Heather, the cops, the investigation, the suspicions, the love affair that happened, the love affair that could have happened; doing all that is quite a juggling act.

    A juggling act filled with interruptions. And these interruptions kill pace and tension more often than not. I am tempted to give up on this novel. As soon as I am engaged in one aspect of the plot Lippman decides to take me elsewhere. Once, okay. Twice, mm. Beyond twice and thrice, grrr! There is no time to like or dislike the characters, or get properly involved in the investigation. What could be a fabulously interesting view becomes a broken window. Shattered glass glued together instead of stained glass re-creating a full picture.

    But I hang on. The reason: Lippman is definitely a writer. Her prose can be impeccably appropriate. And when pace finally picks up, the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle finally click. But that begins to happen in the second half of the novel, when What the Dead Know finally becomes a suspense novel.

    And that’s why I can only give three stars to this piece of fiction, because only half of it really works. And it doesn’t even work up to the end. There are two or three strong moments when Lippman could have concluded her novel. Instead, she lingers and dilutes her sauce, and does it in Mexico—which is not supposed to be a flavorless background. Double-injury here. Did her publisher or agent ask her to produce a certain number of pages? I have read so many genre novels with insipid conclusions that I believe it is a possibility. If this is the case, this demand is not only childish and absurd, it is criminal in the literary sense. It could easily kill a masterpiece. And some still wonder why some decide to become Indie authors.               

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Literary fiction and genre fiction have been seen as enemies by both writer and critic. Approach a literary reader with commercial fiction and she might look at you as if you were offering her arsenic. The same can be said about someone who only spends his time on horror. Mention literary lines and he might make a face. Dangerous stuff! Keep that away from me! But is genre really the enemy of literature with a major “L”?
    Voltaire “Micromégas” is considered a seminal work of science fiction while Voltaire himself is not really someone world literature can dismiss.  And how about Edgar Allan Poe, another central literary figure? Although he is classified as an American Romantic, isn’t it the inventor of the detective novel that makes him step beyond his century?
    So why today’s divide? Genre fiction is now seen as commercial (even if a majority of genre authors struggle) and there are those who claim that authors there spend less time in prose and more time in plot. Genre concentrates on action; literature on psychology. Is that really true? You can’t get more commercial or more successful than Stephen King. But examine his prose and you will see someone who loves to harmonize words—and does not neglect psychology, either. I am not a Stephen King fan; I don’t read his genre. Yet, when I came across his writing, I was struck by its caliber. That, reading mysteries that go beyond their duties as whodunits, plus the fact that we live in times where cultures and styles are meeting and melting, pushed me to write this and ask: should genre fiction be seen as separate from literature or as a branch of literature?
    What’s your take on this?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


To appreciate this novel one has first to place it in its historical context: the 1930's, at the core of the Harlem Renaissance, known then as “The New Negro Movement.” Or does one?

    Nature speaks to Janie Crawford, Hurston’s heroine, nature and its open spaces; so when her grandmother forces her into an arranged marriage, Janie feels locked into a place that turns her dreams into ashes. Leaving her husband in order to widen her horizons and following her vision is indeed a revolutionary act in the Black America of the 1930's. What if I sliced off the adjective in the sentence? Would that make the act revolutionary? How about the country? Indeed any woman leaving her husband in the 1930's would commit an act of undeniable courage. But Janie assumes this dream is linked to another man, that she cannot dream alone. At the time, that may be true. Still, if her ambitious and authoritarian second husband uses her as the continuation of his dream, he also makes her a rich widow. What has been crushed and repressed in Janie has not necessarily died, however; there is a phoenix somewhere ready to fly out from these ashes.  At first, this phoenix looks like Tea Cake, a charming man younger than Janie as well as a gambler not keen on rational thinking. With him she will let her hair free, assume her womanhood. Although Tea Cake is the winner in this trio of husbands, he does hit her, if only once. Hurston could have chosen to have a completely gentle character here. Her lucid eye, albeit compassionate, compels her to honesty. There is a lot of progress to be made when it concerns respect toward women, be it in Black or White culture. Even the best men are prisoners of that culture. Although Janie discovers love with all the moments of joy that passion can convey, she never completely finds herself while living her adventurous epopee with Tea Cake. This said, during all these years of struggle that will culminate with the flood that eventually kills Tea Cake, Janie builds herself. And her return to her place in men overalls and amidst waves of female nasty gossip is a triumph of sorts. They can say what they want. She has finally found herself. Because she dared to take the journey.

    And so did Hurston. For the novel, with its subject, metaphors, and singular pacing, makes for a great act of valor. The author does not hesitate to portray a black racist among her bunch, a business owner who would rather serve white or light colored people than people her own color. A woman in constant need of bleaching out her own identity. This is a profoundly tragic character, brainwashed by the domineering culture and denying her own self.

    One can understand why the great Alice Walker played the phoenix here, that is brought Hurston back to life in the mid 1970's. With her flowing use of the vernacular, her compassionate yet perspicacious view of human nature, Walker is a brilliant Hurston inheritor. What Hurston brought to the literary scene can make the Harlem Renaissance proud, but like Janie herself who despises limits, her work goes beyond borders, as the universality of Watching God in undeniable. Women know Janie Crawford the minute they meet her. They understand the way she talks to nature, the way she dreams her space, the way her reality is beyond definition. Defining the undefinable and universalizing a theme while maintaining the identity of a culture, is a tour de force that only a central author could achieve. So thank you, Ms Walker, for kicking unjust oblivion you know where and placing Zora Neale Hurston right where she should be.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Channeling Diochet

For a long time I convinced myself that I chose to write in English ---instead of my native tongue, French--- because I needed to distance myself from my emotions in order to be able to express them more lucidly. In order also to survive these emotions. For when I crossed the Atlantic over thirty years ago it was under exceedingly painful circumstances. I had parted ways with my family. Little did I know, or perhaps little did I realize, that this was the beginning of the end. I had to start all over again. A new life, a new country. A new me.

And this new me would begin with awkward steps writing in a new language. Writing in French would, technically, have been so much easier. French was after all my best subject at the lycée. With few exceptions, my literary and philosophical essays always got the best grades. But tragic circumstances made the French language too heavily charged when the time came to write my story. For that's what fiction writers start with, something autobiographical. And writing an autobiographical novel in French would have crushed me. I would have felt the stabs of past happenings as if they were happening all over again. So I switched to English. And the telling became more bearable.

That's what I told myself until I looked at his picture the other night. On a golf course, dressed in white with sunglasses. Alluring.  A second cousin, more uncle than cousin. A functioning alcoholic. A swearing man. And completely blind.  He came to live with us and made my childhood not only livable, but magic. He loved to walk and so did I. He grabbed my shoulder; I was his eyes; he was my guide. And he was the first person to introduce me to the English language. If he loved to swear in his native Basque language, English must have meant to him new horizons with infinite golf courses, a sport he played without seeing for most of his life. Joseph, which, in Basque, is pronounced "Dioshet" and that our family lexicon translated into "Diochet." So looking at his picture, I am wondering now, as I am writing these lines to you, if I am not simply channeling Diochet. Making his spirit alive again in a country that fascinated him and needed eyes to see. A vision that he only could get in his imagination. So many times he would speak of "L'Amérique." Perhaps, somehow, I have become the continuation of that vision. I am still Diochet's eyes; he is still my guide.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Marie-Jo's Voice & Noise: Life and Lifers

Marie-Jo's Voice & Noise: Life and Lifers: I have spoken before about my epistolary friend Jason. He is an "insider." Not a political insider. But someone whose life will be...

Life and Lifers

I have spoken before about my epistolary friend Jason. He is an "insider." Not a political insider. But someone whose life will be inside forever. A lifer. A prisoner. Yes, I am friends with a prisoner and not ashamed to say it. Our letters have grown more confidential to the point that, on occasion, we console each other.

At some point, Jason wanted to talk to me so, about two weeks ago, his father arranged for a phone conversation.  How was that going to happen? Sometimes a relationship in writing doesn't translate well into a voice relationship. Was this going to be an awkward dialogue filled with cliches and loaded silences? I didn't know but, for some reason, I was not overly apprehensive. I must admit that, that same week, I had to cope with a mouse infestation, and that the resulting fatigue might have prevented anxiety to develop. Blessings in disguise. Deer mice, ha.

After some difficulty connecting, Jason was finally at the end of the line. That's when I realized our friendship had grown strong. We were comfortable with each other from the very beginning. We cracked some jokes. I asked him to give names to my invading mice. We were two spirits connecting. Prison walls and wire fences couldn't block this escape, couldn't impeach this freedom.  Compassion has no walls. And I am not necessarily talking about this side of the fence.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Marie-Jo's Voice & Noise: 20!

Marie-Jo's Voice & Noise: 20!: Remember the story about my little friend the mouse? The one who came every night as I was watching TV and asked, "What's for dinne...


Remember the story about my little friend the mouse? The one who came every night as I was watching TV and asked, "What's for dinner?" She was an insolent little brat, going into the trap, getting her meal, and getting out as if this was one of her summer residences.

So I ordered other traps. And caught her. As I went to release her into the woods, she looked at me as if to say, "Is that how you thank me for keeping you company?" The house at night felt sort of empty after that. Frasier and his brother went into their snobberies without interruption. Should I have adopted that little thing after all?

I put all my traps away. The following night, as I was going to bed, I saw a little head appear from behind a door. What the f*ck! So my friend had apparently doubled. Multiplied, actually, as you'll see. I set the traps again. And looked around the house for openings, holes, cracks. What I discovered were tunnels hardly wider than my middle finger (yes, pun intended), which I sealed and covered with bricks and tiles.

Since this past Friday, I have sent 20 mice to the forest where they belong. When caught, some go, "Now, how do I get out of this?" as they move the door slightly. Some are paralyzed with fear. Others are, "Hey, I like this peanut butter! Is there more?"  And the more aggressive ones shake the door frantically and say, "Let me out of there, you bitch!"

Inevitably, I do. Let them out. Hoping they'll stay there.

Sunday, August 4, 2013



It took me forever to finish this mystery that seemed to have promises, at least at the beginning. Was I seduced by the Paris evocations that seemed to avoid cliches and went instead to narrower and darker streets? There might be that. There are also the French words and expressions, fairly current, which pop out here like mushrooms. French expressions in American novels are not always used wisely, or when they are, there is always that annoying spelling or grammar mistake. Cara Black appears more careful, at least in the first half of the novel. And the errors that come out later are minor.
    But that is all for the seduction part. The plot itself goes all over the place while the pace drags. Detective Aimée Leduc loses her sight, but my own sense of empathy gets paralyzed. I really don’t give a damn. And this, despite the fact that one very influential person in my life was a blind uncle with whom I used to take long walks when I was a child. As for the terrifying Beast of the Bastille, he seems plastered on the decor like some horror movie poster from the 1940's.  The investigation is handled by a bunch of scattered investigators, either private detectives or cops (“les flics”), mostly ineffective. Too many flics spoil the soup.
    Finally, all these narrow passages and streets that had their charm in the beginning start to resemble each other in the end. I no longer recognize Paris. Where on earth is the City of Light? No abundance of gallic expressions, no simple enumeration of street names will recreate a Parisian atmosphere. There is a special rhythm in Paris, or a variety of rhythms, a mix of sass and poetry.  After a high traffic boulevard your steps may land on some pocket of quiet. A little further, you may struggle in a walking crowd until the city airs itself again. The Seine, Paris’ main artery, is the city’s magic mirror. I get little of that here. I get names, listings. Even characters feel like listings. And the few who are fleshed out appear boneless.  As for the ones with a skeleton in their closet, they are simply soporific.
    This is my first experience with a Cara Black novel, and probably my last. I don’t find her characters appealing, with the exception of little person René, a computer genius who is also Aimée’s colleague and best friend. Besides the few elements mentioned at the beginning of this review, he is about the only redeeming factor in this novel.   

Thursday, August 1, 2013


She came last night again, her pace slower. She even looked at me. "Where the hell is dinner?" she seemed to ask before hiding behind a sliding door.

Damn! I thought. The traps didn't work. That thing is too tiny, too light, and managed to eat crackers, cheese, peanut butter, hell, a whole fucking banquet, and glide by without disturbing the clap-lock system. That, or I bought a piece of shit from amazon that got glowing reviews. Take your pick.

I am talking, of course, about my new tenant, a mouse. If I call the animal  a "she," it's because "souris" (mouse in French) gets the feminine gender.

Every time I see her, I can't help thinking about a novel I wrote, a tongue-in-cheek romantic comedy where a sassy woman finds a rat at her place and decides to feed him cheese. Fiction is meeting reality here. I am thinking, is this a sign? Should I release From A to Zoe?

Just ordered a set of new humane traps.  Wait! Is that her laughing behind my back?

Saturday, July 27, 2013


Let's remember it's not a four-letter word, even if we do not live in the most literary of ages. This past week, I was given the opportunity of evoking literature thanks to an interview given by an intelligent as well as very talented author, Jess C. Scott. I mentioned in my bio that Voltaire's satire and Balzac's psychology had an impact on my fiction writing. And the way Agatha Christie constructed her novels certainly influenced the structure of Chainsaw Jane. The fact that Jess asked me to recommend works by these writers not only gave me joy, but it made these geniuses young again.  Letting my memory visit their domain felt like re/discovering a beautiful garden. Only trees and flowers are characters and ideas here. With literature, you get the sense that things move, but only pretend to change, a bit like seasons. It all comes back, always in a circle. What these authors said decades or centuries ago informs what we undergo today. Fiction, in many cases, is truer than reality.


Saturday, July 20, 2013


What the hell I am talking about?  What kind of a f*cking title is that? You might ask.

Okay, the title is in French, my native tongue. But you can figure out at least one word, right? "Risques" means what you think it means, "risks." As for "métier," it is also used in the English language.  It's that occupation or activity to which you basically give your all---talent and passion.

Talent and passion do not come without frustrations, however. Whether yours is teaching, cooking, painting, sewing, mathematics, archeology, there are always stones on your path that make you fall on your ass.

Like most authors, I send review copies to writers who tell me they are willing to write comments on my novel. A few don't meet their end of the bargain, however. They keep the book, but I don't always see a review. They should know that the book I ordered for them has not been handed free to me. Sometimes I send them a little reminder, a more subtle version of: "Hello? How are you? Remember Chainsaw Jane?" I can tell you that in most cases, the answer, my friend, is already blown in the wind. This is part of what I call "les risques du métier."

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Last night, as I was watching an old episode of Frasier, I saw a little black bowl run across the family room. It looked like we have a new tenant. Another one who won't pay rent, that is. A few years in a row, we had bats. This time, a mouse decided to come and visit. I remembered I owned a trap, so I set it up with three nice pieces of cheese. This morning, the cheese was gone, and the little booger, giggling somewhere in the room. For animal lovers out there, I want to say that this is a perfectly humane Havahart trap. You catch the little booger and then let it loose in the woods somewhere. Obviously the humane trap was far too humane, as it decided not to arrest the mouse. 

I may need advice from humane mouth trappers somewhere.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


In a recent review, because I understood what an author was trying to do, because I thought he dared to experiment, I gave him a four star and a good analysis.  But what I wanted to give him was three stars, as the novel got way too talky at times, and when action happened, there were problems with pace.  I must add that this was part of a swap review deal. 

The author thanked me for my review.  He also asked me for advice as I mentioned that his use of language and punctuation might discourage the traditional mystery or thriller reader to move on with the reading. I gave him a few pointers, although I had loads to do before going to Denver to help my daughter who is now facing rather tough health challenges.

Later on, I proposed to do an interview with that author.  Well, swap interviews.  I thought it would clarify further what that author was trying to do.  He immediately agreed.

Well, no good deed goes unpunished. I got a botched review probably written in five minutes for Chaisaw Jane, accompanied with three glorious stars. Was he macho man offended by my four-star review?  After all, nearly all of his reviews were five-starred. (In hindsight, having seen that, I should have flown away from this author immediately. An all five-star average is not to be relied on, specially for debut authors. It just shows that only buddies and family, not serious reviewers, have reviewed the book.)

I told the author how I felt.  Exploited, basically.  I decided to remove my review of this author from amazon.com.  Did I do the right thing?  What do you think?

Monday, July 1, 2013


I am presently reading Cara Black's Murder in the Bastille, not so much because I like mysteries (and I do), but because I love Paris.  The city is in fact one of the great loves of my life.  And Black has a way of integrating French words and expressions, including slang, that create a totally atmosphère parisienne.  The problem: the descriptions of narrow passages, architecture, and artisans; the mix of grace and grouchiness, modernity and tradition that is Paris, all make me want to jump on a damn avion and walk along the Seine. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


My friend Jason got a kick out the word "epistolary" when he saw it in the Acknowlegments section of Chainsaw Jane.  But that's what Jason is, a close friend whom I have never seen.  We send each other letters the old fashioned way.  He tells me about his problems; I tell him about mine.  It started with a collage he submitted to me when he thought I was still editing Collages & Bricolages, the international litmag I founded and slaved over (with joy, mostly) until I was too exhausted to keep going.  But Jason kept writing to me, and I kept answering. He shared his writings; I shared mine. He asked for my critique; I gave it to him.

The day when we became really close was when he told me why he was incarcerated and sent me the papers that explained his crime.  This, I will not share with you.  But I can tell you that it was a very important moment in my life.  That a prisoner used to rough times and distrust open up this way to someone he had never met was a profoundly moving experience.  From then on, not only was I the friend but the eccentric aunt. I was family. Yes, even though he calls me "Mademoiselle," that's how Jason sees me and I love it.  Jason is young enough to be my son.

His writing has grown tremendously and I like to believe his eccentric aunt is partially responsible for it. On Friday, I will talk to him on the phone for the very first time.  With his permission, I would like in the near future to share some excerpts of the memoirs he is presently working on right here, on this blog.

Should he agree to that, I would love for you and you and you (lots of you) to respond.

Saturday, June 22, 2013


Yesterday at a party a friend who had just finished reading Chainsaw Jane asked me what character represented me in the novel. Usually, when someone asks me a question like this, I find a smart ass response such as: "Zoe's rat."  I didn't play that trick to my friend, however.  For various reasons that I won't mention here.

But is a novel really a self-portrait of some kind?  Literary novels can perhaps be seen as such.  But what about genre fiction like thrillers or mysteries?  The author may want to associate herself with a detective or, in my case, with Jane the temperamental medium; but how about the gruesome murderer?

Still, all these characters, sympathetic or villains, have come out of our minds.  We have given them life, so they must belong somewhere in our psyche. Our own negativity has been transformed on the page into a murderer and the detectives pursuing him or her are our conscience clearing the path. The rest---our creativity and imagination---exploits the whole thing to create a book.

What do you think?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


It's torture when you are a mother and you know your child is suffering.  No matter how old the child.  My own daughter is not allowed to rest properly, sleep properly, as this is when pain is at its most strident and invasive.  She has scoliosis and arthritis in her neck.  The care she is receiving at the moment is either insufficient or inefficient, or both.  Love is helping handle this, so is her courage and her positive attitude. Getting up in the morning demands excruciating efforts. Walking at times demands excruciating efforts.

Her heart has been broken time and again.  Now that it is mending, her body is not responding.

Is there a lesson in this?

There are days when I don't want to learn.

Sunday, June 16, 2013


If you're looking for porn, this isn't it.  Sorry.  Maybe another time.

But I love my bed. I could spend my life there, crawling in it, moaning because I like it so much, and looking at the trees through the window; hearing the birds during the warm seasons, the silence in the winter.  I can't resist the nesting feeling.  Getting up is torture.

Of course, when my feet are on the ground, I am non-stop: writing, exercising, cooking, running after the little bitches Colette and Simone, cleaning Beckett's cage, listening to Pierre (tough task, listening to spouses), etc.

But truly, am I a lazy bum in the closet?  A bed potato?

Saturday, June 15, 2013


Have you seen the film called Multiplicity? With Andy McDowell and Michael Keaton.  I saw it in the 90's but never forgot it. An entrepreneur is overwhelmed with work and doesn't have enough time to spend time with his wife. He meets a guy who invented a machine capable of duplicating human beings. So Keaton's character decides to try it. The first copy of himself is a bit macho, but leads the enterprise efficiently. Mr Macho finds himself overworked as well, so he makes a copy of himself, which leads to a weaker version of  himself ---the first copy. There's still plenty of work, so the copy of the copy makes another copy, and we end up with someone mentally challenged. It's a hilarious comedy, as every single copy is attracted to Andy McDowell and wants to jump into bed with her. Andy cannot tell any of the copy from the original, except for some weird behaviors.

Why am I telling you this? Sometimes, as a writer, I wish I could multiply myself.  My passion is writing, and marketing, albeit interesting, is taking time away from what I love to do.  I still haven't found a way to balance book marketing time and writing time.  Any pointer?  Besides finding a magical machine that may lead to more trouble than solutions, that is.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


My pet conure Beckett recently discovered sawdust baths. He goes to the bottom of his cage and shakes it all around into the wood particles, and is a happy boy. So everyday now, mom finds out that her study has been transformed into a barn. With all that, she is welcomed with a charming "Hellooo, how are you?" It even comes with a French accent. It's not that Beckett wants me to admire his decorator abilities; it's just that he wants his "crackers." (Any kind of food is a cracker for the bird.) For which he waits patiently as he imitates the spraying noise(pshh, pshh) of my cleaning bottle.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Monsieur Wolcott,

I must admit, your article was très amusant.  I am French by culture, Basque by blood, and married to a French guy who breathes advice. Were his advice device disabled, he would become apoplectic (while I may breathe more easily, bien sûr.) He thinks it is an active part of listening. You have a problem; I will find a solution for you. It's just part of our pragmatist background. The fact that the solution may not work is, of course, irrelevant. It’s participation that matters. Opinion. Show me a French without an opinion, and I’ll show you a Martian with only superficial imitative skills.
    As for your remarks on les femmes, cher Monsieur Wolcott, they seem to come as canned as bad sardines. France is a country of individualists, and you will find as many different women as you will find female inhabitants. That goes for the Parisienne as well. While an author like Helena Fritz Powell will make assertive statements about her characteristics (the Française or the Parisienne), you will find a dozen who will assert otherwise.  As for the late-in-life virgin Sophie Fontanel, you may find her next year at the Folies Bergères celebrating the coming out of her new book on very special soirées. Eh oui, the French like to make noise, get attention to sell their books (oh, non!), or simply be agents provocateurs.
    In any case, Monsieur Wolcott, merci for amusing a French woman with your own amusement. Next time, however, don’t mention Russian actors like Gérard Depardieu. S'il vous plait.

Sunday, June 9, 2013


Is fear controlling our life?  Fear of what the neighbors will think?  Fear our expressing our own opinions? Fear of thinking what we're thinking? 

On Facebook, cute pet and kid photos are far more popular than hard topics such as environmental pollution or other political issues.  I sorta get it, there is that need to have that light conversation with the neighbor, exchange family news, feel alive even though you don't see the person in the flesh.  Sometimes I feel it's a "like" contest.  How many people will have pressed the "like" button for my topic?  I get caught in the game from time to time.  But I feel there should be a balance between silliness and heaviness, between humor and seriousness.

Facebook should be a place where participants should show they are engaged into these extremely difficult times.  It should be a place where they should be able to express their opinion without fear.  It should be a place of debate---at least more so than it is now.  Liberties have been removed from us little by little so we hardly realize that we are not as free as before.  Is that what prevents us from expressing ourselves?  Is this culture encouraging small talk (discouraging analysis) on purpose?

Diane Feinstein says of Obama's continuation of George W. Bush's Patriot Act that "[i]t's called protecting America."  Reassured?  Comforted?  If you check your history, you will see that protection is the justification of most dictatorships.

Fear at this point is a luxury.

Friday, June 7, 2013


What the --- Last night I dreamt I was with a group about to be executed as enemies of the regime.

Does this have anything to do with our president who seems to be confusing his job with the one of James Bond? He's spying on us, damnit! I haven't trusted him for a long, long time, and this is one instance when I hate being right. I didn't vote for Romney but I didn't vote for him, either, this last time. Third party candidates are there to show the establishment that we are fed up!

My Noise on Terry Temple Williams' When Women Were Birds

Frankly, I don't know how to describe my feelings about this book. I knew how I felt at the beginning. I fell in love with the poetic and philosophical first steps, the empty pages reflecting the silence of the journals of the author's mother. How daring, how true, I thought. How whimsical. What an adventure this is going to be. And in a way, Williams does take me into some epopee. From one chapter to the next, I don't know where I am going to go or where I am going to land. While the language is always clean and simple--and when at its best, pure-- the author's mind travels from the abstract and complex to the tactile and familiar, and back. There are descriptions of nature, of difficult and/or colorful personalities as well as references to thinkers like Barthes and Cixous. It is a bit like a buffet of tastes and ideas. It reminds me somewhat of Rousseau and his mind wanderings, for When Women Were Birds is also impregnated with ecology. Unlike Rousseau, however, Williams puts her money where her mouth is.

Although it is presented with numbered chapters, its eclectic content reads like a journal. And I wish it had been called so. When Women Were Birds, A Journal by Terry Tempest Williams. Or: When Women Were Birds, A Mind Voyage by Terry Tempest Williams. When Women Were Birds, Fifty-Four Variations on Voice leads to confusion. I'll tell you why in a moment.

Here and there, Williams attempts to unify the book with two basic themes: giving women a voice; extracting the meaning of her mother's empty journals. In her attempts to give women a voice, she fails because that's not what the book is about. Furthermore, these returns, as in the recapitulations from the movements of a sonata (and she refers to music as well), are occasionally discordant. Her variations are not so much variations as they are separations.

This is a book not so much about giving a voice to others as it is about re-defining one's own. Her own. In her attempt to fill out her mother's blank pages, to give these pages a reason to be, she has spent time in the desert, somewhat lost. This is a book about seeking, not finding. We all face empty pages, existential pain. And Birds is ultimately a treaty about existential pain--albeit accompanied with a very real, brain related angst, as the author explains. Even the title reflects a wound, a damaged --or broken?--wing.

Although the prose is in itself highly pleasurable as well as profound for the most part, I wouldn't recommend this to the confused person trying to find her way and her voice, for this might confuse her further. Like the bird who skips here and there, flies from one tree to the next, sings now and stays quiet a minute later, the writing is graceful, beautiful scattering. But it is still scattering.W

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


What do you do when someone asks you to write a review of a book inhabited with either grammar, spelling, or punctuation mistakes every three lines or so?  Usually, the books I am given to review have received a minimum amount of revision.  They are not only readable but deserve publication as well.  Here, for the first time, I was faced with a writer who had rambled plots rather than organized them, and had them published without a second thought or, obviously, a second look.  To add flavor ---and not the right kind--- there was a racist and homophobic subtext in some of these stories. 

I could have given a bad review to the book.  I chose to ignore it.  In this new world of publication, where Indie authors are at different levels of fame or professional conscience, I thought I was doing my part: discarding what, frankly, needed to be discarded.

What do you think?