Oct/Nov 2020

e c l e c t i c a   r e v i e w s  & 
i n t e r v i e w s

Reviews & Interviews

(These are excerpts—click on the title to view the whole piece!)

Ann Skea reviews...

The Time of Our Lives
by Robert Dessaix

As far as conclusions go—and Dessaix's musings are open-ended—not growing up amounts to being childlike, not childish. It is the ability to play, as Lewis Carol did in his nonsense rhymes, John Cleese did in his clowning, and the Goons did in the Goon Show. One of his female friends describes the freedom of playing with her grandchildren. Dessaix's own playing, he decides, is travel, language learned just "for pure pleasure," intense conversations with friends, and dancing.

The Haunting of Alma Fielding: A True Ghost Story
by Kate Summerscale

Nandor Fodor, who for four years had been Chief Ghost Hunter at the International Institute for Psychical Research in South Kensington, was fascinated by Alma's story. Fodor was a Jewish Hungarian who had studied law in Budapest. He had narrowly escaped conscription in the 1914-18 war and the subsequent "terrors," and had fled to America, where he became a journalist. When a chance interview with the British newspaper magnate, Lord Rothermere, discovered a mutual concern for the land-rights of the Hungarian people, Rothermere offered Fodor a well-paid job with Associated Newspapers in London.

Revenge: Murder in Three Parts
by S.L. Lim

Yannie is 11 when we first meet her, and small. Her brother, Shan, is four years older, bigger and stronger, and a bully. "Natural cold-blooded killer," thinks Yannie after he has pinned her to a wall and almost throttled her. She has learned her mother will be dismissive if she tells her of Shan's violent attacks: "He's always hated that you are better at maths than him," she says, or she will laugh about it with a friend—"Did I tell you about Yannie's brush with death yesterday?

The Wild Laughter
by Caoilinn Hughes

Cormac ensures that it is Hart who helps his father on the farm and cares for him when he needs it. He constantly belittles him and is free with "a clobber to the head" if he asks questions. But Hart is clever in his own way. He loves plays and, at the moment, scorns "Noel Coward or Wilde on about pomp and circumstance, celebrities with silken shirts and trust funds," and prefers to "hear tales of people who are worse off than ourselves," like those by Beckett, about "some poor sod getting stuck in a mound of earth for the rest of her life for she can't be bothered to dig herself out."

Bush School and The Last Lighthouse Keeper
by Peter O'Brien and John Cook with Jon Bauer, respectively

The timber cottage where he expected to live for the next two years was in bad repair, and the "welcome" he received from his landlady was abrupt. When she took him through the dark house to his room, he encountered a makeshift enclosure on the veranda with just a bed in it—nothing else. From then on the landlady, her monosyllabic husband, and their three children, kept away from him. He ate alone, and meals consisted of stewed rabbit and squash, daily, and stale bread and rabbit sandwiches for lunch.

The Louvre
by James Gardner

He describes the Salle des Caryatides as the ballroom it was in the 1500s, with its arched alcove in which the king would sit in state, the "masterpiece" of a stairway (the Escalier Henri II) on the other side of the northern wall, and the caryatides which support a musician's galley: "...oddly armless figures. Their beauty is severe and otherworldly, and their draperies cling to them like cellophane, collecting in frenzied knots about the pelvis."

Into the Abyss: A neuropsychiatrist's notes on troubled minds
by Anthony David

David's chapter headings indicate something about the nature of the particular disorder he is dealing with. Chapter 2, "Strawberry Fields Forever," tells of a patient who suffered a brain injury, which had affected his memory and was causing him to doubt the reality of the world around him: "He described a pervasive sense of the world itself being changed." He felt "unreal," as if he were actually dead and hallucinating reality. David likens it to the feeling produced by psychedelic drugs, such as John Lenon wrote about in "Strawberry Fields."

Denton Loving reviews...

The Edge of America
by Jon Sealy

Take Holly's father Robert West for example. On paper, he's the chief financial officer of Artium Group, but it's a poorly-kept secret that the hemorrhaging company is a front for the CIA to keep tabs on Castro as well as the large number of Cuban immigrants who have made Miami home. West has two faults. First is his idealism, blindly following an already outdated dream to overthrow Castro from power as part of the country's cold war fight. West's second fault is believing he can handle a South Florida gangster and an Israeli assassin who both want their three million dollars back.

Gregory Stephenson reviews...

New Selected Poems by Elizabeth Jennings
edited by Rebecca Watts

Seeking communion with life in the wider world, Elizabeth Jennings writes of fishermen and children, teenagers riding a bus and the tender love of old couples, of nuns and nurses, love affairs and the deaths of friends, of patients in a mental hospital and a lonely little boy, of mountaineers, statues, a diamond-cutter and a still-born child, of flies and thunder, beech leaves and grapes, stars, trees, birds, flowers, the moon, the seasons, and of paintings and painters: Chagall, Bonnard, Rembrandt, Andrea Mantegna, Samuel Palmer and David Jones.

Kiran Bhat interviews...

Douglas Cole
author of The White Field

Yeah, now that I think about it, I'm missing the West Coast. I had a book tour a little earlier this year, and I was in Los Angeles and it felt so different from what I normally know of the US. Each neighborhood in Los Angeles is like its own world, and while it has a lot of the fallings of American capitalism, it also has almost a Latin American vibe to it, in the trees that grow there, in the sway of the breeze. And I was thinking it's a shame I've not yet explored this type of USA. It's really different from what I know, growing up in Georgia, and studying in New York.

Joyce Brinkman interviews...

Dr. Joe Heithaus
author of Library of My Hands

The publisher Dos Madres' first version of the cover had a fountain pen, which was nice, but I didn't think it captured the essences of the book. I talked about it with artist and friend Jerry Bates. Jerry thought it would be cool to try to capture my hands somehow. We got photographer Cindy O'Dell to bring her expertise into showing my hands holding water and light, two key elements in the book.

Peter Amos discusses...

341 Days Faulkner
My hometown is beautiful, and I say often I love it, but the South engenders a complicated sort of love, varicolored and curious and possessing of a long shadow. Love for the home in which I live is that of marriage; love for the home that made me is love sprung from a mother's belly, a born love. I care deeply for my family and was raised by and around wonderful people; my yard overflowed with forsythia and trees I knew from saplings; the buildings are old and people are kind on the street. But to walk downtown, to follow the serpentine state routes toward the mountains, or to pull into the Food Lion parking lot, is to be confronted constantly by symbols of nostalgia, bitter pride, and generational resentment.