Putting the Magic into Magical Realism

bloghopSome of my favorite books are standards of magical realism and I especially enjoy the magical narrative elements. But, for narrative devices,  some magic works better than other magic, and much of the supernatural in fiction isn’t the sort of magic I associate with magical realism – not just any magic will do. There’s something special about the magic in the best of magical realism – something…well…magical.

To clarify this idea, I collected some favorite magical elements in magical realism stories, intending to look for common characteristics. This list is terribly limited, of course, and subjective to boot, but it’s a beginning. I’m interested in others’ favorites too – please post comments below.

In Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, José Arcadio II comes home after work, goes into his bedroom, closes the door, a gun goes off, and…

A trickle of blood came out under the door, crossed the living room, went out into the street, continued on in a straight line across the uneven terraces, went down steps and climbed over curbs, passed along the Street of the Turks, turned a corner to the right and another to the left, made a right angle at the Buendía house, went in under the closed door, crossed through the parlor, hugging the walls so as not to stain the rugs, went on to the other living room, made a wide curve to avoid the dining-room table, went along the porch with the begonias, and passed without being seen under Amaranta’s chair as she gave an arithmetic lesson to Aureliano José, and went through the pantry and came out in the kitchen, where Úrsula was getting ready to crack thirty-six eggs to make bread. “Holy Mother of God!” Úrsula shouted.

In Laura Esquivel’s Like Water For Chocolate, heroine Tita despairs because her lover marries her sister, and worse, she’s responsible for much of the wedding preparation. Predictably, her tears fall into the ingredients while making the wedding cake, and…

When she finished beating the meringue, it occurred to Nancha to lick some of the icing off her finger to see if Tita’s tears had affected the flavor. No, the flavor did not seem to have been affected; yet without knowing why, Nancha was suddenly overcome with an intense longing.

Finally, in Linda Hogan’s short story, Descent (also her novel, Power), the one-legged old woman, Janie Soto, is so full of life…

…she has a wooden leg that is made of a tree that used to bloom I heard after she first started wearing the leg, it leafed out and blossomed.

Each of these depicts life force so intent it cannot be thwarted, though the rules of everyday experience must bend a little to allow it. By life force I mean the underlying stuff of life that is the font of creativity, love, all intense emotion. Substitute soul, spirit, vital energy, vitality, élan vital, if you prefer. Janie Soto is so full of life her wooden leg sprouts leaves. Tita De La Garza’s sorrow is so profound her tears infuse the wedding cake with inexorable longing…

The moment they took their first bite of the cake, everyone was flooded with a great wave of longing. Even Pedro, usually so proper, was having trouble holding back his tears. Mama Elena, who hadn’t shed a single tear over her husband’s death, was sobbing silently. But the weeping was just the first symptom of a strange intoxication-an acute attack of pain and frustration-that seized the guests and scattered them across the patio and the grounds and in the bathrooms, all of them wailing over lost love. Everyone there, every last person, fell under this spell, and not very many of them made it to the bathrooms in time those who didn’t joined the collective vomiting that was going on all over the patio. Only one person escaped: the cake had no effect on Tita. The minute she finished eating it, she left the party.

José Arcadio II is so full of vitality his blood flows from his dead ear all the way across town to inform Ursula of his demise. Judging from her reaction (“Holy Mother of God!”) Ursula understands how extraordinary is this event, but she treats it as a natural expression of the life-stuff that makes José Arcadio II the extraordinary man he is.

I didn’t present my last novel, Only Breath, as magical realism though (arguably) it fits Zoe Brooks’ definition: “Magical Realism is a literary genre that incorporates fantastic or mythical elements into otherwise realistic fiction.” Instead, I called it a ghost story. The ghosts who haunt the pages of Only Breath are supernatural, extraordinary, otherworldly, and slip into what is otherwise realistic fiction without explanation, but they don’t seem magical to me in quite the right way for magical realism. In my opinion, the transition of the old man, Wesley Dubois, into a butterfly in Mikawadizi Storms better fits the bill. Wesley is so intent to engage the evil seeping from the depths of the open pit mine, he undergoes metamorphosis:

Orange and black butterflies began to swarm around him as Wesley moved through the woods, with each step more butterflies. Soon a cloud of butterflies the size of an open parachute followed him. He looked over his shoulders as he walked and laughed to see the orange cloud filled with flapping wings. As he approached Patriot mine, the thunderous noise grew louder and more menacing. A cold wind blew into his face, scattering the butterfly cloud for a moment but they quickly regrouped and moved forward behind the old man. Wesley lifted his arms and pointed his fingers straight out. His feet fell lightly on the ground. He turned his shoulders like an airplane banking and swooped to his right. His feet left the ground altogether. The swarm of butterflies grew thicker and larger. Flutter of a million wings filled the air with a feint hiss, which grew in volume as this orange cloud moved over the parking lot outside the main gate.

Wesley’s transition into a butterfly is the sort of magic I look for in magical realism, as are other magical elements in that novel – the whore house where residents age slowly, the mining engineer whose hands won’t stop growing, the explosion of darkness from the depths of an open-pit mine — so, I classified Mikawadizi Storms (and Zoe Brooks reviewed it) as magical realism. Though I often use magical elements to boost the intensity of the narrative in my writing, I’ve classified most of my other work differently – it’s just not the right sort of magic.

This post is part of the Magic Realism Blog Hop. About twenty blogs are taking part in the hop. Over three days (29th – 31st July 2015) these blogs will be posting about magic realism. Please take the time to click on the button below to visit them and remember that links to the new posts will be added over the three days, so do come back to read more.



Filed under Musings

Desert Chimera by Leigh Podgorski

Six eclectic characters converge on an isolated desert cafe; powerful thunderheads close in, wolves howl in the distance.

Desert chimera“As evening deepened into night, the rain became a steady drumbeat tapping against the roof and pattering and sliding across the windows of the Desert Inn Cafe. The moon and her entourage of stars were hidden once again behind rolling clouds, and the sands shifted in wet dark waves of midnight black.”

If this setting suggests to you there’s about to be an epic conflict engaged and resolved, you’d be right. Protagonist and antagonist, both complex characters fashioned through remarkable back-stories, engage in a classic confrontation of good and evil, but also young and old, innocence and experience, apprentice and master. Dramatic tension inside the cafe mirrors the energy in the storm outside. As the inside conflict escalates, the storm intensifies, the howling increases, the pace accelerates. I swiped Kindle pages faster and faster as the action progressed, eager to learn what comes next.

Desert Chimera’s main tension is character-against-character but there’s also conflict internal to the protagonist, extending the novel’s overall focus on its characters. Some characters are sympathetic (in fact most are). One is deliciously evil, though even there the back-story hints at a tragic past giving explanation, if not exculpation, for the wickedness.

A chimera is (1) a fire-breathing monster or (2) a thing hoped for but impossible to achieve. The first meaning is the oldest, going back to ancient Greek Χίμαιρα and Homer’s story about Bellerophon’s slaying of the lion-headed, goat-bodied, serpent-tailed monster whose “breath came out in terrible blasts of burning flame.” It’s surprising one word has these seemingly unrelated meanings. Which sort of chimera do we have here? I think an argument can be made for either (or both). I won’t go into details, but suggest it’s something to keep in mind as you read this intriguing book.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

Only Breath by Dennis Vickers

Cover for novel Only Breath

Today (June 19, 2015) novel Only Breath is released to general availability. It is the first book in a trilogy called Language of the Gods. The second book will be Only Words, followed by Only Hope.  Only Breath is a ghost story; Only Words will be set (in part) in Neolithic/Mesolithic  times, the vicinity of the Black Sea (now Bulgaria); Only Hope will be…well, we can only hope.

Some important characters: At the beginning of the novel, protagonist William Kepler is a thirty-year-old virgin living with his parents. He has trouble relating to people and doesn’t believe in ghosts. All that changes before the last page. Joe Creek is an omni-capable sixty-five-year-old handyman who was blinded twenty years before by an angry ghost. Lisa Hart is a librarian writer-wannabe who gets very excited when men read to her. Marci Moore is a lusty lover of life who gets excited when men…whatever. Oh, and the ghost is trapped in a cement statue of Saint Francis, and he’s not happy about it.

I don’t want to defuse any of the narrative tension, but (in a nutshell) there’s a mystery to be solved, insights into the nature of communication and the role of words,  several characters resolve what troubles them, the world becomes a happier place, and doors leading to the second novel in the trilogy are left open. Likable characters grow, and remain likable; unlikable characters get what’s coming to them. The narrator asks some questions at the very end that you should be able to answer easily if you were paying attention all along.

The title comes from a line from Sappho (probably from Sappho – it appears only on a broken, Roman-era vase dug up in Poland): θεοί· ἠερίων ἐπέων ἄρχομαι ἀθανάτων –My words are ONLY BREATH, yet they live forever. I don’t know…sounds like Sappho to me.

The video trailer, with creepy music from the Internet Archive (//archive.org) is here. Only breath is available from Amazon in kindle or paperback and Barnes and Nobel in paperback and nook.

Here are a few quotes:

  1. The world of literature is a sacred mirror that shows not the reality around us but the dreams and fears that reality stimulates: It’s not where we live, but life itself.
  2. Sometimes, like a shaft of sunlight suddenly showing itself from an overcast sky, an insight that has waited behind the curtain for its moment on stage appears suddenly. Perhaps such insights, like crust on toast, egg white turning milky, are transformations of what is already there, brought out by the heat, or perhaps they simply appear from unknown places like swallows of spring. Whatever the origin, William suddenly saw himself in new light. He was no longer a lingering adolescent trapped in this day, this hour, this moment, a single, isolated, vulnerable, living being. He was a lifetime.
  3. Emma’s solace in her belief that William could now overcome his behavioral abnormalities originated in her anxiety that she or Alan had passed on some sort of gene-based malady, though neither exhibited any symptoms. In fact, she alone was the cause of his do-called disorder, but through nurture, not nature. When William was a baby, from birth to the time she first noticed his reluctance to engage others, Emma sang the same ditty to calm him, often to coax him to sleep. Because it seemed to have remarkable calming effect, she repeated it whenever he was agitated, or whenever she was agitated, or whenever the world seemed agitated. Her soothing words came through his baby ears and into his baby brain, where processing them helped him learn to recognize sounds used in his native tongue – ooo, iii, ess –and helped arrange the very structures of the circuitry.
  4. The first time William missed powerful signals of this sort he was thirteen years old, sitting alone in a movie theater, waiting for the feature film. Rita, a girl in his class, took the seat next to him after the previews, though the theater was nearly empty. “Do you mind if I sit here?” she whispered, bringing her lips so close to his ear he felt her warm breath on his earlobe.
  5. Marci took a copy of Cosmopolitan from her desk drawer, lifted her butt from her chair, and leaned far over her desk to pass it to William, watching his eyes carefully as she did. If they went to her gaping blouse, she’d know there was a spark to kindle; if not, then he was gay and she needn’t waste any further effort. At least he’d appreciate the Cosmo. “It’s August’s,” she whispered hopefully… His eyes focused first on the magazine, then the hand holding it, and then drifted up her bare arm to her shoulder and grinning face, eyelashes fluttering like hummingbird wings. Tucked under her chin two bulging globes vied to emerge from the straining blouse neck, creamy white and speckled like chickadee eggs, but larger, much larger. “Sorry,” he blurted. “Guess I’ve got the job injerview titters.” He took the magazine, vaguely aware he’d said something wrong.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

Living in Walkerland

Mad Hatter“My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Americans who live in states other than Wisconsin, especially those of a conservative persuasion, may be wondering what life is like living under Governor Walker. Here’s a taste.

On June 2 Frontier Communications (our local telephone provider) accidentally cut off our phone service. No, they weren’t digging a trench or reconfiguring a switch and made a mistake. I could understand that. They misprocessed my wife’s request to move us up to the next level of Internet service (we subscribe to Hughes satellite network through Frontier) and discontinued out voice phone service intentionally. So, I got in touch with them through their online chat (couldn’t call them, of course). The respondent said she couldn’t restore service immediately, but she’d see that it was done by 7:00 pm that evening. It wasn’t. I got back in touch the next day and the new respondent told me restoring service would require a visit from a technician, and I could expect to have service back on the 23rd. Do the math-that’s a three-week outage.

Did I mention we don’t have cell phone service at our house? We have cell phones for the car and can get a signal a mile or two up the road, but at the house? No.

I told them we were without access to emergency services and three weeks was too long. She agreed and said she’d try to get an earlier date. Indeed, service came back on today, so it turned out to be a day short of a two-week outage. This is our second two-week outage this year; the other involved a buzz on the line so loud it was impossible to hear anything else.

Oh, back to Walkerland. While our service was out, I filed a complaint with the Public Service Commission to see if they’d help move the restoration up, or perhaps take an interest in the level of service being provided by a utility they regulate. This is from their response:

“On May 24, 2011, Governor Scott Walker signed SS SB 13, Telecommunications Regulation Reform into law. Under the bill, the Commission no longer set telecommunication rates, performs audits of providers, or investigate consumer complaints. The Commission does not have regulatory authority over the matter you contacted us about.”

I’m certain you know the arguments – regulations only increase the cost of doing business and ultimately drive up prices. Consumers are better off relying on the free market – i.e. choosing providers who offer the best services. Competition takes care of everything. Except, here there is no competition, service is lousy, and there are no alternatives.

To be fair, there are places in Wisconsin where the communications infrastructure is ample, grossly overbuilt in fact. The providers go where the potential for profits are large, and customers in Madison, Milwaukee, etc. have plenty of choices. Here, in the North woods, there aren’t sufficient cell phone customers to warrant extending coverage everywhere. So, here we are in Walkerland. Our governor’s naive confidence in the beneficence of business leaves us literally with no dial tone and no one in government who gives a damn.

“The more there is of mine, the less there is of yours.” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Leave a comment

Filed under Musings

Quotations Kick off Each Chapter

In several novels now I’ve inserted quotations at the beginning of chapters. It’s becoming a habit. In my first novel, Witless, these were from fictional sources. For example, one of my favorites, from Witless:

 “There are two skills worth cultivating: learning and forgetting. Once you have mastered both you are prepared for the future by the former and the past by the latter.” Arthur Woodaepfel: Lectures at the Witless School, Randall Jacobs, editor (Chicago: Progressive Press, 1911), p. 73.

I must say, I enjoyed the irony of a quote from a fictional work of fiction appearing in another work of fiction. But, in my last novel, Only Breath, (available from Amazon and Barnes and Nobel) I included genuine quotations from literature. The narrator, who is a bit of a bibliophile, insisted. Here are all fourteen of them:

  1. A beginning is that which is not a necessary consequent of anything else but after which something else exists or happens as a natural result. – Aristotle, Poetics
  2. I know not how it was – but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit. – Edgar Allan Poe, The Fall of the House of Usher
  3. License my roving hands, and let them go; Before, behind, between, above, below. – John Donne, To His Mistress Going to Bed
  4. No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. – John Donne, Meditation XVII
  5. Lovers and madmen have such seething brains; Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend; More than cool reason ever comprehends. – William Shakespeare, Midsummer Night’s Dream
  6. There are some secrets which do not permit themselves to be told. Men die nightly in their beds, wringing the hands of ghostly confessors, and looking them piteously in the eyes – die with despair of heart and convulsion of throat, on account of the hideousness of mysteries which will not suffer themselves to be revealed. – Edgar Allan Poe, The Man of the Crowd
  7. Beauty sat bathing by a spring; Where fairest shades did hide her; The winds blew calm, the birds did sing, The cool streams ran beside her. – Anthony Munday, Beauty Bathing
  8. Intermittently she caught the gist of his sentences and supplied the rest from her subconscious, as one picks up the striking of a clock in the middle with only the rhythm of the first uncounted strokes lingering in the mind. ― F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night
  9. The function of muscle is to pull and not to push, except in the case of the genitals and the tongue. ― Leonardo da Vinci, Notebooks
  10. Papa, potatoes, poultry, prunes and prism, all very good words for the lips, – especially prunes and prism. – Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit. Book The Second: Riches, Chapter 5: Something Wrong Somewhere
  11. What makes lovemaking and reading resemble each other most is that within both of them times and spaces open, different from measurable time and space.” ― Italo Calvino, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler
  12. A very great part of the mischiefs that vex this world arises from words. – Edmund Burke, Letter
  13. Truth will come to sight; murder cannot be hid long. – William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice
  14. Truth may seem but cannot be; Beauty brag but ’tis not she; Truth and beauty buried be. To this urn let those repair; That are either true or fair; For these dead birds sigh a prayer. – William Shakespeare, The Phoenix and the Turtle

Shakespeare appears three times, Poe and Donne twice. My favorite is Leonardo’s (nine), which carries particular weight because of his study of anatomy. I also like Donne’s first one (three) because it amuses me to think of sixteenth/seventeenth-century people horny. What’s your favorite? Post in a comment and I’ll run a tally.

1 Comment

Filed under Book Reviews

A Sonnet? The Chapter Headings Form A Sonnet? WTF?

Cover for novel Only Breath

Cover by Becca Vickers

The chapter headings in Only Breath (coming June 19, kindle pre-orders available here) make up a sonnet in the Shakespearean tradition, namely 14 lines in 3 4-line stanzas (quatrains) and a two-line unit (couplet), all iambic pentameter. The couplet turns attention inward and usually is indented slightly to set it off.

Some who read Mikawadizi Storms thought it had too many chapters (45, each for a separate character). These readers will be delighted to hear Only Breath has 14. Okay, why twist the entire structure of the novel into a sonnet? Good question.

A deep theme in Only Breath is the ‘inner voice’ and it’s role in self-consciousness, especially as conflicted spirits work through their troubles using internal dialog (or monologue, depending on how you count). There’s a theory out there, springing from Paul Oppenheimer’s 1989 book, The Birth of the Modern Mind: Self, Consciousness, and the Invention of the Sonnet, that modern thought and literature were born with the invention of the sonnet in 13th-century Italy. According to Oppenheimer, the sonnet is the first lyric form since the fall of the Roman Empire meant not for music or performance but for silent reading. It is designed to portray the self in conflict and to explore self-consciousness. Other interesting developments came about in Europe (very generally) around the same time – writing in the languages of everyday speech, more general literacy and access to written works. Some say the very idea of reading in one’s head (not aloud) developed early in the middle ages. St. Augustine reports in his Confessions that he was surprised to see St. Ambrose reading to himself – this would have been around 383 AD. Can it be that ancient Europeans all moved their lips when they read? It’s hard to picture Plato doing that.

So, on Oppenheimer’s theory, Petrarch lusts after a beautiful married woman, and the sonnet structure provides him the perfect canvas for the churn in his head as he watches her in church. The same lyric structure works for Shakespeare as he mulls over his feelings for his handsome young friend and later the dark lady. In the process emerges the modern concept of self, intimately associated with the monologue (or the speaker of the monologue) in one’s head.

Since I wanted to explore the inner voice and self-consciousness in Only Breath, arranging the chapter headings into a sonnet seemed a fun idea and a fitting tribute to this lyric form. So, here’s the poem


It’s all in CAPS because these are the chapter headings.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Musings

Only Breath – Illustrations and Characters

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000030_00049]

Only Breath: A Ghost Story, to be released June 19 (pre-release copies available here),  includes pencil drawings of characters.













Leave a comment

Filed under Books

Only Breath coming June 19

My next novel, Only Breath: A Ghost Story, becomes available in Kindle format on June 19, 2015. Preorders can be made here. The paperback edition should come out about then too. If you’re interested in reading this novel before it’s released (and saying something about it on Amazon?), send your name and email address to dennis.vickers@pobox.com. I’ll send you a free, pre-release copy (kindle e-book).

The title is from a quote from the poet, Sappho: “θεοί· ἠερίων ἐπέων ἄρχομαι ἀθανάτων –My words are ONLY BREATH, yet they live forever.”

Only Breath is the first in the trilogy called Language of the Gods. The second book (early 2016?) will be called Only Words, and the third (Late 2016?) will be Only Hope. Perhaps I should call this the Only Trilogy.

As one might surmise from the subtitle, Only Breath is a Ghost Story. The short description goes like this: Cement magnate Luca D’Angelo stole corpses from the morgue and used them in a macabre ‘lost-wax’ process to cast statues to adorn his mansion’s grounds. Recoiling from the indignity, angry ghosts haunt the statues and make the park a dangerous place. They drive visitors insane, knock them unconscious, strike them blind. When William Kepler sets out to calm these angry spirits, he uncovers a century-old murder. Uninhibited Marci Moore and insightful Lisa Hart compete for William’s affection as they resolve the mystery, bringing fire and wit to the undertaking. Will this unlikely trio discover what upsets the ghosts and bring peace to the park?

I’ll post several blogs over the coming days about Only Breath but here I want to comment on the narrator. The narrator is a character, but not the protagonist. His/her identity isn’t revealed directly but there are many hints and, in the end, he/she invites you to guess:

So, this is where the voice in your head, the one speaking while you read, falls silent, and I can’t help but wonder, did you question ever who is it who tells you this story? Who knows all these things and finds words to put them into your head? If so, perhaps you put two and two together; it’s not the riddle of the Sphinx, after all.

One hint as to the narrator’s identity is his/her regard for literature and satisfaction in having this important job. He/she begins the narrative with an observation about literature:

The world of literature is a sacred mirror that shows not the reality around us but the dreams and fears that reality stimulates: It’s not where we live, but life itself. What follows are images in that mirror, manifestations of thoughts, reflections within a reflection, ghosts of spirits once alive. But, what else are ghosts but spirits brought back to life?

Yet, he/she realizes being a character in a novel is an ephemeral existence and pleads, in the end, for you to continue inflating the words that give him/her life:

Perhaps you, like Sappho, understand spoken words are only so much breath, but, if so, what are words never spoken, words only in your head? Are they less than breath? Since I am made up from such words, and not from the breathing world, this is a question about me. I am such stuff as dreams are made on and the sleep that rounds my little life is within sight. So I have one request as I leave you. Go back and read this last paragraph aloud. Give my words breath. Give me breath. Spare me for a fleeting moment from my inevitable return to airy nothing.

This narrator has many observations about life and literature; I look forward to hearing reader’s reactions.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

Thanks to everyone who participated in the weekend giveaway. I hope you enjoy Passing Through Paradise!

Thanks to everyone who participated in the weekend giveaway. I hope you enjoy Passing Through Paradise!

Passing Through Paradise ebook is FREE THIS WEEKEND!!!

I’m delighted to draw your attention to a new cover for Passing Through Paradise, originally published early in 2013. The new cover is a colorized etching designed by my daughter,

Cover Becca 1Becca Vickers. You can see more of her work here. All of my other books, Witless, Bluehart, The Second Virtue, Adam’s Apple, Between the Shadow and the Soul, Double Exposures, and Mikadawizi Storms, feature covers Becca designed, and now Passing Through Paradise joins them.

Passing Through Paradise is a literary collage, i.e. a collection of short narratives, definitions, journal entries, poems, whatever, arranged so location highlights common themes. There are 88 elements. Two linear story lines are interwoven into the mix, along with numerous complementary entries. Here are a few of the entries, in no particular order.

Life Eternal

Silenus. “Walking Notes.” Dog Treats: Chronicles of the Jaunt. Chicago: Collar & Leash, page 277.

The trees are the first to know. A blush of warmth returns to the soil; roots push their sap up into frigid trunks in response. So it begins anew, yet there is no beginning, only the eternal cycle of life – earth, warmth, air, water, acting together with purpose. Trees stretch sun-ward. Individuals seek identity, esteem, self. Trees, bears, humans, all the same; also frogs, ants, worms. Behold the dance of identity, the self-loving endeavor of each personality, our hamartia. All dance the same dance, sing the same song, play the same game. – Silenus

Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down

Orpheus. “Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down.” North Coast Gazette 15 October 2011: A2.

Explosions rumbled like rolling thunder from distant sheet lightening. Puffs of grey dust ballooned from a hundred places around the base of the ancient building. For a moment, the theater hung suspended, frozen in time. Observers held their breath. Slowly at first, accelerating quickly, the magnificent old theater fell. Steel girders screeched, concrete disintegrated, bricks rumbled and tumbled over each other as they plummeted onto the heap forming in the basement. Suddenly a second noise, the whump of gas igniting, filled the air. A third noise, the deep, thunderous boom of tons of concrete dust exploding, followed immediately. This last explosion blew a wall of hot gas past the observers, turning their faces away. Some ran for cover but made only a few frantic steps before the artificial wind subsided and the fire resolved into flames licking the fallen carcass, rubble of the Lost Paradise.

A cloud of smoke enveloped the collapsed behemoth, billowed into a giant ring, and rose majestically into the fiercely blue sky. “Do you see it?” a voice shouted, “Groucho Marx! His face! There! In the cloud!”

“Eva Tanguay!” a second voice corrected.

Undeniably, the smoke formed a face as it rose against the sky, maybe Marx, maybe Tanguay.

“It’s Jesus!” a third voice screamed as the cloud drifted farther away and the face seemed to form a beard. A dozen cameras snapped photos, opportunities to reconsider what shapes the smoke took, what faces witnessed the execution, how this citadel of drama exhaled its soul into the morning breeze.

Now loaders and trucks work the rubble like beetles feeding on a carcass. Now only the hole remains, and that is the best place to end the story. Greed destroys this aging dame of the theater and leaves not a ruin, but only her hole.

Homily on The Hill

Anon. Dog Treats: Chronicles of the Jaunt. Chicago: Collar & Leash, pages 453-460.

Silenus stopped walking, leaned on his stick, looked over the Dogs following up the hill. They picked up their ears. A hush spread through the crowd as the hard breathing of climbing gave way to concentrated attention.

“We are cast into life’s journey with no map,” he called out. “Anyone can understand, wants to understand, needs to understand, but no one is born understanding.”

Though the rules of the Dogs forbid it, some fumbled with phones to capture these words live.

“We make stories. What else can we do? We become artists of language, our ancient paint and canvas. When we find the right words everything is captured, everything is explained, we understand everything.” He grinned; his eyes twinkled in the early morning sunlight. “So we imagine.”

Those near the front exchanged looks. This was important, an important addition to the Canons.

“Words are only words.” He waited for the import of this to take hold. “Blesséd are those who know two languages!” He laughed. “The bilingual! They see the world with two eyes; they stand on two legs; they grasp the earth with two hands!”

The Dogs remained silent and listened intently. Dark clouds moved along the distant western horizon. Brown prairie grass bent in that direction, stretching toward the rain. Slivers of light flashed from cloud to earth. A minute later thunder rumbled in the distance, the sound of huge bass drums.

“Our stories are phantoms of fleeting moments reflected in mirrors.” He turned slowly, looked to the west. “In truth, we are mere images of apparitions, impermanent as convenience-store bananas.” He slapped his hand against his chest as he made this point. “The only question is, what sort of word will you be? Will you be lie, or truth?” His gaze moved from dog to dog, locking onto each pair of eyes in turn. “Certain, or uncertain? Clear or unclear?” He grinned and raised his hand over his head, open palm. “Blessed are the certain, the clear. Without them the world has no truth.” He signaled to move on toward the east in advance of the storm. “And blessed are the bilingual!” he shouted over his shoulder. “They hold the world in two hands!”

Thursday, December 28, 1989

Andreas, Damien. “Life Notes.” Unpublished Journal. n.d.

With one eye in the natural world and one in the supernatural, Mother was quick to notice when something was about to go wrong. “There’s no word for what I have because other people don’t have them,” she said. “I call them blinklings. They come to me quick as a blink and they’re delicate as angel breath.” She wondered why I didn’t have them too, since I was her son, home schooled, and had her curly hair and brown eyes. I tried, and she tried to teach me, but I was blinking blind. I never doubted they were real though; they were as everyday as the bowl my oatmeal came in. They were a familiar part of living with Mother until I was eight-and-a-half years old, the day she died.

To celebrate Passing Through Paradise, version 2-point-oh, price of the paperback is temporarily reduced to 12.50$ in the US, with corresponding reductions internationally, and the Kindle book IS FREE ON SATURDAY, MAY 16!

Leave a comment

Filed under Books

Profound and/or profane

The Scoop

The recent row involving Happy Madison’s latest production, “The Ridiculous Six” and the charges of cultural insensitivity levied by the native actors who walked off the set has inspired me to address a few things.

  • If you take the time to read the excerpts of the script available online and you were raised with any shred of manners and decency you’d fully understand why those actors decided to walk away from the project. The dialogue is rife with “caveman” speak and that, my friends is neither funny nor original. In fact, it pinions Indigenous people as both backwards and unintelligent.
  • Netflix has come out as defending the project citing the fact that the word “Ridiculous” is right in the title and that the people who are being parodied are meant to “be in on” the joke. The film is supposedly meant to lampoon stereotypes in Hollywood westerns of yesteryear. It…

View original post 886 more words

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews