Thursday, November 20, 2014

Lighting the World (book review) … Unrelated (movie review) … Brooklyn College Football get together …


Lighting the World, by Merle Drown … the action takes place in Rumford, New Hampshire in 1985 in this brilliant novel about a boy (Wade Rule) emotionally and verbally abused by his mother … he falls in love with a girl (Maria) who has befriended him (she has equally traumatic and terrible issues at home with her father) … Wade has nothing but good in him … he has a crippled uncle he loves in Vermont he hopes to run away to live with … he’s a well-read kid who can live off the land and has little use for a life that requires others doing his work for him … he has a job washing dishes at a diner where his mother works (and takes half his pay each week), he has friends he can sometimes count on, friends he has sympathy for, and there’s a bully he has no use for … he wants to bring Maria with him to live with his uncle in Vermont, and when he brings a shotgun to school to expedite their escape, well, suffice it to say, shooting first and asking questions later is just the wrong way to go … no spoilers here, but this is another brilliant novel from the author of The Suburbs of Heaven (a superb book) … Drown is a master of dialogue, simile and metaphor … his down home tales of a hidden Americana, of people trying to keep pace with a world moving way too fast for its own good, are literary masterpieces. I was floored by The Suburbs of Heaven when I read it a few years ago and have been very anxious for his next works. 
I read the Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) Lighting the World … it’s a brilliant, brilliant book that will be available March 15, 2015 from Whitepoint Press … … and read more about the author here: 
Reading now: John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany 

Unrelated … this British film has it all … Italy, the torture of a woman’s mid-life crisis … sixteen year old growing pains … kids being kids … father-son issues … aging issues … and did I mention Italy? There’s even a dinner table spread that reminded me of The Big Night … oh, baby, this was a good film, and one that at times is painful to watch, but what’s life without a little pain? Very highly recommended … A family’s Tuscany holiday (vacation to us Americanos) wherein a friend of the Mom and her husband were invited (but the friend shows up minus the husband) … like I said, Very Highly Recommended. A Netflix gem. 

This movie also features a little piano treat, one of Momma Stella’s favorites, Mala Femmena …

With English subtitles …

And one for the Andrea Bocelli fans …

Hey, check out John Turturro’s Passione while you’re at it … it’s all about Napoli …

Brooklyn College Get Together … it was a few years after playing college ball in Minot, North Dakota (-8 degrees last week one morning—I love that stuff) … and Stew Yaker (a very influential high school coach) had taken the job of head coach at Brooklyn College (all teachers/all forms, rock!). I was working on 50 story scaffolds at the time as a window cleaner, plus finishing off my political science degree full-time nights at Brooklyn College (because, you know, I once wanted to be … President? Nah, just a lawyer, but there was still enough good in my heart to avoid that profession) … I had a one year old (Nicole Hope) and aspirations to someday be a writer … anyway, we coached in the afternoons, some really terrific kids (who are now all men with families of their own) … it was probably the last good thing I did before my life did a bit of a tailspin (my fault) and, well … I became a crime writer? Well, not exactly, but it would take another 18 years (and the Principessa Ann Marie) before I got my act together … and then became a crime writer?  Well, yeah, that’s part of it. 

Anyway, I’m looking forward to seeing these guys Friday night … Coach (now Athletic Director at Brooklyn College), Bruce Filosa (who took over for Coach Yaker after he left), and I will be making the trip together from beautiful downtown Fords, New Jersey to 34th and Penn Station (beneath MSG—as close as I’ll ever get to it again unless I get to take my granddaughter to see Frozen on Ice there someday) … The over/under, if I had to make (or take) bets, says more former defensive players show up than offensive players? The smart money says don’t bet. That's Bruce (left middle) holding the football and smiling like it's made of candy. Head Coach Stew Yaker is standing behind me ... it's nice to see I was once a skinny guy being sandwiched by Rudy Hughes (middle right) and Coach Yaker.  Steve Fox is behind Bruce, followed by Jack Kershner and Jim DeBenedetto.
Speaking of football … here’s a picture from North Dakota about a year before the coaching year … that’s Chuck Kramer seated … about the best linebacker I ever played with … he led the NAIA nation in tackles his senior year/my sophomore year … and could hit like a friggin’ freight train.
Okay, for Evelyn Amelia Stella … everybody, sing it together! 


Big Lou in a duet from La boheme … O soave fanciulla …

Friday, November 14, 2014

GARP … The Assets … SNHU MFA … One More Moron … 10 Minutes in the life …


The World According to Garp, by John Irving … There’s an amalgam of social concerns covered in this hilarious and poignant account of the life and times of the family Garp. There’s no way to do it justice without a review that would take at least five pages (not from this writer) … plots and subplots abound … but to give you an idea of what you’re in store for (should you accept this assignment) … rape, murder, infidelity, transsexuality, homosexuality, religion, feminism, sexism, sports, politics … and so on. The humor is unavoidable, even when dealing with some of the humorless subjects mentioned above, but it is handled so deftly, it’s impossible (or near impossible) to be upset by the content; the presentation is as compelling as the subject matter. I say read it and have some fun. It is every bit as poignant as it is funny … and in the end, you’ll say: That was a really good read. TK Very Highly Recommends this baby.

The Principessa Ann Marie tells me I'll have to watch the movie (she enjoyed it) ... and after last night's 10 Minutes in the life, let's just say I'm paying attention ...

Here are a few other reviews to cheat with, if you will. The 1978 New York Times review:

From Between The Covers:

Dead End Follies:

Get The World According to Garp here:

Netflix Series review …

The Assets … I first learned of this series because of my Netflix stalking of actress Jodie Whittaker (after seeing her in the movie, Venus, with Peter O’Toole and Venessa Redgrave). I wondered what else she might be in I could watch on Netflix and found this series, The Assets. It all has to do with the true story of a former CIA agent’s selling Russian double-agent information to the KGB. It’s an 8 part series with a 9th addition that is a documentary about the Aldrich Ames case. I must’ve been sleepwalking through the early 90’s when Ames was finally arrested, so I was kind of blindsided by the entire story. Fascinating, to say the least, leaving many to doubt the efficacy of the CIA, especially when Ames operated as a double-agent for the KGB for nearly a decade before finally being caught … and even then, only through the persistence and skill of two women (Sandra Grimes and Jeanne Vertefuielle), former colleagues of Ames. The dramatization in the series doesn’t appear to be far off the mark (regarding Ames) of what I’ve since read up on. I always enjoy any movie that requires more attention than the time it takes to watch it – there’s nothing like double checking the facts, etc. The devil is in the details and the details are always fun to research.

As it turns out, Ms. Whittaker sheds her incredibly pronounced English accent for an American one as she plays one of the two key women in Ames’ downfall, Sandra Grimes. I enjoyed this series enough to pursue the actual story, although I haven’t ordered the book about the case (written by the two women, Grimes and Jeanne Vertefuielle) yet … too much on my TBR and reviewed pile …


This past week, Kelly Stone Gamble held a Facebook book launch for her wonderful debut novel, They Call Me Crazy … I read this one in its infancy shortly after Kelly graduated from the MFA program … she was still in the process of writing and rewriting … it was wonderful before she went final and sold it. Get it here:

Another SNHU MFA graduate, and all around great guy, Jason Korolenko, wrote a book about a Brazilian rock band called Sepultura. The book, Relentless: The Book of Sepultura is now being sold in three countries. Get it here:

Yet another SNHU MFA graduate, James Seals, has a short story published in Crack the Spine, called Many Times Before. It’s a story close to my heart (at least where I played my college football and caught the writing bug (Minot, North Dakota) … his story is probably closer to Williston, North Dakota (it’s a fictional city in the story). Roofies and truckers and oil workers, oh my! And vendettas … Read it here:

NCAA/NFL Follies ... we can add One More Moron to the group … Utah Wide Receiver, Kaelin Clay, after pointing to his name on the back of his jersey, watched as an Oregon player picked up the ball Clay fumbled 1 yard short of the goal line (celebrating too early) and returned it 99 yards for a TD, tying the game 7-7. Talk about coincidence … Clay played for the same high school program as another moron, DeSean Jackson, who has performed the same trick more than once himself. Old school guys like myself have a very difficult time watching bullshit like this, which is why I didn’t watch it until it was yet another ESPN “highlight” … so it goes.

Ten minutes in the life … (a.k.a., attempting to escape the dog house) …

The wife says to me, she says (something about Christmas … or was it cough drops?) … ten minutes later (during a commercial), I says to her, I says, “What’s that about Christmas?”

She says to me, she says, “Don’t you dare. I was talking to you for five minutes.”

“But honey …”

“You’re dead to me.”


Last night we lost a doubleheader … to a pair of fish … only one person can make us feel better about feeling blue …

Tom Waits … Fumblin’ with the Blues …

Jersey Girl (because I wasn’t paying attention to my Jersey girl during the hockey game last night) …

Step Right Up …

Friday, November 7, 2014

Buon Compleanno, Figlia Mia! … GARP … Movie Reviews … Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays/Festivus … The Diet … Dogfella … CG Fewston (SNHU MFA) …The Skype Session ...


Buon Compleanno, Figlia Mia!

That’s my baby, Nicole Hope, with her Mommy some 33 or so years ago in Teddy Roosevelt National Park (I think in South Dakota, but it could be North Dakota). She’ll turn 35 tomorrow. HOW THE HELL DID THAT HAPPEN? … she’s about 1,000 x’s the writer I’ll ever be and maybe 20,000 x’s smarter … I’ve taken her to California (where the shark scared her into a crying fit at Universal) and up to Buffalo and New England to watch our beloved New York State Buffalo Bills CRUSH the Cheatriots … we started going to the opera when I thought I came up with a brilliant idea as a divorced parent … I took my three brats to an opera program at John Jay college on the west side of Manhattan (Growing up with Opera) … None of us had ever attended one (or really listened to one either) … I was probably the only father there and my sons promptly fell asleep during the overture to Il Barbiere di Siviglia. Nicole and I looked at each other and said, “Bugs Bunny!”… and, of course, I took her to see the real thing at the MET shortly thereafter … and shortly thereafter we were both hooked.  The day I took her up to Albany for her first year of college, I cried like a baby driving home all by my lonesome … and I cried like a baby at her wedding, etc., etc. … this parenting thing can be tough, but then you have beautiful, smart, compassionate kids and you feel like the luckiest S.O.B. on the planet.

 Happy Birthday, Nicole Hope … MAXIMUM love from your Phat Dad.

The World According to Garp …

While I’m reading The World According to Garp, by John Irving, we’ll be doing movie reviews (at least for this week). Thorry, but ith a big book and I’ve had a bithy week.

Venus … a wonderful movie with Peter O’Toole, Vanessa Redgrave and Jodie Whittaker … the entire cast is wonderful in this hilarious and poignant romp between an aging actor/director and the grandniece of one of his friends … the young woman, Jesse (Jodie Whittaker), was sent to take care of dear old granduncle … but she’s not happy … she wants to be a model (the accent she uses makes the exchanges hilarious), but he (granduncle) is terrified of the lazy, sloppy and rude manner with which she carriers herself—she’s always eating crap food, for one thing. Anyway, Maurice (Peter O’Toole) befriends the young lady and the hijinks begin. If this was Ms. Whittaker’s premier role, we’re in good luck. No spoilers … just see it, it’s a terrific movie.

Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays/Festivus for the rest of us ...

The pole … we’ll, we’re working on that (it’s the Principessa’s desire to decorate, but something tells me we’ll be minus the pole again this year) …
The Airing of Grievances … think about it … this blog … 

Feats of Strength … well, we used to be able to do this … not so much anymore … the video below was taken some 4 years ago, and our dear friend, Brian Riccioni (he shot the vido/it’s his voice), is no longer with us. He was a truly beautiful person. Nobody more generous and/or kind. We miss him dearly. 

As for the strength … that is long gone … that’s 370 on the bar in the video, but now, after 2 months of half-assed lifting while on this diet, I haven’t broken 250 for more than 2 reps … pretty pathetic, yes, but also a clear sign that those days are long gone. Last week I hurt my shoulder doing warm-ups with 135 … 135!

Your voice
So for those still young enough to wonder about getting old, make no mistake, it blows (at least physically). 
The Diet … it started on March 5, 2014 because I was pissed-off at the Rangers for trading Ryan Callahan. I was going to starve myself (until they reversed it?) … like I said, the wife corrects me when I say I have the mind of an eleven year old. According to her, I give myself way too much credit. But that’s the day it started, so it remains the Cally Diet. I’m down 89 pounds now, but the progress has been slower than I had thought it would be at this point. I “think” it has to do with weightlifting (trying to anyway) … that muscle weighs more than fat formula … I sure hope so, because the holidays are around the corner and I don’t see myself ignoring the grub. We’re just 11 pounds now from raising the price on my ebooks from $.99 each to $99.00 each … (see, my wife is right) … actually, I have no idea what the hell the price will be. 
Dogfella … pre-order for Christmas now, amici … yous can put the gift certificate (or whatever they give you) in a stocking.  Get it here:  
 Another SNHU MFA success story …
From CG Fewston’s 4th book, A Time to Love in Iran …"The lever had no design flaws. The eight prisoners dropped instantly. Several of the men writhed and kicked and gagged. The black flag had been raised and it now flapped inside a breeze. I watched until the limbs stopped twisting and fighting and the silence returned to hover over the living and the dead. I can assure you, there was no reverence in any of it."
CG Fewston (SNHU MFA) … C.G. Fewston is an international writer/university professor who currently holds a post as Visiting Fellow in the English department at City University of Hong Kong. Fewston earned an M.A. in Literature with honors from Stony Brook University, and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing and Fiction from Southern New Hampshire University, where he had the privilege and honor to work with New York Times Best-Selling novelists Matt Bondurant and Wiley Cash. Among many others, his stories, photographs and essays have appeared in Bohemia, Ginosko Literary Journal, Tendril Literary Magazine, Driftwood Press, The Missing Slate, Foliate Oak Magazine, The Writer's Drawer, Moonlit Road, Nature Writing, and Travelmag: The Independent Spirit; and for several years he was a contributor to Vietnam’s national premier English newspaper, Tuoi Tre, "The Youth Newspaper." You can read more about him and his writing at his site here.
A Time to Love in Tehran is his fourth book.
The Skype Session … Diane Les Becquets was very kind to me during the skype session with one of her Creative Writing classes up in Southern New Hampshire University this past week … I was bouncing from several (8) cups of espresso before we got started, so I blurred the hell out of their screen (her students must’ve felt like they’d just downed a few valium) … and I’m generally a nervous wreck when I have to speak anyway (I always prefer to write something out) … but the best thing about it (for me) was seeing how many people were in the class. It’s great to see people actively pursuing their artistic dreams rather than just dreaming about them.  You can visit Diane’swebsite here: … don’t be threatened by the pronunciation of her last name … I used to think it was Less Buckets … think Le Beck.
So, thanks again to Diane and her class for putting up with me and my bouncing. 
A little operatic mix this fine Friday in November … a few of my daughter’s favorites … Cecilia Bartoli remains her favorite, so … 
From Le nozze di Figaro, Voi Che Sapete … 

From the same wonderful opera … (or Shawshank Redemption) … Sull'aria … 

More Mozart … from Cosi fan tutte, In uomini, in soldati ... 

That Rossini opera that started us off on our opera journey, Il Barbiere di Siviglia Una Voce Poco Fa …  

Friday, October 31, 2014

Jack Bruce … The Unbearable Lightness of Being … Skype me in the morning, baby … Funny Poster of the week …


He was classically trained and would become one of the greatest bass players of his generation. His fights with drummer, Ginger Baker, became legendary, but when push came to shove, Bruce and Baker formed a group with a young superstar guitarist, Eric Clapton, and Cream was born. They were the band of my youth, the one I listened and played drums to most often. They didn’t use flash or gimmicks. They didn’t dress like clowns (Kiss), or jump all over the stage (Jagger), or destroy their instruments (The Who) … they showed up and played and no other band, no matter how many members, could play like them.

I probably played the Wheels of Fire album until it was worn out, but the live version of Spoonful and Crossroads kept me on my drum throne for days at a time. I couldn’t come close, but it was always fun, and I couldn’t stop trying. Bruce, Clapton and Baker took the Mississippi Delta Blues and reintroduced it to an America that seemed to have been wearing earmuffs.

 Crossroads …

 Spoonful …

They sold over 35,000,000 albums in the brief span of two years … they didn’t last as a group and kind of reformed as Blind Faith (minus Bruce and plus Steve Winwood and Rich Gretch), but Bruce went on to play with several other bands, including those he started, before his bash with drugs nearly killed him. A liver transplant that didn’t take at first nearly killed him again.


 Those prayers were finally answered, thirty-seven years later. At 8:10 p.m. on May 2nd, Clapton, Bruce and Baker walked back on to that stage to a standing, delirious, disbelieving ovation, opening the first of four shows this week at the Albert Hall with the perfect, galloping sentiment: the Skip James blues "I'm So Glad," from their first album, Fresh Cream. This was, admittedly, not the breakneck, juggernaut Cream of the concert half of 1968's Wheels of Fire or the post-mortem live albums. Clapton's old wall of Marshall cabinets was gone; he played through just two small tube amps, with a Leslie for that majestic bridge lick in "Badge." And Clapton has long since exchanged the assaultive snarl of his original Cream weapons -- the Gibson SG and Les Paul -- for the cleaner ring and bite of a Stratocaster. There was less assault in the music, but more air, which allowed the original swing in Cream's power blues to come through: the conversational way Bruce improvised inside Clapton's slalom runs and grinding notes during the instrumental breaks in "Spoonful" and "N.S.U."; the taut fire of Baker's snare and tom-toms under Clapton's solo in "Sleepy Time Time."


Clapton's brief remarks to the crowd suggested lingering nerves and fears of overexpectation. "Thanks for waiting all these years," he said, after a rare live outing of "Outside Woman Blues," from Disraeli Gears. "I think we're going to do every song we know," quickly noting, "We'll play them as well as we can." But when Clapton pointed out that "the slings and arrows of misfortune cut us down in our prime," Baker was having none of it. "What do you mean?" he interjected with needling glee. "This is our prime."

When they announced they would be coming to New York’s Madison Square Garden, I was tempted to go and see them … but the ticket scalpers wanted blood I wasn’t willing to spare. In the end, I wound up buying a new drum kit (probably for about the price the tickets would’ve cost me) and I had a blast.  I did order the DVD of their reunion tour and must’ve played it a few dozen times before figuring out how to use Youtube and listening to them at work.

I didn’t know Bruce died until my stepson mentioned it at dinner last week. I knew he was sick, but had no idea how sick. I was saddened, because a part of my youth and love of music died with him. You can see just how sick he was when he was interviewed about his last album, Silver Rails.

Eric Clapton’s tribute to Bruce here. It is hauntingly similar to the one he wrote and played for his son.

The Cream reunion interviews …

 From Wiki: Bruce maintained a solo career that spanned several decades and also played in several musical groups. Although particularly famous for his work as a vocalist, bass guitarist and songwriter, he also played double bass, harmonica, piano and cello. He was trained as a classical cellist and considered himself a jazz musician, although much of his catalogue of compositions and recordings tended toward blues and rock and roll. The Sunday Times said that "many consider him to be one of the greatest bass players of all time."

 RIP, Mr. Jack Bruce …


 The Unbearable Lightness of Being … Czech author, Milan Kundera’s highly praised novel spanning the 60’s and 70’s, is a philosophical romp challenging Nietzsche’s concept of eternal recurrence; the idea that all events have occurred and will recur again and again … or, as Yogi put it: It's déjà vu all over again.

Does sex require love? Does love require sex? And what about emotion (kitsch) vs. reason? Ayn Rand would have had a field day putting the kybosh on emotion, and there are those who still buy into her lustful greed 1000%, but they’re most often the people the rest of us avoid (or try to avoid) like the plague.

Written in and out of chronological order, with the author making brief appearances and announcing his presence, Kundera offers his readers two couples, a young man and a dog to present his case(s) … or are they dilemmas? Much of the action (or non-action) has to do with the Soviet Union’s 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia. Tomáš (the protagonist) is a surgeon consumed with the Oedipus story: When someone acts with total conviction while doing something with the best intentions, and later learns those same actions were used (or indirectly supported) something evil (i.e., Czech intellectuals supporting communism), are they blameless or guilty? Tomáš once wrote an article suggesting those responsible, no matter their best intentions, are guilty and therefore should “cut out their eyes” (so to speak). And for that gem, although his article was actually edited down a third of its original length, gets him booted from the hospital and eventually finds him washing windows for a living (not that that makes him a bad person).

Tomáš is also a once divorced serial womanizer who believes sex and love have nothing to do with one another, so once he beds down a waitress he met in a small town (after she shows up to his door by invitation), he falls in love with her (Tereza). His infidelity runs wild (remember, he doesn’t connect sex with love) and drives Tereza a little pazzo. What happens between these two is often told in separate perspectives, which enhances the story for me. Kundera also ponders a Beethoven Quartet Es muß sein! (It must be) … although I have to admit there were a few times where the philosophical back and forth, as interesting as they could be, became a bit dry and interrupted the flow.

Tomáš has a favorite mistress, Sabina (a painter who lives a life as far from emotional attachment as possible; she’s the kitsch hater, so to speak). During the Russian invasion, she escaped to Geneva and started an affair with a bored professor (and his issues). We learn early and it is sustained throughout that Sabina believes in betrayals.

From tender youth we are told by father and teacher that betrayal is the most heinous offence imaginable. But what is betrayal? Betrayal means breaking ranks. Betrayal means breaking ranks and going off into the unknown. Sabina knew of nothing more magnificent than going off into the unknown.

It is following Sabina’s story when we come across the novel’s title: Her drama was a drama not of heaviness but of lightness. What fell to her lot was not the burden but the unbearable lightness of being.

For Sabina, emotion equates to heaviness … something she abhors … for her, avoiding the emotional (the heaviness) leads to a lightness (a form of bliss).

No spoilers, but there’s a female dog named after Karenin – named after Count Alexei Alexandrovich Karenin (Anna’s husband) from the Tolstoy novel. The way humans treat animals is most telling. That Kantian statement is also posited in the novel via the pooch, Karenin: “We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals."

When Tomáš’ son from his first marriage enters the story, it is near the end and their relationship (which has been a conscious non-relationship for Tomáš), and is immediately put into jeopardy. Again, no spoilers.

This was a good read for me, but I have selfish reasons for enjoying it maybe more than I should claim. The best thing writers can do outside of doing the work that is writing is and always will be read(ing). I have been working on a novel that involves young couples and infidelity. It’s a good sized draft, but the more I work on it, the more I want a new beginning. Kundera’s Omniscient 3rd provided it for me … at first probably subconsciously, but now it’s a very intentional plagiarizing of a writing style I’d long been neglecting.

I’ve yet to see the movie, but I will have to … even though the author himself was appalled at the production and claimed The Unbearable Lightness of Being would be the first and last book of his to wind up on the big screen.



Skype me in the morning, baby … I’ll be switching days off next week (working Monday/taking off Tuesday) to participate in a Skyped(?) discussion about POV (point of view) with students of my 4th semester mentor, Diane Les Bequets (what I used to pronounce: Less Buckets). I’ll be using my third semester critical research paper on Richard Yates use of third person omniscient in the discussion, as well as why I chose to move from my own use of third person (from my crime writing) to 2nd person in my thesis. Thanks to Diane for the invite.
Check out and get Diane’s works here:

Funny Poster of the week ...


Jack Bruce (playing with Cream) … one of my favorites, We’re Going Wrong

 Tales of Brave Ulysses

 Sleepy Time Time

Friday, October 24, 2014

East of Eden … Days and Clouds … SNHU MFA Progress Report … Cally's Monster hit ... revisiting a graduation speech (again? Oy vey) ... Mr. Tom Waits ...



East of Eden, John Steinbeck … book critics either adored or hated, but make no mistake, I couldn’t stop reading it (and found it about 20,000 x’s more interesting than the book of Genesis, on which it is based). I started on the flight home from Tampa last week and finished it Wednesday morning between sets on the bench at the gym. Ignore the epic scale (and physical size) of the book. It is an intriguing read from start to finish. Steinbeck remains an enigma as far as his political and social views. He’d been firmly on the left and a member of a communist writers organization (the League of American Writers), yet he’d also offered his services to the CIA before traveling to Europe. He stood up to the House Un-American Activities Committee in their witch hunt against Arthur Miller and other artists, but then become a close personal friend of Lyndon Johnson and supported the Vietnam War. Considering the fact that Steinbeck regarded East of Eden his most important novel, I find it difficult to believe that he was anything but firmly on the left socially, and perhaps an anarchist politically. The messages throughout East of Eden fall squarely with personal responsibility and freedom from any and all interference, especially governmental interference.
“And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual. This is what I am and what I am about.”
There are countless philosophical discussions throughout the novel, most often spewed by and/or between Samuel Hamilton and Lee (Adam Trask’s Chinese servant). Most of those quotes can be found by simply googling “East of Eden quotes” (or vice versa). I’d bought a used copy of the book, so it was already marked up (all over the place), and I only marked it myself in a few places (when I had a marker handy).
Without listing all the characters, plots and subplots, because it would take me a few weeks to do them justice, here’s what you’re facing once you begin reading. A Steinbeckian description of Eden (i.e., the Salinas County) … an introduction to an Irish-American inventor/philosopher named Samuel Hamilton (and his brood) … and then enter Adam and Charles Trask (brothers akin to Cain and Abel—and Charles is physically scarred (marked) the way Cain was). Adam is tricked into marrying a woman (a beautiful monster) named Cathy … and from there more subplots erupt (Cathy has twin sons named Aaron and Cal, another potential Cain and Abel).
So what happens when a son believes his father (or mother) doesn’t love him? What happens when he believes he is the spawn of something evil? Is he condemned to a similar fate? Those are the essential questions the novel asks (and answers). The following conversation between Samuel and Lee (Adam Trask’s Chinese servant) are quoted here, but the link provides the full discussion. I suggest reading the book, of course.
Ultimately, East of Eden is a novel about love; how and why we handle feelings of love and/or feelings of being unloved. I was moved by the following theme from the time it was introduced (about halfway in the novel). It is part of the quote from above. It has to do with the different perspectives of a quote from Genesis; whether it is fate or an absolute order that man would defeat evil.
“But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—‘Thou mayest’— that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’—it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.”
Steinbeck decides against the idea of children being genetically fated to evil (through Aaron and Cal), but his Samuel Hamilton does hold our existence to a higher standard.
“I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one. . . . Humans are caught—in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too—in a net of good and evil. . . . There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well—or ill?”
Another passage dealing with the same morality:
"We have only one story. All novels, all poetry, are built on the neverending contest in ourselves of good and evil. And it occurs to me that evil must constantly respawn, while good, while virtue, is immortal. Vice has always a new fresh young face, while virtue is venerable as nothing else in the world is.”
Dealing with the emperors (parents) shedding their clothes before their subjects (kids) … there’s this consequence to consider (and amici, don’t I know it):
“When a child first catches adults out -- when it first walks into his grave little head that adults do not always have divine intelligence, that their judgments are not always wise, their thinking true, their sentences just -- his world falls into panic desolation. The gods are fallen and all safety gone. And there is one sure thing about the fall of gods: they do not fall a little; they crash and shatter or sink deeply into green muck. It is a tedious job to build them up again; they never quite shine. And the child's world is never quite whole again. It is an aching kind of growing.”
Pragmatism and/or capitalism are also challenged throughout the novel. I found a naïve belief by the author in people being more than honorable once they’ve struck it rich. Steinbeck goes so far as defending arms contractors during World War I (defending their right to make a profit for what they deliver to the government), but I suspect the author believed WWI was a just war and not something we engaged in for the sake of private enterprise. In any event, I doubt he’d feel the same way about our recent wars with Iraq and Afghanistan.

 And, of course, East of Eden is Very Highly Recommended by Temporary Knucksline.


Days and Clouds … a fine Italian flick about a middleclass/middle-aged couple struggling with sudden (or maybe not so sudden) unemployment. There’s nothing in the job market that can begin to restore Michele’s (the husband) sense of worth. His wife, an art restorer, is forced to take on menial work and cut back on her art hours restoring a ceiling painting that has to do with confirming her professorial thesis. People under stress are apt to act abnormally … or maybe their actions can be considered normal given the circumstances. This one is often painful to watch (if you have a heart) … it takes place in Genoa (the city, not the salami) … and if the job concerns appear familiar, they aren’t much different from what’s going on here in the good old US and A.
If you can deal with the emotional strain of watching two wonderful characters ungluing before your eyes, it’s a wonderful movie.

SNHU MFA Progress Report … a bunch of my fellow classmates and/or graduates from Southern New Hampshire’s MFA program are published and/or have publishing deals in the works. A more detailed report will ensue as each new publication (book release) date approaches.

 Kelly Stone Gamble … “Burying your husband is difficult—especially when you’re using the same shovel you whacked him with in the first place.”  Visit Kelly’s webpage here:


 You can join her virtual book party here:


 Darren Rome Leo … You can visit the link here to learn about Darren’s debut novel, The Trees Beneath Us. It’s with Stark House Press and will be available in June 2015.  Visit Darren’s website here:


 James Marino … his debut novel, The Keepers of Mercia, will be available November 6.
Visit James’ website here:

Andrea Crossley Spencer has a short story in the Cumberland River Review … check it out here.


 Randi Sachs … Koehler Books will be publishing Randi’s novel, Indivisible, about twin brothers who lose their family in a car accident on the way to one of the brother’s college graduation. Only his twin survives, and he has Down syndrome. His brother is left as his legal guardian


John Vercher … will have his story, Discontent (a short story inspired by last year's seemingly interminable winter), published in VimFire Magazine.


Holy cow … this speech again?

Cally’s monster hit knocks the camera off the wall … was this when he was injured?

Okay, okay … I know yous want music … here’s Mr. Waits from Nighthawks at the Diner …