Something perverted in me loves these dire times when hyperbole is impossible. Where I can be delirious - as if my darkest desires are about to come true; pretend all is black or white and be rewarded for ignoring the gray. Hyperventilate with rage; spit darts in eyes and ears and face no consequences. Cry out for the holocaust; crave the apocalypse; pursue eschatology with the crazed fervor of an indignant desert prophet. Be breathless - full of passionate intensity, because this is the new abnormal that has been happening for thousands of years. And tomorrow, I will wake and do it all again, because some day I'll be right. Luvgood Carp, Editor-in- Chief First published in Door is a Jar Literary Magazine
O.K. You’ve produced a movie and it sucks. At an epic level. It’s the next Garfield. Rotten Tomatoes refuses to review it because there are not enough rotten tomatoes in the world to throw at it. What do you do?
Saffron: Are the two male leads super hot and androgynous? Producer: Of course. Saffron: Can you get them to spit on each other at a film festival? Producer: No. Saffron: Can you get them to pretend to spit on each other? Producer: No, only one of them will agree to that? Saffron: Can you just say they spit on each other? Producer: I can do that. Saffron: O.K. This is manageable. What about the female leads? Can they stop talking to each other and act really pissed off when they see each other? Producer: That started nine months ago. Saffron: Perfect! Things are looking up. Can you leak that to the press? Producer: Of course. Saffron: Did the director get romantically involved with one or more of the stars? Producer: Of course. Saffron: Excellent. Did they have so much sex it disrupted filming? Producer: Actually, there were several complaints about that. The director is several years older than her male lead. It made me uncomfortable. Saffron: Wait a minute! This is an older woman with a younger man? Producer: I'm afraid so. Saffron: Fantastic! You're golden. That is all anyone will talk about. Your movie is guaranteed to make a lot of money. Saffron Crow, Foreign Affairs Editor and Movie Consultant.
If you like Dan Brown and Paula Hawkins (and many people do, myself included), you will enjoy the first 87% of Alex Michaelides’ The Maidens. It’s a fast-paced suspenseful mystery in the Gothic setting of present-day Cambridge University where the sexy ancient Greek literature professor, Edward Fosca, leads a cult dedicated to the goddess Persephone.
It’s a small cult. Only six of his “special” female students are in it. They are the maidens, and they’re special because they’re super hot. They have strange rituals, and we’re pretty sure R-rated sex is involved.
Tara is a maiden, and she is friends with Zoe. Mariana is Zoe’s aunt. Zoe calls Mariana and tells her she’s scared, but she won’t say why. The following day Tara turns up murdered in such a grisly fashion Hollywood must have directed it.
Mariana jumps on the next train to Cambridge. Meets a clumsy, creepy guy. Then meets Professor Fosca on campus and immediately decides he’s the killer – instead of Clumsy Creepy, who keeps showing up at strange times and odd places. Professor Fosca has an airtight alibi, but Mariana isn’t concerned about that.
So Mariana must be a brilliant detective if she’s going to solve this mystery. Nope. She’s a group therapist. But to be fair, the Cambridge police appear to be on holiday, so Mariana might be the best option. Except she is still mourning her beloved husband. He died a year ago. And she has big-time daddy issues. Does her grief and the trauma of her childhood blind her to the possibility that Professor Fosca is not the killer? While she’s trying to sort that out, two more maidens die ritualistically, and Hollywood officially has a joy boner.
This novel has literary pretensions. There are brief discussions of Euripides’ plays. Every once in a while Tennyson is mentioned. Mr. Michaelides has read a lot of literature, but he’s not interested in writing it. He has a MA in screenwriting, and he is clearly trying to write a Hollywood blockbuster. To his credit, he may have done just enough to have succeeded. Time will tell.
Unfortunately the last 13% of the book is a rushed mess. It will leave you feeling confused and cheated. It seems like Mr. Michaelides was having a good old time writing this book and then realized his deadline was the next day so he hurriedly pasted together an ending. One so implausible Dan Brown would blush. An ending so unsatisfying it just might be a misdemeanor in Virginia.
It’s as if a Greek goddess, perhaps Persephone herself, appeared in his bedroom just before he wrote the final chapters and said here’s your ending. And Mr. Michaelides said this makes no sense. To which Persephone demanded do you dare defy a goddess? He did not.
Gladiola Overdrive, Chief Editor
Freedom of speech is a sacred right. That's my favorite cliche. But then I hear the stupid things people say and wonder if they need it every day. Perhaps each year they could have it for just a week then they'd have time to think before they speak. Luvgood Carp, Editor-in-Chief
Being the CEO of a for-profit college, the first thing I think about every morning (after I review the profit/loss statements) is our students’ education. And because there has been so much controversy lately over school textbooks, and the disgusting lies found in them, I decided to review our textbooks. I am thrilled to report I found nothing problematic, objectionable, or interesting in them.
Take our U.S. History textbook, for example. It’s perfect. Here’s the chapter on the Civil Disagreement Between the States in 1861.
For a handful of years, people in Africa were given free trips to the United States so they could work in the lovely country homes found in some those states. Due to the careful planning and generous spirit of the owners of these country homes, there were soon many people of African descent happily working. They sang songs.
But some states without country homes didn’t want people of African descent to work at these homes. They wanted people of African descent to swim back to Africa.
The people who owned the country homes said “No way. You can’t discriminate against people of African descent. They should be allowed to work at our country homes if we say they can.”
In 1861 the states got tired of shouting encouragement to each other inside buildings. So they went outside on large, open fields and shouted. It was so much fun people died.
Finally in 1865 the states got tired of all the fun. They decided it was wrong to allow people of African descent to work only at country homes. They passed laws enabling people of African descent to work for less than minimum wage anywhere an employer said they could. And American mythology continued to thrive.
That’s the entire chapter, and it’s beautiful. I love stories with a happy ending. And, really, isn’t that what education is all about?
Titmouse Beak, CEO of Pungent Sound Technical College of Technology
Fevered Star is Rebecca Roanhorse’s second novel in the Between Earth and Sky fantasy series, and it picks up right where Black Sun left off, except it is no longer Year 325 of the Sun. It is Year 1 of the Crow. Order has been usurped by chaos. The city of Tova is destroyed, and the sun now hovers “on the horizon like a bloated mango, casting only enough light to shadow the city in an eerie perpetual twilight.” That won’t be good for tourism.
The story opens with Lord Balam (the jaguar lord who arranged to send Serapio to Tova to crush the sun priesthood) learning how to dreamwalk – a nasty bit of sorcery outlawed for centuries. Balam is intent on breaking worlds and “realigning the very course of the heavens.” So far his plan is going swimmingly but for Serapio surviving the attack on Sun Rock. That was unexpected and unwelcome. Fortunately Lord Balam always looks for the “potential in the chaos.” Potential abounds.
Serapio has become Odo Sedoh, the Crow God Reborn. But his clan, Carrion Crow, is split on whether this is good for them or not. Chaos is unpredictable.
Naranpa, too, has unexpectedly survived. She was the Sun Priest, but she becomes the living embodiment of the Sun God. She just needs to learn how to control her incredible powers. Easier said than done. If Naranpa succeeds, she can restore order and heal the Meridian, but she desperately needs allies. All three of them do.
Serapio, Naranpa, and Lord Balam struggle to form these alliances. Each has access to powerful magic they sometimes struggle to control. The future of the Meridian is at stake. War appears inevitable. It looks to be bloody and catastrophic for all involved.
Ms. Roanhorse tells an absorbing story that moves at a steady clip. The characters are diverse, complex, and realistic. As in Black Sun, Ms. Roanhorse’s incorporation of mythology from the pre-Columbian Americas is interesting and effective. She brings refreshing elements to the fantasy genre. Most importantly, Fevered Star maintains the reader’s curiosity about where this series is headed.
Gladiola Overdrive, Chief Editor
If a waning moon is still a moon then we were children. We were also wet and nearly naked, half-hidden in the dark, hoping our drunk parents would remain dumb. Our probing tongues made easy promises that tasted like truth with a dash of delusion. But now the moon is new and we are Facebook friends. We share our virtual lives; celebrate our virtual victories while still hiding in the dark. Luvgood Carp, Editor-in-Chief first published in Artemis
If you have been reading my posts (and why wouldn’t you – you seem intelligent), you know I regularly give money to homeless people in downtown Roanoke. This year alone I have handed out a total of $7.00. However, I do much more than give pathetic misfits a dollar. I counsel them, so they can improve their lives. After all, money can’t buy happiness. It can only buy shelter, warmth, food, and medicine.
Today on Church Street, I encountered a filthy homeless man and decided to help. His steel-colored beard was long and wild. His pants and shirt were unfashionable and mismatched. He seemed unable to focus on what I was saying. Regardless, I forged ahead. I told him businesses all over town were hiring. He didn’t need to live like a greasy feral cat. Just as I was getting to the part about picking yourself up by your bootstraps, he turned and got on a rusty bicycle with flat, no-tread tires and rode away as fast as that decrepit thing could carry him.
I smiled at myself in relief. My tender heart is blind and prone to foolishness. I almost gave that charlatan a dollar. As you know, I only give money to homeless people. It’s my motto. Now call me old-fashioned, but I also prefer the homeless to be bikeless. There is just something intrinsically wrong about giving money to someone who has the ways and means of owning a bicycle.
Knowgood Carp, Owner of All the Hotels on Block Island (and Some in Connecticut)
In the introduction to his sublime Mother Night, Kurt Vonnegut famously warns “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” Take Howard W. Campbell, Jr., the novel’s captivating narrator. He wasn’t careful at all, and now he’s sitting in an Israeli jail waiting to be tried for war crimes. Hi ho.
Thirty years earlier during the 1930s, Campbell was an American playwright of “modest reputation” living in Germany. He was married to a beautiful German actress, and they were a “nation of two.” What could possibly go wrong? A brushfire called World War II.
Immediately before the war started, Campbell was recruited by an American agent to be a spy. Campbell agreed because “I would have an opportunity for some pretty grand acting. I would fool everyone with my brilliant interpretation of a Nazi, inside and out.” He succeeded outrageously and for all the world to hear. He became a radio broadcaster and propagandist for the Nazis; however, during his broadcasts he sent coded messages to the Americans to help the Allies win the war. But to the world, he is a “shrewd and loathsome anti-Semite.” His outward support for Nazism ultimately lands him in that Israeli jail.
Mother Night is Campbell’s confession to the Israelis. He gives it voluntarily and eagerly. But he’s not interested in exoneration. He readily admits to being a “man who served evil too openly and good too secretly, the crime of his times.” Is this irony or just a statement of fact? Does it matter?
Because here’s the thing. Campbell was a spy for the good guys in that war, but he still helped the Nazis. His father-in-law, early in the war, had suspected Campbell of being a spy. He hoped Campbell would be shot as a traitor. By the war’s end, he no longer cared if Campbell was a spy or not. “Because you could never have served the enemy as well as you served us . . . I realized that almost all the ideas I hold now, that make me unashamed of anything I may have felt or done as a Nazi, came not from Hitler, not from Goebbels, not from Himmler – but from you . . . You alone kept me from concluding that Germany had gone insane.” That’s quite an indictment. And it is one of the passages that makes this book brilliant. Throughout the novel, it is clear that Campbell’s vicious propaganda assisted the Nazis in their brutality. It is not clear at all how he helped the Allies. Given the severe consequences of all his lies, does being an American spy save him from condemnation?
Mother Night is obsessed with lies and their consequences. And though it was written more than 60 years ago, it is as relevant now as ever. Chew on this if you doubt me: “I had hoped, as a broadcaster, to be merely ludicrous, but this is a hard world to be ludicrous in, with so many human beings so reluctant to laugh, so incapable of thought, so eager to believe and snarl and hate.”
Gladiola Overdrive, Chief Editor
You and I were barely burned by the sun wearing worn out bathing suits - yours snugly hinting at the lures to come. Ecstatic flies swarmed the picnic table where the sawed-off head blankly watched as her body sizzled on the grill dressed in a green coat of lemon juice and dill. And you stood staring into her phlegm-colored eye as if the fish had a secret she wanted to confide; as if she beckoned you to jump on the grill and sizzle at her side because you, too, would swim against the tide only to have men feast upon your glistening body while you watched helpless and horrified. A future filled with so many sharks must have come as a nasty surprise because you grabbed a silver knife . . . those ravenous men should have seen that phlegm fly. Luvgood Carp, Editor-in-Chief