If you love New Orleans or want to visit there, check out C.W. Cannon’s I Want Magic for an insider’s take on what makes the city tick.
As a young woman who grew up under New England’s puritan Blue Laws, I found New Orleans’ legal public drinking exotic. I dreamed of partying there. By the time I had the freedom and money to attend Mardi Gras, though, it had lost its appeal for me, probably because I’d spent too many years bartending by then. For servers, holidays like New Year’s Eve can mean great tips, but they’re also amateur nights, where inexperienced drinkers overdo it and either act the donkey or puke or both.
A place where sensuality is celebrated year-round has a great appeal for me, though. As a mad hedonist who drenches food in butter or sugar or both, who chooses the 90-minute massage over the one-hour version whenever possible, I loved the lust for life (thank you, Iggy Pop) and nonjudgmental vibes New Orleans exuded once I finally visited the city in my fifties. I was delighted to review I Want Magic for Foreword, and to interview the author, C.W. Cannon.
My first interview question was about that lust for life:
Here’s my interview of British author David Musgrave, whose science fiction novel, Lambda, took me out of this world!
The book is an on-the-edge-of-your-seat story where even your toothbrush collects data on you. It also considers important questions about the meaning of being human and whether a near-future (a/k/a “now”) surveillance state impacts that meaning. By bringing programming languages and natural languages together, the book adds a meta layer to the question of whether objects can have sentience.
Reading Jami Attenberg’s memoir, I Came All This Way to Meet You, I kept thinking it was unlike any memoir I’d ever read. Above all, it’s a story of increasing dedication to the art of fiction, to an identity as a writer. Everything else is subordinate to her work, and everything else except family and friendships is transitory, even the idea of home.
Many male artists have told a story like this, but Attenberg brings a womanist take to the “selfish artist” trope without relying on some cathartic event to create her identity. Instead, she writes about the logistics of making time and space for her work, of dedication to selling her work, of understanding how she works.
The book hops around in time, but I found this pleasing along with the reflective bits toward the end where Attenberg tries to understand some of her less-than-happy behaviors. Many thanks to NetGalley for an advance review copy. (less)
White, neon light splatters over the windshield of the spacecraft. Although Jessica knows it can’t be called a windshield. There is no wind in space. Maybe there is. Earthbound, previously earthbound, Jessica is uncertain. Gayle43 reaches over and yanks on her harness until Jessica snaps tight against what should have been the co-pilot’s seat. But he is knocked out and stacked in a utility closet, along with the pilot, at the spaceport just outside Titusville which is forty miles down the Florida coast from Jessica’s home, which she will never be able to return to.
“Don’t touch anything.”
Gayle43 goes back to staring at the control panel in front of them. Lights blink, an alarm sounds, and Gayle43 punches buttons too fast for Jessica to follow. But not superpower fast. Does her clone have superpowers? The little craft twists sideways in quick loops. Streams of light crisscross in…
I sought out this book, which imagines the “lost years” spent by the Wuthering Heights character Heathcliff, after hearing Michael Stewart speak on the one of the “Sundays with Jane Eyre” broadcasts done by the Rosenbach Museum (excellent series, highly recommend for fans of JE). I was taken with Stewart’s ideas about how class issues function in JE and appreciated his perspective as a working class person, so I was interested to see how he would write about Heathcliff, who must be one of the most controversial characters in British fiction. The book far exceeded my expectations. Stewart invests Heathcliff with complex motives that derive from a complex history, including an authentic (I’m an adoptee) representation of adoption as trauma in Heathcliff’s yearning and confusion towards the mother he cannot recall. The novel is also rich in period detail about class and race oppression. Stewart doesn’t turn away from ugly truths. TBH, I wasn’t optimistic about the novel. I don’t read many books by male authors, as their assumptions about women often irritate me, I’m not into fan fiction, and I hold the work of the Brontes sacrosanct. Every year, since I was 8 years old, I’ve (re)read at least one Bronte novel, usually Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights. I’ll turn 65 this year, so that’s a lot of re-reads. Nevertheless, Stewart’s novel expanded my thinking about Wuthering Heights.
I think this is my seventh appearance in Mezzo Cammin: An Online Journal of Formalist Poetry by Women. The journal was founded in 2006 by Kim Bridgford, a brilliant poet, teacher, and critic who took every opportunity to support women poets. Tragically, she died in 2020 after struggling against cancer, but her colleagues keep her legacy alive by continuing to publish Mezzo Cammin.
Kim helped me and countless others to be a better poet by encouraging, critiquing, and publishing our work. Her own work, often written in traditional forms, is stunning for its mastery of tradition combined with incisive, contemporary political commentary, as in these lines from “Why Sisyphus Isn’t a Woman” :
Because it wouldn’t be mythological, Just life. What woman hasn’t pushed a rock, Or two or ten? It’s not an obstacle, But a way of navigating. No shock. Instead, it’s the efficient way to push While also writing a book or raising a child.
The two poems I have in the current issue of Mezzo Cammin are both formal and experimental for me. The first, “Lost Ring,” is in the duplex form invented by Jericho Brown. Can we call something a traditional form if it was created in the 21st century?
The second poem, “How to Divorce” is intended as humorous, a departure for me and my usually grim outlook. Well, I guess divorce is kinda grim, right?
Check out both poems, and the fabulous poets who also appear in this issue, by clicking here.
I loved this book for many reasons. The interweaving of folktales with real and imaginary life made me question my vision of reality. The physics angle made me question my vision of reality. It’s well-plotted. The main characters are distinct, complex people I wanted to know about. The writing is fluid and rich in imagery. But what surprised me the most was the character of Oskar, a transnational, transracial adoptee who is originally from Korea but grew up in Sweden. Adoptee characters in fiction and film usually follow a repetitive pattern. I’m a domestic adoptee, and I’ve thought a lot about Oedipus, Superman, Spiderman, and the zillions of other heroes who are separated from their parents, end up with substitute parents, go on a journey, challenge the status quo, and sometimes save the day. I challenge you, dear reader, to think of an archetypal hero who is not someone who has lost at least one parent. Oskar, who is the possible love interest of Elsa (physicist, protagonist, and narrator) is the only transnational adoptee I can think of who is a supporting character in literature. In the 2021 adoptee community, the concept of “own voices” is often discussed, and I’m one of many who believes we adoptees should be the ones to tell our stories, not the adoptive or first parents who’ve been hogging the mic for so long. The author, Angela Hur, is not an adoptee, but in my view, she does justice to the complexity of losing biological connections and being uprooted to live with strangers. I’m interested to hear what transnational and transracial adoptees have to say about how well Hur explores the specific complexities of losing culture and being of a different race than adopters that Oskar lives with. Is Hur exploiting the TRA experience? No spoilers here, but interestingly, Oskar has written anti-adoption screeds by appropriating the stories of his fellow TRA friends — and they get pissed off. So that’s a facet of the book that fascinates me, particularly, because of my connection to adoption, but that’s a single facet of a multi-faceted, literary, page-turning novel. I’d recommend this book to anyone and everyone.