8824 NE Russell St.
Portland OR 97220

Black Lamb


Black Lamb was created to offer the discerning reader a stimulating selection of excellent original writing. Published monthly. (more)


Black Lamb welcomes submissions from new writers. Email us.


Email us. There is absolutely no obligation.


Support this independently published journal of fine essays. Annual subscriptions are $15 in the USA, $30 in Canada, or $35 elsewhere (all prices in US $). Click to subscribe online via PayPal or,

Send a check to:
Black Lamb, 8824 N.E. Russell St., Portland, OR 97220.


If you have questions or comments regarding Black Lamb, please email us.

This Week in Literary History

November 1st, 2015

Italian goldsmith, sculptor, and autobiographer Benvenuto Cellini (The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini, 1728) is born in Florence in 1500.

Benvenuto Cellini, b. November 3, 1500, d. 1571

celliniIn addition to being one of the most gifted artists of his time, a master goldsmith and sculptor, Cellini was also a brawler, a draftsman, a soldier, a musician, a murderer, and the author of the most valuable book of the Renaissance, his Autobiography. In it, we learn more about that period than in a thousand other books combined, and we also follow with pleasure Benvenuto’s colorful and racy escapades.

Suggested Reading Autobiography The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini, 1728.

Posted by: The Editors
Category: A Week in Literary History, Books and Authors | Link to this Entry

This Month in Black Lamb

November 1st, 2015

The All-Rock 'n' Roll Issue

In our combined November-December Issue, the All-Rock ‘n’ Roll Issue, Terry Ross looks back on his patchy rock ‘n’ roll history. In Rise up! Greg Roberts urges people to abandon what he calls “garbage music.” Susan Bennett remembers her attendance at Woodstock in I was there, really. In Between a rock and a blue moon John M. Daniel looks at rock ‘n’ roll and what came before it. Toby Tompkins confesses to having been a nascent folk-rocker in Backbeat. In Feeling, Rochelle Singer contributes another letter from Tel Aviv. We round out our articles with a collection of book reviews, some about rock ‘n’ roll, some not.

We welcome science writer Lewis Thomas and super-critic Jacques Barzun into our star-studded gallery of Honorary Black Lambs. Bridge champ Trixie Barkis poses some new card problems. Our lamb recipe of the month is for an intriguing Lamb Salad. Advice columnist Millicent Marshall once again answers readers’ questions. And Professor Avram Khan weighs in with another difficult word puzzle.

Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Rock 'n' Roll Issue | Link to this Entry

Rise up!

November 1st, 2015


Many modern developments are worse than their predecessors. White sliced bread is a tasteless blob compared to a baguette or focaccia; modern factory chickens aren’t half as good as the yellow-meated ones that once roamed the barnyard. Many things that we created for mass consumption are a step backward, a devolution.

Electric musical instruments fall into this category. Hammond organs, electric violins, and certainly electric guitars are abominations that sound much worse than their acoustic originals. That noise is unnatural and unhealthy but — like a fakir chewing on splinters of glass — we are now used to it. Even the academics and intellectuals embrace music that is “ritardando.” When Carl Sagan selected material for a cultural capsule to be launched into space, he chose, in addition to J.S. Bach, the music of Chuck Berry. Carl was in kneejerk mode when he did that: wannabe cool mode, pandering mode. In retrospect he was just another lame-o.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Rock 'n' Roll Issue, Roberts | Link to this Entry

Last Month in Black Lamb

Volume 13, Number 10 — October 2015

October 1st, 2015

In October’s Issue, Terry Ross and Toby Tompkins examine the phenomenon of racism, Mr. Tompkins in Growing up racist and Mr. Ross in Looking for a definition. In Home at last, Elizabeth Fournier relates how she found her career workplace. Rochelle Singer, writing from Tel Aviv, describes a rare peaceful scene in Seeing. In The world’s shortest stories John M. Daniel examines a growing literary genre. Brad Babendir reviews Michael Dirda’s book about books, Browsings. M.A. Orthofer takes on The Camp of the Saints, Jean Raspail’s notorious book about Europe being overrun by races from the south. Brad Bigelow reviews an out-of-print book by Josephine Herbst, an unfairly forgotten writer of the mid-twentieth century.

We welcome novelists John Cooper Powys and Fannie Hurst into our glittering gallery of Honorary Black Lambs. Bridge champ Trixie Barkis poses a couple of new card problems. Our lamb recipe of the month is for Chipotle Lamb Tacos. Advice columnist Millicent Marshall talks about today’s pernicious and widespread use of people’s given names. And Professor Avram Khan submits another thorny word puzzle.

Posted by: The Editors
Category: Month summaries | Link to this Entry


October 1st, 2015


The other night, I was planning a morning bike ride along the promenade from Mezzizim Beach to Charles Clore Park and back, calculating when I would have to wake up, wondering if I would have time for a short swim afterwards, when a report on the evening news caught my attention.

“Border crossings have been opened for a month for Palestinians from the West Bank to beat the heat at the beach. At Charles Clore Park in Tel Aviv, young and old are taking advantage of the opportunity.”

There were swarms of them. Long black robes and head coverings, skinny jeans and chest-hugging shirts, hordes of kids, all sizes. A few adults were lolling around on the grass, others were fanning the flames beneath neat rows of kebabs, and a handful more were gathering on the boardwalk. Kids ran between them, shouting, chasing each other. But almost everyone was in the water for whatever it is in foam and swirling sands that spells freedom.

“Are you enjoying yourself?” the reporter asked a few men standing near him.

“We’re caged in. It’s good to get out.”

“Thank you, Bibi, for letting us come here.”

“This is how we should live. Jews, Arabs, it makes no difference. All of us at the beach together.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by: The Editors
Category: Singer | Link to this Entry

Two months ago in Black Lamb

Volume 13, Number 9 — September 2015

September 1st, 2015

The All-Drugs Issue

In September’s All-Drugs Issue, John M. Daniel examines a favorite weed in Marijuana mythtique. In My boozy blind dates, Elizabeth Fournier wonders why men think being shitfaced makes them attractive. Toby Tompkins doesn’t take illegal drugs anymore, but in Pharmacopoeia he lists his legal ones. In Escape from pain, Karla Powell names the reason for drug use but advocates stoicism instead. Greg Roberts takes the responsibility for the drug culture squarely on his shoulders in Blame us boomers. The Great Aphorist is M.A. Orthofer’s review of a fascinating book by Pierre Senges. Brad Bigelow reviews Peter Greave’s book about leprosy in Ugly disease, lovely writing; he also reviews a book about light verse by Helen Bevington. Terry Ross hails a marvelous first novel by a seventy-five-year-old author — Susan Altstatt’s Belshangles — in Super début.

We welcome William Carlos Williams and we grudgingly admit Ken Kesey into our gallery of Honorary Black Lambs. Bridge champ Trixie Barkis poses a couple of new card problems. Our recipe of the month is for Creamy Lamb Stew. Advice columnist Millicent Marshall talks about drugs. And Professor Avram Khan submits another tricky word puzzle.

Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Drugs Issue, Month summaries | Link to this Entry

Super début

September 1st, 2015


by Susan Altstatt
Fithian Press, 2015

Fourteen-year-old Miranda “Andy” Falconer is a wonderful creation. Intellectual and intelligent, she’s also resourceful as hell and wise beyond her years. In serious teen-aged love with rock star Tommi Rhymer of the band Belshangles, she contrives, on the spur of the moment, to kidnap her beloved after a concert and keep him captive for two weeks in a remote mountain cabin so that he can break his heroine addiction.

Susan Altstatt’s book — it was a semi-finalist in the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards — is the story of this unlikely but crazily believable abduction. Along the way, poor Andy has to carry her hero, who has passed out, into the cabin, and then, when he wakes up, withstand his wrath and physical violence, outrun him when he tries to escape, see that he is fed and kept warm, and generally cope with his drug withdrawal, which takes more than a week.

This is Altstatt’s first novel, but you’d never suspect it from the writing, which is assured, almost cocky in its confidence. Both of the main characters are fully drawn and full of surprises. Rock star Tommi, although glamorous and scarcely educated, is intelligent, thoughtful, and articulate, and the ancillary dramatis personæ — Andy’s mother and father, her friend Skye, Tommi’s partner Harlan — make brief but vivid appearances. The plot unspools in conventional chronological order, and glimpses of the pasts of both characters are smoothly integrated. There’s not a bit of awkwardness in the showing or telling anywhere; this is an almost absurdly well-written first novel (or second or third, for that matter).

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by: The Editors
Category: Ross | Link to this Entry

August 2015 in Black Lamb

Volume 13, Number 8 — August 2015

August 1st, 2015

In August’s issue, Terry Ross looks at the USA’s inept immigration industry in Those huddled masses. In Living in a sitcom, Elizabeth Fournier remembers sharing a house in San Francisco. Thou swell, thou witty, thou sad is the title of John M. Daniel’s article on the death of Lorenz Hart. Lorentz Lossius gets high in Turkey with Kurdish pals. In When is a rat not a rat? Susan Bennett recounts overcoming her distaste for rodents. M.A. Orthofer reviews Michel Houellebecq’s controversial novel Submission in The end of civilization? In Upstaged, Brad Bigelow reviews an unfairly forgotten novel by Jane Mayhall.

We welcome classicist Edith Hamilton and novelist V.S.Naipaul into our exclusive club of Honorary Black Lambs. In Unbeautiful neighborhood, advice columnist Millicent Marshall holds forth on unsightly cables and dusty shrubs. And Professor Khan gives us another of his challenging word puzzles.

Posted by: The Editors
Category: Month summaries | Link to this Entry

Those huddled masses

Are we protecting the worst and expelling the best?

August 1st, 2015


She came here for love. She fed a generation of hungry Americans. She created and lavished care on a beloved institution in Portland, Ore. So why did the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service want to kick Rose-Marie Barbeau Quinn out of the United States of America?

The short answer is that according to INS definitions, she was an illegal alien, having been born and raised in Canada. Although a Portlander and homeowner since 1976, Mrs. Quinn hadn’t jumped through all the right hoops at the right time.

Rose-Marie Barbeau met Mike Quinn in 1967 at the Vienna State Opera. He was a week younger than she. The opera was Richard Wagner’s Parsifal. Quinn later joked that it was inevitable that they met — the opera went on for six hours. For the next ten years, in various cities in Europe, they were never apart, even at work. They both took jobs at Phillips of Holland in Vienna, then at an exchange program for American students in Austria, and finally, for four years, at the Atomic Energy Agency, where Rose-Marie did clerical work and Mike worked in the library.

In 1976 they moved to Portland, Quinn’s hometown. As culture devotees, the American and the Canadian found Portland’s nightlife barbaric. There were the symphony, the opera, and the ballet, true, but afterwards, everyone just went home. There wasn’t a single late-hours cafe or restaurant where you could eat, drink, and discuss the performance you had just attended.

In February 1978, she and Mike put down $21K, borrowed $12K more, and opened a quasi-bistro or Gasthaus — Rose-Marie always called it simply “the pub” — the Vat & Tonsure. While opera recordings played in the background, Rose-Marie cooked. Mike ran the business and stocked the wine cellar. Actors, lawyers, opera singers, politicians, symphony musicians, civic leaders, and citizens hungry for a taste of Europe quickly made it one of Portland’s most popular hangouts.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by: The Editors
Category: Ross | Link to this Entry

July 2015 in Black Lamb

Volume 13, Number 7 — July 2015

July 1st, 2015

The Black Lamb Review of Books XIII

In July’s special book issue, John M. Daniel revisits favorite books in Trilogies & quartets. In Revisiting Camus, M.A. Orthofer reviews Kamel Daoud’s reimagining of The Stranger. Toby Tompkins reviews a book about the causes of World War I in Paranoia. In Personal impressions, Brad Bigelow reviews one of the best books ever written about World War II. Lee Matalone reviews a fine collection of Italo Calvino’s stories in Significance galore. In His best novel, Walter Biggins reviews a collection of Jim Harrison’s Brown Dog novellas. Elizabeth Fournier takes a look back at Nancy Mitford in In the business. In Summer reading, Terry Ross reviews Susan Altstatt’s remarkable debut novel Belshangles and three other books. And Lane Browning reviews a book about a found photo in Mystery image.

We welcome literary critic Lionel Trilling and novelist Cormac McCarthy into our roster of Honorary Black Lambs. Bridge writer Trixie Barkis describes another tricky bit of cardplay. We offer our umpteenth delicious lamb recipe. Millicent Marshall again answers reader’s questions. And Professor Khan proffers another of his challenging word puzzles.

Posted by: The Editors
Category: Black Lamb Review of Books, Month summaries | Link to this Entry

Next Page »


  • Blogroll