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Black Lamb

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This Week in Literary History

October 1st, 2014

English Nobel novelist Doris Lessing (The Golden Notebook, 1962) is born in 1919 in Kermanshah, Persia.

Doris Lessing, b. October 22, 1919, d. 2013

lessingdorisA prolific author in many genres, Lessing became the oldest person to ever receive the Nobel in literature, in 2007. From her early realist novels to her later futuristic novels and four volumes of memoirs, she showed a fearless willingness to attack sacred cows and confront the most difficult human issues.

Suggested Reading Novels The Grass is Singing, 1950. Martha Quest, 1952. A Proper Marriage, 1954. The Golden Notebook, 1962. The Four-Gated City, 1969. Briefing for a Descent in Hell, 1971. Shikasta, 1979. The Good Terrorist, 1985. Short Stories African Stories, 1964. London Observed: Stories and Sketches, 1992. Autobiography Going Home, 1957. African Laughter: Four Visits to Zimbabwe, 1992. Under My Skin, 1994. Walking in the Shade, 1997.

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

This Month in Black Lamb

October 1st, 2014

All-Dancing Issue

In October's special All-Dancing Issue, John M. Daniel sings the praises of Fred Astaire. Elizabeth Fournier declares herself a Dancing fool. In Two left feet, Toby Tompkins regrets that he never learned to dance very well. William Bogert remembers his most famous dance partner in The light fantastic. Clinton Wilson describes a dance of death in At the Met with Salome. In No longer underrated, Will Mawhood reviews a collection of Elizabeth Taylor’s short stories. M.A. Orthofer reviews Lloyd Jones’s prize-winning novel Mister Pip in A Pip off the old block. And in Human little verses, Brad Bigelow goes back eighty years to look at Rebecca McCann’s Cheerful Cherub.

We also usher Günter Grass and Doris Lessing into our gallery of Honorary Black Lambs. Bridge columnist Trixie Barkis proffers two more challenging hands. Our monthly lamb recipe is for Rosemary Lamb Kofte. Advice columnist Millicent Marshall answers more readers’ questions. And Professor Avram Kahn presents another challenging Black Lamb Word Puzzle.

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

The light fantastic

October 1st, 2014

BY WILLIAM BOGERT

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the March 2007 issue of Black Lamb.

I am pleased to report that this year’s recipient of the Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award will be Julie Andrews. It’s always nice to see a former dancing partner achieve success.

andrewsjulie copyMore than fifty years ago there appeared on Broadway a mildly amusing comedy called Anniversary Waltz. In those innocent days before the explosion of television, “mildly amusing” often equated to “modest success.” And so it seemed it would with this play. Somewhat to the surprise of all concerned, it ran for more than two years, and it was decided on the second anniversary (get it?) of their opening they would give a party.

The show was running at the Booth Theatre, which is at the corner of 45th Street and Shubert Alley, a private pathway that connects 45th to 44th, and the producers of AW invited all the casts of the shows playing those blocks to the party, which took place in the Alley after the performance of the night in question. One of those shows was the Cole Porter musical Silk Stockings, in which an old friend of mine was the dance captain. Her husband was the company manager, and the party was on payroll night, so he couldn’t go. She asked me if I’d like to fill in, and I said that I thought I could find the time.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Dancing Issue, Bogert | Link to this Entry

Last Week in Literary History

October 1st, 2014

Greek dramatist Euripides (Medea, 431 BCE) is born around 480 BCE on the island of Salamis, Greece.

Euripides, b. September 23, 480 BCE, d. 406 BCE

euripidesEuripides was the youngest of the great triumvirate of Greek tragedians. More of his plays survive (19 of the 92 he wrote) than those of Aeschylus and Sophocles combined, although he won fewer drama competitions than either of the other two, probably because he held outspoken philosophical views and was connected to Socrates.

Suggested Reading Plays (All dates BCE) Medea, 431. Andromache, c. 425. Electra, 420. The Trojan Women, c. 415. Iphigenia in Tauris, c. 414. Orestes, 408. Bacchae, 405. Iphigenia at Aulis, 405.

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

Last Month in Black Lamb

Volume 12, Number 9 — September 2014

September 1st, 2014

In September’s issue, Terry Ross looks back on the thirteen years since 9/11 in Baker’s dozen. In Make ‘em laugh, John M. Daniel gives advice on writing funny. The Green Flash is Toby Tompkins’s recreation of a day in his childhood. Elizabeth Fournier pinpoints a lifelong fixation in I love canned food. Dan Peterson gives us another installment of his view of the state of Italy. Brad Bigelow reviews a famous Sixties’ book in Geek nostalgia. Terry Ross reviews two books about a famous city in Paris times 2. We welcome Richard Wright and William Golding into our exclusive club of Honorary Black Lambs. Bridge columnist Trixie Barkis proffers two tricky game hands. Our monthly lamb recipe is for an historic preparation of Irish Stew. Advice columnist Millicent Marshall answers readers’ questions. And Professor Avram Kahn presents another challenging Black Lamb Word Puzzle.

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

Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em cry

A few tips on writing funny

September 1st, 2014

BY JOHN M. DANIEL

Okay. Lessee. Okay. A guy slips on a banana peel and falls on his butt. No, wait. The guy’s all dressed up, on his way to the career interview of a lifetime, and he slips on a banana peel and falls in a steaming pile of dog feces. Make that cat feces.

Did you hear the one about the man who was so poor he was reduced to eating his own shoes?

How about the woman who reads someone else’s mail by accident, misunderstands, and thinks the man she loves is two-timing her. It breaks her heart.

This working-class married couple lives in an apartment in New York. They yell at each other constantly. Their best friends are neighbors, a couple who also yell at each other. Sometimes the two couples get together and they yell at each other. By the way, one of the men is obese, and both of the men frequently threaten their wives with violence.

So this salesman runs out of gas on a country road. A farmer takes him in for the night, but the salesman abuses the farmer’s hospitality by seducing the farmer’s teen-aged daughter, making her pregnant and ruining her life. The farmer forces the two strangers to get married at gunpoint, thereby ruining both of their lives.

There’s this starving coyote, see. His prey eludes him and he accidently runs off a cliff and falls thousands of feet to the rocks below.
A nice Italian or maybe Jewish or maybe both fruit vendor is minding his own business when a gangster, a yuppie, and a cop all bash their cars into his pushcart, destroying his inventory and scattering all the money he’s earned that week.

A homeless drunk needs to urinate so bad that he.…

STOP!

What?

That stuff isn’t funny.

Maybe I’m not telling it right. People have been laughing at this material forever.

It’s not funny. It’s sad.

I didn’t say it wasn’t sad. What do you think humor is, anyway?

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

August 2014 in Black Lamb

Volume 12, Number 8 — August 2014

August 1st, 2014

The All-England Issue

In this special themed issue, John M. Daniel writes about an unpublished historical novel, Willikins Rex. In Not like us, Terry Ross elucidates a few differences between English and Americans. Elizabeth Fournier examines English mourning rituals in Headstones. In Imaginary England, Toby Tompkins thanks the old country for its rich literature. Four books are reviewed by writers Brad Bigelow, Sharon Harrigan, and M.A. Orthofer. Authors Percy Bysshe Shelley and Walter Scott are added to our gallery of Honorary Black Lambs. Bridge columnist Trixie Barkis offers new maneuvers of interest. Our delicious monthly lamb recipe is for Lamb Chops Stuffed with Chicken Livers. Advice columnist Millicent Marshall answers readers’ questions. And Professor Avram Kahn presents another tricky Black Lamb Word Puzzle.

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

The All-England Issue

Including the fascinating story of Willikins Rex

August 1st, 2014

BY JOHN M. DANIEL

During the summer of 1961 I worked for an antiquarian bookstore in Dallas. While I was there the store acquired a Book of Common Prayer inscribed by Caroline of Brunswick to her ward, William Austin, dated Christmas 1805, Montague House, Blackheath. The store manager sent me downtown to the public library to research these people in order to put a price on this book.

What I uncovered allowed us to charge $100, which was cheap, I thought. A hundred bucks bought a lot of book back then, but this one had a royal signature and included a special prayer for the King’s health, which was touch and go at the time, to the grief of his adoring subjects and the annoyance of his heir, who was impatient for the old man to get on with the business of dying.

georgeiii*Who were these people? The King was George III (pictured), who had lost his American colonies in 1776 and who was now mad as a hatter. The heir was George, Prince of Wales, the promiscuous, over-eating scoundrel who would eventually become Prince Regent and finally King George IV. Caroline Amelia Elizabeth of Brunswick was the Prince’s first cousin as well as his wife, and the person he hated most in all the world. William Austin was Caroline’s darling child, whom she adopted in 1802, when he was three months old. Little “Willikins” lived and traveled with Princess Caroline until she died in 1821.

I typed up a one-page paper relating these facts, and it was displayed in a glass case next to the book. That one page was the first of hundreds of pages I wrote about Caroline and Willikins, off and on over the next twenty years. It turned into a novel of love and hatred, insanity and cunning intrigue, manners and scandal. Fortunately for my career, my novel, Willikins Rex, never got published. I had no business attempting a historical novel, but I enjoyed the writing and the research. Along the way I bought every book I could find about Caroline and George, many of which were deliciously opinionated one way or the other about the twenty-five-year royal squabble. At this point I don’t remember how much of my novel came from research and how much I made up. I told the story from the point of view of William Austin, who was a child, and bonkers at that.

Here are a few things that really happened.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All England Issue, Daniel | Link to this Entry

July 2014 in Black Lamb

Volume 12, Number 7 — July 2014

July 1st, 2014

In our July issue, Lane Browning extols the virtues of crows in Avian individuals. In A true sense of duty, Terry Ross suggests that American soldiers nowadays may have been sold a bill of goods. Elizabeth Fournier looks back happily on her first hearse in Low & sleek & silver & gorgeous. In Bloodsuckers, Toby Tompkins gives us the skinny on vampires. John M. Daniel continues his dissection of literary style in Tag, you’re it! Inspired by Marcelle Sauvageot's novel Commentary, Nic Grosso muses on Looking in, not out. In A cell of one’s own, Doug Bruns wonders what it would be like to do time in a prison with an excellent library. Authors Iris Murdoch and Giorgio Vasari are added to our gallery of Honorary Black Lambs. Bridge columnist Trixie Barkis offers new conundrums to solve at the table. We offer another wonderful lamb recipe from James Beard. Advice columnist Millicent Marshall again answers readers’ questions. And Professor Avram Kahn presents another tricky Black Lamb Word Puzzle.

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

Avian individuals

Crows make me smile.

July 1st, 2014

BY LANE BROWNING

It’s come to this. I bought mealworms.

No, not live ones — dried ones. I blame the store; had I not seen them on the shelf next to bird food I never would have thought of mealworms. What did I know from mealworms? Crispy brown slender parenthesis-shaped things that might as well be husks, though the bag promised protein and other nutrients. The text assured me that “unusual” birds would be drawn to my property. Right, not your garden variety sparrows, wrens, chickadees and jays, but exotic atypical birds. Really desirable birds.

crow*The bag didn’t mention crows. Birdseed bags never do (though I suspect ammo boxes do). No one wants to lure crows. During World War II they were labeled “black bandits” and citizens used any possible method — shooting, trapping, poisoning, dynamite, voodoo — to dispatch them. King Henry VIII declared them “despicable predators” and urged Brits to decrow (well, more accurately “derook”) the whole island. For centuries crows have been maligned. A sampling of their sobriquets: trash birds, menaces, scourges, nemeses, grim reapers, marauders, filthy scavengers, flying rodents, pseudobuzzards, and dirty #!&*#@! (I won’t get started on Jim Crow, crow’s feet, eating crow, and other pejoratives associated with these birds.) Crowbusters.com celebrates seasonal “shoots” and “mass kills.”

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

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