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Black Lamb

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Now in its 14th year of publication, this magazine was created to offer the discerning reader a stimulating selection of excellent original writing. Black Lamb Review is a literate rather than a literary publication. Regular columns by writers in a variety of geographic locations and vocations are supplemented by features, reviews, articles on books and authors, and a selection of “departments,” including an acerbic advice column and a lamb recipe.

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The best books of 2002

June 1st, 2003

BY CAROL WOLFE

Dear Carol,

My husband and I have been avid readers of both your column and Black Lamb since 1946. We have been particularly fond of your yearly book issue and, after reading it, have had some lively discussions. My husband Gilbert saves every copy despite the fact that he never agrees with your opinions. He loves to pull out the issue from April 1947 in which, upon the release of Bend Sinister, you describe Vladimir Nabokov as a “…third rate hack. Next time you have a hankering for a white Russian, may I suggest one part Kahlua to two parts vodka.” I have heard that you were unable to do a book issue in 2002 due to the fact that you were in Sweden to accept some type of award and was wondering if you would be resuming the tradition in 2003.

Gretchen S.
Beachwood, Ohio

Dear Gretchen,

This past year was indeed a busy one for me. Fortunately, between trips abroad, I was able to devour many a meaty tome and present here my favorites from 2002. Hope you enjoy them.

Nobody understands the culture of rural Arkansas better than Billy Jo Spicer. His 1995 sleeper Poontang, Cry Thy Name caught the critics by surprise. This year’s disturbing exploration of incest, Daddy’s Whiskers, describes the tortured adolescence of its young protagonist, Dee Dee Spit, and her painful but courageous decision to marry outside the family. Torn apart by financial worries when her husband Harlan loses his job at the beryllium mine, she is forced to make the difficult choice between carbonated beverages for her toddler and dentures for her pregnant fourteen-year-old daughter, Rickets. Spicer’s insight into the frail yet resilient human spirit teaches a hopeful lesson to us all.

2002 was, if nothing else, the year of the global village, and no single piece of work captured this concept better than Ravi Punjarrhatti’s sleeper epic A Rupee For Shellie. This is the fascinating saga of Sabu, nineteen years old, partially deaf from birth, low caste, and an eternal dreamer, longing to escape the bowels of his native India. One night at the chai bar, he thinks he overhears two young Punjabi artists describing the thriving expatriate Delhi counter-culture of New York and sets his cap westward. Six months later, he finds himself in Brooklyn, working the deli counter at Manny’s House of Pastrami with four Sikhs and a Tamil named Goondah. It is here that Sabu meets the young but demanding Shellie Glickman from Scarsdale, heavily into her “ethnic” phase. What follows is a pulse-raising climax equal to any Clancy in recent memory, describing Sabu’s harrowing escape back to the slums of Bombay.

When I look back at this past year, however, there is no question that the literature which has given me the most rewarding moments remains Colleen McQuinn’s brilliant portrayal of love and dishonor, Frost On The Kiwis. This, her magnum opus, follows the migration of the dynastic McRae family from their ostrich ranch down under to their new but no less impressive McMansion in the suburbs of Research Triangle Park, N.C. Recently divorced Moira keeps the stiff upper and tries to maintain aristocratic dignity in her new but formidably chilly gated community. The denizens of Flocking Hollow know both her history and her pedigree. Moira’s daughter, Tiffany, reeling from the recent breakup with her boyfriend, Father Joseph, falls for the local equestrian bad boy, Nigel. At a leisure horsey weekend retreat, the powerful dialogue speaks for itself: “Tiffany reined her mare taut as Nigel cut past quarter-saw showing nothing but flank. The steed reared erect, excited with the moment, nostrils flaring, sweat and lather aroused by the mount as Tiffany posted high yet again, only to lunge downward and downward and downward hard past the stud, until they parted, spent with the heat, spent with the moment.” However it is not Tiffany who ultimately tames Nigel, but sister Destiny, the bookish yet calculating younger sibling seeking Moira’s approval and validation after the tragic but unexplained death of middle sister Litany. Literature, my friends, gets no better than this.
Gretchen, I hope that these selections provide you with the same substance they have me over this past twelve-month period. Gilbert, to you, I advise: Get a recycling bin and get a life.

Carol •

Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Book Issue, Books and Authors, Wolfe | Link to this Entry

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