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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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Archive for June, 2003

Pagan primer

June 1st, 2003

BY STEFFEN SILVIS

Her hair needed pulling. She wore poor clothes that we could mock, and had “germs with no returns.” She sat silently while we stood and pledged our allegiance to the flag each morning: there was something about her religion, we were told. She never wore a Hallowe’en costume, was excused from carol practice, and mythologynever received a Valentine. She seemed to spend most of the year alone in the library, a fitting banishment from our revels, we thought. Books were boring and so was she.

Unfortunately, she rode my bus, and it often happened that the last available place was next to her. One morning, to the catcalls of classmates, I was forced to share her seat. She sat poring over a colorful book, and as she turned a page my attention was immediately drawn to an illustration. There was a great hole in the earth, and a dark man in a chariot pulled by four black horses was descending into the underworld. In one hand he held the reins to the steeds, while in the other he grasped, as captive, a frightened young woman. “Do you know about the Greek Gods?” I heard the voice next to me say. I looked up at her and admitted that I didn’t. “Here,” she said, handing me the book. “These are my favorite stories.”

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Sic transit horror mundi

June 1st, 2003

BY DEAN SUESS

Eventually, it deteriorated into an unfriendly competition, of which she was completely unaware. It had begun friendly enough, I suppose. She was an English literature major, and I was majoring in music. I would cap her quotes, and she would cite diconsolatereadermusical excerpts from compositions I’d never heard. In this way we marked our intellectual territories. It was thrilling to pit brain against brain, and for some time I fooled myself into thinking it was an innocent, and academically sanctioned, endeavor. We packed our dormitory rooms, and later our little cottage, with all the intelligentsia we could entice to join us for evenings of verbal games. She believed we were entertaining in a most gracious manner. For me, it decayed into a sordid competition against each guest, and most especially against her. Through twenty-nine years of marriage I never let up. But I failed to win, and that failure became no small part of my social aberrance.

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That’s obscene

June 1st, 2003

BY D.K. HOLM

Two magazines were supremely important to adolescent boys in the early to late Sixties. One was Mad. This satirical, often sophomoric monthly undermined the mainstream society’s serious and popular cultural efforts. From the late Fifties through roughly 1962, Mad contributed impetus to the underground comix industry, to the anti-war and civil rights protests, and to the free speech movement.

The other magazine was Playboy. In fact Playboy at its best appeals only to adolescent boys. The world of easy sex and sophisticated men with astute knowledge of cigars, wine, whiskey, jazz groups, and obscure Asian sexual tricks, men who appeal effortlessly to robust woman who have no inhibitions about providing sex: this is an adolescent fantasy (and obviously not confined to males aged ten to nineteen). Playboy embodies the James Bond ethos; never were a cultural icon and a publicity organ better matched. James Bond was one of two figures of enormous importance to Playboy magazine’s sense of itself.

The other was Lenny Bruce.

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Nineteen years later

June 1st, 2003

BY STEPHEN STARBUCK

For well more than a decade, I lived without bookshelves.

There was a time in the hazy past before that when I lined my room with them. At one point, though, I boxed up my college books and put them in liberating storage, in the sweet fecund orwellcrawlspace of my grandmother’s basement, like burying the inconvenient child in some loamy orphanage. The books had been an attempt not so much artful as blunt-force to manifest my oh-so-interesting mind. Over the preceding years, many of them, often the ones I had never read, had been prominently — blatantly — displayed on various orange-crate and cinder-block shelves. I intended to, I promised myself. Even started to, on several occasions. Mine was the kind of intellect that surrounded itself with deep, serious, picaresque, yearning, exalted thought. People needed to know that. The bigger the book, the more outré or difficult the writer, the better. Finnegans Wake. Giles Goat-Boy. JR. Gravity’s Rainbow. That sort of thing.

It worked with records, too. You know the routine. You enter someone’s apartment for the first time, and in the interstitial moments when left half-alone while the screwtop wine is decanted, you peruse the spines and inform yourself of the breadth and depth of your host. You read, in the quirks and fixations, personality.
These illiterate days, I guess it’s furniture and accoutrements, the pornography of objects, how well one shops, and appoints. One gleans insight from that.

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Kafka becomes me

June 1st, 2003

kafkawithwingsBY CLINTON WILSON

A verbatim transcription of an online “conversation”:

VillageBoy: I like your Manhunt profile, and you have a pretty intriguing handle, Waxkafka. How’d you come up with that?

Waxkafka: Well, I thought it had a better ring to it than Waxheidegger.

VillageBoy: I see. Seems like you have an affinity for German literature.

Waxkafka: Das ist wahr. Actually, this is from a series of mantras I created in college after reading Franz Kafka’s novella The Metamorphosis for a compulsory freshman comp class. They were esoteric expressions of an inner struggle between the forces of Classicism and Romanticism, self-deception and self-realization, stultification and transcendence.

VillageBoy: All of this from Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, huh? There’s nothing in your profile that suggests you’ve undergone an insectile transformation.

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The making of me

June 1st, 2003

BY LAURIE WIMMER WHELAN

Staring at a text of Between Two Ages: America’s Role in the Technetronic Era, my friend pronounced, “Anyone with Zbigniew Brzezinski on her bookshelf is an official political geek.”

booksleft1He doesn’t know the half of it. I actually read the damn thing.

It all began in the second-most-recent era of miniskirts and platform shoes. My own green velvet mini and brown and lavender neck-breakers are all that I recall of sartorial experimentation, but my memories of political adventure are, some twenty-eight years later, vivid.

I owe it all to my brother, Kenny. Inexplicably, his 1975 Christmas gift to me was a copy of All the President’s Men. One might imagine that a high-schooler’s consciousness would be too tender for riveting accounts of beltway skullduggery. Not so, as it turned out. Now a professional political junkie, I see that this book was the catalyst of my career.

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Sam and Jane

June 1st, 2003

BY EMILY EMERSON

Book memories: a few stand out. The Little Engine that Could, for one, that morality tale for the pre-school set. You remember: “I think I can, I think I can,” (chugga chugga), “I think I can, I think I can,” (chugga chugga chugga chugga), “I KNOW I can!” (CHUGGA CHUGGA CHUGGGAAAAAA!). Moral: austeneven the littles of life can manage to pull off whatever they want if they chug hard enough. This idea, even though I don’t believe it, lurks in my mind and makes me feel guilty whenever I don’t just keep on chugging.

Or the Heidi books, which left me longing to live in a chilly chalet in the Alps, far from civilization, that smelled of dust, hay and wildflowers, with a silent old geezer who fed me bread and goat’s milk. Who knows? Maybe that’s one reason I’m living where I’m living now, in a chilly old house smelling of dust, hay and wildflowers, far from civilization in a part of the world where the bread is really good and the only cheese is chèvre. And then there’s Charlotte’s Web, thanks to which I’ve spent a lot of time saving spiders trapped in bathtubs.

These books took me to other worlds, but the book that made me see my own world most clearly, that made me see me and my own life most clearly, is Beckett’s Malone Dies, especially this bit: A man is lying partially paralyzed in a bed alone in a room somewhere, able to express himself only by writing with his pencil. Then, one day, as he’s writing, he drops the pencil:

“It is the soul that must be veiled, that soul denied in vain, vigilant, anxious, turning in its cage as in a lantern, in the night without heaven or craft or matter or understanding. Ah yes I have my little pastimes and they

What a misfortune, the pencil must have slipped from my fingers, for I have only just succeeded in recovering it after forty-eight hours (see above) of intermittent efforts.”

How could there ever be a truer account of life, and writing, than that?

But I admit that the book I’ve turned to most, the one I’ve reread more than any other, is Sense and Sensibility.

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Remarkable flutes

June 1st, 2003

fluteplayerBY ALAN ALBRIGHT

“What are we going to do about this?”

Steve was an old family friend, sick of driving a cab around New York, and rarin’ to go. I’d loaned him a copy of George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff’s Meetings with Remarkable Men and he was referring to its last chapter: “The Material Question.”

What to do in late 1969? In the midst of the Vietnam War, the wake of the civil rights agitation… and a sometimes chemically tinged New Age.

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Civil War

June 1st, 2003

BY ANDREW DARREL

In the late Eighties and for much of the Nineties I lived and worked in Saudi Arabia (KSA). Life there was for the most part pleasanter and easier for westerners than we are usually prepared to admit, but it was not entirely without hardships. charlesiNotoriously, we couldn’t buy booze or bacon — many people regard not being able to get hold of those two as a hardship — but it was also very difficult to lay our hands on books. His Majesty’s Customs made it so difficult for bookshops to import them that in the end they just didn’t bother, and private individuals trying to bring them into the country were liable to have wait for what seemed like hours at customs while every book was inspected — the cover not the contents, though. The result was that we tended to read what came our way.

Two of the books that came my way in that period were Veronica Wedgwood’s The King’s Peace (1955) and The King’s War (1959), her account of the Civil War (the civil war of the 1640s), a period of history that I had passed over fairly rapidly and negligently at school and had not seen anything in to draw me back later.

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Poet and model

June 1st, 2003

BY JEREMY DRISCOLL, O.S.B.

Czeslaw Milosz. I have long admired this Polish poet and essayist, and so I was greatly pleased when in 2001 a splendid selection of his essays was published under the title To Begin Where I Am. The same year also saw his New and Collected Poems (1931—2001). Born in 1911 in Szetejnie and raised in Wilno in present-day Lithuania, he was there in 1939 when the Soviets invaded, while Hitler simultaneously invaded Poland. He lived through the horrors of the war in Poland. miloszAfter the war, as part of the Polish intelligentsia, he tried to make a life for himself in his own nation and was part of the diplomatic core of Communist Poland’s postwar government. He was posted in Washington until 1951. In that year he defected to the West and lived in Paris in a Polish exile community for the next nine years. In 1960 he took a position at the University of California, Berkeley, as professor of Slavic literature. Since then he has lived and worked in the United States, spending half-years recently in Krakow. In 1980, at the age of seventy, he received the Nobel Prize for literature. He is still writing at the age of ninety-two.

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