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Black Lamb

ABOUT

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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Ask Millie

The top ten

June 1st, 2016

BY MILLICENT MARSHALL

The life of an advice columnist living in Big Sky Country is both bracing and sad. Bracing because the big sky gets me thinking big and gives my advice a heft that I believe other advisors’ columns lack. millieSad, because most of my ranch animals and neighbors don’t think so big. When I hear from other large-minded, cultured souls, I can go about my ranching feeling a little less like Elijah in the desert and a little more like an ordinary advice columnist living in Montana. Sometimes, however, I realize that the angst I feel out here is not limited by geography.

For example, the other morning, after clearing the sagebrush and enjoying my mountain-goat yogurt smoothie, I lifted the lid off the Black Lamb crate of goodies that arrives every month. Usually the crate is filled with letters asking advice, but this month, being the month of the “All-Book Issue”, the cris de coeur were all from my Editor. And they all boiled down to one thing: why would anyone buy this book, rather than Black Lamb? For he had packed the crate with the books holding the top ten sales slots in the country. The scary part was that, clearly, he had read them all. They were flagged, highlighted, and underlined. And beneath the scribbles was the existential cry, “Why?”

The topmost volume was titled Five Things That Will Change Your Life, and Five Things That Won’t. I flipped quickly to the Table of Contents and found that Editor had been there first. Point Number One was “Knowing What you Want to Do Before You Do It” and its ineffective counterpoint “Knowing What You Want to Do After You Can’t.” Beside this, Editor had penciled a concise “Duh!”

I pushed away the cedar shavings to reveal the next book. This one was the memoir of a woman with ADD, two illegitimate children, and a port-wine stain all over her face. The title: Little Things Mean Alot. The prose style was early Glamour, the message How to Achieve Financial Freedom Through Litigation. Editor had made marginal notes throughout, which I did not have the patience to read, so I skipped to the Epilogue. In it, we learn that our heroine is pregnant with her third illegitimate child (she calls them “angels”), ensconced in a townhouse in Newark, and about to begin legal studies at Seton Hall. Why does she want to study law? “So, maybe, somehow, I can help other overweight women with port-wine stains who have a hard time concentrating… so they can go to law school.”

That one must have pushed Editor over the edge, because the rest of the books had torn or otherwise mutilated covers, and he’d drawn Satan ears and goatee onto Dr. Phil’s jacket photo. Being way up here in Montana, I didn’t know how to assuage Editor’s pain. Why would anyone, even someone with a port-wine stain, wish to read the whinings of a trailer-park escapee rather than the delicately-etched personal essays in Black Lamb? (Note to Editor: Have you considered adding an Appalachian correspondent?) It’s the question facing all of us who want to enjoy even a little bit of culture in this white-trash world. I’m thrilled to be part of Black Lamb. I wish that more people took my advice, but if even only one pathetic slob mends his ways because of my work, I will be satisfied.

I wish many more years for Black Lamb. And, not too many leagues distant, I hope to see The Black Lamb Compendium: The First Seven Years (or maybe 7 Years of Black Lamb That Will Change Your Life) sitting proudly in the top ten. •

From the March 2005 issue.

Posted by: The Editors
Category: Black Lamb Review of Books, Books and Authors, Marshall | Link to this Entry

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