8824 NE Russell St.
Portland OR 97220

Black Lamb

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

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Archive for the 'All Book Issue' Category

Memorable Miss Osborne

June 1st, 2003

BY GRANT MENZIES

To single out one book, any more than a whole library’s worth of them, as being of most influence on one’s development — as reader, writer, and human being — is like having to list your favorite kisses from an unforgettable lover.

But I can simplify the process by counting on one hand the books which, read before age twenty, had such a powerful effect on me that the impressions remain vividly: Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind (which I found in my Southern grandmother’s house when I was eleven and read without stopping over the course of two days and a night); Zelda Fitzgerald’s Save Me the Waltz (the copy given to my mother by her analyst, who curiously thought Zelda’s unhappy story would make inspiring material for my mother’s own recovery from a nervous breakdown); Ferdinand Mayr-Ofen’s The Tragic Idealist (a life of so-called Mad King Ludwig II of Bavaria, which set me on course for studying and writing historical biographies and put me in love with the handsome young monarch pictured in the frontispiece); and Dame Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (which, with West’s painter’s eye and composer’s ear for coloring and orchestrating ideas and images to produce breathtakingly beautiful moods and insights, had a huge influence on my own writing style).

Yet it was a children’s book, not quite fit for the above list of masterworks, that made the greatest, longest-lasting impression: Wilson Gage’s Miss Osborne-the-Mop.

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Posted by: The Editors
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Mighty Marcel

June 1st, 2003

BY JIM PATTON

Call me a Proust snob. Whatever. I’d rather be that than one of these “well-read” people who’ve never had the experience of A la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time) or who tell you proustcartoonthey’ve read “some of it,” meaning three of the thousands of pages. No. You’ve either read it or you haven’t. Reading “some of it” is like reading “some of” a James Patterson novel, or watching “some of” a movie or a World Series game. You might have a sense of it, but that’s all. In the case of Marcel and A la recherche, you’re nothing but a poseur. Hey, it offends me. And I feel bad for you, because you don’t know what you’re missing.

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

The man who couldn’t think straight

June 1st, 2003

thoreauBY GREG ROBERTS

Thoreau messed me up pretty bad. I read Walden at seventeen, and it turned me into a non-materialist for most of my life. As a result, I endangered my family by driving them around in a hundred-dollar Peugeot 504 with bald tires that were ready to blow any second. I thought I was saving the planet. I’m better now. We have a thousand-dollar Toyota van with new tires.

I’ve lost some respect for Thoreau. He’s a wonderfully clever writer, but he couldn’t think straight. The imprisonment at the pond, in a hell-hole of a cabin, slaving over a goddamn bean patch, would have driven anyone to suicide, except for one thing — he was writing the book. With the inspiration of his art, it didn’t matter where he was. Same for Beethoven. His drive to compose music made him oblivious to his filthy room with the many unemptied piss pots.

Anyone without a major artistic project had better stay away from a Walden situation. Better to exist in a studio apartment with a part-time job at Burger King and a basic cable package.

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

The Morocco case

June 1st, 2003

BY ZACH DUNDAS

In the first lines of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Sign of Four, Sherlock Holmes takes a hypodermic syringe from a “neat morocco case” and injects himself with cocaine. He offers a shot to his roommate Dr. Watson, an unemployed veteran nursing wounds from a hideous colonial war, himself half in holmes2the bag after a wine-soaked lunch. On other occasions, Dr. Watson remarks, the detective prefers morphine.

I discovered this scene as I sat crosslegged (or as we still said in 1980s Montana, “Indian-style”) on the floor of the bedroom my brother and I once shared. It was probably winter or, if the month was October, November, April or May, something close. Across my lap, a dogeared copy of a 1950s omnibus titled The Boy’s Sherlock Holmes, borrowed from Williard Elementary’s little library. (They don’t really publish books just for boys any more, do they?) I was ten years old or maybe eleven, and as the detective jabbed a needle into his vein, Literature’s darker possibilities burst open before me, a dusky and faintly malevolent orchid.

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

I hate books

June 1st, 2003

BY LANE BROWNING

When I was about nine I fell in love with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I was a solitary kid, and books were a seductive escape. I used to sit under a flowering bush in my family’s side yard, soggy peanut butter sandwich in hand, smelly little terrier snuffling by my side, just reading. Lewis Carroll’s imaginative scenarios about the little girl down the rabbit hole spoke directly to my rebel heart, and I memorized long passages and fancied myself a modern-day Alice: she was so crisp, so witty, so practical and peppy. She made sparkling observations, and her world was speckled with talking animals! A dream book, a book to carry with me everywhere.

Then I found out that the Rev. Dodgson was a pedophile. He converted his obsession with Alice Liddell into something sanitized and mainstream when all he really wanted was to photograph her in her underwear.

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

Charlotte triumphant

June 1st, 2003

BY MICHELE GENDELMAN

CHAPTER 1

It was 196_, during that humid, pre-cable summer between third and fourth grades, when my mother gave me her copy of Jane Eyre. Whether dear Mammá did so for my edification or merely to quell my restive humors, it mattered not; for upon learning that Charlotte Brontë was obliged to adopt the masculine nom de plume Currer Bell to hide her gender, charlottebrontephotoI was filled with an indignation that compelled me to read on….

CHAPTER 4

How cruelly our orphan’d heroine suffered at the hands of her scornful aunt and vile brute of a cousin! And when Jane dared defend herself, she was summarily rewarded with a blow to the head and confined to a haunted bedchamber. Still, her courage inspired me; and thus when my parents insisted that I wash the dinner dishes while my brothers (hearty and dexterous lads both) were at liberty, I protested. “Fie, goodly sir and madam,” I cried, “but never shall I tolerate such gross injustice!” Suspension of privileges, however, proved even less tolerable, so for the next fortnight I played scullery maid… till one day dear Mammá (she of the breakfast and luncheon dishes) threatened a rebellion of her own, leading to dear Papá’s immediate purchase of a Kenmore dishwasher with Pot Scrubber Cycle.

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

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

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

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

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