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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 the 'Browning' Category

Think again, Oprah!

I'll take over

June 1st, 2016

BY LANE BROWNING

She can’t find a book a month. That’s what she says, can’t find a single book each month that floats her boat, that makes her quivery enough to bump its sales by a googol or two. The publishing world goes into a tizzy and the Today Show steps in to plug the hole. Great, just what we need, Al Roker reading his own schmaltzy parenting guides and Katie recommending bios of “important women.”

Oprah is a gazillionaire and can do pretty much anything she wants, but something just doesn’t add up here. Could that Jonathan Franzen mess have soured her on the whole picnic? Is she simply too busy to read anything but bank statements and thank-you notes from Dr. “I’m-as-famous-as-you-are-now” Phil? Or did Halle Berry’s lachrymal Oscar win persuade Ms. Winfrey to give acting another try, thinking to erase the stench of Beloved?

She doesn’t find enough books she feels “absolutely compelled to share.”

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

Avian individuals

Crows make me smile

May 1st, 2016

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: All Animal Issue, Browning | Link to this Entry

Most exceptional of all

Laura Bridgman preceded Hellen Keller

April 1st, 2015

BY LANE BROWNING

Helen Keller came second.

For all her fame, achievements and iconic role modeling, the redoubtable Ms. Keller ascended on the very frail shoulders of her predecessor.

bridgmanYes, she did have a predecessor; in fact, Helen Keller was selected specifically as the “next” deaf/blind/mute poster child when the first one sidelined. Keller took up the mantle and carried it with spectacular virtuosity for eighty years. Yet even Keller and her gifted mentor Anne Sullivan suggested that the girl who “came before” was the truly exceptional one.

Most of us know that Miss Sullivan taught Helen to communicate, but who taught Anne? Laura Bridgman did. Laura Bridgman, who was the first deaf/blind/mute child in the U.S. to learn to communicate, both with finger signing and with writing (quite beautifully and very legibly). Laura Bridgman, who lost four of her senses when she was a toddler, yet went on to study philosophy, history, mathematics, geography, Latin, and religion.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: Browning | 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.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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

Embracing the vertical

January 1st, 2014

BY LANE BROWNING

I've given up sitting.

I spend my days upright now, like a solid old piano, a sturdy fir, a non-leaning tower of no pizza. I read standing up, I write standing up, I eat standing up. Other than when I’m in bed, or when I’m in the bathtub, I stand for all but an hour or so every day. I do sit down when I talk to clients at my desk, because standing would seem too preacher-posturey. For all other things, though, standing seems appropriate, even “natural,” and I don’t know why I sat all those years. Now I have space around me, because chairs and couches don’t clutter the area. I can change positions while standing. I can balance on one leg; I can tap dance, I can lean or stretch. I can slouch. I can shift my weight.

I can see farther than I did when sitting down.

Most of my work is done at a computer, so both my so-called “work stations” are set up for standing. I didn’t buy or build anything; I stacked boxes. Function over aesthetics. I have to say, I like it a lot. It’s been many months now, and I really like it. Going back (or down) would seem really odd. I think, having taken a stand, I am committed.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: 11th Anniversary Issue, Browning | Link to this Entry

No thanks for the memories

August 1st, 2013

BY LANE BROWNING

I was thinking about forgetting.

No, not forgetting like “Dammit, I know I left my keys here” or “What? I thought that was next Thursday!” and no, not like the henpecked husband who comes back from the store without the pasta sauce or cat litter.

No. I mean pragmatic forgetting. Selective forgetting.

Survival forgetting.

There are classes and books and support groups for helping people learn to forgive, but we really need PhDs in forgetting. It baffles me that each year on the 11th day of September in most parts of the United States we are expected to “remember” the events of that day in 2001. Why? Whom does it serve? What does it prevent or abet? Is reliving catastrophe obligatory? Why do bereaved parents acknowledge, every year, the deaths of their children? What kind of catharsis is there in this? It doesn’t aid the deceased in any way; like humans who lived three centuries ago, they are gone, they are lost but to memory or pages in a book or pixels on a website. There is the notion of “honoring their memories,” but I’ve never understood that.

Is there something wrong with me?

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

To BeBe or not to BeBe

What, after all, is in a name?

July 1st, 2012

BY LANE BROWNING

My grandma Annie liked cocker spaniels. Specifically, blond cocker spaniels. The first one was a gift from her adoring husband after their two children moved out. She was used to dogs, because there were collie hybrids on the farm where she lived, and the cocker, being a spaniel, would be a good herding and chasing dog, too, but it was soon apparent this was a house pet and lap ornament, a companion, a surrogate child. Her name was BeBe. I don’t know why, and the reasons are lost now because my aunt, who surely would have known, died last year, at ninety-one.

cockerspanielBeBe herself died over and over and over again. That’s because each time one BeBe bought the farm (so to speak), a new puppy would arrive as if by magic. And the new puppy was always named… BeBe. There was no grieving; there was only substitution. Lickety-split: bury one Bebe, welcome the next. It was clean and unsuffixed: there was no “BeBe the Second” or “BeBe Redux” or “Yet Another BeBe” or “Still Yet Another Freakin’ BeBe.” No. It was just… BeBe.

Sort of like cloning, but without cells or science.

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

Author intervention, author invention

March 1st, 2012

BY LANE BROWNING

“Wasn’t there supposed to be beer?” he asked, way too loudly, addressing no one at all. “I was told there’d be beer.”

He was dissolute. He was disheveled. He was obstreperous.

He was not godlike.

This was after his tepid reading before the assembled three dozen of us, after he’d rambled his way through a novel in progress, a novel that to my mind had only one decent line in it. He was a lousy reader, rarely looked up, didn’t emote, sniffed and gargled a lot, wasn’t riveting. He wasn’t even the focal reader at the event, and kept toadying up to the woman who was.

Earlier that day, when I’d learned that the author of one of my top-five-most-admired-pieces-of-short-fiction would be speaking a half-hour from my house, I was awash with excitement. I’d seen another much admired writer, and his talk was buttery and buoying and witty and articulate and transporting. So this chance I would not miss. David Long. David Long, whose collection Blue Spruce holds an honored spot on my bookshelf. With one particular chunk exalted.

And here he was, this ghoul of a pretender. I know about the disconnect between icons and authenticity. I know that the celebrity is not necessarily his/her public persona. But this? This was about the creative arts, not about facial symmetry or beautiful singing. This was about the words and the brain, and his banal presentation and shitty attitude were disorienting.

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

Living with autism

Above all, attention must be paid.

November 1st, 2011

BY LANE BROWNING

Well, the diagnosticians are working backwards. For years they’ve been giving autism screening tests to preschoolers, and this year came the big news of a “possible predictor” survey for one-year-olds. Babies. Eventually there will be prenatal tests and all the gnarly decisions those engender; but that’s a tale for another sailor.

On my child’s first birthday no one was thinking about autism. We his exhausted parents were sitting in a hospital room thousands of miles from home, waiting during his five hours of microsurgery. He weighed twenty pounds. Neurological and cognitive development concerned us not a lick; our focus was on the ambitious tumors around his eyeball.
A year later, though, the speech delay seemed a little ominous, and off we went into testing hell. Onto the testing carousel.

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

Logophilia

October 1st, 2011

BY LANE BROWNING

There is Charades, and then there is Charades.

I come from what people would call an “intellectual” family; both of my brothers have doctorates, and each of them has been married to women with doctorates (my brother’s second wife had two). My sister is a retired surgeon married to an orthodontist; my nephew is a surgeon, my nearest cousin is a neonatologist, my nieces are bilingual and academically accomplished. My son, still in his teens, has already won science and math awards.

I’m the dumb one, but that’s not the subject of this essay.

Though I have sibs who speak multiple languages and have traveled all parts of the globe and published in impressive journals, what probably defines us as a group is our humor — and the games. When we congregate, the games predominate. Yes, there is a lot of conversation, and there is some cooking and eating and physical activity; but chiefly, it’s the games.

Not board games or games requiring pieces. In my family, the default is Charades and the runnerup is Dictionary Game.
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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Family Issue, Browning | Link to this Entry

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