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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 'Suess' Category

Sic transit horror mundi

Reading in prison

June 1st, 2016

BY DEAN SUESS

The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World
by A.J. Jacobs
Simon & Schuster, 2004

I take for my inspiration the somewhat geeky, wannabe metrosexual (“Why do they think I’m gay?”) A.J. Jacobs, Senior Editor of Esquire and author of this quirky memoir, which chronicles Jacobs’s ambitious project of reading the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Jacobs’s book is loosely organized by letter of the alphabet. Within this purported order, it proceeds in cheerful disarray, which suits my reading preferences just fine. Few things appeal to me as much as aimless wandering, and Jacobs happily wanders haphazardly through the Britannica, plowing through volume after volume, trying to gain unstructured knowledge. While Jacobs does achieve some wisdom through this project, he mostly proves himself a hopeless dilettante.

Dilettantism works fine for me and my fellow prisoners; it goes hand in hand with the disordered chaos of our lives, much of which is governed by acronyms: ADD, ADHD, XYZ, WHATEVER. The more convulted, the less direct, the more puzzling and specious, the better we like it. It is something we can identify with. Excepting Jacobs’s flights of intellectual fancy, and his obsession with Mensa membership, this book is for us a perfect, jumbled read.ⁱ

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

Study in scarlet

May 1st, 2007

fatgirl-copy.jpgBY DEAN SUESS

I have been working for some time on the outline of a novella, a study in scarlet as it were, of the dismal lives of people fascinated by, surrounded by, intrigued by, even bound by the actions of inmates in the prison system and those released, now living as ex-cons. What in God’s name makes “normal” people, whose self-preservation instincts should be shrieking “Run away! Run away!” seek out cons, insinuate themselves into their lives, accept substantial damage at their hands and through their machinations, and further ingratiate themselves in most humiliating and co-dependent ways — what makes these “normal” people tick?

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

Out of whack

April 1st, 2007

BY DEAN SUESS

How can one write about marriage when the American model is divorce? What point is there writing about a social institution that is statistically given to failure the majority of the time? The average marriage used to last seven years before ending in an expensive and shattering divorce. Then again, so did the average affair.groszohneresultat.jpgI believe the new average for both is now less than four years. And this demonstrates what? Stability?

It amazes me that a person would marry, risking one’s financial well-being with another person who, when the lust ends, the instant gratification fails, and the petulance sets in, will take the other for all he or she is worth, leaving behind a shell-shocked ex and probably progeny, all of whom become damaged goods. At one time, marriage was the foundation of financial responsibility. Now, however, depending on the judge, divorce can be far more financially lucrative than marriage, if you survive the emotional trauma. And this demonstrates what? Sensitivity?

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Marriage Issue, Suess | Link to this Entry

Pruno

November 1st, 2006

BY DEAN SUESS

“Stuff these down your pants.” “Say what?” Underneath the table, Thug One handed Patsy One a wad of sugar packets.

moonshinejug.png“Shut the hell up. What’s the matter with you? You are so stupid. Don’t look around. Don’t look suspicious. Don’t make a scene. Jesus, how did you ever get into prison? Hell, you don’t know the first thing about being a convict. Just shove ’em down your pants so the pigs won’t feel ’em if you get pat searched — right next to your balls.”

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Smoking & Drinking Issue, Suess | Link to this Entry

Reality avoidance

March 1st, 2006

BY DEAN SUESS

Everyone in prison does time in his own way. Depending on the anesthesia of choice, we can work out pseudo-time reduction programs, which we jokingly call “half-time.” It’s tongue-in-cheek, a parody of this state’s occasional offers to grant legitimate half-time reductions for specific criminal classes: dopers and meth lab contractors, for example. Some inmates are doped up on prescription medications, some on smuggled drugs. Some sleep half or more than half their time away. But by far the preferred half-time, or half-life, is watching television. Actually, “watching” is too active a verb to describe the non-engagement of brain synapse required by sitting in front of a television.

We have a cable contract at this prison, which provides over fifty channels of mind-numbing dreck. I haven’t had a television in my cell in quite some time, and I don’t miss it one bit. It’s entirely too irritating. Not to mention, most fights between cellies are over the television.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Television Issue, Suess | Link to this Entry

Hating the season

December 1st, 2004

BY DEAN SUESS

I hate it when the family comes to visit at Christmas. Overeating, forced conversation, faked jollity, stupid stories from the past. God, it makes me want to puke. I told them, “Don’t come this year.” I just can’t handle it.

Excuse the negativity, but Christmas in America has become a great disappointment, and it’s intensified within the prison setting. In prison, our expectations have been reduced to a null set, so achingly anti-celebratory as to make Dr. Seuss’s Grinch seem an archetype of cheerfulness. “The Grinch,” as you may recall, “hated Christmas,/The whole Christmas season./Please don’t ask me why,/No one quite knows the reason.”

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Christmas Issue, Suess | Link to this Entry

The language of me

September 1st, 2003

seussmanhiding.jpgBY DEAN SUESS

Man of La Mancha begins with the narrator’s invitation, “Come, enter into my imagination.” And as easily as that, no matter what the film, I am instantly transported into the land of make-believe. Utter fantasy, taking at face value the admonition to suspend my disbelief. I am a complete naïf about movies; whatever appears on the big screen is true within its own universe. It’s rather like the French language, I suppose, which makes exquisite sense only in French. If the Académie Française can dictate a comme il faut for sixty million people’s vocabulary and grammar, then the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences can certainly insist on the same iron-fisted mind control when it comes to cinema.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Movie Issue, Suess | Link to this Entry

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

Author profile

December 1st, 2002

Dean Suess is a professional church musician and vocal soloist who lives in Seattle. He was recently discharged from penitentiary after serving seven years on a felony count. His Black Lamb column is called Pen Man.

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

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