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Black Lamb


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.


Black Lamb welcomes submissions from new writers. Email us.


If you have questions or comments regarding Black Lamb, please email us.

Honorary Black Lambs

May 1st, 2016


April’s auspicious aspect is affirmed by the greatest of all literary birthday boys, William Shakespeare, who, legend has it, died on his fifty-second birthday on April 23, 1616. And one of the towering geniuses of the beckettdrawingtwentieth century, Samuel Beckett, was also born this month, allegedly on Good Friday the 13th, in Dublin in 1906.

On April Fool’s Day in 1868, the popularizer of seventeenth-century poet Cyrano de Bergerac, Edmond Rostand, was born. His play based on the early poet has found its way past literature into folklore, as have (almost) the exploits of Flashman, the creation of George MacDonald Fraser, born on the 2nd in 1925. George Herbert, born on the 3rd in 1593, lived to be only forty, but he wrote a great deal of memorable verse and would be counted among poetry’s immortals if he had not confined himself entirely to devotional themes. William Wordsworth, born on the 7th in 1770, suffered no such limitation and is therefore often put in that august company.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Animal Issue, Books and Authors, Honorary Black Lambs | Link to this Entry

Ask Millie


May 1st, 2016

Dear Reader,

I’ve written so often, and so well, about pets, that I take the liberty of reprinting two of my replies to letters on the subject of this special issue.

Dear Millicent,

What’s the best thing to do if you notice someone mistreating his pets? Three characters in our neighborhood fall into this loathesome category. One regularly whips his two dogs; their anguished yelps can be heard all down the street. Another refuses to have his many cats neutered, doesn’t feed them adequately, never has them vaccinated, and allows the kittens to die. The third insists on buying wild animals (a raccoon, a mink, an ocelot, among others) and caging them in his backyard, where his kids gape at the poor creatures until the animals eventually die of despair and loneliness.

Walter in Winnemucca

Dear Walter,

In recent years, new laws have been gradually enacted to protect innocent animals from cruel treatment at the hands of their “owners.” To my mind, these laws are not drastic enough. Rather than fines, abusers of animals should do real time in prison, where they can learn the true meaning of abuse. Furthermore, the trafficking in wild animals should be outlawed. It’s one thing to adopt a cat or dog or rabbit or hamster for a pet; these are domesticated animals that do better in homes than they would in the wild. But caging wild creatures is cruel and unnecessary.

As for your sorry situation, I would report neighbors one and two to the local animal authorities or the SPCA. As for the third, you and your neighbors should visit him en masse and point out to him the immorality of his habit of sequestering wild animals for his amusement. If this doesn’t work, sneak into his yard as often as necessary and uncage the critters.


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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Animal Issue, Marshall | Link to this Entry

Black Lamb Recipe

May 1st, 2016


First, roast a big old leg of lamb, and have it for dinner. Then, after a day or two, to fix yourself (and five loved ones) a mess of Southern baked ham and lamb hash, round up these ingredients:

2 cups diced leftover roast lamb
½ cup diced leftover ham or boiled ham
1 large onion, quartered
1 large green pepper, quartered, seeded and deribbed
2 or 3 sprigs parsley
1 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. flour
2 cups milk
¼ cup dry bread crumbs
3 tbsp. melted butter
salt and pepper
Tabasco sauce

Put the lamb, ham, onion, green pepper and parsley through the coarse disk of a food grinder. Set the mixture aside.

In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter over low heat until it is bubbly. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is light gold in color. Still stirring, slowly incorporate the milk. Stir until the mixture forms a thick, smooth sauce. Season to taste with salt, pepper and Tabasco.

Remove the sauce from the heat, add the ground meat mixture, and blend well. Pour into a well-greased, deep, ovenproof casserole, sprinkle the bread crumbs on top, and pour melted butter over the surface. Bake in a preheated 375° F. oven for 30 minutes.

From The Soul Food Cookbook, by Bob Jeffries.

We invite our readers to send us their favorite lamb recipes. If your recipe works out in our state-of-the-art test kitchen, we’ll print it and give you credit. •

From the first issue of Black Lamb, January 2003

Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Animal Issue, Recipes | Link to this Entry

The Thirteenth Anniversary Issue

Volume 14, Number 1 — January 2016

January 1st, 2016


When I began publishing Black Lamb back in January of 2003, I had no fixed idea of how long it would go on. Then, as the years accumulated, and as writers stayed and/or left, I found myself printing thirteen years of monthly issues, incorporating more than thirteenball3,000 original essays and almost 2,000 images, many of them drawn especially for Black Lamb.

But we are now in 2016, and print journalism is, if not dead, at least limited to those with major bucks (The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, Harper’s, etc.), and we small fry have to face the muzak: go online or go paperless.

So we’re going paperless. It’s a hell of lot cheaper.

Henceforward, Black Lamb will exist only online. We begin our internet manifestation with the first issue of our fourteenth year, incorporating some recently written articles as well as a number of superb specimens from our copious archives.

Wish us long life! •

Posted by: The Editors
Category: 13th Anniversary Issue, Ross | Link to this Entry

January 2016 in Black Lamb

January 1st, 2016

In our first online issue of January 2016, Editor Terry Ross looks back briefly on Black Lamb’s first 13 years. In Lords of the screens, D.K. Holm notes the childishness of movies. Emily Emerson reflects on a feature of country life in Pruning. In House of mirth, Michele Gendelman maintains that comedy is in her family’s genes. Steffen Silvis examines a forgotten nemesis of T.S. Eliot in Poet of parts. In Fan on the water, Toby Tompkins recalls his father’s death. Writing from Tel Aviv, Rochelle Singer celebrates a Torah in the street. In Pedophile heroes of 9/11, James Prunty rues society’s tendency to demonize. Greg Roberts explains how he pissed his life away in Programmed to fish. In Kramnik crushed, James McQuillen reports on the confluence of chess and pro wrestling. Signing in from India, Randall Giles notices the prevalence of very loud public music in Godawful din. In The sweetest sound, Ed Goldberg waxes sentimental about his grandpa and a pennywhistle. Elizabeth Fournier lists 15 things that please her in What’s not to like? In Gasping for breath, Doug Bruns reflects that his life’s journey is neither finished nor purposeful. John M. Daniels offers a selection of Very short stories. In An instant classic, Brad Bigelow reviews Nâzim Hikmet’s novel in verse. M.A. Orthofer reviews Patrick Modiano in Nobel thriller. Advice columnist Millicent Marshall answers a reader’s plaintive and angry question. And we welcome American western writers Robinson Jeffers and Jack London into our star-studded gallery of Honorary Black Lambs. •

Posted by: The Editors
Category: 13th Anniversary Issue, Month summaries | Link to this Entry

What’s not to like?

15 things that make me happy

January 1st, 2016


Things I Have (Until Now) Privately Savored (in no special order):

Sharp pencils. There is nothing like a sharp pencil. I feel like I could open a book of white paper and write forever, the sharp tip of my instrument creating beautiful words and imagery. What is it they say? A dream and a sharp pencil can take you anywhere. It sounds like a delicious ride on a fluffy cloud.

princessleiaPerforming the monologue from Princess Leia. Boys of all ages sort of tilt their heads and stare at me with glossy eyes as I begin, “General Kenobi, years ago you served my father in the Clone Wars. Now he begs you to help him in his struggle against the Empire.”

Canned food. I wish you all had the luxury of looking in my pantry. It is all there in living can color, cans arranged by month and year. Every three months I rotate them all out and restock. I lust for pull-out shelves someday. That would be more delightful to me than walking through Crystal Gayle’s long and luxurious locks barefoot.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: 13th Anniversary Issue, Fournier | Link to this Entry

Fan on the water

... and ashes to ashes

January 1st, 2016


My father died in 1996 in Tucson, Ariz., where he had spent his last years at a rehabilitation facility for addicts of all persuasions. He’d been an alcoholic for many years, but he got Clean and Sober in Tucson, and mostly stayed that way. But he never told me or my brother Mike about a colonoscopy that had revealed the worst. By the time we found out, he was in hospice care, already damned-near dead. He was too stoned on morphine when I finally got to his bedside to talk much, although he gobbled all the chocolates I had brought immediately. The hospice nurse had told me that flowers depressed him, and that he no longer ate anything but sweets, so what the hell.

Dad hadn’t wanted to see me at all when I arrived at the hospital. It took a full day and a sympathetic orderly for me to get into his room and deliver the chocolates. The sugar hit roused him briefly and he told me, mouth pasted with chocolate, that I was a “good son.” I'm not sure he knew which son I was. He died a week or so later.

My brother Mike dealt with the details, flying out from his Transcendental Meditation Center in Washington, D.C. to take charge of Dad’s body and effects. He found the least expensive crematorium in Tucson, fended off the blandishments of its directors pressuring him for a Pharaonic send-off, and got a no-frills deal.

sailboatMeanwhile he and I had contacted our family and Dad’s surviving friends for a memorial service in Falmouth, Mass., to be followed by a scattering of Dad’s ashes into Buzzards Bay. Mike had the crematorium send the sealed plastic box, in my name, to my wife’s art gallery on the east side of Manhattan, because at the time the mail carriers in our home nabe were careless about delivering packages.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: 13th Anniversary Issue, Tompkins | Link to this Entry

Torah in the street

High tech meets more than its match

January 1st, 2016


Here I am, another late afternoon just me and my computer in my cubicle, working on a presentation about a highly competitive, cutting-edge device guaranteed to eclipse background noise on cellphone calls. When, lo and behold, out of Kafkaland, drums roll and trumpets blast from down on Shenkar Street, penetrating double-glazed windows and shattering the notion that background noise can, or should, be silenced.

“Oy, yo, yo, yo, yo, Mashiach!”

Is the messiah really here in the heart of Israel’s most elite, high-tech neighborhood? Is he riding a white donkey?

I rush to the window and throw it open. The black-and-white street is flooded in color. Young drummers dressed in red, black hats dancing in delirious circles, a white truck crowned in gold and studded with loudspeakers, women in glossy wigs and shiny multicolored scarves pushing baby carriages, a Filipina pushing her elderly ward in a wheelchair, and blue-and-white police cars sealing off the rejoicing masses. Throngs of onlookers are agape, pointing and snapping photos from their cellphones.

torahAnd in the middle of all of this hullaballoo its raison d’être: a Torah. A brand new Torah being welcomed into the fold. Hidden modestly under a canopy of green velvet draped on four poles, it is barely visible from where I stand on the second floor of a corporate office. So I rush downstairs to greet it.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: 13th Anniversary Issue, Singer | Link to this Entry

Very short stories

January 1st, 2016


In the October 2015 issue of Black Lamb, I told of my introduction to the pleasure of writing pint-sized stories. Actually, they’re smaller than pint-sized. At 55 words per story, they weigh in at about six ounces, which is what a Coke bottle held when I was a kid. It cost a nickel. I digress.

Over several years I wrote dozens of such miniatures, and most of them were published, under a variety of pseudonyms, in collections Steve Moss and I put together for Daniel & Daniel and Running Press. Here are some that were written, again pseudonymously, for a collection published by Quality Paperback Book Club. They were disqualified because the stories were supposed to be submitted only by members of the club. So these stories appear here in print for the first time.

From Here to Eternity

“Looks bad, Frank,” Saint Peter said. “Booze, broads, brawls….”

Frank shrugged. “I did it my way.”

sinatra“You belong downstairs with the hookers and gangsters.”

Frank smiled.

“But the Boss likes your singing,” Pete continued. “Put on this white robe. From now on you’re singing in the choir.”

“Like hell!” Frank thundered.

Pete smiled back. “Bingo.”

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: 13th Anniversary Issue, Daniel | Link to this Entry

Gasping for breath

My true north is still elusive

January 1st, 2016


I was an intent and haughty young man, hungry for direction and purpose. I am less intent as an aging man and I have worked to lose the haughtiness, though I still remain hungry for direction and purpose. A true north, presented as a reasonable and intelligent sensibility, remains unknown, a shrouded mystery. Schopenhauer, that great sourpuss, said that walking is simply the function of interrupting the natural state of falling down. I am walking, and conscious that every step is taken in self-defense, taken to keep from collapsing. I have concluded that for me life holds only surprises and reveals nothing. I am in a poker game and am blind, having no idea what cards I hold.

manpacingI did not spring from the womb playing Mozart. I cannot do math. I have not experienced a particular urge to save the world or develop a vaccine or build an empire. I have no natural capacity for anything, as best I can tell. The writer in me struggles to spin my web, but all disciplines have their nature. I work from my gut. In short, I exist, like, as best I can tell, many of us exist, without a clarifying direction or calling, most of the time not even cognizant that we even exist. I keep my eyes open and take notes. I attempt to string them together and search for patterns. And at sixty I still search.

Driving through Ohio recently I realized how much I prefer straight lines. The highways of Pennsylvania, on the other hand, reminded me that hidden curves are, conversely, not to my liking. I want to see straight ahead as far as I can. I want my eye to rest on the horizon. Maybe that is why so many of us are drawn to the ocean. The eye is unimpeded and the curvature of the earth is distant and not threatening. Yet the only migraine I ever experienced occurred in Spain on the Costa del Sol, where the sun and the ocean and the expanse could not be escaped and in all directions intensity loomed. This was a painful thing to experience and all I take from it is an odd aversion to brilliance. A moth will singe its wings and die over a flame. And the search goes on.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: 13th Anniversary Issue, Bruns | Link to this Entry

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