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Black Lamb


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


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Car Man is not pleased.

Not the sharpest tool in the box

April 1st, 2015


Rod the mechanic was late for our “let’s just kick down a beer and bullshit” date. Those were his exact words during our brief, introductory phone call.
However, I was still planning to move forward because I had heard from our mutual friend who’d given him my number that he was Erik Estrada cute and loved to talk cars.

womanwarrioronhorse*Our go-between was sort of correct, but Rod had a dirty appearance. He looked clean, but grungy. He’d most likely showered, but he was wearing men’s Red Kap indigo blue work jeans. Now, I know my blue-collar uniforms, and, in fact, I am a fan of coveralls and all things Carhartt. But something about wearing work pants to a first meeting in public looked like he either thought he should dress the part, or maybe he just lived in denim and cargo pants. Or maybe he was just clean, but grungy.

“Chicks just don’t know crap about cars,” he grunts about ten minutes into our fifteen-minute-late linkage, he being the late-comer. Whoa, a double red flag in one sentence! “Chicks” and he’s a potty mouth on the first date. Let’s make it a triple red flag for his blatantly sexist-generalized statement, too. Schmuck!

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

March 2015 in Black Lamb

Volume 13, Number 3 — March 2015

March 1st, 2015

The All-Clothing Issue

In March’s All-Clothing Issue, editor Terry Ross takes a hard look at contemporary clothing styles. In The woman in the black silk dress, John M. Daniel evokes his great-great-grandmother. Toby Tompkins says that at various times in our lives, we are all playing roles and wearing the appropriate Costumes. In Funeral dress, Elizabeth Fournier expounds on the correct attire for studying mortuary science. Our book reviewers weigh in on volumes having to do with apparel.

And, as always, our regular departments: our Honorary Black Lambs from the world of literature, our delicious lamb recipe, our incomparable bridge columnist Trixie Barkis, and our word puzzle master, Dr. Khan.

Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Clothing Issue, Month summaries | Link to this Entry

The woman in the black silk dress

My great-great-grandmother

March 1st, 2015


In the home in Dallas where I grew up, there hung on the dining room wall a steel engraving, a head-and-shoulders portrait of a woman wearing a plain black dress. I wondered why she should dominate the dining room, but I accepted her as part of my life and her portrait as an heirloom that had to be honored. She was, I knew, some kind of ancestor. She had a sober expression on her face, and she struck me as a sourpuss. My mother disagreed. She was a kind woman, my mother told me, and her face was beautiful. Serene. Her name was Hannah Neil. She lived from 1794 to 1868. She was my great-great-grandmother.

hannahneilHannah Neil’s portrait hung prominently in my mother’s house because my mother’s name was also Hannah Neil, those being her first and middle names until she was married. Her mother’s (my grandmother’s) name was Hannah Neil also. My sister was Hannah Neil Daniel until she was married. I also have a first cousin and a granddaughter named Hannah; and I had an uncle, a brother, and a first cousin named Neil, and Neil is my son’s, and his son’s, middle name. The names Hannah and Neil hang in abundance on my family tree. They collectively honor a woman in a plain black dress, who was by all accounts a saint.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Clothing Issue, Daniel | Link to this Entry

February 2014 in Black Lamb

Volume 13, Number 2 — February 2015

February 1st, 2015

In February's issue we begin with Democracy modern-style, an essay by Terry Ross in which he notes the disappearance of a once-beloved institution. In Big fish, Elizabeth Fournier hymns the joys of living in the country or a small town. John Daniel remembers his career in the entertainment industry in Selling the song. In To Kurdish Turkey, Lorentz Lossius continues his travel diary. Toby Tompkins writes of a dream in Dead low water. In State of Italy, part 5, Dan Peterson examines some of the institutions of his adopted country. Brad Bigelow reviews a book about Leo Stein, art collector and brother of Gertrude. And M.A. Orthofer looks at the neglected East German author Irmtraud Morgner.

We welcome two new members into our gallery of Honorary Black Lambs: influential playwright Bertolt Brecht and Canadian novelist Morley Callaghan, who once beat up Hemingway in a boxing match. Bridge columnist Trixie Barkis dreams up some new dilemmas to get your teeth into, we offer a delicious lamb recipe for Lancashire Hot Pot, advice columnist Millicent Marshall holds forth again, and Professor Kahn once more challenges us with a word puzzle. •

Posted by: The Editors
Category: Month summaries | Link to this Entry

Big fish

The joys of country and small-town life

February 1st, 2015


Living and working in the country offers fantastic benefits. My funeral parlour is situated on 30 country acres, complete with deer statuary and antique farming equipment. The funeral home building is a remodeled goat barn surrounded by lush groves of trees where I hold outdoor funerals; couples have been married in the funeral home itself.

On beautiful sunny days I tool down the country lane in front of the funeral home. I keep my windows down and the music up loud. Sometimes I get stuck behind a combine or a rickety school bus because the parlour is on scenically busy Highway 224 and snakes along the beautiful Clackamas River. Often a car slows in front of me and I can’t see what is going on because of a long line of cars or because the sun is in my eyes. I go slowly around the turns and see that a large piece of machinery is ahead along the way. This always happens when I have to get back quickly because a family is due to meet me at the funeral home. Or I have to hurry back to type out a death certificate and get it into the mailbox before the little postal Jeep comes by. Country life runs on a clock that moves to the rhythms of random farm equipment on the road.

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

January 2015 in Black Lamb

Volume 13, Number 1 — January 2015

January 1st, 2015

The Twelfth Anniversary Issue

In January’s Twelfth Anniversary Issue we begin with Editor Terry Ross’s reflections on the difficulties and rewards of publishing an independent literate (not literary) magazine. In Because, Elizabeth Fournier paints a portrait of a child — herself at age ten — drawn to death and mourning. Toby Tompkins writes of guns and New Hampshire in Hunting. In Nonaversary John M. Daniel reflects on an age difference with a brother. Dan Peterson continues his examination of a twenty-first century country in State of Italy, part 4. At the beginning of the new year, we look back at memorable books in a selection of reviews.

We welcome English fantasist J.R.R. Tolkien and American frontier novelist Jack London into our gallery of Honorary Black Lambs. Bridge columnist Trixie Barkis gives us new conundrums to savor, and we offer yet another delicious lamb recipe. Millicent Marshall dispenses her inimitable advice, and Professor Kahn challenges us with another word puzzle.

Posted by: The Editors
Category: 12th Anniversary Issue, Month summaries | Link to this Entry


January 1st, 2015


When my mother died, Grandpa, my Mom’s father, tried to help. He was waiting at our house after school each day to watch us until Dad got home from work. One afternoon, Grandpa met me at the door and followed me into my bedroom.

“Tess, what is this on your dresser?”

“It’s a cemetery. See the gravestones?”

Grandpa nodded. “I see. You did a pretty good job.”


cemeterywithbaby“What’s it for?”

I shrugged and straightened a couple of the rock tombstones nervously. “I just liked it. I like making things.”

“I see,” Grandpa said again. The concern in his voice was throwing up all kinds of red flags.

“Do you want some cheese sandwich?” he finally asked.

“Yes!” I said, and shimmied out of there on the double.

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

December 2014 in Black Lamb

Volume 12, Number 12 — December 2014

December 1st, 2014

The All-Madness Issue

In December’s All-Madness Issue, Toby Tompkins looks at his life in the context of Mental hygiene. In Post-Armageddon, Greg Roberts assures us that everything will turn out fine. John M. Daniel gives us a version of mythology in Medusa. In The madness of death, Elizabeth Fournier describes the wacky things people do with their deceased loved ones. Susan Bennett explores a weird world in Mad mothers & crazy housewives. In A danger to others, Karla Kruggel Powell contends that mental disorders can do more harm to friends and relatives than to the afflicted person. Dan Peterson, whose father was a cop, offers his Thoughts on Ferguson. And James Orbeson reviews the book Suspicious Minds: How Culture Shapes Madness.

We salute poet John Milton and playwright John Osborne as we welcome them into our exclusive club of Honorary Black Lambs. Bridge columnist Trixie Barkis challenges us yet again with problems in declarer play. Our monthly lamb recipe is for James Beard’s Herb-stuffed Lamb Chops. Advice columnist Millicent Marshall answers more readers’ questions. And Professor Avram Kahn presents another challenging Black Lamb Word Puzzle.

Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Madness Issue, Month summaries | Link to this Entry

Post Armageddon

There's a sweet new world waiting for us out there.

December 1st, 2014


manson2Charles Manson has been besieged by hot chicks begging to marry him. These girls look beyond his wrecked octogenarian carcass and the swastika on his forehead, not to mention his embarrassingly feeble guitar playing. Are they nuts? Of course they are, but I’m not much better.

I’m feeling fascination, even sympathy, for a complete nut case named Timothy Treadwell, the poor guy who lived with grizzly bears in Alaska and who eventually died in their paws. Everything I know about the grizzly man comes from the documentary of that name, directed by Werner Herzog. This excellent film tells the story of a drug-addicted loser actor from Los Angeles who discovered the natural world and was saved by it. The bears were such an exhilarating drug for Treadwell, he needed no other for the rest of his life.

Watching Treadwell play with his animal friends, you can’t help but like the guy. You envy the joy that he exudes in this wilderness setting, no matter the hardships of tent life and the miserable wind and rain that come with the territory. You start to overlook his delusionary behavior. He thought he was protecting the bears, when in fact they needed no protection: they are apex predators protected by park boundaries. Worse, Treadwell thought he had become a member of the bear tribe, when in fact he was on the path to being their victim, along with his naïve girlfriend, Amy.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Madness Issue, Roberts | Link to this Entry

November 2014 in Black Lamb

Volume 12, Number 11 — November 2014

November 1st, 2014

In November’s issue, Terry Ross tells the truth about the town he inhabits in Not exactly Portlandia. In Putting the fun in funerals, Elizabeth Fournier describes some trends in the death industry. Toby Tompkins reviews J.R.R. Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf in Epic treatment. In Love’s not easy, John M. Daniel warns of some pitfalls to avoid in writing about relationships. Dan Peterson gives us another chapter in his multi-section portrait with State of Italy, part 3. And Alex Houston, M.A. Orthofer, and Brad Bigelow contribute expert reviews of four books.

We wecome operetta king William Gilbert and American writer James Agee into our gallery of Honorary Black Lambs. Bridge columnist Trixie Barkis challenges us with more puzzles in declarer play. Our monthly lamb recipe is for James Beard’s classic Mushroom-stuffed Lamb Chops. Advice columnist Millicent Marshall answers more readers’ questions. And Professor Avram Kahn presents another challenging Black Lamb Word Puzzle.

Posted by: The Editors
Category: Month summaries | Link to this Entry

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