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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.


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Archive for the 'Black Lamb Review of Books' Category

Pagan primer

"In olden times...."

June 1st, 2016


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 never 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.

d'aulaireUnfortunately, 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
Category: Black Lamb Review of Books, Books and Authors, Silvis | Link to this Entry

Big Dave

Before Dylan, Dave Van Ronk was the bull goose

June 1st, 2016


The Mayor of MacDougal Street: A Memoir
by Dave Van Ronk, with Elijah Wald
Da Capo Press, 2005

One night on MacDougal Street, one of the major thoroughfares in Greenwich Village, I was listening to Dave Van Ronk at the Gaslight, a cellar folk club much mentioned in this book. It was, maybe, 1962. The cliche description of Van Ronk as a “bear of a man” was both easy and correct.

He was big, broad, bearded, and lank-haired; his head almost hit the top of the proscenium. Two drunk high school kids sat at one of the minuscule tables and kept up a loud conversation during Dave’s set. He warned them twice, but they resumed chattering before long. vanronkFinally, Dave set down his guitar, stepped off the stage and grabbed the bigger of the two by the collar. “I told you to shut up!” he growled, then cold-cocked the kid. His shocked buddy dragged him out of the club and up the stairs to the street, accompanied by the applause of the other patrons. Dave then resumed the stage and continued as if nothing had happened. There were giants in the earth in those days.

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

Raiders of the lost tombs

Archaeological adventure novels

June 1st, 2016


American Caliphate
by William Doonan
Oak Tree Press, 2012

Were’s a spellbinding archaeological novel about a “dig” (archaeologists prefer the term “excavation”) on the north coast of Peru, the ancient home of the Moche Indians, who built adobe pyramids. These pyramids, and one pyramid in particular, are of particular interest to a team of North American academic archaeologists, but in this high-stakes adventure novel there are other parties equally interested in what might be found inside a certain tomb. The CIA, for example. The Vatican. A strong-minded old Muslim woman in Lima. And whoever it was that shot and nearly killed Ben and Jila, a pair of romantically involved archaeologists, the last time they poked around the Santiago de Paz pyramids.

American Caliphate has a cast of intelligent, risk-taking characters driven by academic jealousy, political intrigue, religious rivalry, love and lust, outright greed, and insatiable nosiness about the ancient past. The plot is full of danger and discovery. And what these archaeologists discover may confirm rumors that Muslims fleeing the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal brought Islam to the New World.

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

Honorary Black Lambs

June 1st, 2016

June’s a jumble of juicy birthdays, but novelists are the overwhelming winners in the literary derby despite the appearance of one of the twentieth century’s greatest poets, William Butler Yeats on June 13, in 1865. Before he got old and yeatsphotoyoungCeltic mysticism got the best of him and his verse, Yeats wrote book after book of lyrical, transcendent poetry. The true goods.

Another poet, one of a different sort, adorns June, and that’s the late Allen Ginsberg, born on the 3rd in 1926. And a great master came on the scene, in Russia, on the 6th, in 1799, when Aleksandr Pushkin drooled his first. And although he’s better known for his grim novels, Thomas Hardy, born on the 2nd in 1840, was one of the great poets of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

There are also a few notable dramatists to mention. Pierre Corneille, writer of comedies and also El Cid, came into being on the 6th in 1606. Ben Jonson, author of Volpone, howled his first howl on June 11, 1572, and Luigi Pirandello began his search for an author on the 28th, in 1867. John Gay, creator of The Beggar’s Opera, was born in 1685. His tombstone reads “Life’s a jest/And all things show it./I thought so once,/But now I know it.”

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

Ask Millie

The top ten

June 1st, 2016


The life of an advice columnist living in Big Sky Country is both bracing and sad. Bracing because the big sky gets me thinking big and gives my advice a heft that I believe other advisors’ columns lack. millieSad, because most of my ranch animals and neighbors don’t think so big. When I hear from other large-minded, cultured souls, I can go about my ranching feeling a little less like Elijah in the desert and a little more like an ordinary advice columnist living in Montana. Sometimes, however, I realize that the angst I feel out here is not limited by geography.

For example, the other morning, after clearing the sagebrush and enjoying my mountain-goat yogurt smoothie, I lifted the lid off the Black Lamb crate of goodies that arrives every month. Usually the crate is filled with letters asking advice, but this month, being the month of the “All-Book Issue”, the cris de coeur were all from my Editor. And they all boiled down to one thing: why would anyone buy this book, rather than Black Lamb? For he had packed the crate with the books holding the top ten sales slots in the country. The scary part was that, clearly, he had read them all. They were flagged, highlighted, and underlined. And beneath the scribbles was the existential cry, “Why?”

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

Black Lamb Recipe

June 1st, 2016


To prepare Shashlyk (Georgian skewered lamb), a dish from the Caucasus, assemble the following ingredients:

1 large onion, peeled and finely grated
1 tblsp. strained fresh lemon juice
1 tblsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 lbs. boneless leg or shoulder of lamb, cut into 1- to 1½-inch cubes
2 medium onions, cut into ¼-inch-thick chunks
2 firm, ripe medium tomatoes, cut into eighths
10 scallions, trimmed
1 lemon, quartered

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the grated onion, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Add the meat the let it marinate for at least 3 hours at room temperature, tossing it in the marinade every hour or so to keep the pieces well moistened.

Prepare coals in a charcoal broiler or preheat your kitchen broiler to its highest point.

String the cubes of lamb tightly on 4 long skewers, alternating the lamb with the chunks of onion; press them firmly together. Broil 4 inches from the source of heat, turning the skewers occasionally, until the lamb is done to your taste and the onions are brown. Slide the lamb and onion off the skewers onto heated individual plates, and serve with the raw tomatoes and scallions.

Serves 4.

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

July 2015 in Black Lamb

Volume 13, Number 7 — July 2015

July 1st, 2015

The Black Lamb Review of Books XIII

In July’s special book issue, John M. Daniel revisits favorite books in Trilogies & quartets. In Revisiting Camus, M.A. Orthofer reviews Kamel Daoud’s reimagining of The Stranger. Toby Tompkins reviews a book about the causes of World War I in Paranoia. In Personal impressions, Brad Bigelow reviews one of the best books ever written about World War II. Lee Matalone reviews a fine collection of Italo Calvino’s stories in Significance galore. In His best novel, Walter Biggins reviews a collection of Jim Harrison’s Brown Dog novellas. Elizabeth Fournier takes a look back at Nancy Mitford in In the business. In Summer reading, Terry Ross reviews Susan Altstatt’s remarkable debut novel Belshangles and three other books. And Lane Browning reviews a book about a found photo in Mystery image.

We welcome literary critic Lionel Trilling and novelist Cormac McCarthy into our roster of Honorary Black Lambs. Bridge writer Trixie Barkis describes another tricky bit of cardplay. We offer our umpteenth delicious lamb recipe. Millicent Marshall again answers reader’s questions. And Professor Khan proffers another of his challenging word puzzles.

Posted by: The Editors
Category: Black Lamb Review of Books, Month summaries | Link to this Entry

Trilogies & quartets

Short introductions to a few long works

July 1st, 2015


Many’s the time I’ve finished a novel and wished it could have gone on, that the story could continue, so I could spend more time with the characters and continue to enjoy the author’s brain and storytelling style. Of course I could reread the novel, and I often do, after a bit of time has elapsed. But what I really want is a continuation of the novel: an ongoing plot. I want to know what happens next.

This isn’t the case with all novels. Some wonderful stories are complete in one volume; and although I probably would enjoy reading more novels by the same good writer, I’m fully satisfied with where the one I have just finished, finished. But what a pleasure it has been when I knew I could go on to another step in the story’s journey. Or what a pleasant surprise to find out that a good story will live on in a sequel, for starters, and may turn into a trilogy or even a quartet of linked novels.

What follows is an annotated and opinionated list of sequential novels, books that belong to each other in threes and fours. In compiling the list I followed three self-imposed rules: (1) within each trilogy or quartet, each volume must be able to stand alone, but (2) together they form a narrative greater than the sum of its parts, and (3) I must have read the books, and I must have liked them enough to recommend them to others. I am presenting these in alphabetical order by authors’ last names, to overrule any tendency to rank the works.

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

July 2013 in Black Lamb

Volume 11, Number 7 — July 2013

July 1st, 2013

The Black Lamb Review of Books X

In our 10th annual Black Lamb Review of Books, Terry Ross begins with a question: Poetry is dead, played out. Nobody reads it. True or false? And if true, why? In Richard Russo’s hometown John M. Daniel explores this novelist’s depiction of the place he grew up. Andi Diehn remembers a youth of insatiable reading in Book-colored glasses.

In Finally, the truth, Toby Tompkins reviews Nicholson Baker’s 2008 book Human Smoke. M.A. Orthofer comments on a Proust book in Help is on the way. In eZ reading, Rod Ferrandino relates how he made peace with his Kindle. Doug Bruns reviews Jim Harrison’s The Great Leader in A rare voice. In Publish & be damned, Ed Goldberg offers tips on self-publishing. In Out of season, Andi Diehn reviews Barry Estabrook’s cautionary book Tomatoland. Brad Bigelow reflects on poet Helen Bevington’s third volume of memoirs in Not quiet and not really calm. In Mad jealous Jessica Ferri reviews a funny-girl memoir she wishes she’d written. Lee Polevoi recalls a Denis Johnson novel in Neglected masterpiece. In Leading critic, M.A. Orthofer reviews a book of Cynthia Ozick’s essays. Dan Peterson chooses his favorite sports books in The five best.

Three more figures from the world of literature — English novelist Hilary Mantel, American novelist Richard Russo, and English novelist William Makepeace Thackeray — are ushered into our pantheon of Honorary Black Lambs and The Ultimate Literary Calendar. Our monthly lamb recipe, from Greece, is for Atlas Mountain Soup. In Mea culpa, advice columnist Millicent Marshall apologizes for having criticized a fellow graduate student for loving Anthony Trollope. And Professor Avram Khan gives us another challenging Black Lamb Word Puzzle.

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

Book-colored glasses

July 1st, 2013


I envy the way my oldest son reads, stretched out on the living room couch, all of a sudden this year taking up most of three cushions. Watch his face: his lips move, his eyebrows raise and lower in drastic measures, he smiles, winces, gapes, and falls still all in a mere breath.

He practices the cliché – he devours books. But, even better, the books devour him.

l'engleI used to be the same way. When I was about ten a pen pal came to visit from all the way across the country and I didn’t notice her for a few days after discovering a copy of Madeleine L’Engle’s Meet the Austins in her suitcase.

“Want to go swimming?” she would ask. “Want to ride bikes? Want to watch TV?”

No. I was reading. I was busy becoming an Austin.

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

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