Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘literature’

Romantic Comedy at It’s Best

Tales From A Broad by Jeannine Henvey
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

TFABIf you like Jane Austin you’ll love Tales From A Broad. If you enjoyed Eat, Pray, Love, and Under the Tucson Sun, you’ll want to languish in Tales From A Broad. If you liked Sex In the City, Pretty Woman, An Affair to Remember, and any of a hundred other romantic books and movies, you will find great pleasure in reading Tales From A Broad. If, on the other hand, you don’t like comedy, romance, “chick lit”, “women’s fiction”, or anything remotely similar, you’ll still fall in love with Tales From A Broad.

Lucy Banks is jilted by her fiancé, Cooper, days before there New York City wedding. Wallowing in self-pity, regret, dismay, and righteous anger, 42-year-old Lucy is given a ray of hope and possibility with a surprise visit from her concerned sister, Morgan, and 24-year-old niece, Tess. They have brought plane tickets to Europe for Tess and Lucy to travel together, in hopes they will each find a fresh start, perhaps some personal insight, and if nothing else, a little fun.

At first reading, I mistakingly thought this was a personal journal of the authors, but soon discovered that it was written so well that it just seemed personal. Everyone is flawed, complicated, and unique. Lucy is funny as hell, and delightfully snarky. Each experience, including chance encounters with a young man, Mark, and his older brother, Simon, bring new revelations to Lucy and Tess, pushing their boundaries and how they see themselves and others.

One of my favorite movies I saw last year was a 2014 Indian film called Queen, about a young woman who is dumped days before her marriage, and then decides to go on her honeymoon by herself to Europe. She stays at a youth hostile and meets a wonderfully eclectic and odd collection of new friends. She also comes into her own, and becomes clear about who she is and what she wants. Tales From A Broad follows a similar plot, but with an older woman and more mature perspective.

Tales From A Broad is not contrived, or trite, and will have you laughing, crying and rooting for Lucy’s happiness, whether you are an avid fan of romantic comedies and women’s literature, or not.

Favorite Literary Sex Scenes

Some of my favorite sex scenes in literature.

The Pink Blanket

I have been entranced with the novel Ebba and the Green Dresses of Olivia Gomez in a Time of Conflict and War by Joan Tewkesbury since it was released. The story is a literary wonderland of love, hate, darkness and hope and is steeped in the spices and flavors of Latin American magic realism. This is Ms. Tewkesbury’s first novel, though she is well known for her screenwriting (Nashville, etc.), directing and acting.

Among the many delectable and delicious delights that are embedded in this story, are her loving sex scenes between husband and wife Bernardo and Hortence Grace. They flow seamlessly and beautifully into the narrative and are not only believable but palpable. Here are some savory examples.

“Hortense Grace stirred in her sleep and turned over, opened in her sleep for Bernardo who slid into her darkness, her well, her reservoir and they made love in semiconscious cascades. They were one over and over so many times before they drifted into sleep, deeply asleep, a sleep so deep they had no memory of how well they had known each other in the night.”

“Finally, when they were sure Rebecca and Tobia had fallen asleep, Hortense Grace and Bernardo pulled out the pink blanket, the one that Ariel had been conceived on, and unfurled it in the garden. Then they took off all their clothes and made love under the stars and the moon, accidentally rolling off the blanket onto the ground as they pounded into each other’s flesh over and over and fell asleep in a bed of wild sweet peas. Just before dawn they woke up covered in mud and started to laugh. Then they turned on the hose and wdashed each other off, let the water flood them as they slammed into each other one last time before running into the house to make coffee which they took outside and drank as the sun crept up over the morning glory covered wall.”

The beauty of these examples are the respect and intimacy that are shared between the characters. Though I enjoy explicit descriptions of sex (when they are in context), the scenes in this novel have much more impact, because of the development of the story and protagonists. It is raw, real and relative and resonates with experiences of loving consensual and joyous sexuality. That is why I’ve chosen sex scenes from this literary mistresspiece as some of my favorite of all time and encourage readers to pick up this novel and see for themselves.

Read more of Ebba and the Green Dresses of Olivia Gomez in a Time of Conflict and War at Amazon.

Bearing Witness at Auschwitz

The limitations of bearing witness at Auschwitz
Only Fiction

by Hawa Allan
Tricycle
Review of In Paradise: A Novel
088ReviewsOnlyFictionby Peter Matthissen
Riverhead Books, 2014

What are you doing here? is the refrain of the novel In Paradise, the last word of prolific author Peter Matthiessen, who passed away at age 86 in April, three days before the book’s release. In its pages, we meet a few of the 140 pilgrims from 12 countries who have traveled to Auschwitz for “homage, prayer, and silent meditation in memory of [the] camp’s million and more victims” and observe their awkward attempts at “bearing witness” to the suffering that occurred there.

The book is based on real annual Bearing Witness Retreats held at Auschwitz and led by Zen teacher Bernie Glassman. The intent of these retreats, according to Glassman, is to dissolve the ego so that practitioners become the elements of the atrocity: “the terrified people getting off the trains, the indifferent or brutal guards, the snarling dogs, the doctor who points right or left, the smoke and ash belching from the chimneys.” After attending three of these meditation retreats, Matthiessen, who had long wanted to write about the Holocaust, was inspired. “Only fiction,” he said, “would allow me to probe from a variety of viewpoints the great strangeness of what I had felt.”

The book’s protagonist, the poet and academic D. Clements Olin (né Olinski), attends the retreat at Auschwitz for the sole purpose, he insists, of conducting research. But Olin’s ostensible intention to deepen his scholarship on survival literature is complicated by the slowly uncovered backstory of his aristocratic family, who fled Poland for the United States at the onset of German occupation. While Olin’s underlying reasons for attending the retreat are often elusive, even to his own probing mind, he eagerly subjects the aims of his fellow participants to critical dissection.

Among them is “the retreat’s unofficial ‘spiritual leader,’” Ben Lama, a “near-bald psychologist left over from the flower-power days of a psychedelic California youth.” To call Lama a leader is to use the word very loosely, as the participants are like a herd of cats: a dispatch of nuns (one of whom, “Olin suspects, has had less difficulty than she might have wished obeying her vow of chastity”); the Germans, “the neediest, most eager” sharers; and the American Jews, who, Olin supposes, “have come to assuage a secret guilt.” There is even a Palestinian who emerges from his “well-wrought isolation” to make a vague, equanimous retort to having been called a “raghead,” and then disappears for the rest of the novel.

Who are they? What are they doing there? These questions are most often posed to a retreatant named G. Earwig, a bellicose New Yorker who, unlike Olin, does not take passive-aggressive swipes at his peers—he simply berates them to their faces. This character, Earwig, also happens to be a mouthpiece for every fathomable objection one might have to hosting a meditation retreat in a death camp, like the risks of fostering sentimentalism instead of self-reflection, and that the retreat could devolve over time into a mere commercial enterprise complete with “package tours and jumbo buses, youth hostels, snack bars, kosher fast food,” and so on.

Earwig is also quick to detect any whiff of self-righteousness (a common accomplice of sentimentalism), swiftly rebuking a woman who claims “that movie about the kind German enamel manufacturer in Cracow who saved his whole list of productive employees” made her want to“ run right out…and do something for those people!” “Do something, lady?” he responds. “Like what? Take a Jew to lunch?”

According to the fictional retreat’s official literature, what the participants are supposed to be doing is “bearing witness.” Indeed, as Olin reflects in exposition, the term is a stale phrase, one that implies a kind of moral decency but—with overuse and underexamination—has become devoid of meaning. So, in effect, one can attend a meditation retreat at Auschwitz and be satisfied that she is “bearing witness” while imagining the torture and mass killing as whatever scenes she can recall from Schindler’s List.

Therein lies the challenge of “bearing witness”: it is far too easy—as Olin and Earwig demonstrate—to point out the wrong way of doing so. What about the right way?

The author and essayist James Baldwin said the root of his vocation as a writer was to “bear witness to the truth.” Although Baldwin was rather fuzzy on what he considered a witness to be, he remarked that he himself was a witness to where he came from and what he had seen. For Baldwin, there is something about being a witness that is personal, experiential—something unlike the authoritative, and perhaps removed, temperament of a spokesperson.

Baldwin’s insight helps illuminate the inherent conundrum of In Paradise’s meditators, insofar as a witness arrives at truth through the immediacy of his or her own perception. Though a scholar of survival literature, Olin himself “tends to agree with the many who have stated that fresh insight into the horror of the camps is inconceivable, and interpretation by anyone lacking direct personal experience an impertinence, out of the question.”

Read entire essay and more at TRICYCLE.

What She Left Behind

61bLHO4EiELWhat She Left Behind
by Ellen Marie Wiseman
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans
New York Journal of Books
12 December 2013

“What She Left Behind screams with authenticity, depth, and understanding.”

She’s done it again. At this time last year, Ms. Wiseman’s first novel The Plum Tree was released. It was excellent and received deservedly wonderful reviews. It is rare that a writer’s follow up work is as good as their first. Such a rarity has been accomplished with What She Left Behind. The author has once again delved into the lives of teenage girls, albeit in different circumstances than her first work, yet with the same insight, nuance, and raw emotion readers can appreciate and enjoy.

One of the girls in the story is 18 and is living in the 1930s (Clara) and the other (Izzy), lives in the 1990s. Clara is sent to a state mental institution (Willard State), because she challenges her father’s wishes for whom she should marry and Izzy must adapt to a new set of foster parents and her last year in high school, as a result of her mother having killed her father when she was seven. The girls’ lives intersect when Izzy gets involved in a project that unearths suitcases in the now defunct mental institution in which Clara was captive—she finds Clara’s journal and photo inside.

The scenes of Clara’s experience and travails at Willard State are all too real and affecting in part because many similar circumstances actually took place at that mental facility and others around the country for many decades. Izzy’s struggle with a school bully, harming herself, and learning who and how to accept love and whom to trust, is no less impactful than Clara’s chapters.

What She Left Behind screams with authenticity, depth, and understanding of human behavior and what can and has been done to others to maintain control.

Read entire review and more at New York Journal of Books.

Grandy’s Cranberry Crunch

Grandma Grandy’s Cranberry Crunch
by Gabriel Constans

This smoothie is not for the faint of heart; it is a sweet and tart elixir with a very strong flavor. Cranberry juice is excellent for relief of urinary tract and yeast infections. Make sure you use 100 percent pure cranberry juice, not the watered-down cranberry blends often sold in supermarkets.

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Yield: 5 cups

2 1/2 cups pure cranberry juice
2 tablespoons frozen lemonade concentrate or 2 cups fresh lemonade
1 cup apple juice
2 ripe bananas
1 cup seedless grapes
3/4 cup Grape Nuts cereal
3/4 cup honey

Place all the ingredients in a blender, and puree on medium speed for 1 minute.

Pour into tall glasses and serve up one of Grandma’s treats.

The Voluptuous Violet

The Voluptuous Violet
by Gabriel Constans

Lady Godiva had nothing on The Voluptuous Violet. Its captivating taste surpasses the alluring talents of Cleopatra, Mata Hari and Isis. The Voluptuous Violet was kept from the public for many years for fear it would create emotional dependence and turn ordinary citizens into Sade and Shakira clones.

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Yield: 5 cups

1/4 cup seedless grapes
1/4 cup blueberries
1/2 cup applesauce
3 cups filtered water
1 large banana
1/4 cup firm tofu
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon honey

Place all the ingredients in a blender, and blend on medium speed for 30 seconds.

Pour into tall glasses and serve seductively.

The Unthinkable

The Unthinkable

The recipe for The Unthinkable was classified as TOP SECRET by the U.S. government for the last fifty years, but it has now been revealed for your personal pleasure and right to know, by a former member of the NSA. Make sure the lights are off and the blinds are drawn when you concoct this classified formerly secret smoothie.

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Yield: 5 cups

2 cups filtered water
1 cup frozen orange juice concentrate
1large nectarine, peeled and sliced
2 frozen bananas (thawed and sliced)
1 tablespoon honey
1 cup kiwi-strawberry juice (or equivalent fruit)

Place all the ingredients in a blender, and blend on medium speed for 30 seconds.

Pour into tall glasses and serve quietly. You never know who may be listening.

by Gabriel Constans

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