Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘writer’

Whatever Your Taste

51-SfLy8Z8LThe Blue Serpent & other tales by Claire Buss.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

This imaginative, diverse collection of short stories is an excellent example of how to write shorts. Every story in The Blue Serpent & other tales has a beginning, middle, and end. Each tale stands on its own, and provides distinct perspectives and voices. Ms. Buss uses themes about data, technology, and society, to not only wake readers’ up, but to entertain.

One of my favorite selections is The River Flows In You. Here is an excerpt (about loss and grief). “It helps to push my hands into the earth, feel it crumble beneath my fingertips as I try to find meaning in my devastation. I stand still in a swirling, whirling vortex of people rushing, rushing, rushing, trying to run away from their hurt and their pain.

I have a feeling that Ms. Buss has scribed many of her writings while enjoying a drink at her favorite coffee shop, as there are three stories in the compilation that take place in such an environment. Other tales include nationally required brain scans for one and all, a pretend circus, and a man who is Ava’s fairy godmother (The Party’s Over).

No matter what your taste, you’ll find something in The Blue Serpent & other tales that will wet your whistle, tickle your fancy, or provide other pleasurable metaphors and cliches. One word of warning. The next time you go to a coffee shop to write, or just have a sip, make sure to heed any messages telling you to move (The Wrong Note).

 

Ira Smiled

41OhZONgcvLIt Started With a Cup of Coffee by Sudesna Ghosh.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Ira is a writer. She writes in a cafe in Kolkata. If you are a writer (or reader) you’ll relate to her and It Started With a Cup of Coffee. What starts out as work, becomes personal. What becomes personal, becomes fodder for fiction. Here’s a brief excerpt from this intimate short story.

“One bite into the cherry red cream cupcake got her started. ‘God, this tastes like heaven,’ Ira smiled. Ira rarely smiled unless she felt obligated to. Or if she met a dog or a cat. The cupcake was special. What she didn’t notice was that she was smiling at the person sitting across from her – the gentleman with nice eyes and lashes. Uh oh.”

Though Ira is writing a romance in her favorite coffee shop, which is due to her editor (Lisa) within a month’s time, she’s not feeling very romantic. Trying to listen in on couple’s conversations at other tables helps a little, but isn’t always possible. Perhaps the main character in Ira’s story is herself.

Ms. Ghosh’s It Started With a Cup of Coffee is a relatable tale, especially if you see yourself as a scribe, and well worth a few rounds of caffeinated inspiration.

Keeping Your Nose Clean

The Golden Fleece: The Diary of a Scientology Warrior by Michael Priv. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

FINAL_THEGOLDENFLEECE_6x9_front_for_web_JPGDon’t runaway from this book because of the word “Scientology” in the title. It is not only the best personal, and in depth, view inside the world of Dianetics, as developed by L. Ron Hubbard, but also an exciting and insightful fast-paced memoir that reads like fiction. Though The Golden Fleece is written, as lived, by Mr. Priv, it feels as if one is reading a religious, self-help, political thriller. The author is a skilled storyteller and writer. He writes how people think, and talk, and is good at pacing.

Whether events happened exactly as portrayed, or not, becomes secondary to being caught up in the story. After escaping from being essentially imprisoned by Scientologists, upon his return from Russia, Michael calls his parents. His mother says, “Never mind that, you scoundrel! Are you in any danger? Are those Scientology bastards chasing after you?” Michael replies, “Bastards? Mom, listen, there is Scientology, which is good, and there is a Church of Scientology, which is… Never mind. I’m all right, I’m at a liquor store in LA. They won’t find me here.”

Michael Priv describes himself honestly in the beginning of the book. In short, he was a real asshole. As he gets taken into Scientology, and finds that it actually works for both himself, and others, some of the edge to his style gets rubbed off. Their remains an active, can-do, individual throughout, who at times reminds me of the lead character in The Bourne Identity films (minus killing people). This is especially true during his time in Russia, and his interactions with the KGB, Russian mafia, Scientology organization, and Russian government crap.

After explaining the benefits, and the downfall of Scientology, the author explains why he stayed in the elite part of the organization for 18 years, and why living an ethical, clear, honest life makes all the difference. “So, is it at all important to keep your nose clean, even if nobody is watching? You bet your sweet bahookie. But only if you want to soar among the stars and be happy. Otherwise, you can always find an excuse for any transgression you can ever imagine. We are smart. We can explain away anything we want and then some. After all, this is the alley-cat world and we are only human, right?”

The Golden Fleece: The Diary of a Scientology Warrior goes far beyond what one might think it is. In fact, the title acutely portrays a good portion of what Mr. Priv lived through for 18 years of his life, as a “Scientologist Warrior”. There are excellent explanations of the terminology used in Scientology, and the organizational structure which it deploys around the world. It isn’t all good, or all bad. Their “Components of Understanding” are relevant, and similar to some other belief systems, with Affinity, Reality (agreement) and Communication (ARC), being the key. This is a good book, written by an insightful and very smart writer, who is in a continual process of being a good man.

Once You Wake Up

51NTSaSA13LWhile You Were Watching the Waltons: A collection of essays and short stories by Gormla Hughes. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

A short book, with short writings, and short powerful sentences. A brilliant writer. When scribes, and writing teachers, say, “make very word count”, they must have read the words of Gormla Hughes. While You Were Watching the Waltons combines fiction and non-fiction as few do, and uses every space to its full potential.

Here is a brief glimpse from the essay, Pink Ink and Cyberspace, which looks at the influence of media, role expectations, and maintaining the status quo. “Having stigma attached to you folds you up in eights as citizens. An invisible tagging system. One designed to keep you in line. In line long enough for the Power Holders to acquire more bricks for their empire. But, once you wake up. Once you wake up the anger is transformative.”

The story The Rocking Chair kept me on the edge of mine. There is tension, pain, an encroaching past, and constant threat of violence. “Sitting in the rocking chair, I pour the wine. I take three gulps. I need to numb the desire to kill. Me or Her. I lean back and rock. I like the motion. It makes me feel nurtured. What I think nurtured feels like. I can only speculate.” This tale is a perfect example of the author’s use of rhythm and precision. What could be simpler, or more menacing than, “I need to numb the desire to kill.”

Other stories include The Insemination, about Elsa’s hopes of getting pregnant; Elizabeth’s reaction to her mother’s death, with painful memories of abuse, and not believing, in The Funeral; and the final essay, My Disappearance, which describes the process of loss, discrimination, and finding one’s self beyond expectation. “But I have lost everything that kept me a visible part of humanity, and with it found a freedom. I know how polite works as a tool of subservience.”

While We Were Watching the Waltons is an affront – an affront to “normalcy”. It not only helps us see the world from other perspectives, but also challenges its readers’ to question authority, support those who do, and look inside and out, to see what lies and stories we believe and tell ourselves daily. Creating characters (real and imagined), and using words that have meaning and depth, is no easy task. Not many do it justice. Ms. Hughes is an exception to that reality. She does it very well.

 

 

Is That Him?

51pjIqpRcEL

Two Girls in a Café – A Short Story by Lawrence G. Taylor Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

Almost immediately, it seems as if you are sitting at a table nearby listening to Ruth and Felicity talking. They see a man pass by (Sam), who doesn’t see them, and both say they went out with him, thus begins a conversation about what he is like.

Dino, the waiter, is annoyed with how long Ruth and Felicity have been at the table talking, but as a reader, you wish it would never stop. It turns out that Ruth has a completely different perception of Sam then Felicity, and they have a difficult time understanding why the other feels the way they do about him.

The author’s writing style is clear, easy to follow, and realistic. There is no fancy metaphors, dream sequences, flashbacks, or gimmicks. Two Girls in a Café is a pure and revealing story, with an unexpected turn of events at the end. I have not read Mr. Taylor’s previous books, but am definitely inclined to do so now.

Stars Rising and Falling

51KWV913P1LMy Stars Are Still Shining: A Memoir by Amina Warsuma.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

Amina Warsuma has experienced abandonment, bullying, abuse, jealousy, drugs, rape, destitution, wealth, celebrity, insight, care and compassion in her life, so far. In My Stars Are Still Shining she shares these childhood, adolescent and adult events, reactions, and consequences with complete honesty and understanding. Nobody is vilified, or perfect, including herself. I found her life to be both fascinating, and instructive.

The story begins with the background of the two women who had the most influence on Amina – Miss June and Miss Billie. She describes there lives growing up in Mobile, Alabama, how they ended up in New York, and how they came into Amina’s life. She shares there relationships, families, ups and downs, and personalities. Once that foundation is set, she takes the reader into her confidence and explores her own beginning years, and the mother (Virginia) who was so often absent.

“We were at Miss June’s no more than 10 minutes when my mother said, ‘I’m going to the store. I’ll be right back.’ She exited Miss June’s apartment and day after day, Miss June and I waited for her to return. A week passed and my mother was nowhere to be seen. My mother disappeared for 5 years.” Similar occurrences took place throughout Amina’s life, including moving from one house to another throughout New York City.

This is a fascinating book. It is part historical (about the South in the last century, and New York City and Harlem in the 40s, 50s, and 60s); part autobiographical (as the author grows up and comes into her own); and part biography (about Michael Jackson, and her longtime friendship with him and his family). Amina has endured many things, and flourished as a model, writer, actress, producer, and dancer. She reveals herself with both objectivity, insight and emotion. Don’t hesitate to get a copy of My Stars Are Still Shining.

Agathe Christie & Willy Wonka

51E5HteP5iL._SY346_Thirteen Chocolates by Agatha Chocolats
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

Take one of the best movies ever made, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (with Gene Wilder), and combine it with the most widely read murder mystery writer in the world, (Agatha Christie) and you’ll enjoy the sumptuous wedding feast of Thirteen Chocolates.

If you’ve never thought of the joy and pleasure of chocolate, in combination with murder and suspense, you will now. In fact, you may never be able to eat another rich, delicious chocolate again, without wondering who may be eliminated next.

The chapters in this book are uniquely rendered backwards, starting out with Chapter 13, and ending with Chapter 1. Thus, corresponding to the number of apparent heirs who are at the famous Chandler’s Mansion, vying for their inheritance in a challenge that soon turns deadly.

The story is first rate, with great dialogue and metaphors, “That girl’s flakier than my Aunt Elma’s pork belly pot pie crust”; believable characters; and a well thought out plot. It’s always been difficult for me to figure out “who did it” when reading mysteries, and this was no exception.

If you love chocolate, you’ll devour this book. If you like murder mysteries, or suspense novels, you’ll delight in the similarities and differences included within its pages. If you are up for something completely different and decadently enjoyable, I encourage you to go ahead, have a bite, and read Thirteen Chocolates.

 

 

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