Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Poet Mina Loy - Lunar Baedeker (From the Poetry Foundation)

Lunar Baedeker
by Mina Loy

A silver Lucifer
cocaine in cornucopia

To some somnambulists
of adolescent thighs
in satirical draperies

Peris in livery
for posthumous parvenues

Delirious Avenues
with the chandelier souls
of infusoria
from Pharoah’s tombstones

to mercurial doomsdays
Odious oasis
in furrowed phosphorous

the eye-white sky-light
white-light district
of lunar lusts

Stellectric signs
“Wing shows on Starway”
“Zodiac carrousel”

of ecstatic dust
and ashes whirl
from hallucinatory citadels
of shattered glass
into evacuate craters

A flock of dreams
browse on Necropolis

From the shores
of oval oceans
in the oxidized Orient

Onyx-eyed Odalisques
and ornithologists
the flight
of Eros obsolete

And “Immortality”
mildews ...
in the museums of the moon

“Nocturnal cyclops”
“Crystal concubine”

Pocked with personification
the fossil virgin of the skies
waxes and wanes

Copyright © 1996 by the Estate of Mina Loy. All rights reserved.

Source: The Lost Lunar Baedeker: Poems of Mina Loy (1996)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Book Review - Burnout: The Mystery of Space Shuttle STS-281 by Stephanie Osborn

Since becoming a published (and now award winning) author, I have met some wonderful and highly talented authors within the Mid-South area and even beyond. One such author is Stephanie Osborn who resides in Huntsville, AL and is the author of the book BURNOUT: The Mystery of Space Shuttle STS-281. After listening to Stephanie’s pitch about the book during the course of attending several seminars and sci-fi conventions, I finally decided to give her book a try. To put it quite bluntly, I was not disappointed at all. If you are a lover of all things NASA and sci-fi, then this book is right up your alley. What makes the book even better is that Osborn is, literally, a rocket scientist (used to work for NASA).
After a space shuttle crashes during its return to Earth, the novel’s protagonists, “Crash” Murphy and Dr. Mike Anders, both employed in scientific world for their respective countries (Murphy – USA and Anders – Australia) decide to research the reasons behind such a terrible loss. What they discover is more than they bargained for, for not only do they realize the crash is not what it appears to be, but it also answers a philosophical question we have been asking for years: “Are we alone?” Secrets created by the government, lies told by friends and enemies, and the unexplained now suddenly explainable are all within this gem of a page turning book.
Osborn, from the beginning, straps you within the seat of the shuttle and refuses to let you go until the very end that will have you scratching your head and re-reading the pages several times just to make sure you did read it right. She tells a story that truly could and can happen within the realm of what we know in science and space exploration and was even “questioned” about her accuracy in describing the shuttle’s crash by higher upps. Her writing makes you feel as though you are there with Murphy and Anders as they piece together the entire work behind a supposed tragedy. Although Osborn is retired from her scientist days, she still enjoys what she is so obviously good at in teaching high school students the mysteries and fully experimented theories of science.
I will admit that, once I finished reading the book, I e-mailed my good friend with questions and my own pieced together theories about certain events of the book, events such as “Why did Dr. Blake continue to take water and beef jerky down that tunnel almost every day?” I thought I had it right but after reading her responses, I was completely off track while giving her a good laugh. Nevertheless, that question and many more are in my mind and will stay there for quite some time until the sequel is released; I, too, want to know the secrets behind the BURNOUT.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Literary News - Stephen King

Here is a good review from The New York Times of Stephen King's new book, Under the Dome.

Have a read and enjoy!

Stephen King's Latest Cast Feels Real

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Poem: My Sister's Sleep by Rossetti

This is the poem that inspired the novel Sleep, Pale Sister by Joanne Harris.

She fell asleep on Christmas Eve:
At length the long-ungranted shade
Of weary eyelids overweigh'd
The pain nought else might yet relieve.

Our mother, who had leaned all day
Over the bed from chime to chime,
Then raised herself for the first time,
And as she sat her down, did pray.

Her little work-table was spread
With work to finish. For the glare
Made by her candle, she had care
To work some distance from the bed.

Without, there was a cold moon up,
Of winter radiance sheer and thin;
The hollow halo it was in
Was like an icy crystal cup.

Through the small room, with subtle sound
Of flame, by vents the fireshine drove
And reddened. In its dim alcove
The mirror shed a clearness round.

I had been sitting up some nights,
And my tired mind felt weak and blank;
Like a sharp strengthening wine it drank
The stillness and the broken lights.

Twelve struck. That sound, by dwindling years
Heard in each hour, crept off; and then
The ruffled silence spread again,
Like water that a pebble stirs.

Our mother rose from where she sat:
Her needles, as she laid them down,
Met lightly, and her silken gown
Settled: no other noise than that.

'Glory unto the Newly Born!'
So, as said angels, she did say;
Because we were in Christmas Day,
Though it would still be long till morn.

Just then in the room over us
There was a pushing back of chairs,
As some who had sat unawares
So late, now heard the hour, and rose.

With anxious softly-stepping haste
Our mother went where Margaret lay,
Fearing the sounds o'erheadÑshould they
Have broken her long watched-for rest!

She stopped an instant, calm, and turned;
But suddenly turned back again;
And all her features seemed in pain
With woe, and her eyes gazed and yearned.

For my part, I but hid my face,
And held my breath, and spoke no word:
here was none spoken; but I heard
The silence for a little space.

Our mother bowed herself and wept:
And both my arms fell, and I said,
'God knows I knew that she was dead.'
And there, all white, my sister slept.

Then kneeling, upon Christmas morn
A little after twelve o'clock
We said, ere the first quarter struck,
Christ's blessing on the newly born!'

Book Review - Sleep, Pale Sister by Joanne Harris

Gothic Literature has a special place in my heart; I truly enjoy reading books filled with mystery and suspense with a touch of the macabre, foreboding castles and manors, and long buried secrets rising to the surface like a skeletal hand poking from its grave. Sleep, Pale Sister by Joanne Harris is an excellent example of said genre; she weaves a dark story using the narrative of four players who carry their own secrets into the fold. The book begins with Henry Chester, an artist with a touch of religion who finds inspiration in beauty wrapped in youth while desiring it on a carnal level. He is a broken man, one who should not receive sympathy from the readers but only scorn. His secrets provide part of the puzzle of the book and it is those secrets that cause his utter downfall.
Next we have Chester’s child bride Effie, who begins in this novel as his model and Muse. He first notices her at age ten and soon uses her as inspiration for his sanctimonious pieces. Effie, at first glance, is a shy child but who soon reveals her other side when she becomes of age as Chester’s wife. Hidden beneath the blond locks and pale complexion lies a woman who discovers her own inner strength through magic and seduction of Moses Harper, the third player in this novel. Harper is a rake and rogue who has a somewhat heart for situations that are beneficial only to him. He befriends Chester while seducing his wife, only to realize later that Effie is more than she appears to be. The final player is Fanny, a woman of ill repute yet able to show a modicum of concern towards Effie, especially when she earns of Effie’s special powers. However, Fanny has own her reasons for being drawn into this game, reasons that draw the other three players into a downward spiral that will expose everyone and leave no winners.
Harris’ book consists of the four players’ narratives, each adding their own spin to the ever-growing puzzle that comes together at the very end. Each narrator has their own distinct voice that makes them more believable to the reader. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself hating the characters at one point in the novel, only to like them in another; that is the charm of Joanne Harris’ writing. She draws you in with such expertise of the English language that one can’t help but feel as though they were actually in 1800s London, witnessing these strange events. Her style is clearly her own and not a poor and shoddy imitation of someone else, adding more credence to her strength as an author.
Although it is not explicitly expressed or mentioned in Sleep Pale Sister, the theme of witchcraft is prevalent. Although Effie does not know how she received such powers, she does understand the power behind them. Through her powers, she understands her inner strength, giving her courage while being married to controlling and hypocritical Chester. Her power is her own and no one can take that away from her. When Fanny learns of her power, she too is amazed and yet hopeful that her power can assist in her ultimate plan of revenge against Chester for a horrifying act committed many years ago. Fanny also reveals her powers, showing herself to be woman not to be reckoned with but in the end her powers are her undoing for the time being. Effie and Fanny both use their powers towards Chester, using him as a willing tool. Deep down he knows this and is still a willing pawn for his disturbing needs must be satisfied. Mose, although at first charmed by Effie and her hidden side, is too wrapped up in his own schemes to be completely taken in like Chester. He escapes but the price is high.
The game is created. The players are named and set. Let the fun begin.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Review - Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris

To those who have never attended a prep or boarding school, the thought of it may seem foreign and shrouded behind a veil of secrecy, while others who have attended may take it for granted, claiming it to be a natural part of their inner world. When I attended Phillips Academy in Andover, MA, a part of me felt I belonged there since I was and still am a lover of all things academia. Although some were there due their family’s academic history, others were there to enjoy being surrounded by such history and intellectual stimulation without being called nerds or geeks by the general populace. It felt like a privilege and not a right. The unnamed narrator in Joanne Harris’ book Gentlemen and Players felt the same way; in the beginning, the narrator explains to us the strong feelings felt while viewing St. Oswald’s through its iron gates while their father worked as Porter on the school grounds. Behind those gates lay excellence, privilege, and history, things that the narrator had never experienced before during their lower class upbringing. The narrator even admires the school uniforms adorned by the students while those who do wear them are oblivious. From these initial feelings the readers see a character evolve from a fawning and obsessive child to a teenager and later adult filled with hatred fueled by insanity and revenge on those they at first loved and admired. On the opposite end is the book’s other narrator, Roy Straitley, the eccentric Classics professor who has become rather a fixed staple of St. Oswald’s. He teaches his students with an iron fist mixed with quirky Latin phrases aimed at the students, fellow teachers and Headmaster; he belongs to the academic world because he has nothing else.

The book goes back and forth between two narrators, each giving the reader different but no less important views of the school; it is through their observations that create a backdrop against the current mounting scandals slowly destroying the school; one by one, the teachers, like chess pieces, are removed from the playing board through the unnamed narrator who wishes to see the school completely destroyed for their own nefarious reasons. Roy Straitley, caught up in the torrent of school scandal and talks of his own impending retirement, stands firm in remaining at the school and even discovers the ulterior motive of the unnamed narrator with a twist at the very end. Harris, best known for her work Chocolat, creates a skillful chess game in Gentlemen and Players; a game in which the pieces are removed through lies, scandal, and even murder. One player refuses to end the game until all players are removed while the other unknowing player moves towards a truth that will forever change his views about the only world he knows. Harris’ prose, although descriptive, is not laden down with too many adjectives and filler words that lose sight of the plot, nor does she go over her readers’ heads with multi-syllable words that require a dictionary on hand while reading the book. Although it did take me a while to figure out that there were two narrators instead of one, I thoroughly enjoyed it once the cat and mouse game was made abundantly clear. I also highly recommend this novel to anyone who is an Anglophile (like me!) who enjoys reading an engaging book filled with suspense and treachery set in England. Gentlemen and Players delivers and leaves the reader wanting more, clearly a sign of literary talent and genius. Check and mate.