Monday, August 31, 2020

Review of Antkind by Charlie Kaufman

Reviewed by Greg Gilbert


              Charlie Kaufman’s Antkind has been described as Portnoy’s Complaint meets Finnegan’s Wake. In terms of visual art, I’d suggest Hieronymus Bosch meets Gary Larson. This is a work that can only be described through inadequate similes because it’s like nothing else I’ve read. The story describes a crisis of existence, perhaps even an existential crises, in the life of a film critic, a pretentious and painfully self-conscious pseudo intellectual, B. Rosenberg, a Jewish looking non-Jew who repeatedly experiences pratfalls into open “person” holes. While the narrative ranges from the profound and poetic to the spiritual and profane, the writing style is Groucho Marxist in the extreme. Nothing escapes lampooning, including a variety of damning observations about the artist Charlie Kaufman.

                In “real” life, Kaufman is a filmmaker credited with Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Synecdoche, and Anomalisa, a stop-motion film. His fascination with stop-motion and human beings as meat-puppets is central to Antkind. This is his breakout novel. At 714 pages, it really does feel like the author is breaking out of something. I felt as though I’d been on a long amusement ride that included a haunted house, a time machine, a tunnel of love, a variety of “Who’s on first” variations, and a meat packing house with Terminators and clown medics.

                Anita Felicelli describes Kaufman’s work as “feverish genius.” I’m not so certain.  Antkind tells its story of human absurdity by being grossly absurd, more fever than genius. There is a sense of liberation and release in the prose style, certainly the product of a smart and, dare I say it, an overtly self-indulgent style that would leave Tom Robbins scratching his head, but no more genius than B. Rosenberg. After reading Antkind and recovering from near exhaustion, I had to admit to a touch of awe at the author’s gimmicky freedom. I have a hunch that Kaufman’s absurd meanderings will linger in my thoughts for some time. This is not so much a recommendation as a review. Personally, if he writes another book, I’ll likely skim it.   

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Greg Gilbert is the author of Afflatus.

More info

Review of Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell

Review By Greg Gilbert

                 Utopia Avenue is a 574 page fiction that centers on a British band in 1967 London. The psychedelic times, the political and spiritual movements, the people, the stars, and, most important, the music and the life of a band are delivered as only a writer of David Mitchell’s genius can. The band members are interesting and well drawn as the reader becomes intimate with their artistries, personal conflicts, and ambitions. Central to the story is how they shape their calls to artistry to the world in which they live, what Brian Eno refers to as ‘The Scenius,’ ‘The genius of the scene.’ “Art’s made by artists, but artists are enabled by a scene—non-artistic factors. Buyers, sellers, materials, patrons, technology, places to mingle and swap ideas. You see the fruits of scenius in Medici Florence. The Dutch Golden Age. New York in the twenties. Hollywood. Right now, the scenius of London, and Soho, is pretty perfect. We’ve the venues, studios with multitrack recorders, the radio stations, the music papers and magazines…even cafés where session players hang out.” And today we see it in the writing of David Mitchell.

                 The music of the times is a character in the novel as well, including discussions between band members as well as vignettes within the narration. The narration at one point alludes to “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”: “The last track, `A Day in the Life,’ was a miniature of the whole album, like the way that the Book of Psalms is a miniature of the whole Bible. Lennon’s ‘found’ lyrics contrasted with McCartney’s kitchen-sink lines. Together they glowed. The song’s closer was an orchestral daymare finale spiraling upward to a final chord, slammed on dozens of pianos. The engineer raised the recording levels as the note fell away. Jasper thought of the end of a dream when the real world seeps in. It ended with backward laughing gibberish.  The stylus lifted off and the arm clunked home.”

                At times we witness individual creative and discovery processes at work: “The right hand played overlapping minims: C to C an octave below; F to F, the same; B flat to B flat; E to E. The left hand played jazz like sixths; blue jazz, not red jazz. It ended. Elf wanted to hear it again. The pianist obliged. This time Elf paid attention to the right-hand thirds: E and G; D and F; C and E; then a yo-yo back up to A and G, where the hand opened wider; a thumb on F and pinkie on B flat…” Questions of composition are instructive. G…D…E minor? Dean tries picking instead of strumming. Better. Better. Try an F minor instead of the G. No, F. One spoon of Dylan makes a gallon of meanings. Why don’t I try to write lyrics like this?”

                The band’s music is a fusion of audience, the times, and the traditions that have brought them to their shared moment. “Griff started with a tom-tom and came in with a minute’s solo in the style of Cozy Cole. Then he grabbed his sticks and played a solo, heavy on backbeats and rim shots, with a snare interlude. Elf watched his hands with a faraway smile on her face. Griff showed off an Art Blakey press-roll; a skipping run of ostinato; an Elvin Jones rolling triplet pulse; some swing-era cymbal-playing; and a glorious free-form crescendo.”

                Politics and its generational call-and-response play a role as well. A father watches news of the French police storming the barricades in the Latin Quarter and wonders if the present generation thinks stone throwing can lead to a better world. “If I had my way,” says Elf’s dad, iI’d give ’em a country of their own. Belgium, for example. I’d tell ’em, ‘It’s all yours. You sort out food for millions, organize sewage, banking, law and order, schools. You keep them safe in their beds at night. All the boring, nitty-gritty stuff. Hearing aids. Nails. Potatoes.’”

                Many subjects relevant to the time get their due, each theme exploring its own “Scenius” existence, themes that are specific to the 60’s, many that are universal and timeless. When an interviewer asks one band member if music can change the world, his answer is one for all artists. “Songs do not change the world,’ declares Jasper. ‘People do. People pass laws, riot, hear God, and act accordingly. People invent, kill, make babies, start wars.’ Jasper lights a Marlboro. ‘Which raises a question. Who or what influences the minds of the people who change the world?’ My answer is Ideas and feelings. Which begs a question. Where do ideas and feelings originate? My answer is, Others. One’s heart and mind. The press. The arts. Stories. Last, but not least, songs. Songs. Songs, like dandelion seeds, billowing across space and time. Who knows where they’ll land? Or what they’ll bring?”

                I’m not suggesting that this is a didactic, feel good book, but it did touch the heart of this old teenager. Where another book dealing with band life back in the day, Daisy Jones & the Six, focuses on the small soap operas within a band, Utopia Avenue captures the dynamics of an entire epic epoch.

                With all of its good, it is not a perfect book, but close enough. It presents some of the era’s stars in idealized conversations; it postures and contrives at times, and romanticizes the enduring mythology of the summer of love. Utopia Avenue is not a newsreel account, and rightfully so. The story lifts away from the earth at times and into realms of magical realism. The drugs and sex and rock-n-roll offer a compelling flashback for my gen-gen-generation.

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Greg Gilbert is the author of Afflatus.

More info

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Free Books!!! August 29, 2020


EVENT: AUGUST 29, 2020 8 till noon

29 Palms Farmer's Market
73484 Twentynine Palms Hwy, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277

NEA Big Read Morongo Basin

📣📣📣 FREEBIE ALERT! Come visit our #BigRead pop-up table this Saturday at the @29palmsfarmersmarket from 8a-12p for your free #BigRead book bundle and wheat grass planting seeds compliments of Thomas Farms and the @29palmsfarmersmarket. 

Book bundles include: 

📚 Lab Girl by Hope Jahren (our 2020 book selection)

📚 Cholla Needles 45 - The Science Issue

📚 Waking Life, poems by local author Cynthia Anderson

📚 Star Gazing, poems by Miriam Sagan

📒Your very own Cholla Needles notebook 

👏👏👏 to Cholla Needles and the local community for making donations of Cynthia's book and notebooks possible. 

#art #nature #science #community #literature #NEABigRead #BigReadMorongoBasin 

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

New Book! Simon Perchik - The Reflection in a Glass Eye Poems (2020)


The 184 poems in this collection would never have been written except for the 184 photographs assembled by The International Center of Photography for its Reflections in a Glass Eye published by Bullfinch Press, Little, Brown and Company (1999) to guide me. - Simon Perchik


Bio: Simon Perchik, an attorney, was born 1923 in Paterson, NJ and educated at New York Univer-sity (BA English, LLB Law). His poems have appeared in various literary journals including Cholla Needles, Partisan Review, Poetry, The Nation, and The New Yorker.

Click to here to purchase this 200 page collection! ($10)

New Book! Poems (1920) by Charles Reznikoff

Poems was published 100 years ago by Samuel Roth of the New York Poetry Book Shop in 1920. The back cover included the information that their book series was “privately printed by V. Di Caprio at 19 Christopher St.” Each volume in the series sold for $1.

Poems includes the two small books Charles Reznikoff printed himself for his friends when he was 24 years old: Rhythms (1918) and Rhythms II (1919). Later editions of his poetry included these same poems further edited to included additional lines and different titles.

This volume includes the poem “Epidemic” (page 14), which for Reznikoff occurred in 1918 and today’s readers are experiencing in 2020.

Charles Reznikoff continued to compose poetry throughout his life. The powerful and influential collections Holocaust (1975) and Testimony Parts 1 & 2 (1978 & 1979) were published by Black Sparrow Press and remain in print today.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

New Book! Pat Anthony - Between Two Cities On A Greyhound Bus



I know when I walk by a book titled
Mood Disorders but it’s really Komodo
Dragons that things are slipping

downhill again the icy draw receiving
pieces of sweater, boot scrapings
where I try to anchor along the slope

slide back (the irony of moving back
when moving forward) but that’s
how it is and I am sleepless again

telling numbers on the phone/clock
like a child learning by rote the digits
that mark the course of a day

but it’s night that foils all the white
pills shaped into proscribed remedies
but wait, surely by now cats

will stop by the window and tell
me it’s time to get up and I will
put out pans of food for them

as they talk to me in their own
way and I will answer them as we
share secrets together.

Pat Anthony writes from the rural Midwest, getting inspiration from the rugged furrows of plowed ground and those on the faces of the men and women working the land. She draws from experience and observation, responding to the poetry she finds everywhere.

You do not write poetry. 
You are a poet.

- Pat Anthony

Click Here to Purchase On-Line ($4)

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Cholla Needles Joins the "Zoom" Party!

Cholla Needles Presents Featured Poets Live On-Line

You will need access to Zoom 
(free - no personal information required)

-->Sign-on information:<--
-->Meeting ID 967 131 0782<--
-->Password QKFv65<--

1/2 hour a week! All Free, All Fun! 

Celebrate the continued publication 
of Cholla Needles during these "sheltered times"

Mark your calendar for 
every Sunday online at 3PM 
till Covid retires!

1st week: Open Reading Aug 2 3-3:30
2nd week: Cynthia Anderson Aug 9 3-3:30
3rd week: John Brantingham Aug 16 3-3:30
4th week: Miriam Sagan Aug 23 3-3:30
5th week: Peter Jastermsky Aug 30 3-3:30
6th week: John Sierpinski Sept 6 3-3:30
7th week: Romaine Washington Sept 13 3-3:30
8th week: Allyson Jeffredo Sept 20 3-3:30
9th week: Francene Kaplan Sept 27 3-3:30
10th week: Mark Evans Oct 4 3-3:30
11th week: Cindy Rinne Oct 11 3-3:30
12th week: David Chorlton Oct 18 3-3:30
13th week: Enid Osborn Oct 25 3-3:30
14th week: Lisa Mednick Powell  Nov 1 3-3:30
15th week: George Howell Nov 8 3-3:30
16th week: Kendall Johnson Nov 15 3-3:30
17th week: Noreen Lawlor Nov 22 3-3:30
18th week: Ginny Short Nov 29 3-3:30
19th week: Kurt Schauppner Dec 6 3-3:30
20th week: Steve Braff Dec 13 3-3:30
21st week: Lauren Henley and Zara Kand Dec 20 3-3:30
22nd week: Susan Rukeyser Dec 27 3-3:30
23rd week: Caryn Davidson Jan 3, 2021 3-3:30
24th week: Mike Vail Jan 10 3-3:30
25th week: Jean-Paul L. Garnier Jan 17 3-3:30
26th week: Tobi & Jeff Alfier Jan 24 3-3:30
27th week: Ruth Nolan Jan 31 3-3:30
28th week: Heather Morgan Feb 7 3-3:30
29th week: Dave Benson Feb 14 3-3:30
30th week: Kelsey Bryan-Zwick Feb 21 3-3:30
31st week:  Ernest Alois Feb 28 3-3:30
32nd week: Group Reading March 7 3-3:30 
33d week: Greg Wyss March 14 3:00-3:30
34th week: Renee Gurley March 21 3-3:30
35th week: Group Reading March 28 3-3:30
36th week: Group Reading April 4 3-3:30
37th week: Group Reading April 11 3-3:30
38th week: Group Reading April 18 3-3:30
39th week: Gabriel Hart April 25 3-3:30
40th week: Alan Catlin May 2 3-3:30
41st week: Simon Perchik May 9 3-3:30
42nd week: Issue 53 Reading May 16 3-3:30

More To Come!!

  "In time of crisis, we summon up our strength.
  Then, if we are lucky, we are able to call every resource, every forgotten image that can leap to our quickening, every memory that can make us know our power. And this luck is more than it seems to be: it depends on the long preparation of the self to be used.
  In time of the crises of the spirit, we are aware of all our need, our need for each other and our need for our selves. We call up, with all the strength of summoning we have, our fullness. And then we turn, for it is a turning that we have prepared; and act. The time of the turning may be very long. It may hardly exist." Muriel Rukeyser, The Life Of Poetry (1949)

Sunday, August 2, 2020

New Book! Star Gazing by Miriam Sagan

Frankly I’m getting
a little worn out
comparing things all day
and then
in my dreams. 

- Miriam Sagan

Miriam Sagan is a U.S. poet, as well as an essayist, memoirist and teacher. She is the author of over twenty-five books, and lives and works in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is a founding member of the collaborative press Tres Chicas Books.

A graduate of Harvard with an M.A. in creative writing from Boston University, Miriam was one of the editors of the Boston area-based Aspect Magazine with Ed Hogan. In 1980 Ed shut Aspect down and he, Miriam and others founded Zephyr Press. In 1982 Miriam moved from the Boston area to first San Francisco and then Santa Fe, where Miriam has made her home since 1984.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

August Issue Released - Cholla Needles 44!

Cover art by Zara Kand

Poetry, stories, art, and photography by:

L. I. Henley
Zara Kand
Kaylee Harper
Ellie Kobaly
Erika Saunders
R. Gurley
Dave Maresh
Edward L. Canavan
Kelsey Bryan-Swick
Dave Benson
Lucila Godoy y Alcayaga
Michael G. Vail