Are We the Baddies?
by Julie Carpenter
This blog post is an older one, but I've been thinking a lot about narrative and empathy lately. In fact, Jarad, Morty, and I are thinking about doing a series of posts about the intersection of narrative, literature, politics and reality in general. So I decided to repost.
I wrote my master’s thesis on the use of narrative as an argumentative device. I believed then, and still believe, that stories are the best way to convince someone else of your truth, the best way to come to any idea at all of what the truth might be. Stories add layers of complexity.
Narrative allows us to see that every person has choices to make but at the same time they are victims of the choices of other individuals, families, and societies, or even the natural world. Story embraces the paradox of life. Many things can be true at once when you see them in a narrative context. Life is messy and much more like a web than straight line. Stories create empathy and acceptance. Teaching your child to read, especially stories that are written with the perspective of a particular character or characters in mind, not only promotes academic success, but also empathy.
A Beautiful Poison
Author Lydia Kang
by Jarad Johnson
I recently read the book, “A Beautiful Poison.” When I first picked it up, I thought it sounded like an antebellum novel. I kept picturing a woman in a large hoop skirt saying in an overwrought southern accent saying, “His love was a beautiful poison.” That didn’t happen, but it shows why you should be very careful what you name your novel. Especially around me.
This book is a lot of things – and not other things, like full of hoop-skirted women - but at its core it’s a murder mystery. It centers around a group of childhood friends, and someone is killing the people that are close to them.
Wounds from Iraq
Author Ahmad Al-Khatat
by Julie Carpenter
This chapbook is slim, with a simple and effective black and white cover that features the face of a child with a slash of red, a callout both to war and to the flag of the poet’s wounded country. I don’t like to write long reviews of chapbooks, because I want to allow the reader to discover the contents for themselves with little prejudice. This book is even slimmer than most of the poetry books I review, however, though it contains few pages, each is a deep well of sorrow. This book bears the same scars as the author’s heart. His bereavement and grief for Iraq come through in every word.
Fall is upon us. You know how I know? Because when I go outside in the morning, I have to put shoes on. I don’t like shoes to begin with, and when I went outside the other morning I came back with numb feet. Sigh. The seasons always sneak up on me, and now that the cold has come calling, I feel bad for complaining about the heat. Although the fall is my favorite time of year, aside from spring. The busyness and energy of spring is slowly winding down to the sleep of winter. For some plants, their time has come. The frost will take many of the plants I’ve grown this year, and almost everything is setting seed right now. I hope they’ll set enough to fill up many of the holes that were present in my beds this year. I overstretched my resources a bit this time around, but everything is about learning and growing. As I was looking around the other day, wondering if I should pull some weeds even though a move is ever imminent, I began to think about successes and failures, and what I would do differently in the future, even if that future is a few years down the line, when I will again have a garden to tend to.
The Lava Never Sleeps
Author Loreen Lilyn Lee
by Julie Carpenter
A Note from the author: I love interacting with readers and would love to meet with book groups. Contact info is on my web site. And thirdly, since travel is restricted these days, I encourage destination-reading! Books are a great means to "getting away" safely.
It has taken me some time to write this review, because this is a book to savor. I’ve reread several chapters simply to enjoy the language, and several more to think about the spiritual connections the author makes. There is even a chapter devoted to food that feels more like poetry than prose.
This is a story that begins in Hawai’i in the 1950s and 1960s and, though the story moves with the author as she travels throughout the world, it somehow never leaves Hawai’i behind. It’s a story of finding home by coming to terms with the past, a story both universal and grounded in the context of every place the author goes. At its heart is always the beauty and abundance of the islands.
Old Gods of
and Cam Collins
by Jarad Johnson
I love a good podcast. I listen to them while I’m walking or gardening, and sometimes a podcast is so good that I spend an entire afternoon walking up and down my road. Old Gods of Appalachia enthralled me so much when I first listened to it that I walked fifteen miles in one day. Yes, I was sore, but I was also addicted to this podcast. It has witches, horror, supernatural goings on. It’s well written, performed, and genuinely creepy.
(Note: there is no real way for me to review this podcast justice without discussing spoilers. If that’s an issue for you, go and listen to it first! Once you learn of the things that sleep beneath and the power that dwells within the forests, then read this review).
Trying Not Trying
Sabres, Gentlemen! Sabres!
What if Charles Bukowski
had never lived
or beautiful Paula Hinchman?
What if I had never known
my childhood friends
like Randy Burruss
or Marty Osborne or Doonie Ward?
What if I had not drunk vodka
with Mike Fitzpatrick
or started on beer
with John Spears?
Or what about beautiful Vicky Hill
and David Banner and Tom Blackburn
and Philip Bishop?
What if I hadn’t gotten into karate
when I was fourteen?
What if beautiful Margaret
had not been at that high school reunion?
Or what if I never read Brautigan
and really what if Bukowski
had never been born?
What if I had never found my Jill
through all of it?
That’s the terrifying question.
What if I had not found her?
What then would have become
Lessons and Lovers
by Roy Peak
A Movement Towards Heart
Last week we featured a review of Lessons & Lovers, the latest album from Wonky Tonk and the High Life. Since the worldwide pandemic began a few months back, Ms. Tonk has been staying in Ecuador. Here's a short interview we did via email.
Roy: First off, for those new to Wonky Tonk, how about a short introduction?
Wonky Tonk: Wonk is a movement towards heart. Tunes are a byproduct, a language.
Many people ask “what genre is this?” I say: Wonk. (magic)
There isn’t a particular genre or style because Wonky Tonk is transformation, love, creation, surrender.
It is a performance, it is honesty, it is an unmasked mirror.
The choice to see things as they are, imperfect and full of possibilities.
Wonky Tonk and the High Life
Lessons & Lovers
by Roy Peak
Imagine a life put on hold. You're a musician about to release your third album. You travel to Ecuador for a quick trip and plan on returning to the States just in time for the album release and ensuing tour. (With Justin Townes Earle, no less. R.I.P.) Then the pandemic strikes, gigs are cancelled left and right, and with the current state of political and societal affairs in your home country, you decide that it just may be best for you to stay put indefinitely.
This is what happened to Jasmine Poole, AKA Wonky Tonk. All these months later, and she's still there.
Wonky Tonk definitely goes her own unique way, you can hear a little bit of Lucinda Williams, a smattering of Shari Elf, and even some Tywanna Jo Baskette (intended or not) and I'm loving Ms. Wonk for it. (Much like Elf and Baskette, Tonk's songs are witty, heartfelt, quirky, and wholly original.) Tonk rocks hard and tough, she's not afraid to get noisy when the song calls for it, and the contrast between an abled noisy rhythm section and Tonk's high, sweet voice adds even more angst on many of these tunes.
by Jarad Johnson
I’m currently laying in bed sneezing my brain out after accidentally putting my face in some ragweed yesterday. One of the things I’m really bad at is sitting around. I. Can’t. Stand. It. I always have something to do or a project to complete (or a blog post to write!). But as I’ve been sitting here, seething as I see all the things I need to do, I’ve been thinking about some things. Specifically, what my priorities are. I guess that’s normal for someone my age who graduated from college and is searching for a job. You wonder what is important to you. And I realized that I haven’t really wanted to touch the garden for a few weeks for a few reasons. Firstly, sometimes life gets in the way. When there’s a lot going on around you, I sometimes just don’t want to brave the heat. Secondly, I’ll have to move before the year’s done, and tending a garden that won’t be yours for much longer feels a tad defeatist, although I still try to keep all the weeds at bay, but I certainly wouldn’t plant anything new. Although the garden design part of my brain is begging for some hydrangeas in front of the house. That’ll come in time, in a different house, of course.