Uncle Morty’s Halloween Journey
By Mortimer R. Wolcott
This week the Netherworld is preparing to celebrate the day when the barriers break down and the disembodied, the undead, the restful and the wakeful, can cross back again to see the world of the living. The embodied call it “Halloween.” Of course, your Uncle Morty crosses back the other way to visit his gardens, and his shadow home. Alas, I have been unable to complete the décor due to my present assignment among the flesh-covered. No more of that right now, the crimes for which I suffer my penance will not be particularly comprehensible to my embodied friends. But for me, Halloween is a one-day vacation from the vacuous world of the living. The boundary is already becoming hazy and I can see the old homestead now, tall and thin, multi-gabled, with its diamond windows and diaphanous draperies drifting gently in the moonlight, windows open to the frosts of autumn no doubt, just as I left them last year. The old house awaits its occupant and longs for the one night the blue flame will be lit in the fireplace.
Friend of the Chickens, Jeff Weddle, hangs out with poet Dominic Albanese at the intersection of life and art.
Dominic Albanese: The Real Deal
Interview by Jeff Weddle
You can call Dominic Albanese a lot of things, and some of them he’ll answer to. Things like ex-con, ex-soldier, ex-fighter are fair game. These days, you can mostly call him a poet, and a prolific one. His distinctive and brutally honest work deserves serious attention from anyone who prefers poems with the true rhythms of life to the polished vapor of workshopped verse.
He’s traveled the world and known some of the greats. As a kid in the 1950s, he hung around NBC Studios in New York, where his father worked as the nighttime building supervisor for the famed Rockefeller Center. Albanese was friendly there with celebrities of the day. Dorothy Kilgallen and Arline Francis were always nice to him, and Rosemary Clooney watched out to make sure he got a big plate of lasagna on nights his Aunt Celia brought it to the studio. Later in life, he became friends with Ted Berrigan and Robert Crumb, and once met Charles Bukowski, whom he loathed.
Fall is my favorite time of year. Comfy sweaters and warm coats, changing leaves and dark nail polish. And books. Lots of books. (Ok, besides the coats and sweaters that’s how I am most of the year but fall makes it all extra special!) Now that the cold weather seems to be here to stay, it seems about time for some fallish books. Here are some of our favorite books to curl up with under a large blanket!
Peyton Place by Grace Metalious- Some books set a tone, and this one screams fall. It is a novel that was published in the late ‘50s, and the blurb on my cover reads, “The novel that shocked a nation.” It is a book that seeks to dismantle the bourgeois, and to uncover the truth behind the perfect veneer. It is a novel about a small town called Peyton Place, where on the surface everyone looks normal, but, chapter by chapter, everyone’s dark secrets are revealed. There’s a dark and incessant undercurrent throughout, and Metalious does an excellent job of making the mundane horrifying, and essentially, she exposes the true character of the people in that town. However, please be advised and keep in mind that this novel deals with graphic sexual violence if you decide to pick it up.
Dragonwyck by Anya Seton- This is another subversive novel, concerned with the patriarchy and the male gaze. It is a gothic novel and has all the creepy elements that go along with it. I feel that I can’t say anymore without giving things away, but just know that there’s a castle, murder, and undercurrent s of feminist and anti-war commentary!
Since it is fall, the gardening season is winding down. So, to distract himself, Jarad thought that he’d talk about other gardens he wants to go. Writers and gardening seem to go hand in hand, so many of his dream gardens are also the gardens of famous writers!
Babylonstoren- Located in Africa, dating back to 1692 and one of the oldest Cape Dutch farms, this is a place with a garden of about 8 acres that supplies several restaurants and a winery. It has fruit and vegetables, a healing garden and a spice garden. Overall, it’s a very beautiful and peaceful place. It also has a hotel, and I’m afraid if I were to go, I’d be gone for a very long time.
Beatrix Potter’s Garden- When you read Potter’s books, you may inevitably begin to wonder what her actual garden was like. I certainly have for a long time. Potter herself was a fascinating individual, an accomplished naturalist and mycologist. At the time of her death, she left behind 14 farms and 4,000 acres of land. Her home, Hill Top, is still available for touring.
Written by Liz Phair
Review by Roy Peak
"All we have in common is the horror in our lives." Alan Moore, writer.
"It’s hard to tell the truth about ourselves. It opens us up to being judged and rejected. We’re afraid we will be defined by our worst decisions instead of our best. Our impulse is always to hide the evidence, blame someone else, put the things we feel guilty about or that were traumatizing behind us and act like everything is fine. But that robs us of the opportunity to really know and care about one another. It closes a door that could lead to someone else’s heart. Our flaws and our failures make us relatable, not unlovable." Liz Phair, from her book Horror Stories.
I'm Not the Same
By Sincerely, Iris
Review by Roy Peak
One of my favorite musical surprises from a few years back was an EP titled The License Plate Sessions by musician Todd Murray, who goes under the moniker Sincerely, Iris. Dark, swirling, and moody—the songs written and played bottle-neck style on a four-string guitar made from the license plate of one of Murray's cars—they grabbed ahold of me and wouldn't let go. A few years have passed since then, and now from Sincerely, Iris we get I'm Not the Same, a full length release with plenty of dark and distorted tones, mournful vocals, and some rather majestic passages.
I’m supposed to be blogging about autumn gardens, or creepy gardens, in honor of the month of October, but I’m having a hard time because instead I’m thinking about cemeteries. Which is weird, I know. But bear with me for a minute. Some of the most beautiful and moving gardens I’ve been in have been…cemeteries.
When we went to Paris, one of my favorite excursions was to Père Lachaise Cemetery, and it felt very much like an odd sort of garden, the dead planted like the trees with the moss growing on their stone house and roots tangling around them, finally and truly becoming part of nature. There was a light rain; crows were cawing above us in the trees. It was the perfect autumn garden, as sleepy and comforting and sorrowful as the smell of the leaf mold on moss as the trees drop their foliage. Old cemeteries where ivy and moss crawl up the mausoleums and tombstones, eating the sharp edges of memory, those with trees and shrubs, seem perfectly right to me for fall. They have the serenity of a garden, coupled with the restfulness of boundary, an end in sight.
Written by Tsitsi Dangarembga
Review by Jarad Johnson
I’m taking a course on narratives in African Literature this semester, and part of that means reading books by authors that probably would not normally fall under my purview. Part of being a reader is, by default, being a lifelong learner, and I’m very pleased when I get exposed to new ideas, cultures, and experiences…one of the reasons I took this class (it’s also taught by one of my favorite teachers). The course focuses on narratives, which is a topic that this blog likes to focus on as well.
The Book of Strange New Things
Written by Michel Faber
Review by Jarad Johnson
This is a book that I picked up on a whim when I was at the library last week. I had heard very good things about it, and I decided to give it a try. Going into the book, I knew it was a science fiction story about a pastor who travels to another world to preach to the native population on that planet while Earth descends into chaos. This did not sound like it was something I would enjoy, but several reviews said it wasn’t a novel about religion, so I decided to try it anyway.
Today your Uncle Morty would simply like to share a list of quotes that have been bonking around his empty old skull. I leave it to my dear readers to decide upon a term under which to group the following words of wisdom, or indeed to what use you might employ them.
I've been told I need to begin working again and while I perfect a few parables and a very short story about the Netherworld, I will leave you with these.
On stupidity –
“Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice. One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force. Evil always carries within itself the germ of its own subversion in that it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease. Against stupidity we are defenseless. Neither protests nor the use of force accomplish anything here; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed – in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical – and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack. For that reason, greater caution is called for when dealing with a stupid person than with a malicious one. Never again will we try to persuade the stupid person with reasons, for it is senseless and dangerous.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison
On lies –
“I think the difference between a lie and a story is that a story utilizes the trappings and appearance of truth for the interest of the listener as well as of the teller. A story has in it neither gain nor loss. But a lie is a device for profit or escape. I suppose if that definition is strictly held to, then a writer of stories is a liar - if he is financially fortunate.”
― John Steinbeck, East of Eden
Legal definition of willful blindness
Legal Definition of willful blindness: deliberate failure to make a reasonable inquiry of wrongdoing (as drug dealing in one's house) despite suspicion or an awareness of the high probability of its existence
NOTE: Willful blindness involves conscious avoidance of the truth and gives rise to an inference of knowledge of the crime in question.
Merriam Webster Dictionary
On being fooled –
“There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn't true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.”
― Soren Kierkegaard