Tag Archives: Book Reviews

The Greenwich Village Literary Review Spring 2015, Vol. II, No. 1

TABLE OF CONTENTS

OUR COVER

Cocktails
W. Jack Savage

NON-FICTION

History –
Yip Harburg: A Lyrical Activist Against Social Injustice Leigh Donaldson & Ernie Harburg

Memoir –
Memories of Judson Samuel Bean
My Mother’s Kitchen Erica Miles

FICTION
Tribute Sarah Bates
Sweet Sixteen Magda Benigna
Three Boys V. Conejero
Fire Box 598 Joe Corso
The Reunion Henya Drescher
Two Voices: a Tale from the Ancestors Mindy Kronenberg
Consequences Ann Ormsby
Jack of Hearts Leslie Silton

HUMOR & SATIRE
The Original Survivor Man Bill Batcher
The Good Neighbors James Como
The Art of Sleeping by Tootie translated by Erica Miles

POETRY
Night Duty Mario Ascueta Aguado
Baalbek, Lebanon, Makawao Forest, Opening Night’s Doors, Wind, What the Sky Tells Us Marguerite G. Bouvard
Extra Padding, Sunrise/Sunset, Ute Carson
At the Eye Doctor’s Office, V. Conejero
Seasonal Utterances (Spring), Julie Lauton
If These Walls Could Only Talk, John Lysaght
The Cat, In Memory of a Well-Loved Dog, Richard Merli
The Goose Who Loved Golf, John F. McCullagh
Portrait of My Mother, Erica Miles
The Party, Mindy Ohringer
Untitled No. 2, Dave Rullo
Near Holly Springs: Good Friday, Jeff Streeby
The First Floor Apartment on 84th, Lorien Vidal

ART & PHOTOGRAPHY
Cocktails, W. Jack Savage
Fountain 1, Samuel Bean
Fountain 2, Samuel Bean
Skycrapers with Clouds, Kyle Hemmings

BOOK REVIEWS
Robert J. Cooney reviews Jacob M. Appel’s short story collection Einstein’s Beach House
Richard Merli reviews Gary Beck’s book of poetry Civilized Ways
Erica Miles reviews Steven Jay Griffel’s novel Grossman’s Castle
Ellen Schecter reviews Erica Miles’ novel Dazzled by Darkness

– CONTRIBUTORS’ BIOGRAPHIES –
Contributors – Current Issue 

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Book Review: Robert J. Cooney reviews Jacob M. Appel’s short story collection Einstein’ Beach House

Jacob M. Appel’s latest literary offering is a collection of short stories, which shares the title with one of its featured pieces. Appel, as he is accustomed to, delves into subject matter revealing his familiarity and concern for topics relating to social consciousness. Throughout Einstein’s Beach House, the author shows he is unafraid to discuss that which makes the human psyche delicate. His stories explore the intricacies involved in personal relationships, and how dysfunction affects the resulting sentiments of his characters. In sincere Appel like fashion, however, he manages to address these topics while utilizing sarcasm and dry wit that is unmistakably his own.

Throughout, Appel aptly adjusts the perspective from which his narrators tell their stories strengthening resulting, residual, and ongoing feelings. One present commitment is reaffirmed after a comedic encounter with a past love. An unrealized bitterness results from a seemingly unrelated yet sweet distant memory. And even arrogance subtly unearths itself when reflecting upon childhood passion. But in my estimation, Appel’s best work within concentrates on the desperation individuals hoping to remain part of a couple confront.

In La Tristesse Des Herissons, Josh attempts to make a relationship with his girlfriend Adeline work. Adeline wants to take the next logical step in their relationship, and add a third. Josh believes a dog is appropriate, Adeline desires a hedgehog. Orion, the hedgehog, develops depression, leading to mania, and finally bipolar disorder. Appel showcases his sense of humor as he describes the ordeal Josh endures filling Prozac prescriptions without hedgehog insurance and reading Alice in Wonderland to Orion, something Adeline does not at all find humorous.

Appel has a remarkable quality of placing characters in uneasy situations. He sets a scene simply, using limited but precise physical descriptions of geographic locations, sensory inducing natural elements, and unforgettable moments in time. He understands strategic intimacy between people and has an uncanny manner of describing how those interactions between quirky personalities manifest emotions that range a full spectrum. Read, laugh, and enjoy.

Einstein’s Beach House, by Jacob M. Appel
(Available for purchase on Amazon.com)

–Robert J. Cooney

Book Review: Richard Merli reviews Gary Beck’s book of poetry Civilized Ways

For those who love poetry, there is much to recommend in the new volume, Civilized Ways, by Gary Beck (Winter Goose Publishing, 124 pages), a poet who truly wears his heart out on his sleeve. Socially speaking, Mister Beck is, above all, a man whose heart is in the right place.

The title of Mr. Beck’s book is ironic: “Uncivilized Ways” is what comes to mind, since this volume chronicles such modern day horrors as the use of child soldiers, the exploitation and murder of children, the sale of women (and children) into sexual slavery, the abuse and destruction of our environment, and the greed and corruption of the powerful in capitalist society. Much of Gary Beck’s book examines in considerable detail the social ills and evils inherent in the conflict between democratic society and capitalism.

In “Democracy,” Beck waxes philosophical on the most obvious shortcomings of American

“O wonderful democracy
that nurtures slick exploiters
who clamor for meritocracy
in a consumer-based society
that is exhausting merit.”

In “Daughters of Cambodia,” Beck recreates the haggling over the price to be paid for a woman – a child, really – sold into sexual slavery as a prostitute. In his poem, “The Cold War,” Beck takes munitions manufacturers – merchants of death – to task for their insatiable greed in profiting from America’s endless cycle of wars. In “Philosophical Ramblings,” he takes an extremely dim view of mankind:

“Man is the cruelest animal,
exceeding any creature of nature,
in torture, mayhem and destruction.”

Mr. Beck stands on less firm ground when he turns his criticism on those, such as members of The Left, who propose solutions and alternatives to the social ills and exploitations of capitalism, with which he feels so much heartfelt disgust. This is not to quibble over philosophical choices. But, as a logical corollary, one is compelled to ask: Is there no hope for mankind? Should we not at least consider the best features of alternative social and economic systems? Nevertheless, Mr. Beck hits all the right notes and challenges us to ask important, provocative questions, as in his poem. “These United States,” in which he asks with righteous anger and indignation:

“But who really owns my country?
Conglomerates, vested interests, exploiters.
Where are the decent men, the just?
Can no one stand up and say: ‘Enough!’”

Amen to that.

However, in the opinion of this writer, Gary Beck’s most eloquent, masterful writing appears in works such as “Miner’s Quest,” in which he captures beautifully the hardship, toil and, often times, life-and-death struggles of ordinary people to eke out a meager living under the most trying and dangerous of conditions:

“The miners never went to ivy-covered schools,
had no book learning, just blue-collar skill,
acquired the hard way, in the pits of shattered dreams,
where the mines sapped the souls of men
who never got used to the pressing rock above
and the dank, devouring dark below,
always waiting, implacable as time,
to catch a careless miner in a moment’s lapse,
the last summons to the final ascent.”

Civilized Ways, by Gary Beck
(Available for purchase on Amazon.com)

–Richard Merli

Book Review: Erica Miles reviews Steven Jay Griffel’s Grossman’s Castle, a classic Jewish gothic tale

A humorous and fast-moving, action-packed, fantastic adventure story, starring David Grossman, an improbable Jewish hero, who rises to yet more surprising, politically and culturally questionable, ancestral ascendance. A truly contemporary novel, yet one full of charming, visual and textural historical detail, delicately woven throughout the novel–from the grounds of the castle, to the basement, to the confusing doors of the uppermost story; from the bedroom with the Italian Renaissance décor to the one with the French, Louis XV bed. Mr. Griffel is a true master of suspense in the best sense of the word, offering complex and compelling love rectangles and ghoulish hints of what lies ahead for the reader, as he or she chuckles or cracks his/her knuckles in avid anticipation of some grossly unimaginable solution to the mystery of Grossman’s Castle. An exceptional work of artistry and wild inspiration–not to mention entertaining dialogue, sex, and unabashed chutzpah! In short, it was a beautiful book. I loved it!!!

Grossman’s Castle, by Steven J. Griffel
(Available for purchase on Amazon.com)

–Erica Miles
author of Dazzled by Darkness

Book Review: Ellen Schecter reviews Erica Miles’ novel Dazzled by Darkness

Dazzled by Darkness, by Erica Miles, is an exciting, multi-faceted novel that feels as authentic and intimate as a memoir.  It brings the reader right back into the tumult of the Sixties, when tensions burned high between the races and abortions were available only in dangerous back alleys or expensive, faraway places like Puerto Rico.

Racism inevitably seeps beneath the skins of the two young lovers, Gavilán and Sara, clear-cut and engaging characters that inhabit worlds that are long-gone, yet pulse with life in the author’s evocations.  Author Miles deftly avoids any racial stereotypes in creating her characters, offering a more intimate view to readers who may have little experience with the black or Latino communities.

Delicate pencil drawings by Selma Eisenstadt and Ms. Miles enrich the book, emphasizing the artistic theme that drives the story.  Sara works at the Brooklyn Museum and is blessed with a lyrical imagination.  Gavilán is an artist whose imaginary encounters with Leonardo da Vinci, Van Gogh, Picasso, Andy Warhol and others provide him with ideas and inspiration–but it is his soulful conversations with his best friend and spiritual big brother, James, that unveil the deepest secrets of his heart.

Sara, from a middle-class Jewish background, is the more elusive, impulsive character.  From the beginning, she takes heart-pounding risks: endangering the children who take classes at the museum, painting her skin dark to ride on the subway with Gavilán, quitting her job over an imagined insult.  And despite the inevitable insults from both sides of a racist world, it is basic incompatibility rather than race that finally drives Sara and  Gavilán apart.   Yet both grow into happiness in surprising ways.  I won’t spoil it for you–give yourself the pleasure of reading the book to find out.

Dazzled by Darkness, by Erica Miles
(Available for purchase on Amazon.com)

–Ellen Schecter,
author of Fierce Joy