Saturday, December 8, 2012
Posted by Joey Madia at 6:58 AM
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Posted by Joey Madia at 8:06 AM
Sunday, October 14, 2012
Posted by Joey Madia at 11:13 AM
Monday, September 24, 2012
Posted by Joey Madia at 9:37 AM
Thursday, September 13, 2012
Posted by Joey Madia at 11:30 AM
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Monday, August 20, 2012
Posted by Joey Madia at 12:57 PM
Thursday, August 2, 2012
Making a Case for Myth in Modern Life: A Review of Smoky Trudeau Zeidel’s The Storyteller’s Bracelet
Posted by Joey Madia at 11:46 AM
Friday, July 20, 2012
Sunday, July 8, 2012
(Burning Bulb Publishing, 2012, ISBN: 9780615623511) The Horror (or Sci-Fi) Trilogy, based as it is on the classic three-act model, is a time-honored literary tradition. But as satisfying as it can be, it’s hard to pull off through the final act. To sustain the suspense, slowly unravel the details of and maintain interest in the central characters, tease the reader with cliffhangers without creating alienation—these are the obstacles to the successfully executed trilogy. It’s a well-known mantra in literary circles that “anyone can write a good first act”—it’s all Expectation, initial IOUs (as my college writing professor termed them), and the setting of the large and small events in motion. To those who have read my reviews of Darkened Hills (2010) and Darkened Hollows (2011)— the first two books of the West Virginia Vampire Series—the reasons why “act one” and “act two” of the trilogy work so well are clear: they serve as a wonderful homage to and pastiche of the oft-told tale of the vampire, mixing as they do the larger international lore with the idiosyncrasies and unique people and places of rural West Virginia. The best we can do as genre fiction writers is to bring something new to the prerequisites and symbol systems of the particular genre in which we write, and Gary Lee Vincent has done that and more, especially in this final installment, which goes from the local to the national to the truly universal (and therefore mythological). Darkened Waters covers several time periods and geographical bits and pieces, overlaying a mythological array of characters both familiar and unique to Vincent’s blood-drenched world in addition to the returning residents and visitors to Melas, WV and its environs. It breaks out well beyond the framework of the first book, which took many of its names and cues from Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Stephen King’s de- and re-construction of it, ‘Salem’s Lot, and stakes its claim to its very own place in vampire literature. Similar to the strength of the mining scenes in the second book of the trilogy, Vincent’s detailed and vivid descriptions of landscape and its destruction rivet the reader as Nature is once again unleashed on the small towns of Melas and Tarklin, setting in motion an epic battle of Good vs. Evil, Simple Mortal vs. Massive Monster that moves relentlessly and entertainingly toward its climax. Complete with adult themes and dark matters, ample twists and turns, and a healthy dose of laughs, Darkened Waters delivers on the promise of Darkened Hills and Darkened Hollows and does so in a satisfying and memorable way. As always, I end with a few words about the multi-talented Gary Lee Vincent: He has published several non-fiction books as well as the novel Passageway and has a background and Ph.D. in Computer Information Systems. In addition to being an author, editor, and publisher of Burning Bulb, he is also a recording artist, with three albums to his credit. I look forward to what comes next.
Posted by Joey Madia at 5:21 AM
Thursday, July 5, 2012
(2012, Visionary Living, Inc., www.visionaryliving.com) From one of the foremost experts on the paranormal comes this introductory handbook to a selection of 20 different categories in the field. From Haunted Objects to Mirrors, from The Evil Eye to Moon Madness this quick-reading guide serves to both educate and protect the reader in its succinct chapters and 157 pages. Whether you are just curious or one of the growing numbers of people purchasing EMF meters, tape recorders, and digital cameras and going out into the field to try and experience ghosts, spirits, and other manifestations, this book does an excellent job of explicating the pleasures and pitfalls of experiencing the Unseen and Unusual. Opening with a chapter on Curses, the book goes into an array of physical objects (those mentioned above, as well as Haunted Houses) before moving on to supernatural beings, including: demons, djinn (Guiley has co-authored an excellent book on the subject, which I reviewed last year), Shadow People, and Skinwalkers. This is an important section to study, as these beings all have their specific strengths, weaknesses, and challenges should you be (un)lucky enough to encounter one! The Guide then examines the less-dangerous types of beings and manifestations, such as doppelgangers and ghosts. The book continues its exploration and education through excellent chapters on Dream Invasion, Sex with Ghosts and Entities, the Ouija (Guiley’s new book this often misunderstood spirit-communication tool just came out), Spirit Bargaining, Men in Black (there’s much more too them than what’s portrayed in the popular film trilogy!), and Vampire UFOs—in this case, the strangest is definitely left for the last. Chapters 17 and 18 and the Appendix are indispensible reading for those going out into the field to do their own paranormal investigations. Red Flags to Avoid, Psychic Protection, and Getting Help for Dark Side Problems are all covered. While my library is filled with highly detailed books on almost all of the subjects covered in this Guide (many written by Guiley), I will be turning to this book again and again for a quick reminder and some ready information, whether I am into a new writing project or heading out into the field with a group of investigators.
Posted by Joey Madia at 6:41 AM
Friday, May 11, 2012
(New York: Marsh Hawk Press, 2012; ISBN: 978-0-9846353-2-0) If you label me, you negate me. —Soren Kierkegaard Some books help us pass the time. Others entertain or inform us. And then there is the rare book that Inspires us—forces us to see with a different set of eyes and subsequently change our Newly Provoked Thoughts to Actions, enlivening our heart and engaging our Humanity. This is such a book. And, for that reason, this will be more than just a review. There are excellent reviews about the poetics of this book available on both the back cover and out it in world. And although the book’s content is my basis for all that follows, what this is is an extension of the work begun in the book, as I believe Tabios and hastain would have it. I should begin by saying that it a great honor for me, as Founding Editor of www.newmystics.com, to have poetry by both of these poet–philosopher–activists on our literary website. They push the boundaries; even more, they evaporate them—the boundaries of reader and writer, of author and social visionary, of Human and Spirit. This is the energy that makes New Mystics what it has grown to be over the past 10 years, and the energy that keeps the function of the Poet so vital to the world. the relational elations of ORPHANED ALGEBRA carries through one of the main themes in Tabios’ work—the condition of being the Orphan. Sparked by her own experience as an adoptive parent, the socio-political and emotional challenges strike a sharp chord in her work and thus the book begins with “ORPHANED ALGEBRA,” a series of prose-poems that take as their basis Word Problems from a math textbook used by her adopted son. Word Problems. Or, perhaps, the Problem with WORDS. This is resonant throughout the book. Ancient wisdom says that once you find the moon, you no longer need the finger that points to it. Put another way, once we have a firm grasp of the Idea, the Words no longer matter. But we are all too poor at grasping the ideas that pool and swirl around us, so we categorize and label and organize, and in doing so, restrict what people can be or become. This is a main point of the civil/humans rights performance piece, “I Am Not Other” that my social justice theatre company, Seven Stories, has been performing the past five years. And this is a thru-thread in this book as well. So. Word Problems. Through her deft and vivid prose-poems, Tabios tackles the underlying social ramifications of the seemingly innocent scenarios posed in the service of our children learning their math. Math that revolves around an antiquated Industrial model that has no place in the New Millenium, and yet still persists, for the American education system, as an extension of the Corporate–Military–Industrial complex, is more interested in producing Worker-Bees and Consumers than Citizens and Thinkers. No Child Left Behind (NCLB), which is one of the most oxymoronic, inaccurate, and reprehensible monikers ever put forth by any government anywhere (and which is, thankfully, beginning to go away), in its effort to clamp down on the critical thinking and arts-based curriculum beginning to take hold around the country prior to its “adoption,” put all the emphasis on the Standardized Test—the shortest way, in their Other-driven thinking—of making a Standardized American, who could then join the military or a corporation that would then created a Standardized World. But there have been studies done since the implementation of NCLB that show a few unsettling things: (1) It dishonors Multiculturalism, and the pushback by teachers in creating an inclusive classroom is immense; (2) In the case of Word Problems, it makes it all the more difficult for those who use English as a second language, and those native Americans (wink, wink) who are being poorly educated and so are not proficient enough readers to get from Prosody/Fluency to Comprehension (the mind cannot do both at once) to first interpret, then actually answer the Word Problems correctly, so scores do not necessarily reflect Math aptitude, but a slew of other deficiencies in Communication. I think that Tabios’ use of these Word Problems is about the best use of them that I’ve seen in quite some time. The following section of the book is authored by j/j hastain, and is an extension/reply to Tabios’ “ORPHANED ALGEBRA.” Instead of the orphan as the starting point, however, hastain looks at the notions of body [in order to break down the rigid gender split //Male–Female// society now employs], modes of procreation, and, most importantly, Identity. The rest of the book, called “Process,” is a balanced blend of poetry and essay wherein the authors discuss their reasons for, approaches to, and philosophies behind not only this collaboration, but their life’s work. There are sobering statistics on the orphanage self-preserving “system” in our supposedly civilized society [not unlike the military–industrial and pharmaco-medicine complexes that need War and Illness in order to survive—systems that also feed the orphan-making system]. There is also a substantial essay penned by hastain that outlines new ways of looking at Gender, Identity, and the Body. The book closes as it begins—with the prevailing idea in Tabios’ work that “the poet only begins the poem” (p. 81). As did hastain, I have endeavored to extend this book-poem through this essay and I invite you to read the book and extend the poem even further in your own unique way.
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
(Amazon Kindle [for PC, Mac, or smartphone with free downloadable app]. .99 cents) By Joey Madia I have long been fascinated by the genre-bending practice of fictionalizing one’s life experiences to turn them into “literature.” If we concede that ALL autobiography is to some degree fiction, as the human memory is dreadfully unreliable when it comes to the unfolding of events (we each cling to and exaggerate the details that meld best with our personality and values while downplaying or disregarding those that don’t) then this seems like a fair and useful practice in creative writing. In my writing classes, especially with middle school students, an exercise I find very useful is to have them write down in six to eight sentences something mundane that happened to them on a recent day. We then start to exaggerate two different elements, choosing from the Place, the People, and the Event (creating problems where there were none). I always have them keep one element the same throughout the exercise to keep the revised/exaggerated piece rooted solidly to the original. The end result is often wild and outlandish stories that get a few laughs and beautifully illustrate that the Exaggeration is really what makes any piece of creative writing work. According to the late, great comedian George Carlin, Exaggeration is the foundation of the funny little story we call a “joke.” Michelle Bowser’s Don’t Yell at the Damn Desk Clerk! makes excellent use of the Exaggeration, mostly through the characters, but also through the events (the place in this case stays the same)—the problems are never mundane and easily solved; they grow in complexity, yielding plenty of laughs and an elevator-load of sympathy for the poor night-shift clerk at an unnamed local motel. Yes—the night shift! We’ve all heard stories from our friends and relatives who have worked the graveyard shift at gas stations, Wal-Marts, and factories across this weird and wacky land of ours. This is the time when all the kooky dudes and wacky weirdos come out of their caves to shop and mingle. And if you’ve ever spent any time wandering the grounds in the middle of the night at a small-town motel, you know what a rich Petrie dish of characters and happenstances they yield (I’ve fictionalized and incorporated my own experiences as a traveler in one of my books). Split into ten chapters (strung together by a cumulative list of 17 sub-jobs that the narrator does as part of her main job as desk clerk), Don’t Yell at the Damn Desk Clerk! takes the reader on a funny, and often biting, tour of the world of the weirdo traveler and the troubles that come with trying to keep the vending machines, AC, and laundry machines all working while cranky curmudgeons crowd your desk with all their (mostly petty) problems. Through the course of the book we meet over-eager Black Friday shoppers, the rabble-rousing rednecks that represent opening day of Hunting Season, and nefarious co-workers and inept and penny-pinching management. There’s also a secret rendezvous gone wrong and, perhaps the stars of this Silver, Gold and Platinum motel saga—the Rip-Off kid and his grandma. Oh yes. And the crazy, rainbow spirit-dog, positive, Reservation Lady. And “zombies.” I think you get the idea. There were many times while reading Don’t Yell at the Damn Desk Clerk! that I laughed out loud. Bowser has an edgy, sarcastic sense of humor and a lively writing style that makes for quick and enjoyable reading. If you’re like most everyone else and have ever had a crappy job, this is a book for you. And if you haven’t, you’re probably one of the lousy-mooded travelers on which this book is based.
Posted by Joey Madia at 11:02 AM
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
(2021, Stackpole Books, www.stackpolebooks.com, $12.95, ISBN: 978-0-8117-1028-2)
[Disclaimer: The final chapter of this book, “The Enchanted Holler,” details many of the paranormal experiences my family has had on our 3 acres in north central West Virginia. I will not be discussing this chapter in this review and I do not believe that this precludes me from making a fair judgment about the rest of the book. JM]
There is an illustration going around Facebook recently that lists the qualifications of a Paranormal Researcher in the past as compared to now. As one can imagine, in this age of ready (but often questionable) Internet “data” and a glut of paranormal shows on cable television, anyone with a camcorder, an EMF meter (which a 10-year-old friend of my daughter’s recently got as a Christmas present), and some curiosity, what passes as a Researcher/Investigator is nowhere near as rigorous as it used to be.
True professionals do the leg work—literally—traipsing the natural landscapes and man-made locations where sightings are reported to have happened and spending countless hours in libraries and archives reading past accounts and, even better, interviewing witnesses.
True professionals in the field of Paranormal Research must do many things well: they must understand basic scientific principles, which can account for phenomena otherwise mistaken to be “paranormal”; they must be historians, anthropologists, and sociologists; they must also be adept at the skills of the writer and storyteller.
Most of all, they must be willing to be disappointed, or to not hold expectations that their forays into the field will bear tangible fruit.
Based on all of these criteria, I can highly recommend any of the previous 50 books written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley, and this new one is no exception. Why? Because I have been fortunate enough to be in the field with her on numerous occasions and to have read many of her books, and she meets all of the above criteria to an impressive degree.
In Monsters of West Virginia, Guiley investigates a wide array of Mountain State creatures and entities, from the two most famous—Mothman and the Braxton County (or Flatwoods) Monster—to some lesser known, but no less interesting, local legends.
In the five years that I have lived in West Virginia, my work has taken me to a majority of the places that Guiley chose to write about, and her feel for each locale is right on the money.
The 12 chapters covering each exotic entity are a balanced mix of field work, and firsthand and published accounts, and Guiley has a knack for not poking fun or pushing any one explanation or thesis too hard; this elevates her above many of her peers in this area of study, and is a main reason why I tend to use her books over others for my own research. In the rare cases, such as in the chapter “The Yayho: West Virginia’s Bigfoot,” where she favors one position over another (i.e., that Bigfoot and other creatures of its ilk are multidimensional beings and not from this planet) she enlists the help of other world-renowned researchers such as Nick Redfern.
In addition to the monsters already mentioned, there are excellent chapters on “Monster Birds, Thunderbirds, and Flying Reptiles,” “The Grafton Monster,” and “White Things and Sheepsquatch,” among half a dozen others.
Although particularly appealing to those interested in the Appalachian culture, chock full as it is of paranormal and folk stories, Monsters of West Virginia is fun, light reading for anyone interested in the myriad monsters that have roamed (and are roaming still) our world—and, perhaps, beyond.
Thursday, February 23, 2012
A Review of The Poet’s Daughter, by Parvaneh Bahar with Joan Aghevli (Larson Publications, 2011, www.larsonpublications.com)
This thought-provoking book, subtitled, “Malek O’Shoara of Iran and the Immortal Song of Freedom,” tells the story of Iran’s great political activist and foremost poet of the twentieth century, Malek O’Shoara Bahar, through the eyes and experiences of his daughter. In a time when all the world is focused on the future of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Iran and the Arab Spring continues to change the course of history in the Middle East, Bahar’s tribute to her father (which doubles as a personal memoir) recalls to the reader not only the circumstances that created the current situation in Iran; it also demonstrates the great power of poetry to help foment change in political activism.
Not unlike Pablo Neruda who said to the Chilean forces sent for him by Pinochet: “Look around—there’s only one thing of danger for you here—poetry” or Federico Garcia Lorca in Spain, Malek O’Shoara Bahar was not only a gifted poet, but a passionate activist and scholar who spent time in prison and exile for his beliefs about democracy and self-government. Parts of his poems, which are now used as songs for the Arab Spring, are strategically placed throughout the book, and although their translations into English render them somewhat less rich than they might be in their native language, one still feels the depth of belief, the commitment to social justice, and the artistic philosophy they contain.
From the time he was 18, when he sent his first poem to a ruler of Iran (which garnered him the title “Prince of Poets” and a small stipend from the shah) to the time of his death in 1951 from tuberculosis, Bahar was not afraid to speak out against tyranny and actively compose a vision for the Iran he wished to see. He was a co-founder of Iran’s Democratic Party and publisher of several subversive newspapers—all at a time (the early twentieth century) when Britain and Russia were exploiting Iran’s wealth and its rulers were selling the soul of their country to the highest bidders. Bahar’s experiences at this time, in and out of favor depending on the diplomatic breeze, can only be likened to a candle in the wind. His resolve—his constancy—during this time of “The Great Game” (as coined by Kipling) shows a courage most often attributed to men like Gandhi, King, and Mandela.
His periods in prison over the course of decades ultimately cost him his life due to the poor conditions ruining his health, and there were times where he was nearly killed outright. (In one instance the assassin killed the wrong man.) It is sometimes hard to understand how a father and husband could put his family in such peril—subjected to the authorities busting down the door in the middle of the night and dragging him off—but the great names come to mind again—Gandhi, King, Mandela—and it becomes clear their was nothing else he could do. It was his destiny, and a path his family willingly walked along with him.
The early chapters of the book recount, amid so much turmoil, a house and home-life idyllic in their simplicity and deification of such pillars as nature and family. Although they had very little money, the Bahars had an exquisite garden and one of the most extensive libraries in all of Iran (both of which were lost when the family was once again exiled). The author writes of a close-knit family where both father and mother were respected by their children and one another. Her descriptions of the foods they grew and ate speak to a life lived close to Nature and Spirit and based in a deep and abiding love.
That love, both long-lasting and not, is a central theme of the book, which recounts in detail not only the courtship of her parents, but Bahar’s two failed marriages. She says on page 56, “I always hoped that I would find a man who combined the qualities of my father and Mehrdad [her brother], but I never found one who came close.”
Indeed, it would be nearly impossible to compete with the deep well of passion and love Malek exhibited to all those he met. In one instance, like the Bishop of Hugo’s Les Miserables, he gives money [instead of candlesticks] to a thief who had stolen rugs and other valuables from their home just days before.
Within a few years of her father’s death, her second husband’s work with the IMF and World Bank brought the author to America, where, due to her husband’s position in Washington, Bahar navigated high-class social and political circles and met more than one president and/or first lady. It is at this point that the book shifts its focus to the domestic and social struggles the author faced as she sought an education and, ultimately, an escape from her controlling and philandering husband and her heartbreak at learning that America’s treatment of minorities—and women—was in many ways worse than the oppression she had witnessed in Iran. This last third of the book details her triumph in learning English, assimilating into American society while remaining true to her cultural roots, and her obtainment of both undergraduate and graduate degrees. Through it all, her father’s words and wisdom give her strength as she participates in the civil rights and women’s movements.
The Epilogue brings the journey full circle, as Bahar recalls the events of the 1979 Iranian revolution (well-known to Americans because of the simultaneous hostage crisis) and her subsequent trips to her home country.
For reasons she makes clear, she has not gone back since Ahmadinejad was elected president.
The book has a carefully selected section of black and white photographs that are helpful in getting to know even better this courageous and important family, both to the history of Iran and to social justice activism around the world.
The Poet’s Daughter helps to bring to light a man whose name should be uttered in America in the same breath with those three pillars of the human struggle for equality mentioned twice in this review.