Tuesday, March 19, 2013

This is a twisted American coming of age Mafia story, typical and yet completely original--no one could make it up.

This is a twisted American coming of age Mafia story, typical and yet completely original--no one could make it up. Barboza is a boy who grew up in New Bedford, Mass of a poor family, who worked on the docks.  He aspired to join the Mafia, his heroes. Though he's Portugese, not Sicilian, he thinks he can get into the Cosa Nostra by doing "better" than those born to the life  (allegedly 26 murders).  

Unlike a lot of true-crime, Mafia stories, which revel in sensationalism,  Sherman addresses the humanity of the psychopath.  The man called ANIMAL  hates violence against women.  As a babe, protected in his mother's arms, he witnessed his  father beating her.  And Barboza, in all his insane murders, never hurts women.  In fact,  he loves his family and tries to protect them.  

But the troubled teen sent to reform school for petty theft, emerges from abuse there, as a hardened criminal.  Barboza, who wanted to escape his violent father, becomes hardened into a life of violence.  He became the #1 hit man in the bloodiest mob war in American history (57 men murdered in 3 years!). The Mafia called him ANIMAL and thought of him as a blunt instrument.  Then, increasingly, as he's denied  acceptance, Barboza became a  liability. The mob, who can't control him, decided to take him down. 

 ANIMAL details what happened when they hunted Barboza.  Boston's most notorious contract killer, made a deal with two corrupt FBI agents that changed the criminal justice system forever.  ANIMAL shows how the Federal government created with Barboza a narrative of false testimony to prosecute New England's most powerful organized crime figures. His success meant five men went to prison for a murder they did not commit. Later this led to the largest settlement against the US Justice Dept in History.

To protect their star witness, the first gangster to testify against the Mafia,  the FBI created the Witness Protection Program.  They kept him on an island in Boston harbor, where the Mob tracked him, then in sleepy Santa Rosa.  But once a killer, always a killer;  Barboza killed a person and was returned to prison. Finally, after a decade on the run,  he was gunned down in broad daylight in San Francisco.  

The pressure to bring down the mob was so great that sworn enemies,  RFK & Hoover, created the FBI's Top Echelon Informant Program to employ the same illegal methods as the mob! Unbelievable but true that lawmen compromisd their integrity.   If you want to know about the Whitey Bulger case, how the FBI allowed a Mob Boss to operate for 15 years, this precursor has answers--and new information.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Holly Anderson's THE NIGHT SHE SLEPT WITH A BEAR is like visiting an alien country you think you remember

THE NIGHT SHE SLEPT WITH A BEAR by Holly Anderson (Publication Studio, Portland, OR) is like visiting an alien country, you think you remember--from dreams you might have forgotten.  It’s a novel-like fiction made up of mesostics and flash fiction. I checked Wikipedia:  
A mesostic is a poem or other typography such that a vertical phrase intersects lines of horizontal text. It is similar to an acrostic, but with the vertical phrase intersecting the middle of the line, as opposed to beginning each new line.
The practice of using index words to select pieces from a preexisting text was developed by Jackson Mac Low as "diastics". It was used extensively by the experimental composer John Cage (Walsh 2001).
The Night She Slept with a Bear also comes with music by Chris Brokaw on itunes.  And since the fiction resembles a musical composition, with themes repeated and intersected, it’s probably  a great addition.  Here’s the beginning, which gives you an idea of fragmentation that’s getting at something, but you’re not sure what exactly. Like much poetry, you feel the emotional weight of the images. Meaning sifts through, though you may not be able to articulate it. What I couldn’t reproduce are visual images that act as counterpoint, maps, a compass, wilderness, outlines of static that resembles weather. It’s the logic of right brain thought. An internet definition of that: "The right half deals with a task on an emotional level, being perceptive and often fantasy-oriented, while having an affinity to taking risks."

I couldn’t find a better way to explain THE NIGHT SHE SLEPT WITH A BEAR. Layers of fantasy have eternal themes, death, sex, redemption, aging, time, childhood; what it’s like to inhabit a human body on a planet, are explored obliquely though Anderson’s unnamed heroines.  Here’s a sample:

The Theory of Everything
They’ll re-purpose her car. Doesn’t matter. Doesn’t have a whiff more gas
anyway so she’s sleeping underneath it right now. Sleeping off this
poisonous sun that makes her see triplicate. She snuffles. She snores
lightly. Jiggles her brake foot once in awhile.a I’m trying to observe
everything clearly, take notes and hope to hell I can figure out what’s
going on. By now I’m officially missing. We’ll have to hoof it soon enough.
She’s waiting for darkness and regular vision to return. She describes it
as two bull’s-eyes sliding back into place. Sight realigning with a
registration so precise it has a nearly audible ‘click’. She does go on
about her vision problems.1

She also goes on about rogue planets and errant propagation in computers.
Did I know anything about that? What about the fruits, flowers and
fish we’ve lost for keeps?2 Sonar signals and the tyranny of ringtones,
electric force fields and genetic mutation. Naval Jelly. Cast iron pans.
String Theory and her favorites — ’gluons’ and ‘neutrinos’. Her version
of String Theory makes it sound like everything’s colliding all the time in
a huge net shopping bag of vibrating strings. That there are many more
dimensions than we have a clue about. .

a. Recipe For Returning
Drive an old green Buick across a
frozen strait with stolen bottles
of Bordeaux, a sack of rice, a
sack of beans, slabs of smoked
lake fish and a box of books.
Find a cabin. Don’t get out of
bed for a month. Then cut all
your hair off and wander the
daylight hours until your feet
bleed in your boots. When the
ice moves out in the spring it
will sound like gunshots. You’ll
be awake on moonless nights
and the ice will thunder and
boom. The ice will cleave and
branch black and run for miles
under the grainy snow. This will
fix you up. All that emptiness,
all those blue shadows of crusts
and drifts. The sky will wave rags
dipped in stars and you’ll wave
back. In the spring you’ll take
the ferry to the mainland. And
you’ll be back. To your self.

Strange territory, not really. How do brains process experience?  How do we make sense or just find some way of labeling what we call life?  I suggest BEAR to all who want an adventure on page or ipad or iphone  that doesn’t reflect the “naturalistic” forms of mainstream media.
http://www.publicationstudio.biz/books/186  for publisher. The Night She Slept With A Bear is also available as an app  https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/holly-anderson/id582089103?mt=8   Both book and app come with music by Chris Brokaw [ 


Friday, March 1, 2013


Peter Cherches’ LIFT YOUR RIGHT ARM, (March, Pelekenesis)

Peter Cherches is a master of the conundrum, a poet of the nuance that makes nonsense of logic and meaning where it wouldn’t be caught dead.  Imagine the love-child of Samuel Beckett and Gertrude Stein, or the uneasy marriage of Archibald MacLeish and Harold Pinter and you may have an idea of the singularity of his style. 

Mr. Cherches' new book of minimalist prose, LIFT YOUR RIGHT ARM, is a novel with five movements or five novels--as you find it. Coincidentally, Cherches means to search for in French and his humor is found in unlikely places.

Take the opening section with the adventures of Mr.Deadman. Here's an excerpt:

“Life,” Mr.Deadman says, “is a death-defying stunt.” 

And with some chill and much amusement, you accompany Mr. Deadman to a sushi restaurant, a barbecue, keeping up with the Joneses, and on a holiday.  The punch line is, as always, as you knew it would be, that life's different because he is dead. And, in the process you get a chuckle about the farce of it.

Then there’s the metaphysics of love,  the permeable boundaries of identities between lovers. In "Bagatelles,"  it's the up and down of who's in charge and what do the orders signify? A favorite in this section is:

"You take a lot out of me," she said to me. 
"I know," I told her in her own voice.

There's also Cherches' clowns, One, Two, and Three. Again, hard to describe without showing.

Two: Where do you see yourself in five years?
One:  Here, five years older.
Three: What are your qualifications?
One: Time and immobility
Two & Three:  You're hired!

The last section of LIFT YOUR RIGHT ARM is "A Certain Clarence." I developed an Amelia Bedelia affection for this thinking man's fool.

     "Clarence decided to paint his room. It was a small room, and Clarence reasoned that he could create the illusion of more space if he were to paint his room the colors of outside. So he painted his ceiling blue like the sky, with a couple of white clouds for good measure. He painted his floor in patches of green and brown, like grass and earth. And his walls he painted no color at all."

    There are writers you can call prose poets, but Cherches is something else. He makes deadpan humor out of words you thought you knew. But then the meaning is not in the words but somehow cleverly hidden behind them. The joke is on you. The familiar become strange. This perilous reality is Cherches' territory. 

     An adult may want to read some of these twice but I suspect a teen will repeat for fun. The sensibility of LIFT YOUR RIGHT ARM is akin to the way they puzzle out the world with a well-honed hypocrisy meter. 
You finish wanting more of this conversation, this sense of something profound you feel and almost understand.