Blog Posts by BARB W

Posted by BARB W on 10/07/19
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Not everyone knows who Valerie Solanas was, although her assassination attempt of Andy Warhol may be her greatest claim of infamy.

In Valerie : Or, The Faculty Of Dreams : Amendment To The Theory Of Sexuality, Swedish feminist and author Sara Stridsberg attempts to piece together this complex, radical feminist through a series of reminisces about important places and times in her life. We visit her troubled childhood, and the courtroom that delivered her conviction, and through an omniscient narrator, we visit her in the hotel where she spends the final moments of her complicated life.

Stridsberg’s prose is glorious, evoking an abundance of responses from the reader. More importantly, this serves as a reminder that we are the sum of our experiences. To look at one event in a life is to ignore everything else that may have shaped someone’s existence.
Posted by BARB W on 08/24/19
If you liked Hamilton, the odds are very good that you will enjoy SIX, the captivating musical on CD by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss.

The six wives of Henry VIII are the stars of this show, and wow, do these women have a lot to say! The rollicking opening number, Ex-Wives, introduces us to the six, who would like us to know the truth about their lives and deaths. This is a competition to see who has suffered the most. And don’t we all love a little history in our Broadway musicals!

The numbers alternate between hilarity and sincerity. The music is electrifying, moving easily from pop-rock, to electronic, to hip-hop and ballads. The modern retelling of Henry and his wives is fun and informative, cheeky and audacious, and definitely worth a listen!
Posted by BARB W on 07/17/19
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Indecent is a play about a play, or more precisely, about a response to that play based on fear. On Broadway, in 1923, the play God of Vengeance by Sholem Asch debuted. It had played to many audiences already, but on this night, the police arrested the company on charges of indecency stemming from the intimate, joyous love scene between two women.

Indecent chronicles the development and implementation of this play, and the desire by Asch to display the diversity within the Jewish population and dispel xenophobic views. Sadly, this conflict maintains current relevancy.

Playwright Paula Vogel pulls all the emotion and intention possible from her characters, and we find ourselves breathing the same air they do. Indecent, nominated for the Best Tony in 2017, does what theater does best: perpetuate the relentless pursuit of truth in art.
Posted by BARB W on 08/29/18
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The Comet Seekers (2016), by Scottish physicist Helen Sedgwick, is a challenging book to categorize. There are elements of mysticism and a touch of the paranormal, and just enough bending of science to add in a fringe element of science fiction. There is also a love story.

Wait a minute, how does love fit into this scenario? Be prepared; it is unconventional, deeply personal, and spans the centuries. Sedgwick creates a sensuality between the lovers that draws you into their story and sets a powerful, urgent tone.
The author’s decision to set part of the story in Antarctica adds complexity if you stop to consider the unusual reasons people choose to be in such an enigmatic location. It is remarkable that the story spans time and space so extravagantly yet creates such an intimate portrait of love, all punctuated by the sporadic appearance of the comets. This is truly a story for anyone, anywhere, in any time.
Posted by BARB W on 06/22/18
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Have you ever wondered what kind of films do best at the box office, which tower above the rest in terms of ticket sales?

Science fiction films are by far the fan favorites. Star Wars, Avatar, The Avengers, the Jurassic Park films. If these are what we choose to watch, why are we so hesitant to read science fiction?

Maybe we are afraid to hold a mirror up to who we are. Reflection is the essence of good science fiction. It may seem to transport you to the unknown, but it really explores the possibilities of who we are and the expectations of who we can be.

Check out Hominids by Robert J. Sawyer; book one of the Neanderthal Parallax. In an alternate universe, the Neanderthals have evolved at a faster rate than the Homo sapiens have, a situation that perplexes the human scientists. They discover that there is much to learn and share for the two civilizations, and a collaboration begins. But what is the cost for this rapid development?

In The Left Hand of Darkness, by the late, revered Ursula K. LeGuin, gender is fluid, making opportunities in childbirth and leadership available to all. We may not have that option, but once you take gender out of the equation, the prospects become endless. On the planet Gethen, recognition occurs based on ability, not predetermination by gender.

In The Secret City by Carol Emshwiller, we see the conditions of hospitality and hostility imposed on Others, people different from ourselves, and we grapple with the difficulties of assimilation and inclusion.

Real world problems, reimagined by brilliant minds; writers asking the big questions and taking a stab at explanations or alternate pathways. Check out some science fiction today and be part of the discussion.
Posted by BARB W on 06/22/18
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The Book of Hidden Things by Francesco Dimitri is a superb summer read. Dimitri, often referred to as the “Italian Neil Gaiman”, has written a suspense thriller that manages to keep one foot in the real world while dipping the other foot into a pool of wonder and fantasy.

Four friends, now grown and scattered about the world, return to their hometown once a year for their “appointment” together. For some, this is a welcome respite, for others a reminder of their inability to leave their old selves behind. When one of them does not show, a quest begins to find him and unravel the mystery.

This is a magical, fantastical tale of sacrifice and choices. It is also about the truths we face and the changes we must make in adulthood. The author takes this a step further by exploring families and friendship; those we construct and those we are born into.

Well-composed fiction, an affecting story, wrapped in an impressive fantasy adventure!
fantasy, Suspense
Posted by BARB W on 04/25/18
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Witness another entry in the already crowded canon of dystopian literature. Out in the Open, by Jesús Carrasco, has somehow managed to distinguish itself and move to the front of the pack.
Carrasco’s prose is sharp and precise, and like Cormac McCarthy, he does not litter his story with unnecessary distractions.  A minimum of characters, fully realized, enter our consciousness and consideration.
However, the story also belongs to the parched landscape the boy and the goatherd desperately maneuver in their effort to survive. The magnitude and urgency created by the absence of water terrifies with greater potency than zombies or fictitious viruses. This exquisitely written story, translated from the original Spanish, will not disappoint.
Posted by BARB W on 03/12/18
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Peach, by debut author Emma Glass, came just at the right time. With the advent of the #MeToo and the Time’s Up movements, we can no longer pretend that these unspeakable acts occur outside our circle of family and friends. The victims now have faces, voices, and the contemptible perpetrators have been unmasked. Fewer secrets, greater revelations.

With Peach, Emma Glass exposes another layer of this immense problem, the vicious act itself, difficult to describe and impossible to forget. We experience Peach’s assault in a visceral way as she relives this horrific moment repeatedly. Glass never holds back in her startlingly brutal language. If we thought it was easy to forget how it feels to be violated, Peach reminds us of every painful, degrading moment. Glass is a master of descriptive language, and Peach’s inner dialog is disturbing and relentless.

It is sometimes difficult to hear the unfiltered truth. It is even more difficult to figure out how to put one foot in front of the other and look for normal. Check out a remarkable story from this innovative author.
Posted by BARB W on 03/09/18
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Although I have not yet read The River of Consciousness, author Oliver Sacks is a man I wish I could meet. Sadly, he died in 2015, but left behind an astonishingly diverse body of work. He was a neurologist; the book and film Awakenings derive from his experiences. He was also a writer, weightlifter, passionate motorcyclist and a perennial student of life. His memoir, On the Move, will tell you all you need to know. There is a quote by another famous author, Jack Kerouac, which sums up my admiration for Oliver Sacks. “The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars”. Perfect summation of the brilliance of Oliver Sacks.
Posted by BARB W on 02/19/18
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In 2017, the world lost a gifted artist, Sam Shepard. Some remember him for his many film and television roles, or as a screenplay writer for both of these mediums.

All true, but the core of Shepard’s work and deep impact will be the legacy of the forty-four plays, two novels and several short story collections he created. His last work, the short novel Spy of the First Person, was published on December 5, 2017, and is a memorable final gift from this immensely talented man.

Spy of the First Person is quintessentially Shepard and intensely personal to his struggle as he neared the end of his life. These characteristics of human uncertainty make the story relevant to everyone: the memories we have created, the paths we have pursued, and the people who went there with us. The lonely narrator becomes both the observer and the participant.

Shephard’s style is sparse, precise and affectingly significant in this beautiful read. Please try this, or one of his other rewarding works.
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