Mary O’Connor may have made her career as an architect, but her debut book shows her to be one heck of a writer. Her prose is tight, well-paced, and often exquisite. She balances fact and emotion with perfect precision, using a blend of memoir, reportage, biography, and social history to make Free Rose Light a rich and creative book that is both about its subject and transcendent.
If the author had written the book as a “serious exploration,” would it have made any difference? The answer is: probably not. Plenty of other serious books have been written, which are making little or no difference. And they aren’t touching the roots of the problem. So why write a serious book that nobody would take seriously?
Tupelo is the perfect press to release a book like this. Founded in 2001, their twenty years of knowledge shines through, as does a pragmatism that I’m afraid could be lost if one of the big five publishers attempted to publisher a similar book. It’s apparent that Tupelo has a history of what they refer to on their website’s call for submissions as “energetic publicity and promotion.” That energy is contained in the dense sixty-some pages of Open Secrets.
Why write poetry? Milosevic says it sharpens your mind, encourages concise writing, helps you appreciate the world, and most of all is fun. He encourages aspiring poets to “take advantage of the long tradition of verse” by familiarizing themselves with the work of other poets. I was pleased with this, as aspiring poets who have asked my help too often displayed total ignorance of great works of the past. Milosevic also tells budding poets to trust their instincts, quoting Allen Ginsberg’s principle: “First thought, best thought.”
I reveled in this book because, unlike others before it, it is not fragmented, incongruent, or just a compilation of interesting facts. But rather, it reads as though Thoreau lived much more recently and the author had interviewed in-person, first-hand witnesses to his life simply because it flows from birth to death without a sense of missing information or lapses in time. On any given page you may learn about the weather that day or how late Thoreau stayed up as if it were all recorded and timestamped on videotape for the author to view and re-view.
Throughout the book, Holmes gives readers fascinating tidbits of information that bring Sylvia and her associates to life. We learn, for instance, that when she and the East London Federation of Socialists established a day care centre during World War I in a renovated former pub, they named this creche “The Mothers’ Arms”.
The fifty-odd pieces that make up this collection are divided thematically into eleven different sections and take aim at national holidays, movies, language, literature and a host of other themes, from a Native American perspective, and culminate in a merciless assessment of the Donald Trump administration, the coup de grâce a poem entitled ”Ars Poetica by Donald Trump.”
In Square Haunting: Five Writers in London Between the Wars, Wade profiles the imagist poet, Hilda Doolittle (H.D.); the mystery novelist Dorothy L. Sayers; two scholars/academics, Jane Ellen Harrison and Eileen Powers, and the modernist novelist Virginia Woolf. All five, writes Wade, “pushed the boundaries of scholarship, literary form [and] societal norms in order to have lives of the mind in which their creative work took priority.
Flynn’s attention to detail in describing Sizemore’s various meetings and situations is what makes the story so believable and hilarious. Always the gentleman (“I’d learned through osmosis from my father that you always compliment somebody before you turn them down”), he gets what he wants with a smile. It’s a lesson in how to conduct yourself in the most difficult situations with the most persuasive people. There are very few revered institutions and American ideals that are left unscathed by Flynn, and rightfully so.
I have to restrain myself from simply summarizing some these marvelous 84 essays culled from over two decades of publishing, but as with all flash, fiction as well as nonfiction, it’s the gem-like brilliance of the individual pieces that stands out.