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Saturday, August 09 2014

The Very Old Great Failure is an art book containing juxtapositions of semi-abstract collages with the verses of a found poem, all created by John Edward Brooks.  Brooks created the collages and produced the poems from a chapter of Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain.  I’ll preface my review with a bit of my background.

My forays into the more abstract areas of contemporary art have been a series of stops and goes, mainly futile.  My long time friend, Shannon Westerman, the Executive Director of The Louisville Visual Art Association, has encouraged me over the years to broaden my horizons and expand my views.  He has gently nudged me in various ways:  a tasteful gift of art here, an invitation to an artist’s gallery opening there, a dinner with a curator or a collector, and so on.  Some of the encounters were like a blind date gone awry, others mildly interesting, and others such as my recent meeting of the artist John Edward Brooks and tour of his home and studio, a transformative experience.

As a writer, my quest has been to distill all the shades of the human emotional spectrum into the pages of a novel, a short story, or a poem.  I yearn for the reader to have clarity:  to feel what I feel, in essence, to see the picture I am trying to paint with words.  Yet, in my heart, I know emotions do not work that way.  In fact, they are formed within us, like layers of an onion, and as they are peeled back, they are sometimes raw and stinging, and other times sweet and as inviting as the Vidalia.

John Edwards Brooks’ collages, drawings, photographs and paintings are wrought with many emotional layers.  Perusing his works is like looking through a kaleidoscope of feelings and emotions, especially these collages that flow with motion, evoking emotion.  The layers of pain, loss, sadness, shock, desire, lust, hope, joy, and despair fly in your face.  Fortunately, the artist provides you with a framework of words in the form of the found poem verses around which to grab hold as you view the collages.  For a neophyte into abstract contemporary art, I find this comforting and helpful.  I also find myself returning to the pages of The Very Old Great Failure over and over, each time experiencing something new.  Overall, I keep taking away feelings of the mutability and fragility of life and how we live out our lives in a web of emotions.

I cannot remember the last time a book produced so many different feelings within me.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys art and enjoys the written word.  John Edward Brooks is an important emerging artist, and I predict he will become well known in the art world.

I have no criticism of the content of the book, but I would love to see this important work done in an upscale, hardbound version, with high quality paper and art quality reproduction of the collages.  That would be a book that should be on everyone’s coffee table; I guarantee you it will evoke good conversation.

You can purchase this lovely book on Amazon.  I give it 5 stars.

Posted by: Jody Zimmerman AT 09:47 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, July 14 2014

The Hanging Tree: A NovellaThe Hanging Tree: A Novella by Michael Phillip Cash
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was asked by an agent to review Michael Phillip Cash’s novella The Hanging Tree. I received a paper back copy in exchange for an honest review.

The Hanging Tree is a wonderful paranormal story about a teenage couple exploring the boundaries of their sexuality under an old tree haunted by five ghosts. The ghosts are different generations of the same family and are bound to the tree by an ancient curse conjured up by the oldest ghost who was hanged as a suspected witch over 300 years ago.

Cash expertly weaves the old with the new while showing that most problems we humans face are universal through the ages. The cast of characters is colorful and interesting and believable.

Cash has a crisp, descriptive style, and writes fine dialogue. The ghouls are not too scary or gruesome, and the story lines converge to a flawless, exciting ending.

I can recommend this novella to anyone. The story is clever and rich and deserves five stars.


View all my reviews

Posted by: Jody Zimmerman AT 01:33 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, July 14 2014

The Hanging Tree: A NovellaThe Hanging Tree: A Novella by Michael Phillip Cash
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was asked by an agent to review Michael Phillip Cash’s novella The Hanging Tree. I received a paper back copy in exchange for an honest review.

The Hanging Tree is a wonderful paranormal story about a teenage couple exploring the boundaries of their sexuality under an old tree haunted by five ghosts. The ghosts are different generations of the same family and are bound to the tree by an ancient curse conjured up by the oldest ghost who was hanged as a suspected witch over 300 years ago.

Cash expertly weaves the old with the new while showing that most problems we humans face are universal through the ages. The cast of characters is colorful and interesting and believable.

Cash has a crisp, descriptive style, and writes fine dialogue. The ghouls are not too scary or gruesome, and the story lines converge to a flawless, exciting ending.

I can recommend this novella to anyone. The story is clever and rich and deserves five stars.


View all my reviews

Posted by: Jody Zimmerman AT 01:33 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, November 13 2013

 

Amy Tan is a master of character development and master story teller, and in her latest historical fiction novel, The Valley of Amazement, she takes these skills to new heights while bridging the gap between western and Asian culture, placing her in the realm of artists like Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Joyce, and Faulkner.

No author paints the psychological struggle between strong willed mother/daughter pairs better than Tan, and the story unfolds between a privileged Chinese-American girl, Violet, and her American mother, Lucia, who operates a first class courtesan house in old Shanghai during the fall of the Ching Dynasty.  Lucia is cruelly deceived by one of her lovers and confidants who sells fourteen-year-old Violet to a second rate courtesan house as Lucia, thinking Violet is already on board, boards a ship for San Francisco to escape the political turmoil of the era.

The story covers both Violet and Lucia and examines their lives in minute detail, particularly focusing on the choices they make concerning their mothers and all the men in their lives. 

Unlike her other novels, Tan fully develops the sexual nature of her main characters in this book, which adds to the psychological richness of the story.  Her strongpoint is the creation of characters, so real, so believable, so human, that the reader will feel as if she knows these people—the mark of a great writer.

This is the pinnacle work of Amy Tan to date, and it is a journey all serious readers should take. Get a copy on Amazon.

Posted by: Jody Zimmerman AT 07:50 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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