James Cervantes reclaims Horatian varietas, swerving
from political satire to restrained meditation. From
the taut, disjunctive and eminently comestible iambs
of "Weathers" to his Frost-iest scenarios, readers of
many different stripes will find something to pique
their interest. Cervantes' always temporary styles
serve as a welcome antidote to the tedious seriality
that can result from the search for "personal" style. Readers, taste the chameleon.
- Alexander Dickow
Jim Cervantes would be a surrealist if the world didn't keep getting in his way with its insistent realities and demands. Many of the poems in Temporary Meaning turn out to be records of such unfair struggles with the world. Fortunately for the reader, the language of the poems usually wins out and we are invigorated by the effort we have been forced to make. The sentences themselves trace out the difficulties of the human encounter with the impossible facts of our existence.
"The poems [James Cervantes' Sleepwalker's Songs] never fail to enthrall or intrigue. There are moments when the poems fold back in on themselves & after reading one need re-visit the poem with an other or newer perception or perspective. And sometimes the poems refuse closure at all, opening out onto greater vantage points or unexpected vistas than one might normally expect to encounter in the usual lyric—a hallmark of his remarkable poetry.... I suspect that Cervantes’ audience is not nearly as wide as it should be. I most highly recommend this astonishing collection as I believe you’ll find poetry here unlike most of what you might be used to reading."
James Cervantes's Sleepwalker's Songs seems so sane, its light so much that of the quotidian, that it is only with a certain shock (like that produced by a dream remembered) that one realizes what one has really experienced
- T.R. Hummer
Cervantes, one can reasonably assume,•believes longing is its own music. Be forewarned. These are the poems of someone who knows the dangers in such music and has chosen to dance to it anyway.
- Sam Pereira
Cervantes has always been an unpredictable, intriguing and delightful poet. Sleepwalker's Songs is an outstanding collection full of marvelous jaunts and inquiries, and the deeply felt embrace of whatever happens
.- Pamela Stewar
t These poems are laced with declarative surprise, locating eternity within each available moment.
- Sheila E. Murphy
The poems in Sleepwalker's Songs are an intimate look at the life of a poet who plays his cards close to the vest. Like a good gambler, Cervantes knows when to take risks, and with this collection he's all in.
These terse, insightful, "voiced" sharings (From Mr. Bondo's Unshared Life) are full of intrigue & possibility. Bondo's interiority & his various musings on the world & the "self" set up a quasi-Buddhist parallel-parable that celebrates Cervantes' own Law of Remarkable Resemblance. Like Dylan's Mr. Jones, Bondo may be closer to home than we realize.
Vera's Will is a beautifully written family saga with a twist that tells the parallel stories of a woman and her granddaughter who are both lesbian. Their intersecting stories, one that begins a hundred years ago in Czarist Russia and the other that begins in suburban America, re-create in vivid detail their historical epochs. One is a story of self-sacrifice, the other is a story of liberation; the author's great gift is to show us how they intertwine.
Michael Nava, author of The City of Palaces
Vera's Will is a novel of tremendous insight, and tremendous import. Shelley Ettinger moves expertly between two compelling voices, between the recent and distant past, between the personal and political, writing with clarity and heart. Too many stories are lost to history, too many voices are silenced, often the stories and voices we need most. Vera's Will is not only a deeply moving book, but a gift, and a kind of rescue.
Justin Torres, author of We the Animals
Vra's Will spans the twentieth century and three generations, taking us from Russian pogroms to immigrant struggles, from family-ravaging homophobia to GLBT resistance. Ettinger's captivating story is rich with social and cultural detail, alive with generously-drawn characters, and unflinching in its political passion.
This is a soft spoken heartfelt book--one to be read slowly, akin to short sips from a glass of fine wine.
— Robert Milo-Baldwin, Bloomsbury Review of Books
American Book Review Praises Reamy Jansen's Available Light: "With the skill of a master craftsman, the self-admitted 'sentimental hoarder' gathers together the bits and pieces, material and memory, not yet lost to him and builds a cabinet he might pass on to his sons when they're curious about family origins, failed obligations, specific wounds, the possibilities and limitations of forgiveness, abut the ways in which a father remains a son for life, and the unresolved impetus behind his writing about it."
-- Steve Davenport, American Book Review, January/February 2011, Volume 32, Number 2
When SUNY Rockland and Fordham professor Reamy Jansen was young, he made a box to store family photos, adding a sprinkling of red and blue glitter over 'images that had already starrted to curl and roll up like rhododendron leaves in winter.' This graceful suite of personal essays should prove a more durable keepsake, with breathtaking phrases that glint and surprise.
-- Chronogram Arts and Literature Magazine of the Hudson Valley
It's a book of stories that could be the stories of so many mean -- about hi many varied relationships: with his dad, his sons, hims mom, his wife, and even his belongings.
—Mary Jane Pitt, News of the Highlands (Highland Falls, NY 10928) 7-30-10
I finally got time to pick up Available Light this evening—
and then I couldn’t put it down. I found the imagery absorbing
and then there’s your ability to say what needs to be said
and not go further. So very well done
—Rochelle Ratner, Bobby’s Girl, The Lion’s Share, Ben Casey Days
It’s just great...the best descriptive work I’ve read by anyone.
The way you so brilliantly weave the speaker’s past and
present into a study of his father, while alluding to so much
outside the immediate context. It’s all so beyond the usual
essay that I think you must be redefining the genre.
—John Allman, Loew’s Triboro, Lowcountry
I found [Available Light] to be not only like poetry, but poetry itself. The language, the silences and the formal structures are all very beautiful. It seems to me to have a place across the borders of various genres, which I always love. I felt the reality of both your parents in the descriptions, both explicit and elliptical.
I’m enjoying re-reading Available Light immensely. It is as
engaging and splendid as I remember it being the first time
—Dan Masterson, On Earth As It Is, Those Who
Reamy Jansen’s Available Light: Recollections and Reflections of a Son has just been published in a beautiful paperback. Check out the soft blendings of the sepia cover photos as introduction to a collection of personal essays informed by Reamy’s vast reading and remarkable for their candor and benevolence. Jack Allman finds the essays “so beyond the usual... you must be redefining the genre”. Faculty in the humanities, when they get a great idea, can turn to Reamy as their walking bibliography and most enthusiastic listener. He is open and generous with his readers as well.
— Pamela Floyd
Guide to the Tokyo Subway
Poems by Halvard Johnson
Many poets send me their books, but few I've received are as fine as Halvard Johnson'sGuide to the Tokyo Subway. I have at least fourteen favorite poems, including "Morning Calm," "Paris in Old Photographs," "La Violencia," "How to Write Your Own Obituary" and "Take Me to the Water." And for sheer delight, "Thirteen Variations on a Line by Robert Frost." In just about all of the poems there's something fascinating—an image, a tone, a total consciousness (often an achieved calm), an experiment with sound or phrasing. I found myself re-reading many of the poems, so many are "locked" and provide complete satisfaction. It’s also the wide range of Guide to the Toyko Subway that I greatly admire, the complete interest Halvard Johnson brings to so many things, the expansiveness of these poems even while they're leading us to still moments. I've never seen another poet acknowledge the nuclear power plant, include it in solid lines, and then, in the same poem, move beyond it out to the Zen-like horizon in that unique "bomb and calm" style which is all Johnson's own. -- Dick Allen
...Halvard Johnson epitomizes today's underground poet.
George Held, American Book Review, Volume 31, Number 5, July-August 2010, p.12
I begin with Halvard Johnson's Organ Harvest with Entrance of Clones (Hamilton Stone Editions) because there is no other American poet who writes so thrillingly of the present and with such imagination and craft. This volume, his 13th, is a metrical vortex, dazzling in its constructions.
Reamy Jansen in The Bloomsbury Review, November/December 2007, p. 30.
Halvard Johnson's book Organ Harvest with Entrance of Clones represents the work of a quiet pluralist who is by equal measure amazed by the world and dismayed & angered by those who would control it. The poems here range from abstract musings (or amusements) on relationships to ironic assaults on the hypocrisies that run through the current political landscape. Throughout, Johnson uses the fungibility of language to say at least two things at every opportunity, one of them literal and the other ironic or whimsical. There is an aspect of jesterism or merry prankster in each poem, though at the center of the book is an optimism that our "better natures" still reside in us somewhere and that eventually, perhaps through the application of poetry and intelligence, they will rise to the surface, if only just in time. A solid book recommended.
A novel of intrigue
in the Gilded Age in which money, sex and female intelligence
are brought into play in fin-de-siecle New York.
The New York
Times: "Vivid and witty..."
"Rebecca Kavaler has contrived a novel of enormous skill and
Washington Times: "The book is great
fun. Miss Kavaler is gifted and witty, writing with a flair
for both comedy and drama..."
ISBN 0-9654043-5-8 $15.95
To read an excerpt
from Doubting Castle, click here To
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Publishers' Weekly: With a keen eye and
sharp wit, acclaimed author Rebecca Kavaler lays family relationships
bare in this collection of stories, A Little More than Kin. In
'Give My Brother My Best' a grown woman reflects on her estranged sibling, the golden child who took all the wrong turns;
a son confronts his father after his mother's death, stirring
up old secrets, in 'The Inheritance.' Kavaler adds a sci-fi touch
to 'Servants,' in which a wife sees 500 years into the future,
only to find that 'the servant problem' has not been solved. The
descriptions are vivid, the metaphors fresh, the language precise,
the insights profound.
ISBN 0-9654043-8-2 $14.95
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sharp and tender portrait of a New York woman as she faces the
end of love, the complexities of friend- ship, and her own mortality.
Chronicle :"A small gem of a novel... A wise, lively, honest
and well-written story."
is a book about friendship...perceptive, funny, and deliciously
complex..." The West Coast
Review of Books: "It is Konecky's honesty
and humor, her wit and wisdom that make this novela superior
and memorable reading event."
Library Journal: "An entertaining novel...a funny, lively look at the upheavals
that seem to be increasingly unavoidable rites of passage for
all of us."
in love with Konecky's writing when I picked up A Place at
the Table. As I read the first few pages, I found myself
reading more and more slowly, because I realized I would never
have another chance to read the book for the first time. And,
while the experience has been different, I've equally enjoyed
reading it several times. Konecky creates such vibrant characters
that I'm always drawn into the world of her novel."
ISBN 0-9654043-3-1 $14.95
A Place at the Table by mail, click here
Sorrows and Coming Attractions
Short Stories by Edith
for the first time, eighteen highly praised and widely published
stories that illustrate the breadth of Konecky's voice, stories
filled with diverse characters, richly portrayed and poignantly
special note: Konecky's much loved first novel, Allegra Maud
Goldman, after 25 years in print, is now also available
from The Feminist Press at CUNY, the first in its Contemporary
Classics by Women series. Of Konecky's other work, reviewers
have said, "A
small gem.... A wise, lively, honest and well-written story" and "Konecky's
honesty and humor, her wit and wisdom ... make this ... a superior
and memorable reading event."
order Past Sorrows and Coming Attractions by mail, click here
To order from
Amazon.com, click here.
for View to the North :
"....a woman's life journey from youth
to middle age, and her experiences as a wife, mother, and lover.
The narrative alternates between moments of "then,"
times past, and moments of "now," living in the present,
and confrontling the future. Bisexual themes as well as the universal
conflicts and self-reflections of a parent watching her chidlren
grow up and grow more distant add a poignantly human tone to this
This is the wonderful new novel by Edith Konecky, author of Allegra Maud Goldman and View to the North. Konecky', whose work has been praised by periodicals all over the country, forays this time into the world of wealth, family– and love! Witty and broad in her perspective, Konecky takes us on a cruise in delightful waters.
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For the E-book versions, click here.
As age takes us, we try to understand the quickly changing world around us. "Fiction and the Facts of Life" is a [novel] from Edith Konecky, a woman approaching the senior years as she shares the challenges of life and how to deal with the world and its many twists and turns...."Fiction and the Facts of Life" is filled with plenty of sensible wisdom which remains timeless and can be understood for any generation.
The main character in "Fiction and the Facts of Life," Rachel Levin, is an author. She tends to base the characters in her books on people she knows which does not often go over too well with the individuals. The story begins with Rachel as a wife and mother who goes off to Erato, which is a prestigious place for aspiring students of the arts. It is here that her life begins to take a drastic turn as she begins an affair with another woman. She no longer perceives herself as she used to and becomes increasingly insecure and unsure of the choices she is making. After a series of other failed relationships, Rachel looks for some resolution in her life in an attempt to figure out if she followed the right path.
As Rachel ages throughout the book (by the end she is probably in her seventies or eighties) she becomes very introspective about everything, but especially about the meaning of life and the definition of love. She becomes very nostalgic about her past relationships, reflecting on her loneliness and the things in her life that are gone. She also worries about what other people think of her writing and whether she has any talent.
"Fiction and the Facts of Life" is written differently than most books. It is presented as a book within a book. There is the story about Rachel, but intermingled is the book that Rachel is currently writing. This is an interesting but risky method to utilize. It was obvious which parts were Rachel's book. But knowing that she bases her writing on people she knows, it was not always easy to figure out which of Rachel's characters corresponded to the "real person" in the novel. Also, there were a few too many minor characters which made it hard for me to remember how they fit into the book.
"Fiction and the Facts of Life," was written for an older adult female audience. It is based more on feelings and sentiment than it is on action and drama. This book is a little depressing as the reader is constantly reminded about the negative aspects of getting old. However, there is a quirky end to the book which captures its overall theme very nicely.
"Lazarre is unflinching in her depiction of the destructive historical assumptions and taboos on all sides of the color
and racial divide. . . .and in [her] luminous prose, Inheritance becomes an unsettling and necessary meditation on
the messiness of America's shared racial heritage in all its quarrelsome parts."
Wesley Brown - Darktown Strutters, Push Comes to Shove
"Inheritance is rich in hard-earned wisdom and wonderful characters, resonant with African-American and Jewish
history. It drew me and made me think. Lazarre's commitment to story and truth shines in this powerful book."
Joanne Frye - Living Stories, Telling Lives;
"A powerful and poetic narrative that seems to float on a shifting surface of emotion. . . . The novel strengthened
my hope that art can stiffen our spines and shape our thinking and feeling around race."
Sekou Sundiata - prize-winning poet and playwright, The 51st (Dream) State, Blessing the Boats
". . .reveals deep and painful truths, encompassing the horrific realities of slavery and some of the complex stories of
Jews in America. It leaves the reader understanding more about who we are and how to attain forgiveness, wisdom and
empathy to move forward."
Rabbi Rachel Cowan - Executive Director Emeritus, Institute for Jewish Spirituality
" . . .simply wonderful . . .beautifully orchestrated . . .A fierce and honest novel that once again proves the searing
truth of fiction."
Beverly Gologorsky - The Things We Do To Make It Home
"A gripping story, [Inheritance] shows how the themes of race play out in the most personal ways."
Nan Gefen - publisher, PersimmonTree
To order Inheritance by mail, click
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click here .
Rain Taxi says: "Jane Lazarre's latest novel-- as intimate as a memoir, as beautifully worded as prose poetry-- looks like a quiet book on the surface, but it's much more. It's a whisper that leaves the main character Celia's throat and grabs hold of the reader's."
Some Place Quite Unknown is as intimate and urgent as a poem. Lazarre’s enraptured and lyrical prose probes, with rigor and dazzling artistry, the deepest places of a woman’s heart. A powerful and original work . –-Jaime Manrique, author of Our Lives Are the Rivers, Twilight at the Equator, and other works.
Jane Lazarre’s Some Place Quite Unknown is a beautiful, original novel. I finished it with sadness at having to leave its richly detailed world --- the reverberating psychological repercussions of a woman’s early loss of her mother, the best scenes of psychoanalytic sessions in current literature, exquisitely rendered scenes of nature. Lazarre’s intricate interweaving of ideas and storytelling is akin to reading The Golden Notebook or Simone deBeauvvoir’s The Mandarins for the first time. A contemporary classic
–- Marnie Mueller, author of Green Fires, The Climate of the Country, My Mother’s Island
I feel honored as a reader to be ushered into this space where the walls of the psyche become permeable and time boundaries collapse; where cherished differences between “down there” and “up here” stop making sense. This reality of psychic life holds true for us all – and shows that truths are multiple, ever-shifting, resident in the body, not just in words.
–-Jan Clausen, author of Apples and Oranges, If You Like Difficulty, and other works of poetry and fiction.
I read Some Place Quite Unknown in gulps of deep absorption. It is a beautiful fearless book of unblinking concentration and unfathomable depth – an immense accomplishment.
–-Carol Ascher, author of Afterimages, A Family Memoir, The Flood, and other works.
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Fans of classic cars may enjoy these stories for their authentic feel—fans of the short story for the characters, some of them memorable. Either way, Drivers makes a mark with it's simple, relevant themes and the whisper, faintly heard, of the lonely American highway, folding in on itself the million dreams of all the drivers with their hands tightly gripping the wheel.
Eric Weinstein says in his review in Prick of the Spindle , "Night Sweat is essentially about the encroachment of the dream world on daily life, the endless (re)visitation of one’s past via the vehicle of dream, and the blurring of one’s real and imagined selves. The last few lines of 'In the Rumpus Room' beautifully sum up the simultaneously nightmarish and nostalgic qualities in these opposing worlds: 'Promise me the forceps aren’t rusty, / that you can pinch me at arm’s length. / Pinch me awake when the clouds cover the sun.'”
The Comstock Review says: "Nathan Leslie has turned his strong writing efforts from short stories and other fiction to poetry to produce the unique Night Sweat (Hamilton Stone Editions, 2009), poems of dream and nightmare, vividly described and well-imaged. The poet takes us through a cast of children, memories of experiences at different childhood ages, experiences culled from sights & sites, birds, and art works, seen through a prism of night's distortions, sometimes better than reality, other times not so. The same blurred vision edges the poems of the day as well, and creates a unified vision for this poet's first strong collection of verse.
The Midwest Book Review says: "
Established fiction author Nathan Leslie comes to readers with his first foray into verse, Night Sweat. A story teller by nature, it rings true through his verse giving readers a glimpse into the common aspects of life that readers so often experience. Night Sweat is an expertly crafted book of work, a fine addition to any collection. "The Portrait": The stain of light from/the thick, entrenched hole/reveals a woman in a sable,/pearls and earrings to her neck,/hair black as her husband/standing stiff next to her.//Their picture is aslant,/strung up on thick thread,/yet the tattered bristles at the/window deny them the moment,/curling the shopworn into redundancy."
ISBN 978-0980178623 $12.95
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In the Bronx, on a street called Rogers Place, Mario Ortega grows up remembering his childhood in Puerto Rico. We follow him into early manhood as he weaves the cultural strands of the past with those of an urban present in New York City.
Against the wall, we'll tell ourselves what we need to in order to survive. "The Cisco Kid in the Bronx" follows Mario Ortega who deals with his young childhood in Puerto Rico and moving to New York, and into early manhood, as he deals with the pressures of becoming an adult, the implications of manhood, and the pressures of education and just what he's going to do with the rest of his life. "The Cisco Kid in the Bronx" is an insightful delve into growing up in Puerto Rico, with strong autobiographical elements, highly recommended.
-- Midwest Book Review, December 2011
The Cisco Kid in the Bronx is a Caribbean emigrant bildungsroman that at moments may remind the reader of the classic collection Drown by Junot Diaz. Ortiz’s collection certainly fulfills many of the conventions of what could be considered a Caribbean Diaspora literature.
The subtitle of this book is Episodes in the Life of a Young Man, and although I didn’t find it to be useful, it does lend the reader an idea of how a good deal of these stories operates. Certainly too many read more like vignettes than stories, but they all contribute to the understanding of how two entirely different cultures blend to create a unique third mode of identity.
The book is structured in three parts, bookended by two standalone stories that familiarize the reader with the dim days in Puerto Rico of the protagonist, Mario Ortega. These two stories are compelling in the ways the character reflects on how his life has changed by being forced to leave his home at a young age. These, along with “Yesterday,” are the most noteworthy in this collection. “Yesterday” explores how Mario’s seemingly most important relationship blossomed and then fell apart thanks to unpredictable variables, such as parents sabotaging their relationships with other family members. Mario longs to repair the damage but nothing can be done. The ramifications are so brutal that Mario forgets to name his wife in the final story of the book, and we are left to wonder what sort of woman could persuade him to settle down and even take the place of Isabel.
The first of the three main parts is entitled “Rogers Place,” and the stories are set in a small, close-knit neighborhood in the Bronx. As children, Mario and his brother cope with the crushing anxiety caused by the feeling of not belonging by exploring their world in imaginative ways—marveling, for instance, at snow and the deep cold of a Northeast winter. Mario is the Cisco Kid referenced in the title, a kid who fancies himself not only a protector of the neighborhood, but also worthy of attention and affection and never afraid to seek out adventure. The story encapsulates how other family members immigrated to New York and failed to assimilate, and how the Ortega family barely manages to scrape by no thanks to predatory lenders and vendors.
The second section, “A Higher Education,” explores Mario’s days as a college student, although it is fair to speculate that this may have more to do with how he learns to love and interact with the opposite sex than his academic studies. (In fact, we learn fairly late in the collection that Mario is a poet, and it’s rare that his writing is ever mentioned. This is definitely a missed opportunity on the author’s part.) Most of these stories deal with the various ways that Mario falls into sexual encounters, and this section, more than the others, feels composed of vignettes rather than stories. In the end, they just don’t add up to anything substantial other than a foundation for the aforementioned story, “Yesterday,” and all of its ramifications.
The final section is also called “Yesterday,” and in it, Mario has achieved adulthood. Most of the stories here deal with Mario’s job at an employment service and his life in a converted apartment in a former light industrial area. The reader gets a sense of how Mario has been able to achieve a respectable stasis as compared with the drug addicts, prostitutes, and general troublemakers who share his building and workplace. This stasis is somewhat troubling as Ortiz seems to lose the thread of the Cisco Kid himself while focusing on secondary and tertiary characters. Nevertheless, the book ends on a strong note, and overall, it is definitely worth checking out for those interested in fiction focused upon the experience of the immigrant.
This is the beautifully written story of how a Puerto Rican family ends up in the Bronx. The people struggle to make a living, to love, and think about their lives, their futures, their pasts. The novel gives an active, intellectual inner life to people who are too often portrayed from the outside only. While still childless, Julia Ortega has to deal with her husband’s terminal illness. He in turn regrets, more than his own demise, not having an offspring to carry on his name. In his heart, he blames Julia for that failure, and in response she takes on the task of providing him with an heir, an endeavor that embitters the rest of her life. The story goes on to the next generation, whose members are forced to deal with the remnants of the past.
ISBN 978-0983666837 $16.95
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Also available as a Kindle Edition here.
At Fortunoff’s is a collection of short stories focused on the life of New Yorkers in the second half of the Twentieth Century. The conflict between the impulse to fall in love and the necessity of dealing with the practical needs of everyday life is explored with an intensity that makes the reader both apprehensive and fulfilled. From the first story, a snapshot of a relationship between a young woman and an older coworker, to the last, an exploration of how a frontline soldier deals with the irrationality of war, the subtleties of the relationship between men and women are closely explored.
ISBN 978-0983666868 $12.95
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Also available as a Kindle Edition here.
With an honesty unadorned as her prose, in a novel as much love affair with New York City as with its conflicted urban characters, Rochelle Ratner explores how our past continually suffuses our present, making us who we are despite ourselves, how a woman named Ellyn finds herself forced to come to terms with her own skewed childhood and her own desire for an independent existence. A crisp, sharp, provocative pleasure.
—Lance Olsen, Girl Imagined by Chance and Nietzsche's Kisses
Rochelle Ratner's Mother and Child is a novel that takes no prisoners. Deftly written, with fully realized characters, it examines the dark underside of American childhood, past and present. Ratner takes us into an intimate arena of love and anger where domestic battles are never lost or won but merely repeated from one generation to the next. Hardedged and realistic, poetic and surreal, Ratner's prose offers the reader complexity, beauty, and sharp-edged truths.
— Mary Mackey, Author of The Notorious Mrs. Winton and Breaking the Fever
those dreams in which you're in your old high school, even
though the place looks nothing like your old high school.
Events seem normal enough at first, but then, suddenly, everyone
is using fire poles instead of stairs to get from floor to
floor, and you realize you're wearing pajamas. Reading Rosenthal's
short stories is like having one of those dreams. People say
out loud what they would normally only think, and they act
in ways usually inhibited by social convention, creating situations
that cause the characters (and the reader) to wonder, "Did
that really just happen?" Sometimes it's clear that it didn't–
as in the group-therapy participant who swallows the group's
leader whole–but other times, the premise is less fantastical,
as in the New York woman who invites the homeless woman living
under her building's stairwell inside for visits. Through
these original and imaginative scenarios, Rosenthal explores
ideas that would otherwise go unexamined, providing a fascinating
glimpse of the fears that lurk beneath the surface of our
brief, often startling stories turn familiar urban situations
into surreal moments of cautionary insight that will linger
long in the reader's mind. In Carole Rosenthal's fictional
universe stories lurch unpredictably into that haunting territory
accessible only through the powers of imagination.
Alix Kates Shulman
Rosenthal's stories are like doors to those spacious half-forgotten
rooms that appear in dreams. I see myself and my experience
in her work, parts I almost lost, or perhaps purposely kept
hidden. Her language is original and often startling, penetrating
what Virginia Woolf called "the cotton wool of daily life."
At times the author seems to associate freely, yet each story
reveals a beautifully constructed shape. While aware of her
formal literary brilliance, I am still pushed into an intensity
of emotion that feels raw and dangerous. Rosenthal's stories
are deeply recognizable and yet utterly new. Hers is a completely
buoyant, and disturbing, Carole Rosenthal's stories are about
savvy characters who wear their insecurities like badges of
honor. Written in a style that is weirdly innocent and often
comic, the stories in It Doesn't Have To Be Me are psychological
x-rays . . . sharply insightful, revealing, yet full of fun.
See video clips of Harriet Rzetelny on "Books and the World" cable show discussing the source of the title of Graveyard Blues. For more of the interview, click here.
"Graveyard Blues is the story of Molly Lewin as she confronts the crushing environment around her. A homecare worker, she faces a client's murder, and the pending eviction of everyone at a low rent complex as big business wants to take over their land. Crushed between family issues, the murder, and the loss of home for people with few other options, "Graveyard Blues" is a fascinating and intriguing mystery not to be missed."
-- Midwest Book Reviews, July 2010 (5 star review)
“Harriet Rzetelny is an inheritor of the great tradition of the social novel which mixes imaginative and documentary writing. Her wise and melancholy protagonist, Molly, is a walker in the city who bestows her gifted and caring vision on the sensuous details of the “inner city” neighborhoods through which she moves, and the marginalized people who inhabit them. This tragicomic novel is magnificent in its reach. Combining profound knowledge of the alleyways and corridors through which a soul can be lost and found, Graveyard Blues haunts the imagination of the reader long after the murder mystery has been resolved. Images of human differences and conflict, of attraction and repulsion, sanity and madness, love and destructiveness fill the pages of this book and embed themselves in memory. Ultimately, it is the quality of Rzetelny’s writing that distinguishes it most – the echoes of song, the cadence that takes one’s breath away, the musicality that saturates her storytelling.”
-- Marc Kaminsky, author of What's Inside You It Shines Out and Shadow Traffic
“Harriet Rzetelny mines the grit of the city and comes up with gold. Her indomitable social worker detective, Molly Lewin, relentlessly traces the twisty path that has lead to the murder of one of her clients. When the casual bureaucracy and corruption of city agencies threaten to topple the investigation, Molly’s determination leads her to confront her own personal demons. Thought-provoking and compassionate, Rzetelny’s first novel presents a deeply sympathetic female detective with a profound understanding of people and the complexity of their emotional lives.”
-- Carole Rosenthal, author of It Doesn’t Have to Be Me
"Graveyard Blues is a YOU CAN’T PUT IT DOWN book, and I share. . .with Marc Kaminsky the experience of having my imagination haunted by the book. Molly Lewin is a wonderful social worker – first rate practitioner, friend, social activist, and family member. Isn’t it wonderful to have a really good social worker as the central character of a terrific book? Enjoy and take pride!"
-- Dr. Rose Dobrof, Professor Emeritus, Hunter College School of Social Work and Executive Director (Ret) of Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging & Longevity.
"Graveyard Blues is not just a mystery. It crosses the boundaries between mystery – of which there is a good one – multi-layered literary fiction, and the great social novels of the 19th century. Molly, the heroine, is a complex character. She pours her heart into caring – for her older, vulnerable clients, some of whom are being forced out of their low-rent apartments by a group of upscale real estate developers, and for her brilliant but schizophrenic brother. But at the end of the day, she goes home alone and listens to old jazz and blues and wonders why she can’t connect with men. When a man finally does turn up that she can connect with, he’s an NYPD detective, a Viet Nam vet with PTSD who has a painful way of suddenly appearing and then disappearing from her life.
"The novel is set in an imagined Brooklyn neighborhood a year and a half following the World Trade Center disaster. But when you are in Rzetelny’s neighborhood, you know exactly where you are because she perfectly depicts the little details that make up a place, and pulls you right into the hearts and minds of the people who inhabit it. Even the quirky, surprising characters unfold with the truth of who they are and make themselves real to you. Graveyard Blues stayed with me long after the mystery is solved and the story comes to an end. "
-- B.J Giges, Amazon.com Customer Review
Set in Brooklyn, New York a little over a year after September 11th, 2001, this multi-layered mystery features social worker Molly Lewin, who first appeared in a series of short stories in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine.
After one of Molly's elderly clients, Cal Buchman, is murdered and his 82-year old life-companion, Willie Cobb, a one time Delta bluesman, is threatened with eviction, Molly discovers a scheme by a group of developers who want to demolish the low-rent buildings occupied by mostly elderly tenants and replace them with an upscale shopping complex. To Molly, a neighborhood's older people are like the roots of a tree. “Without [this] strong root network, there is no continuity, no history, nothing to maintain the balance of life in a community.”
The murder, and then another one, reconnects her with NYPD Detective Steve Carmaggio, a troubled Viet Nam vet and recovering alcoholic last seen by Molly the night before the Twin Towers were destroyed. Another of the disappearing men in her life is Molly's dearly loved brother, Ben, whose once exceptional mind is relentlessly vanishing into the unfathomable world of his mental illness.
Still, Molly sees life's humor as well as its tragedies. She becomes friends with Da Mour, a cross-dresser known to her in another guise, who may or may not be trying to date her, but who definitely knows something about the murders. Da Mour is but one of several surprising, quirky but never cartoonish characters that provide Molly with information and support. But it is ultimately the music that supplies the inspiration she needs to unravel the mysteries in her life, including the solution to the murders.
ISBN 9780980178630 $14.95
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manage to be witty and hilarious at the same time, but Lynda
Schor is—I was delighted by her stories, which encourage
me to expect the unexpected: there's an astonishment on
-- Nora Sayre
write about desire—of the body or the heart—requires a certain
kind of fearlessness, the courage to solidify into words those
deep and mysterious sensations that most of us are content
merely to feel. The stories in Appetites are brilliant. Appetites
pushes the boundaries of conventional good taste, but it also
presses the frontiers of the short story form in important
new ways . . . The ironies of everyday life become magnified.
They begin to clank and rattle like ghosts chained to an unconscious
past, groaning of lust and loneliness, comically exaggerated,
Appetites is a
collection of 12 short stories that are variously
funny, bitter, surreal, and exotic. Lynda Schor
writes about sex as matter-of-factly as a harried
housewife trying to make food stamps
stretch at the local A&P. Appetites
is to be recommended for its honesty, its inventiveness,
and above all for its meticulous attention to
the details of a woman's life. Lynda Schor is the first
woman writer of short stories since Grace Paley
to make art from such materials.
of my favorite stories is Lynda Schor's "The Rape"
It's a book you
just want to read. Appetites is funny, vivid,
and expresses the hidden, unfreudian feelings about
everyday life and so-called love.
She turns over
the rock of female experience and reveals the truth underneath.
Lynda Schor reminds
me of Fellini more than any other artist I can think of. There
is no escape from feeling for a writer like Lynda Schor. Not
in distance. Not in analysis or abstraction Just the powerful
record of experience on experience. Fortunately for us, she
has the courage, the energy, the completely original talent
to write it all down.
This book is recommended
only to free, liberated women, who believe
that freedom and unlimited license is theirs.
Mintz, Brookyn Daily Bulletin
the ridiculous, but she is a serious satirist of the
transactions between the sexes.
ISBN 0-9654043-6-6 $12.95
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Leora Skolkin-Smith skillfully tells the story of a girl of fourteen in the wake of her father’s suicide, brought abruptly by her distraught mother from a comfortable suburban Westchester to the harsh terrain of a young State of Israel. The girl is caught in the maelstrom of political claims between Israel and a West Bank, still part of the Kingdom of Jordan. The turmoil both of the girl and her mother is graphically detailed as they struggle to define themselves in the light of a haunted past and present. The poetry of the girl’s sexual awakening ripples through many pages, softening the fierce realities of the conflict between Arab and Jew. The pages evoke as well the memories of a shared land, and the mother’s childhood growing up in an old Jerusalem before the city was separated by physical barriers, the religious, cultural, divide between Arab and Jew easier to bridge. The author’s vivid sense of landscape, her gift for identifying with both mother and daughter, Arab and Jew, gives the novel a unique sense of balance and brings the reader, regardless of political conviction into sympathy with this portrait of a vanished Jerusalem....a powerful evocation of lost worlds which it is a joy to wander back into.”
-Mark Mirsky,writer and founder of Fiction Magazine
"legantly written, quite moving novel that has a lot to say about love, identity, history and the meaning of nationality. The book is worth reading alone for its superb language, but it is gripping and unforgettable as well in its story telling and evocation of place and emotions. It is a wonderful novel by an author with a quite accomplished voice and style, one well deserving a wide and receptive audience.”
-Oscar Hijuelos, author of Pulitzer-prize winning novel, The Mambo King Sings Songs of Love
“A dark and penetrating look at pre-1967 Israel and Palestine through the eyes of a 14 year old Liana Bialik. After her American father’s suicide, Liana’s Jerusalem-born mother decides to take Liana and her sister back to her homeland, where her family had lived for four generations. Once they get to Israel Liana, who feels overwhelmed and suffocated by her mother, begins to detach herself from her. She embarks on a mission of self-discovery to learn why her mother does not speak about her father and why he took his own life. Edges is well-written, powerful in both imagery and subject matter…”
-Jewish Book World
“…. Leora Skolkin-Smith’s new novel...(is) about the adventures of an adolescent girl in Israel in the early ’60s. Her character’s mother had grown up in British Mandate Palestine, one of several factors making the memory bank of this book so rich — appropriate for a place with almost too much history to bear and retain one’s sanity at the same time.
"What is most memorable to me is the sense of place that Ms. Skolkin-Smith has achieved — the sunny and scary Jerusalem and countryside — and the hope, love, hate and fatalism of the groups, Palestinian and Israeli, living amongst and apart from each other in a thin, rocky, brilliantly bright corridor too rarely shaded by old gray-green olive trees.
"Perhaps above all, the novel, told with restraint and poetic precision, is about how we shoulder on (and wing it) under the weight of history — family and public."
Homeward Bound: Seeking Satisfaction in the Family
by Howard Waskow
In Howard Waskow's Homeward Bound, readers are accompanied by a wise guide on a journey to understand more deeply the sources of disappointment in their family relationships and to discover potential paths to greater satisfaction in the family and in intimate relationships more generally. Drawing on his many years of experience as a therapist and as a teacher of literature, and reflecting deeply on his own family relationships, Waskow creates a remarkable work. He brilliantly weaves together the perceptiveness, compassion and deep understanding of the therapist, the keen analytical ability of the literary scholar, and the insight of someone with an unusual ability to listen to the "other" in his own family relationships. Add to all this the beauty of his writing and the power of the examples from his own life, and you have a rare gift for readers seeking more satisfying relationships in their own lives, for those working professionally with others to achieve such relationships, and truly for anyone interested in a deeper understanding of family dynamics.
—Irene Elkin, PhD Professor Emerita, University of Chicago, Psychotherapy Researcher
We are born to family. If we are to thrive, it will only be in the context of a loving family. If we feel understood, loved and cared for, we are likely to have a sense of wellbeing and become loving and generous people. Not all of us have such a family. Because of that, many feel empty, betrayed or inferior—always searching for the family they want. Howard Waskow teaches us to become loving in the family we have. He uses the wisdom of literature and his personal experience to show us how to change our experience of family from one that is not good enough, to one that we can love generously.
—Daniel Gottlieb, PhD Host of Philadelphia Public Radio's: "Voices in the Family"
ISBN 978-0-9836668-0-6 $16.95
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“These “meditations”are always engaging, easy to read, articulate – but above all, REALLY worth reading! I find every one of them thought-provoking, interesting, and true. I’d want to read this even if I never set foot on the Camino!” – Barbara Turner-Vesselago, author of WritingWithoutAParachute: TheArtofFreefall, Vala Publishers.
ISBN 978-0983666820 $9.99
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occupants of two summer lake houses in western Massachusetts
spend a couple of stormy winter days coping with their own problems
and getting involved with each other's. Privileged Elaine Roth,
a housewife whose children have grown, has fled to her summer
home to escape the twin revelations that her husband
committing adultery and that she has a lump in her breast. Next
door, in a rundown fishing cottage,
jobless Dwight and Susan huddle in blankets trying to avoid
the cold. Their two young sons and Susan's adolescent daughter
Fern haven't gone to school in weeks, since Dwight's truck stopped
functioning. When Elaine impulsively invites Dwight's family
over for brunch, the situation turns explosive. Willis
breaks out of the narrow borders of the short story by switching
among the points of view of Dwight, Elaine, frazzled Susan,
and obdurate Fern. She develops the four corners of this stubborn
rectangle with equal care. Although Dwight is the obvious candidate
for the villain of the piece, even he is not a totally unsympathetic
character. Willis nicely balances empathy with implicitly moral
judgment....Willis regards all of her characters with unsentimental
compassion. Her fiction leads us by the hand into dark places,
and then leaves us on our own to find our way out.
Written by a prize-winning member of the
Appalachian Renaissance in literature, Dwight's House & Other
Stories is an anthology of short stories by critically acclaimed
author Meredith Sue Willis. Focusing on believeable characters
put in paralyzing dilemmas, these tales examine the troubling
paradoxes of the human condition with sympathy and synchronicity.
The stories presented are "Dwight's House", "Attack", "Tiny
Gorillas", "Another Perversion", and "Tales of the Abstract
Expressionists". Highly recommended.
Meredith Sue Willis...has delivered
a new collection of short fiction, Dwight's House and Other
Stories (Hamilton Stone Editions). Known for pitch-perfect
rendering of her native Appalachia, she is in top voice, pitting
the familiar against other American subcultures and threats
ranging from surreal air attacks to the specter of death in
old age. She creates messy lives hurtling toward even worse
complications, but they always release a slyly reassuring spirit,
as when a scandal-ridden narrator concludes, "I don't know.
I'm worn down by loneliness and fear. I'm afraid I may be on
the verge of trying altruism, the last, the greatest, perversion.
Kirkus Reviews: Willis's breathtakingly subtle soundings of homes and small town(where everything happens and nothing happens) reaffirm her as a writer of real consequence.
Publisher's Weekly: The adolescence of Blair Ellen Morgan, who attends the high school where her parents teach, isrichly realized in the complexities of relationships begun when she was 11, with the slatternly Odells, hill-country people who were her aunt's neighbors. Blair is a delight of paradoxes in her quest for "my special friends who mean exactly what I want them to mean...." Higher Ground is heartwarming, funny and sad, quite delightful reading.
Houston Chronicle: A look at the secret feelings of a growing girl. These feelings might be shared with a best friend, if you had one you trusted completely.
ISBN 0-9654043-0-7 $13.95
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San Francisco Chronicle: Willis makes a familiar story fresh and engaging with her wise perceptions and unusual language. Kirkus Reviews: Willis again picks meaningfully at the charge-laden
fences between peoples, castes, and individual needs.
The Plain Dealer: Authors....pretend to write about all of life, but mostly they opt for the excitement. It takes talent, observation, and a particular caring to bring the average person's experience to life in a book. Willis does it here, making gold out of common materials. There are indications that she is not done with Blair Ellen yet, and I can't wait for the alchemy of her next book.
Radical History Review: In Meredith Sue Willis's Only Great Changes, the familiar conventions of the novel of initiation are made new by a convincing female protagonist and a narrative that uses politics as the setting and vehicle of individual maturation. Willis locates the experience of coming of age in the matrix of a larger history, focusing 1960's young and political culture through finely cut lenses of region, gender, and race.
New York Newsday: Take a half dozen of the novelists who routinely show up as repeaters on the best-seller lists, ask them to put their united talents into one collaboration, and the chances are they couldn't write a page which Meredith Sue Willis couldn't do better. She would beat them with the acuteness of her eyes and ears, her unfaltering way of bringing the fruits of her observation alive on paper and her sure sense of where to look in the crannies of human affairs for the materials of drama.
ISBN 0-9654043-1-5 $13.95
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World: With the same attention to detail she brought to
her character's small
town childhood, Willis brings the people, ambiance and events
of the urban experience out of the past and into a fresh light
30 years later. The silky locution that springs from the Appalachian
heritage of storytelling is fully empowered here. Critics
agree: Others have written of the same era, but few write
Times:Trespassers, the final volume in Meredith
Sue Willis's luminous Blair Morgan trilogy, brings its West
Virginia-born heroine to the brink of adulthood and to the
epicenter of her generations' rage. it is 1967, and 20-something
Blair is off to New York City to begin life on her own....The
novel is different in tone than the earlier books of the trilogy,
in which it was possible to detect the cadence of West Virginia
(right down to Blair being called Blair Ellen by those who
knew her then). This book is blunter, with more dialogue.
There's no mistaking New York.
ISBN 0-9654043-2-3 $13.95
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Now available as an e-book for only $4.99 !
Free samples! Click here for formats.
E-book ISBN: 978-1-4524-1669-4
Re-visions: Stories from Stories is a collection of spin-offs from myth, fiction, and the Bible. From a new look at Adam and Eve and why they left the Garden to a grown-up Topsy from Uncle Tom's Cabin to the confessions of Saint Augustine's concubine- each story offers a gloss on the original as well as insights into how we can live today.
The palimpsestic and generative sub-title , Stories from Stories, says it all when it comes to the genesis of tales. There is an unbroken, though far from straight, chain of tellers and listeners, repeatedly borrowing and spending in an economy of beginnings, in principios voiced around a fire whose skyborne sparks ever dim. The debt is paid off again and again, willingly, knowing that there's no such thing as something new, but rather it's a matter of what's owed and sowed by women in the first tales to children; the real heroes' tales.
Take the case of the first speaker, Monica, Augustine's teen concubine in "Sermon of the Younger Monica," who warns her charges, "the Vandals always come." Sometimes they are in the guise of warriors, other times mobs, court plotters, or serpents (isn't there always one down the hall?)– saints even, such as Augustine, who can't let one young girl be. Good, bumper-sticker-worthy advice, from women to women everywhere, which accounts for the often minatory tenor of these nine engaging stories, narrated in the first person by women of myth and legend, with Monica succeeded by Scheherazade and others, such as Topsy from Uncle Tom's Cabin.
Of course, there's got to be Eve, smart and reckless, already bickering with Adam as to whether God is Our Mother rather than Our Father. Over by the "One Tree," she talks down the serpent:
"We're special [humans]....Everyone knows that. We're smart, we make things, and we talk."
"No they don't. Not anymore...We got smarter and they got stupider."
"They still talk. You just can't understand them."
Then, later, the serpent says:
"Who are you trying to fool? You're going to eat an apple. That's the only thing special about you and him....The One knows you're going to do it....you might as well go ahead. You erally don't have any choice."
--The Bloomsbury Review
A person's story doesn't end after one episode, so why do you expect [it] out of characters of myth and legend? "Re-visions" is a collection of short stories from Meredith Sue Willis as she speaks on many twists and turns on stories surrounding Adam and Eve to countless others as she tries to lay more reason behind the protagonists' actions and their ultimate future. "Re-visions" is an excellent pick of short fiction, an ideal addition to any general community library collection.
The stories were so vivid and natural that after a while I forgot of them as based on actual classic myths and felt them alive in my modern world, real as any other stories. My favorite was the one about Lazarus (for the wonderful imagery about fire and moths and desire) --but so many engaged and moved me.
-- Leora Skolkin-Smith, author of The Fragile Mistress
T.S. Eliot, in "Tradition and the Individual Talent," wrote that every new story or poem takes its place in the context of all the stories and poems that have ever been written. An ideal reader would have read them all, yet would bring fresh appreciation to each new work. The old stories -- "the tradition" -- would set up expectations about form and content that the new story would confirm or rebel against. And the new story in turn would make us read the old stories in new ways.
In her previous work, such as the Appalachian short-story collection "Out of the Mountains," Meredith Sue Willis did what fiction writers usually do: She wrote about people and a region that we already "knew" to some degree from earlier literature, the movies and popular stereotypes. Her stories gained much of their wryly humorous power from the way they played both with and against our expectations. In "Re-Visions: Stories from Stories," Willis takes this process a step further: She re-tells some of the oldest and best-known stories we have, from sources that include the Bible, "The Arabian Nights" and "Uncle Tom's Cabin," and makes them new.
The result could have been sophomoric -- too-easy debunking, cheap laughs -- but Willis avoids these pitfalls with the sophistication we've come to expect from her. (Every writer creates his or her own "tradition.") Most of these eight stories are about women in pre-feminist times. Willis doesn't create 21st-century people and insert them into costume dramas, as pop novelists and Hollywood often do. These women remain embedded in the mental atmosphere of their own times and places. Yet she somehow makes us see them in ways the original stories never intended -- whether her heroine is the legendary storyteller Scheherezade, the slave girl Topsy, St. Augustine's teen-age concubine or Martha, the practical sister of Mary and Lazarus, who has to see that the house is clean and guests are fed when Jesus comes to work a miracle.
-- Michael Harris, author of The Chieu Hoi Saloon
On the one hand, there's the much vaunted Harold Bloomian "anxiety of influence" that every writer confronts. Then there's the deep pleasure of influence, the latter very much in evidence in Meredith Sue Willis's charming Re-visions, Stories from Stories, recently published by Hamilton Stone Editions.
Willis, who for decades has created moving fictions out of lives of women from her native Appalachia most recently in her Out of the Mountains, this time has brought together a collection that rescues half a dozen women from marginal roles they played in the Bible, mythology, and other literature and brought them front and center. There's Miss Topsy from Uncle Tom's Cabin and the brave Scheherezade, and St. Augustine's concubine, whom Willis has brought to life as Monica.
My favorites are Lazarus's spunky sister Martha from the New Testament and Baucis, that arboreal spouse from Ovid and Greek mythology. In Willis's re-telling, Martha remains rooted in her Biblical world, but has a modern ironic personality that makes her totally impatient with all the "new-law" Jews, who, like Lazarus are flocking to Jesus and giving away everything in the house. Who's going to be left to earn a living? She asks.
In the case of Baucis and Philemon, the happy tale of a marriage so solid and long lasting, the couple become intertwining trees, Willis basically says: Are you kidding! She transports that story to a bench in a New York City Park, likely Queens. There our young narrator stops to stretch in her jog and becomes absorbed in the tale of an elderly shopping bag lady and her idealistic, lost husband. Yup, retirement hasn't quite worked out and in fact has turned hubby into a cranky, insufferable old bastard who has estranged their two children. He stays out at night, risks pneumonia and, yes, he's decided to become a tree. "Why don't you divorce him or just leave?" the young narrator asks. Baucis replies, "Oh I don't know. I'm going to be a tree with him for a while," she responds.
Willis's graceful talent and deep empathy makes this decision not only natural and understandable, but beautiful.
-- Allan Appel, author of Club Revelation and High Holiday Sutra
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ISBN 978-0-9801786-6-1 $14.95
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