The Review of Arts, Literature,
Philosophy and the Humanities

  Number 269

Early Winter 2015

Sometimes our more aggressive
reviewers sneak in vagaries ---
transforming a review that should be honest and true
into something blatantly spurious if not injudicious.
The book under review may exist, but our opportunistic
puerile laff-em-up crew sneaks in, making us wonder
where these aesthetic show-offs store their brains overnight.
Here are a few selections from the past few years
that sport that elusive quality of genuine fake inventiveness
with no discernible regard for the facts.
The Essential Cartoon
"Gonick got around to cartoon guides on practically everything else,
including not only Genetics and Statistics, but also Physics, Chemistry,
Computer Science, the Environment, Sex, and Tax Reform.
His magnum opus is undoubtedly The Cartoon History of the Universe."

The Trace
"A former research assistant to
Professor Harold Bloom reported an overheard exchange
between Gore Vidal and Bloom:
'Harold, what are the three ugliest words in the English language?"
Bloom, 'I don't know, what?'
Vidal, 'Joyce Carol Oates.'"

Symphony for the City of the Dead
"By the third movement, a slow lament,
Shostakovich's friend Isaak Gilman looked around the hall and
saw that the faces of the men and women around him were wet with tears.
This was a song for all their dead."

Coming Ashore
"At one of her first dinners at Oxford,
she is seated with the new poet laureate, Cecil Day-Lewis.
I wondered why, if someone makes it to the lauded position of poet laureate,
don't they get their teeth fixed and
buy a jacket that fits?"

Beauty Is a Wound
"We're like a cursed family," Adinda sobbed.
"We are not like a cursed family," corrected Alamanda,
"We are truly and completely cursed."

"Even though he didn't have a hand in what he was
didn't mean he wasn't culpable. No one asks to be born,
to be black or white or any colour in between, and yet
the identity a person is born into becomes the hardest
to explain to the world."

Moonshine, Monster Catfish, and Other Southern Comforts
"I just thought you gotta die of somethin' . . .
First it was cigarettes cause cancer, then pesticides,
and then the water you drink. But I been eatin'
squirrel brains since I was six years old, and
I ain't dead yet."

Iris Murdoch: As I Knew Her
"The great are now to be remembered
by the diseases which killed them
rather than by their gifts,
as though the Tolkien Chair should be, not of
Old English Philology, but of Bronchitis."

The Milli Vanilli Condition
"He claims that Jeffrey Dahmer
may be seen as a 'cereal killer' because,
unlike others of his cohort, he was
capable of eating the prey
during dinner or breakfast."

Africa Today
The ALC We Do Not See
"Art, literature and culture (ALC)
are flourishing in Africa and have been for a while
(several thousand years, give or take a few millennia),
but with rare exceptions western mainstream media
manages to keep it a secret."

Great Reviews of the Past
American Windmills
"As you got closer,
you would hear that mournful soughing,
the wind passing through its great hands,
moving the blades around and around and around.
A sweet, sad sign out of
all or our solemn pasts."

The Wisdom of Wilderness
"Here we have a bespectacled,
middle-aged psychiatrist, a respected religious figure,
admitting to the fact that he went off one night and
sang and played with the bugs in the trees of the forest;
that they heard him, responded, ended up making
mad music together.
Are we going bonkers?"

Nights in the Pink Motel
"Fiction? Who can possibly know
if all the people appearing here are real:
Condi Rice, Colin Powell, John Negroponte, H. K. George,
George W. Casey, George Bush (The Elder), George Bush (The Younger),
George Washington, George V, Boy George?
(I just threw in these last three
to see if you were paying attention.)"

Shostakovich's Symphonies
and Soviet Politics

"I have wittenessed youre heathens picture of our Savior.
When the LORD comes down in Rapture He will make
a desolation of youre abode and the inhabitants thereof.
I should make thee a desolation,
and the inhabitants thereof an hissing (Micah 6:16)"

Signs and Machines:
Capitalism and the Production of Subjectivity
Maurizio Lazzarato

Not Rabies, Baby, But Baby Scabies
"Scabies is a noxious little bug
that burrows under the skin...moves in, bag and baggage,
bringing along all of its progeny. It wanders about, hither and yon,
raising general hell, and since it can't be seen, the only way we know
that we are playing host to the original man-who-came-to-dinner
is that the skin erupts in ways that drive one
totally up the wall."

The Clemson Cripmas Party
"Make them promise to give a real Cripmas Party this year.
The requirement: they'd have to appear without legs or arms,
or get about with braces, crutches, wheelchairs, or gurneys, and ---
as is the case with many spinal-cord injured --- get fitted up
with a breathing apparatus for oxygen for weakened lungs."

Symphony for the City of the Dead
"Hunger changes the appearance of all,"
wrote the diarist Elena Skrjabina.
'Everyone now is blue-black,
bloodless, swollen.'
Leningraders came to call this discoloration
of the skin a hunger tan."

The Liquid Country of Memory
"It was a watery Hiroshima,
a liquid atomic mushroom.
Its entry into reality was of a
peremptory nature and there was nothing to do
but give in."

Water As Literature
"When it wants to be, or when man so desires it,
water --- an artistic referent to greatest degree possible ---
can be literary, both within and outside of the page.
With rocks in her pockets, just like a car filled with people,
Virginia Woolf sunk into water of the Ouse River,
leaving her ghosts to have to learn to swim
all by themselves."

Two by Kim Addonizio
What Do Women Want?
The First Line Is The Deepest

Two More by Kim Addonizio
Good Girl
You Don't Know What Love Is


The Vivisection Mambo
has just been published in quality antique typeset style.
It consists of 125 poems of the new Neo-Realist School,
many appearing here for the first time.
In a starred review, Kirkus called it
A fine anthology of some of the best contemporary poetry around.

The Noisiest Book Review in the Known World
was published two years ago.
It contains 200 or so of what we believe
to be the best articles, readings, reviews and poems
from this magazine --- from our very first years to now.
If you subscribe to RALPH, you get a free copy of this anthology ---
which was listed by Kirkus as
"One of the Best Books of 2014."

All the back-issues of RALPH,
including titles of books under review,
along with author, subject, and publisher,
plus links to readings, articles, and poems
that have appeared on-line
since 1994.

b. 1985 - d. 1989
Our predecessor magazine received
enthusiastic encomiums from media writers at
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and on
National Public Radio --- among others.
You can now find links here to all thirteen riotous issues.

of our most notorious reviews
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