The Review of Arts, Literature,
Philosophy and the Humanities

  Number 281

Early Winter 2016

The Why of Whys
From the very beginning
we have always made concessions to The Mystery.
Our readers know it as "The Paradox of the Month,"
a bon mot, a curiosity, a sage quip, a sally - - -
a touch of wisdom contained in a few words.
Here are a dozen of
our favorites.

Surviving the Gulag
"One finally comes to realize
that Ilse's indignity is the very thing
that made her not wander off
into the woods to
die in a snowstorm."

Dog Years
"She had closed her eyes
at night and pictured - - -
almost against her own will - - -
a man with no face entering her,
and it had given her
a nauseating thrill."

The History and Uncertain Future of Handwriting
"Those lucky women who were taught to write
used their own separate-but-not-equal script.
In England they did not use the complicated
English secretary hands or the various legal hands.
Instead they wrote in what was called
Italian hand, a simpler script for
the simpler sex."

A Thousand Miles from Nowhere
"I nearly gave up around
page sixty but it was midnight and I couldn't
get to sleep and I had left the other books back
in the office and I didn't feel like getting
out of bed &ct &ct."

White Trash
"Ruby is the nurse of nurses,
the one you and I want taking
care of us when they stick us in one of those places
with the never-ending smell of disinfectant,
urine, old age, death."

Sleeping on Jupiter
"Only connect the prose and the passion,
and both will be exalted, and human love
will be seen at its height.
Live in fragments no longer.
Only connect, and the beast and the monk,
robbed of the isolation that is life to either,
will die."

Snowball in a Blizzard
"Dr. Hatch has come up with an interesting book,
centered on that fact that most of us in this country
are being overdiagnosed: too many machines,
too many tests, too much fear by too many medicos of
being sued by too many personal injury attorneys."

But What If We're Wrong?
"The most successful American musician of all time?
Frank Sinatra? Elvis Presley?
Beyoncé? Dr. Dre?
John Philip Sousa.
Marching band music."

Great Reviews from the Past
In the American Grain
"This volume could probably be considered a series of
long poems, even though it is written in prose.
'Abraham Lincoln,' one of the best, is just one page long.
Williams says that Lincoln is just like Mengelberg,
'the great broad hipped one,' who 'conducts an orchestra
in the same vein. It is a woman.'
Lincoln? A woman? Eh?"

Primeval and Other Times
"Either God exists and has always existed, or"
- - - here he added the second finger - - -
"God doesn't exist and never has. Or else" - - -
the third appeared - - - "God used to exist, but no longer does.
And finally," - - - here he poked all four fingers at Izydor - - -
"God doesn't yet exist and has yet to appear."

Mae Sarton
Jack London

A Letter from Timothy Geithner

The Foresaken
The Moscow Trials

O Bitter, Bitter Gall
"I thanked him for the five days of morphine
they had given me over my days in the hospital,
was even thinking of telling him that if he had
any other operations scheduled over the next few months,
I might be willing to show up if it would help."

The Octomom vs. The Subprime Mortgage Crisis
"Nadya had leveraged her disability payments
into six babies, collateralzed them
(as a state liability likely
to pay revenues for years to come),
and then quite brilliantly leveraged
those six babies into eight more."

The Face Transplant Man
"'Before, they wouldn't stare.
Even kids would look away.
Now they just ask what happened to my face.
Because now it is a face. I don't know
how to say this exactly,' he said, 'but it didn't seem fair,
before, for my wife to have
to look at me. Because it was really hard
to look at. '"

Great Readings from the Past
In the Time of the Lime Trees
"Like all plants, the lime trees
live an eternal dream, whose origin lies in the tree's seeds.
The dream does not grow or develop along with it,
but is always exactly the same.
The trees are trapped in space, but not in time.
They are liberated from time by their dream, which is eternal.
Feelings do not grow in it, as they do in animals' dreams,
nor do images appear in it, as they do in people's dreams."

Without Vodka: Adventures in Wartime Russia
"The hunger I am talking about
is gnawing, incessant, pathological.
It was the result of being underfed
to the point of starvation
for years."

When Tony Hoagland Says
My Maternal Instincts
Are Impressive

"I think maybe he means my plumage
does not distract from my talons.
How in the requiem of my ovaries
I am building a barn full of pianos.
Or perhaps my fears still wear
their oversized clothing?"

The Death of Elvis
"Elvis won't eat. He's twenty years old. Mostly he sleeps,
staggers off to the litter box, drags himself back - - -
fur like a thrift-store suit, rumpled, bagged at the knees.
You've been avoiding the trip to the vet - - - the news will be bad.
"For Christ's sake," your wife says on the third day.
"I can't stand it." So you grab an old sweater, wrap up
the shivering cat, put sweater and cat in a cardboard box.
He hates the car, still has enough chi left to yowl the whole way . . . "

The Crematorium Furnace
"In place of the cemetery, center - - -
albeit sometimes outlying center - - - of the city,
you'll have columbaria, with chimney, without chimney,
with or without smoke, and the dead, charred like
scorched rolls of bread, will serve as fertilizer
for the kolkhoz or kibbutz,
far from the city."


The Vivisection Mambo
was recently 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 over three 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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