Clemencio Montecillo Bascar was a former Professor and Vice President for Corporate Affairs of the Western Mindanao State University. He is a recepient of various local, regional, and national awards in songwriting, playwriting, poetry, and public service. Several of his poems had been published in international literary magazines and journals such as, Foliate Oak , BRICKrhetoric, About Place, Torrid Literature, Mused-theBellaOnline Lietrary Review, and The Voices Project. He had written and published by the Western Mindanao State University two books of poetry, namely; "Fragments of the Eucharist" and "Riots of Convictions." In the Philippines, some of his poems appeared in the such magazines as Women's, MOD, and Chick.
At present, he writes a column in the Zamboanga Today daily newspaper and resides at 659 Gemini Street, Tumaga, Zamboanga City, Philippines. He is married to the former Miss Melinda Climaco dela Cruz and blest with three children, Jane, Lynnette, and Timothy James.
MINDANAO AND SULU WERE BIZARRELY SOLD
Up to this point of my academic effort, I still could not find any research- based and jury-validated account or narration that supports the claim or contention that the Sultanates of Maguindanao (Mindanao) and Sulu were conquered and colonized by Spain.
On the contrary the authoritative references, research data, and the relevant diplomatic documents I have at present overwhelmingly tend to support and uphold the historicity that Mindanao and Sulu were not conquered and colonized by Spain. Let me buttress the factuality and truthfulness of this assertion by citing four of the many eminent and most credible authorities I have on file:
1. "The arrival of the Spaniards in the second half of the 16th Century and the subsequent conquest of Luzon, led the Muslims to retreat to the South where they maintained their independence from foreign powers to the end of the Spanish regime."- Teodoro A. Agoncillo and Milagros Guererro, History of the Filipino People, p. 22.
2. "The Sulu Sultanate remained practically independent for four hundred and twenty five years. The tenacity with which the Sulus resisted Spanish dominations, their obdurate opposition and bravery in battle, and their obstinate passive resistance in peace baffled all Spanish efforts to subvert their political organization or gain a simple point of advantage without paying so dearly."- George A. Malcolm, The Government of the Philippine Islands, New York, Copyright 1916, pp 357-359.
3. "The close of the unsuccessful Spanish conquest of the Moroland marked the beginning of the end of one of the most remarkable resistances in the annals of military history. The Moslems had staged a bitter and uninterrupted warfare against the might of Spain for a period of 377 years. It is doubtful if this record has been equalled in the whole bloody history of military aggression. The Dons accustomed to the easy conquests of Peru and Mexico met their match in the jungles of Mindanao."- Vic Hurley, Swish of the Kris, page 14.
4. "In the year 1886 Spanish troops under General Terrero began the campaign in Cotabato against Datu Utto. They demolished some Muslim cottas but failed to penetrate the enemy territory. In 1891 General Weyler undertook personal command of Cotabato campaign. After short time, however, the strength of the Muslim kris and the ravages of the jungle fever forced him to return to Zamboanga. In 1895 General Blanco took the field against the Lanao Muslims, but gave up the campaign after three months of hard fighting. In 1898, General Buille resumed the Cotabato campaign. The Spanish-American War of 1898 found the Muslims and the Spaniards stalemated in the jungles of Moroland. After 300 years of invasion, Spain had failed to conquer and Christianize the fierce Muslims. The Spanish soldiers retired from the field with only the empty glory of war to their credit."- Gregorio F. Zaide, Ph. D., author of the textbook entitled, 'Philippine Political and Cultural History,' page. 320. Gregorio F. Zaide is popularly known as the Father of Philippine History.
In my preceding articles, I posited several times that Mindanao and Sulu were deceptively included as parts of the Philippine Islands which was supposed to be the only colonial possession of Spain that should have been sold and ceded to the United States in Article III of the December 10, 1898 Treaty of Paris. As I have over and over again asserted and confirmed by internationally- respected and distinguished historians, researchers, and authors, Mindanao and Sulu were not conquered and colonized by Spain and therefore, were not her territorial possessions which made the sale of these two ancient monarchial states grossly anomalous further aggravated by the fact that they were included surreptitiously as parts of the Philippines Islands only by way of coordinates and without the knowledge and consent of their respective reigning Sultants, Councils of States, and adherents.
Once more I am recapitulating my academic assertion with stronger sense of certainty and confidence that this bizarre commercial and diplomatic transaction between Spain and the United Sates became the powder keg for the outbreak of the secessionist or liberationist struggle in Mindanao and Sulu but seemingly has always been deliberately side-stepped, brushed aside, and or just unceremoniously ignored by those key players and top power wielders and decision makers in the "perpetual ferriswheel-like " peace process between the Government of the Philippines and the two major revolutionary fronts. No wonder, the Peace Process after more than four decades of continually going around in circles, is still in doldrums despite claims of major diplomatic breakthroughs, record-breaking peace building feats, and history-setting legislative acts which in reality only ended up either declared "failed experiment" or "unacceptable" sub- political entities. Even the latest legislative creation, the ARMM, is now irreversibly heading toward the same political graveyard. Mainwhile, the taxpayers are relentlessly being bled dry to sustain a shockingly opulent diplomatic charade.
What made the sale and cession of Mindanao and Sulu highly anomalous? It was because Mindanao and Sulu were not territorial possessions of Spain by virtue of conquest or other means of acquisition and ownership considered lawful at that particular period. As I stated previously, it was grossly a case of one colonial power selling and ceding to another colonial power two monarchial states which the seller country did not own. The lawyers are in the best position to provide the right term of the crime committed in this particular real estate commercial transaction which could easily qualify for the books.
Making the sale and cession of Mindanao and Sulu by Spain to the United States stunningly unimaginable, was the fact that even the erstwhile President of the United States of America (USA), William Mckinley expressed doubts about the sovereignty of Spain,most particularly, over the Sultanate of Sulu, and yet he approved the spurious mercantile deal. To support the veracity of this confused state of mind of President Mckinley, may I quote a distinguished American official and author, Dr. Jacob G. Shurman who became the President of Cornell University and was appointed head of the five-person First Philippine Commission to assist in governing the Philippines, as follows:
"President Mckinley who had entertained doubts as to the sovereignty of Spain over the Sultanate of Sulu, promptly directed that a formal agreement be made with the Sultan." J.G. Shurman, Philippine Affairs: A Retrospect and Outlook, a book published in New York, in 1920 by Scribbers, pages 15-18.
Another world famous American author-historian who confirmed that Spain never acquired sovereignty over Mindanao and Sulu, is quoted, to wit:
"Preparing for their mission, Bates and his staff scoured the Spanish archives in Manila and discovered that Spanish sovereignty had in fact been no more than a myth and a contrived fiction. Of greater significance, it was dubious Spain had ever had the 'right' under international law to cede the lands belonging to the Moros as part of their land holdings in the Philippine Islands." Robert A. Fulton, The American Occupation of Moroland-May 1899 to August 1903, htt://w.w.w.morolandhistory.com/03PG-Amerricans/1.american.htm.
On the basis of the historical fact that Spain failed to conquer, colonize, and Christianize Mindanao and Sulu as confirmed by world-recognized and respected historians and authors, the cession of Mindanao and Sulu by Spain to the United States as parts of the Philippine Islands in Article III of the December 10, 1898 Treaty of Paris, was conclusively and grossly irregular.
Peter Dabbene’s poetry has been published in many literary journals, and collected in the photo book Optimism. He has published the graphic novels Ark and Robin Hood, the story collections Prime Movements and Glossolalia, and a novel, Mister Dreyfus' Demons. His latest books are Spamming the Spammers and More Spamming the Spammers. He writes a monthly column for the Hamilton Post newspaper. His website is www.peterdabbene.com.
Suburban Complaint #1232 --The Basketball Hoop
When I first moved to suburban Hamilton, New Jersey from Staten Island, New York almost twenty years ago, what struck me about my new home wasn't the comparatively limited public transit system, or the increased amount of open space and greenery, or the abundance of backyard pools—it was the fact that everywhere I looked, there were driveways with basketball hoops.
To understand why this might seem shocking, you first need to understand that Staten Island holds nearly 500,000 people in its 58 square miles. Hamilton, by contrast, contains about 90,000 people in roughly 40 square miles. As a result of denser population and smaller average lot sizes, backyard pools in Staten Island are rare, losing out to swim clubs, community pools, and illegally opened fire hydrants. With more demand, public buses and trains run more frequently, and are a viable means of getting around, unlike in New Jersey, where public transportation seems to exist only because it's somehow required by law. And in Staten Island, basketball hoops, and the driveway or street space to use them, are at a premium.
Thus, kids in Staten Island often go to a playground or schoolyard to play basketball. With children congregating in a limited number of areas, and around a limited number of basketball hoops, pick-up games are common, as opposed to solo shoot-arounds. In central New Jersey, though, there's plenty of space for the suburban dream—a chicken in every pot, a car in every garage, and a basketball hoop in every driveway.
(Here's where I'd happily list some curmudgeonly complaints about the loss of community, and parents never letting kids out of their sight, and those kids being too lazy or too preoccupied with their smartphones to walk down to the schoolyard anyway—but since I've sort of just done that—sly, wasn't it?—we'll skip it and move on.)
My own kids had played basketball a couple of times at parks, but most of their limited experience came when we visited my sister's house, which features a hoop on the back patio. Then two of my friends, who have kids the same age as mine, got hoops for their backyards. Having a basketball hoop on the premises soon began to seem like a God-given right, like breathing, freedom of speech, and the ownership of semiautomatic weapons.
I knew there was a strong chance that whatever hoop I acquired wouldn't be used more than a few times a year, so I didn't want to pay several hundred dollars for a brand-new, top-notch one. I also wanted no part of the four hours one friend said he spent putting his store-bought basketball hoop together. If the Little Tikes plastic basketball hoop for toddlers that we got as a hand-me-down extended higher than six feet, all of what follows would have been moot.
With my parameters determined (not too expensive, not too much work), I set about my search. Allow me to describe the process, but keep in mind that this is not, as you will see, a process you should aspire to replicate in any way.
I went to Craigslist, specified "central NJ", and looked up "basketball hoop". A fouler, more wretched-looking collection of hazardous metal, weather-beaten plastic, and rotting wood may not exist anywhere outside your local junkyard. There were plenty of pictures, which accurately highlighted the loneliness of each deserted basketball hoop in its current location; this could, perhaps, be the heart-wrenching subject of an art series by some young photography student. Some stood among bare trees and assorted backyard detritus—gardening tools, piles of leaves, and sheet-covered, rusting cars that would one day find themselves listed on Craigslist as well. Other hoops stood perilously close to telephone or power lines, or sat on curbs, waiting for delivery to a new home, or the garbage truck, whichever came first.
Descriptions are important on Craigslist: a photo might show a complete basketball hoop, attached to a post and ready to be shot upon, but the item for sale might be "backboard only", or "rim only", leaving one to wonder what disaster, natural or man-made, had contributed to the demise of the missing components.
Most sets had large bases that could be filled with water to anchor the hoop in place; after missing out on one in Princeton (free to whomever contacted the owner first), I found one in Colts Neck that looked promising. It was $75, seemed intact, and was adjustable in height, a key feature. Colts Neck was 45 minutes away, but I was going to be in the area in a few days' time. There was just one detail that would later turn out to be more of an issue than I'd first considered: the owner had filled the empty base with concrete.
I understand the impulse—what could be more solid, or safer, than something that absolutely would not move, once placed? And there were wheels at the rear of the base, so that if lowered at an angle, the hoop actually could be "moved easily". More on that later.
I'd measured the interior of our emptied-out mini-van, but wasn't completely certain the hoop would fit. I negotiated a bit via text message and got the price down to $50, cheap enough to take a chance. Bungee cords packed, I made my way to the house.
The owner was a guy in his thirties whose girls hadn't used the hoop in three years. We lowered and carefully wheeled it out of his garage, over to the back of the mini-van. We removed the backboard and rim, then slid the post into the car as far we could. Then we lifted the base. It should be noted that I was having second thoughts about the wisdom of all this, but at that point, the immediate challenge of getting everything into the car seemed paramount.
Luckily, the seller was a big guy, and between the two of us, we were (barely) able to lift that concrete-filled base the two feet we needed to clear the lip on the trunk. I estimate that it weighted about 9000 pounds, but I could be mistaken. We pushed the post forward until it touched the front windshield, which was protected by a towel, and after a few minutes of adjustments, managed to get the trunk closed. Good thing, as the prospect of holding back a runaway load of concrete-filled, heavy-duty plastic with a few bungee cords seemed more than a little naïve, not to say hazardous and irresponsible.
After a slow but successful drive home, the worst seemed over. In the morning, I'd just slide the hoop out, roll if to the backyard, and bask in the glow of hero dad-ism.
At dawn, the truth revealed itself. The raised lip at the edge of the mini-van's rear cargo space, which had helped to keep the base secure during its transportation, also made it extremely difficult to get it back out. In lieu of a big, muscular guy to help me, I drafted my wife into service, just as she was preparing to leave for work.
Determined not to make the metal post or its base permanent features of the car's interior, we pulled, inch by inch, and finally cleared the trunk. That's when the third member of our team, gravity, took over.
To some people (including me), that might first seem like a good thing. I knew the heavy base would come down quickly, but it didn't occur to me that as the base dropped to the ground, the top of the post would rise like a see-saw and collide with the auto's sturdy, Korean-made (South, not North) ceiling. The two oppositional forces—gravity pulling against a now-stationary post—tore loose one of the bolts fastening the post to the base. This was not ideal.
I was able to roll the entire apparatus to the backyard patio, which at least hid it from public view, sparing me the indignity of curious neighbors and onlookers politely inquiring, "So... what'cha doin'?" or "Is that supposed to be like that?"
I saw that the plastic base had torn around the bolt, but there was still hope—the main post had come a bit loose from its bolt, but what's loose could be tightened, couldn't it? Access to the bolt was underneath the base, which led to a farce consisting of me trying to flip the very heavy base onto its side, and every time, the base rolling away from me.
Fueled by frustration, I kept at it until I got a good look at the bottom and realized that repair was, to put it gently, unlikely. It would never be tight enough to assure that my kids wouldn't one day find a big, heavy, metal pole embedded in their heads. Some people might have called it quits there, and I was nearly among them. But as I stopped and considered my options, I realized there was one chance left—a long shot, but if I could salvage the hoop, it would be worth it.
A non-working and long-abandoned light post that was cemented into the concrete patio had been a fixture of our backyard vista for years. It was a relic from before we owned the house, and the only reason it was still there is that I'd never been motivated to get it out (one doesn't dictate inspiration). The basketball post, meanwhile, was hollow and looked as if, freed from the base, it might fit like a sheath ON TOP of the light post. If it did, I'd have a stable post, and with an adjustable height backboard, everything would be just peachy.
I got a ladder and lowered the hollow metal basketball post over the five foot high light post. It fit nicely, but the light post was wider at its lowest three feet than it was the two feet above. So now I had a ten foot pole sitting on top of a three foot booster. Regulation basketball rims are exactly ten feet off the ground, so this would have been a bit of an added challenge for the children, especially considering they could barely heave a ball up to the standard height.
Simple math meant that if I could cut the basketball post down to seven feet, I'd have regulation height, if not regulation process. So how does one cut a metal post?
A visit to Home Depot brought me to two employees in the Tools section, whose combined age barely surpassed mine. They were talking about their girlfriends, and I sensed immediately that they had never cut a metal basketball post. I would later recognize their standing under the "Tools" sign as a rare instance of truth in advertising. Though not particularly forthcoming with their assistance, they eventually pointed me to a small, hand-held saw tool they claimed would do the job. I took a chance, purchased it, and soon began the operation.
It was slow going, but the post did get cut. If you're wondering about the total time and money invested to this point, let me remind you that it's the principle of the thing that's important—the principle of of not admitting failure, which can be judged as inspiring or stubbornly pig-headed, but unquestionably important.
Sizing the basketball post atop the lamp post again, everything seemed good, with the exception of a slight wobble— the result of some extra space between the upper part of the lamp post and the inside of the basketball post. I needed a way to stabilize it, so the backboard wouldn't wiggle every time a ball hit it.
Looking around the house, I determined a possible solution. As a longtime supporter of print newspapers, I've learned they're useful for many things other than reading. Millennials who get their news online, aside from having a skewed view of what news is, presumably often find themselves lacking proper materials to line birdcages, protect tabletops from the use of watercolor paints, and create paper hats. Here, wadded-up newspapers could function to stuff the gap between the two posts, and thus stabilize the hoop.
I "filled out" the upper part of the lamp post by wrapping the newspapers around it and securing them, using Disney Princess Duck Tape. The latter will go without further comment, except to say that it's embarrassing enough to own Duck Tape (a brand that owes its very name and existence to the failings of American literacy), without adding a smattering of Disney Princesses to the mix.
My wife, who had inadvertently, and somewhat unwillingly, observed bits of the last few steps from the kitchen window, seemed surprisingly able to focus on other things, rather than the master craftsman at work outside. When I came in to get more newsapers, my own curiosity wasn't as easily restrained:
"What's it like to live with a genius?" I asked.
"I wouldn't know," she replied.
Once the job of securing the newspapers to the light post was done, I set the height of the rim and tightened the bolts that held it, got the stepladder, and lowered the basketball post again.
In any task, the greatest feeling of accomplishment—the climax, if you will—comes in the instant the work is done. The cleanup afterwards is a necessary evil. Thus, there was great satisfaction in testing the backboard by tossing a couple of lay-ups, but an equal and opposite sensation in realizing that there remained a large plastic base filled with concrete, yet to be addressed.
The weight of the base, plus the difficulty of maneuvering it without leverage from the post, meant some of the concrete needed to be removed where it stood.
The plastic base offered only a small hole, a few inches in circumference, to provide access to the interior, or empty its contents. Draining water via the hole would have been easy enough. Hardened, heavy concrete, however, was another story entirely.
Luckily, I now owned a metal-cutting (and presumably, plastic-cutting) hand saw, with which I set about expanding the opening. Expending no small amount of effort, I was able to cut a line about a foot long, and then cut perpendicularly to make a fold. I found a crowbar in the basement and used it to break up the concrete, a little at a time, and shake it loose from the base. Slowly but steadily, the base grew lighter.
The end to this ignominious adventure came when, after several refusals by garbage pickup employees to accept the mangled and not-quite-empty base into their truck, I unloaded the final bits of concrete and brought them to the local ecological facility. Later, I watched as the now feather-light plastic base was taken away on a garbage truck, the final evidence removed.
Today, the basketball hoop sits proudly outside my kitchen window, a monument to bad decisions and partial redemption; periodically used, awaiting the day when, in its now-altered state, it will rejoin the ranks of listings on Craigslist, inspiring pity, and perhaps for one poor soul, ambition.
Donal Mahoney, a native of Chicago, lives in St. Louis, Missouri. He has worked as an editor for The Chicago Sun-Times, Loyola University Press and Washington University in St. Louis. His fiction and poetry have appeared in various publications, including The Wisconsin Review, The Kansas Quarterly, The South Carolina Review, The Christian Science Monitor, Commonweal, Guwahatian Magazine (India), The Galway Review (Ireland), Public Republic (Bulgaria), The Osprey Review (Wales), The Istanbul Literary Review (Turkey) and other magazines. Some of his work can be found at http://eyeonlifemag.com/the-poetry-locksmith/donal-mahoney-poet.html#sthash.OSYzpgmQ.dpbs
A Stranger in the Soup Kitchen Spills the Beans
I have a friend, old and retired, who keeps busy helping the poor. Let's call him Ted because he wants to remain anonymous. Some of his ideas, he says, wouldn’t make many of his neighbors happy.
Ted has had problems of his own in life. No need to list them. He managed to survive them. As a result, he knows what the poor are up against. And he believes that in 2017 their plight will be worse in the United States and elsewhere in the world. Bigger odds are piling up against them.
It won’t be any easier for Ted, either, now a solid member of the lower-middle class having escaped a life of poverty. For example, he has always wondered why car insurance, house insurance, estimated taxes and property taxes all come due in November and December. He says it's like having the Grinch chew on his posterior during the holidays.
While his income in retirement remains stagnant, his bills, Ted says, are always rising. Fortunately, he and his wife have planned ahead over the years and have been able to make things work despite modest salaries and even a more modest retirement income. They may not eat steak but they still have enough left to donate something more than their time to charity.
But every time Ted pays a bill he thinks about the stranger he met at the local soup kitchen where he volunteers as a server two days a week. The man was eating by himself as usual. Ted had finished his time behind the steam table, approached the man and asked if he could sit down and talk with him.
The stranger said okay and it only took a few minutes for he and Ted to get along. Ted said the stranger probably would have talked to anyone who sat down. He obviously needed to talk.
Eventually the stranger told Ted the current chapter in his life story. It wasn’t a pretty thing to hear. But his life today may be typical of what many of the poor and elderly are living with now. And this is not happening in some Third World country. It’s happening in the United States, where people from other nations want to live.
The stranger said he can't afford his little house and laughed slightly when he said he was too old for a tent. He lives in one of the row houses built after World War II. He said utilities, taxes and insurance make it hard to stay there. Not much left for food or prescriptions. He also has a bit of a heart problem. Nothing that taking his medication regularly can’t keep in check.
Being alone is difficult enough, the stranger said, but the hot lunches at the soup kitchen help him pay his other bills. This is his only hot meal of the day unless you count an egg in the morning with a slice of toast. Otherwise he snacks on crackers and cheese. And the cheese is free, he said, given away once a month by another charity over on the other side of town.
Listening to the stranger, Ted felt very fortunate. He and his wife have always been able to pay their bills. They eat well enough, nothing fancy, and they dine out once every two weeks at a fast food restaurant. Chicken fingers with a rainbow of sauces. However, Ted has new concerns about the stranger and the other poor in his community and throughout American society. He has heard that a new tax plan is being considered by Congress, a tax plan that will force a worker with a spouse and two children to pay taxes if their income is $12,000.
Ted would hate to have to live on $12,000 if he were by myself much less with a wife and two children.
He says that as the middle class continues to evaporate and the poor continue to get poorer, he finds less empathy at his level and above for either group and he doesn’t expect that to improve in 2017.
America's old people, he says, are truly up against the wall. As time goes by, he thinks their problems will grow more severe. He doesn’t know what the poor and elderly will do if that new tax plan becomes law. And he thinks that in 2017 the time is ripe for that to happen in Washington.
Ted admits many people spend too much of what little they have and don’t worry about their future, But in his volunteer work, he finds many of the poor spend what little they have to get to the future.
Some things, Ted says, are worth writing to one’s representatives in government about. He has already written to his senators and his representative about this restrictive tax law and hopes it won’t pass. He hopes other Americans will write to their representatives as well.
He thinks there will be plenty of other opportunities to write letters in 2017 and the years ahead to help stop potential laws like this.
The electorate has spoken, he says, and it will be awhile before they have a chance to speak again.
Author is a retired attorney having practiced for 35 years in Illinois who now lives in Texas and started writing stories about a year and a half ago.
Short Book Review: The Prison Compendium
This is not so much a book review as it is a plug for a book in which one of my stories appears, The Prison Compendium. It consists of thirty three stories by thirty one authors. The editor is Jennifer Word. It’s two hundred and seventy seven pages long and it’s in paperback. It’s available through Amazon.
The stories are obviously about prisoners but they all over the place. One story invokes Elvis, another Pete Rose. One entails a flood and another a zombie apocalypse. One is gross, in my opinion. It’s about eating fleas. One is definitely erotic. A lot of them have that traditional pulp noir flare to them. And of course there’s the stories are about busting out of prison and and the success or failure thereof. There’s tragedy, pathos and humor enough for everyone. The prisons involved range from the east coast to the west coast and from Montana to Mississippi. And to top it off there’s even some prison poetry.
There’s a much better, more elaborate, and well written review of The Prison Compendium on Amazon. I suggest you read that one, and the others, if you might be interested in the book. Thank you.
Dixon Hearne is a book reviewer for University Press of Mississippi. His work has been twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, as well as the PEN/Faulkner and PEN/Hemingway awards. His recent novella From Tickfaw to Shongaloo was awarded second place in the Faulkner Novella Competition. Other work appears in Oxford American, New Orleans Review, Tulane Review, Louisiana Literature, and elsewhere. Visit www.dixonhearne.com
Review - Far Beyond the Pale by Daren Dean
Fiction Southeast Press, 2015
ISBN: 13: 978-0692347621
Far Beyond the Pale is first and foremost a coming-of-age story about disaffected 13-year-old Honey Boy Kimbrough, who is forced to grow up too quickly in a dysfunctional home—indeed a dysfunctional world, characterized by broken people, broken spirits, and broken promises. Like Faulkner, Dean cultivates his own “postage stamp of native soil” for the setting (and perhaps substance) in 1970s Missouri, which Honey Boy calls—metaphorically--Misery. The story exudes anger, rage, and retaliation. Honey Boy struggles to bring order to the chaos that engulfs his young life—much of which becomes self-inflicted as he spirals out of control. The son of a seemingly hopeless and unresponsive mother, Lorene, and an abusive father (back in California), he is desperately searching for identity, acceptance, and manhood. Honey Boy’s motivations and actions ultimately spring from a dire quest for his mother’s love and a better life for them both. He is life-weary from years of travel and disruption by his mother’s pursuit of hope and happiness with the wrong men.
The need for validation drives Honey Boy into foolish, sometimes dangerous situations, spurred on by local thug Elston Vaughn, who treats him with respect. Under the spell of Vaughn and the influence of other bullies and misfits in his orbit, Honey Boy loses moral direction and clear reasoning. He lunges headlong into self-destruction. The story takes the reader on a spree of petty crimes and mischief—edging characters “beyond the pale.” At some point, Honey Boy becomes aware of a shift from feeling manipulated by outside forces to a state of conscious decision-making—a moral dissonance with which he grapples. He does not know whether a newfound “conscience” is ruled by God or by Satan. Dean creates in Honey Boy the kind of conflict and ambiguity that nag and linger in the reader’s mind—an indelible character worth caring about.
The story feels familiar, the characters archetypal, and the conflict real. It is written in raw, sometimes emotionally-charged language reminiscent of Larry Brown and Harry Crews—and accentuated with a pitch-perfect southern dialect. Far Beyond the Pale delivers a moving and skillfully-written work of dark fiction that leads the reader on a circuitous course toward potential dead ends and disappointment. Resolution, however, lies in the capable hands of the author, and Dean does not disappoint.