Lois Greene Stone, writer and poet, has been syndicated worldwide. Poetry and personal essays have been included in hard & softcover book anthologies. Collections of her personal items/ photos/ memorabilia are in major museums including twelve different divisions of The Smithsonian.
Grandma, I’d Have to Explain I Was a Boy
"I love this book, Grandma!" Kevin closed the cover of Bambi. "Will you read it again?"
I moved Kevin from my lap; he sat on the couch cushion beside me. "Let's talk a little about anything in the book that you might not like if you were Bambi."
"You mean about the hunters and the guns?"
"Not what I mean, but something you'd feel if you were Bambi."
Kevin moved his seven year old legs from the soft cushion and sat down on the floor so he could directly face me. "Well, if I imagined myself to be Bambi there's more I'd like 'cause I like Thumper and all those things.”
"Well, close your eyes. You're Bambi, a big, beautiful, graceful deer."
"I'd want to go to school." Kevin said. "Bambi didn't."
"Okay. You're Bambi. Let's go to school." I smiled.
"There's a problem, Grandma. Bambi sounds like a girl's name."
"Yes it does, Kevin." I was pleased that Kevin realized this.
"I'd be made fun of for having a girl's name." Kevin crossed his legs and leaned his elbows down so far that they almost touched his bent knees.
"Why is that?"
"Oh, the teacher gets messed up when there are kids named Jordan or Taylor or Leslie. And even Chris or Madison or Sydney are boys or girls. Imagine the kids laughing at me if Mom had named me Bambi."
"How would you deal with a name you're uncomfortable having?" I pursued this.
"I don't know. I'd hate to be laughed at. And when I get big, and gym is for just boys or girls, not like we have it now, they'd stick me in the girls' gym class first just because of my name." Kevin squirmed a bit, then continued. "Grandma, I'd always have to explain I was a boy!"
"Do you think Bambi's mother was cruel naming him that?"
"I don't think Bambi's mother thought about people making fun of his name; she probably just liked the sound of it."
"Do you like your Kevin name?"
"Uh huh." Kevin moved his legs to be more comfortable, and put his hands behind him. He looked up. "Grandma, I did laugh when I had to pair-up in a rope climb with Sylvester. I thought about a cartoon cat. That was bad, wasn't it? I must have hurt Sylvester's feelings."
"Like if you were Bambi."
"But I couldn't tell my mother that my Bambi name makes me feel silly, could I? Then I'd hurt her feelings. It is a problem, isn't it."
"Yes, Kevin. Our names become "us", and if we're comfortable with them we act differently with others." I liked this conversation. "You like yours, and it's not ever going to be mistaken for a girl’s, is a popular name, you'll end up in a boys' gym class, and no one will make fun of it, nor will you be mad at your parents for giving you it."
"Maybe Dumbo didn't like the first part of his name saying dumb. Think so, Grandma?" Kevin turned his head to one side waiting for an answer. "I guess I'll never laugh at someone's name and the problems that come from having a strange one."
I opened the thin hardcover book. "Climb up. I'll read it again."
Published summer 2000 by “Mature Years” ©2000 The United Methodist Publishing House
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.
Stephen Hawking Is Goofy
Yes that’s right. Stephen Hawking is goofy. I don’t care if he’s one of the greatest scientific minds ever known to mankind and I don’t cut him any slack because he has Lou Gehrig’s disease a disease that I wouldn’t wish on my proverbial worst enemy. But he’s still goofy and he’s goofy because of his latest announcement that life as we know it here on earth will end in one hundred years. So he has taken it upon himself personally to move up the doomsday clock to two and a half minutes before midnight, midnight being the end of the world. And his scientific reasoning behind all this-----Trump is president, a brilliant scientific deduction based on scientific facts if there ever was one.
So what’s he suggest we do---- abandon ship that’s what. Move to Planet B. Planet B like in ‘plan b’ the backup plan. Planet B though isn’t a planet though. According to Hawking Planet B is either the moon or Mars. Places that don’t exactly have a life supporting atmosphere. Places where we will have to build giant bubble pods and pump in a life supporting atmosphere to survive.
Well we still got one hundred years to figure all that out and transfer billions of people there. In the meantime don’t bother trying to fix the problems here, just make sure we figure out how to get off earth before it implodes and how to survive on Planet B once we’re there.
This is madness gone amok and it’s become contagious. Too many fools are being infected by his nonsense. Goofiness has become pandemic.
I for one have faith in our scientists here on Planet Earth to solve these problems and not just throw up their hands and run around screaming the sky is falling, the sky is falling like Chicken Little. After all scientists solved the dust bowl problem of the thirties and that was a man made phenomena. There is no reason why they can’t do the same today. Our faith should be put in ourselves to either fix things, or if not fixable, how to adapt to them. Science is still the answer. So based on all that here are some of my ‘goofy’ scientific suggestions, from a non scientist standpoint of course.
First maybe we should be looking at placing in orbit a climate control device, that is a planet wide air conditioning system. Instead of climate change we would have climate control. Move it around by remote control, just like a drone, and cool off what needs cooling off. By the same token maybe an artificial drone sun is necessary also to provide more warmth to some places when temperatures drop too far below zero for extended periods of time. All this might save on heating and air conditioning bills, wear and tear on infrastructure, and create jobs.
Second maybe we should be looking at how to create weather patterns and control them, how to create and move around high and low pressure troughs, how to increase or decrease wind speeds, how to produce rain upon demand. Maybe all that could lead to making the Sahara Desert and the Outback of Australia fertile and productive and thus more food for mankind, and create jobs.
And one more for what it’s worth, maybe we can jolt the earth somehow and back it away from the sun into a different orbit to cool things off if climate change heats things up too much. Or maybe the answer is jolting the moon so that somehow changing its orbit pattern that would in turn change things for the better here on earth.
I’m sure there’s many more simpler solutions than these ‘goofy’ ones. They just need to be found and implemented now, today. Provided of course that climate change is in fact real.
Planet B needs to be scrapped. We don’t need to be like rats deserting a sinking ship. Besides maybe it won’t be possible for everyone to leave. Which of us rats would be allowed to go and which of us which of jus rats would be left behind? Don’t worry about that. Our elected officials and/or maybe our scientists will decide who’s worth saving or not.
So anyway that’s why I think Stephen Hawking is goofy. For some reason or another this earthling is not thinking Vulcan style, logically that is, not looking at all the possibilities, not having faith in his fellow man. He’s seventy four. Maybe it’s time for him to give up the torch and let the bright and best young scientific minds of a younger generation to take over. After all its their future that’s suppose to be at stake here not his. He’s not going to live until 2117.
Author’s Note: I have made up a story about all this, Exodus 21:17, that appears in the fiction section of this issue. Please read it.
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.
Book Review: The Rising
This is a rather harsh review of a book that has been endorsed by a lot of contemporary best selling authors a evidenced by their praises on the back cover. The book is The Rising by Heather Graham and Jon Land both best selling authors in their own right. Evidently their first joint venture together. Perhaps all these writers have taken a secret oath, made a secret pact of the society of best selling authors to praise each other’s works, but it gets little praise from me as I didn’t care all that much for this book, though I kind of liked it. So being wishy washy maybe this is not such a harsh review after all but a mixed one.
The protagonist is Alex Chin a blonde Caucasian teenager football star, who was adopted by a Chinese American couple. He is accompanied on his adventures by Samantha Dixon, Sam, his kind of girlfriend, a genius like fellow teenager well versed in quantum physics. She is portrayed as even smarter than a scientist in the book who later helps her and Alex and therefore is not a believable character to me. Well anyway due to a football injury, the story starts to unfold. Cat scans reveal that Alex is a unique individual. Some good and some bad people find out about Alex’s uniqueness and come looking for him. Some people die in the process and the fate of the world itself depends upon whoever finds him first. Thus he and Sam go on the run. All the while Alex has no clue why he is wanted and why some people want to kill him as he tries to find out what is going on. All he knows is that within himself he holds some secret stemming from his parents finding him.
At the beginning the book grabs and holds your attention and is a page turner for a hundred and some pages. Then it implodes as far as I’m concerned when Alex is suddenly attacked by humanoid robotic drones. Up to then everything seemed believable, possible, plausible but when this hit me unexpectedly out of the blue I refused to read any further and actually put the book aside and read another one. I read a short novel by Donis Casey entitled The Return of the Raven Maker about a matriarch of an Oklahoma family during the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic and how she helps her generations of family and her friends during such times of crisis and solves a murder mystery along the way as if she didn't have enough to do. It was quite entertaining, heartwarming and enjoyable. That book I would recommend for light hearted reading.
Anyway despite my boycotting The Rising, it was only temporary and after I finished the Casey book I returned to the adventures of Alex and Sam. The book is heavy into black holes, wormholes, time travel, space travel, alien life forms and forms of scientific quantum physics whatever that is. It was beyond my limited brain power to understand all that but if one is into that kind of thing, one would find this book fascinating as Dr.Spock would say. Despite the scientific data overload, TMI, the story did regain my interest and I couldn’t put it down hoping that at the end all this would come together and everything would be resolved, Alex’s secret revealed.
But no. Some is revealed. Some is not. The world is saved of course, by Alex of course, but the bad guys get away so you know that a sequel has already been written and the authors are waiting for this book to run it’s course before they bring it out. This is quite blatant at the end as they make a point of dangling in front of you all the unanswered questions. You don’t have to be Nostradamus to see the sequel coming.
One final thing I noticed in this book is that before starting a new phase of the story the authors would print a short quote, just a few words, by some famous classical author, Marcel Proust and Walt Whitman being two of them, that are suppose to mean something deeply profound. I could never figure out how those words of wisdom applied to the chapters that followed. Looking back to the quotes after I finished reading that section, they seemed to me almost comical. Quotes from Yogi Berra would have been just as good, maybe better. On the other hand maybe it’s me since I don’t read those classical types and therefore am ignorant as to what they were getting at. To each their own.
Anyway so if you’re into this kind of thing, sci-fi thrillers for lack of a better term, this book is for you. And as to the praises of the best selling authors about the book, they were right on target. Even though I normally don’t care for this kind of novel, I read this one, all three hundred and ninety seven pages. But I won’t read the sequel.
Olta Totoni is a professor of the English Language at the University of Tirana. She studied British and American Studies at the Faculty of Foreign Languages. She is specialized in Intercultural Language and Communication. She is a writer of short stories. Some of her short stories are “Spider Letters” , “The Raven”, “The Storm”, “Dear Centaur”, “The House of the Artist”, “Stockholm’s Syndrome” etc. She has written many articles related to political science and most of them have to do with the British and American studies. Her articles are published in Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia etc. She is an Ambassador for Peace. She is the Secretary General for HWPL Peace Committee in Albania.
AN OVERVIEW ON THE AMERICAN WRITER
CARSON McCULLERS’ NOVELS
Who am I? What is the role of my existence in the society? Why are we passengers in this life? These are some important questions which we encounter everyday and we try to find the answers. We are aware of the fact that we cannot find the solution to every question that arouses but we can understand and identify with people that are in the same situations with us.
One of the characters of the Member of the Wedding Frankie Addams would say “You are the we of me”. It doesn’t matter if we are isolated, we always think in terms of our relations with the society and others. We, like the characters of McCullers are in conflict with ourselves and the world which surrounds us. We mentioned the conflicted and the conflict exists inside us. To clarify this we can mention the fact that all what happens in McCullers work is inside the characters. They think, they imagine, they behave and all of this comes out from inside to outside in a specified direction. They have instincts and intuition.
McCullers writes about the freak people and she sometimes uses irony and grotesque in her novels. The combination she provides between the identity and being freak is really a strong combination. In fact she chose to write about these characters. They were bizarre, alienated characters that did strange actions in different situations. She chose such kind of characters just to point out the alienation that surrounded the USA at that period of time.
She said,- "All men are lonely. But sometimes it seems to me that we Americans are the loneliest of all. Our hunger for foreign places and new ways has been with us almost like a national disease. Our literature is stamped with a quality of longing and unrest, and our writers have been great wanderers”.
She improvised and she put her characters in a world of illusions and dreams where they could do what they wanted, they could be with whom they wanted. Her fiction was made of dreamers and loners. She said,- “There's nothing that makes you so aware of the improvisation of human existence as a song unfinished. Or an old address book”. We can notice that she mentions this fact and we can understand that it is so difficult to provide to comment on the human existence. It is like “a song unfinished” or “old address book”. You can write about it but never go until the end. It is unpredictable because a certain character can be unpredictable. Their actions are unpredictable. Let’s consider what Frankie did. She was only a 12 years old. Sometimes, she smoked. She got the pistol and wanted to escape. She was a grown up adult. It is a bit unbelievable that a 12 year old child would act like this. McCullers was clear in what she wanted to convey.
We mentioned above that her characters were loners. In her fiction loneliness played an important role and she mentions it throughout her novel. We are born alone and we will die alone. Her characters want to escape from this loneliness and they try different ways to escape. For example Frankie in the Member of the Wedding wanted to follow the newly-married couple. She didn’t want to be alone inside those dark walls of her house. She was disturbed by this loneliness as it was something that she herself felt. She creates adolescent female characters just to show the fact that they want to know their role in society who they are and what their identity is. She introduces us with those characters that lack energy and they have got some more years on their shoulders even though they are young.
The idea of making the freaks part of her fiction is quite important. Freaks are those excluded from the society. Carson McCullers makes use of them, she makes use of their weakest points to express what she wants and convey the message. We can mention here the fact that she choose in the novel “The heart is a lonely hunter” a mute person. He is disabled but his silence speaks more than words. These characters are Southern freaks. Those freaks are peculiar and unusual. They fail to understand and we also fail to understand. McCullers helps us by putting the lens. They help us see magnified the situation in which the characters what they do and how do they react in particular situations.
Ellen Moers and Leslie Fiedler criticized the McCullers’s fiction. Moers discussed the nature of form in McCullers's fiction, particularly the modern female gothic. She asserts that "McCullers cloaks with humorous tenderness her unsentimental perception of the freakish self as originating in female adolescence. McCullers is at her best with creatures poised on a sharp, thin line between opposites: of sex, of race, of age" (108). Moers places her within the context of the Southern American gothic, of which William Faulkner is undeniably most well-known, yet she also claims the importance of the feminine theme in McCullers' works, outlining some early feminist theory ideas.
Fiedler discussed about the dilemma of the despair in the world of the freak in fiction. He analyzed the images of alienation, isolation and fear in American novels. Fiedler locates McCullers more generally within "the homosexual-gothic novelists," whom he defines according to their "homosexual sensibility" in the figure of the adolescent. He argues that McCullers's adolescents, "like the circus freaks, the deaf and the dumb," serve as a symbol not only of innocence but also of exclusion: "They project the inverts exclusion from the family, his sense of heterosexual passion as a threat and an offence; and this awareness is easily translated into the child's bafflement before weddings or honeymoons or copulation itself. The more recent criticism goes further in considering the constant interaction of the masculine and feminine, for example, which lies at the basis of the grotesque in McCullers's texts.
McCullers wrote for modern readers who lived in a modern society and they knew how to interpret her fiction. The understanding of her work is related also to the American society which is the main inspiration for McCullers. She lived in the contemporary America and she knew the main concerns of this society. One of them was to establish the new identity as far as it was a new country compared with the other countries of the world. Even her adolescent characters wanted to find their identity in the society. They were in a continuous war with themselves.
The simplicity of McCullers’ fiction.
Why did McCullers choose only female characters? Why did she describe them in details?
Actually McCullers was a woman herself. She couldn’t choose masculine characters to express her own thought, even though her characters are a blend of masculine and female features. Characters like Frankie, Mick or Berenice are her voice in the fiction whereas the masculine characters are in the background. For example the father of Frankie appears only in the second part of the novel or John Henry he occasionally accompanies Frankie in her loneliness but he doesn’t make her confess. He cannot understand her.
The situations in Carson McCullers are like the photos. The image in the photo is standing still. Even the characters in the photo are standing still. The colors of photo are black and white. What mostly dominates is the darkness. The characters like the darkness. There are only some beautiful moments where the photos change from black and white and they have colors. Most of the times the characters have darks thought and they see the world as cracked. Another feature of the photos is that they are silent. The characters live this silence when they are isolated and alienated. They experience the concrete silence which later it turns into an abstract silence.
McCullers novels can be characterized as simple. There is a lack of complexity. They have reminiscent poetic style. Love is for her the only force that can change everything. According to her:
“First of all, love is a joint experience between two persons — but the fact that it is a joint experience does not mean that it is a similar experience to the two people involved. There are the lover and the beloved, but these two come from different countries. Often the beloved is only a stimulus for all the stored-up love which had lain quiet within the lover for a long time hitherto. And somehow every lover knows this. He feels in his soul that his love is a solitary thing. He comes to know a new, strange loneliness and it is this knowledge which makes him suffer. So there is only one thing for the lover to do. He must house his love within himself as best he can; he must create for himself a whole new inward world — a world intense and strange, complete in himself. Let it be added here that this lover about whom we speak need not necessarily be a young man saving for a wedding ring — this lover can be man, woman, child, or indeed any human creature on this earth.
Carson McCullers has a specific style. She does not convey the ideas directly but she firstly hints the facts. The themes she treats are not directly given. You have to read more about the characters, their situation in order to understand them. Sometimes, you do not need any effort to comprehend because the ideas are emphasized and they are ready- made for you. We do not have only the power of the words but also the power of music. Carson McCullers has a distinguished style of writing because she does not possess only the art of writing but also the music related terms.