Month: July 2016

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

  Anne Tyler’s opening line: “Kate Battista was gardening out back when she heard the telephone ring in the kitchen.” My opening line: The third book in the Hogarth Shakespeare series is hilarious! Last December when I took on the project to review each retelling for Litbreak, I was innocent but hopeful. I hoped I was old enough now to appreciate the Bard and tripped gaily into the series like a fairy from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I read a pastoral comedy with darker undertones, Winter’s Tale, a story of what jealousy can do to a marriage. The Gap of Time, a retelling by Jeannette Winterson ( sounds like a Shakespeare gag right there) rather stressed the darker undertones but was entertaining nonetheless. This March I read the controversial tragedy The Merchant of Venice, followed by Howard Jacobson’s retelling, Shylock is My Name, in which he took up for Shylock and gave Portia a minor position. Now it is truly midsummer and I almost gave up the project as with pounding head and drooping eyelids, I read The Taming of the Shrew. If good old Will knew he would live on through his plays for centuries, it would seem he also knew that controversy makes for good box office receipts. Should a shrew be tamed? How is that best accomplished? Is a wife to be under the thumb of...

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Bird Brain

  Birds were nesting inside the two ‘O’s of COOPER’S HARDWARE. I could see the mother bird fly in and out, she fluttered from one ‘O’ to the other—sticks and feathers and leaves occasionally spilling out with her back-and-forth movements. I couldn’t see details from the ground, but I envisioned her spitting worms and slugs—and whatever else birds eat—into the squeaking, pink beaks of her young. I thought about how these birds were sitting in their nest, thinking this is it, this is as good as it gets, and then one day—sooner than later—they get shoved out of the...

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Inclusivity

    This evening felt like childhood and church and Bacchanalia. I do not try to resolve the contradictions of men with fan fetishes and offers of red wine like holy communion, with the phallic kielbasa that reminds me of my grandparents and eating langos, Hungarian fried dough, in their Scarborough home, and phrases in a language I’ve mostly forgotten, and the resonance of chanted languages I never knew but know the sounds of after years of borscht in the basement of an Eastern Orthodox church.       Sarah Varnam is the founder of The Quilliad Press, (and...

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Mexican Standoff

  To celebrate a windfall, Greb invites you to meet him at the Caffe Boho, where he informs you of his intent to blow the money on a month in Mexico. —Come along if you want. My treat. You look up from the legs of the girl at the next table. —When would we leave? His forearms, bare and brawny, are crossed on his chest. His eyes, grave and unblinking, are fixed on yours. —Tomorrow morning—but there’s one thing you should know before we hit the road. —Oh? —What if I told you I’m in love with you? So...

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Thoughts on the California Drought

    sitting here feeling like a used car one part after the other failing me the aroma of fresh brewing coffee wakes my brain cells the drought laughs at the masses teases them with a light drizzle picture of an old lover stares at me from its place on the mantle her smile warm as the campfire I sat around as a child my room a dust garden my hamstring pull refuses to address the promised golden years drown in quicksand Israel and Palestine engaged in endless war Putin playing death games in Moscow proof the cave man...

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