A Multi-faceted Look at the Life of an Underground Artist
John H. Sibley's new literary work, Being and Homelessness: Notes from an Underground Artist...moreA Multi-faceted Look at the Life of an Underground Artist
John H. Sibley's new literary work, Being and Homelessness: Notes from an Underground Artist, is an important and welcome contribution, arriving as it does, at a time when the scene of the art world is mostly cordoned off to all but the privileged elect. From my nosebleed seat in the bloody colosseum of the arts—being an underground artist myself—I often found myself cheering along as John attacked the giants, demons and all fierce bastions of that world with eloquence and candor. "I was relegated to selling my art on the street level not because I lacked talent but because I was shunned, ostracized and treated like a pariah by both Chicago's white and black art establishments." Taken out of context, as I have done here, I realize it sounds like sour grapes, like the complaint of an artist who has likely not put in the required effort, not stayed the course, or does, in fact, lack the talent to succeed. Not so: Not only has John been practicing and honing his unique artistic crafts since he was a young boy, but he is a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. His knowledge of the academics and history of art is formidable and that is only enhanced by the practical knowledge of a man of the streets.
However, there is much more to Being and Homelessness than a diatribe against the art establishment. I particularly enjoyed Chapter 8, The Lost Culture of Maxwell Street. This chapter deals with the multicultural open-air market atmosphere, highlighted by the legendary Chicago Blues culture that manifested for a period of some forty plus years. I had previously read this chapter, when it was posted on goodreads.com, and found it fascinating. The following is taken from the comment that I wrote, regarding the post, at that time: "This is very gritty and intense. It seems to be written just like someone is talking; telling about, reveling in their experience of life—stream of consciousness. There's just so much in there, almost more than the senses can deal with. Life experienced as a perpetual street fair—exhausting and thrilling at once."
Another aspect of John's book that I appreciated was his exploration of Black history in America. Here again, Sibley pulls no punches in presenting his facts and opinions: –example of facts: "The first slaves arrived in Jamestown, Virginia in 1619 to establish 244 years of slavery. Contemporary African Americans have only been free 139 years, using 1863 as a benchmark, which means that blacks were slaves 105 years longer than we have been free." –example of opinion: "The salient fact is that black Americans are still reeling from the dehumanizing effects of the former slave trading nations of England, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal and the US."
I certainly am not a fan of John H. Sibley's every opinion. I don't personally agree with his outspoken political criticism of Barack Obama, and especially with his endorsement of Herman Cain—I at first thought it was a huge literary blunder for him to include such opinions in his book. But after ruminating on it for a while, I think I can see a reason for the inclusion. His main point seems to be that Obama, although a black man, is not an "African American". "Obama's world is not the one of American slaves like my ancestors." Sibley is exploring the experience of the American descendants of the slaves. Fact is—and I can't deny it—Obama is not one of them—Cain is. It's a pure issue of identification.
For those of you who may have read Sibley's novel, Bodyslick, this work is, in my opinion, much more palatable. It is, in fact, as has been mentioned in another review, a fast and easy read. For the most part it takes me back to my earlier reading of Chapter 8, The Lost Culture of Maxwell Street. The editing is questionable—I hope you won't let that bother you. If you have an interest, even a curiosity about the life of art, outside of the mainstream, spoon-fed versions, this book will be of interest to you. If you have an interest in the causes and experience of the homeless, this book will interest you also, though it is not its main theme, despite the title. Recommended: by a fellow underground artist. (less)
It's difficult to sufficiently express the connection I felt reading Amy Krout-Horn's autobiographical novel. As her self-portrait style char...moreRelations
It's difficult to sufficiently express the connection I felt reading Amy Krout-Horn's autobiographical novel. As her self-portrait style character of both European and Native American descent comes to identify more strongly with her Lakota ancestry, I am reminded of the phrase—the prayer—All My Relations. I am aware that those words have a particular significance in this story. Finding her way is, in fact, a gradual process, since her father's Lakota blood is not the primary heritage she learns about as a young girl. Rather, she is raised in mainstream, small-town, upper Midwest America, with the religion, history, and values that come with that territory. To that, I can most certainly relate, just like Amy, but ultimately, cannot truly identify with it.
The young girl's American dream is challenged at a young age. Her trials are deeply emotional as are the trials of all young girls. Yet the comparison with most other young girls stops there. Forced to make her own way in a world that relentlessly removes her from security, she recovers again and again from the dark nature of despair. Krout-Horn allows the reader to experience both the brutality and the poetry of life right along with her. And, I think, therein lies the depth of this early memoir. She writes with a flourish that is not flowery, with a poignancy that is not contrived. I did find the omniscience of the narrator slightly disconcerting, in the case of a memoir, yet the book is presented as a novel, so of course, it's obviously a matter of style.
Yes, I feel more deeply connected, having read My Father's Blood, even as I feel more deeply the great chasms of separateness, culture to culture—as I mourn the separation of individuals from one another, created by our all-consuming culture of consumerism. This is one of those fine books that speak to us in a profound way about our relations. To those of us who have, to whatever extent, left behind our small towns or our old neighborhoods, we often feel a need to recognize our relationship with all as brothers and sisters. Yet there is also great relevance in the preservation of a people, in the reverence for and devotion to a way of life. “Are we Indians, Grandpa?” the little girl asks. “I suppose some places we would be,” he said…
There are so many levels of interest in this little novel; we are intimately exposed to and educated about the familiy's debilitating and life-threatening illness and we become witness to the intuitive strengths that are sometimes granted to the handicapped. Another one of the very interesting aspects to me was the author's personal question: who is an Indian? I certainly appreciated the expressed vulnerability in a brief but openhearted examination of this subject. From Chapter Six, Spring of Bleeding Hearts: "My grandfather’s eyes met mine and I saw the tiniest pinpoint of light flickering in the shiny black pupils, like the gleam of a star, its brilliance diminished only by the unfathomable space and time that exists between itself and Earth."
I recommend My Fathers Blood. It is a remarkably tasteful and yet artistic work for so young a writer. I suspect she is young, only in years, as we know them. (less)
I'd never even heard of this story, but my circles don't run that wide. I stumbled across it: a love story,...moreA Great, and I Think, Little Known Classic
I'd never even heard of this story, but my circles don't run that wide. I stumbled across it: a love story, extraordinare--a love story in more ways than one. Where Asia meets Russia meets Europe. An Islamic boy and a Georgian girl. A Russian revolution and a World War. All of this lovingly and elegantly captured in classic novel format by an unknown author with the ghost name, Kurban Said.
Just click on the edition here (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/46...) and read the great synopsis by Alix Wilbur. If you'd rather just read it cold without the synopsis, then just read it. It may be even more relevant today than in the time of its inception. It is such a lovingly rendered view of fundamental Islamic culture that the non-Islamist reader is irresistably drawn in. Simultaneously sincere and lighthearted.
"Don' know much about Economy" but I still think this li'l ol' book has many of the answers.
I was turned onto this book by a young man, Krishna Bala...more"Don' know much about Economy" but I still think this li'l ol' book has many of the answers.
I was turned onto this book by a young man, Krishna Balarama, who was embarking upon the educational path of becoming a medical doctor. He expressed his motivation for that career choice something like this: he felt that the distinction, the prestige, of a being a doctor would lend credibility to his social activism. I just heard news of his entering an intern program.(less)
Those who’ve read Glenn Kleier’s spiritual fiction novel, The Knowledge of Good and Evil, seem to agree: a fast moving...moreA Thrilling Search for Knowledge
Those who’ve read Glenn Kleier’s spiritual fiction novel, The Knowledge of Good and Evil, seem to agree: a fast moving page burner―well written, thrilling, easy and entertaining to read. Me too. This is a fun book to read; well… the graphic descriptions of the various levels of hell were not fun―rather nauseating to me personally, but I’m sure the author meant them to be so.
The story was polished to an irresistible sheen. I would not be surprised in the least if The Knowledge of Good and Evil movie was to appear at a theatre near me at any time soon. The writing is perfected to the point where it’s difficult to imagine what would be left for a screenwriter to do. Kleier moves the reader into and out of the chapters so deftly that one gets the feeling that the commercial break is coming up.
That being so, I would like to discuss the novel on its merits as a literary work. Because I do think it has merit in that way also. At the same time, I can’t help but feel that the thriller aspect of the story took some precedence over that of genuine spiritual exploration. That’s alright; the spiritual exploration is still included.
A premise of the novel is that if a human being could discover the knowledge of good and evil, as put forth in the Christian Bible, and that knowledge was then made available to the citizens of the world, that it would put an end to strife in the world. Wars would cease and the highest of priorities would be prevalent among all:
“Bring wars to a standstill. End forever the age-old hatreds between races, creeds, and cultures.”
This I thought a bit naïve on the part of the protagonist, Ian, as well as for the late Father Merton, author of The Ultimate Reality, a highly prized (reality based) document telling of Merton’s death-like experience of the heavens, so zealously sought by Ian. Ian and his often reluctant fiancé, Angela, leave no stone unturned trying to gain access to this knowledge, not only through the possession of The Reality, but through a number of remarkable and extremely dangerous methods. I don’t really believe that Glenn Kleier would have held out such hope for the magical reformation of humanity due to the presence of such information. After all, Beings with experience of Life beyond these earthly lives have been coming to the people since the beginning of time and humanity has yet to respond en masse to their messages.
There are, however, some wonderfully expressive scenes as well, where the question of good and evil is brought to a poignant level of sincerity. One of my favorite themes is that of the soul’s confusion about the ambiguous nature of God’s communication with man, His behavioral requirements from man. As expressed by certain souls that Ian has come into contact with on the banks of The River Styx in Hell:
“St. Thomas himself had doubts! An apostle who Knew Christ personally. Who received the Word directly. Still, he had to touch Christ’s wounds to Believe! And here are we, two thousand years removed, nothing to go on but a book of ambiguous, secondhand Scripture?”
“Which Faith? Ten thousand religions in the world, each claiming to be right! How were we to Know?”
On the question of the punishment fitting the crime―a direct recrimination of God:
“What mind could conceive such horror?”
“Why is God so aloof”
I enjoyed the revelations that Ian had in his journey to Heaven―that one’s religious background, beliefs, disbeliefs, or the practice of any particular rites and rituals, etc. were irrelevant to the ascension of the soul. There was an obvious attempt by the author to express tolerance for and an opinion of validity toward all, provided humanitarianism was at the core. I did however find the author at odds with himself in that regard, though, when it came to the level at which Christ was perceived, in comparison to the other enlightened Beings Who have manifested upon the earth:
And only two paragraphs later:
“… all across the world, Christian is fighting Muslim, is fighting Jew, Hindu against Buddhist, on and on. All killing in Your Name. All gone terribly wrong.”
It may seem a small point, but I bring it up because there are millions of people in the world who are not convinced that Christ was the only one of such status.
Overall, I do think it’s a very worthwhile read. “A trip” precisely, as the couple race around the globe in their effort to escape the deadly, misguided religious enemies in hot pursuit, and yet a legitimate, if somewhat impertinent, query into the objectives of the Creator. (less)
N. Scott Momaday is one of my favorite authors, but I've always had trouble connecting with these types of Native American legends. Although I do, lik...moreN. Scott Momaday is one of my favorite authors, but I've always had trouble connecting with these types of Native American legends. Although I do, like so many others, have a bit of Indian wannabe in me, I also have a lot of Indian can'tabe. For what it's worth, I still liked the stories herein very much and I would read anything by this wonderful, almost mystical writer.(less)
A wonderful set of short fiction stories from within the author's experiences--both earthly and transcendental--following the Holy Path as laid out fo...moreA wonderful set of short fiction stories from within the author's experiences--both earthly and transcendental--following the Holy Path as laid out for her by her Spiritual Master, Kirpal Singh. Inspirational to me in the 1970's when I read it.(less)