Jan Notzon's Blog

October 16, 2020

A Review

A review of Song for the Forsaken, by Jan Notzon.
This is the story of Mandy MacDaniel and her journey toward redemption. I am drawn to stories of redemption, actually toward the possibility of redemption because I believe this grace is out-of-reach for so many of us. However, this is one area in which the idea of being wrong is welcome. To say that I was blown away is doing a disservice to both the author and Mandy. Also, this is not a descriptive term I would use. I will say I was awed and deeply touched. What common ground could I have with a girl from the
Appalachian backwoods? The truth is that I saw myself in Mandy and that is what great writing should do—find connections. It should never talk down to it’s audience. This novel did not. The chapters are short and fast-paced taking the reader through Mandy’s family history, her complicated relationships with family, heartbreaking decisions, and an all too-brief glimpse into her life. I love words and how people choose to put them together to evoke responses. The writing is lyrical, poetic, almost a dirge. I can see how the love of the poetry of the Romantics influenced and affected the life of Mandy’s father, Owen. It is the style of the dreamers, of those who prefer the sublime over the mundane. To lose sight of these dreams crushes the soul and darkens the spirit. Do Mandy and her family find redemption? I really cannot say, but the path is definitely there.

Full Disclosure: Jan Notzon is a friend and fellow Laredoan. I did not receive this novel as a gift. I purchased it myself because I am interested in his work. He is a gifted storyteller and absolutely has something to say.
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Published on October 16, 2020 13:05

October 15, 2020

New Novel

My fifth novel will soon be out ("Suffer Not The Mole People") and I am trying to get started on a sixth.

Interestingly, I find that the fifth (and the sixth, if I can write it), started differently from the first four.

Those first four started with a personal feeling and the story was built around it. In addition, I was writing what I know (i.e. life in Texas and New York--two of the places I've lived).

The most recent one, as will be the case for the one to come if I'm able, started with an idea for a story (my paternal family's immigration from Poland about which I knew almost nothing) and I had to personalize it from there. I wonder if I'll ever write an impersonal novel. Perhaps the next one.

It is much harder to write about something you don't know. At least, it is for me. Ah well, challenges are what make life interesting.
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Published on October 15, 2020 12:50

September 27, 2020

Getting Old

Well, I can no longer brag that I'm almost 70 and still have all of my original body parts. Had to have two teeth pulled.

Getting old SUCKS!
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Published on September 27, 2020 12:25

September 13, 2020


Though I'm experiencing a little discomfort from an infected tooth and a moderate case of poison Ivy, I must give thanks for my health at my age.

So many of my contemporaries (69-70) are experiencing much more direful health issues that I actually feel quite fortunate.

My fifth novel is now being formatted for publication. My only real complaint is that I'm again writing something I know nothing about.

I'm reading Ferhenbach's Lone Star, about the history of Texas in the hopes of being inspired. He's a wonderful writer and I'm enjoying it a great deal.

I'm going to have to go back to my home state, however, and explore the parts in which the story takes place.

I guess it's asking too much to go back to the 19th century and see what it was like then.
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Published on September 13, 2020 13:06

August 20, 2020


I've finally finished my fifth novel, "Suffer Not The Mole People". It is my longest if not my best.

It involves a subject that I had almost no experience with: immigration from Poland. I only had the barest skeleton of the story of my ancestors who made the voyage. Consequently, it involved a TON of research. (Whew!)

It is now with the editor (and has been for a while; I'm getting a little anxious, but then, it's a long one.) I didn't set out to write such an extended story but it just turned out that way.

It explores the importance of family, what it takes to take on such a perilous enterprise, and it allows for some ruminations on what truly fills us as human beings.

I do hope my readers will enjoy it.
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Published on August 20, 2020 13:16

August 6, 2020

Wise Words

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

--Martin Niemöller
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Published on August 06, 2020 13:49

July 18, 2020


I'm greatly concerned at the intolerance I witness from every direction nowadays.

Could I make an appeal to all my fellow humans across the globe (and particularly my fellow Americans):

Might it be possible for each of us to not see anyone with whom we disagree as an enemy? Of being worthy of dismissal as stupid and even of our hate as evil?

I find this certainty that "we're in the right" to be a quite dangerous trend. People are losing their jobs not just for disagreeing, but simply for adding a caveat or codicil to the present dogma. It is happening across the country. And, I imagine, in others.

This is how totalitarianism starts, by projecting evil onto anyone with whom we disagree. Because as evil or idiotic they merit suppression, exclusion, censorship.

In the words of Rodney King, "Can't we all get along?"
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Published on July 18, 2020 11:58

June 20, 2020

History Repeats Itself

When I was in college many of my fellow students called policemen "pigs", hated them, and we all believed that all we had to do was get rid of them, and all authority, and we'd all live in peace and harmony. In the words of Joni Mitchell we'd get "back to the garden" (of Eden).

Consequently, we had the huge crime wave of the '70s and '80s.

In the words of The Who, "I get on our knees and pray/We don't get fooled again".
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Published on June 20, 2020 13:01

May 7, 2020

A Challenge

I'm finding the novel I'm now writing now particularly challenging. I've had to research farming methods in the 19th century, trigonometry, the history of Poland, political philosophy and now all about sailing three-masted square-riggers from Bremen, Germany to Indianola, Texas (I may cheat a little and make it Galveston).

To all who read this, do you know anyone with knowledge of square-rigged sailing vessels? They are obviously more awkward to maneuver than steam ships and I'm wondering if to get to the Atlantic they would brave the Strait of Dover or head north around the British Isles. I would think it likely that it might have to sail into a westerly wind.

I have no idea how narrow the Strait is and I haven't found the answer (to the question of which path a square-rigger would take) on the internet. So, if you happen to know the answer or know someone who might, could you contact me?


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Published on May 07, 2020 14:30

May 1, 2020


Hello to everyone! I recently did a podcast interview. If you have the time (Is that a serious question? as Nancy Pelosi might ask), please give it a listen. I think you'll enjoy it.


All the Best,

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Published on May 01, 2020 14:43