From Here to Eternity the Musical

From Here to Eternity, the musical will be coming soon to London. Sir Tim Rice (lyrics), Stuart Brayson (score), Bill Oakes (book), Tamara Harvey (director), yours truly and others, discussing the novel, the musical, and all things in between in this interview.

 

Click here to see the interview.

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ARCS for the Flagship Publication of Kaylie Jones Books are Here!

 

A very exciting time for us as Laurie Loewenstein’s novel UNMENTIONABLES, the first of our imprint series, goes into print.

!!Unmentionables_GalleyCover_Active-2

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It’s a New Dawn

Yesterday I drove to Sag Harbor. As I turned onto the sun-drenched blue stretch of Long Beach, I could see a corner of my friend Janine Veto’s old street and I started thinking about the days when I used to drive out to teach at Southampton College with Baby Eyrna in back, in her tiny car seat. We’d stay with Janine because my mother was so drunk I couldn’t safely leave Eyrna with her.

So I was driving and thinking about the past — how Janine has moved away, and my mom is gone and her house is gone, and my godmother Cecile sold her house this year too. Both my parents, and also Buddy, Cecile’s husband, are buried in the Poxabogue Evergreen Cemetery on the corner of Sagg Main and Montauk Highway and I haven’t been to see them in six years. Nina Simone started singing “Feeling Good” in that sorrowful, joyful, deep voice.
“Birds flying high you know how I feel
Sun in the sky you know how I feel
Breeze driftin’ on by you know how I feel”It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life
For me
And I’m feeling good”Fish in the sea you know how I feel
River running free you know how I feel
Blossom on the tree you know how I feel”Dragonfly out in the sun you know what I mean, don’t you know
Butterflies all havin’ fun you know what I mean
Sleep in peace when day is done
That’s what I mean”And this old world is a new world
And a bold world
For me”Stars when you shine you know how I feel
Scent of the pine you know how I feel
Oh freedom is mine
And I know how I feel”

It was as if I’d heard a message from the Master Creator himself. When there is nothing left to do but go on, you go on. And every day, it is possible to change one’s attitude and approach to loss. Freedom is mine. Though, I haven’t quite learned how to sleep in peace when day is done.

Thank you, Nina Simone.

 

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Uncensored GAME OF THRONES Battle Royale

After having a great intellectual and stimulating time at the Akashic party for LONG ISLAND NOIR at Mysterious Book Shop, Kevin and I came home and watched the Season 2 finale of GAME OF THRONES on HBO.

Here is my private, uncensored conversation on Facebook:

Kaylie Jones: Why I do not like GAME OF THRONES: The characters have no will of their own. You can feel them manipulated by the writer, who seems to have little understanding of human nature. Characters do things they absolutely would never do, given their histories, backgrounds, and what they stand for. I find this extremely annoying.

Matthew Koch: I’m going to assume you’re reading the books and not just watching the HBO series, which is clearly only focused on one thing (boobs). I don’t necessarily disagree with some of the points you’re making, but I also think this series has been a game changer for fantasy. So I’m curious – which characters do you think are doing things out of character?

Kelly Munley: Interesting. Example?

Michael Joseph Muller: I haven’t read GAME OF THRONES, but in general it is extremely annoying that crappy, superficial books and even porn become bestsellers while my sterling prose, penetrating insight, and artful storytelling languish.

Annie Paul: hmmm maybe that’s why i haven’t managed to get into it either, in my case i couldn’t stand the blood and gore…

Amanda Green: I’m with you! And I do wish they’d show more boobs.

game-of-thrones-nudity-emilia-clark-nudePatricia Hope: Kaylie, I agree. I tried to watch it once, and found the characters and characterizations to be two-dimensional – ten pounds of makeup in a five-pound bag. The story line was overgrown, like fingernails doubled back on themselves.

Matthew Koch: See, this is always going to be the problem with trying to fit an epic fantasy into 10 episodes of TV. There are so many characters (and they’re leaving out more) that they have to strip down their complexity so they’re more palatable to a television audience. And, while I admit I haven’t seen much of Season 2, I’m not sure they could have fit more boobs into Season 1, something which did not escape the folks at Saturday Night Live:

Game of Thrones Skit on Saturday Night Live
(Why is there so much nudity on Game of Thrones? It’s all due to a 13-year old on set, explains Saturday Night Live in this amazing skit.)

Michael Joseph Muller: Extensive and in depth marketing research has unequivocally demonstrated that audiences and people prefer crap.

Kaylie Jones to ‎Matthew Koch: I read the entire series (almost). I kept waiting to ‘get it’ – so many fantasists I adore love the series. I was so pissed off by the end I threw the book against the wall. (Sorry, Krista Caponigro).

Jz Holden: I just wonder about their use of the word c***. Can’t wait for the return of HOMELAND.

Kaylie Jones: Most of them are extremely foolish. The Stark mother, for example, spend half her life telling her son the new King to put his kingdom first, to sacrifice for the people, then she lets that asshole The KingSlayer go? Give me a break. And Stark, the father, he knows Circe is a backstabbing bitch, yet he goes and tells her that he knows her kids are her brother’s children. What is he, plain stupid? Seems like the man couldn’t run a kindergarten class, forget about an entire section of the kingdom. And forget about the ward that grew up there, in the castle. Maybe if he was retarded I’d believe he got talked into invading Winterfell. I’m sorry, these people are not just stupid, they’re foolish.

Matthew Koch: For me, the series lost some of its thunder after book three. I will say that my mother (an avid reader) picked up the series after seeing the HBO show and constantly complains to me about it. I think the fascination with these books is that they really set a different tone for epic fantasy. Other best-selling series (Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time comes to mind or before him Terry Brooks) owe so much to Tolkien that at best they’re clever clones or retellings of the story he told. Game of Thrones (Song of Ice and Fire) was a series based more in European-style history, combat, and politics that felt like something completely new when it emerged in the 90s.

Kaylie Jones: I absolutely love Patrick Rothfus’ series THE KINGKILLER CHRONICLE. THE WISE MAN’S FEAR (Book II) is phenomenal. Just love those and can’t wait for the third.

Jz Holden: At the bookstore last night Kevin (Heisler), Matt (McGevna) and I were discussing the charm of Downton Abbey, when I interjected it was simply the WASP version of Fiddler on the Roof. Can’t go wrong with that.

Matthew Koch: I think you need to look more at the primary motivations of these characters. For Caitlyn (sp), her primary motivation is her children. She talks a good game about the kingdom, but the second she sees a chance to barter the Kingslayer for Sansa, she does it. She really only wants her kids to be safe. Ned Stark’s motivation is honor above all else. This is what kills him. He thinks the honorable thing to do is tell Cersei her crimes and give her a chance to flee with her children. Cersei (and most of the other characters) don’t play by Ned’s rules, and it costs him his head. I think you’re talking about Theon Greyjoy (the ward of the Starks) for the third example. He’s one of the most tragic characters in my mind. All he wants is to make his family proud (especially his father), but he doesn’t realize this is never going to happen. Then he goes and betrays the only people that have ever truly loved him. Now, I’m not saying some of these motivations are overly-dramatized, but this is fantasy, and Martin’s characters feel far more “real” than a lot of what you get out of fantasy these days.

Robert Ward: My problem with fantasy has always been the whole voice of the genre. Books always start with lines like”Pleethgor picked up his magical ice axe, Zumby, and walked with his wolf, Craysnerd, into the million acre woods.” End of story.

Michael Pokocky: This is an example of what I call “our flatlined culture”. What sells is what appeals. Obviously the mass market. This spills over to the crap I see in eBooks evangilists. Crap is the new normal. I read today over 200,000+ new books published by indie authors looking for fame and wealth. I’m going now to walk to the lake with Hemingway’s short story collection I picked up in someone’s garbage box. It was right at the top so it was clean and the spine was not cracked. Lucky me.

Matthew Koch: Let’s not turn this into an “all fantasy is garbage” argument. I don’t think that’s where Kaylie was going with it. No one is claiming Game of Thrones is War and Peace. Just don’t throw it down into the dumpster with 50 Shades of Grey…

Robert Ward: My son, a brilliant kid, LOVES Game of Thrones and, in fact, I gave it to him because I loved another George RR Martin book The Apocalypse Rag, which is one of the best thrillers I’ve ever read…Also he was a pal of mine for a while when he worked ion The Twilight Zone and i worked on Hill Street Blues just down the hall. I used to see him and Harlan Ellison sitting out on a balcony working away on their stories. Two of my favorite guys. George and I had lunch a few times and I tried to get ‘Rag’ made into a movie. Still think it would make a great one. I strongly suggest anyone get Apocalypse Rag, a novel you cannot put down. I’m just unable to get into fantasy… those names, those owls!

Kaylie Jones to ‎Matthew Koch: Don’t think I haven’t had this discussion before! Everything you say about the characters is logical, but they are still stupid and vapid. I don’t buy it for a second. Bullshit on his sense of justice and honor. You’d think the man hadn’t been ruling the North for seven minutes, he’s so stupid. And the mother, give me a break. And the tragedy of Theon? I would have shot him after thirty second of listening to his whining.

Robert Ward: Kaylie, cut it out, yr. killing me. Beating up these poor fantasy characters!

Kelly Munley: I have to agree on those points! Thank you.

Michael Joseph Muller: I think the underlying issue with fantasy is one of the continuum of emotional maturity. At the low end fantasy is just a primitive expression of childish fantasies about being powerful, loved, and able to act out one’s anger and lust. At the high end it is an allegory expressing more profound truths.

Kelly Munley: What is your take on Aria, Tyrian and that little SOB Jeoffrey?

Matthew Koch: Theon is completely whiny. I’ll also agree that the mother is one of the more disliked characters in the books, especially from female readers (in the discussions I’ve had). Letting Jaime go was probably the single stupidest thing she could have done. I like Ned Stark, though. He represents the naivete of “honor” in the chivalric sense of honor that so many boys grow up with from reading fantasy. By killing Ned, Martin sets the tone for the whole series. One could even argue it made the series so famous. It was shocking. We’re used to someone who does the right thing making it out OK in fantasy, and here’s this guy who represents the ideals of everything it means to be an “honorable” man (yes, in the mind of a 16-year old boy) and he’s just brutally killed off. We know this type of honor can’t exist in the “real” world, but that’s what fantasy is supposed to be – NOT the real world. (You should also know that I once had my first love rip up a copy of The Song of Roland and throw it in my face as she left me, uttering the words “you know this honor stuff is just bullshit and no one cares about it.” And people wonder why one of my favorite poems is Miniver Cheevy…)

Kelly Munley: She is stupid. From a mother’s perspective, I must admit that there is a possibility that I would have done the same thing. I would not want to ever have to make the decision to have to betray one of my children in order to try to save two. Ick.

Michael Pokocky: Let’s turn to something that describes every experience of my 10 year experience on the internet; where this particular post by Kaylie Jones demonstrates that everything is moving toward a dumb herd — I’m referring to my previous comment above: Andrew Keen: ‘Social media is killing our species

Eva Hunter: This should never happen in fiction. We writers have a term for it: “throwing the reader out of the dream.”

 

 

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Mothers on the Writing Life

ARE YOU MY MOTHER?
Mothers on the Writing Life
Thursday, May 10
7:00 – 9:00pm

THE STRAND BOOKSTORE
828 Broadway, New York City

Join us for an evening of readings, discussion, book signings
… and a champagne toast for Mothers Day!

The Strand Bookstore has partnered with six talented authors for an honest look and discussion on motherhood, creativity and the writing process. Each author will read a short piece about the intersection between motherhood and writing, followed by a Q&A and open discussion.

A $10 gift card to The Strand or a book by one of the authors must be purchased for entry to this event.

FEATURING:
Sheri HolmanSHERI HOLMAN – Sheri Holman has written four award-winning and bestselling novels published by Grove/Atlantic, including The Dress Lodger, a New York Times Notable Book and longlisted for the Dublin IMPAC Award; The Mammoth Cheese, named a Publisher’s Weekly and San Francisco Chronicle Book of the Year and shortlisted for the UK’s Orange Prize, and most recently, Witches on the Road Tonight, a NYTBR Editor’s Choice, winner of the Independent Publisher’s Gold Medal for Literary Fiction, and named a Book of the Year by The Boston Globe, The Toronto Globe and Mail, and PopMatters. Sheri is a founding member of The Moth.

author-novelist-editor-memoirist Kaylie JonesKAYLIE JONES – Kaylie Jones is the author of five novels, including A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries, which was made into a Merchant-Ivory film, and the memoir Lies My Mother Never Told Me. She teaches in the MFA program at SUNY Stony Brook – Southampton, and in the Wilkes University low-residency MFA program in professional writing.

Rebecca Land SoodakREBECCA LAND SOODAK – Rebecca Land Soodak has contributed to Salon, Big Apple Parent, About Our Kids, and The Huffington Post. A former psychotherapist, Land Soodak is also a painter. She lives with her husband and four children in Manhattan and Litchfield, CT. Henny on the Couch (Grand Central Publishing, March 2012) is Rebecca’s debut novel.


author Jillian LaurenJILLIAN LAUREN – Jillian Lauren is the author of the memoir Some Girls: My Life in a Harem and the novel Pretty. Her writing has appeared in The Paris Review Daily, The New York Times, Los Angeles Magazine and Vanity Fair among others. She has performed at spoken word and storytelling events across the country and is co-host with comedian Melinda Hill of the new hit podcast Eat My Podcast.


author Martha-SouthgateMARTHA SOUTHGATE – Martha Southgate is the author of four novels. Her newest, The Taste of Salt, was published by Algonquin Books in September.


author-Rachel-ZuckerRACHEL ZUCKER – Rachel Zucker is the author of three books of poetry including Museum of Accidents which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. She co-edited Women Poets on Mentorship, an anthology of essays by younger women poets and co-wrote (with Arielle Greenberg) Home/Birth: a poemic, a non-fiction book about birth, friendship and feminism. She lives in New York City with her husband and three sons. She teaches poetry at NYU and is a certified labor doula.

PRESS CONTACT: Jillian Sanders
212-364-1523
jillian.sanders@hbgusa.com

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POE ON POETRY By Eyrna Heisler

[I am thrilled with Eyrna's 9th grade English teacher at Stuyvesant. He allows her to think outside the box and use her creative abilities in her papers. It is so hard for students to appreciate classic literature, with all the other media available to them, and the speed at which entertainment is offered these days. Eyrna and I talk over her assignments. This gives her a chance to think through her feelings about the novels, short stories, and poems, to express her thoughts freely without feeling that there is a right or wrong answer. I am extremely grateful that her English teacher never implies that there is a right, or wrong interpretation.

Here is Eyrna's final paper for the unit on Poetry:]

To: Board of Directors
GLAD: Grumbling, Lonely, and Depressed Quarterly
(The Magazine for Complainers Who No Longer Have Friends)
From: E. Allan Poe
Re: National Award for Loneliest Poem of the Year

I apologize for having taken so long to reach a decision concerning the First, Second, and Third Prizes for GLAD’S yearly poetry awards for the Loneliest Poem of the Year. Unfortunately, I was locked up in a mental hospital after having completed a short story about a cat getting its eye poked out and its face mutilated by a lunatic. The three finalists are “Sky Diving,” by Nikki Giovanni; “The Guitar,” by Federico Garcia Lorca; and “Desert Places,” by Robert Frost.

Overall, I was disappointed in the lack of sadness in the poems submitted this year. Many of them were so optimistic they were practically glowing with self-confidence. I was up to my ears in morality and happy endings. It basically could have been a fairy tale competition, for all the lack of misery I was forced to endure. However, given the slim pickings, the prizes should be awarded in the following order:

Third Place for Loneliest Poem of the Year is awarded to Nikki Giovanni’s “Sky Diving.” Ms. Giovanni writes elegantly about the lonely journey towards her own death. In a stunning visual image, she states, “I hang on the edge/of this universe” (verses 1, 2). The poem’s formatting is very interesting in that she uses white spaces to depict absences and the coldness of empty space. She also describes in exquisite detail the pain of the experience: “I will spiral/through that Black hole/losing skin [space] limbs/internal organs/searing/my naked soul” (verses 14-18). However, the poet seems much too enthusiastic over her independence and her separation from earthly concerns: “singing off key/talking too loud/embracing myself” (verses 3-5). She also states, about her own death, that “It is not tragic” (verse 12), which undermines the very essence of this competition. Lonely as her journey may be, Nikki Giovanni is much too content in her own skin to win First Place for Loneliest Poem of the Year.

Second Place is awarded to Federico Garcia Lorca’s “The Guitar.” Unfortunately, the poem was sent to me in Spanish, in which I am hardly fluent, and I had to ask my Hispanic orderly in the mental institution to translate it for me. The poem is unquestionably lonely and full of despair, which fits our criteria; however, I could hardly make heads or tails of Lorca’s metaphors. “The glasses of dawn/are broken” (verses 3, 4) is open to many interpretations. Does the poet mean a man has dropped his reading glasses and now can no longer see the dawn? Or, perhaps, the partiers are done for the night and are reluctant to go home? Nevertheless, the visual and auditory imagery of shattering of glass definitely evoke a feeling of sadness and loneliness in the reader. Lorca equates the guitar’s weeping to “the first bird/dead upon the branch” (verses 23, 24). While I cannot say that I fully comprehend his simile, it is indeed a horribly depressing and lonely image, which relieved me, because depressing and lonely imagery was in short supply in many of the poems. My orderly read me the poem in the original Spanish, and I must say the word repetitions and the use of assonance in the “o” and “a” sounds, along with the alliteration of “l” and “ll,” were as melodious as a song.

Robert Frost wins First Prize for his poem “Desert Places.” At first I misread the title and thought the speaker in the poem was writing about places to get the best desserts, which had me terribly concerned. If Robert Frost recovered from his depression, where would his poetry go next? No concerns there, the poem is fabulously depressing and lonely. His careful repetition of the words “lonely” and “loneliness” (verses 8, 9, 10) emphasizes his terrible fear of being alone and filled with despair. The very first line of the poem, a visual image, indicates urgency and worry: “Snow falling and night falling fast, oh, fast” (verse 1), with the repetitions of the words falling and fast. The poet states that his loneliness “Will be more lonely ere it will be less” (verse 10), which captures the very theme of this competition. While Nikki Giovanni describes her own lonely flight through space without regret, Robert Frost describes his terror of an endless universe that holds no people.

As an expert on the subject of despair and loneliness, I can assuredly state that his closing verses, “I have it in me so much nearer home/To scare myself with my own desert places” (verses 15, 16) come closest to depicting the onset of misery and gloom, and the impending doom of depression.

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WHY IS IT EASIER TO CONFORM THAN TO STAND ALONE? by Eyrna Heisler

"Twelve Angry Men"

Just because a group of people decides something is right does not mean it is. Entire societies have blindly conformed to murderous governments, like Hitler’s or Stalin’s, out of fear for their own lives or out of blind obedience. Some genuinely believed their actions were just, while others did not feel obligated to stick up for what they felt was right. Even in this country some people still believe slavery was justified; in fact, the government of Texas recently ruled to change their school textbooks to not include the word ‘slavery’.

Reginald Rose’s play Twelve Angry Men is an allegory of 1950’s America, before the escalation of the Civil Rights Movement, at the height of the McCarthy Era, when Americans were convinced the Soviet Union was going to take over the world. The entire country was in a panic over the Cold War, and anyone sympathetic to communism was considered an enemy of the state. People turned in their friends, colleagues, and even relatives to avoid losing their jobs or going to prison.

In the play, the jurors consist of twelve white males who are judging whether or not a 16-year-old boy from a minority group killed his father in cold blood. When the jurors first take a vote, eleven of the twelve jurors vote that he is guilty, because society has already thrown the boy in the garbage. It is unimportant to the jurors whether the boy lives or dies. Only Juror Number Eight is willing to stand up against the others. He does not want to condemn a boy to death without conferring about the case first, for he would be unable to live with it on his conscience if the boy was in fact innocent. He says:

“Look, this boy’s been kicked around all his life. You know – living in a slum, his mother dead since he was nine. He spent a year and a half in an orphanage while his father served a jail term for forgery. That’s not a very good head start. He’s had a pretty terrible sixteen years. I think maybe we owe him a few words. That’s all.” (Page 89)

By refusing to go along with the guilty verdict, Juror Number Eight subjects himself to the other jurors’ anger and verbal attacks. This setting is a small, controlled environment, but is an example of what happens every day when someone refuses to conform to society’s views. The other Jurors take Juror Number Eight’s lack of conformity personally, and get bent out of shape because many of them lack substantial evidence to prove their opinions, while eliminating all reasonable doubt. Juror Number Eight, on the other hand, stays calm and levelheaded, presenting the facts of the case with an unbiased perspective. He is able to point out many flaws in the Prosecution’s case, and inconsistencies in the various witnesses’ testimonies.

Slowly but surely, by appealing to the jurors’ own humanity, he manages to convince them one by one that there is a reasonable doubt the boy is innocent. Juror Number Three in particular is loath to admit there is a reasonable doubt the boy is not guilty. But even he eventually succumbs to conformity, because he is standing alone and all the other Jurors wish to acquit the boy. In the end, the jury exonerates the boy, showing that human beings can be persuaded to do the right thing.

Throughout history many leaders have abused their powers and led entire societies into horrible wars, or acts of genocide, but no one dared to speak up. The very few who did were punished severely, because they were contradicting popular belief. However, as Henry David Thoreau said in his magnificent essay, On Civil Disobedience, “Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.”

Most people will put their own needs first, concerned with their own and their immediate family’s survival. Though sometimes, when people thought the best road to take was to keep silent and just accept what was happening, it really was not the best option after all. One Holocaust survivor, Pastor Martin Niemöller, wrote in 1946:

First they came for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

Just as recently as the beginning of the Iraq War, the government stated that anyone opposed to the invasion of Iraq was “unpatriotic,” which scared many people into silence, despite the fact that they questioned the government’s reasoning on the necessity of the invasion.

Twelve Angry Men is an allegorical play with a happy ending. Juror Number Eight wins, and justice is served. Americans can once again feel good about themselves and their system of justice. This is one occasion when we learn that taking a stand is the right thing to do, and can effect change.

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Eyrna’s English Essay on Orwell’s “1984″

Letter from Joseph Stalin to George Orwell

September 1949

Dear Comrade Orwell,

First, I would like to congratulate you on the impressive success of your novel, 1984. I obtained a copy of the book from one of my secret agents, who informed me that it is supremely popular in Europe right now. The young man managed to translate it into Russian for me, before I, unfortunately, had to have him executed. You see, the ideas in this book were too strong and corruptive to have them floating about in his young head. It will be necessary to eliminate anyone who currently resides in the Soviet Union who has been exposed to the book. I cannot risk a bold competitor using the ideas in this novel to overthrow me.
I must say, I love your invention, “Newspeak.” I have tried something like that in Soviet Russia but Russian is a much more beautiful and complex language than English. The three slogans you chose for the Party that decorate the face of the Ministry of Truth, however, I thought were wonderful and I am planning on stealing them and placing them all over the Soviet Union. “War is Peace” (page 4) will go far in helping my propaganda ministers in convincing the people that peace can only be achieved through the ruthless crushing of our enemies, and the deliberate and quiet infiltration of the West; and through hardship the proletarians suffer as our country works tirelessly to become a great industrial nation.
“Freedom Is Slavery” also pleased me greatly, for most of humanity is too stupid to rule itself. Only in blind allegiance to me, their Fearless Leader, can people be “free” to be entirely stupid. Which goes hand in hand with the concept of “Ignorance is Strength!”
I had Trotsky, that traitorous scum, erased from all photographs (as well as anyone else who offended my sensibilities), but it never occurred to me to show anti-Trotsky films. The way you described the People’s Enemy, Goldstein, was simply brilliant (Page 13). A few moments of good, solid Hating! That is what the people need. I have tried something like that in my show trials (it was much easier than you would assume, getting those idiots to confess to crimes they could not possibly have committed!); but I never considered using an actor to impersonate Trotsky committing violent crimes against society. “The dull rhythmic tramp of the soldiers’ boots formed the background to Goldstein’s bleating voice.” (page 13) Absolutely brilliant!
It had also never occurred to me to use video to terrify people, besides the obvious propaganda films, so that it becomes impossible for them to start a rebellion against me. I always went the way of phone-taps because it is untraceable, and much harder to start an uprising if people cannot speak to each other without the fear that their conversation is being heard and recorded. A closed circuit TV that has the ability to film the area in front of it while showing pro-Stalinist commercials and videos would be revolutionary. I must credit you with the idea, because without your “telescreens” it would have been hard to imagine. Although I must say, I would not allow anyone to turn them off, even if they were members of the “inner party” of the Soviet Union. I feel that is a flaw in your plotline. No sensible ruler of a country would risk having the people closest to him starting revolutions or attempting to take over his government, so allowing them the tiniest bit of freedom would be a cause for suspicion. If the person were truly a member of the inner party, what could he possibly have to hide? They should have no reason to turn off the telescreens, and if they did I would immediately have them sent away (in my case to Siberia to die in the work camps).
I do imagine devices resembling your telescreens would be more effective than wire-tapping. I plan on recruiting the best minds, like Albert Einstein, to come work for me in the near future. That will make manufacturing these telescreens much easier.
Unfortunately I have also yet to perfect the NKVD’s ability to infiltrate people’s minds and penetrate their deepest thoughts and secrets. My ultimate goal is to have a brainwashing center, similar to that of the Ministry of Love and Room 101. The cage containing the rats — Winston’s worst fear (Page 285) is something I will have to adapt to my peoples’ needs, because, come to think of it, Russians have grown so used to rats that they barely fear them at all. Nevertheless, when I have control and insight in to their minds, I will be able to present them with their greatest fear, until they break like twigs. I have tried psychics as a means of reading people’s minds, though this did not turn out to be effective. Psychics, I’m sorry to say, have no credibility as weapons of mass destruction either, though we were hoping to make strides in that area. They are much more effective as charlatans, or as workers in my Siberian camps. There were a few that seemed to have some sort of talent, but some of the things they said were too exact, so I sent them to Siberia too. I couldn’t have them reading my thoughts now, could I?
Lastly, I have an offer to make you. I’m sure you would be honored to come to work for me, as anyone would, and I have decided to offer you a job. If you come to the Soviet Union you could help me enforce and improve on the ideas that came to me because of your novel. I would make you Supreme Vice-President of Foreign and Internal Affairs, pertaining to your uncanny ability to understand the need to control the Soviet people and restrict their freedom. If you would kindly meet me in front of the Lubyanka building (it is a large yellow building, very hard to miss, on Dzerzhinksy Square) we could discuss your future in Russia. I have appointed various NKVD agents to post themselves around your home, in order to properly escort you to Russia. They will bring you to the Lubyanka, so there is no need to fret about directions.

Respectfully Yours,

Josef Stalin

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If You See Something, Say Something, a short story by Eyrna Heisler

I hate the way people look at me like I’m some sort of eye-candy, existing simply for their own pleasure. The worst was when I spent a summer in Mexico. Spain was almost as bad. Even in New York, they have no issue with whistling or making comments. I hate it. I don’t even understand why I get looks. I don’t find myself remotely attractive.

I kept this in mind as I swiped my student MetroCard as fast as possible to get through the subway turnstile. I hated the subway, the number of times I’d already gotten lost and scared out of my wits was too many to count, and I was still in my first month at a new school.

“Miss, come over here please.” My head snapped to the left, where two police officers were beckoning me over. The one calling to me was short, balding, blond, and close to forty. His partner was younger, tall and thin and Hispanic.

“Let me see your MetroCard, please,” the older one said. I gave him a questioning look, but removed my MetroCard form my wallet nonetheless.

“This is a student MetroCard.” It felt like an accusation, not a question.

“Sure.” I hoped my short, terse answer was enough of a hint. I couldn’t start yelling at a cop, “Stop checking me out, you old ugly fat pervert, just leave me alone.” I am incredibly sick of dealing with this, isn’t there enough going on?

“Are you a student?” His tone was laced with skepticism.

I don’t need your skepticism, and why the hell are you talking to me like I did something wrong? And my eyes are up here, idiot. I nodded at the policeman.

“What school do you go to?”

“Stuyvesant.”

“I need to see your ID.”

“Here.” I had to use all my self-control not to shove my ID in his face. He took a couple moments studying it, before handing it back to me.

“Oh. It is you,” he said.

I wanted to shout at him. Of course, you moron, it’s me. Who else would it be? I’m a freaking thirteen-year-old girl, for god’s sake. Because I’m a person with self-control, I decided that verbally attacking the police officer and his partner would not be the best thing to do. I would probably end up in a whole lot of trouble. So instead, I gave him a questioning look.

“It’s because you don’t look like you’re in high school,” the police officer’s partner said, his eyes roaming where they shouldn’t since he was, after all, a police officer.

I nodded, I mumbled a good-bye, grabbed my MetroCard, and walked toward the train. The Four or Five is usually relatively empty when I get on, seeing as this is one of the first stops in downtown Manhattan.

I got a seat in the corner of the train, one of the two person seats, as far away from everyone else as I could possibly get. I took out my book, Unbearable Lightness, by Portia de Rossi, Ellen DeGeneres’ eating disordered girlfriend, and started reading.

Two minutes later a man came and sat next to me. I have this problem with being close to strangers. It makes me incredibly uncomfortable and I attempt to shy away, but when there is no room I start getting frustrated and panicking. This is how I felt just then. I had no room to breathe. I attempted to re-focus on my book.

“Is that a Christian book?” he asked. Why do people talk to me?

“No.” I attempted a smile, and turned back to my book.

“Oh I was just thinking because of the title of the book, you know, it sounds Christian.”

I forced an awkward laugh. “Yeah.”

“Actually, there is this really good Christian book you should read, it’s called God’s Smuggler.” It took a lot of self-control to not stare at his prominent chin. This must be how people feel about my breasts.

“Thank you very much for the suggestion, but I’m not religious.”

“Oh, well you should read it anyway, or come to my church. Just to look around. It’s a great place. You don’t have to believe in God to come, just walk through and listen. It’s really great, there are granola bars and drinks handed out.”

“Thank you for the offer, but I don’t believe in organized religion. I think many religions take advantage of people and their weaknesses, and their need to believe in something. In my opinion people just invented God and Religion to make them feel better about themselves. People strive to understand the unknown and inventing religious pieces of work and saying God wrote it, gives them a purpose for their lives.”

He looks at me with curiosity. “But God is here for you. If you have faith He can help you so much.”

“If there is a God I highly doubt that he would waste his time helping me. He should be focusing on the millions of people around the world dying of starvation, or trying to stop wars that He started. The number of wars throughout history that have been fought over religion in the name of God is ridiculous. Do you really think that God would be up there in Heaven going, ‘Yeah, Hitler, you go, way to annihilate the Jews!’ What’s really ridiculous is how similar these religions are, they all stem from the same source, one of the oldest religions known to man is—“

“Christianity, right?”

“No, actually, lots of Sumerian legends were adopted by other civilizations throughout time. For example, the story of Noah’s Ark is found in The Epic of Gilgamesh. People read them and then some feel they should start their own religions, using the stories they have read but altering them slightly. For example, the Old Testament is largely the Torah. Then people have the nerve to say their religion is better than others!”

He kept nodding as if he was seriously listening to me, but I wasn’t so sure, because he still had that weird, happy smile on his face. “Yes, but that is no reason not to believe in God,” he said.

“Well, personally I have never experienced anything to make me believe there is a God. If you get me one hundred people from all different religions that have all seen God and they describe him the same way, I will believe you. But I have never seen any proof of there being a God, and people can’t seem to agree on what God is, so I don’t think he exists.”

“But you also don’t have any proof that He doesn’t exist.”

“Yes, but in my opinion that’s like you saying, ‘I am a millionaire,’ and me saying, ‘Do you have a million dollars?’ And you responding,‘Well I do not have any proof that I am a millionaire, but I could be a millionaire if I just believe.’ In this case I don’t think the thought process of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ works, it’s more like ‘false until proven true.’”

“I see where you are coming from, but I know I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for God—”

“THIS IS FORTY SECOND STREET GRAND CENTRAL STATION. THE NEXT STOP IS FIFTY NINTH STREET,” the monotone digital voice blasted through the train.

“I’m really sorry, but this is my stop, I have to go. It was very nice meeting you. I hope you achieve all you want in life, good-bye,” I said, smiling, grabbing my bag and heading toward the door while trying not to hit people in the crowded train.

“Good-bye, maybe I’ll see you in the future. I’ll pray for you.”

I barely heard him respond as the doors closed behind me, and the train got ready to speed down the tracks. I stopped and watched the train disappear into the darkness.

As I came up out of the subway station I passed a parked police car. The one in the passenger seat had his hand hanging out the window and pointed me out to his partner. He said, “No, that ain’t no Catholic schoolgirl outfit.”

No kidding, dude, do I look like a Catholic schoolgirl to you?

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FROM HERE TO THE NAVY

MY GUEST WRITER TODAY IS, ONCE AGAIN, MY DAUGHTER EYRNA, WITH HER ESSAY ON THE SUBJECT “What Writing Means to You”

Family Sail Day Aboard the USN Destroyer Antietam

I grew up surrounded by writers. Not rich writers, but struggling, makes-five-thousand-a-year writers. There were a few wealthy ones, and some good stories, like the time I was at Peter Matthiessen’s house and his wife Maria showed me the perfect miniature replica of The Beagle that Kurt Vonnegut brought over to give to Peter, because Kurt was getting old and deep down he knew that once he was gone, his wife would never let Peter have it. These stories are priceless to some, but not to me. If I could I would sell them for a million dollars; that way I could finally have the lavish lifestyle I deserve.
My mother grew up in a fancy house in Paris with her rich and famous father, James Jones (who was also a writer). The only class my mother excelled in was English. She was not one for the fancy lifestyle, however, and when she grew up, she decided to live the life of a struggling writer, who spends her time helping other struggling writers, out of the goodness of her heart. Not for money. This is one of my biggest grievances, seeing as she married my father who is also a writer. My home is small and money can be tight, especially when the economy fails. When I was younger my mother told me, “You can be whatever you want. Except for an actress. Or a singer. And definitely not a writer.” Of course, at the time I found this just the funniest thing, but my mother was only slightly joking.
To me writing is just the symbol of how my parents decided to “follow their dreams” and I ended up without the newest gadget or gismo, therefore making me less popular with my peers. I know exactly what I want to be when I get older, and it is not a writer. I want to be a Surface Warfare Officer in the Navy. It may not bring in that much more money than being a writer would, but at least I will have my financial situation figured out completely. Also, I don’t think adults care as much about material items as kids do, and since I am not planning on having children any time soon, that does not bother me.
I must say that in my opinion I am not a fantastic writer, like my mother or grandfather; I must not have inherited the writer-gene. I am an awful poet, which is one of my many character flaws. I am not terrible at writing memoir essays, though I generally don’t enjoy it because the only topics I can write about while still being original tend to be depressing and make me burst into tears. I do like writing essays if I am interested in the subject I must write about, especially if it’s a book I really enjoyed. Or when I have to argue my point through a paper, which is enthralling and easy because I enjoy being right.
One of the main problems I have with my writing is that people tend to take my words at face value. I write like I am speaking to the reader (unless it is a specific essay, which calls for an invisible narrator) and I am a very sarcastic person. The problem is that I am unable to stress certain words, or be certain that the person reading my writing will read the words the way they sound in my head.

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