The Wild Horses of Hiroshima by Paul Xylinides

Wild Horses cover

The wild horses in The Wild Horses Of Hiroshima (240 pages) are certainly intriguing, as with the title and cover art, and play a strong role at the story’s end by appearing in the streets of Hiroshima to wander about as a healing force, cared for by the citizens. They  derive from the imagination of a novelist who is also a character in the novel, who is also creating a narrative. The horses seem to emphasize purity and nobility, pounding through the city in herds, a shield against nuclear war and against the violent nature of the human species itself.

This novel inside the novel begins approximately half way into the story, following a background beginning with the atom bomb attack on Hiroshima and its hideous devastation. A young American man has been a penpal with a young Japanese girl, and after the war, he goes to Hiroshima to find her. They marry and move to New Hampshire, bearing a son, Yukio. Yukio becomes a strong, husky young man who survives the attack of a bear which kills his father. He and his mother, Miyeko, return to Japan where he becomes a sumo wrestler. Time passes and he retires to write novels. The novel within a novel begins, with occasional returns to the exterior story of Yukio and his mother, plus Yukio’s geisha, Satoko. Continue reading “The Wild Horses of Hiroshima by Paul Xylinides”

Dismantle the Sun by Jim Snowden

Throughout most of our lives, we can ignore our fears about the threat of non-existence that yawns beyond the casket with as much reality as the non-existence out of which we came into our cradles. But when facing death, our own or that of a loved one, we feel compelled to review the idea of after life. Believers ratchet up their beliefs and atheists, like Hal in Jim Snowden’s Dismantle the Sun (Booktrope, 324 pages), hang tough.
According to conventional wisdom, atheists are imaginary creatures. No one (except other atheists) believes they exist, certainly not in the foxhole of impending death. This is why deathbed conversions are expected, even in the most “literary” of end-of-life novels, despite the fact that one of the accepted roles of a literary fiction author is to question how we make sense of our lives. If most novels have the same after-life-affirming answer, I wonder if these novelists are really asking themselves the question, or merely posing it rhetorically for the sake of a denouement. Every deathbed conversion, it seems to me, is another failure to actually question the meaning of life.

Snowden’s courageous refusal to backslide into belief for the sake of an emotionally “satisfying” ending makes him a strong contender for this year’s Dactyl Foundation Award for Literary Fiction (nominated by Paul Xylinides, see  review). If the award were given for lack of sentimentality alone, Snowden would win, hands down. The novel is about Hal Nickerson, a high school teacher in Michigan, whose wife Jodie is dying of cancer in the dead of a Great Lake winter. Defending his individuality, Hal largely resents others who try to console him with their own death stories: how accurate was it for them to mix their “pain with Hal’s, as if they and the rest of humanity were manufacturing some sort of agony hash? Surely every death had its own, flavor, its own texture and temperature.”
Continue to Dactyl Review.

Final nominations for Dactyl Foundation’s 2015 Literary Fiction Award

In the last two weeks of the year, Dactyl reviewers posted seven excellent reviews of some very fine works of fiction. Thanks to all those who participated in Dactyl Review in 2015.

seaofhooksSea of Hooks by Lindsay Hill
Posted on December 31, 2015

Lindsay Hill casts a magician’s spell across his Sea of Hooks (McPherson, 348 pages). On the surface his world is rendered in bright pixels of quivering light, while underneath a seamless narrative undercurrent pulls us into the mysterious depths of experience. For the reader willing to dive under, this journey is unforgettable.

Sea of Hooks is, on the one hand, a fiercely original Bildungsroman set in San Francisco in the 50’s and 60’s. Christopher is an overly imaginative boy, part Holden Caulfield and part Little Lame Prince, who lives in precarious affluence in a darkish Victorian on the edge of Pacific Heights. His delicate, high-strung mother is obsessed with Japanese culture and dead by suicide in the first paragraph. Dad works in finance on the Pacific Stock exchange, until he doesn’t anymore. There are prep schools, bridge games, Dickensian neighbors like the wise and wonderful Dr. Thorn; along with house fires, a very nasty tutor/pederast from Stanford, a trip to Bhutan and encounters with Buddhist monks. Hill’s rich prose makes us feel Christopher is someone we have always known, a boy who lives in a house we have been to, whose eccentric mother we’ve had tea with, whose city we are walking in. Continue reading

Continue reading “Final nominations for Dactyl Foundation’s 2015 Literary Fiction Award”

Her 37th Year, An Index by Suzanne Scanlon

ScanlonCoverThe abecedarium has a long literary history, and some of its best-known examples, such as Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary or Gustave Flaubert’s Le Dictionnaire des idées reçues, play with the form’s implied authority for purposes of satire. Recently Matt Bell’s Cataclysm Baby used the template to convey hellish fragments of an environmental dystopia. Suzanne Scanlon, author of Promising Young Women (2012), turns to a woman’s experience in contemporary America and offers a probing and artful inventory in Her 37th Year, An Index (Noemi Press, 161 pages). Continue reading

Nominate your favorite literary fiction author for the $1,000 Dactyl Award

Dactyl Foundation offers a $1000 award to any literary fiction author, writing in English, who has published a book-length work, novel or collection of short stories. To be considered for the 2016 award, an author must be nominated by a peer, another published literary fiction author who must submit a review of one of the author’s works to Dactyl Review by December 31, 2015.

The Dactyl Foundation Literary Award is designed to encourage authors to work together to promote literary fiction.  The way the publishing and awards system is currently organized, too few people are in control of what books become known to the public. Too often the people making the decisions are more interested in the expected market performance of the work than in its literary merits. Dactyl Foundation wants to make it possible for more literary fiction writers to have a voice in deciding which works are recognized as literary. Dactyl Review does not have a staff of reviewers or judges; instead the literary fiction community is called upon to review and judge the works considered for the award.

See more:  http://dactylreview.com/2015/11/09/nominate-your-favorite-literary-fiction-author-for-the-1000-dactyl-award/

Dactyl Foundation announces support for 2016 Millbrook Literary Festival

The eighth annual  Millbrook Literary Festival in  Millbrook, NY is being planned for  Saturday, May 21, 2016, from  10:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Why do we need literary festivals? Whether we prefer printed books, ebooks, or audiobooks, reading is not something we do strictly in isolation. The Millbrook Literary Festival, in beautiful Dutchess County New York,  brings together a vibrant community of readers and writers to discuss how what we read — in history, culture, science, politics, and etc — relates to our everyday lives. Unlike any other media, books really immerse us in different perspectives, giving us the opportunity to better understand a new idea before accepting, rejecting, or adapting to it. And this helps us develop empathy as a society. Every year, the Festival brings nationally recognized authors and promotes our talented local and regional writers, with panels that are accessible and interesting to all ages. The Festival programs are designed to keep interest in literature alive all year long.

The Millbrook Literary Festival, begun in 2008, was inspired by Merritt Bookstore founder Scott Meyer. Always with a vision to engage the local community, share his love of books and encourage writers, Scott drew on a committee of authors, editors, teachers, scientists, retirees and students to launch the first festival. Now hundreds of people attend the Festival every year, filling the restaurants and local businesses with visitors from neighboring towns, New York City and from all over New England and upstate New York. Together we celebrate the good and the joy of reading and attract new people to the wonderful world of the written word.

Support for past Festivals have been provided by Millbrook Library, Merritt Bookstore, Bank of Millbrook, Fountain Press, Millbrook Rotary, Millbrook Business Association, Hudson Valley Parent and Millbrook Tribute Garden. This year the Dactyl Foundation will be helping raise money for programming and outreach by accepting your tax-deductible donations, 100% of which will go directly to pay for Festival expenses.

Like the Festival Facebook page to keep up with announcements:  https://www.facebook.com/MillbrookLitFest

Dactyl Director, VN Alexander, selected to be Public Scholar for the NY Council for the Humanities

VN ALexander will be available to give public lectures through the New York Council for the Humanities.  Qualifying non-profit organizations in New York State can apply online at nyhumanities.org

PUBLIC SCHOLAR, NOV 2015 – NOV 2017

Alexander will be lecturing on the following topics: Continue reading “Dactyl Director, VN Alexander, selected to be Public Scholar for the NY Council for the Humanities”

The Pilgrim of Love: a ludibrium by Charles Davis

“I was pleased to discover in myself an uncanny knack for interpreting the hermetic language of alchemy, as if my book learning had been but a preparation for decrypting enigmatic texts, reading meaning into that which, on the surface, seemed meaningless.”

So says the unnamed narrator of Charles Davis’ The Pilgrim of Love: a ludibrium, an obsessively researched and elaborately plotted parody of an historical romance. (Parody, as I understand the term, is best written by an author who actually loves his target, but who can put some ironic distance between himself and his subject.) The story is set in the abbey of the legendary Mont Michel in 1621, when the absence of roadway access meant visiting pilgrims had to make their way around quicksand between dangerously unpredictable tides. The landscape always plays an important and often symbolic role in Davis’ novels. The pilgrims must interpret the patterns in the sand to avoid sinking in the lise.

continue to Dactyl Review

The latest literary fiction on Dactyl Review

talkativeThe Talkative Corpse by Ann Sterzinger

Review by Frank Marcopolos

Lurking in the shadows of the seedy underbelly of the American heartland are the kinds of people you’re probably scared of. The kinds of people you, perhaps, don’t think of often. The kinds of people who just scrape by, praying for lottery-ticket miracles, and Heavenly rewards, and three consecutive days of tranquility and security. People like John Jaggo.

John Jaggo, of course, is long dead. He did, however, come up with an ingenious way to preserve his thoughts about his rough daily life circa 2011-2012—an electronic diary, unearthed by future geologists-cum-psychologists, which becomes the narrative of The Talkative Corpse (CreateSpace, 192 pages) an intriguing novel by Ann Sterzinger.

Continue to Dactyl Review

Continue reading “The latest literary fiction on Dactyl Review”

Millbrook Literary Festival

Save the Date: May 30th 2015
10AM – 5PM Millbrook, NY
“The Millbrook Literary Festival [is] the best possible way to spend a summer day–walking, talking, listening, and thinking about books. It’s great fun…” -Valerie Martin, local author, winner Orange Prize for fiction

Dactyl Foundation is proud to be a sponsor for this year’s festival which will present over 50 timely, thought-provoking, and thoroughly entertaining authors and illustrators participating in panel discussions, readings, and signings throughout the day at the Millbrook Free Library on Franklin Street in Millbrook New York, 80 miles north of NYC, accessible by Metro-North Harlem Valley line. More info. Continue reading “Millbrook Literary Festival”

Dennis Must wins Dactyl Foundation Literary Award

March 23, 2015

We had many outstanding nominations for 2014 (and several late entries, hence the delay in announcing the award), and we are happy to congratulate Dennis Must for his fine work, Hush Now, Don’t Explain (Coffeetown Press in 2014), for which he will receive a $1000 prize.

In his review, Jack Remick called Hush Now, Don’t Explain, “a unique American novel, written in the language of the heartland before Jesus became a pawn in the political battle for the American soul. It is written in a subdued, subtle, understated lyrical style. It is as rich and diverse as America herself. It is at once a romance complete with trains, whorehouses, steel mills, and the death of the drive-in-movie theater.”

Here is Must:

These colossal land ships (trains) with spoked iron wheels taller than three of us…these were the engines of our dreams…Not like in the Pillar of Fire Tabernacle, where Christ hung on a cross and a single candle flickered under this feet…Everything inside the round house was glistening black, oil-oozing soot, except the hope curling out from under the bellies of those locomotives and their stacks, rising right up to the clerestory windows, then out to the sky and heaven. (109)

Thanks to Jack Remick for contributing the review. For more information about the Dactyl Award click here.

The Scapegoat by Sofia Nikolaidou

As I begin to write this on January 20, 2015, the news from Buenos Aires isn’t good. Albert Nisman, the federal prosecutor assigned to finally uncover the truth about the 1994 bombing of the Argentina Israelite Mutual Association, a Jewish community center, was found dead in his apartment. Nisman was about to reveal a high-level government conspiracy to cover up Iran’s role in the bombing, which killed 85 people. Argentina has long struggled with corruption and politicization of its government institutions, making it almost impossible for the nation to confront its demons—from sheltering Nazis to the 1970s/1980s rounding up and killing of leftists, communists, intellectuals, and Jews who became known as the desaparecidos opposed to the ruling right-wing Junto. The powerful are usually protected.
Continue to Dactyl Review.

Support Dactyl Foundation’s Award for Literary Fiction

Dear Friends,

In the past four years, Dactyl Foundation has concentrated on growing the literary fiction community, which has dwindled over the past twenty years as publishing houses began to focus on big sellers ignoring the niche market of fine literature. In 2010, we launched Dactyl Review, a community of literary fiction writers who review literary fiction and nominate works for Dactyl Foundation’s $1000 annual prize.  The contest is open to any living literary fiction writer, regardless of date of publication or type of publication. We are especially interested in books that came out some time ago and have not yet received the recognition they deserve.

Award recipients for past years are The Double Life of Alfred Buber by David Schmahmann, Cocoa Almond Darling by Jeffra Hays, and Shadowplay by Norman Lock. Read reviews of nominated works and vote for your favorite on dactylreview.org  The final decision and announcement for the 2014 winner will be made early January.

Support this worthy project now by donating $100 or more.  There are a lot of great writers out there who need encouragement. We can’t do it without you. Thanks in advance for your support. Dactyl Foundation is a 501 c3 organization, and your donation is fully tax-deductible.

Donate

Your friends in art and thought,

Neil Grayson, Director, Visual Arts

Victoria N. Alexander, PhD, Director, Programs for Thought

Review of When Rosa Came Home by Karen Wyld

One after one, exotic characters, each with a miraculous tale to tell, come to visit comatose Rosa and her troubled family in Karen Wyld’s When Rosa Came Home (Amazon, 238 pages). Many of these visitors are circus performers or former circus performers. Some are human, some not. The Ambrosia family home is a remote vineyard and becomes yet another magical character — reacting to and affecting the actions set there. It’s trees and gardens fall into shadows when trouble prevails, and burst with light and life when joy arrives.

Continue to Dactyl Review.

Review of Vox Populi by Clay Reynolds

In Vox Populi: A Novel of Everyday Life (Texas Review Press, 211 pages) an unnamed narrator endures various brief encounters with strangers while out on errands—waiting for, paying for, or ordering something. Clay Reynolds must have been keeping a journal for years because his little tales ring true in their preposterousness. Truth is stranger than fiction. It is hard to believe people can be so rude, so tactless, so pushy, so dumb, and yet people are. Usually the unrelated event described in each chapter involves some implausibly insensitive and very loud person disrupting the normal course of humdrum business with performances that are as outrageous as they are unfortunately common. We’ve all have been shocked and appalled to witness such scenes in our own daily lives, and once home we say to our spouses, You’ll never believe what this crazy lady did at the grocery store, etc

Continue to Dactyl Review.

Review of Flight by Oona Frawley

Flight (223 pages, Tramp Press) by Oona Frawley, is a novel set in Ireland, the United States, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe that explores how its characters have been affected by both old-style colonialism and the new colonialism–corporate globalism that began to rise in the 1990s. Themes center on migration and immigration, on feeling homesick and rootless at the same time. It’s about writing letters home, some of which are sent, some of which are kept.

Continure to Dactyl Review.

The Inevitable June by Bob Schofield

“This morning I crossed a river on a horse made of lightbulbs.”
That’s just another day (June 4, to be exact) in Bob Schofield’s The Inevitable June (theNewerYork Press, 120 pages), an agreeably strange book structured around an unnamed narrator’s calendar for the month of June. Using text, cartoons and distinctive graphics, it is unclassifiable in terms of genre but it manages to create a self-contained world of its own.

Continue to Dactyl Review.

How can art and science interact meaningfully?

April 12, 2014

Based on a talk at the Leonardo Art and Science Rendezvous (LASER) meeting in NYC, Victoria N Alexander, PhD discusses how scientists can benefit from interaction with artists. This is the second video in the “Science, Art and Biosemiotics” series, produced and directed by Lucian Rex.
This video features painting, Epiphany, 1998 by James Gilroy

Triangle by Hisaki Matsuura (translation by David Karashima)

Tokyo, 1994. Japan is now well into what observers will later call the “lost decade,” a downward spiral triggered by the Japanese central bank’s bursting the speculative bubble of the 1980s. The seemingly inviolable climb of the Japanese economy—and society—has reversed.

Triangle, the 2001 novel by the respected Japanese writer Hisaki Matsuura released in its first English edition by Dalkey Archive Press (233 pages) this month, is an attempt to transform the Japanese downward spiral into a metaphysical thriller. But novels—even literary ones—based on conceptual ideas rarely work.

continue to Dactyl Review.

The Absurd Demise of Poulnabrone by Liam Howley

Liam Howley opens The Absurd Demise of Poulnabrone (Jagged C Press, 344 pages) with an introduction to Cornelius Solitude Conlon, an aging man who, I assumed, was the primary protagonist. In fact, my assumption continued throughout a good portion of the novel, even though the narrative shifted to various other characters as I read along. Nevertheless, as the story progressed, Cornelius became but one piece in the game board that is Poulnabrone.

It is, in fact, Poulnabrone that is the centerpiece of this story. Primary and secondary characters appear on the scene, make an impact, and leave. Some return later on, some never appear again, yet others remain present to weave the fabric of the tale as it is spun along, carrying with them the thread of continuity without overshadowing the main premise. Continue reading on Dactyl Review.

Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins

Claire Vaye Watkins writes as if she scratches her stories from the grit and mining detritus of the Nevada desert she grew up in, then transforms the elemental by gathering language as rich and as natural as the sand or minerals found there like an alchemist. The work is as layered as the often brutal human history of the region, a history she both draws upon and to which she will surely add her own narrative. And like the harsh landscapes and histories that everywhere informs these brilliant stories, when you peer long enough, closely enough, at what seems an empty, heartless place, you not only see its unforgiving beauty within the parched hills and among the tailings castaway after decades of exploitation, you also find glitter among the hardscape, the glint of silver and gold. Like the characters in her story collection Battleborn (Riverhead Books, 283 pages), the truths Watkins unearths require strong stomachs and strong wills to digest but reward the reader with sparkling prose, hard but achingly accurate portraits of unforgettable characters, and gemstones of hope among the chaos of despair and interior pain.

Continue to Dactyl Review.

Compost Modern Discussion Forum

Thursdays, this spring,  1-3PM

The CompostModern forum is made up of artists, poets, fiction writers, playwrights, scientists, mathematicians, musicians, actors and any one else interested in joining.  Instead of presenting formal lectures or panels, we open the floor to the community. Featured guests and audience members are able to talk freely and on equal terms about everything from beauty and meaning to pop-culture. As the name implies, the CompostModern forum aims to re-cycle our rich aesthetic history. If the project of postmodernism was to deconstruct traditions, it has left us with a fertile soil out of which new forms may emerge. It is with the belief that all new forms of art must evolve from a history that we approach the guiding question of the forum: What is creativity?

Hush Now, Don’t Explain by Dennis Must

This is a unique American novel, written in the language of the heartland before Jesus became a pawn in the political battle for the American soul. It is written in a subdued, subtle, understated lyrical style. It is as rich and diverse as America herself. It is at once a romance complete with trains, whorehouses, steel mills, and the death of the drive-in-movie theater and a coming of age novel in which the protagonist emerges from the chrysalis to transform into a singing butterfly.

Continue to Dactyl Review.

The World’s Smallest Bible by Dennis Must

Death is always bearing down in Dennis Must’s somber, disquieting novel, The World’s Smallest Bible (Red Hen Press, 232 pages). Death knocks on the window above the bed shared by brothers Ethan and Jeremiah Meuller in the small town of Hebron, in north central Pennsylvania; death is in the hand-me-downs they receive as gifts from the parents of soldiers who have just been killed in World War II; death brews inside their suicidal mother Rose, who has been scorned by their father; death dogs at their Aunt Eva, a stripper at the Elks Club; and death badgers their neighbor, Stanley Cuzack, as he tries to invent a perpetual motion machine. Half suffocating himself, Must’s narrator, Ethan, tries to push himself away .

The boys are about ten and eight when their mother orders the younger Jeremiah back into the children’s bedroom. She’s had it sharing her bed with her son, just another reminder of the man who’s supposed to be there and isn’t. Continue reading on Dactyl Review.

The Contractor by Charles Holdefer

As the twenty-fist century accelerates toward a new low point in modern political history, eighty-five people possess about forty percent of the world’s wealth (that’s not a typo),* second- and third-generation war-terrorized children are born to benumbed, dehumanized parents, and most news reports would probably seem horribly unreal to even Bradbury and Orwell.

Continue to Dactyl Review.

The Science of Making Choices

February 24, 2014

What happens in your body when you choose to go right or left?  What makes your decisions? your Self? What do we mean by the word “choice”?

VN Alexander, PhD discusses the science of making choices from a complexity science-biosemiotic perspective. This is the first in a series of videos “Science, Art and Biosemiotics,” produced and directed by Lucian Rex.

Manny’s Last Stand

Coming in March

Please come out to see our own Ben Monk’s new play
Manny’s Last Stand.
PURCHASE TICKETS or donate to raise money to make the film version, a Dactyl Media production.
http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/593608

Shooting for television the play Manny’s Last Stand. A burlesque club featuring
an alcoholic comedian who achieves greatness through sobriety. Manny Aarons goes on the wagon. Goes to AA, does yoga, sees a therapist, meditates. He works on new material. We end with Manny’s sold out show at Carnegie Hall. Audience members get orchestra seats and are encouraged to heckle.

March 5 @ 8:45  Wednesday
March 8 @ 7  Saturday
March 9 @ 6  Sunday

The Grievers By Marc Schuster

This wry, touching novel, The Grievers (The Permanent Press, 175 pages), takes an intelligent look at the meaning of friendship, a distinctly pertinent topic in an age when “friend” and “unfriend” are ubiquitous verbs referring mostly to people we’ve never met. It’s a novel of ideas that also dares to be funny, a dangerous strategy when so many critics see humor as a crime against literature. After all, doesn’t serious writing demand uncompromising hopelessness and despair?

Continue to Dactyl Review.