Jackson: The Iron Willed Commander

“Old Hickory”

Review by Joey Madia

If all you know about the seventh president of the United States is his long, chiseled face and mass of white hair on the twenty-dollar bill, you’ve been missing out.

This excellent biography begins with a prologue covering the rabble-rousing ruckus that was Jackson’s inauguration on March 4, 1829. Jackson was a new kind of candidate—unlike his six predecessors in this still-new nation, he was a “man of the people.” In no way an insider, this rugged frontiersman who broke the mold of presidents coming from Massachusetts or Virginia had strong beliefs and was never afraid to defend or act on them. John Quincy Adams, the outgoing president, refused to attend.

Not unlike Alexander Hamilton, Jackson was a “willful boy with a chip on his shoulder” (6) and a mess of contradictions—a daily lifelong reader of scripture, he was also known for his ability to swear with the best of them. He and his brothers fought in the American Revolution, starting Jackson’s complex relationship with death and loss and his ability to carry on despite being wounded. Also like Hamilton, he had a penchant for duels. He had at least three, the second of which resulted in his being wounded in the torso and his killing his opponent, and the third resulting in his carrying a bullet in his body for years after. While taking his law degree, Jackson solidified his reputation as a “roaring, rollicking, game-cocking, horse-racing, card-playing, mischievous fellow” (15).

A great deal of Jackson’s controversy stems from an innocent clerical error. The love of his life, Rachel, had been in a terrible marriage. Leaving her abusive husband she fell in love with and married Jackson, although she was technically not divorced. Jackson’s enemies—and they were considerable—would use this against him, raising his ire as they portrayed the innocent Rachel as a bigamist and unwholesome woman. Continue reading

The Van Meter Visitor: A True & Mysterious Encounter with the Unknown

“An Investigator’s How-To Handbook”

A Review by Joey Madia

Thanks in large part to horror films and cable “reality” paranormal shows, the immense amount of time and effort legitimate paranormal investigators spend in libraries and historical societies chasing down leads is largely ignored. Most people are only interested in the “sexy” aspects of the haunting or cryptid visitation—who got chased, frightened, possessed, or injured? What dark menace is lurking in the corner? Are there “jump scares” as the investigators walk insane asylum hallways in the green glow of night-vision technology? Viewers don’t realize that paranormal investigators are in large part journalists and historians, tracking down the history that provides the context for the paranormal phenomena at play.

One of the world’s best known paranormal investigators was John Keel, of Mothman fame. He was also a journalist. So was his counterpart in the film The Mothman Prophecies. It is the journalist’s instincts for finding the hidden facts buried beneath or adjacent to the known ones that drive the good paranormal investigator. Christopher O’Brien’s Stalking the Herd, about cattle mutilations, is a thick, exhaustive testament to the value of mining newspaper clippings, police reports, and other firsthand accounts. Continue reading

Manhattan: An Archaeology

“Forever the Innovator”

A review by Joey Madia

Innovation is not easy. Being innovative and prolific—well, that approaches the ultra rare. And that is why, year after year, I try to do at least one review of Eileen Tabios’s works. When the work spoke clearly as to how, I have attempted to be as innovative in my reviews as Tabios is in her art. A scroll through the 145 reviews currently on New Mystics Reviews (newmysticsreviews.blogspot.com) will show ten other reviews of Tabios’s work, some of which use lines from my other reviews or a poetic form to honor the range of inspirations and innovations Tabios has employed in her 40-plus collections, which have now been published in eight countries and in numerous languages.

Manhattan: An Archaeology, from the relatively new Paloma Press (they list only one other offering so far—Blue by St. Jo and Grefalda, which I reviewed last month), has a multi-page list of inspirations, ranging from Tabios’s own previously published works to those of other authors, YouTube videos, the paintings of Clyfford Still, and a trip to Provence the poet took with her husband.

The collection, which is divided into several sections, interdicted with graphic images, begins with THE ARTIFACTS, a poetic list of items that then appear in the poems that follow. Here we have the material archaeology of Things, which is only part of the picture. Because there is also the etheric archeology of Memories, to which the items tether. Why else are so many of us so compelled to collect? Continue reading

Minor Confessions of an Angel Falling Upward

Review by K.P. Ambroziak

This is one of the most interesting, intoxicating, and innovative books I’ve read in a long time. It’s a journal, a confession, a celestial manifesto for the Fallen. But it’s also a throwback to all the great writers of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, those who lived on the edge of art and admission, paving the way for deep meditation and mental masturbation. Tortured thoughts and explicit scenes steeped in a rich vat of lush vocabulary, all make up this devil / vampire / possessor’s confessions—think Marquis de Sade (who makes an appearance), if he were a vampire.

But this isn’t an easy read, nor is it a read for those who’ve spent a lifetime ignoring the core of romantic literature and its predecessors. The wealth of literary, religious, and philosophical knowledge Planner Forthright possesses is astounding. One can believe he’s a fallen angel if only for the immense head on his shoulders. His voice is emotive and stilted at once, and his honesty would have anyone too embarrassed to read his words aloud. But he’s also shared more here than one could ever hope, teaching his reader about the ways of God and the power he’s usurped, a potency that may well have been split evenly. Planner tells us he is heir apparent to the Universe herself, but has no interest in power. If he had a talent, he says, he’d pursue it to the exclusion of all else because “forsaking one’s gifts, when you are lucky enough to have them, is one of the greatest crimes.” Continue reading

Way of the Diviner

Review by Joey Madia

Half a dozen years ago, a package arrived in the mail from a publisher. As I made the half mile walk back from the mailbox toward my house on a hill on the far side of a West Virginia hollow, I pulled back the tab on the top of the mailer and out spilled The Toltec I-Ching, a beautifully illustrated new take on the venerable divining method of ancient China.

Sending an email to the publisher that afternoon, I said that I would put the book thoroughly through its paces as a self-help guide, as I was in the midst of making several important decisions, both professionally and personally. The Toltec I-Ching, my review of which is available at New Mystics Reviews, was more than helpful—it was life changing. Taking the complexity of the trigrams and hexagrams of the I-Ching and breaking them down into understandable explanations, Horden, along with his illustrator, allowed me to access insights that yielded immediate results on application. I recommended the book to others, and shared it with many visitors to my home who were also seeking some guidance. Continue reading