The Jewel in the Manuscript

Review of a Stage Play by Joey Madia

Fyodor Dostoevsky is recognized by many as one of history’s greatest novelists (myself included). Crime and Punishment is ubiquitous in high school and college literature classes, and Notes From Underground, the Brothers Karamasov, and The Idiot beg numerous readings over the course of one’s life.

His novels dig deeply into the human psyche, tackle complex moral issues, and are rich in both characterization and imagery.

That said, I knew little about the personal life of the man whose novels were part of the reason why I became a writer. And so it was, with no hesitation and great interest, that I accepted the request to read and review this play, which, as the playwright tells us, “was inspired by events in Dostoevsky’s life.” “Inspired by” is a phrase I much prefer in place of “based on a true story.” It gives the writer ample room for interpretation, as “inspiration” indicates the writer’s role clearer than “based on.” Because of “inspired by,” I did not fact check the play beyond the playwright’s own notes to the reader at the end of the script. Continue reading

The Art of Divination

A review by Joey Madia

Before I begin this book review, some background on the author is essential.

For several decades, William Douglas Horden has focused on the I Ching. Of his more than twenty books, nine are part of a series that concludes with the book being reviewed. The others—directly or by way of energetic and experiential connections—further explore the ancient tool of divination and spiritual practice called the I Ching.

Interested readers should read my previous reviews of Horden’s works for details on his background and training, which are extensive and impressive.

The Art of Divination is a handbook for those who are diviners and those whose path may be leading them there. My wife, a psychic medium, makes her living in large part as both a diviner (with tarot, other readings, and communications with the dead) and when using aspects of divination in her work as an energy healer.

As for those who may be considering divination in whole or in part as a focus of their life—the category into which I fall—The Art of Divination will provide invaluable insights into what is involved. And, I have to tell you, it is quite a lot.

But don’t let this daunt you. Horden is a Master Teacher, a statement I base on having been blessed over the last decade to experience his skill through books and exercises, I Ching readings, and in-person visits. Continue reading

Desa Kincaid: Bounty Hunter

“Sci-Fi Western Heaven”

A review by Joey Madia

In this age of comic book and tent-pole action film mania (I am listening to the soundtrack of Thor: Ragnarok as I type), it is a given that talented authors who write cinematically with plenty of action and larger than life characters should enjoy increased readership.

R.S. Penney and his writing meet these criteria. Desa Kincaid: Bounty Hunter is a fun, action-packed horse-ride from beginning to end.

Another area where I am seeing increased traction as a writer and reviewer is in genre-bending and mashups. Desa Kincaid is a Sci-Fi Western (sort of a Cowboys vs. Aliens meets Stephen King’s The Dark Tower) that succeeds because it employs both its genre Tropes with confidence and effect while smashing to bits just as many.

Sci-Fi and the traditional Western, when you deconstruct them, are excellent bedmates. They each traffic in religious and philosophical questions and metaphors and both are driven by Landscape. Vast, unexplored spaces. They pit humans not only against each other, but that very Landscape, and, like Fantasy, they feature the journey in the Hero’s Journey as a major part of the plot. Think of the success of Star Trek (pitched by Gene Roddenberry as “Wagon Train to the stars”), the cowboy archetype that is Han Solo, and the cult following enjoyed by Joss Whedon’s Firefly. Continue reading

This Transmission

“Voice(s) across Space-Time”

A review by Joey Madia

Irish poet Michael McNamara’s latest collection packs into 35 pages a wealth of imagery in its visionary calls across the viscous, enigmatic ether of Space-Time. This ebook’s striking cover features dozens of bearded, wild-haired faces—similar, yet unique—held in a heartlike, streaming-ribbons shape, although one at the bottom breaks (or falls?) away in screaming fury.

The author?

Aspects, of, perhaps, of some other entity entirely, as you will see.

Like dialing in a radio from a far off station, the poems in This Transmission change voices, tones, periods, and perspectives in a cascade of crisp images and dire observations. The title poem puts the mysterious, myriad faces on the cover into context: “the Chinese, the Spanish Mexicans, the Native Americans, Siberians and Inuit” and extends the focus beyond the minority male, asking, “Was that Yoko, Cleopatra or The Magdalene?”: powerful, misunderstood, and misrepresented women all.

In the second poem, “From Prussia with Love” (mark the pop culture and art/literary riffs—they are everywhere embedded), the collection’s Voice gets stronger, declaring, “I’m your Alpha, your Omega.”

We’ve heard that one before.

But who is this declarer? In a later poem, the Voice says:

That’s me posing for Modigliani.
That’s me with Jacob Boehme.
That’s me behind The Maid of Orleans.

I am The Boer, The Troubadour, The Carthaginian, A Flower Girl, Soul Queen Of Harlem.

I stood with Alexander

Like the Faceless Men in Game of Thrones, the Voice declares:

I will steal another man’s face
and speak with my mouth his truth. Continue reading

The In(ter)vention of the Hay(na)ku

“Inspirational Innovation”

A review by Joey Madia

The great white whale for all true Creatives is the alchemical creation of something New. Wholly new. Something Never Before Done.

But, in reality, how many emotional crews and spiritual lower legs have we sacrificed in the pursuit of such seeming folly?

I was recently engaged in a discussion with creative colleagues when the idea that “there is nothing new” left to create came up. For one of us, it was a statement originally made to him some 30 years ago by a professor in the college where he had enrolled.

So—is it true? Outside of deconstructionism and post-postmodernism, aside from homage and pastiche (all four of which are prevalent in my own work), is there anything truly new?

This retrospective collection says yes.

Embracing variations on the haiku and tercet forms while honoring Philippine culture and elements of the Diaspora, Tabios’ Hay(na)ku form has, to put it mildly, caught on with a worldwide community of poets, breeding variations that both honor the form from which they come and the strength of the form itself. Continue reading