Different Drummers

Review by Joey Madia

You never know where the connections you make in life will lead. Simply saying yes to opportunity, out of curiosity or even as a courtesy, can open doors to whole new worlds, whole new places, that you never knew existed.

In the twenty-first century, where everything is divided into Us and Them and the Other might as well live in another solar system where their rituals and culture are uber-alienated by some shadowy cabal that has engineered itself to make such decisions, feeding them down through indoctrinal water-drips to the TV-zombied hamster-people, it is imperative to learn about other places, other sub-sets of society. And to learn about and from what occupies the time of the thinkers and artists that reside there.

For this reason alone, Different Drummers is a primer on Thailand and an invaluable read.

So… that saying yes I mentioned. It happened a decade ago, when I received John Gartland’s Gravity’s Fool in the mail for review. His poetry moved me. Still does. I can’t swear to it, but I believe John and I connected on Facebook, which is an admittedly unusual benefit to an otherwise stinking/sinking cesspool of Big Data content and insidious mood manipulation. I had been doing reviews for about five years, which is an invaluable exercise for a writer and content creator (and, should you need more proof, Different Drummers is full to the brim with Cummings’s and others’ reviews of the books of some of the expats he interviews). Continue reading

Blanc et Noir: Masters of Noir 2

“Bangkok Shadow and Light”

A review by Joey Madia

A few months ago I had the pleasure of reviewing John Gartland’s Resurrection Room: Bangkok dark rhetoric, a complex, riveting piece that seamlessly blended sardonic autobiography and social commentary with fantastical leaps through time and subject-space.

Blanc et Noir operates as a companion piece and, although it showcases Gartland’s poetry (as did sections of Resurrection Room), it comes at its subject matter—Bangkok and environs and the myriad personalities who populate this space—from a series of different angles. It is no less (and at times more so) sharp and biting than its predecessor. Add in the stunning and at times disturbing photography of Mark Desmond Hughes and the written/visual cocktail is both potent and lasting.

Gartland knows Story, and talks of it often in his poetry and prose. The opening line of the collection is “That fantasy of a well-rounded life in three acts,” calling to mind Joseph Campbell’s oft-stated observation that, although our lives seem random, looking back at the end, they seem as well-crafted as the best of novels. Continue reading

Resurrection Room: Bangkok dark rhetoric

Narrative Noir

Review by Joey Madia

“One night in Bangkok and the world’s your oyster/The bars are temples but the pearls ain’t free’You’ll find a god in every golden cloister/And if you’re lucky then the god’s a she/I can feel an angel sliding up to me” (“One Night in Bangkok,” Chess)

There are cities in the world that pulse with a deep mystique: the sleepless dichotomies of New York; the romanticism of Paris for lover and writers; the foggy Victorian mystery of London… the list goes on and on.

Bangkok (Thailand) conjures images of crowded streets full of steaming food, rickshaw drivers, and exotic women finger-motioning from alleyways and doorways… and Resurrection Room takes these images wider and deeper than perhaps your average reader wants to go. Continue reading

Orgasmus

Review by Joey Madia

This wild, well-paced ride of a book, first published in 1986, was the debut novel from poet, playwright, and academic John Gartland. The novel centers around Brian J. Carver, a bored and seemingly un-remarkable British civil servant with a Literature degree (a rich tradition in storytelling that Gartland makes anew). His is a life spent shuffling papers, writing memos, and devoting as much time as possible to his writing endeavors on the government’s bill.

The whole thing is thrown into motion (after a mysterious scene in Chapter 1 detailing various global gatherings and turmoil that later proves to be a flashback) when the Assistant Senior Inspector decides to transfer our man Carver to a new department, where he can “utilise his talents as a communicator” by “drawing up new forms, modifying old forms and dealing with correspondence about existing forms” (p. 25). Continue reading

Gravitys Fool

“Far from the Fool”

a review by Joey Madia

Many a modern poet has stacks of unsold books filling the corners of his or her writing room. This is a matter of both competition as well as the lamentable lack of interest in poetry in today’s reader. Perhaps as condensed forms of Communication continue to emerge, based on the requirements of Social Networking sites, poetry will re-take its place in readers’ daily lives.

In the meantime, it is good to know that some poets, such as John Gartland, are putting out additional editions of their titles. This fourth edition, published by Assumption University Press, features a new final poem and a few words by Steve Conlon, Dean of the Graduate school, about Gartland’s collaboration with Tom Hodgins (Poetry Universe 1: Poetry without Frontiers, which I will be reviewing later this year). Continue reading