Highly RecommendedBrief recommendations and reviews of literary publications, writers, and related websites by William Michaelian
My thanks to Michael Douma for letting me know about his new poetry exhibit, Poetry through the Ages. The beautifully designed site is part of a larger interactive museum called WebExhibits, which explores subjects as diverse as calendars, the causes of color, and Van Gogh�s letters. Beginning with a general overview, various facets and forms of poetry are discussed in successive, easy-to-digest layers; then, visitors are encouraged to write something of their own. An interesting feature is the Node View option � a kind of simplified road map that offers smaller bits of information in easy-to-understand �nodes.� Click on
The staff at the Fresno Bee is doing a wonderful job with its online centennial presentation of the life and times of William Saroyan. The exhibit includes photographs of the author taken throughout his life and career, recordings, a time-line, images of early Fresno, articles, and related links. Follow, an early unpublished novella, is also being made available in thirteen separate pdf installments.
When poet Russ Allison Loar first knocked on my cyber-door, it was with the good news that he had posted a poem of mine in his blog. When I visited his site, I was naturally eager to see what he was doing, so I had a good look around. Several days later, I was still looking. As you�ll see when you check the page with my poem, Loar maintains not one, but six poetry blogs. Each is updated weekly, and I�m pleased to say I�ve found many gems, such as this poignant little poem in his �Words of Love� blog:
Visitors can spend many hours delving into the life and works of Richard Brautigan at the Richard Brautigan Archives, an extensive wiki-based site founded, organized, and maintained by Birgit Ferran in Barcelona, Spain. The Archives contain a wealth of material on the author known for such classic works as Trout Fishing in America, The Abortion, and So the Wind Won�t Blow It All Away. Quotes, images, studies, criticism, obituaries, interviews, links, and more are included.
Another site I�ve been enjoying in regular doses is Poetry Daily, which editors Don Selby and Diane Boller aptly term an �anthology of contemporary poetry.� Their mission is nicely stated on their �About� page:
And now a word is in order about Cosmopsis Quarterly, a literary journal that began publication in San Francisco with its Spring 2007 issue. As a contributor and a reader, it�s a pleasure to recommend this promising new magazine, which contains an agreeable blend of fiction and poetry from seasoned writers and others just blossoming into print. The first issue includes fine work by X.P. Callahan, George Jack, Edward Doerr, and Jane Levin, among others. Near the front of the nicely designed 100-page perfect bound volume, there is also an intriguing, pertinent excerpt from John Barth�s The End of the Road, which I cannot resist quoting here in its entirety:
For another taste of poetry from a different cultural perspective, visit the Armenian Poetry Project. Founded in May 2006 in New York by curator Lola Koundakjian, this worthwhile blog includes original and translated work by Armenian poets written primarily in English, Armenian, and French, as well as free audio and RSS text feeds. In a time of dwindling print coverage, the Project also serves as a magazine by providing a venue for poets who might otherwise go unheard. Its steadily growing readership shows that its themes are more than ethnic and historical � they are personal, immediate, and universal. Besides occasional events and other bursts of activity, the site is updated several times a week, usually one poem at a time.
Interested in independent and alternative publishing? If not, you will be after a visit to NewPages.com. This well organized, tastefully designed site has it all, and in great abundance: reviews, lists, links, blogs, interviews, news, and more, with a focus on literary magazines, online literary magazines, independent bookstores, alternative magazines � I�m reading down their list of departments at the moment � alternative newsweeklies, zines, independent record labels, and book publishers. Best of all, publisher Casey Hill, editor Denise Hill, and their cast of able reviewers present this mountain of information in down-to-earth, easy-to-read nuggets that open doors to all sorts of reading possibilities. Time here will be well spent for readers and writers alike.
Those who have tackled Finnegans Wake know how challenging it can be to pronounce many of the words in James Joyce�s linguistic masterpiece. While I was reading the book, I learned the Finnegans Wake Society has a website that features a recording of Joyce reading from his own text. It was inspiring to hear the author�s voice, and also very helpful in terms of pacing and intonation. Whether you have read the book or not, or even if you were planning to avoid it altogether, this recording, made in 1929, is worth far more than the few minutes it takes to hear. The text itself is included, along with some interesting background information. (Note: the link for Joyce�s reading seems to have disappeared, at least for the moment. But I found another reading here.)
As the author of a handful of short works inspired by Vincent Van Gogh, and an admirer of the artist�s amazing talent, I am pleased to call your attention to The Vincent van Gogh Gallery, a beautiful site presented by David Brooks of Toronto. A labor of love eleven years and thousands of hours in the making, The Gallery displays 100 percent of Van Gogh�s works, including all 874 of his thoughtful, revealing letters. The work is organized chronologically and by subject matter. There is information on exhibitions and events, a list of related articles and links, and much more.
Another place where artistic spirit and talent converge is RainTiger, a creative commune for artists of all persuasions. The website is the online platform of RainTiger, Inc., a New York-based company that promotes an eclectic mix of emerging and established artists, brings different artistic groups together, and unites them with a worldwide audience. Beautifully designed and easy to navigate, RainTiger is set up as a monthly publication and includes three major arts sections: The Poetry Caf�, The Art Studio, and The Story Hall. Each section features a monthly �Spotlight Artist,� and is backed up by an orderly archive. Several other departments, daily and weekly features, and related links round out this tastefully presented, worthwhile site.
Recently in my literary Web wanderings, I stumbled onto a link to a wonderful outdoor poetry project in the Netherlands city of Leiden. The Wall Poems of Leiden gives the background of the project, which was begun in 1992, and which, when completed, will encompass 101 poems painted on walls throughout the city. The poets represented hail from all corners of the world and include such luminaries as Marina Tsevetayeva, William Carlos Williams, Pablo Neruda, Langston Hughes, Anna Akhmatova, Keats, Yeats, and Rimbaud, as well as many others I�ve never heard of and don�t know how to pronounce. What a truly great and civilized idea! Links are provided to photographs of each wall poem printed in its original language. Below the pictures are English and Dutch translations. Visitors can follow the links from one page to the next in a sort of �walking tour,� or choose links from the complete list on a separate page.
Jason Bulger, who so effectively dissected the massive short story anthology The Story and Its Writer in his well-received Story-A-Day reading project, has fluttered back onto the scene again with a similar assignment called The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov. This time around, sixty-five stories by the butterfly-loving Russian author are at stake. Entries include story excerpts and related links.
Readers, writers, and other sojourners in the creative realm are invited to visit Soul Food Caf�, a colorful, multi-layered website based in Australia. Soul Food is the award-winning cyber-production of Heather Blakey, a teacher and publisher who embraces the diverse vision of artistic practioners from around the world, and encourages would-be writers and artists of all ages to explore their talents and go off the artistic deep end. Her enthusiasm is reflected in the site�s many departments and the related links they contain.
Tired of being hoist with my own petard without knowing what it really means, I was relieved to discover World Wide Words, a nifty, steadily expanding site written and compiled by British author and word expert, Michael Quinion. As Mr. Quinion states on his main page, most of his 1,500-plus pages �are about English words and phrases � what they mean, where they came from, how they evolved, and the ways in which people sometimes misuse them.� The website is easy to navigate and contains several fascinating departments (topical words, weird words, and turns of phrase, to name only three) and an excellent page of links to other word sites. Visitors can also sign up for a free weekly newsletter which is sent to nearly 20,000 subscribers.
As regular visitors know and newcomers eventually learn, I periodically assign myself writing projects that, due to their scope and ambition, undermine my physical health and aggravate my eroding mental condition. This is one reason I was inspired to hear about the new Story-A-Day reading project undertaken by writer-musician Jason Bulger of San Francisco. Jason is in the process of reading and commenting on every story in The Story and Its Writer, a hefty anthology of 124 short stories from around the world edited by Ann Charters. I think this is a very worthwhile thing to do, especially since I�m not the one who has to do it. Thanks to Jason, we will be able to read about a wide range of authors, while being given a glimpse of their work. In addition to his daily comments, a short excerpt from each story is included. (Update: Jason has redesigned his website. His new writing page has a variety of interesting links, and you can learn about his other endeavors by going to his home page.)
The online version of World Literature, an ambitious new literary journal headed by Armenian writer and translator Samvel Mkrtchian, is now up and running. The website, http://www.artgrak.am, is published in Armenian. A link for Armenian language support can be found on the main page. The purpose of World Literature is to present quality Armenian translations of important writing previously unavailable to Armenian-language readers. The publication contains work by major authors, such as William Faulkner, as well as contemporary writers from around the world. Work by Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Bukowski, and other literary figures will appear in future issues. Mkrtchian, the journal�s Editor-in-Chief, lives in Yerevan, Armenia. His translations of four of my stories were included in the first print edition. They are also currently available at http://www.artgrak.am/w_mikaelian.html.
One could easily spend months, if not years, rummaging through the impressive array of links compiled by Lane Rasmussen in the Selected Literatures and Authors Pages section of his online Slavic, East European, and Former USSR Resource project. In addition to separate pages of links devoted to Russian, Armenian, Serbian, Finnish, and Ukrainian literature, there are dozens of links pertaining to another seventy or so ethnic groups and cultures. Lane is the Slavic Bibliographer and Social Sciences librarian at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia. For more information on the project, visit his About the Librarian page.
Word-lovers will be interested in another pleasant surprise that came my way while I was looking for information on the word �bumbershoot� on Google. As one click led to another, I stumbled on http://www.takeourword.com, a bi-weekly word-origin webzine presented by Melanie and Mike Crowley. There you will find a feast of information about all sorts of interesting words, a question and answer column, gripes and grumbles about words and how they are sometimes used, challenges by erudite visitors, and more. The site includes links to lots of fascinating dictionary, English language, and etymology sites. Be sure to click on the �About� link, and then from there to follow the �Read more about M&M;� link, which will lead you to Melanie and Mike�s fascinating biographies.
The link between creativity and madness is the cheerful, unifying theme of http://www.neuroticpoets.com, a neatly designed website presented by poet Brenda Mondragon. The site features interesting biographies of poets and writers whose disturbed genius resulted in memorable lives and memorable work. Included are Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, Dylan Thomas, Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson, and several others. The biographies contain links to related photos and excerpts.
An easy way to get a dose of literature while you�re online is to spend a few minutes at http://www.todayinliterature.com. The site features a new biographical story every day, with an eye on great writers, books, and events in literary history. The articles are supplemented with links to recommended websites offering additional material. Visitors can read each new entry on the day it is added. Unlimited archive access and an extensive daily e-mail that includes literary quotes and selected excerpts costs $20 per year. The site is clean and easy to navigate, and a large number of authors and their photos have already been included. Author-specific book-ordering links also appear on each page, so when a particular item strikes your interest, it�s easy to take that fatal next step � always a rewarding thing to do.
One doesn�t need to meet Steven Zahavi Schwartz to appreciate his artistic ability and fine sense of humor. His cover design of my novel, A Listening Thing, not only captures the troubled outlook of the story�s narrator, but the spirit of hope that may one day set him free. During the design process, the artist kindly fended off my foolish, pedestrian ideas and even managed to keep my ego intact. I hope you enjoy the results of our �collaboration.� For other samples of Steven�s work, visit his website, http://www.meantimespress.com.
Not that it is of overwhelming importance, but I just discovered that I was born on the same day (but not the same year) as Honor� de Balzac, one of France�s greatest nineteenth century writers. To find out which authors share your birthday and to read a little about them, check the author�s calendar at http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/calendar.htm.
If you�re looking for some handy, down-to-earth biographies of British authors, visit http://www.incompetech.com/authors. Represented are Sir Walter �the Unfortunate� Raleigh; Christopher �James Bond� Marlowe; William �the Overanalyzed� Shakespeare; John �Un-� Donne; Ben �Origin Unknown� Jonson; John �the Lady� Milton; Daniel �The True-Born Englishman� Defoe; Jonathan �Isaac Bickerstaff� Swift; Henry �Feilding� Fielding; William �New Age� Blake; Robert �Auld Lang Syne� Burns; William �The Interminable� Wordsworth; Samuel Taylor �Estese� Coleridge; Jane �Persuasion� Austen; George �Don Juan� Gordon, Lord Byron; John �Doctor� Keats; Elizabeth �Ba� Barrett Browning; Alfred �Eccentric� Lord Tennyson; William �Snob� Makepeace Thackeray; Charles �David Copperfield� Dickens; Robert �The Obscure� Browning; Charlotte �Jane Eyre� Bront�; Branwell �The Forgotten� Bront�; Emily �The Strange� Bront�; Anne �Agnes Grey� Bront�; and Charles �Lewis Carroll� Dodgson.
For a list of unusual book titles (The Inheritance of Hairy Ear Rims; How to Boil Water in a Paper Bag; I Knew 3,000 Lunatics) and other amusing and interesting literary trivia, pay a visit to http://www.geocities.com/bororissa/triv.html. The page includes a list of appropriate author names (Anatomy of the Brain, by William W. Looney), �thumb rules for writers� (Do not put statements in the negative form; Verbs has to agree with their subjects), literary quotes, a list of rejected books that went on to become bestsellers (I looked for mine on there, but couldn�t find it), and original titles of some famous books (�All�s Well that Ends Well,� better known as War and Peace). There is nothing profound here, but the info will come in handy at parties and in waiting rooms, or at parties that are like waiting rooms, and vice-versa.
For a little more insight into my questionable mental condition, be sure to check Favorite Books & Authors, my new page about the books and writers who have influenced not only the way I write, but the way I look at the world itself. Join me often as I ransack my memory and the bookshelf in my room in an opinionated attempt to influence your reading habits. What the page lacks in intelligence will, I hope, be made up for in enthusiasm.
Since I blabbed about book reviews a few days ago, another website has come to my attention. http://www.compulsivereader.com features spirited reviews by people who obviously love reading and writing, plus interviews, literary criticism, profiles, and news. The Compulsive Reader also offers a free e-mailed newsletter and links to literary sites. The site is the Internet hangout of Magdalena Ball, a twenty-year writing veteran whose work has been published extensively in print and on the Web.
One of my big regrets these days is that I don�t read nearly as much as I�d like. There simply isn�t time, and I�ve yet to find a way to do without sleep entirely. As it is, I seldom get enough rest, and am forced to rely on coffee to get me through the day. I suppose I could use something stronger, but I�ve always shied away from the Jack Kerouac method of staying awake, otherwise known as popping pills. When it comes to drugs, I�m a regular sissy.
Years ago, my life was less hectic and I read quite a lot. In the early 1980s, I went through a nineteenth century Russian and French author phase, devouring the works of Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Turgenev, Gogol, Goncharov, Maupassant, Zola, and Balzac. If you haven�t read War and Peace, then by all means do. The Brothers Karamazov, by Dostoevsky, is an absolute masterpiece, as is Crime and Punishment. If you�d prefer to warm up on something shorter, read Dostoevsky�s The Gambler, which the author dictated to a stenographer in three weeks in order not to lose the rights to all his published work. Or, try the short stories of Guy de Maupassant. He wrote hundreds of them, and is widely regarded as one of the great masters of the form.
These days, I�m pleased to report that my son, Vahan, who handles the technical aspects of this website, has taken it upon himself to read all of the aforementioned literature. Being young and unmuddled, he is able to read quickly and retain far more than his old man, who, anymore, must read a sentence at least five times before its meaning becomes clear. Then the phone rings, or it�s time to go and peel an onion, or to give one of the kids a ride somewhere, and I am forced to put down whatever it is I am reading � for hours, sometimes days.
One trick I�ve learned, if it can be called a trick, is to read book reviews. While this is no substitute for reading the actual book, it is a way to keep in touch with what�s going on in the so-called literary world, and, to some extent, the world at large. Short reviews are especially enjoyable, because one can read three or four or eight or ten of them at a sitting and actually come away with something. Publishers Weekly, a magazine that caters to the publishing and bookselling industry, does a good job with its reviews, as does Rain Taxi, which I especially like because it focuses on writing often overlooked by mainstream publications, such as the New York Times Book Review. The Summer 2002 issue of Rain Taxi is fifty-five pages in length, and it contains in the neighborhood of fifty reviews. Fiction, nonfiction, poetry, drama, and graphic novels are all covered by capable, knowledgeable writers who seldom talk about themselves instead of the book they are supposed to be reviewing � something I find particularly annoying, and one reason I am less apt to read some of the major book review publications. Rain Taxi is a nice, tastefully designed magazine. Awhile back, we provided a link to their website (see list at right). We�re also adding their address and very reasonable subscription price to the list of recommended publications adjacent to this column.
As mentioned in the biographical note on the main page and elsewhere in the site, I�ve been lucky enough to have had several stories and poems published in Armenia and read on Armenian National Radio. This is something I am proud of. While I can read and write in Armenian, I am still a long way from being able to communicate effectively in that language. Of course, the same might be said for my English, which, despite my having been born and educated in America, is limited to a vocabulary of approximately sixty words. And when I say �educated,� I mean that I learned very early on how to get by while doing as little of my school work as possible. For me, school was an imposition. While I was able to get along well with my fellow students, I found the school system itself to be an incredible bore, and therefore a waste of my valuable time. I still feel the same way, except now I know my time is not valuable, and is not, in fact, even my own. I�m not even sure time exists. As far as school goes, I�m not sure it exists either, other than as an excuse to get kids out of bed in the morning � which is where they really belong, because living is an exhausting activity. But, back to Armenia. I was there with my brother in 1982, but as of yet I have been unable to return. My brother, though, went back several times. In fact, he was going so often that he finally decided to move there entirely. Now he�s married and living in Yerevan. Recently, he launched a website that brings together his activities of the last several years. www.road-to-armenia.com features a beautiful photo gallery, samples of traditional music, and articles about his adventures. Visiting the site is a great way to get acquainted with an ancient land that once rivaled the Roman Empire and gave the world some of its finest art and architecture. Also, �Road to Armenia� is well organized and easy on the eyes � a good thing, because there is so much there to see.
A few weeks ago, we provided a link to columnist Tim Hinshaw�s website (see below). That link has since been updated. Mr. Hinshaw�s new site now includes several columns, each on its own page. They�re all good, but I especially like �Annie�s War.� It�s not only a fine story, but an important reminder of the price we pay as a result of our continued preoccupation with war.
Astute observers and active participants in the world of Small Press publications, John Berbrich and his wife Nancy edit Barbaric Yawp, a literary quarterly that features some of the best short fiction and poetry happening these days. Pick up any issue of the Yawp and you�ll be treated to a compelling mix of voices seldom heard outside the Small Press realm, but which deserve a wider audience. A labor of love, the 5� x 8� saddle-stitched magazine runs in the neighborhood of fifty pages. The cover of each issue features the intriguing artwork of Anita Carrano. The work chosen by John and Nancy is short and often humorous. Some of the serious stuff is really serious, but in a good way that will leave you thinking. I should say also that some of the work is edgy, and not without four-letter words. Barbaric Yawp is not a magazine for kids � but I do think it could be used effectively in high school English classes by teachers who eschew the mind-numbing confines of the straight-and-narrow. Subscriptions to Barbaric Yawp are $15.00 per year. Single copies of the current issue are $4.00 each, and back issues are $3.00. Write to John and Nancy at 3700 County Rt. 24, Russell NY 13684, or visit their website. (Note: To read my review of the April 2008 issue, go here.
A pleasant breeze passing through today�s politically correct, corporate culture, Tim Hinshaw is a writer whose wit and brevity earn him high marks from people who love to read, but have little time. A crackerjack columnist, Hinshaw�s conversational style is as warm and familiar as an apple pie cooling on the windowsill � but you�d better watch out, because he just might eat the pie. Well-read and widely lived, Hinshaw is a bighearted writer with a love for history and an eye for detail that make his columns the perfect warmup for those days when you have too much to do, but don�t know where to start. To read samples of his work or to drop him a line, go to his website at http://timhinshaw.tripod.com/timbits/.
Recently Banned Literature
Site updates, poetry, notes & marginalia
by William Michaelian
Read several of his columns online
Road to Armenia
Photo gallery, travel articles, and mp3s
Rain Taxi Review of Books
Nonprofit quarterly featuring
reviews, interviews, and essays
The Compulsive Reader
Literary site with book reviews and more
Collection of literary trivia
Biographies of British Authors
Raleigh, Milton, Defoe, Coleridge, etc.
Read about authors who share your birthday
Steven Zahavi Schwartz
Book designer, artist, and photographer
Author�s Web Links
Maintained by Annette Kay Taylor
Today in Literature
Daily articles about great writers,
books, and events in literary history
The link between creativity and madness
Take Our Word for It
Webzine about words and their origins
Links compiled by Lane Rasmussen
of the Newman Library
at Virginia Tech University
Selected Literatures & Authors Pages
Part of Lane Rasmussen�s Slavic, East
European, and Former USSR Resource project
Literary directory/search engine
World Literature in Armenian
Armenian translations of major authors
and contemporary writers from around the world
(Armenian language support available)
Story-A-Day Reading Project
Writer Jason Bulger�s daily comments
on the short stories in the anthology
The Story and Its Writer
World Wide Words
International English from a British viewpoint
Soul Food Caf�
Extensive, multi-layered site devoted to
self-understanding, creativity, and the arts
The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov
More erudite criticism from Jason Bulger
The Wall Poems of Leiden
An inspiring outdoor poetry project
in the Netherlands
A visual and literary arts platform
dedicated to promoting artistic expression
The Vincent van Gogh Gallery
Displays all of the artist�s works and letters
(homepage available in many languages)
The Finnegans Wake Society
A recording of James Joyce
with text and background information
Guide to independent and alternative publishing
Armenian Poetry Project
Current and historical work by Armenian poets in English, Armenian, and French
An anthology of contemporary poetry
Richard Brautigan Archives
All things Brautigan
Russ Allison Loar
Poet and musician with several blogs
Celebrating William Saroyan
by the Fresno Bee
Poetry through the Ages
Interactive web exhibit
Small Press literary quarterly
$15/year; single issue $4
John & Nancy Berbrich, Editors
3700 County Rt. 24
Russell NY 13684
From the Marrow
Monthly sheet featuring short reviews
of Small Press publications
SASE with first class postage
3700 County Rt. 24
Russell NY 13684
Quarterly magazine devoted to literary
and historical work on Armenian subjects
$24/year; single issue $7
Aram Arkun, Editor
55 East 59th St.
New York, NY 10022-1112
Rain Taxi Review of Books
Nonprofit quarterly featuring
reviews, interviews, and essays
visit site for international rates
Eric Lorberer, Editor
P.O. Box 3840
Minneapolis, MN 55403
Also by William Michaelian
52 pages. Paper.
Another Song I Know
80 pages. Paper.
Signed copies available
A Listening Thing
Among the Living
No Time to Cut My Hair
One Hand Clapping
Songs and Letters
Early Short Stories
Cosmopsis Print Editions
News and Reviews
Favorite Books & Authors
Flippantly Answered Questions
E-mail & Parting Thoughts