The Review of Arts, Literature,
Philosophy and the Humanities
Early Summer 2017
The Weirdest Books
No one can appreciate the plight of us,
the poor overworked hack reviewer.
And it's certainly no bed of roses here on the dark knoll.
We live struggling under a mountain of scorn,
scabrous words laid on us by the many literary poseurs.
Yet we labor on, selflessly, continuing to expose to the light
an occasional lapidary work, well hidden here in the dark.
Thus, we discover the rare adept, selflessly seek out
ones whose mastery may have been lost forever
if it were not for the likes of us, unearthing words
secreted under dark covers, offering, with no
expectation of reward, an extraordinary outburst
of glory: the rare, the triumphal blast - - -
a profound spasm of literary (and eternal)
Such a Waste of Stars
"Like Crawford, I prefer
a loon or a redwing or an albatross,
black-headed grosbeak, or lesser scaup
much more than a rant about Google, so
I think I'll leave that for
Vintage Trailer Voyeur
"The more you have driven,
the more you will be able to squeeze your trailer
backwards down a narrow alley without taking something precious,
something you don't own, like a neighbor's car,
or his parking garage, or he himself.
Believe me: backing up a truck with a trailer lives in
the complex world of divine mystery,
not unlike Schrödinger's Cat."
"Instead of monster pursuing lady,
trying to drag her into the swamp or up some tall building,
she pursues him, tries to keep him from
being nabbed by the police; in the process, she teaches
him about love and the life of
What She Ate
"There were curried eggs on toast,
mushrooms and oysters on toast, broiled kidneys
on toast, braised kidneys on toast, lamb kidneys on toast,
chipped beef on toast, and a dish called 'Shrimp Wiggle,'
consisting of shrimp and canned peas heated in
white sauce, on toast."
"Discovery Education computes that
a healthy young slave just off the boat from Africa
'was valued at about $21,000 in today's dollars.'
That same slave, if he or she were still healthy, could be sold again.
'In the years right before the Civil War, such a slave
might bring nearly $2,000 - - - about $40,000
in today's dollars.'"
"We may live in the aftermath of
the myth of the Fall, and the even
longer aftermath of the myth of Oedipus,
but the first traffic lights were invented in the United States
after the First World War."
How the CIA Tricked the World's Best Writers
"The CIA merely
complicated the author's precarious situation at home
and when Pasternak finally won the Nobel,
his Soviet persecutors presented it
as proof of his collusion with the West
(though he had never consented to any of it).
Facing pressure and threats at home,
Pasternak declined the prize."
Great Reviews from the Past
A People's History of Poverty in America
"Funds for the poor serve as a check
on the morals of the lower class. American relief has
functioned to regulate the sexual, reproductive,
and labor market behavior of vulnerable populations . . .
the principal function of relief is to regulate
the low-wage labor supply and to placate
disruptive poor and unemployed people."
"It's an autobiography, yes:
but it is also a textbook ---
a very funny textbook ---
about those who go into the tattoo business,
or who come in to get tattooed,
and the art of tattooing itself."
To Say It Unbridled
The Ultimate Retirement
"Getting COPD in late life is like having
a first-class ticket for the maiden voyage of
the Titanic, but not being able to get to one of
the lifeboats in time."
John Cage Refuses an Honorary Degree
"Innovative acts in the arts are criminal.
(Duchamp agreed with me on this point.)
Though I've not been able to refuse punishments,
I can refuse rewards.
In fact, it is my obligation
to do so."
John Cage Tells Us What He Eats
"Don't eat fruit unless you can't resist it.
This is true too for alcohol, though I still don't resist it.
I was drinking beer in Ponape, but that is too liquid;
now I'm drinking whisky straight,
preferably single-malt Scotch."
Tells the President of TWA Airlines
About the Best Flight Food
"I am sure that should you change the vegetarian meals
to go with the macrobiotic diet that many travelers would be grateful.
Essentially what we want is brown rice, beans, some vegetable,
preferably carrot, turnip, broccoli, or squash, with ginger pickle or
daikon pickle, and then some fish,
Great Readings from the Past
Slavery and the Welfare State
"Slavery and its successors
(sharecropping, tenancy, convict labor)
and the prison have been as important throughout
American history in the lives of (poor) African Americans
as have, say, Social Security, homeless shelters,
Two by Tom Crawford
"It's silly to talk to the peach tree
about future pies, that's why
we have portfolio managers
for those who want to get ahead,
which can be hell on a good night's sleep."
"Your mother's disappeared again,
he'd call to my daughter, who'd come near, feign
a search for me. Some people need to escape,
she'd say, and wave her hand, and turn away."
"how he solved the problem
by picking up the tricycle by the handlebars
and smashing it through the windshield
of our brand new family station wagon,
his face red with scotch, his black tie
and jacket flapping with effort . . . "
Bad Day at the Beauty Salon
"I'm gonna look just like those hot Spanish haircut models,
become brown and bodacious, grow some 7 inch fingernails
painted bitch red and rake them down the chalkboard of
the job market's soul."
Surprise Top Pop Hit of the Month
Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy
"Chapter Eighteen is impossible to put down with its
wonderful/horrible vignettes drawn from testimony of
passengers and crew, including Michael Byrnes' telling of
the bodies of infants laid in life jackets,
and floating round with their
dead innocent faces looking
towards the sky."
THE OFFICIAL RALPH
OUR NEWEST TITLE
Life Among the Walkies
"If you don't understand
the word Walkies, you probably are one.
It refers to the 90 percent of the world's people
who, when walk-time comes, just get up and do it.
For the disabled, this simple act of get up and go
is one of those miracles that continues to bemuse us:
feet & arms & legs & balance & potential &
kinetic energy all coming together in
apple-pie order, working solemnly,
beautifully, to get through the room,
the city, the country,
OUR RECENT POETRY BOOK
The Vivisection Mambo
was recently published in quality antique typeset style.
It consists of 125 poems of the new Neo-Realist School,
many appearing here for the first time.
In a starred review, Kirkus called it
A fine anthology of some of the best contemporary poetry around.
AN ANTHOLOGY FROM THIS MAGAZINE
The Noisiest Book Review in the Known World
was published several years ago.
It contains 200 or so of what we believe
to be the best articles, readings, reviews and poems
from this magazine --- from our very first years to now.
If you subscribe to RALPH, you get a free copy of this anthology ---
which was listed by Kirkus as
"One of the Best Books of 2014."
All the back-issues of RALPH,
including titles of books under review,
along with author, subject, and publisher,
plus links to readings, articles, and poems
that have appeared on-line
In our General Index, from day one,
we have given stars to those titles that
our editors deemed to be of "especial merit."
You can now find them all here,
listed alphabetically by title.
THE FESSENDEN REVIEW
b. 1985 - d. 1989
Our predecessor magazine received
enthusiastic encomiums from media writers at
The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times,
The San Francisco Chronicle, and on
National Public Radio --- among others.
You can now find links here to all thirteen riotous issues.
A PITHY SAMPLE
of our most notorious reviews
as collected in the hard-copy
With your $25 subscription,
you help perpetuate honest,
noisy, pesky book reviews ---
plus ensure the survival of
this rare if odd online literary journal.
You will also receive
a free copy of our anthology,
the two-volume Best-of-Ralph
which, is, in the real world, they say, priceless.
T H E F A C T S
Submitting Reviews, Poems & Essays
Suggestions for would-be contributors --- and payment schedule.
The best way to get books to RALPH for review.
RALPH didn't spring full-blown from the brows of the gods:
We've been around (in different guises) for over thirty years.
The Fessenden Fund
Describing the good works of RALPH's official godparent
Mho & Mho Works
A Dozen or so Books from Our Foundation's Publishing Arm
Behind the Scenes
The Faces of Those Who Make Up the Face of RALPH
The Reginald A. Fessenden Educational Fund, Inc.
2015 - 2016
476,768 Unique Visitors
1,645,139 Page Hits
Lolita Lark, Editor-In-Chief
Post Office Box 16719
San Diego CA 92176