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The following is my review of  a new book, Being and Homelessness: Notes from an Underground Artist, by Chicago artist, John H. Sibley.  It is a work that covers a lot of ground, touches on many social issues—issues that concern both artists and the homeless. These two concerns have formed a type of personal collage in John’s world.

Although my roots (in this particular physical manifestation) are small town Upper Midwest America and John’s are inner city, Chicago, interestingly enough, I can relate. I have little in common with John’s upbringing, but my artistic longings and aspirations drew me to the city also—in my case it was Seattle, where I spent a period of my life as a street musician, immersed in the “culture” of the Pike Place Market and other local haunts, in the company of other musicians, artists, poets, crafts persons, vendors, entrepreneurs of  questionable pursuits, alcoholics, drug addicts, homeless persons, and derelicts of great variety. I can relate, and I can confirm: the subjects of artists and homelessness are easily intertwined. John has, in fact, done this successfully and has become a type of spokesman for the underground artist, in doing so.

As always, I hope you’ll enjoy my review and that you’ll leave a comment if so inclined. Thanks for coming by,  Jesse S. Hanson

 

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A Multi-faceted Look at the Life of an Underground Artist

John H. Sibley’s new literary work, Being and Homelessness: Notes from an Underground Artist, is an important and welcome contribution, arriving as it does, at a time when the scene of the art world is mostly cordoned off to all but the privileged elect. From my nosebleed seat in the bloody colosseum of the arts—being an underground artist myself—I often found myself cheering along as John attacked the giants, demons and all fierce bastions of that world with eloquence and candor.

 “I was relegated to selling my art on the street level not because I lacked talent but because I was shunned, ostracized and treated like a pariah by both Chicago’s white and black art establishments.”

Taken out of context, as I have done here, I realize it sounds like sour grapes, like the complaint of an artist who has likely not put in the required effort, not stayed the course, or does, in fact, lack the talent to succeed. Not so: Not only has John been practicing and honing his unique artistic crafts since he was a young boy, but he is a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. His knowledge of the academics and history of art is formidable and that is only enhanced by the practical knowledge of a man of the streets.

However, there is much more to Being and Homelessness than a diatribe against the art establishment. I particularly enjoyed Chapter 8, The Lost Culture of Maxwell Street. This chapter deals with the multicultural open-air market atmosphere, highlighted by the legendary Chicago Blues culture that manifested for a period of some forty plus years. I had previously read this chapter, when it was posted on goodreads.com, and found it fascinating. The following is taken from the comment that I wrote, regarding the post, at that time: “This is very gritty and intense. It seems to be written just like someone is talking; telling about, reveling in their experience of life—stream of consciousness. There’s just so much in there, almost more than the senses can deal with. Life experienced as a perpetual street fairexhausting and thrilling at once.”

Another aspect of John’s book that I appreciated was his exploration of Black history in America. Here again, Sibley pulls no punches in presenting his facts and opinions:

–example of facts:

“The first slaves arrived in Jamestown, Virginia in 1619 to establish 244 years of slavery.

Contemporary African Americans have only been free 139 years, using 1863 as a benchmark, which means that blacks were slaves 105 years longer than we have been free.”

 –example of opinion:

“The salient fact is that black Americans are still reeling from the dehumanizing effects of the former slave trading nations of England, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal and the US.”

I certainly am not a fan of John H. Sibley’s every opinion. I don’t personally agree with his outspoken political criticism of Barack Obama, and especially with his endorsement of Herman Cain —I at first thought it was a huge literary blunder for him to include such opinions in his book. But after ruminating on it for a while, I think I can see a reason for the inclusion. His main point seems to be that Obama, although a black man, is not an “African American”. “Obama’s world is not the one of American slaves like my ancestors.” Sibley is exploring the experience of the American descendants of the slaves. Fact is—and I can’t deny it—Obama is not one of them—Cain is. It’s a pure issue of identification.

For those of you who may have read Sibley’s novel, Bodyslick, this work is, in my opinion, much more palatable. It is, in fact, as has been mentioned in another review, a fast and easy read. For the most part it takes me back to my earlier reading of Chapter 8, The Lost Culture of Maxwell Street. The editing is questionable—I hope you won’t let that bother you. If you have an interest, even a curiosity about the life of art, outside of the mainstream, spoon-fed versions, this book will be of interest to you. If you have an interest in the causes and experience of the homeless, this book will interest you also, though it is not its main theme, despite the title. Recommended: by a fellow underground artist.

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I’ve just finished two wonderful and remarkable books: My Father’s Blood by Amy Krout-Horn (the new) and Ali and Nino by Kurban Said (the old) . In all sincerity, I think both would be appreciated by a great many readers. Excellent material to kick off a new year of reading. I would have to say that both are examples of Spiritual Fiction, as they explore the realities of beliefs and practices as they relate to the practice of a spiritual life in the face of so-called “real life”. Below are my reviews, as posted on goodreads.com.

As always, thanks for stopping by my blog. Please comment if so inclined–even if only mildly inclined–no problem.      jesse s. hanson

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jesse hanson‘s review

Jan 04, 12  · 
 
5 of 5 stars
Recommended for: anyone
Read in January, 2012

Relations
A review of Amy Krout-Horn’s autobiographical novel, My Father’s Blood

It’s difficult to sufficiently express the connection I felt reading Amy Krout-Horn’s autobiographical novel. As her self-portrait style character of both European and Native American descent comes to identify more strongly with her Lakota ancestry, I am reminded of the phrase—the prayer—All My Relations. I am aware that those words have a particular significance in this story. Finding her way is, in fact, a gradual process, since her father’s Lakota blood is not the primary heritage she learns about as a young girl. Rather, she is raised in mainstream, small-town, upper Midwest America, with the religion, history, and values that come with that territory. To that, I can most certainly relate, just like Amy, but ultimately, cannot truly identify with it.

The young girl’s American dream is challenged at a young age. Her trials are deeply emotional as are the trials of all young girls. Yet the comparison with most other young girls stops there. Forced to make her own way in a world that relentlessly removes her from security, she recovers again and again from the dark nature of despair. Krout-Horn allows the reader to experience both the brutality and the poetry of life right along with her. And, I think, therein lies the depth of this early memoir. She writes with a flourish that is not flowery, with a poignancy that is not contrived. I did find the omniscience of the narrator slightly disconcerting, in the case of a memoir, yet the book is presented as a novel, so of course, it’s obviously a matter of style.

Yes, I feel more deeply connected, having read My Father’s Blood, even as I feel more deeply the great chasms of separateness, culture to culture—as I mourn the separation of individuals from one another, created by our all-consuming culture of consumerism. This is one of those fine books that speak to us in a profound way about our relations. To those of us who have, to whatever extent, left behind our small towns or our old neighborhoods, we often feel a need to recognize our relationship with all as brothers and sisters. Yet there is also great relevance in the preservation of a people, in the reverence for and devotion to a way of life. “Are we Indians, Grandpa?” the little girl asks. “I suppose some places we would be,” he said…

There are so many levels of interest in this little novel; we are intimately exposed to and educated about the familiy’s debilitating and life-threatening illness and we become witness to the intuitive strengths that are sometimes granted to the handicapped. Another one of the very interesting aspects to me was the author’s personal question: who is an Indian? I certainly appreciated the expressed vulnerability in a brief but openhearted examination of this subject. From Chapter Six, Spring of Bleeding Hearts: “My grandfather’s eyes met mine and I saw the tiniest pinpoint of light flickering in the shiny black pupils, like the gleam of a star, its brilliance diminished only by the unfathomable space and time that exists between itself and Earth.”

I recommend My Fathers Blood. It is a remarkably tasteful and yet artistic work for so young a writer. I suspect she is young, only in years, as we know them.

 
 
 
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jesse hanson‘s review

Jan 04, 12  · 
 
5 of 5 stars
Read from November 20 to December 23, 2011
 
A Great, and I Think, Little Known Classic
A review of Kurban Said’s novel, Ali and Nino 

I’d never even heard of this story, but my circles don’t run that wide. I stumbled across it: a love story, extraordinare–a love story in more ways than one. Where Asia meets Russia meets Europe. An Islamic boy and a Georgian girl. A Russian revolution and a World War. All of this lovingly and elegantly captured in classic novel format by an unknown author with the ghost name, Kurban Said.

Just click on the edition here (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/46284…) and read the great synopsis by Alix Wilbur. If you’d rather just read it cold without the synopsis, then just read it. It may be even more relevant today than in the time of its inception. It is such a lovingly rendered view of fundamental Islamic culture that the non-Islamist reader is irresistably drawn in. Simultaneously sincere and lighthearted.

Please read it… You won’t forget it.

 
 
 

Finally wrote my review of War and Peace: Original Version. I try to include here, reviews that have some relation to spiritual fiction. Although that is a rather debateable aspect of this novel, I do think it exists, as it does in much classical literature. Hope you enjoy the review. As always: thanks for stopping by my blog. I’d appreciate it if you’d leave a comment if so inclined.
                                           Jesse S. Hanson

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Heroes and Heroines or Failures and Fools… or both?

 

I guess the first responsibility one has in writing a review of War and Peace is to be clear about what version is being reviewed. My review concerns, War and Peace: Original Version, translated by Andrew Bromfield, Paperback, 912 pages, Published September 1st 2008 by Harper Perennial. The 912 pages is short by most standards (Goodreads.com shows 383 editions and the lengths of some of these editions can run into several thousands of pages, divided into multiple  books. The most common versions read by English readers run something less than 1500 pages, I believe.

 

Whew, I’m glad that part’s over! It’s all quite relevant, I’m sure, on the one hand, which edition/version we’re talking about and yet on the other, perhaps not so much so. There are the issues of a “happy ending” or not, philosophical “fill” or not, etc. Leave it to the Tolstoy geeks, I’m sorry. It’s not the only good story in the world and, great as he was/is, he’s not the only great writer in the world. I don’t personally see how saying that detracts anything from his greatness or the novel’s greatness.

 

So let me begin by saying, It’s a great novel. I felt a strong sense of loss when I finished it. It had become a friend over the nearly five months that I was reading it (I’m a slow reader and I have a very busy life and I was reading other books simultaneously).

 

I must say that if I hadn’t been coming into it with the expectation of it being a great novel, I may have abandoned it early on. Those glamorous society parlor soirees, full of gossip and all manner of arrogant types of conversation would have done me in. The fact that the author was obviously critically mocking the characters didn’t help much. I think that when it was written, such authorial mockery may have served an important purpose and been quite entertaining, as well, but we’ve had such a diet of it over the years of my life that I now find it quite boring and repugnant—the stuff of soap operas. Still, I cannot deny, Tolstoy was a master of minute observation and when the stuff of his writing is sincere, I was in constant admiration of that ability.

 

My other problem with the novel was the fact that it was written from the point of view of privileged society in the first place. My Australian Goodreads friend Laurel sent me her thoughts: “With Tolstoy’s two great books, Anna Karina and War and Peace, he very much writes about family life. You feel as if you know the families concerned. For me, it is his greatest achievement.” I could not help but agree with her about the contribution regarding family, but it’s just a personal thing with me: I’m not often fascinated by the family doings of the rich and famous. So when I remarked that I was likely to remain a bigger Dostoevsky fan, that was perhaps the reason. Personally, I am a product of middle class America. From that starting point, in the board game of life, I have occasionally travelled through the slums and the low places of those without “opportunity” as it is usually called, and I have, in turn, traversed, on other occasions, the high roads and visited the lofty nests of the well-to-do. There are good and bad people in all walks, and I’m not comfortable anywhere, but certainly not in the lap of luxury.  

 

I think the greatest delight in reading War and Peace is that the reader is always kept guessing as to the quality of a character’s character, so to speak. My favorite one, Pierre is a perfect case in point. For some time I thought that he was the only character with character. Later, I became convinced that the same was true of Prince Andrei. Up and down I was thrown and plunged through my identification with individual personalities. Whether it was in terms of family relations, or those of friends and peers, or those uniquely military or nationalistic, the story always had me going, pulling for this character or that, despairing in his or her shortcomings and reveling in that same one’s transcendence.

 

The war scenes, though relatively brief, are very powerful. Ultimately, War and Peace is an anti-war novel. I think it’s also a pro-Russia novel; I mean to say a work that revels in the character of the pre-socialist Russia. But it seems so ironic that Tolstoy freely expresses this love of country while he relentlessly mocks every one of his own characters and the entire Russian mentality. He openly portrays the Russian military organism, from the beloved sovereign to the generals to the foot soldiers, as absolutely clueless. He places no value whatsoever on the genius of anyone in command (not even Napolean, the enemy’s great emperor hero who is widely acclaimed, even today as a military genius). The business of war, the author sees as baseless murder, yet the business of peace he seems to see as ridiculous comedy.

 

There is really one primary question that I have, and I think the reader must decide for her/himself: are there any heroines/heroes in this great sprawling and endearing epic? I believe there are only three characters who genuinely concern themselves with any higher, spiritual questions or pursuits in their lives; how those questions or pursuits are resolved is, to me, part of the same primary question.

 

I do highly recommend War and Peace. I think it will be a joy to discuss it with others—a joy one won’t be able to relate to unless one reads it. 

 

 

 

The following is a guest post by my author friend, Vishoka dasa, who is a great devotee of his mentor, Jayananda Thakur. I’ve read his book, The Beautiful life of Jayanada Thakur, and was very impressed by the style as well as the sincerity. Vishoka is currently working on a follow-up to that work, and I am fortunate to be helping with the line editing.

Vishoka ji began his years in the Hare Krishna movement at the temple in San Francisco during the early 1970’s, and Jayananda dasa was their leader, as they worshiped Krishna and did Guru Bhakti to their spiritual Master, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.  a resident of the New Vrindavan Krishna Community near Moundsville, WV.

At the end of the post are links to Vishoka’s writings and to websites in memory of Jayananda dasa and to Srila Prabhupada.

As always, thanks for stopping by my blog. Please leave a comment if you are so inclined.

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Jayandanda Thakur

Worldwide popular author endorses Krishna and the Vedas:

Dan Brown stunned the literary world with his global phenomena, “The Da Vinci Code,” with off-the-charts book sales all over the world. Brown is well known for his towering IQ and genius penmanship, and being a Harvard grad, his scientific vision is highly regarded by his readers. 

His next novel, “The Lost Symbol” has been eagerly received by fans over the world. In chapter 15 he makes major scientific postulations that “we have barely scratched the surface of our mental and spiritual capabilities,” and, “the scientific wisdom of the ancients was staggering … modern physics is only now beginning to comprehend it all,” and, ”there will come a day when modern science begins in earnest to study the wisdom of the ancients … that will be the day that mankind begins to find answers to the big questions that still elude him.”

In his narrative, Brown references Krishna and His Bhagavad-gita and the Upanisads. A comment is made by his female character, Katherine, that Krishna and Vyasa did not mention “multidimensional cosmological models.” Perhaps so, the reason being that the ancient authors of the Vedas were not really concerned with the material world, but they gave extensive and detailed descriptions of the spiritual world, which is a multidimensional world of ultimate importance to mankind.

To give a crude example; a man reads a vacation brochure which describes an idyllic countryside with a lake full of swans and lotus flowers, and towering snow topped mountains in the horizon. And so the man books his vacation and travels by train through the mountains. On his way he is delayed at some train station, wherein the custodian, who works there, is fascinated with the station and he tells the vacationer all about the captivating details of the infrastructure of the station. He narrates of how some master architect designed the many intricate facets and nooks and crannies of the structure, and how incredibly interesting it all is. And so the custodian is going on and on about the glories of the terminal station, and meanwhile the traveler just listens in a polite mood, but he doesn’t really care at all, because he is meditating on his destination which has superior qualities of many natural and beautiful wonders.

In the same way, the ancients in the Vedic tradition were not so interested in the complexities of the material world, which are in themselves very fascinating. Rather, they were mesmerized by the matchless wondrous details of the spiritual worlds, which are extensively described by the great teachers of Vedic truths to be the true goal of human perfection. The Vedic texts describe the material world as being the inferior nature, and the spiritual worlds as being the superior nature.

Unbeknownst to author Dan Brown, and hoping he will become aware of someday, is the erudite commentary of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta on the ancient text of “Sri Brahma-samhita,” wherein the descriptions of the material world and the multi-faceted glories of the spiritual worlds are given in great detail, and which there is mention of multi-dimensional attributes of such worlds.

Krishna and His Vedas do not touch upon the modern physicist’s hot topics of the day, which are theories of postulations that may be true, or may not be true. Reason being, they do not hold such topics as being very important information for mankind. What is really important information, that which is promulgated by Krishna and the Vedic scriptures, is the crucial fact of ultimate knowledge … being that we are spiritual beings separate from our material bodies … and we are constantly transmigrating from one body to another, and suffering in this material world, with fewer material pleasures. The highest goal of life, in their opinion, is to factually realize this spiritual information via the aid of a bona-fide spiritual master, and reach our real home in the spiritual sky. Knowledge of the physics of the material world will not help us in our ultimate journey back to the spiritual world of Lord Krishna’s abode.

Hare Krishna ys Vishoka dasa.

More commentary –

The trick is to catch the train that goes straight back to the mountain resort [the spiritual world], but some of us get distracted at the train station, thinking the station is important business. So many trains come and go, but we get sidetracked at the gift shop or food court or arcadia room and other sense gratifications. A tendency is to try to fix station problems, spend too much time to make it better. Time is best utilized to preach about the resort to other travelers, tell them about the eternal world, and then we can catch the Garuda express and chant our way back home at the end of life. Whatever the situation is in the station, we simply deal with it, make choices that help others and ourselves, but at the end of the day, the train station is only a temporary pastime, and time will always run out at some point. At the time of death if we don’t board the train back to the eternal resort in the sky and serve Krishna forever, we will catch another train again to some other temporary train station to deal with more illusory problems. Change of heart to love of Krishna is most important. Knowledge helps along the way, but often education will have the effect of making men more clever, as opposed to change of heart and loving God, which is the only ticket to board the Garuda express to go straight to Goloka.

Some of my links-

The Jayananda website –

http://vishoka.com/visoka/Jayananda/Jayananda_Website.htm

and

The Online Jayananda book with hyper text –

[hyper text is kind of fun  (: ]

http://vishoka.com/visoka/Jayananda/jayanet2.htm

and Gunga Express –

http://vishoka.com/visoka/Jayananda/gunga_express.htm

Hope you will enjoy my review of The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. Also hope you’ll enjoy the lyrics of my original song, Glamorous Lords at the end of the post.
As always, thanks for stopping by my blog. Please leave a comment if you’re so inclined.           jesse s. hanson

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The Killer Angels
by Michael Shaara

THe Killer Angels

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jesse hanson‘s review
Mar 23, 11  ·  5 of 5 stars

bookshelves: books-i-ve-reviewed

status: Read from March 20 to 21, 2011
-Glamorous Lords-

It’s hard to explain. There’s a quote at the end of this book: “Thus ended the great American Civil War, which must upon the whole be considered the noblest and least avoidable of all the great mass conflicts of which till then there was record.” –Winston Churchil, A History of the English Speaking Peoples.
I couldn’t agree with that.

Everything in my being says that it wasn’t handled right. The north just had a different way of handling it’s slaves. It called them employees. Not only that, but during the “noblest and least avoidable conflict” the US Army was also busy exterminating the Native Americans to further the white man’s God given dominion over the whole country. I guess we screwed up, losing part of Mexico and all. Will the real hypocrites please stand up!!

But the book is a page turner alright. Brilliant in capturing the simplicity of it all. A special note: I was surprised to see Lee portrayed as much less than perfect–deeply and vastly loved by his army, as well as the entire South, but much less than perfect.

Highly recommend this book. Draw or re-draw your own conclusions.

p.s. I’ve included this review on my blog https://jesseshanson.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/glamorous-lords-a-review-of-the-killer-angels-plus-an-original-song/ along with an original song of mine, Glamorous Lords, that was inspired by just such “noblest and least avoidable conflict”s. Oh well, Winston, no matter how great a man, in many ways, was a “Glamorous Lord”, himself, no doubt.

 

GLAMOROUS LORDS

                                    Jesse S. Hanson

You speak so carelessly about death
As if there was only your part in it
And when the killing’s finally over with
You wish to once again begin it

          All your wars, you mighty butchers
          Glamorous Lords, you find yourselves
          You break down doors, you private lookers
          Flesh and blood on swords is where your perversion dwells

They came like demons and they came like priests
They came like vampires in the darkness
In the names of gods and in the names of beasts
We fought and we fled and we became heartless

With colors flying and bright metal shining
The ground is shaking before the horde
Elephants and horses and dark angels riding
Beware the servants of the Lord

          All your wars, you mighty butchers
          Glamorous Lords, you find yourselves
          You break down doors, you private lookers
          Flesh and blood on swords is where your perversion dwells

Some speak of the past as if it’s past
As if we are somehow above it
But they’ve gone to every corner, all unasked
Until there’s no place left to love it

 Out of all the earthly six directions
A sound that for all who hear portends
For dominion lost in derelictions
And lost, it does not come back again
and lost, it does not come back again
and lost it does not come back…
come back again…

Spiritually inspired recording artist, Denis Morreau

Spiritually inspired recording artist, Denis Morreau

Spiritually inspired recording artist, Denis Moreau has offered some very unique and insightful comments, after reading my spiritual allegory, Song of George: Portrait of an Unlikely Holy Man. My wife, Lilasuka, and I are big fans of Denis, so the comments are special, coming from him.

Here is a brief bio of Denis from his facebook profile:

Born in Temiscaming Quebec, a small paper mill town, Denis received his musical training early, in the church choir. By the time he was 15, his attention leaned toward the music of the day. Inspired he learned how to play guitar and harmonica then soon lost interest in all others matters. He hitchhiked across Canada and parts of the US mingling with the citizens and sharing his music.

At 25 years of age, yearning for spiritual awakening, he donned the robes of a monk. For the following 15 years he was fully engaged in meditation, devotional practices, and welfare activities. His services led him to different parts of Canada, the United States, and the Far East.

In 1995 he renewed his efforts in music while living in New York City. Since, he has been recording and touring many festivals and venues performing in theaters, clubs, coffee houses, retirement communities and charitable outreaches. 

And the following are Denis’ comments regarding Song of George: Portrait of an Unlikely Holy Man:

“Here is a voice that defies the boundaries of sanity, and beckons me to drop certain preconceived notions of sanctity.

This voice wanders in the midst of horror, cynicism, absurdity, and wisdom, inviting me to bare my soul before the human condition— all along urging me to look for the spiritual thread tying it all together.”            –Denis Moreau

In my ongoing effort to propagate awareness of Spiritual Fiction, I’d like to present an excellent example. Unfortunately, Howard Fast, who is among the most prolific of American writers, is no longer with us to give an opinion regarding my obsession with the genre. 

Having read his memoir, Being Red, I came to believe that Howard did not necessarily believe in God. He did certainly believe in humanitarianism and fought bravely, brilliantly, and even physically for that cause in all of its purposes. He was a long-time Unitarian Universalist, though he is more often cited for his temporary ties with the American Communist movement. Those modern day souls, fearful of the very word socialism (a fear bred and bolstered by the hate mongering of political opportunists and Joe McCarthy groupies) would do well to read Howard Fast to get the other, and much truer side of the story.

Nevertheless, The Confession of Joe Cullen is, in my opinion, great Spiritual Fiction… Well, it’s all in the review. No, not really; it’s all in the novel. I highly recommend it.

As always, thanks for coming by. Please leave a comment if you’re so inclined.          jesse s. hanson

 

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by Howard Fast

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Spiritual Fiction Novel by Howard Fast

The Confession of Joe Cullen

I loved this Confession of Joe Cullen book, although, if it hadn’t been Howard Fast (it’s no secret–I’m a huge fan), I may well have not read beyond the first chapter/confession–Guy walks into a bar, says, “Hey bartender, who’s the good lookin’ dame in the corner…” Well, i’m being facetious, but it really came off as second rate New York gumshoe material. But it is Howard Fast so I didn’t quit there, and it turned out to be, not only great historical fiction and social commentary, so typical of this fine American author, but also a really wonderful example of spiritual fiction.

There isn’t a lot you can tell about this novel, without giving out spoilers. Suffice it to say that it really is a gumshoe story, with all the trappings of that form, including extreme simplicity and a certain corniness. As I was thinking of comparisons just now, Road to Perdition came to mind. People tend to be, after all, simple and a bit corny from one perspective, and yet from another, they are vital, sincere, tormented, and trajic. Having spent most of my life as an artist trapped in a blue collar body, these characters (the good guys, not the bad guys) are my friends. Yes, they are often melodramatic, but that does not negate the very real and powerful drama of their lives and their deaths. Herein, these men and women deal with important questions, such as truth, integrity, love, loneliness, despair, betrayal, loyalty, and forgiveness.

Set in 1987, The Confession is rather pre-technology as we think of it today. But it is a time, not so very far removed and I cannot see it as anything less than still relevant, even socially, to today’s world. Spiritually… well spirituality is transcendant of time, is it not? If not, I’m not sure what value it would have.

View all my reviews


I was quite gratified by this review of Song of George, by Jerry Scwartz, author of Pixels of Young Mueller. It’s very perceptive and it clearly conveys some of what I would like people to know about my book.

As always, thanks for stopping by my blog and feel free to make comments to your heart’s content. (:<)> jesse s. hanson

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Posted By Jerry Schwartz

Song of George

Song of George: Portrait of an Unlikely Holy Man. Jesse S. Hanson. All Things That Matter Press, 2010. 248 pp. $16.99.

I enjoyed reading Jesse Hanson’s Song of George, the story of “a guru in the prison mental ward.” Graduate students Ansel, Ozwald, and Jeff are permitted to study and record the inmates of floor 41 for two months, during which time they learn not only what life is like in a large federal correctional institution, but also of the effect that George, the “unlikely holy man,” has on his fellow inmates.

Hanson’s unorthodox approach to telling George’s story appealed to me from the beginning. Through a hodgepodge of quotes, songs, inmates’ recollections, messages of George transcribed by Ansel, and poetry, the spirituality of Hanson’s work shines as he relates his tale. I give Hanson extra points for making George a vegetarian. (How spiritual can you truly be when you are eating your fellow creatures?)

Admittedly, on several occasions, I became lost when reading this book. For instance, at one point, when the narrative switched to verse, I found myself wondering who “wrote” the poem. One of the inmates? Or was it the author stepping out from behind the curtain to assist me? My solution was to keep reading, and each time, I was rewarded. I love it when an author takes chances, and I like it even more when those risks pay off.

Song of George: Portrait of an Unlikely Holy Man is well written, engaging, and inspirational–four out of five stars.

The following is my review of the fine debut novel by All Things That Matter Press author, Jerry Scwhartz, Pixels of Young Mueller. This review has been  posted on Amazon.com and Goodreads.com

Thanks for visiting and please feel free to comment.    jesse s. hanson

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pixels of young mueller

     I really enjoyed these pixels of a young aspiring artist named Mueller. It is a fact that the modern world is chock full of musicians, writers, and all varieties of artists struggling–asking for the slightest attention to our “real” work, as we “don’t quit our day jobs” yet. I say “our” as I am one such musician, writer, artist myself. I can relate.

     I actually put it in a song of my own, “I want you to see me–I want you to hear me–just another nobody.” But of course we’re not really nobodies. Whether we make it or not we do affect those who come in contact with us, some more, some less. We really do. And some of us will even achieve success as the society of the world measures its artists. Many of us will not.

     Jerry Schwartz tells the story of one of us with an engaging and entertaining style. I liked the presentation, in which the narrator knows very little more than the character knows. So the reader gets the story straight, so to speak, whether it is from Mueller as a pre-schooler, Mueller as a member of the work force, or Mueller the multi-talented artist.

     Does he make it? You’ll have to read it to find out. Well written and relevant, even spiritual in a notably subtle way, I most surely recommend it. Four stars for the very fine debut effort. I think Schwartz is capable of better yet.

Jesse S. Hanson’s spiritual fiction novel

Jesse S. Hanson's spiritual fiction novel

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