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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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What a wonderful surprise when I was contacted by Laura De Silva of Open Road Integrated Media and presented with the opportunity to share this information: sixty-three Howard Fast titles to be published in EBook format, this month, December, 2011.

There’s so much I could say about this hero of the real America, this spokesman for the common person everywhere. If you haven’t heard of Howard Fast, there’s a good reason for it. His work was banned and effectively buried during what Fast, in his memoir, Being Red, called the “mini-terror”—the McCarthy era. And although the ban was eventually lifted, it seems that the mini-terror lives on through our propaganda driven fears—the shadow places of our collective minds— as we struggle, seemingly in vain, to rise to the consciousness of a free people.

Those of us who love and appreciate Fast’s work could go on and on, but I would ask you to let Fast tell you the story  his way. If you read just one —perhaps The American (classic struggle of the American worker), or Freedom Road (the terrible reality of post-slavery “reconstruction”), or the poignantly heartbreaking revolutionary war novel, April Morning, I think you may want to, as I have begun to do, seek out the surviving copies of his books, tattered and battered though you may find them. However, Open Road Media has done much of the work for us at this time. Lover of technology or no, the work of this incredibly prolific writer is being preserved. For that we should be very grateful.

As always, thanks for stopping by my blog. Please leave a comment if so inclined. If I decide it’s not spam, I’ll approve it.   (:<)>     Namaste, jesse s. hanson

NOTE: The video above and all of the content below is reprinted from The Open Road Blog

 

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NEWS FROM OPEN ROAD: December 13, 2011

 
Sixty-three Titles by New York Times Bestselling Author Howard Fast

Launching as Ebooks from Open Road Media

The only thing that infuriates me, is that I have more unwritten stories in me

than I can conceivably write in a lifetime.” —Howard Fast
 

Sixty-three titles by Howard Fast (1914­­–2003), one of the most prolific American writers of the twentieth century, will be released as ebooks by Open Road Integrated Media in December. Open Road will publish both fiction and nonfiction during a three-stage rollout.
 

Howard Fast, the bestsellingauthor of more than eighty works of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and screenplays, grew up in New York City and published his first novel upon finishing high school in 1933. In 1950, his refusal to provide the United States Congress with a list of possible Communist associates earned him a three-month prison sentence, along with a place on the blacklist of severalmajor publishers. During his incarceration, Fast wrote one of his best-known novels, Spartacus (1951), and went on to found his own press, Blue Heron, in order to release the work. Throughout his long career, Fast matched his commitment to championing social justice in his writing with a deft, lively storytelling style. His collection of bestselling novels such as Conceived in Liberty, Citizen Tom Paine, April Morning, and The Legacy illustrate themes of freedom and human rights in a time of turbulence and global war.

On December 13, 2011, nineteen titles—including April Morning—will be released. In April Morning, on the eve of the American Revolution, the Battle of Lexington and Concord changes a boy’s life—and a nation’s history—forever. Sweeping in scope and masterful in execution, this novel is a classic of American fiction and an unforgettable story of one community’s fateful struggle for freedom. The Incredible Tito, Fast’s fascinating biography of Joseph Broz, known to the world as Tito, including his rise to power and his remarkable stand against fascism, will be offered to readers as a free download.
 

On December 20, nineteenmysteries by Howard Fast writing as E. V. Cunningham will be released as ebooks. These include the Masao Masuto mysteries, beginning with The Case of the Angry Actress, starring detective Masuto, a second-generation Japanese-American, Buddhist homicide detective. Other titles include such female-centered works as Phyllis, Sally, and others.

On December 27, twenty-five titles will complete Open Road Media’s Howard Fast ebook collection. Three of these are from Fast’s much-loved Immigrants series, an immensely popular saga that spanned six novels and over a century of the Lavette family’s story. Of this series, Open Road will release The Legacy, The Immigrant’s Daughter, and An Independent Woman. Two of the nonfiction titles—The Art of Zen Meditation, in which Fast offers readers a simple, straightforward introduction to Zen meditation, which had a profound influence on his writing and personal philosophy; and Spain and Peace, a 1951 pamphlet that contains a powerful denunciation of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco—will be offered as free downloads.

Extra content includes:
 

•  Behind-the-scenes author commentary and videos at www.openroadmedia.com/authors/howard-fast.aspx
•  An illustrated biography in each ebook, including previously unseen photographs and documents from Fast’s personal life and distinguished career
 

               
 

Amazon.com, Apple iBookstore, Barnesandnoble.com, Google eBookstore/IndieBound, Kobo Books, OverDrive, and Sony Reader Store

Availability begins on December 13, 2011:

 
The American

April Morning

The Children

Citizen Tom Paine

Clarkton

Conceived in Liberty

Departure

The Edge of Tomorrow

The Incredible Tito*

The Last Supper

Moses

The Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti

Patrick Henry and the Frigate’s Keel

Place in the City

The Proud and the Free

Silas Timberman

The Story of Lola Gregg

Thirty Pieces of Silver

The Winston Affair
 

On December, 20, 2011

mysteries by Howard Fast writing as E. V. Cunningham will go on sale:

 
Alice

Cynthia

Helen

Lydia

Margie

Millie

Penelope

Phyllis

Sally

Shirley

The Assassin Who Gave Up His Gun

The Case of the Angry Actress

The Case of the Kidnapped Angel

The Case of the Murdered Mackenzie

The Case of the One-Penny Orange

The Case of the Poisoned Eclairs

The Case of the Russian Diplomat

The Case of the Sliding Pool

The Wabash Factor
 

On December 27, 2011

more titles will be added to the Howard Fast ebook collection:

 
Agrippa’s Daughter

The Art of Zen Meditation*

The Confession of Joe Cullen

The Crossing

Dinner Party

The General Zapped an Angel

Greenwich

Hunter and the Trap

The Immigrant’s Daughter

An Independent Woman

The Jews

The Legacy

Literature and Reality

Max

The Naked God

The Outsider

Peekskill USA

The Pledge

Power

Redemption

Spain and Peace*

Strange Yesterday

Time and the Riddle

Torquemada

A Touch of Infinity

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

3550640

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…

Jesse S. Hanson’s spiritual fiction novel

Jesse S. Hanson's spiritual fiction novel

Click picture to Buy or learn about my novel