Literary Passion and the City of Savannah-Georgia

James Alan McPherson public release image

 Author James Alan McPherson (public release photograph)

One of the greatest authors of our 21st century times is a man who made history in the previous century when he became the first African-American to win the Pulitzer Prize in fiction: James Alan McPherson, a native of Savannah, Georgia, born September 16, 1943.

Unlike many of today’s celebrated public intellectuals, Mr. McPherson tends to play down his celebrity status and opts instead to put the greater part of his energies into teaching and writing. His absence from high-profile media events, however, has not stopped fans and commentators celebrating his life and legacy as represented by such books as Hue and Cry (1968), Elbow Room (1977, for which he won the Pulitzer) and Crabcakes (1998).

The Pinterest board titled “Literary Passion and the City of Savannah-Georgia” was constructed both as an acknowledgement of the city’s extraordinary cultural heritage and as a tribute to Mr. McPherson, who as adult has now spent much of his life in Iowa as an esteemed instructor for the famous Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Follow Author-Poet Aberjhani’s board Literary Passion and the City of Savannah-Georgia on Pinterest.


Counselor Calls for Major Change in Talking Back to Dr. Phil (part 3 of 4) – National African-American Art |

Talking Back To Dr. Phil by David Bedrick book cover

                Cover of “Talking Back to Dr. Phil” by love-based psychology advocate David Bedrick.

You can catch the previous segment of this 4-part series by Aberjhani by clicking right here. Part 3 starts now:

Another principle derived from David Bedrick’s meditations on process-oriented psychology suggests treating “the powers behind difficulties or disturbances as allies instead of enemies.” That could be a tough sell for people dealing with issues such as spouse abuse or drug addiction, but the author makes his case well enough. Moreover, the debatable nature of his love-based manifesto in its entirety is not lost on Bedrick. In his own defense and that of those he would help to heal themselves and their communities, he notes the following:

“Like the US Constitution, I do not adhere to majoritarianism, but rather protect marginalized people and forms of expression from being seen as ‘problems’ and subjected to the shame of psychological labeling and cultural prejudice, and I explore people’s difficulties to seek the seeds of their positive transformation.”

Each section of Talking Back to Dr. Phil describes an episode of the popular Dr. Phil Show that goes a long way toward helping Bedrick make some vital points. Just as importantly, these episodes are followed by precise explanations of how they represent applications of mainstream psychology, and, how love-based principles could have taken those who were in distress a step or two further toward resolving their problems.

Take, for one example, an episode presented in the chapter titled “Rank Dynamics.” In it, Dr. Phil helps a woman to confront her husband’s mistress, or lover. The husband, who had appeared on the show previously, this time around opts to avoid the television cameras. With the husband physically absent from the discussion, the two women treat each other as antagonists. Even worse, with accusations and unbridled judgments presented in the form of questions, Dr. Phil himself rallies his audience against the “other woman” to create “an atmosphere conducive more to retaliation than to open and honest discussion.”  

To read the full article by Aberjhani please this link:

Counselor Calls for Major Change in Talking Back to Dr. Phil (part 3 of 4) – National African-American Art |

Counselor Calls for Major Change in Talking Back to Dr. Phil (part 1 of 4) – National African-American Art |

“We each have lessons to learn and to teach, and healing is something we all do together.”—David Bedrick (Talking Back to Dr. Phil)

Black History Month is a time I usually reserve for purchasing and reading books by and about African Americans to help add functional substance to the month’s cultural and educational value.  It therefore was unlikely that I would read David Bedrick’s Talking Back to Dr. Phil ––after receiving a copy as a gift––any time soon.  This is what happened to change my mind:

Just as I was preparing to place the book halfway between a stack of titles waiting for my attention, I took a quick look inside at the acknowledgments page and read this opening sentence: “About twenty-five years ago, I had the privilege of hearing the music and poetry of Etheridge Knight, a freedom-loving black poet living in Boston.”

Since Knight was one of my all-time favorite tortured-soul scarred-radical-genius explosively-complex literary heroes, I knew well enough who he was. A sharp sting of envy focused my attention on the fact that Bedrick had actually sat in his presence. Moreover, he had received something of a literary benediction from the 1987 American Book Award-winning author after reciting Knight’s powerful poem, “Belly Song,” for him. That act moved the great poet to declare, “You own that poem; I give it to you.”

The Sea in Me and The Sea in You

To read the full article by Aberjhani please click the link:

Counselor Calls for Major Change in Talking Back to Dr. Phil (part 1 of 4) – National African-American Art |

YouTube video still of poet Etheridge Knight from 5 Poems by Etheridge Knight

Events, Books Highlight Author Flannery O’Connor’s Legacy (part 1)

The ever-mesmerizing Flannery O’Connor. (photo by Getty Images)


As close to a million or more people pour into Savannah, Georgia, for the March 17 St. Patrick’s Day Parade and associated festivities a number of them will also take time to visit the childhood home of America’s iconic author, Flannery O’Connor, at 207 E. Charlton Street near Lafayette Square.

Just eight days after St. Patrick’s Day, celebrations of a different order will take place when O’Connor fans mark what would have been the author’s 86th birthday on March 25. Those who immediately conjure images of southern “library geeks” with their noses pressed inside an open book when considering fans of her work might be surprised to note the Georgia College and State University website list the following among some of the author’s biggest fans: “Bruce Springsteen, Bono, The Coen Brothers, Conan O’Brien and Lucinda Williams are contemporary examples of people affected by her long legacy.”

Acknowledgement of that legacy over the next few months will take on many forms, including a short fiction competition, a conference, and the release of a new novel based on O’Connor’s life in Milledgeville, Georgia.

In the Mode of Flannery O’Connor

Hosted by the University of Georgia Press, the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction was established almost three decades ago. It is presented annually for a collection of short fiction in the mode of O’Connor. Entries for this year’s competition will be accepted throughout the month of April until May 31.

To date, some fifty short story collections have been published through the competition, which has also been credited with generating renewed interest in the genre. Past winners have included Mary Hood for How Far She Went, Peter LaSalle for Tell Borges If You See Him, and Nancy Zafris for The People I Know. Zafris has also been appointed the new series editor for the competition. For more details and information on submitting manuscripts click this link: Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction

The Conference at the Farm

The Flannery O’Connor Conference will be held from April 13-April 16 at the author’s alma mater, the Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, and also at Andalusia, the farm where she lived. The conference’s theme is “Startling Figures: A Celebration of the Legacy of Flannery O’Connor” and will feature talents from different creative disciplines, such as musicians, artists, writers, scholars, and artists, all of whom at one time or another have been inspired by the author’s work.

Among the more famous headliners slated to attend the conference is author and editor E.L. Doctorow, who will participate in an interview as well as present a reading In addition, musician Dave Perkins and Friends will perform a tribute concert on April 16.

A Good Hard Look

Usually when a publisher speaks of “resurrecting” an author who has passed away, they are referring to the re-publication of the author’s catalogue or the publication of a newly discovered book by them. In this case, O’Connor will undergo a literary resurrection with the July publication of A Good Hark Look (Penguin Press). The surprise here for those not already aware of the title is that it is not a scholarly study or biography but a novel by Ann Napolitano, author of Within Arm’s Reach.

Writing in her blog, Napolitano revealed that “The idea of a ‘well-lived life’ is a central theme of my novel, A Good Hard Look.” She further added: “It’s difficult for me to write about Flannery O’Connor [in the blog] because she’s lived in my head for the last seven years as a character in my novel… I wrote endless drafts of my novel and in particular, hundreds of drafts of her scenes, because I wanted the book to be worthy of her.”

Such concern makes a lot of sense when considering the high esteem in which O’Connor is held almost universally. Even so, if the five- and four-star ratings awarded Napolitano’s book by advance-copy readers on the Goodreads website are any indication, she may very well have accomplished her goal.

Please click to read: Events, Books Highlight Flannery O’Connor’s Legacy (part 2) Her Life and Times

by Aberjhani

Continue the discussion on

Review Essay on “The Angel’s Game” by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Anyone first introduced to the impassioned prose of Carlos Ruiz Zafón through his international bestseller, The Shadow of the Wind, will find it difficult to avoid comparing it to any follow-up to the novel. Where Zafón’s latest release in English, The Angel’s Game is concerned, that is both a good thing and a not-so-good thing. It is also inevitable because page by page and chapter by chapter, we come to realize there’s a reason the new novel is set in the same city, Barcelona, as The Shadow of the Wind, but an entire two decades ahead of it. That reason does not become completely clear until you are able to compare some very specific details on page one of The Shadow of the Wind with corresponding details toward the end of The Angel’s Game (the results of which readers can discover for themselves). If all this sounds slyly amorphous and irresistibly intriguing, that’s because Zafón specializes in literary puzzles and mazes, and The Angel’s Game is an exceptional one.

It’s easy to see the many ways that The Angel’s Game extends the author’s masterful use of the labyrinth as a symbolic metaphor but at the same time the novel is a very different one that abandons the kind of tightly constructed plot line applied in the previous book. Whereas the beginning of The Shadow of the Wind introduces readers to what is clearly an historical mystery in the classic mode that teases and beguiles with every new development, The Angel’s Game starts out more like a literary memoir: “A writer never forgets the first time he accepted a few coins or a word of praise in exchange for a story.”

Such an observation will invite many writers to nod in agreement, and prompt readers to sigh with romantic notions about what it means to be a writer. It hardly seems like a strong enough foundation upon which to build a serious novel of nearly 500 pages. However, it soon enough becomes clear that The Angel’s Game is indeed a kind of mystery that dissects the life and career of one David Martin, steering readers through the turbulence of his youth, the precariousness of his creative genius, and the uncertain motives of the people who populate his life.

A survivor of childhood trauma and abandonment, David grows up as the ward of a newspaper called The Voice of Industry; and, as the chosen protégé of a philanthropist named Pedro Vidal. He receives his “first crack at glory” when the newspaper is on its way to press and the editor discovers he’s short of an entire page of copy, providing David the opportunity to produce his first published story on the spot and launch his literary career in dramatic fashion. The launch successfully establishes David as the writer of a newspaper fiction series called The Mysteries of Barcelona, then later as the author of a series of “penny dreadfuls” (once known in the U.S. as “dimestore novels”) called City of the Damned. For the latter, he is required to write under the name “Ignatius B. Samson,” which he considers “a small price to pay for being able to make a living from the profession I had always dreamed of practicing.”

With the assistance of his mentor Vidal, his work and life appear to blossom in prosperous ways. However, in reality it becomes more like a nightmare than a dream fulfilled. As happy as David is to contribute to the legacies of world literature, regardless of how less-than-brilliant his popular novels may be, the cost of producing them takes a heavy toll on his mind, body, and spirit. Zafón’s description of David as a writer who produces “two hundred pages of typed manuscript a month,” following a literary formula established by his publisher, could serve as the author’s critique of the modern publishing industry, in which preference is often shown those writers willing to produce titles for a specific catalogue series as opposed to taking chances on creative works by independent authors.

The greatest insult added to David’s already injured life occurs when he secretly ghost writes a novel for Vidal, believing his benefactor knows nothing about his extensive contributions to the edits made on his manuscript. At the same time that he works on Vidal’s book, he writes another for himself. The public praises and lauds Vidal for the book bearing his name, even though David in fact wrote it, while simultaneously rejecting the book that bears David’s name. As a result, he ends up placing his own novel, The Steps of Heaven, in the now famous Cemetery of Forgotten Books. The psychological tension between the author’s drive to succeed as a serious literary writer and the exhaustion created by this ambition sends him spiraling in and out of madness and illness.

Continues with Part Two

For more on Carlos Ruiz Zafon click this link
To read a review of The Shadow of the Wind click here

by Aberjhani

Continue the discussion on