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ARM-IN-ARM by Nancy Lind

photo credit: J. Cavanaugh Simpson

DANIEL DEFOE CONTEST WINNER

(“Poor Robin! Poor Robin Crusoe!” – the parrot in Defoe’s ROBINSON CRUSOE)

When I read, much later,

That the father of ROBINSON CRUSOE

Died in Ropemaker’s Alley, hiding from creditors,

I cried.

I cried like the girl I was, at 8, who first met Robinson,

And my heart leapt into my throat —

No! I argued – the spirit of Defoe demanded

Expanses, vastness, NOT that squalid little room.

 

I lived with Robinson, swam with him from the wreck

To the unmapped island, alongside the dog and cat.

He contrived the hut from odd bits of planks and palms,

And later, for a change, his own “bower” of repose.

When he first saw the famous footprint in the sand,

I gasped with fear and amazement, as Robin did.

His musket and manly outrage saved Friday from cannibals,

And the two unlikely men adopted each other, like father and son,

Like blood brothers – the first tender friendship

In the first novel in English.

 

Then I was reading a children’s edition that ended too soon, unforgivably,

With the rescue boat in full sail, Crusoe on deck in his goatskin clothes.

WHERE WAS FRIDAY?  I panicked, asked my father, my teacher,

 

The library ladies, the janitor, the bus driver —

Until I found a simple drawing, like any family album photo,

Showing the two friends, smiling, arm-in-arm, on the ship.

 

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LAST QUARTER MOON by Salvatore Difalco

Image result for quarter moon free image

Lately I’ve been getting dirty looks from people. Not just young people, though they are the worst offenders. Middle-aged people also shoot me dirty looks, and old people assume expressions of mild disgust. I wonder if it’s because I am a middle-aged white man. We’re disliked by many people these days, including members of our own demographic. I understand. Not really. But I understand how white middle-aged men, who have always had it easy, have become objects of disgust, derision, hatred. When I pass middle-aged white men, I myself feel like hitting them. I never actually hit them, I don’t want to be charged with assault, but the desire is very strong. It takes everything to keep from lashing out. Even when I look at myself in the mirror, which I seldom do, an impulse to strike the image overtakes me. I haven’t actually punched a mirror, but I’ve come close. We’ve fucked things up. Not me, per se, I am powerless and poor. I have no wife, no family, no profession, no property. No one can blame me for anything except failing to meet expectations, and in the end I alone bear that burden. Still, absolving myself of genetic guilt may strike some as insensitive and evidence of a predisposition to profound self-regard and denial. These are words, and as I read them I’m reminded of how fatuous my efforts have been, and continue to be, to express myself, and give meaning to an existence stripped of all significance. When I go out for a stroll in my most recent neighbourhood, and am confronted by the uncharitable and wolfish expressions of a pack of teenaged girls, my first impulse is to flee in horror. But one has to meet one’s fears head on in this life or suffer the fate of a yellow coward. I respond, with words I know to be powerful, in kind, to the seething pack. Offense quickly registered, outcries resound through the streets. Now I must flee. I run well for my age. Arms at right angles, shoulders square, I run to the nearby park and hide among a stand of poplars. A last quarter moon illumines the sky. Fascinating. I think of the moon, hanging there, rocky and immense, and imagine it slowly falling toward us, slowly falling toward Earth.

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THE SERVICE by Thomas N. Hackney

photo credit: J. Cavanaugh Simpson

The Milky Way galaxy is estimated to contain 100-400 billion stars, the oldest of which are nearly as old as the universe itself. Half of the stars in our galaxy average 6.3 billion, with our sun checking in at 4.8 billion years old. An estimated 10 trillion galaxies populate the universe. Assuming an average of 100 billion stars per galaxy, it can be roughly estimated that the universe contains around 100 octillion or 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars.

Because the elements needed for life as we know it – carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen – are found in varying degrees of abundance in space, it seems safe to assume that biological life should be fairly common in the universe. Scientists who study these things have reason to believe there could be ten-thousand alien civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy alone. So, 10,000 X 10 trillion (galaxies) would yield 100 quadrillion civilizations, which is quite a few.

Human beings (homo sapiens) have not loafed during their 100,000-year tenure on Earth. Over the last 500 years, humans have harnessed science, invented the gun, discovered America, gone to the moon (in person), visited Mars and the outer planets (remotely), realized electricity, nuclear fission and the microchip.  No doubt about it, it’s been quite a run.  But imagine what another intelligent civilization might have discovered if it had three million times longer to figure things out. As noted, the average age of half the stars in our galaxy is 1.5 billion years older than our Sun.  Since the Milky Way galaxy is upwards of 100,000 light-years in diameter, this means an extrasolar intelligence –  let’s say, 2,000 light-years away from Earth – that began exploring the Milky Way 1.5 billion years ago would extend its sphere of exploration at the rate of only one light-year every 750,000 years to bump into our solar system. The logical questions become: 1) where the heck are they? and 2) what might they be up to?

Having harnessed worm holes and black holes to travel through space, having discovered almost any number of inhabited and uninhabited worlds, along with anything else that happens to be out there, what would keep their interest? Our beautiful planet certainly must have seemed a good one to have a closer look at. Whether the initial discovery was made close by or from a great distance makes little difference, because once identified, it would have required no great leap to conclude that life probably exists here. Depending on how long ago this might have happened, a more detailed inspection would have revealed the presence of either intelligent or proto-intelligent life.

Sentient life is a precious and fragile thing. Upon discovering a primitive but intelligent species, it should be expected that many travelers would feel compelled to takes steps to protect that species from extinction. What a terrible shame and tragedy it would be if a promising and conscious lifeform should finally emerge from the muck only to meet an ignoble and early end by something so blunderingly stupid as a two-and-a-half-mile wide asteroid. Shielding intelligent beings from life-snuffing meteor impacts should not be very difficult. It would simply entail keeping an eye on the subject world’s orbital space so that any impending extinction-level objects could be deflected. Once activated, the shield would operate automatically and indefinitely, thus ensuring the inhabitants’ long-term survival. A few small asteroids might be allowed to impact in remote, unpopulated areas to gently warn the sentient world about the great cosmic danger facing them, thus countering any false sense of security created over millennia via this unknown external god-like shield, freeing up the evolving species to develop their own methods.

Take the two most recent major meteor events that occurred in Siberia, the first in Tunguska in 1908, the second in another section of Siberia in early 2013. The Tunguska bolide flattened 770 square miles of uninhabited forest and turned the evening sky red, as reported in Europe for close to a year. A more recent explosion took place about eighteen miles above the Russian city of Chelyabinsk on February 15, 2013. This bolide was approximately 60 feet in diameter, yet scientists said its momentum packed the force of some twenty-five Hiroshima bombs. It should not surprise anyone that it injured at least two thousand people (1,500 of them applied for medical assistance) on that early morning – after blowing out many of the city’s windows. More than fifty were hospitalized with face lacerations, including thirteen children. There were no deaths, however.  None.

Interestingly, the Chelyabinsk asteroid was joined about sixteen hours later by a second asteroid approximately 100 feet in diameter, called 2012 DA-14 (aka “367943 Duende”). (Say, there’s a coincidence for you – two asteroids in one day!)  As the name denotes, 2012 DA-14 was discovered by astronomers the previous year in February. Scientists had tracked and calculated Duende’s orbit and flight so accurately they knew exactly when its minimum-distance-to Earth of 27,700 miles would occur. DA14 was expected. Chelyabinsk was not.

The most energetic known meteor impacts in our solar system were those of July 1994, when twenty-one comets smashed into the dark side of Jupiter. Known as comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, the “fragments” were designated ‘A’ through ‘W’ (‘I’ and ‘O’ were not used). According to official estimates their diameters ranged from about 100 meters to two kilometers. The energies involved were staggering. Fragment “G” alone was believed to release the energy equivalent to 600 times the Earth’s entire nuclear arsenal, or six million megatons of TNT.  It’s impact on July 18 created a dark spot on Jupiter 7,000 miles across. Two impacts occurring twelve hours apart on July 19 created explosions of similar size.

This was the first time humans had ever seen a natural object (much less twenty-one of them) impact another natural object in space, yet the curious thing to note: throughout human history comets have been seen as portends of future disaster, messages from the gods, and so on.  Comets augur things, and what else would “21” comets be auguring in 1994 if not the 21st century?  Hello.

Shoemaker-Levy 9 changed scientists’ view about the cosmic environment overnight.

Dr. Eugene Shoemaker was spot on with his theory concerning a higher-than-believed frequency of major impacts. The great comet crash of 1994 led directly to various projects to search for, and track, earth-crossing asteroids whose path around the Sun cross Earth’s orbit.  Now we appear ready to begin protecting ourselves from rocks in space, and just to be sure we should more closely inspect the main default message, transcribed from the book whose title is The Facts of Life – bio-galactic life, that is. It must surely grab the collective attention that anonymous “signs from beyond” all exhibit, if not proclaim, one thing. They seek to communicate information. By slipping around the back and through the door labeled Maintenance, we find that we can not only search for intelligent life but actually find intelligent life, if we watch and listen very closely (the front door being guarded by oversized gentlemen in NASA lab coats conducting “targeted searches”). No radio-waves here. Instead, inter-world contact would seem more semiotic. Chelyabinsk, for its part, gave rather visceral notice of certain things to come, things not necessarily glibly resolved nor predicted.

All part of the service.

Peekskill

A particularly uncanny meteor event: Peekskill, New York. 7:49 p.m. October 9, 1992.

A 4-by-5-by-11-inch meteor hit Michelle Knapp’s parked Chevrolet that evening. The vehicle’s tail-lights measured about 5-by-22-inches across. Now, this is not supposed to happen. There was something very plain and strangely true about the fact that nothing less than consummate skill could have found that long and narrow target so precisely, nor missed all the chrome that formed its two long borders. One can hardly fail to notice that except for the small nick near the middle of the five-foot-long accent (above the number “9”), which caused it to over-score the numbers “933” on the car’s license plate, nothing made of chrome was damaged by the meteor. The visual effect of this translated: “Right, Ames!”  It was a clear, if visually propounded, response to NASA’s main hypothesis: “extraterrestrials exist.”

The 27.3-pound meteorite was the first ever both filmed in flight and recovered.  More than fourteen brief videos up to 21 seconds in duration were made of the bogey as it ate up the miles from southern West Virginia (above where it entered Earth’s atmosphere) to northern-most Ohio, in about 40 seconds. Using triangulation analysis, a team of scientists published a map showing the fireball’s exact atmospheric flight path. The fireball began its “700 km” run about seventy-five miles due west of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia. The NRAO, along with the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico and the Goldstone Observatory in California comprised the three radio-astronomical facilities utilized by the U.S. government for a major alien hunting (S.E.T.I.) project about to get underway.  Aha!

In the early 1990s, the Ames Research Center was about to commence the first congressionally funded search for extraterrestrials, called The High Resolution Microwave Survey. Costing taxpayers 100 million dollars, commencement day for the ten-year radio-astronomy project occurred on the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s discovery of America, October 12, 1992. More radio-waves were collected and analyzed for intelligent content in the first few minutes of operation than had been accomplished in all the previous fifty privately funded SETI projects since 1960 combined.

Yet the signals were already evident. Consider the Peekskill license plate. As any car owner knows, license plates are good for interesting wordplay, and what better reason could there be to select a particular car in Peekskill if not to draw attention to what effectively could be written there?  From photographs we learn that the license plate read: 4GF – 933. We can quickly surmise that the letters “G” and “F” refer to the types of stars that Ames researchers were looking for at the time – spectral-type G and F stars, these likely being the only stars capable of supporting planetary life. So four GFs appear to inform us about four sun-like stars, presumably within reasonable distance of Earth, and at least four earth-like planets that come along with them. Four habitable new earths! Was this the good news, or did this refer instead to four already inhabited worlds, such as might be duly represented by these events?  Barring follow-up communication, there’s no way to know for sure.

What about the numbers 933? Well, the most obvious thing is that 3 x 3 = 9.  It is a fact that October 9 (date of the Peekskill event) occurred three (3) days before the Big Five-0-0 (Columbus Day) and three (3) days before Ames began targeting advanced extrasolar civilizations. If we do the substitutions, we can see that SETI X Quintennial = (yields) the Peekskill event, which makes perfect sense. The numbers 933 could also be a date – i.e. 3/93 or March 1993. Falling rocks from the sky have for centuries been known to augur things soon to happen, and 3/93 was less than six months away!  Did something important or awesome happen in March 1993?  It would need to be big because cosmic portends don’t fool around. Sure it did. Shoemaker-Levy 9 (SL9) on March 24, 1993. This “string of pearls” led to the most powerful event ever seen by man. Peekskill augured SL9 because that’s what rocks from the sky do.

Also not to be missed: the owner of the 1980 Chevrolet Malibu, one Michelle Knapp, turned 18 on October 12, 1992. As first beneficiary, Miss Knapp reportedly sold her 27.3-pound “H6 Chondrite” to a collector for $50,000, and her soundly beat-up 1980 Chevy Malibu for another $25,000. Michelle celebrated her “coming of age” the same day the western hemisphere (America) celebrated its 500th birthday, the same day NASA-Ames began targeting” extraterrestrials. This would be where the extraterrestrials in question got to ask a rhetorical question: “All grown up are we?”

Could all of this have been just “one of those things?” Of course not! No, this was more like The. Real. Thing. And we’ll never be alone again. One inescapable inference to draw is that controlling the trajectory of meteors, comets and asteroids just happens to be an extraterrestrial specialty.

As can be seen from remarks received by your author from Dr. Seth Shostak at the SETI Institute, controlling for SETI scientists might be another of ET’s strengths: “The idea that meteors are signals from extraterrestrials [in addition to being dumb –  why wouldn’t they actually send data?] is something that both insults the hundreds of academics who study these things and would be regarded as fantasy if you told them. It’s like saying that cumulus clouds are a message from ET.”  In other words, it’s radio-waves or nothing.

That prevailing scientific attitude, summed up well by Dr. Shostak, is probably exactly what the designers intended.  As for why ET should communicate this way, we’ve already covered likely reasons for this. Providing scientifically conclusive proof of their co-existence (and protection) would have violated a so-called Prime Directive (a la Star Trekphilosophy) causing many more problems than it solved, and resulting in massive interference with a species’ natural evolution.

If, on the other hand, the designer’s main intention was to wake astronomers up to “the basics” of space reality, then things seem to be going well, or as well as can be expected. NASA has already visited an asteroid in space. The “Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous” (aka NEAR Shoemaker) launched in 1996 and touched down on Eros, nearly twenty miles in length, in February 2001. NASA’s latest asteroid mission improves on NEAR-Shoemaker by being the first to bring a sample of the 500-meter wide asteroid, Bennu, back to Earth. The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-Rex) launched into space from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in the summer of 2016.

Considering how unglamorous it was in 1993 to study asteroids compared to, say, quasars, black holes, or the universe at large, it was quite good of extraterrestrials to point out our primary research deficiency. This shows they care about us and are even rooting for us, as asteroids are our most likely nemesis (cue dinosaur extinction event). It’s not exactly your Hollywood version of aliens interjecting themselves into our world, but it’s nice to know.

There’s one last link to consider: The Peekskill event occurred the very night on which the draconid meteor shower was at its apex that year. Consequently, everyone in the press and many scientists assumed that the fireball was a draconid. What else would it be that particular night? But the Peekskill fireball could not have been a draconid for the simple reason that it arrived from the south, not the north as draconids do. The fireball was what astronomers call a “sporadic,” which is not associated with meteor streams and showers.  Dr. Martin Prinz, former curator of meteorites at the American Museum of Natural History in New York apprised your author of this in a telephone interview. If it was another “signal,” we should have learned how to spot these by now; i.e. just find an outrageous improbability and go with it.

In fact, Draco was a 6th century B.C. Athenian archon whose punishments, for any small crime, were so cruel and lethal that we have adopted the term draconian.  It seems the designers wish us to know that they are not draconian in nature (hallelujah!). Now, that’s also polite. NASA could probably learn a thing or two from them about that.

The other reason to downplay (but not write off) the inherently admonitory nature of these meteor events is contained within another act that occurred in West Virginia not far from where the fireball entered Earth’s atmosphere.  It had nothing to do with meteors but everything to do with impacting projectiles – bullets, in this case. These included a .32 caliber, a .45, and a 757 Magnum hollow point. A Princeton man – that’s Princeton, West Virginia – while drinking beer and cleaning these guns, shot his own right foot. Three times. The first two shots from the .32 and .45 were “not too bad,” according to the man as quoted by the press. Yet that third one must have really hurt. Only then did he call an ambulance.

In everyday conversation, we are not primarily attuned to the sentences we utter to one another, but to what linguists call “speech acts,” utterances used to perform requests, warnings, invitations, promises, apologies, predictions, and the like. The translation should be obvious.

So, the first ounce of human flesh was taken in Princeton on Wednesday, October 7, as the meteor approached Peekskill. Friday October 9 was three days before NASA-Ames commenced the Targeted Search on Monday, October 12. Some will say it’s a stretch to attribute the Princeton man’s stupid actions to unseen alien influence. Others could say they’re damn serious about what they’re telling us.

In the end, it’s natural to question and doubt extraterrestrial involvement with any of this. How in the world could anyone do any of this, right? The simple answer is skill, millions and millions of years of it. So we’ll just go ahead and note the thickening plot by acknowledging the town in which the shootings took place – Princeton. Ah, yes, we know what that means, don’t we, Dr. Einstein?  We wouldn’t want to “shoot our own foot” with any nuclear weapons, would we? No, we wouldn’t, for how intelligent would that be?

—-

Editor’s note: Elements of this essay have appeared previously in other venues, including Adelaide magazine, Summer 2017. 

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THE SCIENCE AND ART OF STUFF by Bear Jack Gebhardt

That’s hot stuff.

I was skimming through the newspaper when I inadvertently glimpsed the fundamental nature of the universea glimpse of which physicists (and artists and poets) have been searching, and mostly missing, for millennia. I guess I was just in the right place at the right time.

“To my mind,” wrote the noted physicist John Archibald Wheeler, “there must be, at the bottom of it all, not an equation, but an utterly simple idea…that idea, when we finally discover it, will be so compelling, so inevitable, that we will say to one another, ‘Oh, how beautiful. How could it have been otherwise?’”

I have no idea why I, an ordinary man of humble origins, humble intellect and, I assure you, even humbler attainments, accidentally glimpsed the fundamental nature of the universe that simple, primordial idea for which the great minds of the centuries have been searching. Just plain dumb luck I suppose.

Here’s how it happened: In the newspaper, I read that physicists had created what appears to be a new form of matter, what they call quark-gluon. Scientists from 26 different countries collaborated to make this quark-gluon stuff at the European Center for Particle Physics in Geneva, Switzerland. They used a microwave oven (of sorts) 100,000 times hotter than the center of the sun. The mere thought of something—anything—100,000 times hotter than the center of the sun should give any attentive brain cause for pause.It did mine. That’s hot stuff.

The stuff they made in this hot oven is supposed to be just like the gunk from which the whole universe was made, shortly after the Big Bang. (As the bumper sticker says: “God spoke the Word, then Bang!”) By “shortly after” the Big Bang the scientists mean ten millionths of a second after. (There’s another cause for pause. What kind of watch are we using to measure ten millionths of a second, eleven billion years ago?)

The scientists speculate that when the universe was born, after that first ten millionths of a second, that original stuff then coalesced into your standard old quarks, leptons, muons and neutrinos, from which, of course, we get our everyday atoms, and from atoms come our bathtubs, hairdryers, staplers and other familiar things. Basically, the Geneva scientists speculated that they had succeeded in creating a tiny bit of original stuff identical to that from which the whole universe is made. “That’s neat,” I’m sure their bosses told them.

Thinking about this, I remembered reading some years ago about another group of scientists who had likewise succeeded in making original stuff out of atom guts, but instead of using a very hot oven they had used a very cold refrigerator (of sorts.) According to a report in Science Magazine, researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology at the University of Colorado at Boulder had cooled atoms down to within a few billionths of a degree of absolute zero. (Again, billionths of a degree? Which drugstore sells such nifty thermometers?). These Boulder atoms got so cold they lost their atom identities, or personalities, and mooshed into a singular glob. These scientists proved what Albert Einstein and Sayendra Nath Bose speculated might happen if you chilled atoms that much. That’s why this cold stuff is known as Bose-Einstein condensation. Or maybe that’s the name of the process.

At any rate, thinking about how atoms are made, I started to wonder, when the universe was born, was the original silly putty really, really hot or was it really, really cold? Or maybe, with everything so smooshed together that not even night and day could squeeze out, might the original stuff possibly have been both really, really hot and really, really cold? Could it have been, paradoxically, hot and cold at the same time?

From the modest bit I know as a curious layman, such a paradox is the nature of quantum physics, where it appears you can indeed have it both ways: have a particle and/or a wave, have it hot and/or cold, day and/or night, here and/or there, all depending on the position (and intention) of the observer. In other words, how you look, where you’re standing, and apparently how you’re holding your jaw when you’re conducting the experiment.

So, back to the glimpse. As I said, after reading the scientific reports, I wondered whether the universe was unthinkably hot or unthinkably cold, not only right after it was born, but, more importantly, just before, in that timeless (eternal?) instant just before the Big Bang. Since in the before there couldn’t have been any stuff yet (right?), it occurred to me: Whatever was here before the Big Bang, no matter the temp, was not stuff at all but rather more like a mood. It just made sense to me that what existed before the Big Bang was a timeless, space-less (dimensionless) mood.

Obviously, it must have been a pretty good mood. In fact, it appears that the pre-universe mood was, in a word (Word?) pretty darn happy, even joyous, just before it broke into a hot/cold, quark-gluon song like it didjust before it burst into ever-expanding swirling galaxies and horsehead nebulas, not to mention staplers.

Thinking about this moment—or pre-moment, as it were, since even time hadn’t been invented yet—I suddenly glimpsed the fundamental nature of the universe: Eureka! It was obvious that the mood of happiness itself, joy itself, must be the original stuff of the universe.

It seemed clear this was the “utterly simple idea” physicist John Archibald Wheeler predicted we’d find some day. That the universe is made of happiness is indisputably a simple idea. But of course, the scientists, being scientists, would want proof that such a Snoopy-like presence could be the idea at the bottom of it all.

Using standard scientific expectations of duplicated empirical evidence, we might prove that happiness is the original stuff of the universe if we could offer evidence that:

1.) Happiness manifests, depending on how you look for it, as either hot or cold, or maybe both hot and cold; and

2.) That, given all the actual and potential forms of the universe, happiness must be able to assume any particular shape or form it wants or needs. (We have to prove that happiness is infinitely pliable and malleable, even more so than silly putty.)

Okay, so let’s take it step-by-step: The temperature dichotomy.

From direct personal experience we can all attest that, yes, happiness can appear as either or both hot and cold. For example, when I owned a furniture refurbishing business, a cranky fellow working for me would—almost every day, for almost any reason—get angry, unhappy, even hot-under-the-collar, so to speak. He was a young guy, big and bulky, and would bum everybody out by getting red in the face, boiling mad at the slightest slight.

“Good morning, Joe,” I might say, coming into the shop.

“What’s so good about it? Nobody fixed the coffee.”

That kind of guy.

The best way to cool him down, we all learned, was to stay in our joy, maybe tell a little joke, or say something lighthearted.

“That’s another reason I don’t pack a gun,” I might respond. “Somebody doesn’t fix the darned coffee, they’d get a slug right in the shin.”

If we could maintain our own good mood, get him to laugh or even just grin, he’d cool off; the red would literally drain from his face. He’d chill.

Using humor to cool things down is not unique. War buddies, for example, know a quick quip helps everyone survive tough spots. As Winston Churchill once observed, “Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result.” Or as poet and essayist Samuel Johnson put it: “When a man knows he is to be hanged in the morning, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” Someone who keeps their cool, often via humor, in hot circumstances is known to be grounded. Grounded in what?What else? Grounded in the basic stuff of the universe: unflappable joy!

So okay, happiness can cool. Might it also warm things up, when needed?

For example, Gladys, a middle-aged woman who worked in our front office when I was a stock broker, had the nickname of The Ice Queen. Everybody’s known somebody like Gladys. Say good morning, goodnight, I’m going to lunch, I fell off my bike—no matter what you said—Gladys was an ‘ice-cycle.’ The only way to warm her up was to laugh, preferably at yourself, or the world around, or maybe the bosses upstairs.Then you might glimpse a tight, tiny, ever-so-slight smile appear then quickly disappear across her face. Ice cool, if not cold, is a stance many humans assume. This is why speakers talk about “warming up the audience” with a joke or two. If a stranger on the bus makes us laugh, we warm to him.We all know, from both personal and communal affairs: Happiness can clearly have a warming effect, when necessary.

So, again, it’s clear that happiness might be the basic stuff of the universe because it can be either hot or cold, warm things up or cool things down. Happiness keeps life moving, flowing, evolvingever upward, or outward, downward or to the side, depending on what’s needed. The scientists in both Switzerland and Boulder should be happy with such simple evidence of the joyful nature of the primordial stuff.

So much for proof number one.

On to proof number two, whether happiness can take any shape or form necessary.

This one’s easy. Just look around.

It’s quite obvious that the universe is quite happy to express itself in a gazillion different shapes and forms. If the universe wasn’t happy to have so many shapes and forms, we wouldn’t have all this stuffplanets, and asteroids, and moons, and neutron stars and pulsars; hair dryers and computer mouse pads; mouse tails and mouse earsto name just a few. The universe is the most powerful thing inwell, in the universeso it can do whatever the heck it wants, yes? Making a lot of forms, a gazillion different forms, is obviously one of the things the universe is happy to do.

And from our human point of view, it’s also clear that no matter the form, somebody somewhere is going to be spontaneously happy with it. So, humans tend to resonate with the cosmic background, which is, I posit, happiness itself. For example, some people are quite happy with quasars, others with football statistics, still others are thrilled with maggots or fire ants (for pity’s sake) or, more commonly, the radiant colors shimmering off the sunsetting clouds. Not everybody will accept every shape the universe throws out, of course, but somebody somewhere finds joy in every form imaginable.

Sure, we could find exceptions to that rule; find some item or activity somewhere in the vast universe that absolutely nobody is happy about—say a mosquito bite or stubbed toe. Still, such a find would only make some grouchy contrarian happy that a primordially sad situation was found! So to answer to the question, “Can the basic happiness stuff take on any form it wants?” Again, obviously, yes.

So the evidence stands:

Happiness is obviously quantum, it can either warm us up or cool us down, depending on what we need.

And happiness is infinitely pliable, wantonly making and unmaking shapes and forms throughout the universe. Happiness meets all the (simple) scientific qualifications for being the fundamental stuff of the universe.

But the scientists aren’t the only ones weighing in on this topic. For thousands of years prior to the “scientific revolution,” prophets, poets, saints and sages were giving their own take on the essence—the basic stuff– of the universe.

Genesis puts it this way: Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good.(If “good” doesn’t include happiness, or doesn’t actually mean happiness, then who needs good?) Happiness as reality’s core is further confirmed in Ecclesiastes: I commend mirth. And later in the 42nd Psalm: God has a smile on His face.An early Jewish proverb has it: “As soap is to the body, so laughter is to the soul.”

The Taoist Lao Tzu concurred in 531 BC: “As soon as you have made a thought, laugh at it.” And the Buddha: “When the mind is pure [i.e., real], joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.”

Jesus was on board: “I have come that my joy might be in you, and that your joy might be full.” How much clearer could it be? And the Muslims are not to be left out. The Koran explicitly affirms, “He deserves Paradise who makes his companions laugh.”And last, but not least, the contemporary seer, Dr. Seuss: “From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere.”

Fortunately, by coming across a few scientific reports in the newspaper, I happened to be given the insight that happiness is the quantum, fundamental stuff, animating both the art and science of the universe. I am quite humbled, even awestruck, (not to mention tickled) being offered this glimpse into the basic reality of absolutely everything.In a nutshell, within and without, above and below, in the micro and the macro, in the stillness and the flow, AllAll, All, Allis Joy.

As Archibald Wheeler might say, how could it be otherwise? Isn’t it an utterly simple idea, and beautiful?

Now, after writing this happy little essay, I’m off, under the wife’s command, to shovel all the joyous, oh-so-tactile (and heavy) growing piles of snow stuff off my irritatingly long concrete sidewalk. I first frown, then, remembering to tune myself to the frequency of Basic Stuff, I grin.

 

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BLUES IN by Tom Larsen

It’s a fable as old as recorded music.

The new releases at Rasputin’s Records were directly to the left of the checkout line. That’s where I first saw Art Pepper staring out from the cover of a Blue Note twofer.  With those haunted eyes and sunken cheeks, he had the refried look of the nasty habit. Friends of ours back home had that look. It got so you hated to answer the door. Junkies were why we moved four time zones. The speed freak might rewire your house, but he won’t bore you shitless then steal your stuff.

“Death warmed over,” I said to my wife. She was staring at the picture, thinking the same thing. Andree was married to a junkie for seven years and knows the look better than I ever will.

“Blues In,” she read the title, clutching an armful of Steely Dan. “Who’s Art Pepper?”

“Never heard of him,” I nudged her toward the register. “Just another be-bop burnout.”

***

Smack and saxophones – an image so set in the fifties it defined cliché. Every neophyte knows the Yardbird story: Jazz genius goes down in flames taking a truckload of wannabes with him. It’s a fable as old as recorded music. From Bix to Hendrix the best licks tend to bow out early. Bird wasn’t the first junkie jazzman, but he had the fire. One of the few who find what they were born to do. So great was his talent he had to invent a form to contain it. Improvisation so florid and precise it will always take your breath away. Not just the speed, though speed was the essence. Bird could hit every note on the nose. No slurring or lagging, just flat out and ripping. Of course, you had to be up to the chase. As fast as Bird was, you get the feeling he could have played faster if anyone had the ears to follow.

***

I’d always wondered about jazz. I envied the way Kerouac dropped the names and I was partial to saxophones and smoke filled rooms. But it seemed like a too big world with no easy access and aside from a few records, I remained jazz ignorant.

This Pepper guy intrigued me. It was partly the picture, but also the fact that I’d never heard the name. Like most snobs I’m drawn to the obscure, and this guy looked every inch of it. A year would pass before I finally bought the record, but that moment in Rasputin’s was a premonition.

I don’t know what it says about me, but I’m a guy who needs his heroes. Despite the ravages or because of them, I knew this was someone I could get behind. If I was going to open the door to jazz I needed someone to lead me inside. Pepper had the look. If he had the talent, I was set to go. From the first track I was gone.

Pepper came out of big band swing, Benny Carter, Stan Kenton and the zoot suit clubs of central LA. He personified the cool, deceptively breezy west coast style that be-boppers couldn’t abide, too arranged, too loosey goosey, way too white. Another example of the times getting in the way, I suspect. You can’t see how it is until the dust settles. Bebop was young and angry, filled with sharp chops and hard edges, west coast was older, more polished, still swinging. Where the New York players made you bob and weave, the white boys just made you dance. I’m a guy that likes to dance.

Given the times and the dynamics of innovation, bebop was bound to prevail. It was brand new rather than reworked and refined. It captured the spirit of the post-war boom and the sensibilities of the avant-garde. Bop was raw and sexy. It broke from the past instead of evolving from it. Time was ripe for all things new. In the end it’s always a matter of context.

So bop assumed the big band mantel, modern music for modern times. And while Bird and his flock won the accolades, the west coasters just kept on swinging. What followed was a revelation. In an effort to remain cutting edge, bop veered into free form and eventually chaos. Coltrane, circa Miles, to Coltrane in the end is a tragic conceit, not a musical direction. No one ever tapped a toe to “A Love Supreme,” and no one ever will. In the meantime swing downsized into rhythm and blues, Louis Jordan, The Church Street Five and eventually rock and roll.

Bop vs. swing, a funny thing. Both played music but one was more … well, musical.

***

You can hear Charlie Parker in Pepper’s playing. For a young musician of that time the influence was inescapable. But Pepper’s cadence, his timing and rhythm are rooted in swing. The notes fly in a lyric dance that owes more to Goodman than Gillespie. While his fellow soloists reworked the theme, Pepper soared above it, putting the simplest ditty through majestic paces. Like Bird, he could hit every note, yet his use of time and space drove the melody instead of pulling it along. What they say about the great ones is true. It’s what you don’t hear that kills you.

But what set Art Pepper apart was emotion. His capacity for the heartfelt was exceeded only by his ability to express it – unbridled joy and effervescence, real pain, as opposed to show biz pain. Not to mention rejection. Where Bird was at least credited, Pepper was a sporadic presence, if not musically, then physically. Periods of incapacitation followed by longer periods of incarceration put him out of commission through the music’s heyday. That he recorded as much as he did is a tribute to talent alone. He was more in demand than in attendance.

***

Smack and saxophones. Like Bird, Pepper was a junkie first and a jazzman second. Scoring and fixing were the order of the day, and incidentals like club dates and recording sessions were secondary. Unlike Bird, he did not have an adoring public and visionary promoters to push him out on the bandstand, no slumming socialite to ease the descent. Heroin wreaked havoc on Pepper’s life, but unlike Bird it couldn’t kill him.

Too much heart, you can’t help but hear it.

Followed by years of poverty and dissipation.

Like Chet Baker he was a white junkie in a black junkies’ world. As white jazzmen, they were easy targets and the cops came down early and often. The way that worked is the way it always works. Give us a name and we’ll go easy. Guys like Baker knew the drill. But Pepper knew what he couldn’t live with and, unlike Chet, he did the time.

Too much heart for his own good.

Followed by six years in San Quentin.

***

Like the natural he was, Pepper never practiced, walked away from his horn for years at a time. He didn’t live and breathe the music. It came too easy, paid too little and got in the way of his downward spiral. The alto was the one thing that could save him, but one hope for a junkie can be worse than none.

By any measure the sax men fared badly. For the most part their stories end on a grim note and their recordings echo the talent wasted. The great plummeting Bird hit the rocks and, like lemmings, the others soon followed. The survivors were few, but Pepper was one of them. Maybe big hearts are the hardest to kill. As immovable object a forty-year habit has no rival. Enter, Laurie of the irresistible force. Why some get what they don’t deserve is one of life’s thornier questions.

The alto didn’t save him. The lady did.

Leading us all back to Berkeley and Rasputin’s.

***

A short spot on the radio led to my only meeting with the man. As part of a book promotion, Pepper was to appear at that same Rasputin’s. The book was Straight Life, the Story of a Jazz Survivor, his recently published memoir. By then I was deep into the music. Pepper’s “Blues In” twofer had grown to twenty albums that covered his progression from pure swing to hard blues.

And if ever there was a ripe time for a comeback the late ’70s was it. Rock music had hit a wall and the jazz bandwagon was starting to roll. Laurie, Pepper’s third wife, had assumed the task of compiling a discography, tracking down side sessions and collecting royalties on hundreds of recordings dating back through the fifties. She also transcribed hours of taped interviews into his memoir, one of the best of the genre. Thanks to Laurie, Pepper’s recording career was back in gear and he was touring and playing to rave reviews. Live long enough and anything can happen.

His history was part of the attraction. Pepper wore his dissolution like a cheap suit. Photos from the sixties and seventies showed what appeared to be a concentration camp survivor with bulging eyes and a death’s head grin. The first time my wife and I saw him play, in 1976, he looked like he wouldn’t survive the set. Morbid fascination, yeah, that was part of it.

Mostly though, it was the chops. His style had evolved. The up-tempo numbers had a flaring sound, and the ballads were baleful and brooding. The light touch was gone, replaced by a searing intensity that told the real story. Pepper had bulked up a bit, but the tattoos and prison pallor made watching him difficult. Listening was something else again. Not easy but spellbinding, each tune telling a story.

***

Our conversation with him would tell its own story.

We parked on Bancroft across from the Berkeley campus. A heavy mist muffled the streetlight. I had my copy of Straight Life and as we moved down Telegraph, I realized I’d never done anything like this before. When we got to Rasputin’s, I could see a few browsers but nothing resembling a crowd. There was a panhandler by the door, and a guy eating pistachios at the corner bus stop.

We went inside, slipping past a pair of skinheads. I fingered my way through a bin of used records. Pepper was late. The whole thing had the feel of a no show. Then, out of nowhere he was there. A bit shaky but dressed to kill, Laurie, smiling weakly beside him. I took a quick look around. There were six of us in attendance. A kid in a Mohawk met the Peppers at the door and steered them to a card table stacked with books and records. Everyone looked uncomfortable. I wished we hadn’t come.

“Hi, I’m Andree.” My wife stepped up with a great big grin. “My husband and I are huge fans.”

What the hell was she doing? These were living legends not yokels from her yoga class. I hurried to join them before she could blow it.

“Mr. Pepper? I’m the husband,” I reached a hand around.

“Please, call me Art.” His fingers were like ice.

“We just saw you at Davies Symphony Hall,” Andree blabbed. “I lost my hat.”

Art smiled and shook his head. “I’m real sorry to hear it.”

“That’s OK. I always lose my hats.”

Laurie chimed in “With me it’s umbrellas.”

“It was a cloche hat, black, with a lace veil. Tom had just bought it for me. Isn’t he sweet?” Andree gave my cheek a pinch. “Your book is fantastic, by the way. I can’t imagine being able to play music AND write.”

“Transcribe,” I said through my teeth.

“What?”

“The book was transcribed … from tapes.”

“Oh, well it’s some story. I plan on reading it again.”

“Thank you,” Art nodded. “I’m glad you enjoyed it.”

“And YOU!” Andree turned to Laurie. “What a fantastic thing you’ve done! Pulling it all back together again, it’s like a miracle!”

“You don’t know the half of it.” Laurie sighed.

I looked behind me. No one was cueing up and the store seemed deserted. When I turned back Andree was bent over the table sketching something on the back of an envelope. The lost hat, presumably. I looked to Art. He studied his pen.

“I thought the book was incredible,” my voice barely registered.

He glanced up. “I’m sorry?”

Straight Life? I thought it was a masterpiece.”

“Thanks, man. I appreciate it.”

The wives burst out laughing and their voices dropped to a whisper.

“Listen Art,” I had to force myself. “Do you think you could autograph it for me?”

“No problem, that’s what we’re here for,”

I handed him my copy.

“To … ?” Art hesitated.

“Andree and Tom. Tommy, actually. …  Make it Tom.”

He wrote something then handed it back. “There you are … Tom.”

Andree gave me a poke. “Did you ask him about the clarinet?”

“Oh yeah, I, … the uh, …”

She snaked an arm around my waist. “We think you should play it more often.”

“That makes three of us,” Laurie nodded in agreement.

”So why don’t you, Art?” Andree pressed him.

Pepper smiled and shook his head. “I love the sound. But the damn thing has a mind of its own. You can sneak up on it sometimes, but usually it’s a battle.”

This was the sort of info I was after, a rare glimpse into the mind.  His answer was revealing, but more importantly the question sizzled with jazz savvy. Possibly no one had ever asked him about it. There were a million more things I wanted to know, but, try as I might, I couldn’t think of one.

***

Despite the night’s light turnout, Pepper’s star continued to ascend. “Straight Life” was a critical and commercial success and the volume of recordings released during the 80’s rivaled his most prolific periods. I still claimed him as my personal discovery, but the public was quickly coming around. By 1983 he was riding an unprecedented wave of popularity, and his club dates and concerts were hot ticket items.

Like all things cyclical, interest in jazz ebbs and flows. The surge in virtuosity that marked jazz, and to a similar extent, rock music has been largely lost to the mainstream muck. At the same time, a revitalized black culture seems better served by hip hop than bop. No matter. The tales that survive are the one’s you can’t forget. Art Pepper’s story is as troubling as it is trademark American — the interminable struggle, the long-shot happy ending — Pepper lived it and his recordings bear witness.

In 1985, at the height of his comeback, Art Pepper died of a stroke at his home in Los Angeles. Survival has a shelf life, as it turns out. His impact on jazz has been undervalued, but history has a way of settling accounts.

“To Tom and Andree. Hope you dig this. My best.” Art Pepper 1/14/81

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KEPLER’S TELESCOPE FINDS FIVE NEW EXOPLANETS by Andrea Wyatt

we are pretty close to the bottom

NASA and G. Bacon (STScI)

Imagine a huge thermometer,

we are pretty close to the bottom
not as low as
Jupiter or Neptune
bluest of the blue,

but a little higher, between
water freezes and water boils
closer to freezes,

on that imaginary glass device
with Fahrenheit on one side

going up the thermometer past lead melts
is Mercury, brighter than Sirius
and Venus, bright queen of the sky

then nothing
until the thermometer registers

molten lava and gold melts,
and suddenly,
there they are

five glowing exoplanets
orbiting their stars
every three to five days,

one of them light
as Styrofoam

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TWO POEMS by Steve Shilling

Walk, walk, walk, wait for the needle...

 

When The Music Stops

Call it what you want. Cakewalk,
musical chairs, last man standing.

I was a master of it.

Walk, walk, walk, wait for the needle
on the scratchy 45 to stop crackling out
the music, walk, walk, walk, THERE!

Slide into a seat and bump some poor,
slow, schmuck with bad peripheral vision
out of the game.  She’s a girl?  So what?
This game is for delightful baked goods.

Savory cakes, soft and delicious,
cared for by somebody’s mother.

I took three home from the school carnival
in the 4th grade.  A chocolate layer, a vanilla
sheet with white icing and a carrot cake.

My mom made me stop at three.

We had cake into Thanksgiving.

I could have gone pro.

– – –

I Like Our Planet . . .

I said to my son, and he agreed:
“We have blankets and stuff,
and food to eat.”  Which is good
enough for me.  “And,” he said, “if you
want to get out, you have to go up
to the sky.” But where would we go?
I don’t even have a plan to get there.
We can’t breathe on Mars. Neptune
is too stormy, Pluto too cold, and if
it is not a planet anymore, could I deal
with the downgrade?  Mercury?  Death
Valley year-round.  I have heard that
Venus smells like hard boiled eggs and
that the property on Saturn is outrageous,
especially ring-front. Uranus? Not likely.
I would move to Intercourse first.

 

 

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ILLUMINATIONS by Vivian Wagner

 

I’ve always wanted fireworks

I’ve always wanted fireworks
to be more than they are.
So a sphere,
why not a tree, with
branches cutting high into the night?
So a cascade of stars,
why not a writhing serpent?
So a burning sapphire ball,
why not a volcano, rupturing?
The industry has names
for its effects:
ring
palm
crossette
kamuro
peony
chrysanthemum
willow
fish
horsetail
spider.
The names promise so much,
calling to mind the worlds they might create.
In the end, though, they’re all
the same:
flash and brilliance,
light and pop,
a puff of sulfur smoke.
Better to wait for the
stars and planets to
speak their luminous names
into the quieting night.

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3QR: FREE TO PASS by Joanne Cavanaugh Simpson

LIBERO IL PASSO: FREE TO STEP OR PASS

Consider, for a moment, the concept of the Three Quarter True Story: No censorship for writers. No betrayal for readers. No locked doors with mixed messages.

When teaching fiction and nonfiction to university students, I’ve found that the question invariably comes up: What is True? We discuss whether any remembered moment can be absolutely accurate, or whether the writer’s own filters color what he or she observes. Such questions are debated as well among my writing colleagues at conferences and writers’ workshops. Does it even matter what is true? Well, the first answer to that is: Yes. To nonfiction writers it does. A great deal of in-depth research, time-consuming immersion, careful interviewing, and paranoid fact-checking goes into such seminal nonfiction works as Richard Rhodes’ The Making of the Atomic Bomb or David Simon’s Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets. Such writers, as far as I know, resisted the temptation to fill in the gaps of the unknown with  fabricated facts or exaggerated character descriptions. Nonfiction has long implied a commitment, or contract, with the reader: This really happened.

Some writers, and publishers, however don’t resist. Therefore, we have scandals such as James Frey’s ‘memoir’ A Million Little Pieces. As publicized on the infamous episode of Oprah’s talk show in 2006, various details in the book, including the rebel Frey’s supposed jail stint, were simply made up. Frey, according to a 2008 Vanity Fair article, said he first pitched his book to publishers as an autobiographical novel in the mode of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. But “TRUE STORIES” are sexy, and, as the book became a bestseller, Frey became a braggart caught up in the web of his own lies. Many would say it was not worth the risk when his readers, like Oprah, felt betrayed, and his name vilified.

Then we get to the masters of nonfiction, whose books are termed creative nonfiction or narrative journalism. Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood; George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London; Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia; Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes; John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil; or Beryl Markham’s West with the Night, etc. Capote himself considered his book a “nonfiction novel.” Yet, with all of these works and others, questions were later raised about their accuracy and adherence to truth—whether some scenes, characters, and dialogue were fictionalized, or, in the case of Markham’s memoir, her sexual escapades as an aviatrix in Africa simply glossed over because her third husband likely wrote the book with, or for, her.

Yet something about all this “gotcha lit crit” started to bother me: Who are we to say these books should not have been written or the author’s very real accomplishments, adventures, experiences, or depictions devalued entirely. The bigger question: Isn’t it censorship to say someone shouldn’t write whatever they want, the way they want, just because we don’t have a category for it? Film, after all, has the “based-on-a-true-story” genre, and the viewer knows what he or she is getting into. One of my students once asked, “Why can’t we have .74 stories?” Thus, the kernel was planted for The Three Quarter Review: Poetry and Prose > 75 percent True.

Some might argue, however, that such altered works should simply be considered fiction. Truth is fiction’s strange bedfellow, after all. And yes, there is a storied history of real events inspiring great works of literature. Henry James, for example, was known as the consummate eavesdropper of parlor and party chatter. The plot of his novel, Washington Square, came directly from real life. The first lines in his original notebook entry, according to recent editions of the novel, read:

February 21st. Mrs. Kemble told me last evening the history of her brother H.’s engagement to Miss T.H.K. [He] was a young ensign in a marching regiment, very handsome (‘beautiful’) said Mrs. K., but very luxurious and selfish, and without a penny to his name. Miss T. was a dull, plain, common-place girl, only daughter of the Master of King’s Coll,. Cambridge, who had a handsome private fortune . . .”

Thus the novel’s essential plot was fashioned—the complicated triangle between the shy, simple heroine, Catherine; the coxcomb Morris Townsend; and the distrustful father, Dr. Sloper. As James later noted in his essay titled “The Art of Fiction:” “It goes without saying that you will not write a good novel unless you possess a sense of reality, but it will be difficult to give you a recipe for calling that sense into being. Humanity is immense, and reality has a myriad forms . . .”

Some of the writers for this inaugural issue of The Three Quarter Review remark on this overlap of imagination and reality (see 3QR Author Notes): As novelist Stephen Dixon writes: Some fiction I take almost whole from my life, some fiction I take almost whole from my imagination. My imagination is part of my life, of course, but the unlived part of it.

Fiction brings such tranformation of experience, and translation of imagined realities, to the literary table. Still, “things that really happened” offers an undeniable primal, narrative draw for readers. Alice Munro, in her 1982 essay “What is Real?” addressed the fiction writer’s dilemma:

Whenever people get an opportunity to ask me questions about my writing, I can be sure that some of the questions will be these:

‘Do you write about real people?’

‘Did those things really happen?’  . . .

Writers answer such questions patiently or crossly according to temperament and the mood they’re in. They say, ‘No, you must understand, my characters are composites; those things didn’t happen the way I wrote about them . . .

Later in the essay, Munro concludes: “Yes, I use bits of what is real, in the sense of being really there and really happening, in the world, as most people see it, and I transform it into something that is really there, and really happening in my story.”

In the end, it’s this sort of literary juncture—where nonfiction writers feel awkward and fiction writers misunderstood, where debate and argument reign—that great work can be accomplished.  After all, a mostly true story, transformed, has a certain kind of sex appeal to modern writers as well. As 3QR author B.J. Hollars puts it: When I write, I am often pigeonholed into genre; I am writing either an essay or a story.  But what makes The Three Quarter Review unique is that it actively encourages the blurring of genre. Yes, we are recounting truths, but we are also acknowledging the multiple versions of that truth. In some ways, we hope to create a Fifth Genre: The Three Quarter True Story. Because, regardless of category, art is sparked when writers capture visceral truths—tactile details and verity of emotion—that make up this Magic Realist Existence we call life.

The Three Quarter Review was launched as the cornerstone of The Three Quarter Story literary project, a five-year online journal and literary event culminating in The Daniel Defoe Writing Contest and a print book 3QTrue: The Three Quarter Story. The journal showcases stories, poems, and essays that allow writers to stretch out a bit. While welcoming work that is fully accurate in all factual and emotional content, 3QR is also a venue for stories told as truly as possible, with the understanding that we can rarely know anything 100 percent.

— Joanne Cavanaugh Simpson, March 2012 / Updated November 2016

3QR Staff

Contact Us & Submissions

Feel free to comment below on the 3QR Method.

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Contact Us & Submissions

Welcome to 3QR! We’re in the midst of preparing to publish our final issue, a print Anthology of the past several years of The Three Quarter Review. Due out in 2019. We are taking a select number of new pieces, poetry or prose, which will appear in print and in our wrap-up online tribute to three-quarter true storytelling. The journal site will remain available, and plans are to offer lit news and other timely features. 

The reading period for the anthology and online wrap-up issue will close on Feb. 1 2019. (See SUBMISSION GUIDELINES below).

Meanwhile, check out the winners of our 3QR Contest. The theme: Prose and poetry that pays tribute in some way to the works, style, substance, or interests of Daniel Defoe, who wove reality into the art of fiction, accomplishing literature and essays in the three-quarter true vein. Peruse Defoe’s books, essays, editorials, or articles. The 3QR Daniel Defoe Award will advance the 300th anniversary of the publication of Robinson Crusoe in 1719.  Our print edition will mark that tricentennial as well.

For a high-water mark, read the poem we published by American poet Mary Jo Salter, “Crusoe’s Footprint.”  Salter is co-editor of The Norton Anthology of Poetry and a leading figure in New Formalism, among many other literary accomplishments.

———

Previous call for contest entries, for more information on the radical Defoe 

Defoe content submissions–Poetry and Prose—in this theme only. Please put the word “Contest” in the subject line and note briefly how your work relates in some way to Defoe’s in your cover letter. (See other guidelines below). There’s no fee for contest entries, though we’ll be setting up a donation channel in support of our print edition: 3QR True, which will include our five issues, as well as the contest winners and honorable mentions for the Daniel Defoe Award.  

As bio.com notes: “English novelist, pamphleteer and journalist Daniel Defoe is best known for his novels, Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders. 

Some of his most popular works include The True-Born Englishman, which shed light on racial prejudice in England following attacks on [King William III] for being a foreigner,” and other writings. “Political opponents of Defoe’s repeatedly had him imprisoned for his writing in 1713.”

“Defoe took a new literary path in 1719, around the age of 59, when he published Robinson Crusoe, a fiction novel based on several short essays that he had composed over the years. A handful of novels followed soon after—often with rogues and criminals as lead characters—including Moll Flanders, Colonel Jack, Captain Singleton, Journal of the Plague Year and his last major fiction piece, Roxana (1724).”

In the mid-1720s, Defoe returned to writing editorial pieces, focusing on such subjects as morality, politics and the breakdown of social order in England. Some of his later works include “Everybody’s Business is Nobody’s Business.” (1725)

Also, check out our previous themed issue featuring poetry and prose about Science … or Music … or Both. String Theory, anyone? Our writers serenade with science, or illuminate the cosmos with music.

If you sent a submission during a closed reading period (including prior to Oct. 1 of 2018), we were, well, not reading then nor will we go back in time.

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES

Overall we look for engaging prose up to 4,000 words. Up to three poems. Submissions must be at least 75 percent factual. To learn more about our philosophy and aesthetic, peruse our writers’ work and check out the essay “3QR: Free to Pass” in About 3QR.

Short pieces welcome. Prose double-spaced. Submit online to 3qreview@gmail.com. Be sure to attach as a Word or similar doc., and include your email address. If you have not heard from us within four months, assume that we have received your submission and are unable to publish your work at this time. We consider simultaneous submissions; please advise promptly if your piece is accepted elsewhere.

We read and consider all submissions thoughtfully. Know that there is nearly always something in your work that we like or that moves us. Your piece or poem simply might not be a fit for 3QR. We will communicate via email once a piece is accepted. Most of our stories are edited, in collaboration with the writer, for fine-tuning and polish.

The Three Quarter Review publishes annually and holds first, North American rights of work we publish online and in print.

Editor, Joanne Cavanaugh Simpson
3QR: The Three Quarter Review
3qreview@gmail.com

Quotable Thought: The plot–instead of finding human beings more or less cut to its requirements, as they are in the drama– finds them enormous, shadowy and intractable, and three-quarters hidden like an iceberg.

— E.M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel

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3QR DANIEL DEFOE CONTEST WINNERS / AUTHOR BIOS 2017-18

batique by J. Cavanaugh

Our three winners of the 3QR Daniel Defoe Contest tapped into Defoe‘s eclectic heritage: political activist and economist; pioneer of the English novel; pamphleteer and political advisor; down-and-out debtor; modern myth-maker; and overall social rebel and rogue. These 21st century writers’ takes on Defoe’s life (1660-1731) are eclectic as well.

See featured images and slide at the top of the 3QR home page. Nancy Lind reimagines Defoe and his characters through the prism of peripheries: the castaway parrot, the reader, his man Friday. Salvatore Difalco channel’s Defoe’s penchant for controversy, including the precarious and complicated nature of Man’s hold on power in society. And Thomas Hackney has long pressed the boundaries of human insight and scientific endeavors, exploring the likelihood of life in the universe and, in his own words, a few of Defoe’s favorite topics: “‘New worlds,’ morality, politics and all.”

While Defoe’s writing was more direct and active than his early 18th century counterparts, the original title of his best-known work was far from spare: “The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, Mariner: Who Lived Eight and Twenty Years, All Alone in an Un-inhabited Island on the Coast of America, Near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque; Having Been Cast on Shore by Shipwreck, Wherein All the Men Perished but Himself. With an Account how he was at last as Strangely Deliver’d by Pyrates. Written by Himself.” As we approach the 300th anniversary of the publication of Robinson Crusoe in London in 1719, this summer seems an opportune time to pay tribute and feature modern kindred voices. We also pay special tribute to 3QR’s early featured poet, the renowned Mary Jo Salter, and her poem: Crusoe’s Footprint. Please also watch for an upcoming editor’s essay on the lasting influence of Defoe, as we continue to examine society and human nature in literature, journalism, and art. Later this year—in advance of the tricentennial.

We hope you enjoy our contest winner’s work in prose and poetry. Bios and direct links below.

First Place: Arm-In-Arm

Nancy Lind is a recently retired professor of English literature and a transplant from NY to CA.  She is a lifetime Dickensian.  Being the daughter of Scandinavian immigrants has influenced her greatly. Her poems have appeared in Impulse, Ibis Head, The Kerf, the Altadena Poetry Anthology (2015-2018), JOMP Poetry Anthology (2016-2018), the 34th Parallel, and other journals. She is a Pushcart nominee.

Second place: Last Quarter Moon

Salvatore Difalco‘s work has appeared in print and online, most recently in Gone Lawn, The Coil, Mannequin Haus and South Dakota Review. He splits his time between Toronto and Sicily.

Third place: The Service                

Thomas Hackney has been a public relations executive, literary agent, stock broker, Doberman-Pinscher Distractor, and writer, among other things. He has lived mostly in Washington D.C., Greenwich Village (NYC) and West Virginia, where he currently resides in an earth-sheltered house. He has been writing and publishing since 1977.

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ON MOVING ON: A Tribute to Capital Gazette journalists

Candle in front of a group of candles

By Ann Costantino

Several days ago marked the memorial service for John McNamara, the last of the five Capital Gazette newspaper employees killed about two weeks ago by Jarrod Ramos, whose misdirected rage was aimed squarely at unsuspecting employees who had nothing at all to do with his multi-year resentment toward the paper.

The Gazette covered his story after he apparently stalked and harassed a woman who rejected his romantic advances. In turn, he stalked and harassed the Gazette until he made good on his promise to “make corpses (out of their careers).” He unloaded his shotgun into their Annapolis office after first barricading them in. Deranged. A madman.

The deaths of the Gazette staff members is so incredibly sad to me, and still so very shocking, that it has rendered me (almost) speechless about it. And, in truth, it has been difficult to move on from it. In a way, I feel stuck and cannot report or write until I process it somehow. Mostly I think I feel badly about moving on. It’s why I am sharing this now.

Part of me wants to express what I have witnessed, personally – the range of emotion, beauty, love and reverence displayed in honor of the Gazette staff members who were killed for being in the wrong place at Ramos’ apparent “right” time. But even as the news cycle is pushing everyone forward – forcing us onto the next thing to cover or care about –  I find myself blocked. I lack the right words to describe this awful event with a significance I don’t yet think has been fully appreciated. While I did not personally know any of the Gazette employees killed, I attended the memorial service for Rob Hiaasen last week, have read everything I can, and have watched other employee memorial services online.

The way they have been described by friends, family and coworkers (some with whom I have spoken) is as though they each mastered what it was to be the best version of what a family member, a friend, an employee, a co-worker, or journalist should and can be. They were each loved, beloved and were celebrated for that –  for being kind, helpful, selfless, honest and concerned about others. None of them were celebrated solely for their work, or some amazingly written breaking story or journalistic award. They were celebrated for who they were and not for what they produced. The Baltimore Sun wrote earlier this week that the paper’s only regret was not knowing the Gazette employees a little better. (The Gazette is owned by The Sun.)

For the most part, I think that most media have handled this tragedy in a respectful and beautiful way, allowing the essence of each of the deceased to shine through. And the memorial services allowed even people who did not know them (like me) to benefit from their legacies. While attending Mr. Hiaasen’s service last week, I recall someone saying something like, ‘In a room full of egos, Rob was the first to support someone else’s story or work. He was the first to say ‘good job on that,’” or something similar. (I did not take notes.)

It was a beautiful memorial. At times, while absorbed in each testimony, I forgot we were gathered due to his death; it could have been a beach-themed birthday celebration under a big white tent, on an incredibly humid day, complete with beer, wine and James Taylor music. Hiaasen’s memorial was also strangely uplifting and inspirational. Yet, every so often, there would arise this terrible dread and sudden remembrance of why 500 of us were gathered. A bereaved’s voice would crack while recalling a memory.

One could hear a pin drop in those moments, and then something else would be said and we’d all be laughing again. Even though I didn’t know him, I felt like I knew him that day, and I certainly wish that I had.

The other Gazette employees have been celebrated too. It was reported that writer Wendi Winters died as she lunged at the shooter, in protection of her colleagues. It was something people were not surprised she would have done. Ms. Winters was also celebrated for connecting with her community, writing about everything and somehow managing to be everywhere, as if bilocating for her community, in service to her readers.

Advertising salesperson, Rebecca Smith, was known for her love of her family. She was new to the Gazette and described as “sweet.” And writer and editor, Gerald Fischman, was known as shy yet full of expression for the love of his life – his wife of eleven years – for whom he would write poetry. And I heard John McNamara described as never leaving the office before asking how he could help his coworkers. A sports writer, McNamara also loved to cover kids’ games so kids could see their names in the paper. I also read that his wife was his favorite subject.

Recently, Gazette and Baltimore Sun employees and survivors of the attack participated in a parade, when they usually cover such events. Some wore shirts saying “journalism matters.” It was a stand for a freedom of the press and an acknowledgement that the murder of the Gazette employees was an attack on that – the press. An assault on truth. And the media’s right to tell it. And of our country’s freedom to do so.

I do not think the longterm significance of the Gazette attack has been yet fully appreciated. To me, the attack was like a warning shot across the sky, one that I fear will be forgotten before it is even truly understood. And, ironically, it is the media that is pushing too fast past this tragic event – at least it is for me. I think I just don’t want to move on yet. This is just way too important.

Disrespect toward the media – due to politics on the two sides of the aisle – is eroding both public trust and respect for the profession. At least I think so. But if we let it, I think the Gazette shooting should instead teach us all a lot. Among several lessons, it taught me to hold all fellow journalists in an even higher regard – even if we disagree. It’s a tough job, one in which people get mad. Really mad. Really, really mad. Some of them, way too mad.

And I think I have changed due to this experience. At least, I am allowing myself to be changed. I am taking what I learned from the memorials, from the celebrations of life, with me. It’s one of the reasons I think I cannot yet move on. Throughout the past two weeks, I have hung on every single word stated about Rob Hiaasen, Wendi Winters, Gerald Fischman, John McNamara and Rebecca Smith. I have listened to what the fallen editors would tell their writers, and what their writers could share about such guidance. I have clung to every piece of advice those reporters say they were given, as though such words were my own, as if the constructive criticism was about me.

But it wasn’t only the fallen who taught me. There is also a survivor of the attack who showed me something I also will never forget. I will never, ever, ever forget the look on her face – ever. It was like she was still there in her Annapolis office, frozen in time. At Mr. Hiaasen’s memorial service, I spoke with a Gazette journalist who managed to hide during the rampage – and survive.

As we spoke, she suddenly remembered something about her editor and pulled out a notebook to write it down. She had stitches on her face and was bruised badly. She had a black eye – or maybe two. She wasn’t shaking, but she looked so vulnerable to me. All I could say was “I am so, so sorry this happened to you.” I think I said it a few times.
I did not want to ask a single question – and didn’t – but witnessed how she continued to be a reporter and documenter in the midst of her own pain and involvement in the tragedy. This was a privilege to watch. I know of no better word to describe it.
Still healing from her wounds – both visible and not visible – her focus was on a detail about Mr. Hiaasen. She described an act of selflessness he had shown her one week before he was killed. She then scribbled it on her notepad and called him “fatherly.”

I will never forget the look, the pain, the gaze of confusion on her face. It was a look of stun, frozen in time. And it’s a look I will never forget. I think, more than anything, I wanted others to know that. To see and understand that humanness in her, and in reporters in general. To know that the person behind the pen is…well, a person.

Although I was not there that day the five were killed, I will never be the same writer after the attack on the Capital Gazette. Improving myself, and taking every ounce of knowledge I can squeeze out of the tragedy is the only thing I can do to make any sense of it. And it seems the only thing to do to make any difference at all.

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Editor’s note: A Capital Gazette fund for the victims’ families and scholarships has been set up. See more info here.

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3QR News

Our 3QR Contest issue is now live! Check out the three winners and their bios here.

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In the Daniel Defoe spirit of controversy (the socially conscious writer and scofflaw dwelt in prison and outraged many) here’s a few words from modern day iconoclast Salman Rushdie, author of thirteen novels: Grimus, Midnight’s Children , Shame, The Satanic Verses, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, The Moor’s Last Sigh, The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Fury, Shalimar the Clown, The Enchantress of Florence, Luka and the Fire of LifeTwo Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights and his newest novel, The Golden House, released in September 2017.

Rushdie, decades ago nearly imprisoned in his own home after controversy over The Satanic Verses, recently read from The Golden House to a packed house at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD.

The prolific novelist was introduced by Sir Andrew Motion, longtime Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom, as “a man of great courage.”

Rushdie’s voice, soft and mild, met the applause. He leaned toward the podium mic and spoke about his latest novel set in New York, also home to The Age of Innocence and Washington Square. And he talked of realism in his fiction. The Dickensian sense of realism to carry scenic moment across time. “Right down to the shoelaces,” Rushdie said.

Rushdie talked of creating characters “deeply rooted in the real.” And he tipped his pen to Ernest Hemingway, quoted as saying, ‘A great bullfighter works close to the bull. If the bull is over there, it’s easier. If the bull is much closer, it’s more dangerous.’


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UPCOMING FEATURE: As we peruse contest entries, stay tuned for an interview with renowned author, speaker, and professor Lee Gutkind, called “The Godfather of Creative Nonfiction” 20 years ago this year . . . .

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Our submission period is now Open. We are taking Contest entries only, please include “Contest” in the subject line. The theme: Works that pay tribute to author Daniel Defoe. See details in Submissions.

Also, welcome to the Fifth annual issue of The Three Quarter Review: Poetry & Prose > 75 percent True. Look out for cool stuff about exoplanets and blues ballads. Click on Prose and Poetry, and check out the slider underneath the ‘front page’ image: “Lollipop Tableau.” This inaugural themed issue has been a blast. We’ve been considering poetry or prose about science or music or both. (Check out ‘About 3QR’ for a taste of our submission guidelines. We are not yet accepting new work). In the meantime, read through our Prose or Poetry, slider features, and More Articles. Enjoy our visual art. Peruse our Author Bios. Comment early and often! And welcome to the 3QTrue parallel universe.

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Look for No. 4 to hit the lit internetwaves in late June! An eclectic mix of poetry and prose. Mostly true. All the better to tell you stories with, my dear . . .

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P.s. You might see teasing preview flashes of authors or pieces as we pull this all together. Enjoy or psych(!), according to your POV. Either way, coming soon . . . Submission deadline for our current issue: May 1. We look forward to featuring another round of the best of 3QTrue work! Check our submission guidelines for details.

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If you checked us out in early December you might have noticed a GoDaddy takeover.

Our domain is re-established. 3QR Rules Again!  Remember we are now accepting submissions for our fourth issue.

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Welcome to the third issue of 3QR: The Three Quarter Review!  

We hope you enjoy the wonderful work we are publishing in the Fifth Genre of three quarter-true stories–true prose and poetry. Next stop: The 3QR Anthology!

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In other news, another 3QR writer’s book is hitting the market. Tumble Inn, by William Loizeaux, Writer-in-Residence in the Department of English at Boston University (work excerpted in the second issue of 3QR!) is being published in September by Syracuse University Press; click here for info or pre-orders. “Stunningly clear-eyed and lyrical . . . the economy and beauty of his words give this book a kind of illuminating grace.”—Washington Post Book World. Kudos Wild Bill!

Also Just out: 3QR writer Diane Sward Rapaport’s book, Home Sweet Jerome was published in May by Johnson Books (Big Earth Publishing). It’s available on Amazon.  In 1953, this once-fabled copper mining city of 15,000 shrank to 132 adults and 87 children. Jerome, Arizona became a famous ghost town and notorious hippie hideout, known for ” a quirky patchwork of rebels, heroes, scoundrels, and artists.” Among the  preposterous stories recounted by raconteur Rapaport: “the ten-dollar sale of Main Street in the 1950s; the ghost that lived in a gun; the theft of a large amount of money from the Catholic Church; and several 500-plant marijuana gardens growing in the mountains.”

Also out in May, inaugural issue writer Ann Kolakowski’s book of poems, first excerpted here! “Persistence: The Poems of Warren, Maryland,” a beautifully rendered tribute to the erstwhile town of Warren, Md., which was flooded in the 1920s to create the Loch Raven Reservoir. Published by David Robert Brooks and also available on Amazon.

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WATCH FOR OUR NEXT ISSUE IN JUNE! Also, a call for writers for our print edition coming soon!! In other news, recent book publications for our writers TBA.

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January 2014

LAST CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: NOW ONLINE

 The Three Quarter Review: Poetry  & Prose > 75 Percent True is now accepting submissions for our third annual online issue and upcoming print anthology. Prose up to 4,000 words. Up to three poems. Submissions must be at least 75 percent factual. Short pieces welcome. Deadline APRIL 30, 2014. Check our site for submission details. We are currently accepting submissions at 3qreview@gmail.com.

Also, check us out at the Conversations & Connections Conference in Washington, D.C. this weekend, April 5, near Dupont Circle. Lots of cool writerly stuff.

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May 2013

3QR IS LIVE!!!! Tweet your friends! Post it on Facebook! Like it! Text about it!

Shout it from the rooftops! Spread the Word in whatever mode you like. Our second annual issue is on cyber stands now! Best, JCS.

 A few notes from authors: 

Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe would have been perfect for a 3QR table of contents–if 3QR had existed when he wrote it.” — Mary Jo Salter.

“Poetry, for me, is the most honest form of lying. It operates in the realm of three-quarters true.” –Elizabeth Hazen.

“Whenever I write, I think about the great Japanese film Rashomon. Four people recreate different scenarios of the murder of a samurai: the samurai’s wife, a priest, a brigand, and the murdered samurai (talking through a medium). It left me wondering whose truth to believe.” — Diane Sward Rapaport

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3QR‘s second annual issue is going Live soon. Be on the lookout in the next two weeks. And tell your friends. Facebook or otherwise.

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Visit Us At Conversations & Connections Conference , a great event for writers in Washington, D.C. this weekend, April 13th, 2013. Check it out at  http://writersconnectconference.com/wp/.

And look for the next issue of 3QR to go live in May. Right now, a la E.M. Forster, we are three-quarters hidden, like an iceberg.

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Last Call for Submissions

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It’s now 2 a.m. in the world of 3QR, and this is the last call for submissions for our next issue, due out in March. In publishing news, we will be featuring a poem by Mary Jo Salter. Submit and be counted among the vanguard of three-quarter true story telling.

Want to Get Published? Sell Your Book? Go to the Maryland Writers Conference

Community of Writers: Tips and Tricks

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Baltimore, Md.–Prose and poetry writers will meet a literary agent, find an editor, and learn a thousand publishing tips at the Maryland Writers Association’s (MWA) 2012 Writers’ Conference on Oct. 20 at the University of Baltimore’s Thumel Business Center, 11 W. Mt. Royal Ave, Baltimore, MD 21201. The day-long conference offers workshops and discussions on such topics a “Writing for Personal Growth & Publication,” “Sell-Worthy Query Letters,” “What Editors Look for in Freelance Writers,” “From Book to Script to Movie,” “50 Shades of Marketing Your Poetry,” “Children’s Writing Past, Present, and Future,” etc.  Keynote Speaker, Marita Golden will speak on ‘The Changing Tides’and lead an interactive  panel discussion ‘How to write a story your readers will never forget.’  Register at http://www.marylandwritersconference.org/or call 443-293-7745 for more information.

Spreading the MostlyTrue Word

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Come check out The Three Quarter Review and our panel on Mostly True Writing at the Conversations & Connections conference this weekend, Sat. September 22 in Philadelphia. For details click on Convo & Connect. 

Gone All National

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3QR: The Three Quarter Review is now listed on the venerable newpages.com Big List of Literary Magazines. We are linked under NewPages’ T titles online. 
More Publishing News
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* Stephen Dixon’s novel just out!  Story of a Story and Other Stories: A Novel  (linked here and available from amazon.com) published by Fugue State Press. A lost novel originally written at the end of the 1960’s, and too free with its metafictional soul for the publishers of even that era, reads the book descrip. Also released in June: What Is All This?the softcover edition of a three-volume story collection from Fantagraphics Books (distributed by Norton.) The Amazonian sum up: A massive tome from one of America’s greatest living writers.– 5/31/12
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3QR Writer Profile 

* Dario DiBattista, 3QR writer, is featured this month in Urbanite magazine. Check out the profile by Rafael Alvarez at Writing About Iraq. Dario also listed, among his top publication credits, The Washington Post, Washingtonian, and . . .  The Three Quarter Review. Way to go, Dario! –5/8/12

3QR Writer Publishing News

* B.J. Hollars, 3QR writer, is also known for his eccentric quests to track down the many elusive creatures of the world, from Bigfoot to the Loch Ness Monster, and beyond. He notes that, after many arduous expeditions and harrowing adventures, he’s found them!  All of them! And so now he’s really proud to present definitive proof of the existence of…wait for it…the literary monster story! Monsters: A Collection of Literary Sightings is available directly from Butler, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. — 5/1/12
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Overheard at Conversations & Connections Conference

The Three Quarter Review launched beautifully at the April. 21 conference in Washington, D.C. and seems to be soaring high. We’re also out there listening for signs of intelligent life on the frontiers of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

So we jotted down this panel quote re: fiction–with its bursts of color and exaggeration–versus nonfiction:

“Fiction is an expressionist painting rather than a photograph.” — Josip Novakovich, author of Shopping for a Better Country, (Dzanc Books, 2012), Stories of War and Lust (Harper Perennial, 2005), April Fool’s Day (HarperCollins, 2004), and several books on the writing of fiction, including The Fiction Writer’s Workshop (2008).

— from J.Cavanaugh Simpson’s literary blog litdeadline.wordpress.com

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3QRollout!!!

Join us for publishing tips and other writing advice at 3QR’s semi-official rollout at the Conversations and Connections conference in Washington, D.C.’s Dupont Circle this Saturday, April 21. Check out the conference website.