Books

When Madmen Lead the Blind

by

Brian L. Flack

 

 

The Story

 

    Stephan Markle and his mother, Anna, are “trapped” in the afterlife. He has forgotten who he is. Anna doesn’t seem to care who she is.

    In alternating monologues that play with the idea of truth, they revisit how they came to be where they are and who they are. But memory, or the lack of it, is confounding.

    Alan M. Freedman, Stephan’s friend, hasn’t forgotten who he is. Also “trapped” beyond life, he is angry about their fate and wants to fight back against those who have undermined them.

    Praxiteles Moussakas, the man immediately responsible for Stephan’s death and, quite inadvertently, for Alan’s and Anna’s, is alive, but he is despairing and vulnerable … a prime candidate for an “intervention”.

    What is forgotten and what is remembered and why are at issue in this novel. As are the true identities of Stephan, Alan, and Anna; their intentions; and the fallout from the decisions they, and Praxiteles, make.

    When Madmen Lead the Blind will challenge every reader’s long-held assumptions about what precedes and what follows life as we know it.

 

 

Reviews

 

"Brian Flack's new work of fiction is a paean to the value and importance of storytelling ... When Madmen lead the Blind deftly weaves a tapestry of how four people view themselves and how they affect each other , both through time and across the gulf between life and death. That tapestry sometimes has threads that appear in unexpected places, and it demands the patient reader's attention to detail. However, the reward is a satisfyingly thought-provoking tale."

          Ramesh Pooran

          "The Times"

          September 12, 2018

 

Reader comments:

[I] really enjoyed it. For me, [When Madmen Lead the Blind] combines the entertaining stand-up monologuing of Joseph Heller's God Knows with the exuberance of Jagger's "Sympathy for the Devil."  [The] Borsht Belt riff on Neanderthal living was brilliant and hilarious, as were so many of [the] other historical, biblical, literary satires. Reminded me, too, of Blake's "Proverbs of Hell" which Alan Freedman voiced in his own eloquent way.

          David Reed, Toronto, Ontario

What an astonishingly innovative book! The Markles are a delight, as they unfold and meander in and out of each other’s character(s) and intellect(s) and persona(e). Freedman is a glorious nutcase. And Praxiteles Moussakas is brilliant. They wrap themselves around you and refuse to let go. The notion of the First Church of the Most Immaculate Revelation is delightful … and not just because of the elusive ‘painless way to make money with so little overhead’ idea and the presence of Hanford J. Jefferson, Esquire Inc. in the story. The overall structure … is brilliant, not just in the juxtapositions (and leitmotifs which repeat), but also in the narrative approach … a paucity of dialogue but HUGE internal monologue which is, ironically, totally meant to be external. This book is a “tour de force” in my view, emerging from an ambitious, almost stream-of-consciousness narrative momentum … a unique and gutsy deep dive, to use a current phrase, into a kind of speculation which is at once uncomfortable and enticing.  We can’t help ourselves but to keep reading, no matter how the fuss and rattle of the characters’ ricocheting back and forth among each other makes us edgy.  Lots to learn in [the] narrative technique.

          David Schleich, Portland, Oregon

"I want to congratulate you on the novel, because it fascinated me endlessly. The description of what follows our lives here on Earth that you portrayed in the book does not remotely resemble anything I've ever seen written before, nor anything I had ever contemplated. I commend you for not being vague in describing that "place", but rather you went all out to provide a fully realized portrayal. … It resonated with me, because it's next to impossible to imagine simply not existing after death, but it is also very challenging to accept the traditional depictions of heaven and hell. Your depiction certainly gave me much food for thought."

          Avi Lipton, Toronto

"Your book is a wonderful read. I particularly like the story of Praxiteles and your descriptions of Greece. The entire book is thought provoking and stays with me long after I've read it." 

          Alida Robinson, Consecon

For me, When Madmen Leads the Blind suggests elements of Kafka, Camus/Sartre, Vidal (Kalki), and Beckett with a splash of Atwood and things biblical, all in a Catch 22! It sure is a page-turner, clever and well written with a complex structure that challenges the reader. The premise is genius. The Alan character compelling ... [I] enjoyed the allusions to moments in history when the main ‘voices’ played roles.

          JC Sulzenko, Poet, Ottawa, Ontario

[When Madmen Lead the Blind] was a really good read. I was cocooned at home this past week with a nasty virus which I just couldn't seem to shake, so it was a comfort to me to have some-thing like this that I could get lost in. It was so smart, witty, and engaging that I couldn't put it down, and when I got to the end, I wanted to start reading it all over again, to see how many clues I had missed the first time around. As a lifelong atheist, I particularly enjoyed the religious take downs, especially the whole discussion around "God's will" which has always been a particular pet peeve of mine. Your historical perspective was also a lot of fun for me, and your vision of the afterlife seems as good a one as any.

          Pearl Rotter, Ottawa, Ontario

I must say, it was a fascinating read that resonates long afterwards.  [It] certainly tackled some interesting ideas. [The] first-person narratives were gripping and the voices strong.  It’s an original and thought-provoking read. A whole new take on reincarnation!

          Teri Coburn, Picton, Ontario

The characters (and their relationships to one another) intrigued me, and frankly, I enjoyed Alan's "stirring the pot" ways. I was drawn in and needed to read and read in order to find out exactly how they were connected. It was mind-blowing when I started to piece it together. The book also makes the reader question  ... [if] that reader is open to possibilities. [T]his was a pleasure to read.

          Nadine Adamek, Toronto, Ontario

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South Shore Suite ... POEMS

by

JC Sulzenko

 is the 2nd book published by Point Petre Publishing.

“South Shore Suite” is the first section of the book. These poems emerged from JC's commitment to post a line of poetry a day on her website for more than a year. Influenced by haiku and tanka forms, they have their roots in the landscape of Prince Edward County on Lake Ontario.

The following section, "Second Nature”, brings a wider lens to the natural world, not limited to the time frame of “South Shore Suite” nor to Prince Edward County’s geography.

 

The third section, “Cameo Appearances”, includes poems from a series based on interviews she conducted with people in different professions about the life choices they have made. Versions of some of these pieces appeared elsewhere under the name A. Garnett Weiss, a pseudonym she often uses to differentiate between genres and to provide her another platform from which to profile her work in social media and on her websites.

“Cradle to Grave” traces the cycle of life and highlights the poems closest to her personal experience.

In JC Sulzenko's Words

"... for me, what's important is that I write as I hear something ... It comes to me as if I hear it first and then I write it down and then I spend time making sure I'm doing the best job I can. I try to be very direct and yet be very compressed, because poetry is a compression of thought ..."

Reviews

"... the words are dense with meaning and warrant careful consideration to plumb their depths. This a book whose lightness is not a measure of its gravity, which is not to say that there aren't light-hearted moments ...

          Ramesh Pooran

          "The Times"

          November 15, 2017

"JC Sulzenko tells us in the introduction to her soulful and varied poetry collection, South Shore Suite … POEMS, that the inspiration to gather her poems together from the past four decades was Canada’s sesquicentennial celebration. These poems not only celebrate this Canadian milestone but also one Canadian woman’s life, her appreciation of nature, her empathetic recording of other lives and her awareness of time’s passing.

 This is a collection that rewards the reader with its careful, precise and often-beautiful rendition of those elements in life that enclose us: nature, other people and the progress of time. As she writes: “when it falls to death, the line between/what’s real and what you hope for/breaks you.”

As readers we thank Sulzenko for honouring Canada’s 150th by gathering her poems into this enlightening collection and for her clear-sighted vision of our human condition.

          Deborah-Anne Tunney

          "The Glebe Report"

          March 15, 2018

Reader comments:

 

"Your poetry is stunningly good, and I find I don't have the words to tell you how much I enjoy and admire it ... Your poems are beautiful, they're powerful, they're painful beyond endurance. Your skill with words takes my breath away. Your perceptions make me see things and understand things I didn't know before, or didn't fully appreciate before, or ignored before. I am grateful to you for these poems, and for gathering them into this book.”

          Carolyn Barnes, Penticton

 

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36 ... Poems

 by

Brian L. Flack

 

is the first book published by Point Petre Publishing.

In this day and age, with an aging population, illness, and how it affects the living of life, is a topic on a great many minds. With the experience of his late wife, Laura, guiding him, Brian L. Flack has crafted a moving collection of poems that tracks the days and nights of her final year.

 

Although the focus of the book is a single woman, the themes explored, the situations faced, and the feelings and thoughts of the principal players in this drama are universal. "36  ... Poems" is

essentially one long narrative poem broken into 36 cantos. It tells the story of a woman’s last year, her successes and let-downs as she faces head on the fact of mortality and a medical system that is at once extraordinary and, too often, not what it could be. The poems are heart-wrenching, sometimes brutal, and occasionally humorous. They weave symbol and metaphor with a sprinkling of mysticism and myth to describe perfectly what it is like to live with death hovering in the background. However, even though the overarching sentiment is the imminence of loss, there is much of life in these poems ... how life can be lived in the shadow of such duress.

Reviews

    "36 ... Poems is a hard and devastating, but ultimately glorious, tribute to a lost loved one. But it is much more than that--it is, in 36 concise poems, an exploration of what it is to be human."

          Rick Conroy, The Times, March 22, 2017

Reader comments:

    “...[it] is a lovely, amazing book … I learned so much. The book style and production is first class and the poems are grand. It is one of a kind, a generous lament and celebration … don’t hide this book!” 

         Bernice Lever, Bowen Island, B.C.: author of Red letter Day

             (Black Moss Press, 2014) and 20 Small Acts (Black Moss

             Press, 2016)

“…the poetry is incantatory. Needless to say, the content … the piercing metaphors to describe the hospitals, doctors, nurses, palliative care, ghostbusters-like chevra kadisha, etc. were pointedly sharp as surgical scalpels. The bitter helplessness that concludes the work and informs so much of the emotional storm throughout is just completely overwhelming. [It is] a very brave and heartbreaking work but beautifully, impeccably, harrowingly crafted. {My wife] said she can't remember a work of poetry ever affecting her so intensely.”

         David Reed, Toronto

“Wow! What a wonderful book.”

         Aron Pervin, Toronto

"...[the] work conveys powerful messages (and questions) on many levels and is finely written.  For those willing to go deeply into grief and loss, or those needing to awaken their sense of empathy, or those wanting to better understand the existential process of such an illness, among others, 36 will find its audience."

         Teri Coburn, Picton

This is a remarkable book … the poems are so well crafted that I have to say there was pleasure as well as pain in reading them. I found myself on three parallel tracks as I travelled through 36: Poems ... one track flooded with sorrow for Brian and his wife; another track that taught me disturbing but always interesting facts about cancer treatments, cancer practitioners and the places they inhabit; a third track filled with admiration for Brian’s skill as a writer -- the strong words and phrases he uses, the vivid images he creates, the potent metaphors and similes he conjures.  

... the book ... is beautifully designed, and the design seems to match the sad and unrelenting content: a strong, stark font; dark print; a subdued paper colour ... black flysheets at the front and back; a black background under the title on the cover. Two things suggest that life goes on: the red colour for the author’s name on the cover, but not on the title page (though red could indicate suffering, too), and the fact that the photo on the back cover is not somber black and white, but colour, and shot from behind, perhaps to indicate looking to the future. One final comment: heartfelt thanks to Brian for the Foreword and the Notes, which add significantly to the reader's ability to absorb and appreciate the poems and the bitter path they describe.

         Carolyn Barnes, Penticton

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© 2017 by Point Petre Publishing

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