Posts Tagged ‘“Can’t Sleep”’

With a Lot of Help from my Friends…..

June 16, 2010

“For writers, for those of us who write fiction, it is good to dip into history and other cultures.  The richness and beauty of these things can only add to our attempts.” – Jane Kohut-Bartels, from her online review of Khaled Hosseini’s novel The Kite Runner (

Steve Isaak (“Can’t Sleep”, poems, 1987-2007″, available from ID: 8482600) sends out a listing of quotes either from movies, new books or reviews he has come across.

His list of 6/15/10  included this quote from me, as I reviewed Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner”.  I forgot about this review, but I didn’t forget about “The Kite Runner”.  I’m reposting this review, because, hey…it’s almost summer and I need a vacation.  I’m posting Isaak’s comment at the end of the review.

Steve Isaak is one of my favorite writers and also an incredible poet.  Check out his new book from  It’s a slim volume of 94 poems but one you will revisit  over and over.

Lady Nyo

“The Kite Runner”, by Khaled Hosseini


For two years or more, I have had this book, stuffed on my shelf and I haven’t done more than to read a few pages.  For some reason I took it down and started to read it a couple of days ago and I couldn’t put it down.

Although a work of fiction, it really isn’t.  It is more a contemporary historical work, with an old-fashioned storyteller style.

I have been stumped lately.  Not blocked because when you are preparing a manuscript for any publication, you aren’t really creating something new, you are going over what has already been written and you are refining it.  Hopefully.

Perhaps to say there is nothing ‘new’ is wrong.  You are doing so, even in the rewrite.

Where I have been stumped is the ‘why’ of my stories, especially those written for “The Zar Tales” and also the novel, “Tin Hinan”.  They are written in the framework of cultural issues and a place I have no experience or knowledge.  But that didn’t seem to stop me and I wondered about the ‘why’.

I borrowed from my experiences in Belly Dancing, but that is just part of the issue of the ‘why’.

Reading “The Kite Runner” I fell under the spell of what Hosseini was doing: he was weaving a wonderful, elaborate, moral and timely ‘tale’:  Perhaps the Persians, the vastness of the history and literature, the poets Rumi, Khayyam, Beydel, Hafez, the Shahnamah, (book of 10th century Persian heroes) can turn our hearts and minds from the horrors of what Afghanistan and those parts of the Middle East have become to us in the West.  It is more than terrorism.  These writers and stories are part of the heartbeat of humanity that knows no walls.

“If thou art indeed my father, then hast thou stained thy sword in the life-blood of thy son. And thou didst it of thine obstinacy. For I sought to turn thee unto love, and I implored of thee thy name, for I thought to behold in thee the tokens recounted of my mother.  But I appealed unto thy heart in vain, and now is the time gone for meeting….”

(From the Shahnamah, a story about Rostam and his long-lost son, Sohrab who he mortally wounds in battle.)

For writers, for those of us who write fiction, it is good to dip into history and other cultures.  The richness and beauty of these things can only add to our attempts.

Funny. In writing one of the final chapters of  “The Zar Tale”, I took the sense of  “Now is the time gone for meeting” for the poetry of the stumped, second-rate poet Emir, who finally (after ten centuries of mulling over the same three  opening lines) gets it together in his indictment of the three Mullahs.  Then his poetry soars and he is able to complete it.  I must have read something of the Shahnamah somewhere, but I don’t remember.  It’s funny how the mind holds onto something in secret and then gives forth when needed.

“Take to delight the presence

That from this two-way abode

We would not meet each other

Once we pass through.

For our chance meeting is but

A reflection of life’s mysteries

Not to be counted upon,

But to acknowledge the wonder.


You have barred our spirits from Paradise!

You, and your One God, have condemned us

To wander the earth inconsolable to human kindness.

Now is the time for our answer!

Now is the time for the quick slash

Of a sword!

Now we delight  we will not

Meet again

Once you pass through this

Vale of tears you have created.

Heaven or Hell-

You have made it the same!”

–From “The Zar Tales”

And perhaps the real reason of the ‘why’ is that humanity suffers the same issues all over the map. When we do read and understand at a deeper level these human issues, we begun to understand ourselves.

If the upshot of all this means  our writing is fuller, the colors richer, well, that is good. When  we understand that alien cultures are no barriers to the human heart and compassion…well, that is even better.

Lady Nyo

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  1. Steve Isaak Says:
    December 8, 2009 at 10:05 pm editThis book review transcends the usual book review in that it’s more philosophical in its view than the book reviews that focus on the nuts n’ bolts of the writing: characterization, structure, theme, taking it into a more PERSONAL realm for you, and us, the readers.I tend to be less philosophical in my book reviews — I’m a nuts n’ bolts guy, because, at the end of the day, writing is not a mystical experience, it’s everyday grunt-through-it, deal-with-the-writing-elements work. There’s delicious inspiration, and moments of glee (especially during the plotting/characterization phase), but you’re more spiritual about it.

    I sometimes wish I could be that way, but we’re built the way we’re built, right? Might as well celebrate our strengths in a world that would tear us, as individuals and groups, down. :)

    That’s why I enjoy your writing, and why I could appreciate why you appreciated “The Kite Runner,” a novel I couldn’t get into.

    Hosseini has plenty o’ mood, and he’s done everything right (in terms of building characters, structuring the story), but it felt too technical for me — like he was trying to build up to some momentous event that would be less-than-momentous for me, the reader.

    Bear in mind, I’m mostly a crime and horror-fiction reader, with occasional reader-forays into non-fiction books.

    Your take on it has me admiring the novel a bit more than I did, but I think my cultural differences with the author were too much to surmount. Other readers, thankfully, felt differently. :)

    Thanks for the recommend, Jane. Any experience that prompts us to think and appreciate beauty (that is, become better people) is a worthwhile one, and you’ve certainly added one of those to my daily life.

More Spring in Bloom, and Steve Isaak.

May 8, 2010

I bought Steve Isaak’s new book:  “Can’t Sleep”, poems, 1987-2007 and this is such a dense collection of poetry, I am having to go through it very, very  slowly.

Steve must have made movies before…in a past life, behind some huge camera.  His poetry is like snippets of some dream-movie, but I won’t blow this review right now.  It’s just an issue of so much imagery to plumb and to pack in.  Review to follow next week when I can get a better perspective on this marvelous and first book by a truly original poet.

The pictures are of my back garden….over a fence and archway.  I believe this rose bush…actually two rose bushes, are “Bonicas”…Nope…they are NEW DAWN) .but they might be something else, because they certainly are climbers.  I love pale, pink roses, and these 5 year old plants certainly are giving their all.  They are ‘constant’ bloomers and you only get that by heavy feeding…which I don’t.  I will have to remember to feed them and all the others, because they are such spectacular plants they deserve the effort.

Lady Nyo

Bonica Rose Bush...we think

more of the same bush

more roses


She stood quietly in the garden, dappled sunlight falling like a tattered golden veil, crushing a Graham Thomas in her hand.  The silky texture slipped through long, bony fingers. A seductive perfume carried upwards, the feel of the petals reminiscent of something she vaguely remembered in the past.

Yes, she remembered now.  It was her sex, soft and puffy, with powdered lips awaiting the frisson of arousal. The man who once kissed those lips was long dead, a pale ghost to her memory.

A tower of rose heads nodded their encouragement.  They watched her season after season, the cycle of bush-life matching her own. Grown thin during the years, all gnarled canes beneath and gall, too. Within years both had become feeble. Soon the bush would cover her grave, dropping its petals in remembrance until it, too, faded from earth.

Now Graham Thomas was pleading to cover her mound with his perfumed beauty. He would nestle within the deserted folds of her abandoned sex. He would make her juicy again.

He promised to leave the thorns on the bush.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2008

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