Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Eulogy for Love - Chapter 1

And I'm still trying to

understand how can

a woman who's loved die

Kostas Karyotakis

You are dead now, my beloved, dead. Like my soul. Now life has lost its meaning for me. It's no life. There's no life. Why live a life that's not whole? The truth is that I was never afraid of death, though I got the chills at the idea that one day I would be gone forever leaving you behind. Forever, there's such finality in this word. But I stayed. You went instead and left me sitting all alone at the edges of a deathly fresh grave, whispering my I love you's to the dirt that covers you, and delivering oaths of undying love to the wind that blows away dreams and phantoms in its passing, and to whom you may lent your thoughts to shuttle to the moon; unless of course those thoughts were just moments ago splashed with pain, like mine, this cruelest of nights, are.

The cemetery is abandoned in the deep darkness of Hades, but the souls that have once loved shine like eternal lighthouses of deliverance, even when everything looks as black as tar. They remember, they forget, they laugh and they cry. Oh, the sad joy of loving you.

My life was always half-empty, full of non material shortages, and that's why I kept leaving; I was going away in search of you, Eleni, to the furthest corners of the earth, to the lands of dreams and long lost sunsets. I was looking for you at the places where I'd like you to be, where I'd like you to be with me. But, you were someplace else, and the wonderful sunsets looked weak and pale in my eyes, tired from the voracious glances of all the people, sad for those who loved but have never been loved in return.

Perfect is what you love with all your heart and is not yours. And you were never mine, except in some of my most crazy of dreams; dreams that make you wake up in the morning with an enormous smile painted on your lips and reflected on your soul, as you feel the happiness of existing in all your being.

You know, Eleni, you've always belonged to someone else and that gave me pain. But you were alive and that blessed me with joy. However, death, some people claim, tends to bind people together, and right now your presence in my soul has become a heartbreaking howl that makes me bleed. I am but a shadow that crawls in the dirt, a leaf that's lost its root and is carried away by the wind.

The silence that permeates this place is reassuring in a way. Here lie the living, in the outside world wander unsatisfied the dead. For those who are here have managed more or less to live somewhat, to perhaps walk the paths of wonder, while the others are more dead than the dead as they go on living, as a friend says.

I could never have imagined that a pile of fresh earth would be enough to sent my dreams packing to the other world, if such a world exists that is. But now as I see it I weep, I regret… I regret for all the tears I have not shed for you during the endless bleak nights of my solitude. Tears never came easy to me. Not then. The tears, I feared, would take away the sorrow and the pain I felt that we were not together, and truth be told, my sad, desperate self wanted to suffer. It needed it like a poison that doesn't kill you but only makes you stronger. Suffering for you meant loving you. But, how do you know, now all those tears that for such a long time I've kept caged deep within, in the destitute harbors of my soul, have rushed out and became a waterfall that drops violently in the abyss of the sea of pain.

I turn my look towards the neighboring graves. Some other people that have loved, hurt and wept, are sharing this big piece of earth with you.

Why do they bury the body, as if they don't know that the soul that lies within is a bird that longs to fly? The soul is a sister of the wind, a drop of rain, a grain of sand, a sparrow that lusts for travel. It doesn't want to rest. It wants to spread its wings and become the most beautiful runner in the skies of freedom and fantasy.

They've buried your body, Eleni, in order to rid the world of your memory, to erase their guilt. As if your grave is their deliverance, a signal of their secure lives, the mark of an end whose beginning they want to push at the back of their minds.

They must really hate us, the ones we left behind, I can hear the souls all around me whisper in my inner ear, and they seem to prepare their revenge. When the bodies of the living are asleep, the spirits of the dead are wide awake, and some nights, under a full moon, they visit the former in their dreams and remind them of all those things that they long to forget.

But, what are these thoughts that time and again keep creeping into my mind as I sit here? They never passed through my mind before this very night. Perhaps… Yes, that's it; my soul is now dressed in death and thus can only look at the macabre.

Excerpt from the first novella I've published in Greek in 2000.All the sentences written in Italian are taken from Maria Polydouri, a Greek poet.
The image is taken from here

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Journey

Every day I feel like I'm embarking on a journey

to whom I don't know.

My life has never been simple nor


It is as if I'm living it in bits and pieces

just like in a dream

or rather dreams that spread through the nights

like dark angels

observing my vain battle for wholeness.

I know what I'm missing but

I don't know where to find it.

My thoughts come in fragments

they stop me from seeing the full picture

and then they don't come at all

and for a moment I feel a breath of happiness.

Am I cursed?

I've asked myself this question many times

but I don't believe in curses;

besides my life is no better and no worse

from the lives of those around me.

The only difference is that they don't live

in their heads.

So, what is it that I'm looking for?

I guess that would be a new path a

way out of my own being

the other.

Will I ever find it?

Will it lead me to a redemption that

I hardly need?

I know not but the journey needs to carry on

so that hope will remain undead in

my soul

a soul that aches for change.

The image is taken from here

Monday, April 6, 2015

Don't Believe it's Love by Ana Zumani

I would never come to you, never, even though I know you're dying for me.

You've written that to me a thousand times, a thousand times I saw it in your macabre eyes.

In your eyes I saw how much you wanted me, but I had no reason to save you, none whatsoever.

I've abandoned you to your destiny, just likes thousands of men thousands of women they abandon to their own destiny.

But I finally came to you. The doctor told me that I had only one year left to live.

That's tragically too little for a woman that loves life so much.

All of a sudden I was able to see my whole being as it is and realized that only to you I'd like to give,

To give, to give, to give, like a fresh spring to the thirsty traveler.

Don't believe that this is Eros, or love, or something deeply personal.

It’s selfishness.

The pure selfishness of a dying organism wanting to become a memory in another.

Not to die for good, to vanish, to suddenly be erased, to be lost.

Today you've fully enjoyed the body that for years you longed for.

The more you enjoy me, the more you'll bring me back to life after my death, you'll rouse me.

You see, that will be my Resurrection, my Return.

Don't believe that this is love, I just want the most secure heart in which to go on living.

You are my monument, and that is all.

I've translated this from Greek. Image taken from here

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Sea Lover

She was standing at the old pier
staring towards the sun's rise.
The morning breeze was caressing her face
the waves that were rhythmically dancing
below her feet were kissing her senses awake.
In her whole life she may have never loved
anything more than the sea
mother, she used to call her -
because it was a she.
Her eyes were set on her for
hours days years
she thought that she should have been born
a fish to be constantly in her waters
or at least a bird to gaze at her from above.
A romantic? Yes, that she truly was.
At a time when words had lost their meaning
and people had misplaced the colors
she kept looking towards the endless blue
capturing its salty pulses
before closing her eyes and setting sail
through oceans of dreams
skies of emotions
breaths of freedom.

Image taken from here

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Reloaded by Ron Earl Phillips, Jen Conley and Christopher L. Irvin (editors)

I love short stories, though I don’t get to read as many as I’d like to nowadays. People think that writing a novel is hard, but in my eyes writing a short story and getting everything right is even harder. With a novel you have the time and space to create a whole world and expand on it, whereas with a short story the limited space asks a lot of you, since if you don’t manage to get everything perfectly right you’ll fail.

The first question that comes to mind then is: ‘Did some of the authors here fail?’ Well, let’s say that some did a better job than others. However it would be amiss of me not to say that that is not something unexpected, since once you decide to host 25 authors under a single volume their differences are destined to emerge. On the other hand, especially when it comes to short stories, most of the time taste takes centre stage; what works for me doesn’t work for you and vice versa.

Regardless, I have to say that one way or another I really enjoyed reading this book, as I found bliss in variety. Whilst going through its many stories and meeting dozens of characters I felt like I was taking an interesting and at times funny ride into crime country; a country where everything can and does happen. Once there one meets lethal… hairdressers, dogfights, runaways, Bonnie and Clyde style bandits, hitmen and kidnappers of dead people, bagmen and enforcers.

Trying to choose a favourite story among those on offer in these pages was not an easy thing to do because, as I’ve already said, in the end it all boils down to personal taste. That though doesn’t mean I shouldn’t make a special mention to the ones I enjoyed the most, and those were “How to Clean a Gun” by Joe Clifford, ‘How I Spent My Summer Vacation” by Nick Kolakowski and “What Goes Around” by Terence Butler, a kind of parody with echoes of tragedy, if that makes any sense.

The characters portrayed in the aforementioned stories remain with the readers for long, as they somehow manage to infiltrate their thoughts and stay put. The first is the story of a family whose only law is breaking the law, and its current and permanent victim is a young girl who tries desperately to escape the misery imposed by her mother. The second one talks about a company of young people who seem to have lost their way in the world and seek refuge and fame in crime. And the last is all about a bull of a man who’s desperately in love with a woman that hates his guts and is determined to kill him.

In almost every single one of these stories tragedy seems to await just around the corner. The heroes live in misery, in a world in which only the strong survive while the rest are doomed to vanish. And in most of the cases there’s no redemption to be found anywhere and no hope. People dream of happiness, yet they keep living in sorrow, and they dream of freedom, though none of them escapes their destiny.

If you like crime fiction you’ll surely enjoy this collection. It could be better, that is true, but as someone who’s read a lot of similar books in the past let me say that this is one of the best.

This review was published in Crime Factory magazine

Monday, March 9, 2015

Manto's Review by Ana Zumani

I tenderly exist yet nobody's trained me.
No one asked me to bloom; this “Manto” a Manto has never been.
People welcomed me, not just for the ecstasy of the moment.
They went down to their knees to worship me,
but I always wanted to look to the skies,
at a teacher, who with a stern glance would berate me.
Nobody went through the moves, got into the trouble
-they just showered me with honors-
since being on your knees and worship is easy,
being on your feet and accompany is not,
bowing your head is easy,
keeping it high is not.
I was looking for free people and I found addicts.
They placed their hopes on me,
a life's crumbling wall and so
it wasn't long before that we came to be
crushed under vanity's veil.

A poem I've translated from Greek

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Love is Looking for a Sally by Maro Vlahaki

The night is dressed in black.
Yet my gray dreams are alight.
In a dreary chamber I am caged,
a blue-painted lamp my only light,
the lantern of expectation seems aged.

The caress is but a graze.
The gaze a wound on parched bread.
Spring is sleeping on sheets of ice,
the years a knapsack hard to heave
and yet love is looking for a sally.

The day is dressed in white.
My dreams the rays of the sun they chase,
and on a blooming pomegranate tree they climb.
As my senses there play and sweat,
to the path of expectation they lead me.

The music is like a caress.
A nightingale's song rings through the streams.
The ivy's shiny green strings,
my lost years together bind.
And thus my love I take for a sally.

Translated from Greek by yours truly.
Image taken by the man himself.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Book Review: Choice Cuts by Joe Clifford

The stories in this collection now and again flirt with various genres though crime has the upper hand. “Choice Cuts” talks mostly about desperate people who lead desperate lives. Happiness is something that you see in the movies, and not that you read about in books, the author seems to think, and I guess that’s the reason why his heroes find themselves in trouble all the time.

Even though this is not your cliché ridden crime story collection, we do get to meet a lot of sad and deluded people within its pages; I say deluded because they really can’t tell what’s true or false and thus they believe what they want to believe, without stopping to think for a moment that things may not be as they seem. So, a cop kills a man thinking that it was the right thing to do, but that was a mistake; a couple of prisoners create the perfect plan to escape but their reasoning is clouded by mischief, exhaustion and hunger; and a man realizes that “…when it looks too good to be true, it usually is”.

I believe that the best thing about these stories, even though they do contain quite a few twists and turns, are their characters, all of whom seem to be living their personal hell on earth. Ray, in “Nix Verrida” is a veteran whose mind is playing tricks on him; how many and how big we don’t get to know until the end of the story. Jimmy is a writer who’s unable to write anything, while Kitty, his girlfriend is sick of him; his not drinking and not writing. Geiger and Donnie are squatters who have a plan to make it big. And last but not least there’s a man who thinks that Leonardo da Vinci is to blame for all his troubles.

“Is anyone in here psychologically sound?” one could ask. Well, the truth is that most of them are not, and that’s what makes their stories so interesting. It’s as if the author, by telling the reader everything about them, tries to make it clear that what happens to them could happen to anyone. All it takes is a major event, or even a minor one at a critical moment, to change somebody’s life forever.

If you’d ask me to choose a story to call a favourite, I really wouldn’t know which to pick; they’re all bleak, and they all talk about loss in one way or the other. “Rags to Riches” with its final twist took me by surprise; “Nix Verrida” made me feel a real sympathy for its hero; “A Matter of Trust” managed to put me into thoughts about the role destiny has to play in our lives; while “Chain Reaction” came to prove that it’s for the best if we don’t rush to jump into conclusions.

Choice Cuts is one of those rear books that have a lot of stories to tell, but in an almost relaxed, laidback way. The author doesn’t seem to try too hard to impress the reader with his writing, or even with his plots. His narratives are plain and simple, so they stick to the reader’s mind, and they make them feel some kind of connection with the heroes. And, I don’t know why but, this book also reminds me about the golden era of noir fiction; the times when the characters build the stories and not the words; when the dialogues were more vibrant and the heroes simple people, just like everyone else.

Joe Clifford did a great job bringing these heroes and their personal stories to life, so reading this collection proved to be a real joy.

First published in Crime Factory magazine

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Evil and the Mask by Fuminori Nakamura review

Evil and the Mask is one of those books that captivate the reader not so much with their plot and action but with the interactions between its heroes in a society that seems to be on the brink of destruction.

Most of the people in the west expect murder and mayhem and high-octane adventures when they read crime fiction. There’s a little bit of the above in this story, but not enough to thrill someone. Instead the author offers a story that talks about the cruelty of a father, the redemption of a son and a love affair that’s bound to go terribly wrong.

The said father, a ruthless businessman, tells his young son, Fumihiro that he’ll become a cancer, a personification of evil under his guidance, and the child feels that there’s darkness inside of him already. He hates his father and he’s determined to kill him one day and thus fulfill his prophecy. Until then though he must do his best to resist his authority and enjoy life a little. Enter Kaori, a young girl who’s adopted into the family, with whom Fumihiro grows up and inevitably falls in love with. He knows that his father will do everything to stop him from being happy, and later rather than sooner decides to take matters into his own hands. Will this pursue of happiness lead him to his doom or will it change his life once and for all for the better?

Happiness is a fortress,” we read somewhere, and one can rest assured that apart perhaps from the worst of people in these pages, not many can enter it. Instead they keep wandering in the streets of the night, like people with fake faces and mistaken identities; people who have nothing to lose because their lives never really belonged to them.

Fuminori Nakamura, whose excellent previous novel The Thief I've read in one sitting, has his characters interact in peculiar ways. While they’re desperately trying to find their way in an ever changing world, they are held back by the ghosts of the past; while they need love, they thrive in pain; and while they fight hard to be good, they end up exactly the opposite.

As we follow these people we get to learn a lot of things, not only about modern Japan, but also about the loneliness that has become the plague of our times, and the cynicism that seems to drive a lot of people’s actions.

Perhaps this is one of those few special occasions when the title of a book describes perfectly its content. The evil is personified in two people in here; the mask in another two. The characters come alive because the author seemingly keeps his distance from them, and his story is captivating for the simple reason that most of the time things in life don’t turn out as we want them to.

Nakamura chose to narrate his story by moving back and forth in time, thus providing miniscule clues, from chapter to chapter, about how things are going to play out. And yet, because he’s a Japanese author and doesn’t have to abide by the rule of the happy ending, he manages to surprise the reader. You don’t have to be a fan of the genre to enjoy this tale; but even if you are, once you’re not looking for blockbuster fiction you’re bound to love it, as its not larger than life heroes and its simplicity win the day. As a conclusion I’d say that the crime is not so important here, since it only serves as the means that justify the end.

First published in Crime Factory magazine

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

One for My Baby by Barry Graham review

Sometimes it feels good to read a book just for laughs, and One for My Baby is one of those books that are not only fun to read but which can also prove the perfect antidote to boredom, while they can just as well offer some down time to someone who desperately needs it.

The characters in this neo-noir novella are quite interesting. They all seem to come from the past, a time of femme fatales and criminals that took everyday life as a stroll in the park of the outlaws. One could say that they are lovable in a way, but they are also cruel, headstrong, unfaithful but most of all in love with themselves.

It all begins with a robbery. Mark, a musician, robs a restaurant in Phoenix, Arizona, and as expected he finds himself in a big mess. But that doesn’t deter him from going to his cousin’s wedding. Casci, the cousin in question, is a mobster who has some cops on his payroll. And as being the latter’s cousin and a robber is not enough, Mark is also having an affair with a married woman.

Living a life like that more often than not leads to trouble and the more trouble the hero finds himself into, the more fun the reader has. The author approaches his story in a lighthearted manner that gives it a spark and which makes the reading experience all the more enjoyable. Even the secondary characters, like Mark’s partner in crime (whose name I cannot mention because it would be a spoiler), Joel the snitch and detective Rankin, they all have something to add in the storyline and the laughs.

If there’s one thing that I’ve enjoyed more than anything in this story is the way the characters interact with each other. It’s like no one can trust anyone else and like behind every word they utter or every action they take lies something else. Betrayals and double-crossings are hardly unusual in noir fiction, but the author seems to be having way too much fun plotting his heroes’ every move, high points and sudden falls, that in fact the book every now and then reads like a parody, and a good one at that.

You can devour this volume in one sitting and if you are a fan of noir fiction you’ll probably enjoy it just as much as I did. It may not remind you a lot of the masters of the past, but it will help you realize that the noir genre is still alive and well, and evolving by the day.

First published in Crime Factory magazine