The Review of Arts, Literature,
Philosophy and the Humanities

  Number 279

Mid-Fall 2016

The October Surprise
For some reason,
our fall hit list
often offers a few surprises:
a reading or review or poem,
one of the 7500 stored in our archive,
suddenly rising wraith-like from the depths,
causing us to wonder, 'Where the hell did this come from!'
- - - or even, at times, 'O god, who dreamed up this turkey?'
Here are twenty or so that new readers have
rediscovered, boosting our hit scores
(and our sense of

Great Flicks
The illness of our Publisher caused
a great irruption in the editorial room.
We awaited word from the hospital that
our patron would be expected in Paradise shortly . . .
or a least would be safely out of our hair for several weeks.
But no. During this period, his onerous demands have increased
exponentially . . . for titles of great movies. He now claims
to have seen none for the last two decades because of
"this damfool magazine you guys came up with."
His assignment: find the greatest classics
to watch as I recuperate
over the next little while.
So find them we did
and they're

"Rats spend most of their time
eating, sleeping, and making little ratlets.
A pair can produce 15,000 descendants.
When one of their smelly little colonies
is poisoned, the pregnancy rate of all nearby female rats
doubles or triples."

The Ascent of Money
"The Pilgrims thanked God
for the fact that 90% of the American Indians
had died of disease before they arrived.
The Hand of God, said the Governor of South Carolina,
has been eminently seen in thinning the Indians
to make room for the English."

Courthouses of Minnesota
"Hours of sitting in dingy rooms,
learning that the wheels of justice grind exceedingly fine
and exceedingly slow --- listening to lawyers drone and bailiffs
snore and the poor and the ignorant trying to tell their story,
knowing that under the arcane rules that run American justice,
they might well be getting screwed."

Pepys' Diary
"And the intimacies he shares with us!
Sometimes more than we want to know:
He tells us of being lousy, of problems with his bowels,
and of problems with his bladder (he celebrates annually
the cutting of the stone (the surgical removal a kidney stone)
which he carried about with him ever after
in a felt-lined box)."

Vogue Women
"Remember how those models
in Vogue used to look?
Distant, cool, a bit snooty.
And what do they look like now?
Well, distant, cool, a bit snooty --- but sometimes right angry,
as if, maybe we shouldn't be gazing at them
with such fixity."

Spanish Places
"The satisfaction an Andalusian derives from his climate,
his sky, his blue mornings and golden twilights, is unutterable ...
The true roots of his being is submerged in that
elemental delight, cosmic, pure, and enduring.

But the average Andalusian of 1960 was so submerged in
misery, poverty and hunger, working for pennies a day,
that he scarcely had time to look at the blue mornings
and golden twilights."

All the Fishes
"It is a wonderful/awful story, told with surety:
the moments of happiness, finding toads
in the wells, snakes in the bush;
the daily beatings, the picture of an old man
falling off the train and dying;
the comical awfulness of Indian sanitary accomodations."

What I Think I Did
"Unfortunately, all these heavies keep popping up,
screwing up an otherwise mildly entertaining guide to survival
in the great plains, spooks named W. H. Auden, James Wright,
William Maxwell, John Cheever, Robert Frost, Robert Bly,
Truman Capote, Norman Mailer, John Updike, and William Shawn.
These are all people that Woiwode has met,
or wants to meet,
or has spoken to,
or has passed on the streets of New York,
people who invariably stop him to tell him
what a great writer he is."

The Blast
"I said to the District Attorney,
'How can a man like you engage in such dirty work?
As a boy or young man, you must
have had a spark of decency in you.'
To his credit, he blushed. Then stammered: 'If I don't do it,
someone else will. Life is short; it doesn't matter much after all.'
'Yes,' I said, 'life is short, but that's all the more reason
why one should be on the side of right
and decency.'"

Terrors of the Table
"Maybe you're best off to skip this one.
Americans used to be the tallest 'of all Caucasian populations.'
Now we are just the fattest. 'Parts of animal carcasses
once thought unfit for humans to eat are now, thanks to new technologies,
turned into pies, sausages, and hamburgers.'
Chicken-lips, anyone?"

"Bodies were instruments, things to be shaped by eugenics,
that pseudo-science grew out of a twisted Darwinism,
the belief that we could breed out all the misfits, rid ourselves of the insane,
the dark, and the dirty though the appropriate science of applied copulation.
It was no accident that his second love after flying was not his wife,
Anne Morrow Lindbergh, but his work in creating 'an artificial heart'
by means of pumps and incubators."

Brief Reviews
Peoples of the Plateau
Grisélidis Réal
Through the Eyes of the Astronauts

Infantilizing the Geezers


American Radio 1945
"Instead of sleeping,
I had my ear to the frequencies of humanity - - -
my head in the Cathedral of the universe - - -
voices muttering out of the aether, voices calling,
calling to me. WCKY in Cincinnati. WKAT in Miami.
WCFL in Chicago. WBT in Charlotte. WLAC in Nashville.
WWL in New Orleans."

Graduation Speech
"You created your dreams,
and from them (e.g., from yourself)
you can learn many powerful lessons.
Remember, they are directed by another, perhaps better auteur
than your waking self, so they give you a different take
on where you have been, and what you think you are doing ---
for better or worse --- to yourself."

Man's Search for Meaning
"Happiness must happen, and the same
holds for success: you have to let it happen
by not caring about it."

"A couple days ago,
Mary, the landlords' maid returned.
Her room is next to ours.
Several nights earlier we'd heard her crying loudly,
shouting her sadness.
Mary had just heard that her sister died."

Did I Know You Back Then?
"when I came home on a stop over
along a transoceanic route my mother
cooked a box lunch of chicken feet
and rice old style with the toes sticking
up like baby fingers escaping the mire
something for the plane she said
like your granma used to make
pressing the foil wrapped dish in my hand
as if it were the final link to family"

Fade to Black
"we watched Ralph Cooper or Mantan Moreland
break up shady deals in Harlem guns blasting
tables turned against white folks robbed
of their power on the silver screen
at those matinees we cheered always the underdog
even Boston Blackie who was black in name only"

When I Was a Tiger
"When I was a tiger
I hunted in the forest
My claws struck me as quite beautiful
when I attacked gazelles with them
At night I dreamt of red flesh, white teeth,
my lover's ebony eyes"

A Note on
This Edition of

Our publisher has been uncharacteristically ill of late.
He says that it's nothing, nothing at all . . .
but for those of us who know, we think
he'll be laid up for at least another two weeks.
Meanwhile, a few of our contributors have
come forth with some new reviews and articles
which we'll be mixing with some others
from a decade or so ago.

Meanwhile, Publisher reports:
If anyone offers you a free gall-
bladder removal service, talk to me at once.
There are a few untoward surprises
built into the procedure known as a
Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy that you want me
to tell you about before you and your surgeon
forge ahead with the picks, shovels and
mini jack-hammers.


The Vivisection Mambo
has just been published in quality antique typeset style.
It consists of 125 poems of the new Neo-Realist School,
many appearing here for the first time.
In a starred review, Kirkus called it
A fine anthology of some of the best contemporary poetry around.

The Noisiest Book Review in the Known World
was published over two years ago.
It contains 200 or so of what we believe
to be the best articles, readings, reviews and poems
from this magazine --- from our very first years to now.
If you subscribe to RALPH, you get a free copy of this anthology ---
which was listed by Kirkus as
"One of the Best Books of 2014."

All the back-issues of RALPH,
including titles of books under review,
along with author, subject, and publisher,
plus links to readings, articles, and poems
that have appeared on-line
since 1994.

b. 1985 - d. 1989
Our predecessor magazine received
enthusiastic encomiums from media writers at
The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times,
The San Francisco Chronicle,
and on
National Public Radio --- among others.
You can now find links here to all thirteen riotous issues.

of our most notorious reviews
as collected in the hard-copy

With your $25 subscription,
you help perpetuate honest,
noisy, pesky book reviews ---
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this rare if odd online literary journal.
You will also receive
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which, is, in the real world, they say, priceless.

T H E  F A C T S
Submitting Reviews, Poems & Essays
Suggestions for would-be contributors --- and payment schedule.
Submitting Books
The best way to get books to RALPH for review.
RALPH didn't spring full-blown from the brows of the gods:
     We've been around (in different guises) for over thirty years.     
The Fessenden Fund
Describing the good works of RALPH's official godparent
Mho & Mho Works
A Dozen or so Books from Our Foundation's Publishing Arm
Behind the Scenes

The Faces of Those Who Make Up the Face of RALPH
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Lolita Lark, Editor-In-Chief
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