The Best of RALPH:
The Review of Arts, Literature,
Philosophy and the Humanities

Lolita Lark, Editor
Volume One
[ISBN 0 - 917320 - 31 - X]
466 pages

Volume Two
[ISBN 0 - 917320 - 45 - X]
513 pages

Boxed Set of Two Volumes,

Library of Congress Control Number: 2012939592

Publication date:
13 January 2013

Distribution: Baker & Taylor,
Ingrahm Books, Borders, Barnes & Noble

Ad campaign in New York Times Book Review, New York
Review of Books, New Yorker, TLS, LRB, PW.

For five glorious years, the upstart Fessenden Review managed to bemuse literary America with its saucy take on books and the publishing industry. Our reviews were the subject of articles by media writers at the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Library Journal and on National Public Radio among others.

Writer Herbert Gold said, "I enjoy your quirky take on things, although you don't seem to review my books." The late Max Lerner said, "The reviews break all conventions and are the stuff of life." Other encomiums came in from Writer's Digest, American Libraries, The New England Review/Bread Loaf Quarterly, The Bloomsbury Review and Dædalus.

Despite its critical success, The Review was bludgeoned to death by its many creditors, but, in 1995, made a spectacular return online as The Review of Arts, Literature, Philosophy and the Humanities, or, more succinctly, RALPH. To date, 230 issues have gone up in hyperspace at

We continue to enjoy 10,000 to 20,000 hits a day.

This elegant boxed set consists of what we believe to be the best of the best drawn from the on-line magazine and its immediate predecessor, the late-lamented Fessenden Review. These are articles, reviews, readings and poems that have consistently garnered the most praise, attracted the most hits --- or, in a few cases, sparked the most noisome complaints.

Lolita Lark has been the editor of RALPH since 2000, and was editor of a book of poetry drawn from the magazine, A Cricket in the Telephone at Sunset. This is what poets and crickets --- I mean critics --- said about that volume:

"Forty years ago I decided never to write comments for publicity. If you have seen me on the back of a book, it is something quoted from a publication. I am sorry to let you down, but I cannot change my policy now."
--- Donald Hall

"Sorry, I don't do blurbs though I love the book."
---Bob Hass

"This quirky volume claims to reprint poems from The Fessenden Review, a short-lived but unrepentantly forthright magazine. The poems are not afraid to work with subjects that many people would avoid but in doing so use language with a freedom and reassurance that turns the most unpromising subject into art. The editors have truly succeeded in their aim to free American verse from the steely grip of the establishment poets. This book is good to look at, pleasant to hold and fun to read. Buy it, enjoy it and be inspired."
--- Polly Bird
New Hope International Review Online


Ms. McGowan
Before Reading

To: Lolita Lark

From: C. McGowan

RE: The Noisiest Book Review in the Known World

Dear Ms. Lark:

These gorgeous books deserve better. Nevertheless, I am eating while reading The Book, dripping bits of my lunch, a nice chicken sauté with cous-cous onto its creamy pages. Page 33 now has a tiny translucent smear over the word "Okie." ...

My copies of The Book will have one shirt-tail untucked, frayed pants cuffs, Broad Shoulders and a head full of curly hair. It will laugh "Hee Hee Hee." I am reading every word and always eating, so it is fate, as well as untidiness, reshaping my The Book.

Ms. McGowan
After Reading

It made me laugh out loud. It took my breath away. I bled with Quan Barry. I read "When I was a German" and "Surviving as a Musician" in Bikrenau and they spoke to that question, "What Would I Have Done?"

I still don't know how to kick a duck, and I won't look at trees quite the same way again. It is so fine that I haven't even finished it and I want to read it all over again. I want to read it all tonight and I want to savor it.

I wish I could visit with you and sit right next to you and talk about every piece I've read. Doug Cruickshank's ghost dog. Blue Cloud's horses. Outing J. S. Bach as an alien. But I ramble. In summation, it really is the best of the best. You have every right to be proud of your baby.

--- C. McGowan

Mho & Mho Works
Box 16719
San Diego CA 92176
"Books Beyond All Reason"

On the Library of Congress page of the new book,
the ISBN for Volume One appears as 0 - 917329 - 31 - X and
the ISBN number for Volume II appears as ISBN 0 - 917329 - 45 - X.
These are wrong (wrong) (wrong!)
The correct numbers, as noted above, are
ISBN 0 - 917320 - 31 - X for Volume One and
ISBN 0 - 917320 - 45 - X for Volume Two.