Wednesday, December 26, 2012


A novel by Paul West

“I FELL, CAME CRASHING DOWN. Injuring my leg, immobilizing my right arm and paralyzing my right cheek. Not so much an accident as an insult to half my body, which after a few days of elementary care turned into a full blown stroke, leaving me mumbling, unable to speak.

Look at him, Diane whispered, he’s having another stroke. One glance at my dreadful pallor sufficed—coupled with my frozen eyes and expressionless face. In what seemed like no time at all, I was flat on my back beneath a colossal lamp hearing Diane speak with the doctor about my condition.

What caused this idiot to go full tilt, stumbling catastrophically when merely crossing my living room in pursuit of a book titled Therapies? Feeling for the book’s exaggerated title? Just possibly, but I doubt it. More likely a mere instant of mental vacancy leading to unstable footing. The millisecond for all time.

To have taken the plunge from one dimension to another may seem upward gesture, a gesture of joy. But not so. For me it was rather a fatal swoon towards oblivion.”

So begins Paul West’s latest book, his fiftieth, The Left Hand is the Dreamer, the story of West’s three weeks spent recovering from a near fatal stroke at Garden Court a rehabilitation home in Palm Beach, Florida. The book is fantastically engaging, witty, and, as all West books, brilliantly written.

We camp with Paul as he struggles to regain the use of his whole right side, an arm and leg that won’t work and a mouth trapped in mumbles. What he hasn’t lost though is his keen mind and fantastic wit. In between eating, sleeping, and therapy sessions, the embattled author slowly prints out the words that became this book with his left hand. Following his progress we feel what he feels and almost want to cheer when he records something as simple getting out of bed by himself.

To quote the author Sven Birkerts: “Out on those risky ledges where language is continually fought for and renewed—that’s where Paul West breathes the thin, necessary air.”

The cover is a recent watercolor painting by West, who has managed to make almost a hundred paintings and collages, using only his left hand, since suffering his stroke.

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PAUL WEST is the author of 50 books. He has received awards from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, the Lannan Prize for Fiction and the Halperin-Kaminsky Prize. He was named a Literary Lion by the New York Public Library and a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Government. He has also been a runner-up for the National Book Circle Award and the Nobel Prize for Literature.


Onager Editions, Ithaca, NY

2012 / ISBN 978-1-60047-807-9 /$12.00

To order book on Amazon click here

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Sunday, December 9, 2012


Story and Drawing by Sasha Thurmond

I FOUND AN AQUARIUM AT THE LOCAL DUMP. It was in a container, and the employee at the dump stepped down on a ladder and retrieved it for me. It was complete with a Grand Canyon mural pasted on the back wall, and the two sides. There was even rock mesas, rock formations, and a cave. I thought I could use it as an aquarium for small cactus plants. It had a screened top, and had no cracks at all in the glass, or in the screen. The dump employee would not accept any money for it . . . he was happy it would be something enjoyable for me.

One day I went to a pet store to get some food for my dogs and cats. The store had a Bearded Dragon for sale, and I was told that they could live up to 9 years old, and that they were sweet, and liked interaction with their owners. I bought the bearded dragon, and named him Flash Gordon, as he was fleet when running. Full grown, they are usually two feet long. I had three cats which I knew would be very intrigued with him, but also very scary to Flash. So, he had to stay in a room with the door closed, and barriers to keep him safe. The pet store was right that my bearded dragon is very sweet. He sits on my shoulder while we watch T.V. My cats had to stay in my bedroom while Flash watched television with me. I let Flash run around the house while I kept up with him, preventing him from squeezing into spots where it would be difficult for me to get him.

The thing that Flash Gordon loves to do most is run around on the grass, sticking his tongue out to sense the temperature and water of the grass blades. It is a whole new world outside. I always have to put my two dogs in their kennel. They would find Flash to be lots of fun to chase. Not necessarily out of meanness, rather just because he is unusual looking. He looks like a prehistoric dinosaur. He eats crickets, vegetables, fruits, kale and other types of fresh foliage. And he loves to be spritzed by water which is how he gets a lot of his daily water supply.

I used to have four cats when I moved to South Carolina. One escaped from my new house when I first arrived here and was moving things inside. I never saw him again. Tears were too many when I moved here. Now I only have one cat named Sprint, and she is so sad to be alone, that she even let my two dogs befriend her. One day I put Flash Gordon in the window in my guest bedroom. He likes to sun there, and I usually put him there for the day. Recently, when I went to put him back in his large aquarium, I was shocked to see Flash Gordon and Sprint basking in the window sill together. Now that Sprint has an exotic friend, she has stopped crying all the time. This is so peaceful, and uplifting. My tears are joyful.

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SASHA THURMOND is an artist and writer who lives on a farm in South Carolina with her horse and numerous other animals. She has a MFA degree in fine art from Cornell University.

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