The Sword Swallower & A Chico Kid

The Sword Swallower & A Chico Kid, an e-book copyright and written by Gary Robinson.

A Preface informs the reader that the story was inspired by the author’s friendship with a circus sideshow sword swallower named Captain Don Leslie. “It is a fictional account of events that took place in each of their lives with a few chapters loosely based on the literary work of Madame Chinchilla and her Tattoo & Museum located in Fort Bragg, California.” A Prologue next presents a grandfather playing with his grandson Calvin when interrupted by a mail delivery of a picture of his old friend who has passed away. He is overcome, begins to tear up just as his aging but still lovely wife enters to tell him that two of his books now are on the New York Times Best Sellers list. She stops mid-sentence when seeing his reaction, runs to him, sees and exclaims about Duke’s picture. Calvin quietly asks “Who is Duke, Grandpa?” He wipes his tears away, holds Calvin’s handles tightly and answers “He is the reason you are here, Calvin.” The following seventeen chapters describe the life of a 15-year-old who leaves an impossibly dysfunctional and abusive home to become addicted to methamphetamine and alcohol. He joins a circus, become something of a legend as Duke Reynolds, sword swallower, and stated in his own words follows his basic philosophy: “This life will not promise you anything. You are guaranteed nothing. All you have is today. This moment. Yesterday is just a memory and tomorrow is not guaranteed. All you have is this moment. Make sure you try to live as much as you can every day.” The next six chapters describe “The Destructive Path of a Chico Kid”, another young man from a pretty much similar background who slides through college deep in alcohol, drugs and sophomoric male activity often indulged in by members of some fraternities and similar groups. The last, Part 3 devotes 9 chapters to “An Eccentric Friendship and an Unconventional Mentoring” where Gary, the young man heading down this destructive course is befriended by Duke, mentored in a most unusual manner and after having a very close brush with death gains redemption.

Discussion: The author has set forth a story that probably will affect each individual reader in different ways. Fundamentally it is a tale of redemption. However it also is a remembrance of a another era when the world was more provincial; recall for some individual of activities that never change; recounting of controversial decisions made ‘for the good of humanity’; a number of truisms; and perhaps an introduction to a ‘different’ way of life, here modifying another of a type that all too frequently is being encountered today – the entire tale provided in raw, often disgusting but regrettably perhaps, most realistic prose. It is a tale about the earlier part of the last century when the larger towns were entertained by Barnum & Bailey and The Ringling Brothers circuses, and the smaller by the numerous small circuses and ‘carnies’ such as the one that served as a home for Duke. A re-editing would greatly enhance the story’s presentation.

Summary: For older readers, many fond memories will surface; younger readers will be introduced to what were occasions of great enjoyment to the ‘oldsters’. For some it is a sad tale but for all readers a caveat is necessary – this is a tale replete with drugs, alcohol and ridiculous decisions couched in raw, though pertinent language, even though it is a story of eventual redemption.

3* 4* Compelling story of redemption; caveat and suggestions as described.

FLY: Have Magic in your Life

FLY: Have Magic in your Life ISBN: 978965506648, ContentoNow (International Distributor) an e-book by Ted Barr.

The author, after never considering painting, studied at Israeli’s prestigious Avni Institute of Art and has provided here numerous examples of his most unusual abstracts pertinent to, and accompanied by, a series of ruminations on numerous areas of life and its vicissitudes. The chapters have titles such as: The Human Quest, Life and Death. From Void to Void, Deciphering Death, Cycles of Creation, 807, this chapter is accompanied (as are several) by an opening explanatory phrase; e.g. 807 Months of Repentance (Jewish Day of Repentance) causing rumination on the fact that “The average life span of human beings nowadays is 807 months and 73 days. It is later than we think.”

Discussion: This is a most unusual book with respect to content as well as presentation. With respect to content, it perhaps may best be described as lengthy ruminations by a onetime rather heavily mentally traumatized individual, as he introspectively attempts to find a meaning and direction for his, and for life in general. Support for this statement are the author’s words both early in the book: “If I survive this war, I promise to live my life in a constant search for its meaning,” and later with his statement when interviewed by art curators Josh Ryder and Melissa C. Hilborn, for Peripheral ARTeriesas when they provide a discussion, evaluation and explanation of the author’s art. “I am an Israeli and as such spent 8 years of my life in the army. I fought in wars and saw young men dying near me. This experience engraved in my soul the understanding that nothing is guaranteed. What exists today might disappear tomorrow. The only time that exists is NOW. Life is too valuable to spend without meaning. This in brief is the core essence of the ’Cycles of Life’ painting series.” With respect to presentation, there are several factors. When a reader attempts to download an e-book version, an unusual statement appears: “Due to large file size, this book may take longer to download”. Here this reviewer encountered what may have been an individual problem, but one of which prospective readers should be aware. A list of e-book readers most acceptable for downloading also is offered. I found it necessary to try several in my possession before ultimately ‘paper light’ offered the best resolution for the written material. The verbalization was mostly in a very small font, appearing to be an 11 at most, and for some strange reason did not respond to increase in font size without shifting the entire largely double column/pages to an unreadable position. Thus the ‘paper light’ version was easiest to read. I also learned from a correspondent the Kindle Fire, which I do NOT have, offers a better read. One other factor is the quality of the abstract paintings. They probably are quite colorful if able to be seen in color. Again, unfortunately my Kindle does not exhibit color.

Conclusion: Introspective ruminations with respect to the ‘meaning of life’ by an individual severely affected by his wartime experiences.

3* 5* content for persons enjoying life/death ruminations; 1* for presentation.