Broken Turtle Blog

Broken Turtle Blog

Friday, August 29, 2014

Mullen Remembers M*****d

In There’s a House in the Land, Shaun Mullen chronicles how a tribe of Vietnam vets and associated pals and gals made an old farm north of Newark, Delaware into an island of freedom. Like his earlier work, The Bottom of the Fox, Mullen’s House provides insights on the American Seventies. This time, however, he treats those of his contemporaries inhabiting the piedmont west of Philadelpha, PA to a wild and wonderful reminiscence. 
Thousands remember—and more wish they did—the Flag Day parties, with their roasting pigs, the house band Snakegrinder, the socializing of bikers with profs, the abundant garden among disused trucks and cars, the tanker-loads of Genesee Cream Ale, and the mountains of marijuana, much grown there. 
The Seventies were the shore the Sixties washed up on. Those who climbed out of the surf were left to rebuild the American Dream, shredded by Vietnam, JFK, MLK, THC, LSD. Who knows how many such islands of self-reliance and rugged individualism there were in America, but few had in residence an amanuensis as talented as Shaun Mullen.  Mullen shows that while American rules were shattered, American values persevered.
Mullen chooses a sort of roman-à-clef approach, changing almost all the names except his own, that of the band Snakegrinder, and the dog Meatball. I, receiving an advance copy for my tangential familiarity, will not fink, only that New Park is Newark, Delaware, and the New Park Tavern, portrayed in its piss-smelling splendor, is the old Deer Park Hotel. There, it is apocryphally reported, Edgar Allan Poe drunkenly cursed all who stopped in that village of philistines that they might never leave. Still, many will recognize lead singer “Edward,” who died on the railroad tracks while attempting to flag down a train, subsequently appearing in a dream to tell “Rafe,” the Weather Underground fugitive, to grab his kazoo and start singing center stage. Many bought belts from Doctor Duck’s leather shop, but few, beside myself, ever tasted a sub on a whole-wheat roll from his short-lived deli.
In episodes and thematic chapters, Mullen details the geology of “Kiln Farm,” the flora and fauna, the architecture, the dogs, the goats and other livestock, the roles the denizens filled and the crafts they practiced, the ambiguous status of women, the tragic crash that killed “Pattie” and her daughter “Caitlin,” and Mullen’s road trips to Aspen and the Florida Keys.
Eventually, the tribe moved on. They “didn’t so much grow up,” Mullen explains, “as succumb to the mechanistic gravity of the real world that compresses all but the roundest of pegs.” The vicissitudes of erstwhile freedom were neither good nor bad, but they accompanied some wonderful progress in education, ecology, and human unity. Hey, the shit-house Bible at the farm was the Whole Earth Catalogue, that “Access to Tools” for anarchists and late twentieth century pioneers.
There’s a House in the Land may shock or titillate, but Shaun Mullen captures the spirit of a time and place. Those who were there will chuckle and maybe weep.
Mullen will sign copies of There's A House In The Land beginning at 1 p.m. on Sunday, September 28 at the Blue Crab Grill in Suburban Plaza off Elkton Road in Newark. Snakegrinder and the Shredded Fieldmice, a popular Newark band in the early 1970s, will reunite for the occasion. The title of Mullen's book is from a lyric in a Snakegrinder song. (Postscript Sept. 8: Due to the high demand, a second show has been added at 8 p.m.)
Shaun Mullen blogs at Kiko’s House and The ModerateVoice.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Announcing the Broken Turtle Booklist

Broken Turtle Books is proud to announce the online Broken Turtle Booklist, a catalogue of Delaware regional authors, local publishers, and literary communities operating in Delaware. The Booklist includes audio and video recordings of Delaware authors, as well as their major works. It provides easy links to Amazon, Paypal, or publishers for folks who want to buy.

Each month we will feature a selected work by a Delaware author. In our inaugural offering, we are featuring A Visit With Uncle Richard, a compilation of the popular series written by Spectator columnist and Editor Pat Gibbs. Uncle Richard is familiar to listeners of Even Steven’s Boptime, where Gibbs as Uncle Richard holds forth cantankerously and provocatively on issues of the day. Boptime’s DJ is our own Steven Leech, of course.

There are lots of great writers in our hidden corner just off I-95. The Broken Turtle Booklist hopes to raise our profile and contribute to your success.

Broken Turtle Books, if you don’t already know,  is a group of writer-editor-publishers who have been part of the Delaware literary scene for four decades. Most of us have been associated with Dreamstreets Press, which published Dreamstreets Magazine, produced radio programs on WVUD 91.3 FM (University of Delaware), and a television clip on WHYY TV (Wilmington/Philadelphia) and founded the 2nd Saturday Poetry Readings at various venues in Wilmington, Delaware. We also blog occasionally on matters literary, artsy, historical, and political at the Broken Turtle Blog.

For a while we were Broken Turtle Books LLC, intending to publish our own and historical works through a small company that we controlled. However, as most writers and publishers know, alternative vanity presses, small run printers, and publish-on-demand opportunities have proliferated in cyberspace, making our business model obsolete. Yet our mission remains the same: to promote diversity and cutting-edge literature in a state known for its insularity and paucity of opportunities “downwind from chateau country.”

Our list is a work in progress. We have a number of authors in our in-box ready to be added. For the most part, we are limited to poetry and fiction by Delaware authors who have their work available as a collection, print or electronic.

Check out the site and see what we have added so far. If you believe you have been overlooked, would like to recommend a Delaware author, or just have suggestions for the website, follow the instructions at the “About the Booklist” page.

Spread the word, peruse the site, and buy local books!