May 082013

By Joseph G. Anthony


“Ohio Street opened up—300 block, then the 400 block. The powers-that-be would select certain streets or certain areas where we could live.” Amanda Cooper Elliot. Photo by Danny Mayer.

“The past is a foreign country; they did things differently there,” says the narrator in the 1970 movie, The Go-Between.

I certainly hope so.

I wonder if it’s a particularly American trait that the past so quickly becomes first a rumor and then something so dead we view it with the same amazement present-day Romans must feel when they try to extend their subway only to discover yet another lost civilization. But I am not speaking of ancient cities. I’m talking of the lifetime memories of many of our fellow Kentuckians.

I say this because I’ve been researching and writing a novel—Wanted: Good Family—timed mostly in 1948 with long visits to the 1920s. It’s set in Fayette, Scott, and Estill Counties. Three of my narrators are African-American, or—as was the still-respectable and self-applied appellation—colored. My other three narrators are white. My white narrators don’t have an easy time of it: being poor and white in the first half of the century in Kentucky wasn’t, as Bette Davis said of old age, for sissies.  But being poor and colored in Kentucky…well, if they had been Hindu instead of Baptists, they might have wondered just what the hell they had done in those past lives to be faced with so many challenges: spiritual, emotional, physical. Continue reading »

Mar 062013

Reflections on attending I Love Mountains day

Daniel, the 24 year old, with Unitarian Universalists at I Love Mountains march in Frankfort on February 17. Photo courtesy of  Stacey Stone.

Daniel, the 24 year old, with Unitarian Universalists at I Love Mountains march in Frankfort on February 17. Photo courtesy of
Stacey Stone.

By Joseph G. Anthony

Daniel, my 24 year old, was happy to be a part of the annual Frankfort “I Love Mountains” rally and march organized by the Kentuckians for the Commonwealth. He wasn’t, however, thrilled to be carrying the Methodist sign—(the Methodists had more signs than people). He kept trying to hand it off to me as we paraded up to the capitol steps and settled in for a rally. But I’m a well-lapsed Catholic, current Unitarian-Universalist. I need no other religious affiliation.

The U.U.’s and other faiths were well represented.  It was a big, enthusiastic crowd. And the February day kept acting like it was early April. All that coal-induced global warming has its plusses.  After the marching, we were ready for speeches. Continue reading »

Feb 062013

Review of Bluegrass Funeral

The old Lexington public library makes an appearance in Joseph Anthony's Bluegrass Funeral.

The old Lexington public library makes an appearance in Joseph Anthony’s Bluegrass Funeral. Photo by Danny Mayer.

By Don Boes

As a native Kentuckian, I approached Bluegrass Funeral by Joseph G. Anthony with interest.  The book, a collection of short fiction, moves back and forth in time from the 1850’s to 2007.  The place is central Kentucky, though not the land of the aristocracy but rather the underclass: slaves and their owners, hitchhikers and farmers.  Some of the characters surface in more than one story, as their younger or older selves, as not yet wise or wiser.  In addition, Anthony’s stories appear out of chronological order to reinforce the Faulkner epigram that introduces us to the collection: “The past is never dead, it’s not even past.”  For example, the first story, “The Naming,” takes place in Lexington in 1871 in the aftermath of the Civil War while the next story, “Dancing Benny,” takes place in 1858 and is in the form of a monologue by an escaped slave.  Such a strategy challenges the linear and conventional (and convenient) view of the world that we often find so comfortable.  I’m reminded of a similar Russian proverb that goes something like this: “The future is easy to predict.  It’s the past that keeps changing.”  The past does indeed change but continues to live and to be lived in.  Bluegrass Funeral is an ambitious attempt to capture what it means to be alive in such a timeless place as Kentucky. Continue reading »