Announcement: Welcome

This Website will be devoted to essays and insights related to diversity, addiction/recovery, psychological growth issues, global perspectives, the disenfranchised,  aesthetics, and cultural values. The core value streaming throughout the essays I write will be about returning to our innocence, which sometimes requires a trauma, a jolt, an invasion of the “other,” or a paradigm shift.

Many of my comments will sometimes reflect a more radically progressive approach to an idea. At other times, I may very well see some healthy alternatives in a more reactionary, conservative approach. There will be few areas, if any, that I hold sacred, taboo territory.  In that sense, everything will be up for grabs.

I am also interested in international film narratives, stories whose voices are too often left out of the more powerful voices of the international film industry. They have much to teach us about aesthetics, cultural values, and morality.

For those wishing to participate, enjoy the ride!

John T. Marohn


Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff, a Review

Fates and Furies
Lauren Groff
Penguin Random House, 2015
359 pp

On one level, Lauren Groff’s novel, Fates and Furies, is easy to write about because it has a fairly straightforward plot about a very modern couple who fall lustfully in love, marry, and experience all the travails of a typical marriage—money, trust issues, psychological insecurity, secrets. The husband, initially a struggling actor, becomes a famous and successful playwright but dies an early death. The wife lives out the rest of her life on the wealth she’s inherited from her husband’s family and the financial success of his career.

That, of course, would be the Cliff Notes summary of the plot.

To my mind, what keeps the novel so energized, besides Groff’s heightened poetic style of writing, is the author’s ability to include enough metaphysical and ontological darkness to keep the tension of the novel constantly on edge. There is, in a few words, never a dull moment. Groff knows how to include a hybrid mixture of film noir content, a mystery novel, the gothic tradition, and a good old-fashioned erotic love story (I described the love-story of the novel to a friend as being somewhere between Medea and The Great Gatsby.)

I think it would be safe to say that Mathilde Yoder is the central character. She is a lithe, complicated, often devious, always sensual young woman whose horrendous past relentlessly pursues her. She is abandoned by her parents in France at an early age because they hold her responsible for her younger brother’s fall down a flight of stairs. She lives with a prostitute grandmother who is brutally murdered. She is then adopted by an uncle in Pennsylvania. On a trip to New York City, she meets an older man on the train who seduces her into being his paramour. The informal contract ends with him just as she enters Vassar and meets the love of her life, the narcissist, Lancelot (Lotto) Satterwhite.

Lotto comes into her life with his own baggage. He has an agoraphobic mother in Florida whose inherited wealth she refuses to open up to Lotto and Mathilde after they are married (the wealth is eventually transferred to Mathilde after the mother and Lotto both die).

Lotto also finds himself falling passionately in love with a young male composer, who, at one of the rehearsals, is mortified to realize that Lotto does not like the music he’s composed for an opera they are both working on. Lotto is devastated when he discovers that the composer drowned off the Canadian maritime coast (there are strong hints the death was a suicide).

We eventually find out that Lotto has an illegitimate son he fathers in Florida when he was fifteen. This son is the nephew of Chollie, the twin brother of Lotto’s teenage sexual partner. Chollie’s jealousy of Mathilde leads him to reveal to Lotto that Mathilde once had a secret sexual life, destroying Lotto’s belief that his wife had never had sex with anyone before she met him.

Mathilde initially avenges that disclosure by hiring a private detective to uncover Chollie’s dark criminal behavior. She eventually relents by burning the evidence.

After Lotto’s death, Mathilde attempts to catherize her soul with wild, promiscuous sexual encounters and her own rage at having been cheated by life because of Lotto’s early death. Her rage against Chollie is part of that pattern, even though she, ultimately, pulls back from any final bitterness.

Mathilde’s avenging mode becomes even more intense when she returns to France to buy the home she was born in. She has the home destroyed after she purchases it.

At the end of the novel, we are left with what almost seems to be a parody of a 1950s Hollywood film of an aging, tired avenger, Mathilde, who has lost her rage and settles into an elderly life prepared to enjoy all the benefits of a surrogate grandmother to Lotto’s son. (Quite frankly, there were moments when I could actually picture Natalie Wood coming back from the grave to play the aging Mathilde.)

This is, without a doubt, a novel that has all the makings of a blockbuster Hollywood movie—dark pasts, untimely deaths, eccentric characters, booze, revenge, high-fashion, theater, abandoning parents, and enough sexual variety to keep the CEOs of Netflix in permanent bonuses for a couple of years.

Great novel. A more-than-good-read, if you can keep up with all the scene changes and linguistic pyrotechnics—an English Major’s orgasm, for sure. Highly recommend.


The Journey Continues

The Realm of the Spirit in AA

The other day, someone at an AA meeting asked me what part I played in my relationship to the concept of God. Several years ago, I came out at as a non-theist, even after thirty-one years in the program.

I became defensive because I believed he was making every attempt, in a non-threatening way, to gently admonish me for my “profound problems with the theology of the ‘Our Father,'” the statement I made at the 12 step table that night.  It was clear to me that, in his view, I had not really “surrendered” my own non-theism, even though I have been consistently open about being nurtured, in and out of the rooms, by other people’s faiths, while, at the same time, saying that those sky-god faiths don’t represent my own spiritual journey in the program.  Nor do those faiths embody my notion of “The Realm of the Spirit” that I find in Steps two and three.

I would have agreed with him if I believed all sky-god followers to be fools. I do not. However, my experience with human nature tells me that, in any group, there will be some who are really, really naive. And yet, I know many theists who are intelligent, compassionate, and self-reflective. They strive to be good and be of service. They bend the rules when life kicks them in the ass. They often love diversity because they have big, inclusive hearts. Continue reading


Magdalene (25)

She woke up.
She was fifty today.

Comparisons, she thought.

Then she wrote in her diary:

“Achingly dumb as a dog
Tied to a wrought-iron fence
Outside a coffee shop,
Its ass cold against
The concrete,
Its raw paws
Surrendering to the wait.”

She put her pen down,
Closed the book,
Opened the drawer
Of the night stand,
Gently slid the diary
Into the drawer,
Closed it,
Inhaled the odor
Of George,
Folded back
Her side of the covers,
Lifted her legs
To the floor,
Walked to the bathroom.



Ce Jour

I could rise
With the morning sun,
Fatigued into
Another day.

Stay in the rapture
Of last night’s moon,
Sullen beyond endurance.

Or bathe myself
Into fantasy
To catch the day
By one more


Magdalene (24)

We had fostered
Cool tolerance
In our realms,
George fitting himself
For movement with
No tithes of obligation,
And I, willing to
Fall into possibility,
On the shoulders
Of my winding road
To walk in full view
Of all the unknowns,
The bothersome gnats
I learned to love
In their flagrant mystery


Magdalene (23)

Mother always said I was
A certain child.
Of easy affirmations.
But, even in the sun’s warmth,
I could say no
To any man
Who dared to wander
Even tenderly
Into my life.

Take Aaron, the architect.
Thoughtful as a
Spring rain
Knowing just when
To come between
My winter’s inner life
And my summer’s whimsy.

I could trust him
To stay at bay
From my
Braking withdrawals,
Or to lunge
Into my salty needs
In the blink
Of God’s eye,
As the Germans say.

I nodded to myself
Then, in my thirties,
That I could risk
My life with any guy
Who knew physics
And soaring steel,
Or could read a menu
By candle light.

Intrigued as I was
By any man
Who could fill in
Spaces with more
Spaces and firm walls,
I would, with the confidence
Of a straight-backed chair,
Find free-lance writers
Just as flexible on
A winter sled
Or a summer swing.




Magdalene (22)

Anne, my dear,
I never told you
That you slipped
Out of me
Like an old comb
From a back pocket.

A strong sense
I had then
That you didn’t
Beg to be born
But would move
Between city street lights,
Unhurried, unperturbed.

Finished Products,”
You called them
At ten
Confident, as always,
That things would be
What they would be
And no more.

Unless,” as you said,
At sixteen,
They weren’t.”


Love in December

When I look at you,
December seems mounted,
Perplexed, perhaps,
That it could be so still
Against the wall of
Other months,
Which move by chance
In cautionary tales
Sliced from my memory.

But you remain
My year’s end,
The months before
Dressed in plain sorcery.

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