A whiff? A vague undertone? A telling but ultimately enigmatic glimpse of the otherwise intangible?
Yeah, probably that last one.
Quoi qu’il en soit, there won’t be a great deal “occurring” on the Official Jonathan Kieran site for the foreseeable future, but the reasons for any dearth of breathlessly riveting information and addictive content are good and worthy ones, I assure.
Two major book and illustrative projects are in the middle stages of completion at this point in time (yes, I am working on them simultaneously for time is indeed of the essence … who the hell knows when the next cataclysm will strike our bewitched, bothered, and beleaguered species?)
The writing projects will be, by far, the most formidable of my unconventional oeuvre, to date, when complete. Both have been over twenty years in the making, in some form or another, labyrinthine and variegated. Oh, woe is me. Or they. Things ought to congeal into some manner of recognizable life-form around the middle of next year, however.
Originally, I had hoped that at least one of the two projects might be ready to foist upon the unsuspecting earth before Christmas 2021. But that was ambitious, and laughably so. Oh, ha. Ha ha ha ha. There is simply too much to organize when one’s research notes alone account for over 300,000 words. Moreover, the project of which I speak at the moment is academic in nature, so it will require that extra heaping helping of meticulousness spiced by the obsessive seasonings only I could manage to pestle in the fathomless mortar of my brain. The second of the works will be nearly as voluminous but the illustrative work shall require the lion’s share of dedicated concentration in that case.
Gargantuan effort will be required, and no mistake. I’m tired just thinking about pretending not to be thinking about it. But it’s all going to be a great deal of fun, too, once the Powers and Potencies are Conjured, and these are the things we live for, apres tout.
Both will be “legacy-level” works, to put it mildly. Whether anyone ever actually reads them is almost beside the point, to be honest. They may end-up being more suited for sequestering in a time-capsule, the way humanity is spinning off its goddamned axis. Whatever the case, it seems not only certain but mandatory that both works be complete by Christmas 2022 for two reasons:
(1) I honestly don’t think I’m going to have much emotional energy or desire left for any further books after these two door-stoppers are in the bag. (Oh, maybe I’ll leave the door open for one or two subsequent and rambling efforts I can toy-around with into old age; endless yarn-spinning to amuse the self and nothing more.)
(2) This entire freakin’ Official Site is going to undergo a massive overhaul and become an artisanal shoppe by January 2023.
Forget prudence, baby. Adaptation is the better part of valor.
See you around.
In my last blog entry I took a few moments to introduce readers to Essam Ali Mahmoud, a gentleman who is one of today’s most gifted professionals when it comes guiding visitors through the myriad wonders of ancient and modern Egypt, whether you’re on a luxury couples vacation or a personal odyssey. Essam’s company, Explore Egypt with Essam, is one of the finest and most reputable of its kind due to the dedication and passion that our intrepid guide harbors for the ever-intriguing and legendary land of his birth.
Now, the introduction is about to get even more intensive and exciting, because Essam himself has graciously agreed to an interview, detailing his personal background, his journey to become one of Egypt’s most knowledgeable professional guides, and his own incomparable insights into the glorious country he calls home, along with the monuments that have beguiled and thrilled humanity for thousands of years.
It is an absolute thrill and privilege to publish this interview with Essam, and I’d like to thank him for his candor and generosity of spirit as he shares his story and his vision of the glories of Egypt. World travelers, take heed! This is a rare, in-depth interview with someone at the very heart of the world’s most majestic land of monuments and marvels. You won’t get a better “inside” glimpse into the possibilities of a life-changing trip to Egypt than you will with Essam. I must concur with him that, in this life, the opportunity to experience such wonder (in such timely, affordable style!) is one of the greatest investments you can make in your own humanity.
Be sure to investigate Essam’s broad and interactive online presence and follow him for the latest stunning deals and photos of his adventures … and the adventures that could become your own!
You can also follow Essam on Twitter!
Without further ado, I’d like to let Essam introduce himself to you and to the magnificent country that never fails to capture the human imagination like no other place on earth. Enjoy!
JON: Hi, Essam! Thanks for agreeing to take part in this interview about your role as one of the premier, most knowledgeable guides for vacationers and other travelers interested in exploring the majestic treasures to be found throughout Egypt, ancient and modern. I guess the first question I’d like to ask is what first inspired you as a native Egyptian to work in this exciting industry? Was it something that fascinated you as a child?
ESSAM: You know, when you live in an amazing country like Egypt, surrounded by history and antiques everywhere, you have no other options but to fall in love with these things around you. Egypt is like a lake of wonders and monuments.
I presume that I was a good student. I used to get very good marks in all subjects across all grades. My parents, who are not educated (they can’t read or write), were expecting me to join the department of science and math in my high school to help me enter one of two colleges for Medicine or Engineering. They would have loved for me to be a doctor. It was like a great disaster and magnificent disappointment for them when I decided to go against their wish by joining the department of Fine Arts and Literature.
As I told you, I was a good student and got 94% in my high school grades. These results allowed me to join the highest colleges of my department. I had my own dream, however, which I never uttered to my parents. I wanted to a journalist, and my high scores allowed me to join the Faculty of Mass Communication at Cairo University. I wanted to be a journalist because I like reading and I wanted to write about Egypt’s wonders, and why we are not as we once were in ancient Egypt, seeing as Egypt was the number one country in the world for so long a time. I always know Egypt a deserves better place than what we have at present.
I had to ask my relatives and doctors in universities what was the process to join this Faculty of Mass Communication. Then I was advised not to do it. It was a big shock for me. My dream appeared to be lost! “Why should I not do this?” I asked. The answer was, it is easy to join this faculty and easy to graduate with honors, but it is not easy to get your dream job. I was told that I did not have that huge connection with certain individuals who could ensure this kind of job for me. Because I’m from a poor family in a small village in Middle Egypt, I was advised to find another college.
They told me it was better for me to join the Faculty of Language, so that I could be a teacher of a particular language. I said “No way. I don’t want to be a teacher.” So I decided to join the Faculty of Tourism, Department of Tourist Guidance. That way, I could study history and Egyptology. I did not please my parents with this decision. They thought being a teacher was not bad, especially if I undertook private tuition lessons, which is a good job in a small village like mine.
I graduated from the Faculty of Tourism in 2004. For four years (2000-2004) I studied the great subjects of Egyptian history; Archaeology, together with Hieroglyphs, and Egyptology. These subjects started to deepen my love more and more, and as things turned out, I was happy that I was advised not to join the Faculty of Mass Communication.
To study Egypt’s history with its miracles in all fields in ancient times will bring you to a stage of fascination. Yes, I’m Egyptian and fascinated with Egypt. I’m in love with Egypt. It was a moment of great pride and honor when I was given my license of Tourist Guidance from the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and my membership in the Egyptian General Syndicate of Tourist Guides in October 2004. That enabled me to start my career and claim my title as an official Egyptian Tour Guide.
Up to this point, I guess I was not a “good boy” to my parents, and perhaps I disappointed them by not becoming a doctor, but I’m very proud that I made it and that I am now an official tour guide.
Why should I be proud?
Well, first of all, I’m very proud being an Egyptian and a tour guide at the same time. A tour guide is a storyteller of Egypt’s past and its present. A storyteller of Egypt’s wonders. I really don’t know how to describe myself when I’m at one of the Egyptian temples with my guests. One feels pride and confidence when hearing your guests tell you, “You’re very lucky, Essam, that you’re Egyptian and have this kind of heritage.” It’s amazing to hear them tell you, “Some items in your souvenir shops are older than our country’s age!”
The sense of pride has increased now that I have started another business as Founder and CEO of Explore Egypt With Essam, my new baby. I devote all my time to my guests through my agency. I am always working to invent new trips and itineraries for guests, together with the more classic holiday excursions to Egypt. Our itineraries meet and match the desires of all of our guests as we provide a very wide range of travel services, Egypt tour packages, combined Egypt & Jordan tours, budget Egypt tour packages, felucca trips, solo traveler tour packages, Nile cruises, Dahabiya Nile cruises, Lake Nasser cruises and daily guided tours in different cities in Egypt at very affordable prices. We are always ready to customize your trip to Egypt at a very competitive price.
Now, I must say, you have no excuse to make your trip to Egypt if you think about your budget. Our tours ensure luxury vacation at an affordable price. We will treat you like a pharaoh! Just contact us to plan your trip to Egypt and we promise you a very memorable vacation.
JON: Of all the many sites and wonders that you share with people who visit Egypt under your guidance, which one is your personal favorite and why? As a follow-up, what are the remaining four sites that would complete your personal “Top Five”?
ESSAM: I do love all the Egyptian sites and attractions, but my favorite place is the majestic Temple of Luxor. This is very close to my heart. Luxor Temple was built during the New Kingdom (1550-1080 BC) by pharaoh Amenhotep III (1392 – 1354 BC) and completed by pharaoh Ramses II (1279-1213 BC). Some other pharaohs, such as Tutankhamun and Heremhab, added to the temple.
Alexander the Great also has his own chapel in Luxor Temple. The Romans came to Luxor and converted a part of this temple into a Roman chapel known now wrongly as “The Church.”
Copts also left their traces in Luxor Temple. Coptic crosses can be seen in some places in the temple. Muslims built the Mosque of Abu Haggag 800 years ago on top of the temple, when the temple was covered in silt and dirt.
From what I mentioned above, you might say that Luxor Temple represents a kind of community history of religions: Ancient Egyptian; Coptic Christian; and Islam. This temple, for me, is like a microcosm of Egypt’s history. Pharaonic, Greek, Roman, Coptic and Islamic periods are all included within the temple precinct. I really feel a sudden comfort and relief when I visit this majestic temple. For me, it’s totally different from the other temples, in terms of the feeling I get. You know how you feel when you’re in a state of serene meditation? This is exactly what I feel when I visit the temple of Luxor.
You asked me what are my top 5 sites in Egypt. I can easily fill the remaining 4. My answer is:
The Great Pyramids of Giza.
The Abu Simbel Temples in Aswan.
The Valley of the Kings in Luxor.
Sehel Island in Aswan.
JON: Is your company okay with customizing certain aspects of a tour once people arrive in Egypt? For example, if you are guiding a smaller group and a couple of people would like to spend an extra day at a certain site because they especially enjoy it, is it sometimes possible for you to make special arrangements and unexpected adjustments?
ESSAM: We provide a wide range of prearranged tour packages to Egypt and we are ready to customize any trip. I’m very proud that I have an amazing team, very well experienced and educated, all bearing bachelor degrees in tourism. So they are quite ready to customize different trips and to deal with what we call urgent cases. So beforehand or once you arrive in Egypt and you want to add any extra days to your trip in a certain place, this will be easy for us to do at the moment—all the arrangements of transfers, accommodation, and guiding will be managed.
JON: What are some of the special aspects of enjoying the felucca tours that can be part of the Egyptian adventure for your guests? I can imagine that past guests have raved about this wonderful experience!
ESSAM: People in Egypt used to call the felucca trips, especially when they go for days on the felucca, they used call such people “adventurers.” I used to accept this term some years ago, when the felucca didn’t have the equipment they have nowadays. For example, felucca didn’t have toilets back then: we used to stop at one of the islands so people could “go back to nature.” Now, felucca have what we call a “toilet boat,” which never travels far from the felucca, and we summon it easily when needed. People who experienced traveling on felucca for a matter of days always came back with magnificent memories. They always love a particularly authentic experience in Egypt. They love to see the reality of Egypt with Egyptian food served on the felucca or on one of the Nile’s islands. We do highly promote these sustainable trips in Egypt, especially as they are eco-friendly trips with no pollution at all.
JON: I have always been impressed by the deliciousness of the foods available in Egypt. The hotels host some of the finest international cuisines available, but the traditional Egyptian foods are exquisite, too. What are some of the traditional Egyptian favorites you might recommend for first-time guests?
ESSAM: Hotels in Egypt serve very delicious international cuisines indeed. Nile cruises also serve international cuisines with one Egyptian lunch or dinner during your stay. But I do recommend for first-time visitors of Egypt to try some of the delicious Egyptian traditional dishes like Falafal or Ta’amiah—this is a type of fried paste made from beans, chickpeas, parsley and spices. There’s also Tahaini, which is sesame seed paste, mixed with garlic, spices and some olive oil, and served as a dip with bread. Then, too, there is Baba Ghanough, a dip made from Tahini and mashed eggplants. Kofta is a dish prepared with minced meat. Khoshari is made from rice, pasta, lentil, and onions.
Stuffed Vine Leaves are comprised of rice or rice with minced meat and wrapped in vine leaves.
My advice to first visitors is to try native Egyptian foods but in a good way. By that I mean bit by bit, in case you’re not used to this type of food.
JON: Alexandria is becoming more and more of a popular place to stop in Egypt. What are some of your favorite aspects of the city and which ones do you think will most impress potential guests?
ESSAM: Alexandria is very beautiful city and the second-largest city in Egypt. It was found by Alexander the Great in 332 BC. It was the center of the Hellenistic civilization in the world for about five centuries. Alexandria still preserves a big part of its Hellenistic appearance. So it has its own mixture of the Egyptian and Hellenistic nature. Alexandria is especially great as a summer destination for the Egyptian people because of its lovely weather. Alexandria has lots to offer to its visitors. My favorite place in Alexandria is the Roman Catacombs of Kom El-Shoqafa. This kind of place is not often found in Egypt. It is truly one of the lovely aspects of Alexandria. These catacombs started as private tombs for wealthy families, then became a public cemetery.
Another great aspect of Alexandria is the Roman Amphitheatre. This is the only one of its type in Egypt. This Amphitheatre also served as our modern Opera House. Recent theories suggest that it was also a parliament or House of the Representatives. Alexandria is indeed a lovely city—do not miss visiting it during your vacation in Egypt!
JON: Do you still stay in touch with or hear from some of the guests you’ve hosted in your years of experience as a top Egyptian guide?
ESSAM: Sure. One of the lovely things about being a tour guide is making friends from all over the globe. I made lots of friends, once they were my guests and now very good friends, and we still talk to each other.
JON: Of the many glorious monuments that Egypt boasts, which one, in your experience, usually proves to have the most wondrous initial impression on your guests over the years? Which one makes their jaws drop in astonishment the most?
The number one site in Egypt that impresses my guests the most are the Great Pyramids of Giza. The mystery of the pyramids, the construction methods, and the labor involved with these projects still impress all visitors to Egypt, just as the pyramids still hold great puzzles yet to be solved.
The number two site which always impresses people, in my experience, are the phenomenal Temples of Abu Simbel. I really I don’t know how or why the Abu Simbel Temples are not among the ancient wonders of the world.
People also admire the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, and how the pharaohs tried their best to hide their treasures from the tomb robbers, as well ensuring for themselves a safe journey to eternity. The beautiful colors and inscriptions of the tombs impress people quite deeply.
Overall, the labor behind almost every major ancient monument in Egypt impresses and amazes people. How, they wonder, did the ancient Egyptians organize their workforces in groups and unite them on such a level? How did they organize thousands of workers and provide them with food and materials?
The passion of the ancient Egyptian workers to magnify their country and their pharaoh always introduces a profound note of fascination and appreciation for my guests, and this passion is seen as the secret behind the wonders of ancient Egypt.
JON: Egypt is becoming more and more well-known for its luxury hotels and resorts, as well as world-class service. Can you mention a few that are your favorites to work with, and which ones tend to give your guests that “extra special experience“ during their vacations in Egypt?
ESSAM: Egypt has lots of well-known luxury hotels, resorts and Nile cruises with world class services. Let’s travel among the major tourist destinations in Egypt to know the top hotels in each destination. These top hotels are just from my personal view and my experience, as well as the impressions of my guests.
First, Cairo has the largest collection of luxury hotels in Egypt. Let’s look at the top hotels in Cairo:
A- The Marriot Mena House Hotel. This hotel was built in the place of the hunting lodge of Khedive Isma’il. The lodge was sold to an English couple who built the hotel in 1886. The hotel was named after the ancient founder of the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt, Mena, or Meni, or Menes. This hotel is next to the Great pyramid of Khufu, which gives you a great view of the world’s most awe-inspiring monuments.
B- The Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at Nile Plaza. Amazing location on the Nile and close to the Egyptian Museum at Taharir Square.
C- The Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at First Residence. This hotel is actually in Giza with a great location on the Nile and not far from the pyramids.
D- The Sofitel Cairo Nile El-Gezirah is an amazing hotel with great services.
E- The St. Regis Cairo Hotel. This hotel is also one of the Marriot hotels in Egypt.
F- The Nile Ritz-Carlton Cairo, next door to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
Next we fly from Cairo to Sharm El-Sheikh, the beautiful city on the Red Sea in South Sinai. We’ll just mention the top 5 resorts of the city.
A- Rixos Premium Seagate.
B- Four Seasons Resorts Sharm El-Sheikh.
C- Coral Sea Sensatori Resorts.
D- Rixos Sharm El-Sheikh.
E- Royal Savoy Hotel and Villas.
Taking the ferry boat from Sharm El-Sheikh to Hurghada, let’s explore a lovely destination on the Red Sea, and the 5 top hotels therein:
A- La Maison Blue El-Gouna, for adults only.
B- Baron Palace Sahl Hasheesh.
C- Kempinski Hotel Soma Bay.
D- Steigenberger Aldau Beach Hotel.
E- Stella Di Mare Beach Resort & Spa.
Driving about 4 hours from Hurghada to the historical city of Luxor, we encounter some very good hotels and Nile cruises such as:
A- Hilton Luxor Resort & Spa.
B- Sofitel Winter Palace.
C- Sonesta St, George.
D- Steigenberger Nile Palace.
E- Jolie Vile Kings Island Resorts.
From Luxor to Aswan by Nile cruise, here are some of the most luxurious cruises:
A- M/S Sun Boat IV.
B- S/S Sudan. The oldest cruise ship still operating.
C- M/S Oberoi Zahra.
D- M/S Oberoi Philae
E- M/S May Fower.
There’s not such a large number of five-star hotels in Aswan, but the 2 top hotels there are:
A- Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Hotel, founded in 1902 during the construction of Aswan Dam.
B- Movenpick Aswan Resort.
Driving from Aswan to another Red Sea destination, Marsa Alam, we encounter a beautiful city with magnificent hotels and resorts such as:
A- Jaz Grand Marsa.
B- Jaz Solya.
C- Jaz Maraya Resort.
D- Jaz Dar El-Madinah.
E- LTI Akassia Beach.
Flying back to Cairo, we then drive to Alexandria. I’ll just mention four superb hotels in Alexandria, for now:
A- Four Seasons Hotel Alexandria at San Stefano.
B- Sunrise Alexandria Avenue Hotel.
C- Steigenberger Cecil Hotel.
D- Golden Jewel Hotel.
Finally, going from Alexandria to the fabled Siwa Oasis by car is a unique and exotic experience. There are lots of lovely eco-friendly hotels in Siwa Oasis. Among them are:
A- Taziry Ecovillages Siwa.
B- Adrere Amellal.
With this list, I think we’ve covered the most important and exceptional hotels in the main touristic destinations in Egypt.
JON: Tell readers something about how much value they can get right now for their money when it comes to visiting Egypt. In terms of economic savings, it must be one of the best times in history to visit Egypt safely and “in style.” Would you agree?
ESSAM: It is said that traveling enriches your mind, heart and soul. Also said: Learn to travel and travel to learn.
Visiting Egypt will accomplish the two quotes above. To visit Egypt is truly value your money and can be an endeavor worthy beyond price. Egypt has so much to offer to its visitors. We promise you a lifetime-memorable vacation in Egypt with us. Simply out, we work hard to provide great vacations in Egypt—luxury vacations at affordable prices. Moreover, every once in a while, we offer amazing discounts to our great guests via our social media channels. That alone is a good reason token an eye on the various sites because special deals can pop-up suddenly. Honestly, I think a person has little excuse not to travel to Egypt, if that person is thinking about value for their money.
Come visit Egypt, and I promise that you’ll go back with great, unmatched memories. Come visit Egypt and enjoy the history, the monuments, the people, the museums, the food, the beaches, the majestic desert and the great weather! We’re waiting for you. Just visit our website, Explore Egypt with Essam, to pick your tour package today. See you in Egypt very soon!
#WorldTravel #AncientEgypt #ExploreEgyptWithEssam #Pyramids #LuxuryVacation #Vacations #GuidedTours #Temples #AbuSimbel #Karnak #JonathanKieran #Interview #Resorts #Spas #RedSea #Destinations #LifetimeMemories
As an intrepid and almost swashbuckling wanderer, adventurer, and explorer of many years, many nations, and many memories, I can tell you that no excursion could offer you more history, luxury, or pure jaw-dropping glory than a visit to Egypt.
Yes. It’s greater than Rome. Greece. The Grand Canyon. The Great Barrier Reef. The Great Wall of China. Name the amazing place and, I guarantee you, Egypt and its incomparable glories will put them all to shame.
I have been to Egypt ten times in my life and each visit proved more wondrous and revealing than the time before.
Temples that tower above you like brooding forests of stone and mystery, speaking to the richness of an ancient empire like no other.
Pyramids that make you gasp for air in disbelief at the very sight of their grandeur, humbling you to the very pit of your stomach, bringing tears to your eyes. A feeling of pure majesty and art that cannot be encountered anywhere else on our planet.
A river that transcends all dreams and thoughts of exotic beauty to make you feel as if you are the only human being on the earth: above, below, beneath, and all around.
Friendly people full of joy and ever ready with a welcoming smile.
Accommodations that are not only affordable right now, but which can outdo any other global travel plan in terms of desired luxury or adventure. Glorious FOOD, visions, amenities!
Oh, beloved Egypt!
But you have to go the proper way, and that means planning your trip with an outstanding, experienced and well-connected guide.
Guess what? Look no further! Essam is the gentleman and the guide with extra knowledge and experience to ensure you will never forget your adventure into Egypt for as long as you live, and provide you with an experience you will be able to hand down to your family members and children as a treasure trove of bejeweled memories, stories, and marvels that few see on Earth.
From the beginning of your trip to the end, it is an experience of welcome, security, luxury, and that “extra insight” that makes a vacation into a lifetime achievement. Packages galore that will not only suit any couples, single travelers, or groups, but which will can be customized with superb, instinctive guidance.
I can tell you that Essam is a man with that added spark of fascinating knowledge that others simply do not possess, and his references are beyond impeccable. He has that “something special” in terms of his Egyptological knowledge, insights that will impress and thrill you.
Stop THINKING about it … DO IT! A customized trip into the mystery and majesty of Egypt, ancient and modern, will CHANGE YOUR LIFE.
Check out Essam’s superb site–so many amazing options and possibilities! A professional of outstanding caliber and one of the nicest gentlemen you could hope to encounter in a land of legends and endless magnificence.
Hopefully we’ll get to interview Essam with a kind of “20 Questions” approach very soon, but in the meantime look at his site and start planning. If you have any spirit of adventure, Egypt is not to be missed in this human lifetime!
Take it away, Essam …
#Egypt #travel #vacations #deals #deluxe #bargains #luxury #tours #temples #pyramids #mysteries #luxury #exoticvacation #Nile #Pharaohs #tombs #FiveStar #CustomVacations #ExploreEgyptWithEssam
(photo courtesy of ExploreEgyptWithEssam.Com)
Mais peut-être un petit peu …
… Boire comme un trou.
Well, it was one hell of a dream to ring-in the New Year. And I may mean that literally. Shadows threaten from the sky and tectonic plates shift beneath unsteady feet. Matters are going to get a tad metaphysical from now on. Maybe even thaumaturgical. Count upon heaps of the cryptic, as well.
There, there. Providence will reveal Its designs and Its infinite array of design-alternatives.
Providence tends to do that with every waking or unconscious millisecond. Be not amazed.
Meanwhile, when all seems lost—and when the Lost seem All—embark upon an expedition. The best treasure one could possibly discover and claim?
An island of one’s own, of course.
Jonathan Kieran is the author of the Rowan Blaize series of fantasy books, the bestselling Amazon Pop Culture No. 1, Confessions from the Comments Section, and his latest, Kirkus-acclaimed & featured horror novel, Wistwood. Jonathan lives in the Ventana Highlands near Big Sur, CA, and has two upcoming books in the works along with a number of exciting cyber-developments in 2021. Stay tuned and learn more about Jonathan’s releases by clicking the book covers on the upper right of your screen.
#JonathanKieran #JonathanKieranWriter #ExistentialForeboding #Wistwood #Potpourri #Islands #Adventures
The final months of 2020 are before us at last. November and December stare us down like obsidian-clad angels of ruin and regret, looming higher than the very vault of the sky, swords drawn and fingers pointed in accusation, as if to herald the inevitable smiting. Those with eyes to see and ears to hear are not at all astonished to behold such twin specters of punishment and purgation. Imagine your own Doom-Sentinels, if you wish! Pick a horseman, any horseman.
To say the least, 2020 has been a year rife with disturbing social turbulence, unprecedented alteration of daily life and commerce, and withered days marked by a harrowing degeneration of linear thinking skills among factions that pride themselves upon the superior value of “feelings” over reason.
One can practically hear the hiss of the final, stinging sands as they spill, wild and furious, into the bottom of the Damnation Hourglass.
Time’s up, kiddies.
While the horrific toll upon human life exacted by the unleashing of the COVID-19 virus is not unprecedented in the annals of plague and misfortune that have afflicted our beleaguered species, the infrastructural interruption of everyday life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is most assuredly without precedent, at least in modern times. The subsequent and despicable politicization of the virus emanating from all corridors of ideological persuasion is, however, the least surprising aspect of our burgeoning dilemma. This charming little feature was as predictable as the sunrise … or, perhaps more appropriately, the sunset.
The sad and staggering truth is that our present miasma in its entirety has been expanding before the eyes of the West for decades—certainly ever since the advent of the Cold War and, with baleful stealth, fluttering into the halls and fevered brains of academia on the odious wings of post-Structuralism and its rancid, flea-bitten prophets of nihilism and debauchery: Foucault; Derrida; LeCan; et al. Same goes for their equally dismal disciples, still stinking-up classrooms from Harvard to Ms. Pomplefuffer’s Kindergarten Cookie Hour in Dubuque.
The fish rots from the head down, it is said, but when the smell of putrefaction achieves particularly rank proportions, those who can pass by and ignore the billowing fumes tend to do so swiftly.
And so we have done.
The need to work, to live, to love, and to distract ourselves reasonably from the typical human horrors and ills of the past 60 years is not negligible when it comes to scrutinizing the magnitude of our societal apathy.
Sadly, a general measure of coherent cultural contentment and stability—with maybe a few wolves baying outside the door every now and then, or howling in more removed and tolerable forest shadows—serves as the ideal magic carpet upon which the gremlins of insurrection and ideological sedition slip into the pores of our corpulent zeitgeist, as if by night. Once within, they set to work with furious but furtive enthusiasm, and with myopic dedication to their goal, which is ever and always the Great Undoing. The undoing—the undoing of all that is good and pure and objective and sensible.
Statistically speaking, few have ever had the time to note the gremlins, busy as only gremlins can be at their corrosive work. Fewer have had the inclination to stop them, and fewer still the ability to even comprehend the monstrous and colossal extent of their near-evangelical mission.
There have indeed been many voices of warning over the past sixty years, but these have proved far too difficult for the rank-and-file to discern. How can anyone expect the average, hard-working soul to entertain such complex and abstruse arguments? Who needs the intrusion of a clarion call when the morning alarm-clock wreaks enough misery on its own, yanking the productive contingent of society out of warm beds and shoving them into factories and offices and coal mines and onto farm fields?
And what about our lovely and treasured distractions? Don’t we deserve them? Haven’t we earned the right to luxuriate in them, to wallow?
Behold the vast landscape of bright and shiny Toys, of Titillating Devices, each one more enchanting and irresistible with every passing year. Nay!–more beguiling and addictive with every passing month!
And so the mildew has set in. Accumulated. And the sickness that once lingered at the edges and stained only the margins has overwhelmed the house from rafter to rafter, wall to wall.
Most of us have been asking for it, and most of us are going to get it, in one way or another.
History alone drives home this inexorable truth, but alas, history’s voice is the one most twisted and least heeded of all those braying amid the din.The irony is that history’s voice is the only one that has remained alive, constant, and in the process of Becoming, along with us, at our sides as both companion and cautioner.
Enjoy history, friends, because it is about to raise its voice above the fray, as it does, sometimes, when it feels neglected for too long … when it has been overly ignored in favor of more convenient siren songs.
And the rain shall fall upon the just and the unjust alike. Just like always. Only harder.
My experience of the year 2020 does not merit much description, in light of present circumstances. There was a novel (Wistwood) published and critically well-received. A screenplay adaptation written for Netflix. There were a couple of disheartening fire evacuations in the now perennial tinderbox that is California. The unsettling protocol modifications demanded by the pandemic outbreak. Etc. etc.
But the details of my existence mean very little to me, in terms of sharing and broadcasting. Who cares? That being said, future plans are not without form and ambition. Said plans, however, will be taking-on much different contexts in the future. Books and blogging (so dreary) will comprise the least of these contexts. Look for an absolute—and hopefully interesting—overhaul of my site in early 2021. After all, there’s only the rest of life with which to properly occupy one’s self.
Meanwhile, be quite well, be quite safe, and be surprised by nothing.
As our agitated and addlepated society performs an endless watusi in the lusty throes of its confusion, gyrating from one chaotic cultural vortex to another, life goes on for people of all backgrounds who are busy with projects major and mundane. Bread and circuses were never my thing, so best of luck to all the Caligulan lemmings out there. Have a happy Fall.
Great things continue to happen, however, with the ongoing release of Wistwood as a long and difficult Summer segues into the brief but promising oasis of Autumn refreshment. (Don’t get too excited: it’s still going to be a bumpy Remainder-of-2020 and Beyond. Ho hum.)
Aside from the fact that the long-promised updates to WordPress turned out to be as bone-headedly moronic, superfluous, and annoying as I expected them to be, I’m happy to communicate via this now-questionable medium that Wistwood is the subject of a smokin’ hot full-page piece in the September 15th print and online editions of the esteemed Kirkus Magazine.
Have a gander at the image below and share my ecstasy. Otherwise, I haven’t got the slightest interest in writing a damn thing for the brain-dead public in general on this blog. (Faithful readers excepted–all three of you.) When a publisher buys my next astounding novel and pays me big heaps of wampum, then I’ll unleash a veritable Niagara of Revelatory Inner Feelings. Until then, expect infrequent and unenthusiastic updates.
Here’s the full-pager from Kirkus, by the way:
#JonathanKieran #Author #Wistwood #Kirkus #KirkusMagazine #Writers #Novels #IHateWordpress #WhatAWaste
My previous publications are stacked upward and to the right. Click on the book covers to buy them from Amazon or learn more. Namarie, y’all.
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[For inquiries about representation and film rights, email JonathanKieranWriter@gmail.com]
Lovely news just keeps coming into the midst of our secluded Summer idyll. The latest unexpected and inexorably delightful development once again wends its way to my reclusive existence courtesy of Kirkus Reviews, the gold standard for literary criticism in the USA and beyond.
It was honor enough that the Shuriken-sharp and whirling editorial minds at Kirkus bestowed upon Wistwood a thoughtful and glowing assessment. But I have now learned that my chilling novel of metaphysical mayhem and small-town monstrosity has been selected for inclusion (review and all) in the August 15 edition of Kirkus Reviews’ esteemed print magazine.
It has likewise come to my attention that less than 10% of the indie titles reviewed and considered are selected for this particular privilege by the editorial panel at Kirkus.
We are most grateful and possibly even a bit giddy, to put it mildly.
Writing a proper long-form literary work is a lonely business, with no guarantee of validation. Writing such a work well involves the usual shedding of blood, sweat, and tears, along with with that exasperating pound of flesh having been extracted and dropped somewhere along the tortuous path, never to be found again. (Who would want to find it? Think of the flies!) And still there is no guarantee of ultimate validation for one’s prolonged and nerve-shredding effort.
But there’s validation now, baby. Oh yeah.
Thank you, Kirkus editors. Long may your ninja-critiques whirl.
Jonathan’s oeuvre is stacked upward and to the right of this article. Click on a book cover to learn more or buy something to support his writerly affliction.
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For over 80 years, Kirkus Reviews has been known as one of the toughest, most respected, prestigious, and no-nonsense sources of serious literary criticism in the world. They remain a bellwether of discerning excellence across a bloated and increasingly chaotic industry landscape.
For an author to get a glowing review from their esteemed masthead and assortment of discriminating professionals is (for this gent) akin to Christmas.
Look for exciting developments concerning WISTWOOD in the September 15, October 1, and October 15 editions of the print edition of Kirkus Magazine, which remains the industry standard for literary criticism.
Meanwhile, here’s the entire review of WISTWOOD from Kirkus and a link to their official site:
An obscure village becomes the site of disconcerting, otherworldly incidents in this supernatural novel.
A lifelong Californian, Nebraska “Brask” Adams has yearned for a “real small-town experience.” Now that he has a book deal with a publisher as well as an advance, he can escape his dour life, including his devoutly religious, condescending older sister. He opts for an affordable cabin rental in the village of Wistwood, somewhere near Big Sur. At the same time, schoolteacher Schuyler Brody, apparently unhappy with her “insufferable” students, is eying an antiques shop there.
But Shep Daltry has darker motivations. He’s a White cop under media scrutiny for savagely beating a woman of color and mother of five. Though his department clears him of any charges, he heads to Wistwood for a new job, which involves sinister “instructions.”
It appears there are two enigmatic individuals with a plan that seems initially vague awaiting these people’s arrivals. Brask is hardly settled in Wistwood when he senses something off—at first, just a store but soon, the entire village. Yet even if he can convince fellow villagers, will anyone be able to leave?
Parts of Kieran’s chilling story are deliberately hazy, with unknown characters discussing cryptic objectives. But detailed backstories ground the narrative, pitting villagers such as former British rock star Lleyton Grayle against something unearthly. Crisp prose gives largely abstract occurrences a visual component: “When she laughed, brief and mocking, the sounds sprang as arrowheads, razor-sharp and dipped in poison from her lips.” Later chapters offer a few revelations, although the author provides enough clues that most readers will have an idea as to what’s unfolding. The final act is disturbing and decidedly more visceral, with a satisfying, open-ended denouement.
An often mysterious but thoroughly horrifying and macabre tale.
(KIRKUS REVIEWS 7/9/20)
Amid the tumult of our addlepated society, millions are hopefully taking little excursions into the realm of entertainment, now and then, to relieve the inner-cranial pressure that threatens to explode with caldera-like potency not seen since Yellowstone’s last prehistoric tantrum.
Even if your diversions are random at this point in time, do try to find the wherewithal to enjoy such jaunts … while you may.
My diversions of late have been markedly random. Aside from writing them, books seem to hold less appeal to me than ever before. Voices crooning and screeching from my music system only serve to remind me that humans exist, and movies, in general, have been off my Recreational Activity List for quite a while, due to the fact that most of them have nosedived into the Abyss of Substandard Bilge, there to take-up murky residence with (surprise!) most contemporary books and musical endeavors.
Adventures into dusty and near-forgotten archives of amusement, however, have yielded more satisfying results. Stylish old horror films, for example, can distract the mind from current existential quandaries while performing the neat trick of “staying on theme,” emotionally: doom, gloom, terror, helplessness, death, apocalyptic destruction, and, well, monsters.
Anyhow, I opted to forge into such territory the other day and find some goddamned movie to occupy my otherwise fevered brain for a couple of hours. With my bandwidth running low out here in the hinterlands, I turned instead to the cobwebbed alternative of an old DVD player and its attendant collection of discs, scattered in a dilapidated cardboard box in the closet. To spare myself the creeping madness of choosing, Choosing, CHOOSING, I committed to the first jewel-case my fingers managed to grab amid the hodgepodge.
It was Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula. Or, one might say more accurately, Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
This was a great “random grab,” if for no other reason than the fact that Beverly Hills Chihuahua was also lurking somewhere in that heaving cardboard receptacle. (A friend had loaned that film to me years ago for a “kick.” I never watched it and never returned it. Perhaps tellingly, a return was never requested, despite ample opportunity).
Dracula it was, then.
What a leap back into the quasi-misspent days of my youth. More to the point, what a head-trip to watch it again, no matter the moment in time.
I remember going to the cinema to see this rapturous, doddering epic as a mere lad in 1992, the year of its release. To say that Coppola’s take on Bram Stoker’s classic novel had been highly anticipated back then would be putting it mildly. The expensive adaptation caused quite a stir, as I remember. Hollywood critics were poised with their own vampiric fangs ready to draw blood. One can see why; the estimable Coppola was still smarting from the rickety reception of The Godfather Part III and his tackling of another lavish production, one considered well out of his artistic wheelhouse at the time, did not inspire confidence from the bone-picking set.
General audiences, however, were far more willing to give the film a chance—rumors of a “new, never-before-imagined” interpretation of Dracula tantalized. The cast list didn’t hurt, either, at least at first glance. Gary Oldman was not exactly a marquee-level name in those days, but was still a respected actor and beguiling choice to play the legendary Vlad Dracul. The addition of Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder was irresistibly befuddling, but quite wise from a business standpoint because they were hot box office properties.
The film became an unexpected hit around the globe.
What I remembered most about seeing it on the big screen 28 years ago was the lush, transporting cinematography by Michael Ballhaus, crafted fluidly under Coppola’s determined and innovative direction. The whole production unfurled in visual terms as an ever-dazzling chiaroscuro, a nightmarish landscape of insinuating, erotic colors and equally tempting shadows. Much credit was also be given to the effulgent-yet-ominous and mesmerizing designs of costumer Eiko Isioka, whose work leapt from the screen in brushstrokes evocative of Fellini crossed with Hieronymus Bosch.
Then there was Gary Oldman’s extraordinary performance, a reading that not only broke the mold as far as the titular vampire’s canonical portrayal in film as a caped Svengali wearing a burial suit, but which foreshadowed eloquently the subsequent, sometimes annoying, trend of exploring the wronged, “good-sided” soul-qualities of characters otherwise relegated to the camp of Absolute Evil (think Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West in Broadway’s Wicked or any number of reimagined comic book movie villains that have since been “origin-storied” out of their asses).
Even diminished on the smaller screen, the film holds up surprisingly well today. The scope is sweeping and perhaps overlong. The script is jerky-jerky at times. Yes, Keanu Reeves is atrocious in the role of Jonathan Harker, exhibiting all the engagement and charisma of that tall, wooden pepper-mill you stopped using in 2003 and stuck in the very back of a kitchen cupboard, towering awkward and alone above other obsolete utensils. Winona Ryder isn’t much better, but quite lovely in spite of her affected, I-just-got-back-from-the-mall-in-Petaluma performance. Anthony Hopkins doesn’t look like he’s enjoying a single minute of his duties, occasionally boisterous but as dead behind the eyes as any vampire might ever hope to be. Still, Sadie Frost is superb as a supporting player and the sets are so deliciously atmospheric that one is happy to dismiss the miscasting issues and simply revel in the dreamscape Coppola has conjured, particularly since the narrative ends up being sufficiently cohesive and faithful to the novel’s peculiar spirit.
All in all, Dracula remains a feast for the imagination, a welcome respite from the vicissitudes of a world at wars seen and unseen, and I felt as if I could have walked right through the screen, onto the blue-chilling snow, and into that coach on the Borgo Pass, hurtling toward doom and an invitation from Gary Oldman to cross the dreaded castle threshold.
There are worse, far less elegant ways to escape the ongoing tribulations. Dig into your own box of oldies. See what cinematic ghosts may perchance arise.
Jonathan Kieran’s new, dark, and disturbing supernatural/metaphysical epic, Wistwood, a tale of cosmic horror, is available now at all major international retailers and outlets. Buy it in digital form or in print today. Want a short-cut? Click on the link above and to the right. All of Mr. Kieran’s efforts are there stacked, ready to be purchased and voraciously consumed.
An article I wrote detailing the impetus behind writing Wistwood, as well as delineating some of the novel’s primary themes, has been published on the outstanding Australian blog, Duffy the Writer. Within the context of the piece I also reference a few of my own literary influences and ponder the timing of Wistwood’s release amid the unexpected onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Invisible horrors, whether in life or in literature, are never to be underestimated.
Have a look at Duffy’s fine blog and my particular contribution HERE.
Jonathan Kieran’s new, dark, and disturbing supernatural/metaphysical epic, Wistwood, a tale of cosmic horror, is available now at all major international retailers and outlets. Buy it in digital form or in print today. Want a short-cut? Click on the link above and to the right. All of Mr. Kieran’s efforts are there stacked, ready to be purchased and voraciously consumed.
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The Goodreads Giveaway contest for Wistwood has ended and 15 winners were duly selected from a group of 2,109 entrants vying for a chance to acquire a print copy of the novel. The response on Goodreads–the greatest community of devoted readers on the planet!–exceeded expectations, and I’d like to congratulate the winners personally. Your copies of Wistwood are on their way to you via Amazon, with expected arrival dates for each copy slated around May 18-ish, due to the slightly slower priority shipping schedules necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. But you shall have them soon, indeed, and I wish you all a memorable reading experience, whether intrigued by the exalted or the intensely disturbing aspects of this magical, terrifying, and perhaps enigmatic opus. If you like the book, feel quite free to render your thoughts in review; this wordsmith shall remain eternally grateful … perhaps for several eternities.
Otherwise, have a great time meeting Brask, Schuyler, Shep, Marge, The Landlord, and all the other denizens of Wistwood, and (if you wish) be ready to interact with me when it comes to another special contest we’ll be holding in September in the lead-up to Halloween 2020. There’ll be some “extra special” giveaways planned for those who have read the book, those who are reading it, and those who have added it to their lists.
Meanwhile, I’ll be checking in with the Goodreads crowd frequently throughout the Summer, so if you have any questions about the book or the Wistwood screenplay I’m currently working on, do not hesitate to drop by for a spell (no pun intended).
Much thanks and respect to EVERYONE for their interest and support!
Jonathan Kieran (“Jon”)
Big Sur, CA
May 11, 2020
Jonathan Kieran’s new, dark, and disturbing supernatural epic, Wistwood, is available now at all major international retailers and outlets. Buy it in digital or print today. Want a short-cut? Click on the link above and to the right. All of Mr. Kieran’s efforts are there stacked, ready to be purchased, and tantalizingly consumed.