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Literary Grouch

Irritating, acerbic, unrepentant and beguiling: It must be RALPH

By Tai Moses

FOR FIVE GLORIOUS YEARS, the curmudgeons at The Fessenden Review published spirited, opinionated literary essays and book reviews, to the delight (or disdain) of faithful readers. Sadly, TFR--which Gary Indiana once dubbed "a New York Review of Books for the living"--now exists only in the halcyon mists of memory, but the online version, RALPH (Review of Arts, Literature, Philosophy and the Humanities), at www.ralphmag.org, has flourished since 1994, appearing roughly once a month or so. Like its crusty parent, RALPH is erudite yet earthy--an Everyman's book review that delights in tweaking the noses of the New York literary establishment.

RALPH reviewers compose pithy treatises on the usual suspects--the Updikes, Mailers and Morrisons--as well as more unusual titles like The Septic System Owner's Manual, Emanuel Swedenborg's Journal of Dreams and The Bewitchment of Silver: The Social Economy of Mining in Nineteenth-Century Peru. There are also links to feature articles, poetry and excerpts; the Official RALPH Paradox of the Month ("There are many roads to the Central Cemetery."--Sigmund Freud); Great Reviews of the Past; and a lively Letters section that sports entertaining missives from outraged authors whose work has been savaged.

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From the November 29-December 6, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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