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Book Review: Hoi Polloi edited by Robert McNulty

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Hoi Polloi: A Literary Journal for the Rest of Us is the first book presented by non-profit publisher Dog Day Press. All proceeds from this collaborative anthology benefit the Sowing Seeds Organization of Marshfield, Massachusetts. The title Hoi Polloi in the original Greek literally means "The Many" and the writing in this collection fits the bill. Contained within is a smattering of short stories, poems, author profiles and interviews from a variety of writers. The result is a modest compilation exhibiting a wide range of voices and talents.

Within these pages are works from first-time authors and self-published writers as well as those with established bylines. Chet Raymo is a Professor Emeritus at Stonehill College where as Marilyn Johnson wrote obituaries for Life magazine. The most notable name is Claire Cook, the author of the book Must Love Dogs, which became a major motion picture starring John Cusack.

The writing overall is less than spectacular, but there are some praiseworthy exceptions. "A Sailors Tale" by Walter C. Frye, jr. is a rhythmic poem about a young man trapped in a sinking boat. Mr. Frye does not waste one syllable in casting his protagonist in an unmanageable peril while goosing the reader with the faintest hope of rescue. "Pull Down the Shades" by Harriet Emerson is a story about a girl growing up amidst the background of the Cold War and the threat of nuclear holocaust. The image of a little girl drawing bomb shelters for fun is bound to stick with even the most finicky critic.

The real value of Hoi Polloi comes not from its bite-size musings but instead from its author profiles and interviews. Using what appeared to be a standard question form, Editor Robert McNulty asked today’s writers both great and small about their experiences in this ever-changing publishing environment. The answers reveal a shift from traditional methods of reaching the public, towards Internet-driven campaigns designed to focus on niche audiences. This change allows a product to reach the market faster and to connect more specifically to the needs and desires of select readers.

The value of understanding this paradigm shift is a necessary boon to all writers and will provide benefits galore for anyone who loves to read. By this measure Hoi Polloi is a great success.

Hoi Polloi: A literary journal for the rest of us, Robert McNulty, Publisher: Dog Day Press. (2007), ISBN: 0615177601, 292pgs, $17.95

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  • Naomi Elliott

    “MUST LOVE DOGS” also starred DIANE LANE.
    Infact she was in practically every scene!

  • http://www.timsdigitaldarkroom.com timsdd

    nice review! I am not a reader by any stretch, but it sounds interesting enough to check it out from what you’ve said!

  • Harriet Emerson

    I was googling and came across your book review. Thanks for mentioning my short story “Pull Down the Shades.”