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The Nelligan Review: Christian Fennell

Christian Fennell

The Nelligan Review

Vol. 1 / Issue 4

September 18, 2023

Days of Summer
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           Ilike the days of summer, not that they’re lazier, as much as they seem to be easier days, less constrained and concentrated. Easier in a sense of easier to forget the troubles of the  world, and your own, for that matter, at least, for a while. Troubles of the world that remain constant: poverty; child poverty, war, the weak, self-absorbed thinking of the rich and powerful, to the more current troubles of the world: Trump, the RNC and DNC, the Ukraine/Russian war, Elon Musk. People tend to travel more, to get away and see things, which is a form of education, of course, always a good thing, for education helps erode ignorance, and coupled with greed, they are the two biggest enemies of the world, in our time; in any time. As Nat and I did this summer, taking a road trip through the rolling hills of Prince Edward County, the vineyards, the fine tables of Picton, the beaches and their grassy, breezy sandbanks, the world’s largest baymouth barrier dune formation. In the 1,000 Island district of the St. Lawrence River, I took a stroll, wanting to stretch my legs, and I came upon a young boy and an old man fishing, and I smiled, thinking of my own time as a young boy fishing on the banks of a river with my grandfather. A warm breeze came up, and that young boy and I watched the old man close his eyes and lean his head back, warming his face to it, and he smiled. It was then I imagined that young boy watching the old man’s time drifting before us on that lazy, shaded river, real and gone, and there again, for that old man to pluck at and say—see, it’s right there, still all right there, when I was just boy, like you. And in this, there would be contentment, without meaning, in the honest days of a life. In the days of a life still to come. As if in a dream that could only ever be found by a young boy climbing up through the worn buttonhole of an old man’s time, much like I did as a young boy fishing next to my grandfather. Thirty-eight million people, I remember him saying, while staring at the river. I didn’t know then, as I do now, he meant the second world war, and all the people that had died in the name of fascism, the current riding over the backs of those dead, like it was the dead of the first world war, in the days of my grandfather’s youth. And as a young man, on the heels of trade union bashing, the collapsing of markets, the Great Depression, and all those years of human suffering. As a married man with a child, his five years with The Queen’s Own Rifles, the second world war. The current riding over all of it, indestructible and always moving, a current with not only the ability to erode rocks, but also, the bricks placed in its path by the hands of us. I watched that old man look down at that boy, and I heard him say, it’s always been there, never-ending, and it never will not be. What? I heard myself whispering. A simple and always known thing, he said. I waited. Our wanting—reaching, to the need of a just society. That’s the current? Yes, he said, that’s the current. Never-ending.


Yesterday Germany, today America, and tomorrow, most certainly it will be somewhere else, but none of that will ever stop the current of an easy, flowing river, that is our need of a just society.


To all those suffering in the Ukraine right now, may victory be yours, and may it come soon.


"Que reste-t-il de lui dans la tempête brève?"

The Nelligan Review: Christian Fennell

Christian Fennell

The Nelligan Review

Vol. 1 / Issue 3

June 19, 2023

Cormac McCarthy Has Died

- More McCarthy

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And so we say goodbye to the American writer Cormac McCarthy, July 20, 1933 - June 13, 2023.  A

writer who did not receive a single royalty check from one of his first four books, over a period of twenty-eight years. And yet, he kept on … why? How? Did he know he was a writer future students of American literature would look at a map and draw a line through the names, Twain, Melville, Faulkner – McCarthy? He must have, how else can one keep going—keep paying such a steep price without the ultimate faith in oneself? Impossible. As to the how, the singular direction of his writing points us back to his faith, as he simply continued to drill down into Cormac McCarthy writing – More McCarthy. For this was not a writer of a MFA program striving toward a pixelated excellence.  A writer prepared to workshop his manuscripts and assign them to a slush pile marked consensus art. No. He was an outsider, until he wasn’t, but long enough—twenty-eight years long enough, to become a writer that could write Blood Meridian. Could it be possible any other way? We haven’t seen evidence of it yet, so, no … we only have this history, pointing the way, a way that requires the ultimate faith in oneself, without wavering, no matter what. As writers, we might not like hearing this, but then again, we must not dislike it, either, for it just is, the price to be paid to write words that last. And I really don’t think it should be any other way. The ultimate faith, in oneself, that’s it, what we have – More McCarthy.

The Passenger

by Cormac McCarthy

Random House, 2022

A Review:

A new McCarthy novel, The Passenger. His last. And what to make of it? “If we are not after essence, Squire, then what are we after? And I’ll defer to your view that we cannot uncover such a thing without putting our stamp upon it.” Which McCarthy does with The Passenger. Both things. Reaching to essence, while putting his stamp as a writer upon that searching. 


Told from each of their perspectives, Bobby Western mourns the death (suicide) of his younger, schizophrenic sister, Alicia Western, while being pursued by the US government for a crime--possibly, that remains unknown—to us, if not, to him. Shadowing both of them is their father’s past as one of the architects of the atom bomb.


As always, a McCarthy novel is a joyful ride with words, and here, too, this is true. It is not in the storytelling that this book is a departure from his previous work, it is in the goals of the story itself, as if the story was in no need of its own form: the randomness of life lived within the realm of the unknown while studying its own refection of its own telling as the precision of mathematics and physics look on, unable to offer any relief. But then, a story of grief and loss is always a tragedy, for what we feel a loss for, we are less, it becoming our reality—the lessor of us. Which is this book—the acknowledgment of this. A book without a linear need—no cause and effect here. A book uncaring of the outcome, which is what? Quite simply, it is McCarthy saying, I am a writer, and after a life lived as a writer—asking question to which there are no answers, I still have no answers, and therefore, I am in no need, with this last book, of a form within which to put the pretext of an answer, or the need of a form building to an answer, and I shall not try. And he didn’t. And he did it well, freeing himself as a writer—giving himself permission, to reach to more, while being less, and becoming even more in the process. And it reads as if he knew this is what he was writing, and why, and most importantly, when. And I like that, and I tip my hat to him, for having the courage to go out this way.


McCarthy was often criticized for being a writer of male fiction. Or, his inability to write women well. True enough, and something he acknowledged himself. And so, it was with great joy, with this last book, discovering the wonderfully formed, transgender character, Debussy Fields. A shot at all those who choose to make ignorance and fear their companion. “He watched her until she was lost among the tourists. Men and women alike turning to look after her. He thought that God’s goodness appeared in strange places. Dont close your eyes.”


Nope. And thanks for the body of work, Cormac McCarthy. A life well lived.


"Que reste-t-il de lui dans la tempête brève?"

Vol. 1 / Issue 2

December 29, 2022

The Nelligan Review: Christian Fennell

Christian Fennell

The Nelligan Review

2022: War Crimes

December 29, 2022:  A good time to look back at the year that 

was, and in doing so, there is, of course, Putin’s ‘Special Military Operation’ – or, his war crimes in Ukraine. As 

of December 18, 2022 there were 10,229 Russian military personnel dead (Mediazona count). Approximately, according to the Ukrainian government, 12,500 Ukrainian military personnel and 4,000 Ukrainian civilians dead. That’s 26,729 people. Dead. And why? To satisfy the outsized, Soviétique dreams of a madman. How in 2022 can anyone—any country, think it is within the realm of acceptability to try and take over another sovereign country by force? How, in 2022, is this still tolerated by the international community? Yes, I want more to be done to put an end to this madness, because – 26,729 people dead. In the meantime, we have voices speaking out. We have artists. And this is where we need to look, in times like this—these expressions of resistance; of artists articulating, in different forms, what so many of us are feeling, especially those shouting loudest from within Ukraine and Russia—the necessary voices of defiance, much like 84-year-old Vladimir Ovchinnikov, profiled in our Art & Photography section of this issue. And so, we acknowledge, and we thank them, and may many more join them, in trying to bring an end to Putin, and his reign of tyranny.  

There is, of course, Bansky, who has created seven new murals in Ukraine, including the capital Kyiv, the suburb of Irpin, and the town of Borodyanka—among the places  hardest hit by Russian bombs.

Seth Globepainter, Paris


Special Artistic Operation, Bucharest

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Stanislav Belovski, Bulgarian capital, Sofia

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Hijack, War Child in Los Angeles, California

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TUSE, PKM Gdansk Jasien

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Corie Mattie and Juliano Trindade,

Los Angeles, California

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Sasha Korban, Kyiv

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1GoodHombre, Santa Monica, California


Moisey Bondarenko, frontlines Ukraine

1GoodHombre, Los Angeles, California

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Bandit, Dress Me Up for Battle, Los Angeles, California

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Street musicians, Kyiv

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Sasha Korban, Milan

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Justus Becker, Frankfurt

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Vladimir Ovchinnikov, Borovsk, Russia

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"But the relationship of morality and power is a very subtle one. Because ultimately power without morality is no longer power." - James Baldwin

For those who support Putin, or Russia, I can promise you this: you have forgotten what is worth fighting for. You have forgotten time.

And all the dead. 

For they now, too, reside in you. 

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Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times


"Que reste-t-il de lui dans la tempête brève?"

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Vol. 1 / Issue 1

October 3, 2022


The Nelligan Review: Christian Fennell

Christian Fennell

The Nelligan Review

Why Won't America Fix Itself?

Yes, it's rhetorical, the hope of America actually doing this, that thought having 

left the building of reasonable expectations some time ago. But the why holds up, at least from a speculation point of view. It's not as if the issues that plague and hold America back aren't known.  And even

more frustrating, that the answers to these issues aren’t widely known, because they are. There's any number of countries, right now, that are progressing in healthy, free market, democratic ways, devoid of high rates of poverty, economic policies fuelling unhealthy levels of income inequality that strangle the flow of capital, healthcare systems that work—and help, without bankrupting people, education systems, meant to just that—to educate, publicly speaking, equally. And then, of course, there's the social side of things, politicians trying to legislate morality. The promotion of 'family values,’ the kind that prevents your straight white child from walking into a public washroom and coming upon a she/her trans person and having their fresh young DNA altered in unimaginable ways, forever. What books are appropriate to read, which aren't.  The bible—not science. Abortion. Etc. 

Writing the above, here's what comes to mind: Neglect is expensive when it catches up, and it always catches up. How else does a nation spit out a Trump? To accomplish something so obviously wrong, takes years. In this case, approximately, forty years.

"The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism—ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power." Franklin D. Roosevelt , April 29, 1938. 

When a former President (Jimmy Carter) publicly states this (September 2017), you have to figure the cat is pretty much all the way out of the bag: “I would say that we’ve become kind of more of an oligarchy than we have a democracy, now. The rich people and the powerful people in our country decide a lot of who gets the nomination and therefore who is elected to office—not just presidents but senators and governors and Congress members.”

Without the working principal of the ‘will of the people,’ there can be no working democracy. There can be no American Dream. For what is the American Dream, if not the will of the people operating within the framework of a system that creates and promotes social mobility. And today, in America, social mobility is dead. It's flatlined. In fact, a Canadian is twice as likely to move from poverty to the middle class than an American. 

Back to the question, why won't America fix itself? In what other field of enterprise, be it medicine, accounting, the law, business, does accountability not matter? Since 1980, where the road starts that has lead us to where we are today, there have only been two parties in power. Two parties responsible for the current state of affairs. And we'll stop right there, and say this: save the red/blue finger pointing, it’s nauseating, tired, and boring.  Not to mention, inaccurate. And that is, part of the answer too, of why won't America fix itself. Lift your ideological blindfold, just for a minute, and you'll see this. You'll see, there has been no reversal of public policy that would have, at the very least, delayed, if not, deterred America from this march toward fascism. For fascism really is nothing more than an ultimate form of self-interest. It is, the entitlement of the entitled, protected and perpetuated. And like moths to the glass of a light at night that cuts to the bone, each day, more and more, in too many places, for too long, populism grows from under this. It is, the asking of the right questions, but the reaching, over and over again, to the wrong answers. Greed and perpetuated self-interest nurturing neglect that equals pain and suffering for more and more people, each day. 

In 1980, America was the leading lender of money to other countries, with a debt-to-GDP ratio of 31 percent. Today, America borrows more money than any other country, and has a debt-to-GDP ratio of 127.5 percent. This is called, being upside down. It’s called, failure. And yet… but but—the Republicans! The Democrats! 

It’s true, republicans are fuel on the fire of this march with their supply-side economics. But so too are the democrats, with their 'third way'. Or, am I wrong? Did the democrats not hold a majority in both houses for Obama's first two years? And the best they could manage, with only having their own party in opposition to righting what needed to be righted, was—Obamacare? Universal healthcare, with a democratic majority, couldn’t even get a sniff of—maybe? Corporate reform? Such that we do not now have record levels of stock buybacks. Unheard of CEO packages, when weighed against real wages that have remained stagnate since the late ‘70s. Record levels of income inequality, hand-in-hand with record levels of poverty (FYI: In May of 2016—note the date—the IMF issued the USA a warning regarding its high levels of poverty, especially among the young). Massive tax breaks for corporations. Nope, nope, and nope. But we did get corporate bailouts, because—too big to fail. And here I thought, in America, socialism was a bad idea? 

Accountability. Where is it? Because it matters. But no, what we get is—team politics. Yo, young angry ‘Berniebro’ (someone please take the pen away from the person at the Atlantic that smeared these people) you had better vote for Hillary (if you love and care about America) or we’ll get Donald Trump, and then, how will you sleep at night? 

Well, I don’t know Boomer—when will you die? A little harsh? Perhaps, but also true. The divide is age, and nothing else. But when, throughout this lovely experiment known as the human race, has one generation not risen up, in ideals, against their older generation—their parents? And that’s what we have now. That’s the divide. One that’s also fueled by—yes, I know I was able to pick the low-hanging fruit of cheap tuition in terms of real dollars and a job market in an economy that wasn’t titled against me and although I know that’s not the case for you I’m really really good in life right now I’d like to stay that way please. How else can you explain the continued support of those that have been in power the last forty years that have brought us to where we are now? Accountability. Or, lack of it. Or, do you still think—Republicans! Democrats!

If you do, what about this, do you remember? Young angry white male person, how could you not want to vote for Hillary, so that—finally, we have a female president? My God, wake up! Well, I don’t know, but answer me this, where were you when Liz came around? Had she not fought in meaningful ways corporate corruption for the preceding ten years? (Wait, you say you don’t like fascism?) Is she not one of the smartest people in any Washington room? I’ll tell you where you were—exiting the building of a future female president marked Wealth Tax. As if each of you made over fifty million a year? Careful, as you tuck your hippie card in your wallet as you have your limousine door closed for you, before heading further down the Obama/Hillary/Joe/Kamala roadshow of a ‘third way’ that’s done absolutely nothing to prevent this current march toward fascism.

Don’t believe me? Here’s the current scorecard: Healthcare: 37th best in the world, while spending a higher portion of its GDP on this than any other nation. Children’s survival, health, education, and nutrition: 39th best in the world. Wealth inequality: 71st. Life expectancy: 46th. Poverty: 13.4 percent, with only 25 other countries having substantially higher and more extreme rates of poverty. Human Freedom Index: 17th. Freedom of the Press: 42nd. Accountability? Where? Please, show it to me.


There are three pillars of any just society, and each one must be held up and protected by the will of the people—always. Education, healthcare, and welfare. Why? Because these are the things that help promote best, the greatest participation in a society by the most people, in the healthiest, most productive way. And that equals growth and opportunity for the most people, which then equals prosperity, for a nation. In other words, Main Street is the engine that drives an economy, not Wall Street.

And so, yes, there’s only two parties, true—but not true. Democrats, the republicans ARE NOT THE PROBLEM, for we all know it is has become the party of the whacked-out write-offs. It is you, that is the problem. And here, I do not mean the Boomers—the Establishment Democrat voter, for as we have seen, they have no apparent interest in looking at results—accountability, and are interested only in their own status quo. No, it is the progressives whose hands I hold to the fire. Bernie blinked, and here we are today. And by this I mean, it was his achilleas heal, the need to be accepted by the establishment. One that clearly wanted nothing to do with him—or you. Except, of course, to co-op your vote. To hold a gun to your head and say, vote for our candidate, or you will be responsible for electing that big bad man over there wearing red. And how did that work out? And so, now it is time for you, youth of America, to wake up and demand accountability. You are the single largest cohort in American history—it is yours for the demanding. It’s yours for the taking. Get your candidate through the democrat primaries, or, if the DNC obstacles are too great to allow this to happen—leave the party. One, or the other, for a divided Democratic Party is no longer of use to anyone. In fact, it’s keeping America broken. You are the last ones standing, and it is your time now, to make a difference. It is you, who can fix America, and stop this madness; this march toward fascism. And to you, my beautiful Boomer brothers and sisters, I leave you this: “A society grows great when old men people plant trees whose shade, they know they shall never sit under.” – Greek proverb.


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