"I am always at a loss how much to
believe my own stories."
-Washington Irving, Tales of a Traveler, 1824


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Welcome to PenHead.org, an oasis of uninformed analysis in a desert of educated guesswork. What is a penhead? Do you fancy yourself a writer? Enjoy a good read? Then you may already be a penhead yourself!

We are your source for original stories, the occasional interview with our favorite authors, book and play reviews, recommendations (of current and forgotten finds), and more.

Our Goal: World domination through the written word via the vast network of the internet. Until then, we'll be found risking what's left of our reputations here, at PenHead.org.

Keep in mind the internet's similar to the Jersey Turnpike - it's all about hits and traffic - so visit often, share us repeatedly and we'll do our best to keep things interesting. Who knows . . . you might even be entertained.


RECENTLY REVIEWED . . .


Identity plays large in most plots of mystery and intrigue. From Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to Agatha Christie, it's a major theme in suspense, and has been so since the genre's beginnings. When mistaken, identity begs to be corrected, set to rights, and a solution reached. Because as readers participating in the plot as mysteries demand of us we are not satisfied 'til everything is neatly wrapped up, the mystery novel unlike any other genre has a knack for consuming us until the solution is at hand, identity solved, case closed. Until then, our brains will not - cannot - rest.

Hal is a second generation psychic medium. It's a skill she doesn't really even believe in. When money problems - coupled with a chance summons to the reading of a will by a family she doesn't belong to - sets her on a path of fraud, it's soon evident she hasn't the stomach for deceiving others. Especially when the targets of her deception meet a need she's never had fulfilled . . . more >


The basic elements of The Haunting of Hill House include a group of strangers, a creepy old mansion, and things that go bump in the night. Adapted from the novel by Shirley Jackson, Hill House (a play in three acts) holds the promise of a gripping psychological thriller for the stage.

Opening Acts
The play's protagonist, one Dr. Montague, is a paranormal researcher. He chooses to study Hill House for its reputation of holding ghosts. To conduct the study, he chooses a misfit crew of characters with a past history of paranormal/psychic encounters. Eleanor Vance, in her late twenties, was sought out by the doctor for an experience she had as a young girl. Shortly after her father's death, in the middle of the afternoon, stones began falling from the sky, seemingly intent on pummeling her house, and her house alone. Theodora is a woman also in her late twenties, with the touch of the exotic about her. She's described as "A creature of mood and sudden impulse," with a keen eye for humor under . . . more >

The literary world holds a special place for Irish writers. Their Gaelic inspired prose flows off the page as easily as it falls from the tongue. At once cumbersome and lyrical, the Irish brogue can be easy on the ears, but hard on the eyes. Commonly generalized as tragedy, which, considering the emerald isle's history is understandable, the Irish yarn is so much more than that. Mark Twain once observed, "Inside of the dullest exterior there is drama, a comedy and a tragedy." Although he wasn't talking specifically about Irish writing, he might as well have been, as nothing better describes the literature sprang from Irish roots.

Upon reading Anne Enright, one gets the impression she has a gift for gab. She takes her time with characters, building them with meticulous precision until they leap off the page at you. This sort of attention to detail has won her numerous accolades, including the Man Booker Prize, and the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. With The Green Road . . . more >

Set primarily in the mid-late 1910s, A Star Called Henry fits snug against its historical Irish backdrop. It's a fictional account of the making of a rebel during the Irish Revolution under which the IRA was formed, eventually leading to civil war.

Cause Celebre
Roddy Doyle has created an impresario in Henry Smart, the novel's protagonist. Celebrated as a babe (the que to see him wrapped around the block) Henry represented hope for Ireland's future. That he was a large baby wasn't cause enough for celebration, "big brats were ten a penny, and cheaper," but his excellent health was. Henry exuded the confidence born of good health, with a glow like no Dublin baby before him. Barely a week out of the womb, and he was already famous.

Tall for his age, Henry joined the resistance at fourteen, passing himself off as an older lad. Born to Henry Smart (senior), and Melody Nash who met lying in the mud of a Dublin alley, Henry is created of larger-than-life pen strokes infused with an Irish mythology of the author's own making. Pen strokes that cover the . . . more >

          I am always at a loss how much to believe my own stories.
                -Washington Irving, Tales of a Traveler
In 1996, Simon & Schuster published Frank McCourt's memoir, Angela's Ashes. It was his grim and moving account of growing up in Limerick, Ireland's depression-era poverty. Though originally born in Brooklyn, New York, his parents returned to Ireland after the Crash, and the death of Frank's little sister Margaret, whom family and friends alike regarded as a lucky talisman in life; a tragic reminder of the McCourt's bad luck in death. The critics loved his story, bestowing on McCourt not only the Los Angeles Times Book Award, but the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize as well. On New York Times' bestseller list for 117 weeks, everybody from critics to weekend bookworms seemed to love Frank McCourt. Then they forgot Ashes was a memoir.
Irish Eyes
McCourt's newfound popularity didn't rise from his chosen subject matter. Authors of all nationalities have been writing about extreme poverty for centuries, including the Irish. Rather, it was the vehicle which . . . more >

On February 25, 1986, Mikhail Gorbachev, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Central Committee, addressed the Union's 27th Congress. It was a significant speech for a couple of reasons. First, coming just two months before the colossal technology fail at Chernobyl, his words stressing the need for safety in pursuing technology, ring prophetic. Second, in hindsight of the collapse of the Union five years later, his words to the faithful come across as incredibly naive. Even by Soviet standards. I know many will question the usefulness of revisiting a speech given by a fallen leader of a failed state; especially a failed communist state. What can Gorbachev - a Leninist to the core - possibly teach us?

Little Green Men
Gorby's speech that winter day in 1986 lacked much of the fire of his predecessors. Though he scolds the party for its failings, he also praises its accomplishments, promising they can do better. More importantly, on the state of the world, rather than categorically condemning the imperial nations of the West for their global shortcomings, he offers a vision of nations - East and West - working together toward common . . . more >

Since ancient times, theatre has been the realm of men. All female roles in Ancient Greece were played by men. It was the same in Shakespeare's time. Not until fairly recently on the grand timescale of civilization have women come into their own. Still today, male roles drastically outnumber those of females, making the success of female actors that much more unusual in comparison to their male counterparts. Everything, from costumes to directing to meaty stage roles have been tougher for females to come by, resulting in a better quality end product. Like the old Fred Estaire/Ginger Rogers anecdote goes: Everything Fred did, Ginger did too, only backwards. And in heels.

Not many writers can claim a Pulitzer. Fewer still claim it on their first time out of the gate. But that is exactly what Beth Henley did. Crimes of the Heart is Henley's award-winning play about three sisters who are reunited over a pair of crises. The first crisis is spawned over their family patriarch having fallen ill. The second crisis - and main catalyst for their reunion - is the arrest of the youngest sibling . . . more >

Prepare to say goodbye to convention. In 1973, editors Victoria Sullivan and James Hatch compiled a collection of plays to celebrate female playwrights. The result was Plays By and About Women. Today, it's easy to forget what a groundbreaking compilation Plays was. To put it in perspective, in 1973 there were only two women in the U.S. Senate (today there are thirteen times that), a handful in the House, and pants were considered a bold fashion choice. This was, outwardly, still the America of Phyllis Schlafly.

Published by Random House, Plays is an anthology of eight scripts for the stage, chosen not only because they were written by women, but also for their content. Some pieces are well-known (The Children's Hour, 1934) while others continue to languish in obscurity (Play With a Tiger, 1962; The Advertisement, 1968). Others have enjoyed popularity in spurts (Rites, 1969; Overtones; Calm Down Mother) while still others . . . more >

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Site last updated: 09/14/21


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