Tom o’ Vietnam

Image result for Baron Wormser + author + photoThis week’s other featured books, “The Subway Stops at Bryant Park,” by N. West Moss and “Undoing,” by Kim Magowan, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Authors page.

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THE BOOK: Tom o’ Vietnam

PUBLISHED: 2017

AUTHOR: Baron Wormser

PUBLISHER: New Rivers Press

SUMMARY: This novel is set in 1982 and focuses on a Vietnam veteran, Tom, who due to the horrors of war has not readjusted well to American life. The novel shows Tom riding buses as he visits his three sisters in Santa Fe, Chicago and Washington, DC. Tom is obsessed with The Tragedy of King Lear by William Shakespeare and carries a battered paperback with him as a bible of sorts about suffering. The novel weaves in lines from Shakespeare’s play and lines of poetry original to the novel. Tom is at once a guy in America and Tom o’ Bedlam in the play, the character who must feign madness to survive. He inhabits both mental spaces.

Tom o' Vietnam by [Wormser, Baron]As a stream-of-consciousness novel, we are in Tom’s roiling, bemused, exasperated, grief-stricken head. There are, accordingly, no chapters nor is the dialogue punctuated. It is a truism that wars do not end when the last battle is fought. Tom is a casualty for whom the war has not ended but who is resilient, too, aware of the terrible mockery and solace in his namesake’s remark that “Thy life’s a miracle.”

THE BACK STORY: The historical event that powerfully marked my generation is the Vietnam War. I’d written numerous poems over the years about various aspects of the war but then I was seized by this image of a rather ragged guy on a bus holding a copy of King Lear. His voice came into me and I wrote the book. I’ve read the play many times and for me it is the crucial Shakespearean play. So fusing the two—a combat veteran and the play—seemed natural. Some veterans with whom I’ve talked have told me that they weren’t surprised that my character would gravitate to King Lear. I wrote the novel in less than a year. Each morning I went downstairs and went into Tom’s world.

WHY THIS TITLE? The title fuses the Vietnam dimension with the Shakespearean dimension.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? To my mind the book goes to a very important place: how one person tries to deal with the aftermath of war. The poetry that I use takes the experience into the domain of lyric drama, however dark that drama is. Shakespeare’s play is designated “a tragedy.” Though my book is shot through with comic moments, I wanted to take the reader to that place, to honor that gravity.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“Inventive, immodestly challenging more than a few literary fictive conventions, and sometimes even beautifully written, Tom o’ Vietnam is, at the same time, in a class by itself and resonant of the great works about Viet Nam that have come before.” —Bruce Weigl

“Only Baron Wormser, with his poet’s gift for language and his clear-eyed view of America, could have offered us such a visionary story, in which every road we think we know—even Lear itself—is made anew as Tom travels it.” —Nalini Jones

“Wormser completely nails the voice of a veteran shattered by an atrocity he committed in Vietnam. Not a word rings false, and many ring brilliantly.” —Amazon review

AUTHOR PROFILE: I am the author of 18 books, which is to say I fit the profile of a writer as I see it—someone who is haunted and obsessed. My books cover a lot of different terrain, both as to genre and subjects, but I tend to stay in the bailiwick of tragi-comedy, my feeling that life is so much larger than I am. For over 23 years I lived with my wife and two children off-the-grid in the Maine woods and that experience, living at a remove from so-called “civilization” affected me deeply.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: My lifetime in the United States has been marked by relentless militarism. Tom o’ Vietnam is one acknowledgment of the cost of that policy.

SAMPLE CHAPTER:

Endless swearing, a hoarse, braying wind of words, a weary, scornful, bemused reply to a war, swearing at those who were there and those who were not, at the army and the enemy, at death and life: everything blasted, withered, and coated by the tongue of injury. The question behind each insult and mockery being: What in the vast scheme of motley doings conspired to put me here? How did speeches spoken by gasbags of every stripe over decades come to endanger my modest network of blood? And if I wanted to be here, in my arrogance, manhood, confusion, enthusiasm, stupidity, patriotism, I must swear all the more. Who could have known?

Out, dunghill!

Swearing about food, rain, heat, women, officers, and, most of all, each other, each of us in the same unpredictable predicament. Swears coupled with other swears, vicious adjectives meeting nasty nouns: motherfucking shithead, goddamn asshole. Semi-swears, the ritual male abusing of male anatomy: you worthless little prick, the voice measured—a judgment—or light-hearted, oh, by the way. Long strings of swears blurring into one run-on, guttural frenzy. Or sometimes a simple “look, bitch,” which starts a few shoves, shoulder pushes, and glares, the saying that you are a woman—a low blow. Swears for what seems like no reason, your voice mysteriously alive, proclaiming you are here in this faraway hell where, even on a good, un-murderous day, you are pissed. A reason can be found, if you want to go looking, but a lot of grim bile is in us already. Though not always bilious, everyone was once an infant gurgling, burping, unaffected by the droppings of time, though I think of guys like Briggs or Stone, who probably by the age of two were waiting to get bigger so they could get to Vietnam and start shooting people. Someone kicked them down the stairs early, the war on the home front. Or without the proclamation of reason or motive, like the tattoos: born to be bad, born to lose, born a conniving, chip-on-the-shoulder bastard.

Bastardy base? Base?

Briggs bought it, to use the lexicon you adopt when you see much random death. There wasn’t a lot of him left either. He was what they call “remains.” That doesn’t matter, does it? Whether there’s 98 percent of you intact or 32 percent. No open casket for him, if you like an open casket, and a lot of people do, death looking sort of rosy and peaceful, a time-out after the end of time. It’s hard to make up for the missing 68 percent, though you never want to underestimate modern technology.

I remember a lot of deaths, some miscellaneous, some not. Some I heard about second- and third- and fourth-hand as facts became legends but they still got inside me.

Did you hear? Dost thou know me?

I was raised not to swear. It wasn’t so much a sin because no one in my house cared about sin, we being take-it-easy-on-the-brimstone Protestants, social Christians who wake up on Christmas morning, remember Jesus, and then go back to sleep. It was because it was distasteful and bad manners. I agree with that. Swearing makes for a rotten take on life—ferocious, low-down, quick to find fault, the sum of your precious days little more than exasperation.

It worked, though, for the misery we were enduring. I bet even those serious, sweet-faced guys you see in Matthew Brady’s photographs swore their churchgoing heads off. There should be a column of swears in the history books beside this or that war. Probably even Achilles and Hector bad-mouthed the other guys. Or maybe they were polite. Maybe they were real heroes and respected the men they were killing. I doubt it but maybe. Didn’t Achilles drag Hector’s body around at the back of a chariot? Atrocity—way more than a word—like what got done to some of our guys: mutilated real bad, their dicks cut off and stuffed in their mouths, and like we did to some of their guys. Anger that went past anger, way past.

See thyself, devil.

At first, before I went over there, when I was in basic and it was fuck-this and fuck-that, the swearing startled me. Do we have to curse everything? Must words be bullets? And even when I was there, I remember I told Stone one day when we were sitting around doing nothing that it was gratuitous. I talked like that—two years and two months of college, full of the mild eloquence of an English major’s education. But what vocabulary was right? There was none, probably never has been, the government’s language worse than swearing. Vietnamization—there’s a word for you. There’s a word to die for.

When I said that to Stone about “gratuitous” he looked at me like I just dropped a turd in his soup. Look, you educated faggot bitch, he said. He paused to smirk then laid what he considered wisdom on me: well, Tom boy, we’ll see if your smart ass stays alive. Guys with too many words in their heads come out on the short side here.

How comes that?

You had that staying-alive thought in the back of your head and the front, too. You tried to push it away but it never left. I wondered sometimes if there were people who expected me to die, who were thinking, “Tom, he won’t come back.” You know, people in my hometown, going about their business, taking out a can of creamed corn from a grocery sack or closing the garage door and thinking, “Poor Tom.” Or “Better him than me”—the perennial boundary of empathy. Or thinking nothing at all: “Tom, he gone.”

I should have gotten the shivers from Stone because he was laying a curse on me but I was shivering all the time anyway. Standing upright and shivering, lying down and shivering, leaning over my food and shivering.

How dost, my boy? Art cold?

Bad night on the heath, Lear. Incoming torment.

When we were doing nothing and going nowhere, the guys would ask me, “Hey, College, tell us a story.” I told them about Lear. How would you like it if you had two daughters who take what you give them—a lot of land and a big house—and then they treat you like squat? How would you like that? Once or twice, I extended the situation as in you could have nation problems. You’re a big nation who goes to help some little nation that’s getting pushed around but maybe it’s not as simple as “getting pushed around.” There’s a civil war. There’s a small mountain of barbed history. There’s some thoughts called “ideology.”

Ideo-what? What you say? Speak American.

He let his daughters fuck with him? Dude deserved it. Man’s gotta be a man.

Thy element’s below. Where is this daughter?

Like in a play, we talked back. No script beyond what we were making up but we talked back. It meant we were still alive. The storm hadn’t come for us yet. We had no shelter, no hovel, but the storm that waited for each of us hadn’t come yet.

It’s the body that the swearing targets. Hard to be in a body, most of the time it works okay but it’s permeable, easily invaded by foreign objects, fragmentary devices. And it’s sad how the mind is always ridiculing the body, how its sexual organs are a source of contempt, and how The Act is always seen as obscene. Obscene? The dream of it was the oxygen we breathed.

Let copulation thrive. Let soldiers forget.

Let day relieve night.

I should ask the lieutenant. What happened?

I already told you back then.

No, I would say. You have to tell me again.

Soldier. (He would call me soldier. No matter how much time went by, he would call me soldier, like a couple of decades after Agincourt or Gettysburg or the Somme, and we meet in some bar and we’re still soldiers.) Soldier, we engaged the enemy. As you know, we took some casualties. According to our body count (he would pause there because he liked to savor any official type language) we killed seven of them. Some VC, some sympathizers.

“CC” we called the lieutenant, the Corpse Counter. Did they do that when Napoleon fought battles? Walk around afterwards and count the dead? The VC took their dead with them anyway. The people who got killed weren’t enemy. They were people who were trying to stay alive. They were people living in their godforsaken village that was a happy village once upon a time with children running around barefoot and pigs rooting and old ladies gossiping and everyone praying to whatever gods floated their boat.

Don’t bring God into it, soldier.

Things with the lieutenant would go downhill from there. If I’ve gotten into the house in a suburb somewhere in Texas, and if the little lady is home, she’ll ask me if I want an iced tea and I’ll say Yes, ma’am. The lieutenant will make a strained face like he’s got to make a bowel movement and ask how it’s going, despite his knowing how it’s going, and not just for me. Every day one of us makes it onto the front page: shoots himself, shoots his old lady, shoots some buddy of his, gets shot by some buddy of his. Some of us haven’t adapted well. Hard to get rid of the reek of war inside of us.

Who gives anything to poor Tom?

I’ll tell him I’ve been reading King Lear again, that actually I never stop reading it; that it’s like a bible to me.

That’s by Shakespeare, isn’t it? His wife says that when she brings in the iced tea on a tray. She smiles but it’s a serious smile. Shakespeare is someone who counts. No matter the bleak, conjured reality, he’s an important notion.

You get lost in the library, Tom? asked Knightley.

I look at the iced tea on the tray and the lieutenant’s appropriate wife who looks nice in her J.C. Penney dress and I want to start bawling. I lack the simplest things, like a woman who gets her hair done every two weeks bringing iced tea on a metal tray that’s decorated with some flowers to suggest a modest notion of beauty. I think the flowers are supposed to be pansies. I think of Doreen. She likes flowers. Are those pansies on that tray, ma’am?

The lieutenant could feel at that point that things might be starting to get out of hand. He might say again, if he was in the right mood, not a good mood but a responsible mood—his idea of empathy—that I did what I had to do, that I was a soldier. Duty, he’d say. It was a big small word but we all had heard it, though really we were just some young bodies with heads on them talking about getting laid and drinking beer and our girls back home–how some of them kiss a photo of us each night and some are cunts getting spooned while our insides get turned outside. And our cars. Don’t forget the cars.

To leave so soon, your speech not yet begun.

How do you like your tea?

Half a teaspoon of sugar, please.

Hot out there today.

Hot? Try steamy jungle hot. Try vegetable hell. Try the earth on steroids where stuff can’t stop growing, like it’s talking to you day and night because it can’t stop growing. And you can’t stop listening. You’re sitting or lying down or you’re walking and you hear the jungle and it’s not like anything you know because you grew up in the temperate zone where there’s winter and spring. Your skin itches and you think you can hear stuff growing, a sound like beetles chewing wood, faint but steady.

Want to know what we are? Fertilizer, said Knightley.

More tea?

Take heed o’ th’ foul fiend.

The lieutenant wants me gone. I can’t blame him. This vet stuff gets tiresome. I want myself gone but lack the willpower. Or I like sitting in this living room and thinking this could have been my life, with beige curtains and matching French-something furniture and a chandelier in the foyer, tasteful, not too sparkly. I didn’t have to take everything personally. It was only a war.

When I get up to leave, the lieutenant and his wife trade glances: he’s going to leave. Did they think I would stay forever? They can diddle from one day to another and be Americans and talk about what’s new and exciting. I’m the one who’s stuck in forever.

I figure Lear doesn’t live long after Cordelia dies.

You got it. Man dies right on the spot. Right there in front of everybody.

Seven bodies are what the lieutenant counted. Math whiz. Does a young girl count for half a body?

Thanks for your hospitality. Thanks for telling me I have nothing to absolve, though I doubt if that word is in the lieutenant’s vocabulary. Maybe you don’t even hear it in church these days. I wouldn’t know. I tried that window but it wouldn’t open.

You did what you did, soldier.

That’s tautological but true. We were taking fire and I turned around and saw someone starting to throw something and I shot. How old was she? You counted the bodies. How old was she?

Guys said you could tell how old the bodies were from their teeth, except they didn’t go to dentists the way we did so it was tricky. You can measure the quality of life according to how many dentists there are.

Thanks for the tea.

I make it myself.

Take care of yourself, soldier. You aren’t guilty of anything.

I’m ashamed, though. I’m ashamed.

Neither of them says come again. They shut the oversize wooden front door, which looks like giants live there not people. I walk a few steps but stop. I’m a little shaky. I don’t want to be but I’m a little shaky. It’s like my bones want to leave my flesh. It’s good they’re not looking at me because I took a bus and then walked a couple miles. All that talking about Fords and Chevs like it was God and The Devil. I bought a car when I got back but sold it. Buses improve your social life.

Maybe I’ll stand on the sidewalk for awhile. No more social calls to pay today. I’ve forfeited my purposes.

Their azaleas look a little wilted. Texas does that.

LOCAL OUTLETS: Bear Pond Books, Montpelier, VT; Norwich Bookstore, Norwich, VT

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon; New Rivers Press

PRICE: $19.00

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: baronwormser@gmail.com

The Subway Stops at Bryant Park

THE BOOK: The Subway Stops at Bryant Park

PUBLISHED IN: 2017

THE AUTHOR: N. West Moss.

THE PUBLISHER: Leapfrog Press.

SUMMARY: All of the stories in this collection are connected, in some way, to Bryant Park in New York City. Many of the stories have won national awards including a Faulkner-Wisdom gold medal and the Saturday Evening Post’s Great American Fiction Contest.


THE BACK STORY
: I wrote some of these stories while I was getting my MFA. My father was ill and had an apartment on Bryant Park, and after he died, I realized that the park kept showing up in my stories. I decided to see if I could write an entire collection about characters from the park.

WHY THIS TITLE?: The title I chose had the name of the park in it, which I thought was important, but also a verb, which I also felt was important. The title shows up in an unexpected way in the final story.

Image result for N. West Moss + author + photoWHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT?
Anyone who knows and loved Bryant Park should read the book, but so should people interested in the small, quiet lives of the almost-invisible people around us. 

REVIEW COMMENTS
:

“Subtle, such patient stories…. The effect is cumulative, quietly powerful. A remarkable talent.”–Michael Knight,The Typist

“Moss’s lyrical collection of stories is beautifully held together by deft observations of city life combined with great sensitivity to the humanity beating beneath it all.”–Brad Gooch,Flannery

“Exquisitely written and quietly powerful…an unforgettable cast of characters, each with a unique and compelling narrative, who are inextricably linked to Bryant Park–safe haven against the secrets, disillusionments, fears, and losses engulfing their lives.”–Patrick Perry, executive editor,The Saturday Evening Post

AUTHOR PROFILE: I teach and I love to teach. I’ve just completed Columbia University’s Narrative Medicine program, and I am at work on a lot of different writing projects, from middle grade fiction to essays on medicine. I also lead memoir writing workshops for Seniors and for Veterans, and I am a volunteer with the Pen Prison Writing Program. I am working on many projects right now including an historical novel set in New Orleans in the 1800s


AUTHOR COMMENTS:
 The first character I came to know and love in this book was Omeer, but as I continued on, I fell in love with Benny, with the daughter in “Beautiful Mom”, with Dubonnet, and all the rest. I hope that readers can find the humanity in each of them, and perhaps see themselves in these ordinary yet extraordinary lives

LOCAL OUTLETS: I love the small independent bookstores. Two of my favorites are Faulkner House Books in New Orleans https://faulknerhouse.net/ , and Watchung Booksellers in Montclair, NJ https://www.watchungbooksellers.com/ or from me directly 🙂

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & noble, etc.

PRICE: $15

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: I love to speak to readers in settings both large and small. I give lectures and readings, but I also attend small gatherings in people’s home and at local libraries. Feel free to follow me on Facebook at N. West Moss, or email me at scoutandhuck@yahoo.com

Undoing

THE BOOK: Undoing

PUBLISHED IN: 2018

THE AUTHOR: Kim Magowan

THE EDITOR
: Michael Czyzniejewski (and his partner Karen Craigo was my stellar copyeditor)

THE PUBLISHER: Moon City Press. MCP runs a short story collection contest every year, the Moon City Press Short Fiction Award, and the winner wins a $1000 honorarium and book publication. Other MCP short story authors include Cate McGowan, Laura Hendrix Ezell, Michelle Ross, Amanda Marbais, and Pablo Pinero Stillman. Here’s their site:  http://moon-city-press.com/fiction-contest/.

SUMMARY: There are twenty-nine stories in the collection. Some are very short. Certain themes and plot points thread through them: infidelity; defective parenting; troubled adolescents; more nebulously, a longing for re-dos. My title “Undoing” addresses not just betrayal and self-sabotage, but also that desire to revisit, to revise. A character in one of my stories, distinguishing fiction from life, claims that in life, “‘There are no rewinds.’” Nonetheless, more than a few of these stories concern a longing to move backwards, to return to a prior moment of clarity, or more simply, a moment of since dismantled connection and peace: sitting on a stoop licking ice cream cones, the future unmarred.
Kim MagowanHere’s the jacket copy:

“In Kim Magowan’s aptly titled debut short-story collection, Undoing, characters are frequently caught with their eyes on the past, trying to discern where it all went wrong, whether that concerns a marriage that survives infidelity only to fade later into oblivion or the premature termination of an affair. A young girl hopes to make sense of her seduction by the father of the child she babysits, while a new wife surveys her youthful indiscretions for clues as to how to forge an emotional bond with her anorexic stepdaughter. Through it all, struggles become universal, perhaps inevitable. Characters often reappear: older, wiser, seeking to break the cycle of dysfunction. The ultimate effect is a feeling of community, of shared mistakes, leaving the individuals lonely but not alone.

“In this way, Magowan’s collection moves well beyond reflection. Ignoring the wreckage of their respective pasts, her characters are willing to look ahead, to try again. Indeed, there is much pain and lasting harm to go around, but these are curious, resilient people, open to the idea that the solutions, not just the problems, lie within. They hope, despite much evidence to the contrary, that they can undo what has been done. ”

THE BACK STORY
: I wrote the first draft of the oldest story in the collection, “What Shall We Do Now That the Museums Are Closed And Paris Is Blue”? when I was twenty (of course I have heavily revised since), and “Tabloid” when I was in in my late twenties, but most of the stories in there were written between 2014 and 2017, when I buckled down and became serious about writing, and when I had finished drafting my novel The Light Source (2019).

WHY THIS TITLE?: “Undoing” was the original title of the first story in my collection, “When in Rome,” and refers to two uses of that verb that appear in the final paragraph: the narrator undoing a bad memory of sex through conjuring a replacement fantasy, and, within the fantasy, undoing the buttons of the shirt of the man she desires. I like the title because it encapsulates opposite concepts: undoing as a synonym for destruction (“Cocaine was my undoing”), and undoing as a concept for repair (undoing a knot, undoing a crisis). Both of those trajectories—falling apart, but also, wanting desperately to reassemble things—are important to my story collection. It’s a one-word title that carries a lot of load: it’s a weight-bearing beam.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? 
The book is edgy, dark, melancholy, kind of funny (at least, I think it’s funny!). It’s about the complexity of marriage and friendship, how thorny, layered, and ambivalent those relationships can be. It’s also about growing up (even as a fifty year old, learning to be an adult, to take responsibility for one’s mistakes).

REVIEW COMMENTS
:

This review came out in the New York Times Book Review:
This review was in Atticus Review:
https://atticusreview.org/undoing-relationships-and-reader-expectations/

AUTHOR PROFIL
E: I live with my husband and two daughters in San Francisco, and I teach in the Department of Literatures and Languages at Mills College (I specialize primarily in American literature). When I was in college, I was very conflicted about whether to get an MFA in Creative Writing or a PhD in Literature– I loved both, and they seemed to require different parts of my brain. I chose the PhD, and I have no regrets– I love teaching (if I won the lottery, I would still be a teacher). But for years, my creative writing was sidelined. I didn’t start getting serious about my writing, or begin sending out my stories to literary reviews, until I was 43, and it took four years of slogging away before I started getting published with any real frequency. I am the Fiction Editor of Pithead Chapel, so now I see firsthand now how many excellent stories we turn down for any number of idiosyncratic reasons. That experience makes me treat my own rejections with more equanimity. I love editing: it nourishes my own writing. Over the past few years, I’ve gotten increasingly interested in flash fiction (stories under 1000 words). My aesthetic lately is about paring stories to the bone. You can read more of my work on my author website: www.kimmagowan.com

AUTHOR COMMENTS:
 This book isn’t political, or particularly formally experimental. My genre is psychological realism. The “larger issue” I attempt to tackle is how tricky, complicated, self-deceiving, flawed. and yet hopeful people are, and how fragile their relationships. People– how their minds work, how they screw up–are endlessly fascinating to me (both real people and the “people” I invent).
SAMPLE CHAPTER:

And there’s plenty more of my work here: www.kimmagowan.com

LOCAL OUTLETS:

I’ve seen my book with my own eyes in a number of Bay Area bookstores (Folio, Green Apple on the Park, Books Inc, Diesel Books), as well as Powell’s in Portland, Oregon.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.

https://www.uapress.com/product/undoing/

PRICE: $14.95 (list price)

CONTACT THE AUTHOR:

@kimmagowan

Weather Report, Jan. 13

Related image

Bryant Park, New York City (Photo from Facebook).

Our currently featured books, “Scorpio,” by Katy Bohinc and “Life during Wartime,” by Katie Rogin, can be found by scrolling down below this post, along with the first Tuesday Replay. Or, just click the author’s name on our Authors page.

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UPCOMING ON SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD, JAN. 14-20.

“TOM O’ VIETNAM,” BY BARON WORMSER.

This novel is set in 1982 and focuses on a Vietnam veteran, Tom, who due to the horrors of war has not readjusted well to American life. The novel shows Tom riding buses as he visits his three sisters in Santa Fe, Chicago and Washington, DC. Tom is obsessed with The Tragedy of King Lear by William Shakespeare and carries a battered paperback with him as a bible of sorts about suffering. The novel weaves in lines from Shakespeare’s play and lines of poetry original to the novel. Tom is at once a guy in America and Tom o’ Bedlam in the play, the character who must feign madness to survive. He inhabits both mental spaces.

As a stream-of-consciousness novel, we are in Tom’s roiling, bemused, exasperated, grief-stricken head. There are, accordingly, no chapters nor is the dialogue punctuated. It is a truism that wars do not end when the last battle is fought. Tom is a casualty for whom the war has not ended but who is resilient, too, aware of the terrible mockery and solace in his namesake’s remark that “Thy life’s a miracle.”

“THE SUBWAY STOPS AT BRYANT PARK,” BY N. WEST MOSS.

All of the stories in this collection are connected, in some way, to Bryant Park in New York City. Many of the stories have won national awards, including a Faulkner-Wisdom gold medal and the Saturday Evening Post’s Great American Fiction Contest.

I wrote some of these stories while I was getting my MFA. My father was ill and had an apartment on Bryant Park, and after he died, I realized that the park kept showing up in my stories. I decided to see if I could write an entire collection about characters from the park.

“UNDONE,” BY KIM MAGOWAN

Writes Kim: “There are twenty-nine stories in the collection. Some are very short. Certain themes and plot points thread through them: infidelity; defective parenting; troubled adolescents; more nebulously, a longing for re-dos. My title ‘Undoing’ addresses not just betrayal and self-sabotage, but also that desire to revisit, to revise. A character in one of my stories, distinguishing fiction from life, claims that in life, ‘There are no rewinds.’ Nonetheless, more than a few of these stories concern a longing to move backwards, to return to a prior moment of clarity, or more simply, a moment of since dismantled connection and peace: sitting on a stoop licking ice cream cones, the future unmarred.”

 

 

Scorpio

This week’s other featured book, “Life During Wartime,” by Katie Rogin, can be found by scrolling down below this post, along with the First Tuesday Replay. Or, click the author’s name on our Author’s page

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THE BOOK: Scorpio,

PUBLISHED IN: 2018

THE AUTHOR: Katy Bohinc.

THE EDITOR: Keith Tuma.

THE PUBLISHER: Miami University Press.

SUMMARY: My editor told me Scorpio was a book of love songs. It took me a while to see it, as I believe Scorpio is the most political of my work, but it is also full of love songs. Scorpio is a book of poems which embody my struggle to re-integrate into American life after working in China as a human rights activist. Emotional realities that I experienced in China were too painful to recount in paragraphs (and almost uncomprehensible during the early days of Facebook); it was much easier to put meanings to my experiences – and emotions – through poetry. Hence my sense this book was “political.” However in retrospect I suppose it was through the pain of the violence I witnessed which instilled in me the desire to cry out for Love as the common human vehicle for good.

Keziban Barry black-and-white portrait

These poems are translations in a sense, to an American landscape and mythology; the best I can imagine to represent “Americana” – from contemporary urban living to my childhood growing up in rural Ohio, driving around on back country roads with only the trees, fields, wind and…the radio. The old-fashioned radio, that (free!) quintessential American music of the car which seems to go unthanked for shaping generations of musicality. There seems to always be a soundtrack.

THE BACK STORY: I rarely “decide” to write a poem. I practice writing poems, sure, but when the real thing comes, it comes like a fugue. I get anxious or dizzy and suddenly start pacing and think, “what’s going on?” and then I think “OK I’m going to write a poem” and I scribble or type and it pours out. That’s one kind. Another kind is sort of like walking in a rainbow: I catch the vibe, go outside and stroll a bit and as if in a dream the words come. This almost sounds ridiculous (and totally cliché) but it is very much like the ancient traditions of the mystics: it’s a feeling, a deep intuition that I’m opening myself to.

WHY THIS TITLE?: The poems are all the words one associates with the sun sign scorpio: emotional, political, sexual, deep, rebirthing, loyal, sensitive and unforgiving. (I am also a scorpio sun with gemini rising and taurus moon. In a cute note, all the wonderful poets who blurbed the book also are scorpio sun or moon.)

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? I spent a great deal of time on the order of the poems so that it reads like a music album. This was harder to execute than one might imagine (it took days of reading the entire thing out loud) but I think it’s this touch that really makes the book “sing.” (like the radio I always had on growing up.)

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“Poems sear in their straightforward simplicity…Bohinc delivers an astute, witty, feminist collection.” – Publishers Weekly “The feeling of having just encountered new possibilities for lyric poetry.” -Tom Snarsky

“Bohinc’s engagement with the political, the historical, and the scientific in Scorpio bubbles to a roiling boil but doesn’t spill over, proving that poetry can be at once visceral and factual, earthy and Einsteinian, metaphysical and mathematical.” – American Book Review.

AUTHOR PROFILE: I am a poet by night and a data scientist by day. This is apparently a show stopping thing to say at dinner parties. People rarely meet poets and sometimes meet data scientists but they find it literally remarkable when they meet it in the same person. Lol. People usually say “you do math and poetry? wow what a combination!?” It is to the point where I don’t even know what to say anymore because I’m tired of having the same conversation! But just last night at a holiday party someone said, “like when we were kids, we did both at the same time.” I loved this!! Usually I have to stop and explain what the overlap is between math and poetry, or how I do both at the same time, or how it’s actually more and more common in the computer age, or historically there are tons of examples of science and art deeply intertwined and most everything combines math and art at some level, or many other tricks I’ve learned over the years. I think my new response is: “All the kids are doing it!” I’m very fortunate that Scorpio is my third book of poetry. The first was Dear Alain, a collection of love letters to the philosopher Alain Badiou which is ultimately a metaphor about the relationship between poetry and philosophy. The second book, Trinity Star Trinity reclaims the ancient ode or chant in a simple, longstanding rhythm of 3 times 3 times 3 (3 cubed) — or 27 poems of 27 words each.) I wrote it in Greece, and it is dedicated to the Goddess Hera, my symbol of the Divine Feminine. Since 2013, I’ve collaborated on the esteemed Tender Buttons Press with Founding Editor Lee Ann Brown. We publish experimental women’s poetry, expanding the field of possible and probable since 1989. Through Tender Buttons I’ve edited two volumes of poetry: Tender Omnibus: The First Twenty-Five Years of Tender Buttons Press and Please Add To This List: A Guide To Teaching Bernadette Mayer’s Sonnets and Experiments.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: I wasn’t ever entirely sure why I was writing poetry, but I was, and it became a force in my life I had to serve. Sometimes still it’s hard to believe I wrote them. It’s not always easy to write poems, many came with long crying sobs of release. But it’s time now in America for this book, Scorpio. I hope they provide solace and catharsis to readers, as well as laughter, one of our greatest weapons against adversity, alongside love.

I hope these poems bring the reader an experience of love. If we don’t practice love it could cease to exist. Love is a knowing that must be taught and learned. In my humble opinion, love is the greatest art of our lives and love’s practice is our deepest responsibility to humanity.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: https://www.amazon.com/Scorpio-Katy-Bohinc/dp/1881163636

LOCAL OUTLETS: http://www.orgs.miamioh.edu/mupress/details/bohinc_scorpio.html .

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target, etc.

PRICE: $17.00.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: StarArkestress@gmail.com

Life During Wartime

THE BOOK: Life During Wartime

PUBLISHED IN: 2018

THE AUTHOR: Katie Rogin

THE PUBLISHER: Mastodon Publishing, an imprint of C&R Press. Mastodon is dedicated to making thoughts real, whether that means bringing a unique and important story to readers, or encouraging them to fight against injustices, conspiracies, or abuses of power.

SUMMARY: 21-year-old Nina Wicklow-Vargas, an Iraq combat veteran, has gone missing in Sierra Madre, CA.

Katie RoginLife During Wartime is an after-war story that takes on some of the nation’s most troubling public issues and harrowing personal pains. It takes place in Southern California during the worst of the financial crisis in September 2008. Two traumatized survivors and unlikely allies—one a former army nurse in Iraq’s Green Zone and the other a former financial trader who lived through the World Trade Center attack on 9/11—come together to look for a combat veteran who has gone missing. In a place shaken by war, financial near-collapse and raging wild fires, they search for the soldier, a way to live during wartime, and a healing peace.

THE BACK STORY: I wrote this story because I came to see America as a nation at war with itself, filled with physically and emotionally traumatized veterans and civilians trying to live after surviving terrible things.

I wrote this material through the lens of my own personal PTSD which I still live with decades after being violently assaulted as a teenager. Leveraging my therapy and readings about post-traumatic stress, as well as my writer’s tools of imagination, research, language and creativity, I constructed a story that is at once individual and universal. My own quest for a renewed and healing life after trauma became a vibrant model for the same quest in the characters of Lise, Jim, Jen and Danny.

I placed the story’s events in September 2008 on the weekend that Lehman Brothers collapsed at the worst of the financial crisis, but it is clear that over a decade later we, as a nation, continue to be buffeted by the same crises—veteran suicide, financial instability, war, terrorism, natural disasters and so much loss.

WHY THIS TITLE?: Life During Wartime was the title almost from the beginning, from that first flicker of story in my mind. It felt right and sounded right, and kept being right, as I wrote more pages. I did a Google search and knew a few other people had used the title for their books, but I didn’t really care about differentiating in that way. As I recounted in my Life During Wartime playlist-essay for Largehearted Boy, the Talking Heads song of the same title just so perfectly captured the mood for me. When I was selecting the epigraphs, I did then have a few spasms of doubt about the title and thought maybe something from The Odyssey or Lucinda Williams’s song “World Without Tears” would be better, but, as you say, we can’t forget we’re still and always at war, and so the title stuck.

REVIEWS/COMMENTS:

“The novel is reflective and meditative, deliberate in its depiction of people displaced by loss and fear, people stuck in a world where they must continue moving forward in spite of the trauma they have experienced. Life During Wartime explores the results of all this isolation and running away with sensitivity and nuance, and it is a book that will stay with you long after you read the final page. — Jessica Mannion, The Literary Review

“A vividly written and intensely gripping read from first page to last, Life During Wartime by Katie Rogin aptly showcases an author with a genuine flair for originality and narrative driven storytelling. An inherently entertaining novel, Life During Wartime is unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists and community library Contemporary General Fiction collections.” — Midwest Book Review

“What Rogin does so well is to show how events of trauma unlatch themselves from their original places in time and hook their claws into individual and collective bodies and minds.” — Jerome Blanco, The Lit Pub

“Katie Rogin’s riveting debut, Life During Wartime, is a smoking, sun-drenched portrait of a nation at war with itself. Set during the 2008 financial crisis, Rogin’s story of the desperate search for a missing combat veteran explodes into a searing social commentary that resembles, in scope and ambition, Robert Stone’s Vietnam-era work. It’s a powerful, wrenching, thoroughly necessary book.” — Whitney Terrell, author of The Good Lieutenant.

AUTHOR PROFILE:

Katie Rogin grew up in New York amid a family of art dealers, fiction writers and journalists. Her writing spans old and new media.

She wrote for ABC’s One Life to Live for which she won a Writers Guild of America award. One Life to Live was created by Agnes Nixon and aired on ABC from July 15, 1968 to January 12, 2012.

Katie wrote, directed and produced the short film In A Blue Mood which screened at Urbanworld, the IFP Market and the Austin Film Festival. The soundtrack features Ella Fitzgerald, Thelonius Monk, John Coltrane, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Ben Webster, and Anita O’Day.

Katie also wrote the historical mystery game SPQR: The Empire’s Darkest Hour which was published by GT Interactive. SPQR is a Myst-like historical puzzle-adventure-mystery game that takes place in and around the ancient Roman forum in 205 AD. The player moves through a beautiful 3D recreation of the ancient Roman forum that was developed by architects from the Digital Design Lab at Columbia University’s School of Architecture.

Katie has published fiction, essays and criticism. Her work has appeared in VICE’s Tonic, PANK, Intellectual Refuge, Quartz, The Rumpus, The Chattahoochee Review, The Millions, The Brooklyn Rail, Streetlight, Terrain and Sports Illustrated.

Katie’s father Richard Rogin and uncle Gilbert Rogin were both journalists and fiction writers. Rich published short fiction in Harper’s Magazine while working for magazines, newspapers and ABC News. Gil published 33 short stories in The New Yorker, as well as a story collection and two novels with Random House. He had a long career at Time Inc., writing and editing for Sports Illustrated, People, Life, Fortune and Discover. He also helped launch the hip-hop magazine Vibe with Quincy Jones.

Katie’s mother Anne Adler Rogin is an art dealer and interior designer, as was her grandfather Abraham M. Adler, co-founder of Hirschl & Adler Galleries.

Katie has also worked as a creative director, digital strategist and strategic planner for various advertising agencies. Katie Rogin received an M.A. in Liberal Studies from The New School. She lives in Brooklyn.

SAMPLE CHAPTER:

An excerpt of Life During Wartime was published as “Bitter Nights and Days” in terrain.org and you can read it here: https://www.terrain.org/2018/fiction/bitter-nights-and-days/

LOCAL OUTLETS: Ask any bookstore to order from Mastodon Publishing.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Mastodon Publishing: https://www.mastodonpublishing.com/ Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Life-During-Wartime-Katie-Rogin/dp/1936196867 Barnes& Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/life-during-wartime-katie-rogin/1128632252?ean=9781936196869 Indie Bound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781936196869

PRICE: $12 at Mastodon Publishing.

$10.26 at Amazon

$18 everywhere else

CONTACT THE AUTHOR:

KatieRoginWriter@gmail.com.

Instagram: @krogin

Twitter: @katierogin

Website: http://katierogin.com

First Tuesday Replay, Jan. 8

This feature has a two-fold purpose: 1. To allow those recently added to our followers list to discover books they might have missed and 2. To make sure previously featured authors and their work aren’t forgotten. If you’d like to learn more about any of the books revisited here, simply click on the “Author” page, then on that author’s name.


PARADE OF HORRIBLES,” BY RHETT DeVANE

Parade of Horribles by [DeVane, Rhett]Chattahoochee, Florida, a town with a state mental institution on its main drag, seldom slips from its usual relaxed pace. Everyone here knows everybody else, and senior citizen Elvina Houston, head of the little-ole-lady hotline, keeps her nose wedged in the middle.  October typically brings three festivals and a break from summer. But this year, the relentless heat and humidity continue and a parade of horribles cranks up for Jake Witherspoon, his best friend Hattie, and her older brother Bobby, one that will affect their intertwined families, friends, and the entire town. Hattie lives three miles out of town on family land with her husband and adopted Chinese daughter Sarah Chuntian. Sarah is thirteen, barreling into the tumultuous teenage years, and Hattie worries about the dangers she and her husband can’t control, especially online.

When Jake receives a series of odd, suggestive text messages, he fears a repeat of the horrible hate crime fifteen years prior, an assault that nearly took his life and left him with a badly maimed leg.

“WE TAKE ME APART,” BY MOLLY GAUDRY.

Writes one reviewer: “There is no more perfect place to be than in Molly Gaudry’s tender, dirt-floored novella, We Take Me Apart. Oh cabbage leaves, oh roses, oh orange-slice childhood grins: this book broke my heart. Its sad memory-tropes come from fairy tales and childhood books. With language, Gaudry is as loving and careful as one is with a matchbook . . . when wishing to set the whole world on fire.”

Doc Harrison and the Apocalypse by [Telep, Peter]“DOC HARRISON AND THE APOCALYPSE,” BY PETER TELEP.

Writes Peter:  I’ve spent twenty years writing all kinds of books, from science fiction to fantasy to military thrillers to media tie-in novels. I longed to return to my roots as a science fiction writer and work on a coming of age tale.

“I knew a few things when I began brainstorming the Doc Harrison series. I wanted to write for young adults and have the story veer more toward science fantasy than hard science fiction. I wanted my narrator to be sixteen. I wanted the major setting to be an alien world that had suffered an apocalypse. I was working against the popular idea to place a heroine in a dystopian future Earth where she hates her life, falls in love, and does battle against the evil forces of the government. I thought exploring the ruins of an alien world might be different, fun, and dramatic. I knew that even with a male lead I could still have engaging female characters who never take a backseat to the hero or the plot. Julie, Meeka, Steffanie, and many others you’ll meet along our journey are characters whose sacrifices and achievements inspire Doc to reach new heights as a young man. They become much more than just his friends and in most respects are as strong as if not stronger than Doc or any other characters.”

“BANANA KISS,” BY BONNIE ROZANSKI

Robin Farber lives in a psychiatric institution. In her mind, she creates the world by looking at it: a quantum theory-world where matter pops in and out of existence as she observes it, a world where she is God. And, because the reader of BANANA KISS must take a long look through her schizophrenic eyes, this is our world, too, a world where the disembodied voices Robin hears are more real than the people who stand in front of her.

Robin’s world is populated by a rich variety of characters, both real and imaginary. Her father, a sailor who died when she was a baby, shows up in her head whenever he’s on leave. Derek, her charming, lovelorn friend, goes from mania to depression and back several times a day. There’s her insufferable sister Melissa, who stole her boyfriend, Max. And, of course, there’s Dr. Mankiewicz, or “Whitecoat,” the long-suffering therapist who, Robin tells us, “thinks there are some things that are real, and some things that are not, and that he knows better than anyone else.” Finally, there is Robin herself, whose confused, psychotic, funny, compassionate voice is one you are not likely to forget.

“PIRATE SUMMER,” BY H.L. CARPENTER

Fifteen year old Josey is a liar. She’d like to stop. But after Mom left, the lies started popping out, like the time Josey left her little brother at the library and told Dad he’d run away.

Pirate Summer by [Carpenter, HL]Then Josey meets a boy who tells bigger whoppers than she does. He says he’s the son of a privateer who’s been dead two centuries. He’s so convincing Josey’s brother believes every word and sets off to find the privateer’s hidden treasure.

When her brother disappears, Josey is sure she knows where he’s gone. But everyone thinks she’s lying again. Everyone, that is, except the so-called privateer’s son. He knows she’s telling the truth because jeweled riches are only part of his tale. There’s also the snooperscope, a device that makes time leaps possible, like the one that brought him to the present.

The story is fantastical … and yet Josey will do anything to save her brother — including traveling back in time two hundred years with a boy she can’t trust.

“A FUGITIVE IN WALDEN WOODS,” BY NORMAN LOCK.

Having escaped a Virginia plantation, Samuel Long, a fugitive slave, must now begin the hard work of shaping himself as a man in relation to his newly acquired freedom and to a community of men where his role and identity are not clearly defined. Sharing Walden Woods with Henry Thoreau and ideas concerning human dignity and purpose with Emerson, Hawthorne, William Lloyd Garrison, and other Transcendentalists and Abolitionists, Long will experience his coming into full consciousness – and manhood – at Walden Pond, where, along with Thoreau, he will be tested in a final and climactic act of civil disobedience.