THIS WEEK’S OTHER FEATURED BOOK, NORMAN LOCK’S “A FUGITIVE IN WALDEN WOODS,” CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST, ALONG WITH THIS MONTH’S “FIRST TUESDAY REPLAY.” OR, YOU CAN CLICK THE AUTHORS’ NAMES ON OUR AUTHOR PAGE.
THE BOOK: BANANA KISS
PUBLISHED IN: 2005
THE AUTHOR: Bonnie Rozanski
THE EDITOR: John Metcalf
THE PUBLISHER: The Porcupine’s Quill, Erin, Ontario
SUMMARY: 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.
THE BACK STORY: The idea for BANANA KISS began with my fascination over the mystery of consciousness. There’s a very famous British scientist, Roger Penrose, who has written a number of books on how consciousness emerges from quantum physics. I have to admit at first I thought it was a pretty silly theory. But quantum theory has always fascinated me, especially the idea that as an observer watches something or measures something, he can’t help but change the very thing he observes.
At one point in BANANA KISS, Robin brings up how light has a dual nature – it is both a particle and a wave. And she recounts a conversation she had with Max about the classic double-slit experiment (in which alight is shone through a screen with two slits in it.) On its own, a photon of light acts like a wave, going through both slits at once, but the moment the photon is observed, it turns into a particle.
The point is, as observers, that each of us has a hand in creating the world. The whole idea seemed so preposterous but so full of potential, I decided I could only have someone who was crazy herself espouse it. Voila! A schizophrenic who believes she is God.
WHY THIS TITLE?: In a telling scene at a Dairy Queen, Robin says,
“Derek grins at me and offers me the last banana slice, impaled on the plastic fork. I take it in my mouth and offer him one-half, just sticking out of my lips. We kiss, like Lady and the Tramp, over a banana slice.”
That banana kiss represents one of the few perfect moments in Robin’s life, when all is right with the world.
WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: Compelling. Quirky. Romantic. Compassionate. Heart-rending. Funny.
“In BANANA KISS (Porcupine’s Quill, $22.95), Bonnie Rozanski coaxes the comedy out of a love affair between a schizophrenic and a manic depressive.” – Stephen Smith, The Globe and Mail
“’Banana Kiss’ has a compelling plot and an edgy, surprisingly likable protagonist…a terrific debut effort, full of the kinds of humor and insight that make Bonnie Rozanski’s next novel something worth waiting for.” – Steve Picco, The Trenton Times
“Banana Kiss has the kick of an extra-dry martini, shaken, not stirred. Drop in one part THE SNAKE PIT to two parts ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST, and let’s have V. Woolf standing by with piled stones. BANANA KISS will knock you for a loop – strong medicine, but tasty as can be.” – Leon Rooke
“BANANA KISS is a sympathetic but never mawkish portrayal of a woman who suffers the horrors of a damaged mind and yet always retains her dignity. We can deeply empathize with Robin’s world. Her unique version of reality is portrayed with so much truth that we begin to understand how it’s possible that such a world can make sense in Robin’s mind. Even though we shudder to think how agonized that mind is, we can delight in her lively personality, eccentric sense of humour, and quirky take on life.” — Laurel Smith, Quill & Quire
“Rozanski writes with a keen-edged, cool precision. BANANA KISS…is powerful, compelling storytelling and a unique reading experience.” – Robert Wiersema, The Globe and Mail
“Move over, Susanna Kaysen. Your book, GIRL, INTERRUPTED, doesn’t come close to the psychological insight or the touching humour of Rozanski’s BANANA KISS.” – Kinneret Globerman, Ottawa Jewish Bulletin
“Ultimately, Robin is a heartbreaker, because she is so vibrantly written that her isolation and compassionate nature make her psychosis feel real, and elicit sympathy at a much deeper level than would have occurred in a novel that didn’t originate from within her fractured mind.” – Elizabeth Millard, ForeWord Magazine
“I have spent quite a number of years working with and around persons in Robin’s situation and have observed firsthand their trials and tribulations; reactions and the consequences of their actions. The author has this aspect of the story, and the characters that inhabit her story nailed perfectly, and I mean absolutely nailed.” – Don Blankenship, Top 100 Amazon reviewer
“Relief from the nightmare of Robin’s tormented condition is a consistently humorous, wry patter. ‘It just goes to show that even seriously demented people can have their good days,’ she notes at some point. You can imagine her doctor, whom she calls Whitecoat, being at once charmed and frustrated by Robin’s unstable focus and unexpected sauciness, but he lacks the privilege we have of actually inhabiting Robin’s mind. Ultimately, we are better for it.” – Noreen Golfman, University of Toronto Quarterly
“In BANANA KISS, Bonnie Rozanski has created an indelible and tragic hero, a protagonist as deeply flawed and fully human as any you’ll come across.” – Glenn Raucher
“This is a marvelous, heart-breaking, occasionally joyous, eye-opening piece of fiction that is Bonnie Rozanski’s debut novel.” – Christian McAllister, Psychologist
AUTHOR PROFILE: Bonnie Rozanski currently resides with her husband in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but has lived all over the United States and Canada. She has an undergraduate degree in Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, and master’s degrees in computer science and business from Adelphi University and the University of Guelph.
After some years in academia and business, Bonnie decided to return to her first love, writing. Since then she has written nine novels and five plays, often in different genres but invariably with scientific issues informing the plots.
Bonnie’s play “Still-Life with Dog” won the Eileen Heckart Competition at Ohio State University in 2002; BORDERLINE, her second novel, was shortlisted for Foreword’s Book of the Year in 2008 and received a silver medal at the Independent Publishers’ Book Awards of the same year. Her newest novel, DAMAGED PEOPLE, is due out in June, 2017 by Merge Publishing.
AUTHOR COMMENTS: Unlike most other writers I know of, I usually start out with an idea and then look for a good story to embody it. I’ve always been fascinated with science, so my inspiration usually begins as some scientific conundrum. Whatever it may be – quantum physics, time travel, or consciousness – such mysteries allow me to explore the big questions.
LOCAL OUTLETS: many libraries in the US and Canada.
WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: https://bonnierozanski.com/ Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Ingram, Baker & Taylor.
CONTACT THE AUTHOR: https://bonnierozanski.com/