(Portland lighthouse, photo through Hop Culture)
OUR CURRENTLY FEATURED BOOKS, “MISSILE PARADISE,” BY RON TANNER, “SO LATE TO THE PARTY,” BY KATE ANGUS AND “THE STING OF THE BEE,” BY K.E. LANNING, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST, OR BY CLICKING THE AUTHOR’S NAME ON OUR AUTHOR POST.
A paradox: Although fiction is theoretically “invented,” it often offers the opportunity to be more honest than non-fiction.
One of the books featured this week on Snowflakes in a Blizzard (snowflakesarise.wordpress.com), David Ebenbach’s “Miss Portland” offers a good example.
David writes: “I’ve had important people in my life who have struggled with bipolar disorder (like my character Zoe), and their experiences—along with my own experiences with depression—made me want to tell this story. And in fact at first it was supposed to be a story—as in, a short story. I thought I was writing something that would run maybe ten pages. But Zoe’s life was bigger than that, and I fell for her, and soon the pages started piling up; I wanted to stay with her to find out where she was really going. Readers tell me they’re glad I stuck with it.”
If David’s primary goal was to educate the general public about bipolar disorder, he may have accomplished that by interviewing those “important people” in his life and letting them describe what the condition was like for them.
Then again, those individuals might have felt self-conscious about being thus “outed” in public, and said very little. Or, they might have reacted badly to the harsh reality of seeing their quotes — or descriptions of their actions — in print. Changing their names would have only muddied the water.
So often in these cases, though, the point is not “who,” but “what.” I don’t need to know the identity of the real people who inspired the character of Zoe — indeed, since I probably wouldn’t know them, that knowledge is really irrelevant. What matters is what the author has learned about bipolar disorder, not just out of textbooks or on-line, but through person-to-person interaction.
Meanwhile, Dan Sheehan’s novel “Restless Souls” allowed him to tap into his life in several different countries. An Irishman by birth, Dan later lived in California and spent time in Sarajevo, and he has used those experiences and settings to craft what one reviewer called “”A great rattlebag of a novel (that) turns genre inside out.”
Finally, in honor of National Poetry Month, we offer you Janet Passehl’s “Clutching Lambs.” An artist as well as a poet, Janet provided this intriguing response to the template question “Why would anyone want to read this?”:
“The ideal audience would consist of creative thinkers who are willing and able to digest poetry in unexpected ways. Last year I was invited to give a reading in front of a display of some of my drawings. My drawings are completely non-representational and just consist of lines, single or grouped. A psychiatrist in the audience told me later that while I was reading, she watched the drawings turn into landscapes, and when I stopped reading, they went back to being just linear. A recent reader of Clutching Lambs told me she felt as if she were physically chewing on language.”
UPCOMING ON SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD, APRIL 17-23.
“MISS PORTLAND,” BY DAVID EBENBACH.
After years of medicated struggle, 34-year-old Zoe quits her office job and moves into a trailer with her boyfriend in rural Maine against her family’s wishes and her doctor’s advice. After all, she has big plans with Gordy, a goateed vegetarian with thoughtful eyes and a job at a yoga studio and, as it turns out, an unfortunate desire to always be in control. But when a late-night argument turns violent, Zoe runs away in search of a mystical beach house she recalls from childhood, only to discover that in order to find it, she must reckon with her past. In electric prose that burns with wit and intelligence, Miss Portland explores what it means to give up everything in order to recover who you are.
“RESTLESS SOULS,” BY DAN SHEEHAN.
Set in the early-mid 1990’s, Restless Souls tells the story of the friendship between three wayward Irish lads in their late twenties. Tom, Karl and Baz grew up together in down-on-its-luck Dublin. Friends since childhood, their lives diverged when Tom left home to be a war correspondent. Now, after three years embedded in the Siege of Sarajevo, he returns a haunted shell of the lad who went away.
Karl and Baz have no idea what they’re doing but they are determined to see him through the darkness, even if it means traveling halfway around the world. Hearing about an unlikely cure at an experimental clinic, they embark on a road trip across California. But as they try to save Tom from his memories, they must confront their own – of what happened to their childhood friend Gabriel. And in doing so, they must ask how their boisterous teenage souls became weighed down, and why life got so damn complicated and sad.
“CLUTCHING LAMBS,” BY JANET PASSEHL.
Clutching Lambs brings together poems that are driven by language itself, wrought against a hidden background of peril and loss. The poems are haunted by the vulnerable— women, children, the occasional man or wild animal. This is an emotional book. Architecture and the natural world frame the psychological content. There estrangement from religious faith, the sense that one will not be protected, a lesson I learned repeatedly and at too young an age. My background as a visual artist impacts this book via my use of imagery as well as my occasional use of ekphrasis as a starting point.
The poems in Clutching Lambs are not intended to be parsed for story, but to be entered and experienced as extended lingual, visual, and aural moments that are simultaneously inhabited by the numinous and the concrete.