- June 2020
- March 2020
- October 2018
- September 2018
- March 2018
- January 2018
- August 2017
- July 2017
- June 2017
- September 2014
- April 2014
- February 2014
- December 2013
- November 2013
- October 2013
- September 2013
- August 2013
- July 2013
- April 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- October 2012
A Murder Mystery and Romance set on Mykonos.
The black-robed figure entered the viewfinder just as Dana Fox squeezed the
shutter. They hadn’t been there a second before…
While leading a weeklong photography workshop on picturesque Mykonos,
instructor Dana Fox is entranced by the brilliant light of the Greek island, as well
as by the dark beauty, Cybele Karabélias, a local policewoman. But her idyllic
sojourn takes an ominous turn when a series of gruesome murders rock the town.
Heedless of the possible dangers surrounding her, Dana continues to document the
isle in sunlit photographs, unaware of the killer edging closer, hungry for closure
and the evidence she unknowingly possesses.
Author’s Book Launch: Come celebrate: Sunday, April 19, 3:00 pm at Hotel Tides, 408 Seventh Avenue, Asbury Park, NJ. Reading, book-signing and sale (also will feature the madcap comedy, Fabulous! An Opera Buffa. Free event.
I am pleased to announce the publication of a creative non-fiction piece, “Contagious Dementia,” in the first issue of Alt-Minds Literary magazine. Hope you enjoy it! https://altmindsliterarymagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Vol1Issue1Fall2018-FINAL-1.pdf
“An ‘Outsider’ Writer” by Laury A. Egan
I became aware of Sandra Gail Lambert through a fine article in Poets & Writers about “Outsider” writers—in her case, a writer crippled by polio since her early days. Immediately, I ordered the book of memoirs, and as I began reading, I kept thinking that most readers would consider Lambert brave: for kayaking when she is disabled (in waters frequented by alligators) and for often living alone when she is wheelchair-bound and dealing with constant pain and fatigue. Yes, she is brave—as an author—to write honestly about her life, but I suspect Lambert would deny that she’s personally brave. Instead, her life is about conquering logistics, deciding how much physical strength she will have each day, how long her wheelchair battery will last, and how she will negotiate tricky terrain, all doing as much as possible by herself, without help. A number of times in the book she allows strangers to lend a hand, but if she is able to calculate ways to get from Point A to Point B and succeed alone, that’s her first choice.
As a semi-disabled woman and a writer, A Certain Loneliness made me aware of how strongly I felt about being independent, in part because there are times and places where no one will come to the rescue or others (including friends) will disappear and avoid a disabled person. Independence becomes a primary aspiration, because if you don’t develop and hone this trait, you’ll fail to live the fullest version of your life. I completely get this attitude and applaud Lambert for becoming expert at independence and for rejecting self pity. The latter is really hard because it’s so easy to compare one’s limited existence with those who never think twice about walking on uneven pavement, bumpy ground, or thick snow and sand, or to deal with the terrors of stairs; who never have to pace themselves and marshal their energy; who never have to deal with the deleterious effects of chronic pain. Each reader—particularly those who are disabled—will find valuable lessons in coping and adapting to adversity and loss in this book. Others will have their consciousness raised and, hopefully, will become more sensitized to the ongoing struggles of women and men who must live with impairments. All will admire Lambert’s deeply passionate writing about Florida’s birds and wildlife. She is also refreshingly open about her lesbianism, presenting it smoothly in mentions of ex-lovers and the community of women who surround her.
For me, I heard Lambert’s quiet message about giving myself permission to be tired, to not be ashamed that I can’t do as much as others or what I once was able to do. She teaches us to live to the maximum—to our individual maximum—on our terms, regardless of restrictions. A Certain Loneliness is an inspiring and uncompromising book, written with candor, directness, and humanity.
2018, University of Nebraska Press Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Certain-Loneliness-Memoir-American-Lives/dp/149620719X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1537545968&sr=8-1&keywords=a+certain+loneliness&dpID=41QBnuOj-BL&preST=_SY344_BO1,204,203,200_QL70_&dpSrc=srch
Last night, I watched “Call Me by Your Name” and found my reaction was surprisingly uneven. I’d love to know what other viewers thought about the film. Please comment! The first issue was the rudeness as displayed by Oliver, arriving and crashing on the bed, skipping dinner on his first night with a new family (and other times), and his overall thoughtless and unlikable behavior. Whether the filmmaker/writer was trying to portray an arrogant American dropped into a sophisticated household or to set up the character’s later change into a more sensitive man, I had trouble feeling any sympathy for Oliver and–other than he looked like a handsome god–couldn’t believe that Elio would fall for him, except in a very plastic way, which didn’t seem to fit Elio’s deep personality. This was a big hurdle to get over, one I never quite managed. The father’s conversations with his son also grated. Why was he whining about never having the same kind of love (as Oliver and Elio) in his life when it seemed that he and his wife were quite close and a great couple? Felt a little like the father-son dialogues were an opportunity to moralize and “tell” us some of the movie’s themes in case we were too dim to figure them out. Give me the depth and complexity of “Brokeback Mountain” any day. While I applaud the subtle and beautiful nature of the film, it needed to begin with the Oliver character less obnoxious so we didn’t have to travel so far to get into the relationship.
The New Valley is an extremely impressive collection of three novellas, the first two more akin to each other, but the third, “Sarverville Remains,” is one of the best pieces I’ve read this year. Told in the voice of a “diminished” young man, it is brilliantly written, with a plot that circles around until the story is fully told. Maintaining the style of Geoffrey, the story’s narrator, must have been a difficult task but is seamlessly handled by Weil. The first two novellas are also very fine and more classically approached. As reviewed, this author’s style, settings, and moods share similarities with Kent Haruf and Annie Proulx. Highly recommended. Available in paperback.
Beautiful Gravity: A Novel
by Martin Hyatt
“They say towns like this don’t exist anymore, but I know that they do because I live here. Noxington is one of those towns where the big stores that sell everything…have yet to be built.” The opening lines of the first chapter lay out a small, hardscrabble Louisiana town where thirty-six-year-old Boz Matthews lives, not completely by choice, but because when he attempts to leave, he feels sick. He is trapped by his anxieties and loneliness, his awareness of his homosexuality, and his feelings of responsibility to his grandfather, who took him in after his mother walked into his family’s burning home and died. As Boz says about himself: “…no matter who I am with or how many people I am around, I never feel like I’m truly with anyone but me.” Boz escapes his claustrophobic existence by watching movies, listening to music, and fantasizing, until his friend Meg, who is chronically suicidal, returns after discharge from a mental hospital. Then, a glamorous, world-worn singer, Catty, arrives with Kyle, an ex-boxer. The four eventually form a fluid nuclear family of sorts, in which each shifts from heterosexuality to homosexuality in a rotation that fulfills unspoken deep needs. Hyatt handles this flexibility with smooth skill, applying an almost post-gay mentality in which his characters exist as themselves rather than as figures with fixed sexualities, a new trend in contemporary literature that should be applauded. Each person is treated with respect and sympathy by the author, an attitude that reflects his own humanity. He has also created a contained physical world for this novel, one more reminiscent of an intimate theater piece, despite the astutely observed backdrop of Noxington. Most action takes place in the diner, where Boz works, and his room above the diner; the tightly enfolding setting seems to amplify the intensity of the relationships.
Although the location is extremely different, there are some similarities between Hyatt’s novel and the work of the South African writer, Damon Galgut, who usually features an outsider, a young man wandering in search of something he can’t define. The characters in Beautiful Gravity have all united in one place, however, but the narrator evinces much of the same quiet, tragic solitariness, the quest for meaning and self-understanding. Throughout, Hyatt’s writing is fresh and accomplished, with numerous memorable lines that sizzle with simple and piercing honesty. Boz provides this telling analysis about himself: “Most of us in towns like this stay put. Besides, it’s the only thing I know how to do well. I am excellent at staying.” And as Meg says to Boz, “Your being alive and my desire for death are the only things that make me happy.” Or, as Boz says about his grandfather: “You can’t just leave someone that takes you at a time when there is nothing about you worth having.”
Beautiful Gravity is a blend of bleak realism and uplifting transcendence, of despondency and hopefulness, told tenderly by the narrator. Because of the outstanding success of this novel, Martin Hyatt’s next work will undoubtedly garner major publishing interest. I look forward to reading it!—Laury A. Egan, author of The Outcast Oracle and, forthcoming, Fabulous! An Opera Buffa
I’jaam: An Iraqi Rhapsody
by Sinan Antoon
City Lights Publishers, 2007
“Pentimento” is a fine descriptor for Sinan Antoon’s layered novella, one that incorporates a young student’s gritty and terrifying incarceration, poetic and beautifully rendered romantic memories, and recollections on life under Saddam Hussein’s harsh totalitarian regime. The text whirls between joy, humor, sadness, horror, and fear; dipping in and out of what the protagonist is experiencing or has experienced; blurring the lines between past, present, reality, dreams, and hallucinations. The evocative first line: “Two clouds kissed silently in the Baghdad sky” soon collides with the line uttered by a member of the secret police: “If you move again, I swear to God I’ll crush your teeth.” This is a rhapsody to the author’s country as it once was, to the proud spirit of the Iraqi people, yet it is also a cry of profound grief, as Antoon has witnessed his nation being trampled by dictators and its riches plundered. The work is powerful and complex, authentic and honest, a devastating warning. –Laury A. Egan
The Jungle Around Us: Stories by Anne Raeff
2016, University of Georgia Press – Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Stories
These stories are beguiling in their quiet simplicity, but, as one proceeds through the collection, they gather mass, until, at the book’s end, the reader marvels at their accumulative weight. Raeff achieves this, all the while maintaining a light elegance in her prose; she is that rare writer, a humble one, who keeps her head down and hides her power, or attempts to do so, yet her brilliance shines through. She draws her characters with deftness, interconnecting many of them throughout the book, which is why, perhaps, it feels that the author keeps cracking open doors to show a bigger picture than the one within the pages. Indeed, each story seems to contain a novella or a novel within, as if the text had been gently whittled down. Though Raeff is expert at this short length, it would be wonderful to have these stories expanded into longer works.
Due to the interweaving of some characters, the collection eddies in our consciousness, as, one by one, we meet the protagonists and then move on to another set of people, only to return to the original characters again. This swirling effect is increased by their heady dislocation into humid jungles, literally and psychically, and then their escape into the cool, colorless cities of New York or Leningrad. The extreme contrasts inherent in these environments are augmented by the peculiar displacement of the characters and their families—most are of Jewish/Middle-European heritage, who have escaped Nazi Germany. These transplants seem incompatible in their new locations, places such as Bolivia, yet they often find unexpected solace and self-awareness there.
This collection should be read twice in order to draw the strings more tightly between stories with repeated characters and also to experience the nuanced themes more fully–Laury A. Egan, author of Fog and Other Stories and Fabulous! (forthcoming, November)
After the Parade
by Lori Ostlund
2015, Scribner/Simon & Schuster
The image of the parade in the book’s title seems profoundly significant, both in terms of the plot’s before and after this event, a demarcation in young Aaron Englund’s history, but it is also an apt symbol for an activity that must be watched from the sidelines. In many ways, Lori Ostlund’s narrator is primarily an observer, less of a participant or instigator in his own life. While this type of outsider, an almost passive character, can create an empty center in a book, in this case, the author encourages us to see Aaron and his world more acutely, to perceive the sensitivities he observes; to forego violent action, fast pace, and superficiality, qualities that have become the norm in much of contemporary fiction. Ostlund’s tale is haunting and subtle like snow falling against a winter white sky, yet there is drama and trauma throughout, pointing up the story and adding depth and poignancy and movement. The writing is fresh, frequently beautiful, with observations that are profound, sometimes wry, usually kind and gentle, reflecting Aaron’s personality: “He had always liked sleeping in cars, waking up in a different place. It was the closest he came to understanding the passage of time.” Or: “Once people thought they knew you, it was almost impossible to change yourself.” This is a character who notices that an old woman “on many nights…watched for him from her kitchen window and then hurried out with a jar she could not open.” This a man who cares about others, even strangers.
Although Aaron is gay, this is not a gay novel any more than a story about a straight narrator is a heterosexual work; instead, this is a human book, a unselfconsciously wrought bridge between the two orientations, constructed by the author with the assumption that we all live on an interconnected continuum, even if some us—like Aaron—feel a little lost and unmoored.
We need more books like After the Parade, which eschew labels and boundaries; books written for everyone rather than for a specific, narrow readership; books that challenge us to perceive more deeply, with greater depth. Aaron’s road to understanding himself, his history and relationships, is a multi-layered, complex story, yet one that is tightly woven, a moving parade worthy of applause.—Laury A. Egan, author of The Outcast Oracle