Love, ugh. If there’s a more overused theme in fiction than love, then I haven’t discovered it. Most novels focus on new love, that all-consuming stage at the beginning of a relationship when colors seem brighter, food more flavorful and the world full of boundless possibility. The main characters get together, lose each other, find each other, and then decamp to live in an idyllic state called happily-ever-after, which is always located just beyond the book’s final page.
Hanif Kureishi writes about love, too, only his novels pick up where others leave off. He waits until after the fireworks are over, and writes about what comes next. His work grapples with the real stuff of commitment: compromise, tolerance, effort, and dissatisfaction—all qualities of a real-world relationship, but nothing that you’ll ever hear mentioned in ads for Valentine’s Day.
Intimacy, one of Kureishi’s early works, is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of book, gone almost as soon as it begins. Weighing in at just over 100 pages, it tells of a middle-aged man’s evening at home with his wife and two young sons. Everything proceeds normally, domestic rituals are dutifully followed, and from appearances, there would seem to be nothing to distinguish this evening from any other. But this night is different, because in the morning, when the sun is just warming the earth, this man will rise from bed, take his suitcase and leave his family forever.
Intimacy is written as an internal monologue that the man is having with himself as he lives his last day at home. Although his plan is premeditated, his personal history intrudes, and through a series of flashbacks, the reader is given access to many past scenes from the man’s life. We also watch how he struggles to maintain his resolve, as he struggles with his doubts and very nearly decides to scrap the whole plan.
Kureishi’s main character offers us no catharsis, no epiphanies: everything he is (and everything he’ll become) depends upon a single choice that he will make in the morning. Nothing happens in Intimacy, but something will happen. And the weight of that anticipation, that all-important manner in which Kureishi holds that crucial moment suspended, make Intimacy a short but important read.
Typecasting is a curious thing. For actors with limited talent, it’s the gift that keeps on giving, one that allows them to go on working long after they’ve overstayed their welcome. But for versatile actors who become known for a single kind of role and are forced to go on repeating it, typecasting can be tragic.
Andy Griffith, best-remembered as the grinning and wholesome Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry, is one of the latter. One of his earliest and finest roles was as Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes in Elia Kazan’s A Face in the Crowd (1957). Shot in the years before cinema switched to Technicolor, this film tells the story of a fast-talking country boy found in the drunk tank of the city jail by local radio reporter Marcia Jeffries (played by Patricia Neal at her droll best). Never without his trusty guitar, Rhodes improvises songs and humorous stories that touch a nerve with the local radio audience, and seemingly overnight, he goes from being a provincial curiosity to a national sensation.
With the help of a genteel businessman, Rhodes makes the transition to television and becomes something more than an entertainer. Immensely popular, he’s tapped by politicians and captains of industry to back a candidate for president. In a relatively short time, he undergoes a startling transformation from indigent to kingmaker.
But Rhodes’s story is not your typical rags-to-riches story: it is an analysis of power itself. Having decided to back Senator Worthington Fuller for president, Rhodes tells Marcia Jefferies that his audience is nothing more than a bunch of
"…rednecks, crackers, hillbillies, hausfraus, shut-ins, pea-pickers - everybody that's got to jump when somebody else blows the whistle. They don't know it, yet, but they're all gonna be 'Fighters for Fuller'. They're mine! I own 'em! They think like I do. Only they're even more stupid than I am, so I gotta think for 'em.”
While he achieves fame by becoming a comical parody of the everyman, Lonesome Rhodes also feels out of place in the world of penthouses and cocktail parties. After a night on the town, he walks onto the terrace of his expensive apartment overlooking New York’s Central Park. In his anguish, he fingers the shriveled frond of a potted plant and says “Can’t keep anything alive up here. Dust in this city kills everything.” It’s then that the viewer realizes that Rhodes is not a character – he’s a caricature, and that by converting himself into a parody of homespun wisdom, he’s neither hobo nor power broker. He’s a figment of the imagination conjured by the very audience he despises, and without their validation, without their love and approval, he’s nothing.
This weekend, take a look at A Face in the Crowd. It’s a film at once humorous and sad, light and complex – one that has survived the test of time remarkably well. After laying eyes on the calculated shenanigans of Lonesome Rhodes, you’ll never be able to look at Opie’s dad in the same way again.
Tomorrow’s the big day! On Friday, September 20th, from 6 – 8:30 p.m. you can meet some of most engaging authors Colorado has to offer by going to the Arvada libray's Books and Bites program. Some of these writers are pretty well known already; others are gems waiting to be discovered. Many are award winners and finalists, including the four authors we’d like to introduce in our very last spotlight.
In 2013, several Colorado authors were finalists for the Lambda Literary Awards, the nation’s top prize for gay, lesbian, and transsexual literature. Two of those authors, Sean Eads and Matt Kailey, were discussed in previous spotlights. Now let’s take a closer look at the remaining Lambda finalists you can meet at Books and Bites.
Dan Stone’s first novel, The Rest of Our Lives, is a lighthearted and contemporary gay romantic fantasy featuring two male witches whose passion reincarnates century after century. Can this enchanting pair finally succeed after so many lifetimes? Dan is also the author of a poetry collection, Tricky Serum: An Elixir of Poems, and the short fiction collection, Coming To: A Collection of Erotic and Other Epiphanies. In addition to being an author and poet, he is a photographer and college instructor and he can be reached via his website.
The cartoons of Dylan Edwards (the artist occasionally known as NDR) have been published in a variety of venues, both in print and online, including his book Transposes and the Fantagraphics anthology No Straight Lines. You may remember him from such comics as his ongoing series Politically InQueerect, and his sports-themed cartoon The Outfield (published on OutSports.com from 2002-2009). Dylan Edwards' Transposes separates gender from sexuality and illustrates six fascinating true stories of transgender men who also happen to be queer. The result is laugh-out-loud funny, heartbreaking, challenging, inventive, informative, and invites the reader to explore what truly makes a man a man.
Jerry L. Wheeler is the editor of the Lambda Literary Award finalist Tented: Gay Erotic Tales from Under the Big Top, as well as the author of Strawberries and Other Erotic Fruits, a collection of gay erotica, non-erotica, and essays, and also a Lambda finalist. He has edited three volumes of erotica for Bold Strokes Books, co-founded (with fellow author William Holden) Out in Print: Queer Book Reviews,and has completed a novel for Lethe Press called The Dead Book. Please feel free to contact him at Out in Print or his website.
Kieran York’s lesbian romance novel Appointment with a Smile is a gentle delight. Romance tends to focus on characters in the prime of their life. But does romance end after middle-age? You might think so if you based your assumptions on publishing trends. Kieran’s introspective romance is a moving tribute to the power of love, the choices we make in our lives, and the possibility of starting over again. You can visit with Kieran on her website.
If you're ready to meet all of these great authors, come down to the Arvada library this Friday. See you at 6:30!
It’s getting about that time, folks! Books and Bites at the Arvada Library is just around the corner. Are you ready to meet some incredible authors on Friday, September 20th from 6:30 – 8 PM?
Right now we're going to introduce you to some more writers who'll be there.
Donna Shannon’s latest book couldn’t be more timely in the current economic climate. Donna’s a career coach with years of experience helping people find employment and take control of their job. Her book How to Get a Job Without Going Crazy is definitely worth a look if you want the inside scoop on how to land the best work you can.
Of course, if you’re stressed out about unemployment (or anything else for that matter), you might want to take the advice Marilyn Raff has to offer and reconnect to nature through gardening. Marilyn has been a professional gardener for 25 years, and she has written extensively on the subject in books like The Intuitive Gardener. More recently, she’s expanded her writing to include poetry. In the Palm of the Land: poems offers beautiful vignettes about the transformative power of gardens in one's life.
Author Matt Kailey knows something about transformation as well. An award-winning author, blogger, and community activist living in Denver, Matt started his transition from female to male in 1997, and since then he has educated thousands of people across the United States and the world as a keynote speaker, presenter, and writer focusing on transgender and transsexual issues. His book Focus on the Fabulous is an entertaining collection of fiction, nonfiction, poetry from Colorado GLBT writers. His other books Teeny Weenies and Other Short Subjects and Just Add Hormones: An Insider’s Guide to the Transsexual Experience were Lambda Literary Award finalists.
Anyone with even a passing interest in mysteries will recognize Robert Greer's name. Robert is a professor of pathology, medicine and dermatology at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical campus in Aurora, and the author of thirteen novels. His latest, Astride a Pink Horse, is a mystery that starts with the discovery of a decorated African American Air Force veteran found naked, dead, and dangling by his ankles inside a deactivated minuteman missile silo in desolate southeastern Wyoming. The investigation reveals deceit, revenge, broken government and memories of the horrors of World War II, the Cold War, and the dawn of the atomic age.
J.M. Mitchell's extensive insider experience with the National Park Service makes his suspense novel Public Trust frighteningly realistic. He was Chief of the agency's Biological Resource Management Division and retired after 36 years of service, having worked in Yosemite, Grand Canyon and Zion National Parks, Washington, D.C. and Fort Collins, Colorado. He worked on many of the most controversial issues facing the national parks, and knew the privilege--and sometimes the pain--of public service. Public Trust is a gripping read about an honest ranger caught in a political firestorm when he returns to the canyons of New Mexico, and has to face hard truths about integrity and trust.
Manuel Ramos is the author of eight published novels including Colorado Book Award winner and Edgar finalist The Ballad of Rocky Ruiz. His recent crime drama Desperado: A Mile High Noir is classic Ramos, flush with details about Denver's North Side and its seedy undercurrent of drugs and gang violence. Manuel is a master of setting who has the ability to turn Denver itself into a character in his novel. Think you know the city well? After deliving into Manuel's novels, you might change your mind!
These and many more great writers look forward to meeting you this Friday, September 20th, at the Arvada Library for Books and Bites.
If you’ve been following these spotlights on the authors appearing at the Arvada library’s Books and Bites program on Friday, September 20th from 6-8:30, you know we think we have a stellar lineup.
But in the case of author Michael Carroll, maybe we should make that an interstellar lineup. Michael specializes in space drawings, creating some of the most amazing artwork you’ll find anywhere. His book Drifting on Alien Winds: Exploring the Skies and Weather of Other Worlds is simply a breathtaking flight of scientific imagination and insight that includes engaging interviews with notable scientists. From lightning storms on Jupiter to the lethal hurricane-force winds of Venus, Michael’s stunning visuals create depths of discovery that demand your attention.
Of course Colorado’s own weather has seemed a little alien lately, so Michael’s next book may keep him closer to home!
Our next author, however, is someone who most definitely didn’t stay closer to home. Determined to raise global awareness about breast cancer, Polly Letofsky became the first woman to walk around the world when she set out from her Colorado home and headed west across four continents and over 14,000 miles—by foot. Polly recounts her amazing story in 3mph: The Adventures of One Woman's Walk Around the World, a humorous, honest and inspirational narrative that encourages us all to take on our biggest challenges—one step at a time.
Our third author’s story might seem to split the difference between Michael’s extraterrestrial landscapes and Polly’s global trek. Alaska can seem like its worlds away, after all, but Naomi Gaede-Penner’s RX for Adventure: Bush Pilot Doctor brings it closer to home as she recalls growing up in Anchorage, Tanana, and Soldotna. Besides offering fascinating details about Alaska as it was pre-statehood, Naomi’s memoir has intergenerational appeal. How many children had mothers who were handy with both a chainsaw and an axe? Or can say their father was a doctor who made house calls by plane and once had a monkey for a patient? Are you intrigued yet?
The last two authors in this spotlight, Dick Kreck and Wilma Gundy, remind us of Colorado’s own adventurous history and proves the truth in John Lennon’s famous quote, “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” Dick doesn’t need much introduction to area readers, as he was an editor and columnist at The Denver Post for 38 years. His previous books include the bestsellers Murder at the Brown Palace and Smaldone. His latest book, Hell on Wheels, chronicles the rootin'-tootin' towns that sprang up during the construction of the Union Pacific railroad in the 1860s. Readers may find that delving into that often-sordid history is no less strange than visiting Venus with Michael Carroll.
Wilma is a Colorado native who grew up on the eastern plains and taught English in the metro area for 35 years. Her memoir My Life Without a Stage Manager features both memories of a Depression-era childhood as one of nine children on a farm, and recollections of her adult life. Powerful on their own, readers may find Wilma’s recollections of her adventures as her family endured drought, grasshoppers, and dust storms make a perfect complement to books like The Worst Hard Time.
We hope you are enjoying these author spotlights and will come meet these fine writers and artists at the Arvada Library on Friday, September 20th from 6:30 – 8 PM.
It’s time again to showcase some of the authors who’ll be appearing at the Arvada library’s Books and Bites program on Friday, September 20th, from 6-8:30 pm.
Our first author is Kathy Harris. Kathy lives in the foothills west of Denver in a cabin built during the 1920s. The cabin’s haunted, so it’s lucky she shares the space with her husband, son, and two untrainable golden retriever mixes. Kathy has been a bestselling author on Amazon.com and her book A Good Kind of Knowing earned the top literary award from the National Federation of Press Women for 2013. She has also just released her first children’s ebook, Higgenbloom and the Dancing Grandmas. Learn more about Kathy here.
Readers who enjoy paranormal romance and urban fantasy will want to come see Thea Harrison. Thea is a bestselling author on the New York Times and USA Today’s booklists thanks to her Elder Races series. The first book in the series, Dragon Bound, won the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Award for paranormal romance and was named Book of the Year by the Romantic Times Book Review. It was also listed as one of 2011’s Best Romances on Amazon.com. You can visit with Thea at her website.
Dale Lovin, our third author, definitely followed the old advice to “write what you know about.” Dale was an FBI agent for twenty-five years with a focus on violent crime investigation, and those experiences help him make The Mirror in the River a realistic, gripping suspense novel about human trafficking and a former agent caught in the crosshairs of corrupt politicians. This is a book you will not want to put down.
When Spencer Dew writes a novel set in the Midwest, he does not depict the exceedingly earnest, impossibly polite Midwest of a Garrison Keillor radio show. Instead, he relates a more plausible tale of Midwestern tragedy as told by a group of turpentine-huffing students at a small Ohio college.
Here is How it Happens begins with the promise implied in the title. Rather than constructing a narrative where everything is hidden until the author is ready to reveal it, Dew prefers a more forthright approach, one that suggests the book’s ending from the very first page. We know things will not end well, that the relationships of the characters will not reach fruition, that every desire will be named and promptly frustrated. Dew possesses the artistry and confidence to tell the reader upfront: you know how this will end, but here is how it happens.
Our protagonist, Martin Wheeler, spends much of his time ignoring phone messages from his Cleveland-based girlfriend and passing the hours with his pal Courtney, whose love life revolves around her oft-absent partner Sloan. Both of their romantic relationships have calcified into habit: neither loves their partner, but neither seems capable of separating.
As the narrative proceeds, it’s clear that Martin and Courtney are drawn to one another, but we know, almost from the moment they are introduced, that they will never end up together. Mismatched love is as old as literature itself, and in an American context, it takes on an added degree of poignancy, because America—the home of free will, individualism and seemingly infinite choices—allows Dew’s characters to make every choice but the right one.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Here is How it Happens is Dew’s treatment of nostalgia, a quality we often associate with those whose best years are behind them. In Here is How it Happens, Dew suggests that nostalgia infects the young as well. Whether it’s Martin’s friend Eddie, who spends his time building a precise and detailed diorama of the Kent State shootings, or Courtney’s friend Bear, who buys a seal tranquilizer gun just so he can shoot himself with it, the characters are obsessed with experience and the processing of memories. However, the reader gets the sense that each new experience is the basis of a future nostalgia, that today’s mundanity is tomorrow’s longing, and that for Martin and his friends, the future exists only as a series of returns, so that what lies ahead simply loops back to an idyllic and reimagined past that never actually existed.
The characters of Here is How it Happens desire experience, but are instantly bored by what they create. They do not live in the present: their happiness is dependent on making memories that can then be idealized – memories that are, by definition, unattainable. This brings to mind what the poet William Blake called "gratified desire,” and the frustration of that desire serves as the very life that Martin and his friends build for themselves – in other words, something attained is no longer an object of desire. And nostalgia, at once sweet and bitter, cannot exist if the world it imagines is ever realized.
As an Ohio boy myself, I deliberately choose to call this novel a work of tragedy, because ungratified desire is part of the quiet desperation that pervades small towns throughout the Midwest. Works of tragedy are also rich in humor and Dew’s book is no exception. With a keen ear for dialogue, yet with all the grit and unflinching clarity of a documentary, Dew’s novel is that rarest of things: fiction that so closely resembles its subject that it actually warrants the disclaimer printed on the flyleaves of so many lesser books: This is a work of fiction. All resemblances to any person, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Dew demonstrates that you cannot know the Midwest without knowing its nostalgia, which is, in a curious sense, its idea of heaven.