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Christine Lajewski posted a blog post

Suitcase Charlie: A Recommended Crime Thriller

     John Guzlowski is a writer and poet whose parents were forced laborers in Poland during WW II. He was born in a refugee camp before he came with his family to live in the Polish neighborhoods of Chicago. Already a highly regarded poet, he turned his childhood memories (including some gruesome child murders) into a novel titled SUITCASE CHARLIE.    Two war-weary Chicago detectives investigate a series of horrifying child murders. Before the crimes are solved, the reader follows the…See More
yesterday
William Roy Pipes posted a discussion

Mammy, A Term of Endearment

I read Rob Neufield's article Visit OUR PAST in today's Asheville Citizen-Times.It was a super article, but caused me to want to share my novel:  Mammy: A Term of Endearment.Mammy: A Term of Endearment. is now available as an ebook on Kindle, but the publisher, Ecanus Publishing, Great Britain tells me the paperback edition will be out soon (2 to 3 weeks).The novel is fiction but came from my father who was born in 1895. Due to his mother's sickness Grandpa hired her to be a Mammy to my father,…See More
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City Lights Bookstore posted events
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Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Jun 24
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Jun 9
Shannon Quinn-Tucker posted an event
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Writers on the Rock at Chimney Rock, NC

June 28, 2015 from 1pm to 4pm
The culture and heritage of Appalachia is an experience like no other, and it serves as the perfect backdrop for a variety of storytelling. View the soaring cliffs and stunning valleys of Chimney Rock and the Hickory Nut Gorge as you get to know your favorite author and meet new ones. Join Ann B. Ross, Tommy Hays, Sheri Castle, Evan Williams and more as they share their experiences and autograph copies of their books. A selection of titles by each author will be available for sale. See…See More
Jun 8
Lockie Hunter updated an event
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West End Prose and Poetry reading series: June at West End Bakery

June 13, 2015 from 7pm to 9pm
The West End Bakery & Café will host the final event for the 2015 Spring Poetry and Prose Reading Series on Saturday, June 13th at 7:00 pm. The June event will feature an excellent cast of local writers including David Novak, Katherine (Bonnie) Soniat, Luke Hankins and our very own hostess and curator Lockie Hunter.Past readings included a special holiday performance by Allan Wolf as well as local writers such as Susan Reinhardt, Tommy Hays, Tom Chalmers, Matthew Olzmann, Alli Marshall,…See More
Jun 8
Lockie Hunter posted an event
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West End Prose and Poetry reading series: June at West End Bakery

June 13, 2015 from 7pm to 9pm
The West End Bakery & Café will host the final event for the 2015 Spring Poetry and Prose Reading Series on Saturday, June 13th at 7:00 pm. The June event will feature an excellent cast of local writers including David Novak, Katherine (Bonnie) Soniat, Luke Hankins and our very own hostess and curator Lockie Hunter.Past readings included a special holiday performance by Allan Wolf as well as local writers such as Susan Reinhardt, Tommy Hays, Tom Chalmers, Matthew Olzmann, Alli Marshall,…See More
Jun 4
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri--and book discussions

How Lahiri’s “The Lowland” excites discussionby Rob Neufeld             When an American woman in Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel, “The Lowland,” realizes how she has, in her mind, objectified a certain childhood horror, she flashes to her Calcutta grandma, who “used to spend her days overlooking a lowland, a pair of…See More
Jun 2
Spellbound posted events
Jun 2
Tina Barr posted a blog post

Sharing Information

Iris Press just released a new book of my poems, Kaleidoscope!  These are poems written over the last 10 years, set in Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and North Carolina---!See More
Jun 2
Christine Lajewski posted a blog post

Hiking the Landscape of JHATOR

I just posted a new blog entry describing the real places frequented by my characters--human and animal--in my novel. Most of the action in JHATOR takes place in these beautiful natural spaces that are protected throughout southeastern Massachusetts. Whether you have read my book or not, I hope you will visit them if you are traveling through the area.You can read "Hiking the Landscape of JHATOR" as well as excerpts from my novel, at Christine-lajewski.squarespace.comSee More
Jun 1
City Lights Bookstore posted an event
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Kathryn Byer & Richard Krawiec Joint Poetry Reading at City Lights Bookstore

June 14, 2015 from 1pm to 2:30pm
Former North Carolina Poet Laureate Kathryn Byer and Richard Krawiec will be reading from their new collections of poetry on Sunday, June 14th at 1 p.m. at City Lights Bookstore. Kathryn’s new chapbook from Jacar Press, The Vishnu Bird, is both a memorial and memoir in lyric poetry. This clean-spoken, deeply-felt chapbook remembers the poet’s dear friend by tracing his vocation of anthropology, and honoring his spiritual depth through vignettes from the speaker’s own past. Richard Krawiec will…See More
May 30
Glenda Council Beall posted an event
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Steven Harvey at Writers Circle at Writers Circlle around the Table

June 27, 2015 from 10am to 1pm
Writing workshop with Steve Harvey, retired professor at YHC and on faculty for Ashland University MFA.See More
May 30
Ron Cooper replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Something Rich and Strange by Ron Rash
"Terrific review and interview, Rob. Glad to see that Ron had full control over this collection. All of his work deserves to be read and re-read."
May 28
Kathryn Stripling Byer updated their profile
May 28

Egan’s Goon Squad mirrors a cracked world

by Rob Neufeld

 

            Let’s look at Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “A Visit from the Goon Squad.”

            It’s an example of the best modern writing.

            And by modern, I mean cracked.

            And by cracked, I mean singing with despair, humor, and empathy; shape-shifting into a Scheherazade of distractions.

            The book came out in paperback this year, and it is the subject of Book Discussion X at Accent on Books, Jan. 10.

 

Laughing all the way to the brink

 

            The side-shows in Egan’s tale are connected, and add up to a spiral of perspectives on social decline, ennobled by assertions of spirit.

            First, there’s Sasha, a 30-something woman who needs to steal things to feel good.  Then, in Chapter 2, there’s Bennie Salazar, her boss, a big record producer, who bemoans the synthesizing and digitization of music—an “aesthetic holocaust.” He’d been there at the rise of punk rock.  And now…

            Bennie puts flakes of actual gold into his coffee because he has heard that it increases one’s sex drive.  But we leave him in this state to travel back to his punk rock years in Chapter 3, narrated by Rhea, a song-writer for Bennie’s band.

            Rhea likes Bennie, who loves Alice, who loves Scotty, who feels safe with Jocelyn, who’s hooked on Lou, an older guy who’d picked her up hitchhiking.

            At a party at Alice’s house (she’s rich, not true punk), Rhea and Jocelyn follow Alice up to her bedroom to check out her retired private school uniforms.  Rhea sees that “her bed is under a mountain of stuffed animals, which all turn out to be frogs: bright green, light green, Day-Glo green…Her bedside lamp is shaped like a frog, plus her pillow.”

            Alice pulls her box of uniforms from her closet.  Rhea and Jocelyn promise not to laugh at her.  “Ask me if I care,” Alice goes.

            Lou enters the group’s life—he’s a record producer, and becomes Bennie’s mentor.  He also takes advantage of Jocelyn and introduces cocaine.  Very creepy—and yet he has a human side. 

He cares about his children—as the next chapter will show.  And when, at the band’s gathering in his luxury apartment, Rhea goes out on the balcony, he follows like an uncle, not a predator.

            “I’ll never get old,” he says in response to Rhea’s reality check about age differences.

            “You’re already old,” she tells him.

            He calls her scary, and says he likes it.  She says it’s her profusion of freckles that makes her so.  He tells her to stay as she is.  “The freckles are the best part,” he reassures her.  Some guy is going to go ape for them and “kiss them one by one.”

            People’s lives are careening everywhere.  As the book goes on, the careening intensifies, but so does the pathos and hilarity.

            “Time’s a goon,” a has-been rocker says in a later chapter.

 

Why read this book

 

            First, the storytelling is brilliant.  It’s almost as if, as faith and tradition wither away in society, virtuosity flourishes—like a dying tree producing a bumper crop.

            One chapter is told by Scotty, the band’s genuinely angry person, years after his performance years, his delusional personality amped up high.  He says things like, “There’s a fine line between thinking about somebody and thinking about not thinking about somebody.”

            Another chapter involves a black-listed movie starlet and a genocidal foreign dictator.

            Yet another is told by a 12-year-old doing a Power Point presentation about her family.  Perhaps the most heartbreaking one—although you might vote on this—is told in the second person (“You gave up the one chance God threw your way”); and switches to first person in the last dissolving sentence.

            Post-modernism—a fractured, fun-house mirror of cultural references —is very rarely so good.  Kevin Brockmeier achieved the highest level, also, with his novel, “The Illumination.”

            The main reasons Egan excels are: 1) characters dream, bleed, stumble, laugh, and let us love them; and 2) her theme is fearless.

 

No faith, new faith

 

            If we, as humans, are losing faith, except for our faith that we’re headed toward disaster; and if we see optimism as fairy tales, with what are we left?

            It is the job of literature to answer this question.

            What we get in our fiction is much that’s rich with anti-heroes—such as John in Kurt Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle” and Yossarian in Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22” and even The Dude in “The Big Lebowski.”

            Jules Jones, a character in “Goon Squad,” whose chapter is a loopy, footnoted piece of journalism about his failed interview with a 19-year-old sex goddess, expresses his anguish about the post-9/11 world when he visits his younger sister in her plush home.

            “Buildings are missing.  You get strip-searched every time you go to someone’s office.  Everybody sounds stoned, because they’re e-mailing people the whole time they’re talking to you…And now my rock-and-roll sister and her husband are hanging around with Republicans.”

            Are there moral heroes who are activists?  Yes there are some—simplistic with guns and fists; and subtle with self-doubts and diplomacy.  But, we also need our Jennifer Egans and Mark Twains—authors who put their characters under a microscope and reveal them to be squirming.

            The religion of this world view is lovable absurdity.  Egan’s squirming is so beautiful, she ultimately morphs her novel into a chapter set in the year 2021, with deliciously painful parody.

 

THE BOOK

A Visit from the Goon Squad (Knopf hardcover, 2010; Anchor trade paper, 2011, 352 pages, $14.95)

 

DISCUSSION

Book Discussion X meets to discuss “a Visit from the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan at Accent on Books, Accent on Books, 854 Merrimon Ave., 7 p.m., Thurs., Jan,. 10.   Call 252-6255.

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