Thunderous Silence Speaking Volumes


I’ve had to let slide, for obvious reasons, promotional activities of my book from 2013, Sam’s Place: Stories. But as I begin to consider that again, I recognize that I’ve had reactions to the book ranging from “Good on ya!” to thunderous silence. Why the kudos? And why the silence?

I have a fairly good grasp on my readership, small and somewhat deranged as it is, so I’m not only able to put the actual comments in place, but also a good part of that overloud silence. And that comes down to reader’s views of the society we live in. I take on at least a portion of the postmodern ethos in my writing – the portion that comments on society by deconstructing the lives of at least some of my characters. For this to make sense I should give a bit of a depiction of these stories.

They take place in Striven, a small town in rural Alabama, stories built about Sam’s Place, a pool hall and bar frequented by characters on the outskirts of Striven society. These folks don’t show up at the Elk Lodge, don’t have particularly good relations with the local police (sound familiar?), rarely warm the pews of Striven’s churches, and are deeply flawed people – at least by the idealized and totally fictitious image we tend to create of personal and family life in these United States. Yet they’re attractive people; they have larger than life personalities. They dare to contradict. They dare to be outrageous. They persist in their living-large existences, despite being shunting aside by the city fathers, even despite violence against them (again, sound familiar?).

These people are necessary to life, in every city, town, and social setting. Some readers recognize this, some not, and I get a pat on the back, perhaps a warm word or two. But why the not? Because these fictional people establish limits on the goodness of us real folk, taken together as society. If this confuses, ask.

Okay, in plain language, why the silence of some who trifle with this book? I think it’s largely this: the mass of society presumes to live comfortably within these social limits, and when they see “good” characters inverted to represent everything wrong in society, and the “bad” characters setting things to rights, perhaps accidentally, they don’t like it; they see themselves at the outskirts of a society flipped on its postmodern head. Through these characters, “good” and “bad,” they begin to see in glaring detail the limits to our society, the limits we’ve created to our harum-scarum, always mutating, less-than-perfect society. And it’s the less-than-perfect aspects of what we’ve created within these United States that allow some – change that to many – to imagine otherwise. And nothing speaks to the ensuing upset more so than silence.

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Good and Evil in Story

The Name Of The Rose, by Umberto Eco – Part 2


Image via

It’s sometimes difficult in the best novels to separate philosophy from literature. I think this is because their authors  (and you have to read a bit of literary theory to see how the two are commingled) seek, as in the storytelling of older ages, to give guidance via story. In this case, Eco has a philosophic point he wishes to make about the nature of good and evil, in its grandest manifestations. And what better way to do this than by examining a realistic – albeit exaggerated – abbey and its life, its ethos.


Eco takes the pose of perhaps a seventeenth-century novelist in speaking often to the reader. He also dwells, through Adso, on the story in narrative. But he’s modern enough to present the reader with some of the wittiest dialogue around, and to refrain, despite his emphasis on narrative, from keeping the reader at arm’s length. This is the work and skill of a master storyteller/novelist – one that transcends epoch and genre.


This is, of course, a European novel – Eco is Italian – and European readers don’t recoil at the tangents such writers present in their works. We Yanks prefer taut prose, both in narrative and dialogue, and have little patience with an author who doesn’t get down to business – and who won't stay there.

Despite such leanings, this reader views the book is a literary panorama – even though it takes place in only a few days and in the most specific of settings. Again, this testifies to the author’s skill as a writer. Even we fast-paced citizens of the Colonies have to appreciate the manner in which Eco unfolds his project – despite the hurdles he places before us as we read along.


My rating: 18 of 20 stars




Guess The Line #6

Kudos again to Ron Goldstein for his persistence in naming yesterday's line: it was from Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo.


Today's line (well, more a complex thought than a line) is from a work of one of the U.S.'s great writers:


"I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one. . . . Humans are caught—in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too—in a net of good and evil. . . . There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well—or ill?"