Friday, February 14, 2014

New Publication: The East Jasmine Review
Quick post here. A piece of my flash fiction, "Shogun" has been selected by The East Jasmine Review. It is currently available, via their website in a PDF offering, one that can be viewed on all eReaders and desktops. Please check it out.

Click to purchase.
Also, you can still purchase another piece, one of my favorite of all time, "So Much Like You" from Emerge Literary Journal, put out by ELJ press. The piece is available in the Winter 2013 edition, for purchase through Amazon.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Book Review: The Man in the High Castle

Philip K. Dick’s Hugo Award winning book, The Man in the High Castle, ponders the horrific but possible idea that World War II had gone the opposite way. Rooted in the idea that FDR was the USA’s savoir, the leader that indiscriminately pulled the country out of depression and into a position of worldwide economic and militaristic dominance, is assassinated in the 1930’s. Thus the USA is under a different steward, one who lacks the necessary abilities to navigate a decade wrought with peril, and in the end this leader forfeits the war. In this world, the Germans have divided the United States in two, sharing it with Japan while dominating it as a whole with their secret police.

A thought provoking world structure is presented. Japan dominates the East, Germany the West. The Germans have decimated Africa on the heels of their successful European campaign of genocide, have entered space and begun intergalactic colonization, and they have their sights set on the East in an effort to take the world wholly into their grasp. That said, the novel offers a compelling story, one full of characters that intrigue while working to establish a universe distinctly different than our own. Germans still hunt down Jews, most of which have gone into hiding by changing their names and appearances. Hitler rots in an asylum, having gone insane as the result of disease, and his cronies and supporters are passing away in due time, leaving messy, nearly medieval battles of succession. Either way, the quest for the ideal man remains, with all of those who defy the mold being cast aside and left expendable.

Yet, while the novel mentions German politics and examines a moment of German succession, the events concentrate more on the state of the States, specifically in the western half, the one controlled by the Japanese. Here life has descended into two communities: dominate class of Japanese and a subservient culture of Americans. The Americans, such as Frank Frink and Robert Childran hold the Japanese in high esteem, wishing to serve them, earn their respect, and come to understand their culture. On the other hand, the Japanese view the Americans with a degree of curiosity, collecting relics of American past, relics that Americans once mass produced and now go to great lengths to counterfeit. Collectors, such as Tagomi strive to understand their surroundings, live in fear of their German partners, and constantly consult the I Ching for answers. The mysticism of the oracle rains supreme, answers their questions, and writes their future.

Strangely enough, the book’s title is owed to writing within the writing. A book within the book, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, comes from an author reputed to live in fear, hiding out in a high castle protected by security in order to keep the Germans at bay, for the author known as Abendsen has written a novel in which the Germans are defeated and the Americans win the war. Such material boarders on treason and thus leaves the author open to attack, hence his secure hiding spot. While the alternate reality here isn’t the same as the truth, it creates ire among the German secret police, inflames the masses, and calls the war itself into question. This ponderance hits on one of the books main points: what is reality, how is it determined, and where is our plain of existence. Are we a book with a book? A truth? Or are we at the mercy of the Oracle. In the end the novel asks more questions than answers, yet serves as a satisfying glimpse into a world that never was from the world we hope that is.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

On Reading Flannery O'Connor's "The Heart of The Park"

While existing as a separate story, “The Heart of the Park” brings back Enoch Emery, a recurrent character for O’Connor, and Hazel “Haze” Weaver from The Peeler.” While the overall tension of the past piece has diminished, the characters come together and pickup as if little overall has changed.

Here, Enoch reasserts himself with the same grotesque innocence that he held before. Enoch represents the inexperienced youth, the teenager that purports to know everything, following a thin selection of the rules, yet at the same time he peeps at women from the bushes, spits on caged animals, and frequents brothels whenever he can spare the money. Plainly put, he is a fool. Or as O'Connor would say, he is a dolt. Enoch feels that the park has a certainty, a meaning that needs to be shared and spread around to the masses while kept secret at the same time, but can one take Enoch seriously? This boy, for he is not truly a man, watches women bathe, not out in the open, not in the typical teenaged beach gawk, but rather from the bushes with the appearance of the devil: “His face was always very red in the bushes. Anyone who parted the abelia sprigs at just that place would think he saw a devil” (83). Such secrecy, such imagery forces one to wonder if Enoch is up to something more, if there is a deeper, darker thing going on, yet knowing O’Connor and her style, the peeping is merely that. Enoch likes to watch and feels uncomfortable with being watch back. The peeping is not even a secret: “‘The guard said I’d find you at the swimming pool … he said you hid in the bushes and watched’” (85). Thus the peeping is an action of innocence designed to make the skin crawl.

Regardless, Enoch knows the pool’s the frequenters, their styles of bathing attire, and their schedules, and with the knowledge Enoch is shocked to see his old nemesis Haze appear, creating a moment of aberrance in Enoch’s daily routine. Haze had been the man Enoch strove to impress, the one he strove to show just how smart he was to. Haze had rejected all claims and served as a foil to Enoch’s eager nature. This time around, Enoch literally slides into Haze’s car and anoints Haze as the destined recipient of the park’s secret truth, the truth that only Enoch understands. Thus Haze, who desires to renew his past confrontation with the blind man, must endure Enoch’s whimsical wants. O’Connor now plunges the reader into the opposite of these two’s previous encounter, one where Haze stalked the blind man and Enoch stalked him with an unwanted babble. This time, Haze is in Enoch’s hold and driven through the fool's world, one where waitresses refer to him as a “son of a bitch” straight to his face only to be ignored and misunderstood (88).

The piece proceeds casually, Enoch pretending to have the blind man’s address, Haze begging for it, while the two slog through Enoch’s daily routine. Haze rebels against the routine, his guide, and at times life in general. He remains driven in his quest to be mysterious, to be experienced, and to have control, while Enoch continues to be, well Enoch: the epitome of convoluted, whimsical failure. The piece’s conflict comes at the park’s heart, in Enoch’s place, where everyone who is supposed to be put into the room is there, creating the boiling over needed for a typical O’Connor ending that bleeds both uncertainty yet certainty at the same time.

Favorite lines:

  • “The park was the heart of the city. He had come to the city—with a knowledge in his blood—he had established himself at the heart of it” (82). This line speaks of the perplexed nature that is Enoch—he thinks he is so smart, so bright, when in actuality he stands as na├»ve and lost.

  • “She had a stained white bathing suit that fit her like a sack, and Enoch watched her with pleasure on several occasions” (83). Classic O’Connor description that digs into the heart of the character.

  • “Every animal there had a personal haughty hatred him like society people have for climbers” (90). Says so much about Enoch, the times, and life, in such a compact, driven sentence.

Other posts on the The Complete Stories include “The Life You Save May Be Your Own,” “The Geranium,” “The Barber,” “The Wildcat,” “The Crop,” “The Turkey,” “The Train,” “The Peeler,”“The Heart of the Park,” “A Stroke of Good Fortune,” “Enoch and the Gorilla,” “A Late Encounter with the Enemy,” “The River,” “A Circle in the Fire,” and “A Good Man is Hard to Find. If the book interests you, please use the link in the first paragraph or click the picture to support my efforts when you purchase the text.