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Too Distressing?

August 17, 2022

Photo by Umesh R. Desai on Unsplash

A new story of mine, “A Topic Too Distressing to Mention,” is now posted on the Bangalore Review website. This marks my first attempt to deal with transgender issues, and it’s also an experiment in communal voice, the narrator being unidentified except as a member of a certain club of women. Anyone who has a chance to read the story is welcome to post a comment here, as long as it’s reasonably polite.

Susie’s e-book

July 30, 2022

Susie Alioto, the namesake protagonist of The Bourgeois Anarchist, may be 66 years old and struggling a bit with her health, but she’s always been up-to-the-moment, so it’s no surprise that her story is now available in a Kindle-type ebook. The co-protagonist, her math-geek son Eric, ridicules her for surrendering to such a gross and uncool form of capitalism. But to understand the odd balance of their relationship, as well as Susie’s complicated links with her anarchist heroes, you’ll have to read the book.

(NB: Susie may be visible in the cover image, which shows a protest march somewhere in the world on some recent date. Details are blurred to protect the guilty.)

Kandi Neal has included my novella The Bourgeois Anarchist in a post on the captivating blog shereads. The post is headlined “Books to Read If You Liked Don’t Look Up,” and I’m flattered to be included in the list. Actually, I don’t know whether I liked Don’t Look Up because I haven’t seen it. It’s a movie, right? I continue to struggle to keep up with pop culture.

Anyway, this is what Ms. Neal graciously wrote:

“Instead of moving into her own place after graduating college, Susie chose to live in an anarchist commune, and that’s where she stayed for the next twenty years. Now, at sixty-six years old, she lives a comfortable life and teaches at a high-end private school. Even though her apolitical math-loving son calls her the bourgeois anarchist, she’s still committed to fighting the good fight. When she gets injured at a rally and rescued by a female in Antifa gear, the police interrogate Susie, looking for answers. But it’s her son and his unexpected, hilarious point of view that really put things into perspective.”

I’m glad she found Susie’s son Eric hilarious, as he was intended to be. The blog also promises that the ten books listed are “full of page-turning suspense that will have you on the edge of your seat.” For Susie’s story that may be a bit of exaggeration, but hey, it’s better for an author to have readers on the edge of their seats because of suspense than because they’re impatient to get to the bathroom.

Confession

February 13, 2022

It had to happen sometime. One of my most shameful adolescent acts has come to light, prompted by a seemingly innocent opportunity to share a “favorite library memory.”

I don’t know why I suddenly spilled the beans. Perhaps I was confident that the librarian in the story must have since retired. But now I’m worried. Is it true that librarians, when they remove their glasses and let down their hair, are vengeful beings with superpowers?

If you happen to click the image and explore the link, let me know if you can offer a good place to hide.

Book Launch

November 23, 2021

We’ll be officially launching The Bourgeois Anarchist on November 30, 2021, via Zoom, at 7 p.m. Eastern.

Being a taciturn curmudgeon, I’m extremely lucky to be joined by Elizabeth (Libby) Mosier, an extraordinary writer who’s a much better conversationalist than I am. Most likely, Libby will ask intelligent questions to which I will give confused, nonsensical answers. It should be fun!

To witness this spectacle, and maybe ask questions of your own, you have to register in advance for the Zoom link. The event will be hosted by our friends at Main Point Books in Wayne, PA, which is offering signed copies of the book.

Blurred Choices

November 17, 2021

Ellen Prentiss Campbell, an award-winning fiction writer and member of the National Book Critics Circle, has kindly reviewed The Bourgeois Anarchist in Tiferet Journal. Throughout the novella, she notes, “the lines between good and bad, right and wrong, blur”–proving she firmly grasped the book’s main theme.

Though the magazine is available by subscription only, I can offer a quote from the end of the piece, summarizing her take on the 66-year-old protagonist, Susie Alioto:

Susie is an irresistible force. Readers, especially those of a certain age, aficionados of Anne Tyler’s quirky heroines, will enjoy Susie. She carries the baggage of years of living and experience with almost reckless, youthful abandon. And begins to reckon with some skeletons in her own closet and to figure out what’s next.

You can purchase the novella on Bookshop.org.

Out of My Shell

November 5, 2021

Over the past couple of months, in an attempt to promote my novella The Bourgeois Anarchist (Finishing Line Press), I’ve done three interviews with obliging bloggers. They were fun, especially when I could give a subversive answer to the questions. Here are the links, with a few selected quotes:

Hasty Book List, by Ashley Hasty:

Q: Book character I’d like to be stuck in an elevator with:

A: Elizabeth Bennet from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I might try, with no luck, to woo her away from Darcy. More to the point, she’d understand how to get us out of the elevator.

Q: Place I’d most like to travel:

A: Berkeley, CA, where I went to college. I’d like to connect somehow with the idealist I was then, though it’s probably impossible.

Linda’s Book Bag, by Linda Hill:

Q: What can we expect from an evening in with The Bourgeois Anarchist?

A: You’ll fall in love with Susie [the protagonist], I can almost guarantee it. She’s tremendously good-hearted, an idealist, and about ten times as tough as you’d guess from her diminutive size. And yet she gets entangled in a situation that proves almost too much for her.

The plot includes arsonists, mobsters, sleazy cops and life-threatening violence, but the real focus is Susie’s conflicting loyalties and difficult moral choices. She’s long been an anarchist, at least theoretically—she spent two decades in a militant commune—but now her principles leave her floundering in her time of need. You might say the quandary involves her head versus her heart, but her head is on both sides, and her emotions are flipping about like butterflies.

Jerry’s Circumlocution, by Jerry Harwood

Q: What does literary success look like to you?

A: Groupies! But where are they? Why don’t I have any?

——————

Okay, that’s enough silliness for one post. Check out the links if you want more.

Susie Hits the Streets

August 22, 2021

No, Susie Alioto, protagonist of The Bourgeois Anarchist, hasn’t taken to prostitution. As a lifelong, principled anarchist, she would support anyone’s freedom to choose that profession but, for herself, would eschew any hint of trading sex for capitalist compensation. In the novella, oddly, she may find herself in such a situation unwittingly. You’ll have to read the book to find out.

What I meant by the headline “hits the streets” is that the book is finally published. It’s available on capitalist Amazon, less capitalist Bookshop.org, and elsewhere. Because I’m a klutz at publicity, Susie has to get out there and shill for herself. If you see her hawking the book on a street corner, be kind and toss her a nickel.

So far I have managed to do one interview on her behalf, published today on Hasty Book List by Ashley Hasty. Though I’d rather hide under the sofa than do an interview, this one wasn’t too bad. In a sense it represents my coming out. I reveal myself as a fashion leader and also as a long-time devotee of Jane Austen. The latter, at least, may be rather shameful for a hetero male writer, but I don’t care, I’ll flaunt it.

Years ago, when I was working on my novel The Shame of What We Are, very loosely based on my own childhood, I had the teenage male protagonist reading Jane Austen. Early readers, especially female friends, told me that was implausible, so I switched his literary interest to Isaac Asimov, whom I had also read as a teen. Jane was miffed at being left out, so now in this post, and in the linked interview, I’m trying to make it up to her.

An anecdote to show the silliness of my devotion: At some point I had checked out a hardcover edition of Pride and Prejudice from my local library, and I refused to return it. When the library tried to fine me, I even perjured myself by arguing that the missing book was their mistake. I can still picture my skinny little self lying to the fearsome, and much taller, lady librarian, who loomed over me behind her Counter of Authority. There was nothing special about that edition: its cover a plain blue or green, a library binding stamped on the spine only. But I may still have it—and I won’t give it back.

After some production struggles, my novella The Bourgeois Anarchist, featuring 66-year-old militant Susie Alioto, is on track to be released this fall by Finishing Line Press. You can order the book at the publisher’s site, and it will soon be available on Amazon, Bookshop.org, and elsewhere.

Oddly, I haven’t yet boasted about what my distinguished writerly acquaintances have said about the book. I’ll make up for that right now. Here’s the advance praise that’s come in so far (and if you’d like to add to it, feel free, especially if you have a million Twitter followers):

The Bourgeois Anarchist is an engrossing tale of an aging pacifist’s struggle to live her ideals as she’s enveloped by the dangers of anarchic activism and the violence of big city capitalism.
—Alan Drew, author of Shadow Man and Gardens of Water

If you’ve ever wondered what you would do in a time of crisis … you’re doing it right now. Susie Alioto is doing her thing too … marching, banner-waving and trying to reconcile her anarchic principles with her non-violent beliefs, in an America where non-violence seems to be increasingly impossible. As tensions rise in her rapidly gentrifying district of Philadelphia, a motley crew of cops, mobsters, pacifists and pseudo-anarchists invade Susie’s quiet existence. No wonder she’s feeling dizzy. A thoroughly enjoyable, and surprisingly gentle, story of love, duty and politics.
—Orla McAlinden, author of The Accidental Wife and The Flight of the Wren

When it comes to political convictions, our younger selves are bound to judge our older selves, and harshly. The charm of this novella is the way it presents this subject with such a light touch, such generosity, and such affection for its characters.
—Simone Zelitch, author of Judenstaat, Waveland, and Louisa

It’s antifa vs artisanal coffee in this absorbing and timely Philadelphia story about the difficulties of living out one’s radical principles in the most orderly way possible.
—Elisabeth Cohen, author of The Glitch

An earlier post included an image of a poster Susie keeps on her refrigerator: a portrait of her special anarchist hero, Errico Malatesta (a real historical figure), with his most famous saying, “Impossibility never prevented anything from happening.” When I wrote the book, this poster did not actually exist, so I created it. Anyone who requests it via the Contact page can have a high-res JPEG or PDF copy for free, to post in the kitchen (to puzzle friends) or on the front door (to attract police scrutiny).

Wonderland Stories

May 3, 2021

My pandemic productivity hasn’t been great, but by chance I have three works of fiction being published this spring. My short story “Crabs,” originally in Wilderness House Literary Review, has been selected for The Best Short Stories of Philadelphia 2021, edited by Matthew M. Perez.

A new piece, “Wonderland Stories,” a four-part exploration of the way we’re always telling ourselves stories—and consequently not seeing what’s in front of our noses—has just appeared in Beloit Fiction Journal.

Finally, we’re getting closer to the pub date for my novella The Bourgeois Anarchist, which can be preordered here.