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Your Own Back Yard – Michael Gillan Maxwell

Visual Art – Creative Writing – Social Commentary

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Guest Book Review: Carol Reid Reviews Audrey by Beate Sigriddaughter

I am very honored to feature Carol Reid’s incisive review of Audrey by Beate Sigriddaughter. Welcome to Your Own Backyard!

Audrey by Beate Sigriddaughter

ELJ Publications 2015

Fiction: 316 pages

audrey

Reviewed by Carol Reid

 Audrey is the work of a kaleidoscopic mind; every emotion and interaction is broken down, assembled and reassembled as its narrator chronicles four seasons of an almost unendurable love.

Set in 1980 amid a loosely knit community of writers and artists, the narrative relates in minute detail the all-consuming relationship between the young poet Andrea and Audrey, a painter and self-professed healer more than twenty years her senior.

To Andrea, nothing is trivial. Her fervent wish is to live an exalted life in which she is part goddess and part angel, with time and opportunity to produce poetry and magic. Employment and men encroach regularly on her precious time. She attracts and enchants many male lovers, and loves them because, “if there is sex, there must be love”.

Enter Audrey,

She came with a painted dragon and cinnamon hearts for Valentine’s. Her name was Audrey and I am hard pressed to remember what anyone else brought to the party.

Dragons are diverse in mythology. In this novel they are presented as a sort of spirit animal connected with Audrey, but which variety– malevolent or wise, fire-breathing or powerfully protective?

Their first important conversation is generated by the painting of “Serena”, described by Andrea as having “a timid fawn-like nose and forceful amber eyes”.

“I’m so glad you like Serena,” [Audrey] said, “some people are afraid of her.”

Before Andrea can devote herself fully to Audrey, she needs to close the door on her relationship with Joel, whose gentleness, wisdom and acceptance of Andrea linger at a distance throughout the story.

This scene takes place during a rafting trip after which Andrea intends to end the affair-

The raft hurled headlong into waves, stood almost upright, despite our forward weight. Then we were flat on the water again, rocking through turbulence. We were drenched with ice-cold water. But the sun was warm and there was hardly any wind to chill us.

I leaned back and shook water from my hair, my poncho. I watched Joel. He was still concentrating. His arms pressed into the oars. His eyes were filled with love and reverence for the water, full of attention….if it were possible for me to love a man, I would have loved him. But I no longer believed I could.

Audrey is in some ways a gender-free novel. Traditionally masculine and feminine traits are exhibited by both male and female characters. Andrea’s gender struck me as not yet fully formed. She is at her core a sort of pre-adolescent, or as a psychic says of her, late in the novel, “an innocent”. This innocence allows her to believe in the possibility of pure, perfect love but of course makes her prey to being manipulated up, down and sideways by the more experienced and perhaps more irrevocably damaged Audrey. Occasional glimpses into each woman’s real, painful history are just enough to reveal how and why they came to be the way they are, separately and together.

Andrea articulates every feeling involved in an ultimately poisoned and poisonous love- torment, elation, enthrallment, hopelessness, selfishness and self-abnegation. Luminous moments are eclipsed by moments of despair. Any reader with a similar episode at the back of her emotional closet will recognize both Andrea’s and Audrey’s experience very well. This passionate love between two women, although it exists as an ideal in Andrea’s heart and mind, is not idealized nor exempt from betrayal, possessiveness and violence.

No one can spend a year in the mouth of a dragon and emerge unchanged.

About the author:

Beate

Beate Sigriddaughter grew up in Nürnberg, Germany, not far from the castle where she sometimes sat in a corner to write poems or rewrite fairy tales. She now lives and writes in Silver City, NM, Land of Enchantment. The background to all this enchantment, though, is living as a witness and participant in a world that is steeped in misogyny, ranging from subtle avuncular belittlement to legal or vigilante execution for infractions of male entitlement. The background is a world where people are addicted to conflict and competition and where peace and partnership are simply not (yet) sexy enough. In all of this, she still hopes to one day fulfill her lifelong dream of creating a language of joy that will triumph over a language heavy with addiction to conflict and sorrow, no doubt created and sustained in an effort to gain love and attention that way.

Beate has a B.A. in English and Philosophy from Georgetown University. Her published works include two novels, a novella, and many stories and poems. Three of her stories received Pushcart Prize nominations. She has also created the Glass Woman Prize to honor other women’s stories.

Carol Reid is a writer and editor in British Columbia, Canada.Guest 

Book Review: F250 by Bud Smith

Book Review: F250 by Bud Smith

Piscataway House Publications 2014

Fiction 230 pages

“It’s a novel about a noise band, some car crashes, kids with bloody faces, strange loves….” Bud Smith on F250

Thus reads Bud Smith’s hyper minimalist synopsis of his own novel F250. While this does summarize some of F250’s plot points with hilarious, deadpan understatement, needless to say, F250 is much, much more.

Set against a backdrop of the Jersey Shore somewhere around 2003-2004, the novel’s narrator and protagonist, Lee Casey, plays in a noise band called Otter Meat. The band teeters on the edge of either breaking big or breaking up and the dream of moving to LA beckons like some sort of mythical land of Milk and Honey. Lee works a day job as a stone mason. He hauls rocks, gravel and cement, his scant personal possessions, musical equipment, and his friends in his F250, a battered old workhorse of a truck that seems to crash into things like a heat seeking missile. Lagoon House is the dilapidated house in the process of being systematically demolished that serves as living space, party house, crucible and metaphor for a colorful and motley cast of characters going through life’s momentous changes together.

F250 depicts a group of friends whose lives are changing and evolving into something new as their old lives fall away. Preconceived notions of personal identity morph and grow into something new. It’s a story of farewell to youth and coming of age into adulthood and a story of self examination and self realization. F250 celebrates synchronicities and the peculiar kind of ephemeral magic that occurs as peoples’ individual orbits briefly come together before once again separating and twinkling into the heavens like the Perseid meteor shower. It’s about how the flash of one monumental event can change everything forever. F250 is about coming to grips with mortality and human frailty as we learn to understand our own individual gifts and strengths. F250 is about learning to forgive and to accept ourselves for who we really are and others for who they really are.

Some passages of descriptive prose are pure poetry.

“Outside, everything flickered like the world was film being fed through an 8mm grindhouse projector. Splatters of light struck everywhere reflective, creating a slowly rotating light show – glass and high sheen metallics caught the last rays of the falling sun. Reality was exaggerated. Colors were over-saturated: thick green, gold, plum.”

With references to regional cultural icons like Kiss, Bruce Springsteen and Thunder Road, Seaside Amusement Park, beaches, boardwalks, the Pine Barrens, Jersey salt marshes and 4th of July on the Jersey Shore, Bud Smith captures a unique slice of life and a snapshot of Americana at a particular time and place with lyrical agility and an unflinching eye. The book is also an exorcism, Last Rites, Kaddish, a memorial, and a celebration of life and love for each other.

With F250, Bud Smith has written his own “Moveable Feast” of sorts, with reflections based largely on his life as a younger man on the Jersey Shore; woven into a realistic work of fiction that is a totally enthralling and enjoyable read. With passages of cinematic prose and dialogue that captures moment to moment banter in spot-on colloquial fashion and characters large as life, Smith weaves a tale that is so engrossing and compelling that you won’t want to come to the end of it. At least I didn’t. It’s one of those books I could have devoured, but took forever to read, because then what the Hell was I going to do? It was like saying goodbye forever to my best friends.

F250 is a great book and Bud Smith is a hopeless romantic, which is a great thing to be in this fucked up world. I hope that Bud Smith revisits these characters in a future novel. The potential is there, and I would very much like to reconnect with these old friends as our lives once again intersect at some point down the road.

About the Author

Bud Smith is the author of the novel Tollbooth,  the short story collection, Or Something Like That, and the poetry collection, Everything Neon. He works heavy construction, lives in New York City and has a pet jackalope.

F250 Bud Smith

MadHat Drive-By Book Reviews: Tollbooth and Everything Neon by Bud Smith

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Reviews of two books by Bud Smith, his novel, Tollbooth and poetry collection, Everything Neon are LIVE on MadHat’s Drive-Bye Book Reviews. Drop by and check ’em out!

http://madhatarts.com/madhatreviews/

Tollbooth

everything-neon

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