Readers Rule

...if the writer has the energy, determination and persistence to develop more stories, and is open to learning and perfecting his or her craft, then s/he can offer another story, and maybe get a second date, and a third, and perhaps become a couple. How great is that?

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Birds In Fall | Brad Kessler

Life is Fragile as Flight

This novel is one of those surprise discoveries. My wife brought it home for me on a whim with some journals. I read the opening sentence and sensed immediately that my priorities for the weekend had shifted.Birds In Fall by Brad Kessler

It’s true: a few of us slept through the entire ordeal, but others sensed something wrong right away.

I was hooked. Wished I’d written it. The voice possessed a sense of moment, a texture of imminent tragedy that gripped me and wouldn’t let me go. The first chapter transported me to far away Nova Scotia and continues to resonate in unexpected ways after the final page of the novel 238 pages later.

BIRDS IN FALL was a critical and popular success. An excerpt was published in The Kenyon Review in the spring of 2006. It won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. And the Los Angeles Times named it one of the ten best books of 2006.

A Novel for Novelists

The story begins aboard a transatlantic flight from New York City bound for Amsterdam. The style is contemporary, spare in setting, and emphasizes action.  It is told in the first person voice of Russell, Ana’s husband. The action is carefully and effectively modulated as he takes up conversation with the woman seated next to him, a concert cellist who is stressed by the airplane’s bumpy ride through increasingly violent stormy night skies.

For example, one of the most visually compelling moments is Russell’s presence of mind in writing his NY address on his forearm with the cellist’s Japanese Maple lipstick. He shows it to her and encourages her to do the same. Ironically, she encourages Russell to include his name in his message to his rescuers, yet he cannot bring himself to do so. This foreshadows his fate as another anonymous casualty of tragedy, vanished, forever lost at sea. Indeed, eighty minutes into its flight, the aircraft ‘enters the sea.’

From there we shift to a small community setting on Trachis Island off the coast of Nova Scotia and the events following the crash. The narrator’s voice changes to third person omniscient and never returns to Ana’s husband in any meaningful way. Despite several telling details set up in the first chapter, few are referenced later in the narrative in which bits and pieces of airplane, passengers, and luggage debris are recovered.

From chapter two onward we follow the innkeepers Kevin and Douglas on Trachis Island and Ana Gathreaux, Russell’s ornithologist wife, who travels from New York City to the inn to visit the site of the catastrophe and learn something more about Russell’s fate. Other victims’ families travel to the island from all over the world for the same purpose. Over time, they each experience punishing, withering grief, hope, frustration, abandonment, and transformation into new lives without their loved ones.

The writing improves in this second voice and occasionally soars like the migrating birds that serve as such an apt metaphor for the flight of time, events, and souls. On more than one occasion, I was reminded of Michael Ondaatje’s poetic prose. That's profound praise for how deft many of Brad Kessler’s passages are.

Recommended

Birds In Fall is remarkable. It is rich with masterful writing and compelling insights into the lives, drives, and lessons that shape us as our migrations intersect across time, place and circumstance.

 

Related Links

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brad_Kessler

 

 

Read SAINT On KINDLE

The experiment 2,000 years in the making...

SAINT - The novel of intrigue - e-Book edition

 

Biogeneticist Andrew Shepard resurrects the memory of an ancient in a living human subject. Simon Peter is reborn.

For the faithful, it is a miracle. For the world’s political and spiritual leaders, it is a crisis. For humankind, it changes everything.

Peter escapes from the BioGenera lab in a desperate attempt to return to Rome and to confront the Pontiff, while being stalked by an assassin intent on silencing him once and for all.

First e-book edition

 

SAINT, my novel about the resurrection of human memory via biogenetics and neuroscience, is now available for download to the Kindle and Kindle-friendly devices including the iPhone, iPad, Mac, Droid and PC.

Read SAINT on Kindle 

 

Related Links

Kindle & The Evolution of a Writer

 

Novelist Ann Patchett Opens Bookstore in Nashville

Novelists are an adventurous breed. So are their readers.

For readers, all that is left after the decline, fall, and selling-off of Borders bookstores down to the fixtures, is grief. And memories of what a bookstore can mean to our quality of life. So many of my favorite weekend moments were spent in the stacks at my local Borders. Knowledgeable sales staff, friendly fellow explorers on the path to enlightenment picking through towering shelves of books, looking for one book, discovering dozens of others that informed new directions in their journey.

Sales of e-books surpassed sales of physical books earlier this year. This isn't a trend. We all know that our relationship to the written word is evolving. Schoolchildren totally get it; why carry a heavy backpack of textbooks when they can carry all the texts they will ever need in a featherlight tablet?  So what is the value of ink on paper? Sentimentalism?  For some, perhaps. For many, it is something deeper, much like the preference for live theater over cinema, or cinema over television, or television over netcast. For some, it is a physical connection, a tactile interaction with the process of reading. Like peeling back the layers of clues in a good mystery.

So what is to become of the book loyalist? Where is s/he to go? There is Amazon, of course. And Abe's, Powell's, Tattered Cover, Book Barn, B&N and others. Those are distant purveyors. The wandering weekend explorer has fewer options.

Karen Hayes and Ann Patchett

Now, in an interesting new reaction to digital media and the vanishing bookstore experience, we have the novelist opening a book store, a bricks and mortar emporium of the printed word. Whether Ann Patchett's new Parnassus Books in Nashville is the start of a new stage of publishing and distribution, or a quaint exhibit on the timeline of literature's evolution is to be seen. I hope it is the opening sentence in a powerful and engaging new story.

Related link

Julie Bosman | NYT:  Novelist Fights the Tide by Opening a Bookstore

Dan Douma (1946-2010)

In a recent e-mail to customers, Jesse Douma of the The Writers Store in Los Angeles writes that his father, Dan Douma, co-founder of the The Writers' Computer Store, has died.  This is a loss to the writers' community everywhere. In 1982, Dan co-founded The Writers' Computer Store with Gabriele Meiringer as a resource for writers on Santa Monica Boulevard in West L.A. It became a thriving hub for writers and filmmakers, provided world-wide mail-order services, training and support, a writer-oriented newsletter and special events geared towards creative writers, principally Hollywood screenwriters, but novelists as well. The rest is history. With success they moved the store to Westwood Boulevard and changed the name to The Writers Store. Jesse will soon move The Writers Store again to a new location in Burbank.

Working Writers' Heroes

By 1982, Dan and Gabriele had witnessed the rapid adoption of the Atari 2600, Commodore 64, IBM 5100, Apple I, Apple II, IBM 5120, TRS-80, the IBM PC, Kaypro II, DEC Rainbow, and saw the personal computer's potential for transforming the writer's process. At that time, veteran and aspiring writers throughout Southern California were still using Smith-Coronas and Selectric II's late into the long writer's night. The clacking of long-throw keys, the impact of metal type hammering away at paper, and return bells filling the air on summer nights - Muzak of the creative life - were about to be replaced with muted keyboard clicks and the whir of hard-drives.

Just as Dan and Gabriele were getting the shelves stocked in their new Writer's Computer Store, the era of personal computers dawned for real. Apple, already light years ahead, was soon to introduce the Macintosh. Others followed. The staff and consultants at The Writers Store were always up to speed on the facts, features, and benefits of every hardware and software configuration.

The staff at the Writers Store have long been valued colleagues. When I lived in Los Angeles, I stopped by the store occasionally to see what new books and software were available. Dan, Gabriele, and Jesse have always been helpful. No return to L.A. is complete without checking in.

Notices

Variety 7 June 2010

Los Angeles Times 10 June 2010