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Posts tagged ‘characters’

Don’t Make Me Choose

41MwSno1CqL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Confessions in the Dark: Twisted Lessons Collection – Book 2 by C. Yvette Spencer.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

This was not what I expected. Confessions in the Dark turned out to be a well written novella, with an intriguing premise, and characters that reveal themselves more deeply as the story evolves. What was unexpected, were the moral, ethical, and religious arguments that were portrayed, and the depth to which they stand out without sounding preachy or condescending.

Seven people find themselves waking up in a completely darkened chamber, not knowing how they got there, or why they were selected to be imprisoned in such a place and fashion. There is a teacher, preacher, rock musician, CEO, student, retiree, and hair dresser, that must confess there deepest secrets in order to survive. The seven individuals are from a variety of backgrounds, cultures, and families. I will not say anything more about the situation, plot, or events that take place, as every chapter, and step of the way, ads another twist and food for thought.

Confessions in the Dark had me wondering who was the worthiest to be saved; who had committed the greatest evil; and which player was the most honest with themselves, and their fellow captives. Every chapter kept me guessing, and had me changing my mind, as to who I could choose, if indeed I could ever do so. In some respects, this story was like a very good sermon being acted out in a passion play, with real people playing the parts, and having to live with the consequences. Ms. Spencer writes with heart and head.

Favorite Literary Sex Scenes

Some of my favorite sex scenes in literature.

The Pink Blanket

I have been entranced with the novel Ebba and the Green Dresses of Olivia Gomez in a Time of Conflict and War by Joan Tewkesbury since it was released. The story is a literary wonderland of love, hate, darkness and hope and is steeped in the spices and flavors of Latin American magic realism. This is Ms. Tewkesbury’s first novel, though she is well known for her screenwriting (Nashville, etc.), directing and acting.

Among the many delectable and delicious delights that are embedded in this story, are her loving sex scenes between husband and wife Bernardo and Hortence Grace. They flow seamlessly and beautifully into the narrative and are not only believable but palpable. Here are some savory examples.

“Hortense Grace stirred in her sleep and turned over, opened in her sleep for Bernardo who slid into her darkness, her well, her reservoir and they made love in semiconscious cascades. They were one over and over so many times before they drifted into sleep, deeply asleep, a sleep so deep they had no memory of how well they had known each other in the night.”

“Finally, when they were sure Rebecca and Tobia had fallen asleep, Hortense Grace and Bernardo pulled out the pink blanket, the one that Ariel had been conceived on, and unfurled it in the garden. Then they took off all their clothes and made love under the stars and the moon, accidentally rolling off the blanket onto the ground as they pounded into each other’s flesh over and over and fell asleep in a bed of wild sweet peas. Just before dawn they woke up covered in mud and started to laugh. Then they turned on the hose and wdashed each other off, let the water flood them as they slammed into each other one last time before running into the house to make coffee which they took outside and drank as the sun crept up over the morning glory covered wall.”

The beauty of these examples are the respect and intimacy that are shared between the characters. Though I enjoy explicit descriptions of sex (when they are in context), the scenes in this novel have much more impact, because of the development of the story and protagonists. It is raw, real and relative and resonates with experiences of loving consensual and joyous sexuality. That is why I’ve chosen sex scenes from this literary mistresspiece as some of my favorite of all time and encourage readers to pick up this novel and see for themselves.

Read more of Ebba and the Green Dresses of Olivia Gomez in a Time of Conflict and War at Amazon.

Mrs. Madrigal Is Back

9780062196248‘The Days of Anna Madrigal’ by Armistead Maupin
Reviewed by Ken Harvey for Lambda Literary
27 January 2014

Reading The Days of Anna Madrigal (HarperCollins), the ninth novel in Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series, is a little like attending the reunion of one’s family–the logical rather than biological one, as Mrs. Madrigal might say. Characters some of us have known since the late 1970s are now in their sixties. Mrs. Madrigal’s former tenant, the now sixty-seven year old Brian Hawkins, is newly married to the big-hearted Wren, with whom he lives in a Winnebago. Brian’s former wife, Mary Ann Singleton, who returned to San Francisco in Maupin’s 2010 novel, Mary Ann in Autumn, is back (although briefly), as is Michael Tolliver, also known as “Mouse,” now married to the much younger Ben. And of course there’s Anna Madrigal, bestower of wisdom, still vibrant if not frail at 92, her life’s work now dedicated to “leaving like a lady.”

Many of the characters in The Days of Anna Madrigal may be from the past, but they fully inhabit a contemporary world. Maupin’s Tales of the City novels are nothing if not a reflection of the times in which they were written, and Anna Madrigal is no exception. Years from now, one can imagine a glossary at the end of these books to clarify what will become obscure references and dated language. Who will remember the Chick-fil-A boycott in fifty years? And what about expressions like “amazeballs,” “throw shade,” and “chillax”? Yet while Maupin has always had his finger on the pulse of contemporary language, he is also capable of elegantly written sentences that are so unobtrusive that their wistfulness and melancholy can almost go unnoticed. Of Mrs. Madrigal and her tenant and caretaker Jake he writes, “One afternoon last winter, after the first cold snap, he came home from the gym to find her asleep in her chair, the remains of an amethyst candle dripping off the end of the table like a Dali clock.” Of course it’s not just melancholy that Maupin weaves throughout the book. Also on display is Maupin’s trademark humor that emerges from the characters and situations: there are no clunky punch lines in this prose. Maupin’s wit is part of the novel’s fabric.

The Days of Anna Madrigal begins in present day San Francisco, but two road trips bring us to Anna’s hometown of Winnemucca and to Burning Man, the temporary city erected and destroyed in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert each year. Lasting only one week, the festival is among other things, an oasis of radical self-expression and self-reliance. Trips of a different sort are the flashbacks to Anna’s younger years, before she left Winnemucca at age sixteen. And so in addition to the former denizens of 28 Barbary Lane, we meet new people, too: the son of Anna’s childhood friend, revelers at Burning Man, and a different version of someone we’ve known for years, as we see Anna (nee Andy) in her pre-transition youth.

Quentin Crisp once referred to Maupin as “the man who invented San Francisco,” and it’s easy to see why. The city came so alive for its many readers that the books lured more than a few transplants to the Bay Area. If there’s an autumnal quality to The Days of Anna Madrigal, it’s not just its meditations on old age and dying (which, by the way, never weight the story down); it’s also because when Maupin sets his characters out on their road trips, we say goodbye to San Francisco, too. Maupin has announced that Anna Madrigal will be the last novel in the series, so it’s fitting that once we leave the city for Nevada, we don’t return.

Read entire review and much more at LAMBDA LITERARY

Superb Story and Scribe

0670026638.01._PC_SCLZZZZZZZ_A Tale for the Time Being
by Ruth Ozeki
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans
New York Journal of Books

“Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being is one of the best novels of 2013—and will surely inhabit that position for years to come.”

However you envision or conceptualize life, you will never see it quite the same once you’ve read this brilliant story. “Brilliant” is a strong and suggestive superlative, but it fits this story like the insistent tolling of a bell calling for one’s attention.

Down to earth and intellectual. Filled with judgments and acceptance, separateness and interdependence. Complicated, yet simple. Ms. Ozeki’s characters question their thoughts, feelings, and actions—even how they respond to suffering. They ask whether their choices and lives make a difference, what is the meaning of conscience, and how to explain the nature of existence—and they do so in the pages of a beautiful tale of families struggling to survive, understand, and share their love.

Ruth, a novelist who lives on an island in British Columbia with her husband Oliver, happens upon a diary she finds in a sealed lunchbox she discovers among some kelp that’s washed to shore. The diary is that of a sixteen year old in Tokyo, Japan, named Nao.

As Ruth begins to read the diary—which describes Nao’s family, her thoughts of suicide, and her close connection with her 104-year-old great grandmother Jiko (who is a Buddhist nun living in the area of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami)—we are pulled into Ruth’s thoughts and feelings about what she is reading as well as its impact on her, her husband, and others living on the island.

Every person, animal, life form, building, city, town, and forest in this story feels real and congruent. You can almost reach into the book and pet the cat, yell at the bullies, shake Nao’s father, hear the wind, see the crow take flight, and feel the ancient, chilly, wooden temple floor beneath your knees as you bow.

There are so many exquisite lines of prose within A Tale for the Time Being, that it is difficult to choose a few that will give readers’ a taste of this sweet, caustic, entertaining, and captivating novel. Nonetheless, here are a few morsels.

When Ruth first reads the diary, she describes the letters. “They were round a little bit sloppy (as she now imagined the girl must be, too), but they stood more or less upright and marched gamely across the page at a good clip, not in a hurry, but not dawdling, either.”

Nao writes of a moment when she is holding Jiko’s hand. “I was still thinking about what she said about waves, and it made me sad because I knew that her little wave was not going to last much longer and soon she would join the sea again, and even though I know you can’t hold on to water, still I gripped her fingers a little more tightly to keep her from leaking away.”

Ruth speaks of time and how it interacts with attention. “At the other extreme, when her attention was disengaged and fractured, she experienced time at its most granular, wherein moments hung around like pixels, diffused and suspended in standing water.”

It sounds like Haiku poetry when Jiko is telling Nao about her son (Nao’s great uncle) who died in World War II. “A single frog croaked, and then another. Jiko’s words dropped like stones into the silence in between.” Jiko explains to Nao (who had told Jiko about it feeling like there were fish flopping around in her stomach when she felt grief or was being bullied) that the loss of her son was like a whale in her gut and she was learning to open her heart so the whale could swim away.

A Tale for the Time Being is more than a lovely piece of literature; it also explores science, philosophy, nature, history, psychology, biology, physics, Japanese culture, and the nature of consciousness. There is also a healthy dose of Buddhism and meditation thrown in with subtle precision integrated into the characters and storyline without dissemblance or force.

Read complete review and others, at New York Journal of Books.

Goddess of Cancer – Scene 1

Excerpt from Goddess of Cancer and Other Plays by Gabriel Constans.

Goddess of Cancer – Scene 1

Characters

GODDESS: Multi-cultural woman of no particular age. Face painted a variety of flesh tones. Hair a mixture of blond, brown, red, black and gray. Long rainbow-colored robe. Changes persona frequently.

VICKI: Asian-American woman in her twenties. Casual dress. Animated. Angry. Anxious. Scared.

WENDY: European-American woman in her thirties. Conservative dress. Quiet. Shy. Fearful.

JENNIFER: African-American woman in her forties. Business suit (beeper). Intellectual. In control. Avoids emotion.

LENNIE: Mexican-American woman in her fifties. Flowing skirt, flowery blouse. Insightful. Compassionate.

BARBARA: Arab-American woman in her sixties. Gray skirt and sweater (wearing a cross). Strong. Survivor. Dogmatic. Angry. Tired.

CHANTALL: Jewish-American woman in her seventies. Slacks and blouse (gray wig, in wheelchair). Humerous. Matter of fact. Sarcastic. Worried.

Setting

Living room. White couch center stage facing audience. White chair next to couch, stage left and black coffee table in front of couch. Large green plant on floor between couch and chair. Flowers in a vase on table. White door stage left. Three large pictures with red frames on wall behind couch. One picture is of the Grim Reaper, one is of an angel and the other an hourglass. Black bar facing audience stage right, with potted plant on its corner. A light switch is on the wall by the bar. Closed cupboard behind bar is full of cigarettes.

A slide-projector (with a color slide of each actor’s face shown at beginning of each scene) is placed on one end of the bar for the Goddess to operate or in front of the stage and controlled by a stage member.

Time

Afternoon or early evening. Present.

ACT I

SCENE 1

(Stage is dark. Slide of Vicki appears on wall or screen.)

GODDESS: Vicki. Twenty-two years old. Student. Single. Boyfriend named Carlos. Close family ties. Recently diagnosed with acute leukemia.

(Goddess turns on lights. Vicki barges through door.)

VICKI: What in hell is going on! Are you the Goddess of Cancer?

GODDESS: What if I am? What gives you the right to barge in here?

VICKI: You know damn well what gives me the right. Who invited you into my body?! No way are you staying. It’s not fair!

GODDESS: Not fair? Who made up that rule?

VICKI: I don’t know. Everyone says so. I’m too young to die. This is a sick joke, isn’t it?

(Vicki drops her head and paces back and forth around the room as she talks, gesturing frequently with her hands. The Goddess moves closer.)

GODDESS: It’s sick all right, but not a joke.

VICKI: Sure it is. The doctors are wrong. They must be. They made a gigantic mistake, OK?! By tomorrow you’ll be history.

GODDESS: Believe what you want Honey, it won’t change a thing. Like a soda or something?

(Goddess turns towards bar and gets out soda. Vicki goes over, grabs drink, guzzles it quickly, then throws it down.)

VICKI: Why me?! What did I ever do to you?

GODDESS: Nothing particular. It just happens.

VICKI: Well, make it unhappen! My family is going crazy. They keep acting like it will be OK.

GODDESS: Maybe it will.

VICKI: How do you know?

GODDESS: I don’t.

VICKI: (Quietly) My boyfriend is scared to talk about it.

GODDESS: He’s scared or you’re scared?

VICKI: I’m not scared of you! You’re just a . . . just a bad dream.

GODDESS: If I were you, I’d be real scared.

VICKI: Well, you’re not, so get lost!

GODDESS: (Smiling) Not that simple sweetheart.

VICKI: Look at me. Once I start that chemo. crap, I’ll look like shit. No wonder Carlos is freaked. Who’d want to live with a hairless, skinny wreck? I really love him. I’m afraid he’ll split.

(Goddess steps closer to console her. Vicki screams.)

VICKI: Get away from me you creep!

(Vicki pushes the Goddess away.)

VICKI: Go pick on someone else!

GODDESS: If you insist.

(Goddess turns and shrugs towards audience. Vicki gives the Goddess the finger while she’s turned and slams the door behind her as she leaves.)

GODDESS: Youth. What a waste.

(Goddess turns off light.)

Goddess of Cancer Continued – Tomorrow Scene 2

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