Category Archives: politics

“All right then, I’ll go to hell.” -Huck Finn

HuckNext month, I will be talking to a group of anti-war activists about the role of literary fiction in undermining the bad narratives that prevent critical thinking. I look to my favorite political satirist, Mark Twain, as an example.

When Huck Finn ponders whether or not he should turn in his friend Jim, a runaway slave, he is deeply conflicted. Good Christian society of the day has taught him that slavery is sanctioned by God. Huck truly believes that to help Jim escape would be immoral. But he decides, “All right then, I’ll go to hell.”

It’s moments like this in literature that serve humankind best in its often-halting progress toward tolerance and peace. Throughout history, good, decent people routinely condone revenge, segregation, greed, fascism and war, simply because they follow those they admire most. Every era has its own peculiar blindness, and going against complacency and conformity can be more difficult than directly confronting tyrants themselves. It is often a disenfranchised voice, such as Huck’s, that awakens the literature of a nation, makes it more self-critical. Sometimes the voice needs an author—a humorist, a poet, or a good story-teller—to help him speak in a way that he can’t be ignored or further ostracized.

Twain published his famous novel a generation after freedom had been won for the slaves, but the hypocrisy continued, and Twain revealed it to the public using a voice unusual in literature.  A “literary” writer uses language in unusual and often poetic ways to encourage critical and creative thinking. What we call “literary fiction” today is writing that is conversant with the literature of the past and questions the notion of narrative itself, as it questions the assumptions of the some of the dominant narratives of society. In contrast, “general fiction” and “genre fiction” tend to affirm stereotypes and prevailing narratives. Literary fiction strives to keep readers in a constant state of awareness of the process of meaning-making by putting it in the foreground. Literary fiction authors can help readers have greater empathy for their adversaries and to better understand themselves.

Unfortunately, much of today’s so-called “literary fiction” is dedicated to questioning the assumptions of Fox News audiences, institutionalizing the avant-garde, and lulling readers into voting for lesser evils with the soothing warm milk tone of NPR. Many of the best literary fiction authors today preach, quite beautifully, to the choir. But what crimes are the choir—the educated, liberal, progressive purveyors of culture—ignoring today?

In 2009, a poet I know, Tom Briedenbach, author of IXXI, told me (somehow, it’s important to me that the messenger is a poet) that the dust sample from ground zero he sent to a team of nano-chemists tested positive for high-tech, military-grade incendiaries. Our government—I’m very sorry to say this—decided not to test the dust for explosives. For whatever reason, this evidence of a larger conspiracy has been ignored. I knew that to write about these two indisputable facts (incendiaries detected, government didn’t test) could likely wreck my literary career. At the least, I, grouped in with “conspiracy theorists,” would be ridiculed by good, decent people.

So be it then.

I relinquish my seat at the table with the highbrow, the degreed, New York Times subscribers, the fit and traveled, that community of well-intended liberals—with whom I share reading lists and favorite subtitled films.

I’ve risked my career before. In fact, I’ve always written in the posthumous style, as if I had no reason to fear censure and derision. And so yes, now, I am scorned by people who have not given a second thought to what I have spent years trying to understand.

In my novel, Locus Amoenus, a 9/11 widow and her son, Hamlet, move to the country to start a sustainable farm. Eight years later, Horatio, who has had a ground zero dust sample tested, arrives to tell Hamlet that his new stepfather, Claudius, a government bureaucrat who worked on the World Trade Center towers report, is a fraud. The report, even Claudius admits to himself, is “nothing but a fermented blend of preconception and irrelevance.” As “conspiracy theorists,” Hamlet and Horatio are labeled nutcases.  Like Huck, they are marginalized and seen as socially unfit.

Case in point, Martha Frankel, of Woodstock Writer’s Radio, loved my novel; “genius,” she said, and she had me come in to the studio to record an interview last August. She asked, “What was it like, having to do all that research on conspiracy theory?” Apparently, she hadn’t realized that complacent readers like herself were the target of the satire, not the conspiracy theorists. I told her that, as a researcher who valued empirical evidence over speculation, I built my narrative strictly on the facts revealed by scientific analysis of dust samples and what was written in the government reports.

After the interview, she sent me an email,

I liked meeting you. But something s out our interview made me uncomfortable. And when I registered I realized I should have stopped you when you were talking  about the explosives.

It’s my inclination to be gracious, but I really can’t in any way support a “the towers Might have been set with explosives” theory. Not in any way.

Before I could respond, she followed up with,

Ooops. Sorry. Hit send too soon.
Am I wrong? Tell me you don’t believe any of that truther crap and I’ll run the interview.

I was not able accommodate Ms. Frankel’s request.  She did not run the interview. Like my Hamlet I decided, “When the world is crazy then it is the sane ones who appear to have lost their wits. Crazy it is then. Hysteria, be thou my sanity.”

Shakespeare’s play ends in a pile of bodies. Likewise, my Hamlet and his family are all dead (apparently) in the final scene, reported in the coda, which takes the form of a poorly written, factually inaccurate local newspaper article. The faux article reflects the dominant narrative today about 9/11 conspiracy theorists. Only ironically do I give the “good, decent” people of the world the ending they expected. What is reported in the paper is so very much out of tune with everything that has been related in the main narrative that no serious reader can accept it uncritically. By the time my readers get to the end of the novel, they have learned (I hope) that they cannot believe everything they read in the paper. Doubt is good, if it keeps you open-minded and encourages you to ask difficult questions.

The “War on Terror” has been based on false assumptions. It is creating terrorists where none existed before. True global security depends upon turning our attention from manufacturing weapons to supporting (as my Gertrude and Hamlet do, not incidentally) green energy infrastructure, local organic agriculture, and critical thinking in the schools.

I am grateful to my readers and reviewers who have opened their minds to this terrible news and recognized Locus Amoenus as an important anti-war novel. I am looking forward to the release of the audiobook, produced by 5 Films and read by Ben Jorgenson, very soon. With the exception of some few people, the reception has been extremely positive and Locus Amoenus continues to find new audiences among the good, decent people of today.

Video of Dunn Brothers Reading in Dallas

dunnbrosActivist/archivist Johny Genlock recorded my talk at Dunn Brothers Coffee in Dallas area on Nov 29  for his YouTube Channel.

A Fictional account combining elements of our post 9/11 culture of conflicting realities and the plot of Shakespeare’s Hamlet; set in a small town environs of New York State. Locus Amoenus, a “safe place”, turns out to be anything but! Victoria Alexander gives us samples of the book while explaining the elements that went into the creative project.

Outreach Group Reviews Locus Amoenus

truthoutreach
Locus Amoenus, a New Novel
9/11 as a Shakespearian Tragedy
Wayne Coste

The new novel by Victoria N. Alexander, Locus Amoenus, is a delight to read. It weaves an important modern-day tale while following the outline of William Shakespeare’s enduring tragedy, Hamlet. The Bard’s tale of Hamlet is a personal and community tragedy placed in a historical period in which the fight over the control of Hamlet’s native country ultimately leads to its subjugation to a foreign country. The characters woven into the Locus Amoenus story are no less tragic than Shakespeare’s, and the reader is left wondering just how the world of Alexander’s characters could have avoided being seduced into a current-day form of subjugation when the curtain comes down. Throughout her witty narrative, the author’s wry humor adds levity to her tale of today’s Hamlet. Continue reading

Book Signing at Brave New Books in Austin, TX, Friday Nov 27, 7PM

BraveNewBooksFlyerReviewers are calling Locus Amoenus, “one of the funniest political satires of our time,” the 2015 novel that “everyone needs to read,” and ” a great book you will want to share with your friends.” 

Victoria N. Alexander will be signing copies of Locus Amoenus at Brave New Books in Austin on Nov 27th, Black Friday, 7PM.

Brave New Books  is “an amazing community of diverse and active people. We have politicos and anarchists, lefties and conservatives, but most importantly we are a bunch of curious people on a quest for the truth.”

1904 Guadalupe Street Suite B Austin, Texas 78705
512-480-2503  12-9pm Daily

Locus Amoenus synopsis: In this dark comedy, a 9/11 widow and her son, Hamlet, have retreated from Brooklyn to the idyllic rural countryside upstate, where for nearly eight years they have run a sustainable farm. Unfortunately their outrageously obese neighbors, who prefer the starchy products of industrial agriculture, shun their elitist ways (recycling, eating healthy, reading). Hamlet, who is now 18, is beginning to suspect that something is rotten in the United States of America, when health, happiness and freedom are traded for cheap Walmart goods, Paxil, endless war, standard curriculum, and environmental degradation. He becomes very depressed when, on the very day of the 8th anniversary of his father’s death, his mother marries a horrid, boring bureaucrat named Claudius. Things get even more depressing for Hamlet when his friend Horatio, a conspiracy theorist, claims Claudius is a fraud. The deceptions, spying, corruption, will ultimately lead, as in Shakespeare’s play, to tragedy. Continue reading

Live interview on INN World Report with Tom Kiely

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kiely

Tom Kiely, INN World Report Radio

Dallas-born author, Victoria N. Alexander, Dallas Observer‘s “best locally-produced literary figure” will be talking with INN World Report’s Tom Kiely, about her new 9/11 political satire novel, Locus Amoenus, and her Austin appearance Nov 27 at Brave New Books

Live Interview 6:30PM CST
http://www.logosradionetwork.com/pm.cgi?action=show&temp=listen
Call in to speak on the air live at 512 646-1984

Locus Amoenus synopsis: In this dark comedy, a 9/11 widow and her son, Hamlet, have retreated from Brooklyn to the idyllic rural countryside upstate, where for nearly eight years they have run a sustainable farm. Unfortunately their outrageously obese neighbors, who prefer the starchy products of industrial agriculture, shun their elitist ways (recycling, eating healthy, reading). Hamlet, who is now 18, is beginning to suspect that something is rotten in the United States of America, when health, happiness and freedom are traded for cheap Walmart goods, Paxil, endless war, standard curriculum, and environmental degradation. He becomes very depressed when, on the very day of the 8th anniversary of his father’s death, his mother marries a horrid, boring bureaucrat named Claudius. Things get even more depressing for Hamlet when his friend Horatio, a conspiracy theorist, claims Claudius is a fraud. The deceptions, spying, corruption, will ultimately lead, as in Shakespeare’s play, to tragedy.

Radio program archived at: http://archive.logosradionetwork.com/inn-world-report-radio/

Locus Amoenus, Dallas area book signing

dunnbrothersDallas-born author Victoria N. Alexander,
Dallas Observer‘s “best locally-produced literary figure”
will be reading from and signing copies of her new 9/11 political satire novel, Locus Amoenus

Sunday, Nov 29th, at 6PM
Dunn Brothers Coffee
3725 Belt Line Rd
Addison, TX 75001
(972) 406-9711

locus-amoenus-cover-thumbnailIn Alexander’s latest novel, Locus Amoenus, a 9/11 widow and her son, Hamlet, move to rural New York where they run a sustainable farm. Unfortunately, they don’t get on very well with their outrageously obese neighbors who prefer the starchy products of industrialized agriculture. On the eighth anniversary of 9/11, Gertrude marries an incompetent NIST bureaucrat named Claudius, who tries to get the eighteen-year-old Hamlet to “move on.” As Hamlet is becoming  more and more disgusted by the hypocrisy of the adult world he’s entering, Horatio, a conspiracy theorist, tells Hamlet that Claudius is a fraud and something is rotten in the United States of America.

With fine gallows humor, Alexander looks at the tragedy that is contemporary post 9/11 politics, as it plays out in small town America where health and happiness have been traded for processed foods, cheap Walmart goods, Paxil, and endless war.  Kirkus Reviews likened Alexander’s Hamlet to Holden Caulfield (the angry hero of The Catcher in the Rye), but he is more like his namesake, plagued by doubt about what to do.

According to cultural critic William Irwin Thompson in the Wild River Review, Locus Amoenus is “an important contribution to contemporary American fiction.” Man Booker Prize finalist Josip Novakovich notes that “despite the tragedy, we have the consolation of her humor. I haven’t laughed this well while reading in a long time.” Locus Amoenus is an “emotionally powerful geopolitical drama,” according to WBAI radio host Barry Seidman. According to KWBU Heart of Texas Public Radio, “Alexander has a free-spirited style that entertains on every page.”  Literary Fiction Book Review affirms, This profoundly thoughtful novel exposes, with a clear and dry wit, the issues of our time.”

Victoria N. Alexander, PhD, is the author of three other novels, Smoking Hopes (Washington Prize for Fiction), Naked Singularity (Dallas Observer‘s “Best of 2003″), and Trixie, and a work of philosophy, The Biologist’s Mistress: Rethinking Self-Organization in Art, Literature, and Nature. Alexander’s fiction is published by The Permanent Press, one of the finest small presses in the U.S., which has been “turning out literary gems…on a shoestring,” since 1978, according to The New York Times. Alexander is a Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center alum and is currently serving as a Public Scholar for the New York Council for the Humanities.

Locus amoenus  refers to a  “pleasant locale,” where nothing bad can ever happen.  Pronounced: “low cuss a mean us.”

PRESS:

Upcoming: Interview with Tom Keily, Austin TX INN World Report Radio, Nov 24, 6:00 PMInterview with Jim Hogue  Goddard College / Community Radio, Vermont, Oct 19

Locus Amoenus a coming of age story for the post 9/11 generation” –Truth Movement News, Sept 27

A modern day Hamlet for the post 9/11 age.” Awakening Liberty Radio Sept 12, 2015

Live Interview –Organic News on Awake Radio, Sept 9, 2015

A witty novella that unflinchingly examines the dark roots of industrial agriculture, pharmaceutical conglomerates, and standardized curriculum. A brilliant modern parallel to Shakespeare’s timeless work.” -Literary Fiction Book Review, August 11, 2015

Woodstock Writer’s Radio, interview with Martha Frankel. Aug 9, 2015

Alexander “has a gift for prose” with “language that begs to be read aloud at times just to revel in the feel of it. And the book’s conclusion, particularly the final pages, are phenomenal. I reread those last pages more than once, laughing giddily at the audacity, at the perfect marriage of theme and execution.” Luxury Reading, Aug 9, 2015


Alexander “takes 9/11 to a whole new genre.” Interview with Susan Lindauer, Covert Report, Aug 9, 2015

Video Interview on Canada’s Bev Collins Show, Aug 5, 2012

“An important contribution to 9/11 fiction” Shift Frequency, Aug 3, 2015

“The most stark divisions in America may spring not from political, ethnic or racial backgrounds but from informational sourcesThis is a theme explored in the darkly humorous novel, Locus Amoenus.”  Woodstock Times, July 16

“Alexander got the voice of Hamlet from David Tennant (aka Doctor Who). Clever, witty, a little bit crazy, Hamlet feels like an alien having different values from the people around him.” Millerton News, July 16

“a retelling of Shakespeare  featuring a bureaucrat at NIST in the role of King Claudius 9/11 Free Fall Radio with Andrew Steele, July 16

“Alexander has a free-spirited style that entertains on every page. ” Likely Stories Book Review KWBU Heart of Texas Public Radio, July 2nd

Locus Amoenus tells ofthe country’s reality of junk food, junk politics and ever-creeping power of the National Security Administration and Homeland Security.” –Middletown Press, June 30

Locus Amoenus
“brings Shakespeare into the post-9/11 world” and “sows an emotionally powerful geopolitical drama.”99.5 FM  WBAI radio NYC: Equal Time for Freethought June 27, 3-4PM

West Hartford Citizens For Peace and Justice, West Hartford Community Television. Interview. June 25, 10PM 

The themes of “local complacency and conformity feeds into a larger narrative of post 9/11 corruption, junk food, junk news, big pharma and war.” TriCorner News June 12

Until now, the only 9/11-truth-themed novel of high literary quality was Thomas Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge.Locus Amoenus is the best fictional treatment of 9/11 yet. It’s hilarious, darkly ironic, playful, deeply moving.” -Kevin Barrett, Truth Jihad Radio, June 14


A novel about a teenager who lost his father in the towers on 9/11 and his discovery that what he’s been told about 9/11 is a lie.” WWUH Radio, Hartford, CT  9/11 Wake Up Call with Cheryl Curtis, June 10th
Locus Amoenus uses hilarity and conspiracy theories to present the tragicomedy of a contemporary America that is beyond belief….An important contribution to contemporary American fiction.”William Irwin Thompson, Wild River Review, JuneVictoria N Alexander to appear at the Millerton Library, Photo feature  Main Street Magazine, June 1″A clever and engaging novel.” –RabbitReader, May 24

“The hero of Victoria N. Alexander’s novel Locus Amoenus may be the new Holden Caulfield for the post-9/11 generation.” –Harlem Valley News, May 11

“A scathing commentary on government-subsidized food programs in schools, low-level abuses of authority in local government and the destructive effects of war and pharmaceuticals.” -The Millbrook Independent, April

“Hamlet’s… descent into madness might be as pretended as his name…darkly humorous, harshly compelling, and cruelly relentless”-Sheilia’s Reviews, April 15

“In this retelling of Shakespeare’s tragedy, the protagonist isn’t just feigning madness—he’s genuinely losing his mind ” –Kirkus Reviews,  April 10, 2015

Victoria N. Alexander is a PhD, a critically acclaimed novelist, a philosopher of science has just finished a fourth novel called Locus Amœnus, which is a political satire with a 9/11 theme” 9/11 Free Fall Radio with Andrew Steele, January 23, 2014