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
Victoria Alexander’s Honest Look at American Culture
In much the same way that James Joyce used Homer’s Odyssey to create a classical stage set for the characters of Ulysses in the dear dirty Dublin in 1904, V. N. Alexander’s new novel uses Shakespeare’s Hamlet as an archetypal structure that casts a shadow over the stereotypes of our new American life of junk food, junk politics, and NSA/Homeland Security.
Like the tight narrative and focused attention of Thomas Pynchon’s shortest novel, The Crying of Lot 49, Locus Amoenus uses hilarity and conspiracy theories to present the tragicomedy of a contemporary America that is beyond belief. Alexander has a good ear for prose rhythms, and the uplifting wave of her prose style picks you up and carries you all the way to her Coda—a coda that reminds us as her story becomes framed in journalistic reporting that American History is a dumpster and not an Akashic Record backing up karmic justice. From Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase that made Manifest Destiny and the American Empire inevitable to Jackson’s Cherokee Trail of Tears to Lincoln’s suspension of Habeas Corpus to FDR’s Day of Deceit with Pearl Harbor to Wolfowitz’s and the Neocons’ call for a new Pearl Harbor that became 9/11 to Obama’s National Defense Authorization Act and Arctic Drilling for the oil companies, the United States has always been bad while believing itself to be good.
Alexander is truly humorous in a bittersweet way that never becomes nihilistic. Everyone notices European Evil, whether it is the case of the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror or Hitler’s Holocaust, but no one noticed when Obama shredded the Constitution of Madison and Jay in the National Defense Authorization Act, and no one noticed when the One Percent bought out the country in a hostile takeover brokered by Goldman Sachs.
Locus Amoenus is an important contribution to contemporary American fiction, and perhaps it is time now for Alexander to move up from the small arty presses to the major publishing houses in Manhattan. (Farrar Strauss take note.) But, on the other hand, since the large publishing companies now are all owned by the giant corporate conglomerates who produce our junk food for the mind, we should celebrate the contribution of The Permanent Press of Sag Harbor for being, like the Farmers Market in Union Square and the Berkshares local currency of Great Barrington, Massachusetts, a healthy alternative to airport fiction.
Statues of mythological and/or fictional characters and themes can be found in state and federal parks all over the country, like this statue of Neptune at a city park in Virginia Beach. As far as I know atheists don’t try to get these removed. The American Atheist Organization is suing to remove a cross from the WTC memorial. The “cross” is actually a section of welded I-beam that was found sticking up from the rubble after 9/11. Witnesses found the coincidental resemblance to Christ’s cross significant. While I don’t agree that such coincidences are supernaturally caused, I think they are interesting. Significant coincidences are at the heart of all “chance” phenomena which lead to the emergence of life, language, and art. (That’s my natural philosophy in a nutshell.) I could no more reject public tributes to Christianity than I could to any great work of fiction. Somehow it just doesn’t piss me off. I understand it as art. It doesn’t bother me that others take it differently. (I even have a portrait of a black Madonna hanging in my home. It’s a really cool painting that my great-grandmother brought over from Poland.) That’s why I think there is something up with AAO’s president David Silverman who isn’t able to detach himself emotionally from the power of religious symbolism. He released this statement about the WTC cross Continue reading
Last night my husband and I were in the city for an art opening, and we decided to head down to Wall Street to check out the occupation. Zuccotti Park was much smaller than we had imagined it to be. Tucked-in amid blocks of buildings, the peaceful little gathering huddled in the shadows. Meanwhile across the street, the extravagant, garish, brightly-lit construction of the ballsy “freedom” tower dominated OWS. Tourists lingered in awe at the gripping symbol of the fear that dictates our foreign policy and federal spending. Several unabashed “Silverstein Properties” signs hung along the fencing. In the cool autumn air, we were feeling unusually happy and carefree, like a couple of rebellious teens, and my husband tried to write “pull it” on one of the signs, but the Sharpie ink magically evaporated on the weirdly smooth surface. Creepy.
In comparison, the sleepy little OWS group seemed pretty ineffective. We came away from the evening convinced of the futility of any movement against such a powerful and complete mechanism as the Military-Banking-Insurance Industry-run government that, like an abusive spouse, gets the best excuses from the very people it victimizes. It was late-ish, around 10PM, and most of the protesters were already abed. In the Continue reading