I don’t typically delve into noir, but where Kelly Justice and Dennis Danvers lead in Richmond, I will follow! Even if that means skulking down the alleys “colored with seamy urban romance and suave big-city vice, the twin elements most responsible for the seductive throb at the murky heart of noir,” as described in the foreword by Tom Robbins (an author I’ve been meaning to read). Edited by Andrew Blossom, Brian Castleberry, and Tom De Haven (who also contributed the story “Playing with DaBlonde”), Richmond Noir takes a street-level view of a city steeped in mystery as well as history. Richmond is a pivotal setting in my novel-in-progress Grandpa Art, and I was grateful for this glimpse at the underside of the various regions of this great city. My characters will likely hail from the suburban counties mentioned by the editors in the insightful introduction rather than the city proper, but overlooking this aspect of the city’s complex character would rob my story of a much-needed local flavor!
Archive for Kelly Justice
In an earlier post (Reading vs. Writing 9/16/09) I wrote that I was scaling back on reading in order to write more. I have yet to complete the chapter of Grandpa Art I’ve been working on over the past few months, so I banned myself from reading altogether. It wasn’t a matter of time distribution so much as it was high time I reclaimed my imagination for my own story. The self-imposed hiatus went into effect three weeks ago, and the results have been mixed.
I succeeded in rerouting my imagination and now have the scene almost fully realized, but it still hasn’t translated into words. The description has come haltingly, without flow. The language has dried up. My mind feels dessicated, parched from a lack of literature. This became keenly evident while I was reading an exceptional short story in The New Yorker (the singular source allowable).
“Fjord of Killary” by Kevin Barry is about an Irish poet who buys an old hotel on the west coast of Ireland in his search for inspiration. He finds only a deeper melancholy, out of place amid the locals, until a tremendous storm causes the waves to overflow the sea wall and flood the hotel. The proprietor and his colourful clientele seek refuge on the second floor, and as the water rushes in so too does the poetic inspiration. I felt the flood of Barry’s words seep into my thirsty mind, filling the basement and lower levels. I soaked up his story like a spent sponge.
Yet even after that experience I continued to deny myself the pleasure of reading, as if I had given it up for Lent (despite the fact that I’m not Catholic, as I cracked on my twitter account @JACrobat). My friend Phoebe Gaston, a book rep for Algonquin, went out of her way to provide me with an advance reader copy of The Frozen Rabbi by Steve Stern which sounds fantastic, but I forced myself to leave it on the shelf until I finish this chapter. It’s been three weeks and my resolve, like the ice encasing the rabbi, is starting to melt.
I have deprived myself long enough. Based on the theory that what you get out of an activity is proportionate to what you put in, I’m going to start putting words back into my mind. My narrator is from Richmond, so I’m going to pick up Richmond Noir, a recommendation from Kelly Justice at the Fountain Bookstore. The Frozen Rabbi will have to remain in suspended animation for a little longer!
Side note: not reading on the train every day has afforded me the chance to catch up on some Writing Excuses podcasts, which are most beneficial!
April 20th is the perfect day to review The Watch by Dennis Danvers, a book very much concerned with dates and times. This particular date in 1999 figures prominently in the story. Ten years later The Watch, though no longer in print, ought to figure more prominently in the ongoing conversation. I came to this book by way of a recommendation from Kelly Justice, proprietor of The Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia. I mentioned in a previous post that I was having some difficulty locating a copy but I would continue searching. My search didn’t take long: the author found that post, left a comment, and sent me a signed copy! So I thank Kelly Justice for her recommendation and Dennis Danvers for his generosity and ingenuity!
The Watch is narrated by Peter Kropotkin, a Russian anarchist from the 19th century. On his deathbed he is approached by a mysterious figure from the future named Anchee who offers to restore him to life and health if he will do Anchee’s bidding. Kropotkin accepts without questioning Anchee’s intentions, which he comes to regret and resent. Kropotkin is restored in the future, when all of his acquaintances are no more, and sent to the foreign city of Richmond, Virginia aboard the foreign conveyance of an airplane. He arrives with no money, no contacts, and no instructions from Anchee. He has already lived as an exile however, so he does speak English and has moderate survival skills. Between his abilities, his charisma, and the intervention of some generous residents of Richmond (like Danvers!) he gets along rather well. Until he learns that all of these interventions, right down to seemingly chance meetings, have been orchestrated by Anchee, not chance at all. He has become the subject of an experiment. If everything he desires (love, anarchy, equality) is arranged for him but not by him, will it still be desirable?
I enjoyed this read on many levels. As a History and Russian major, I appreciated the treatment of the narrator’s background as well as the setting. As a U2 fan it made me think of the lines “She said “Time is irrelevant, it’s not linear”/Then she put her tongue in my ear” from the song “No Line On The Horizon.” As an author working on a book that takes place in Virginia, specifically in Richmond, I gained a crucial perspective of the city that I was lacking. I haven’t met anyone from the future, but finding this book was so fortuitous it almost seems prearranged by some meddling traveler!