Wednesday, July 30, 2014

LAY IT ON MY HEART & TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD are told by small town kids who struggle; one with extreme evangelism, the other racism.

Harper Lee's classic novel, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, revealed the underbelly of racism through a young girl's narrative of injustice and hypocrisy in a small southern town. Something similar happens in Angela Pneuman's new novel, LAY IT ON MY HEART, (July, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), where Charmaine Peakes, a 13-year old raised in an extreme evangelical Kentucky town, struggles to reconcile her family's belief and the town's moral purpose with the downward spiral of their lives. Amazingly, this novel manages to be funny about the serious stuff.

That she is the granddaughter of the iconic prophet of East Windsor, whose "great awakening" attracted people to found the town, gives Charmaine a special status. But more important to her is the fact of her father's prophetic gift. He's revered by the town as a man close to God, whose writings are inspired. Charmaine wishes he had more time for her, though she accepts that he's "different" and struggles to fulfill his expectations.

Among these is the prayer without ceasing. While her father's been in Jerusalem, Charmaine tries to master this practice but finds it difficult. Continual prayer is supposed to be so automatic, it's under your thoughts and words. Yet no matter how she tries, she loses the thought and experiences no sense of the Holy Spirit. She wants to succeed to be close to her father. Not yet, she thinks on the way to meet him at the airport.

He's written her mother, Phoebe, that he's received a new direction, which she says is probably a series of articles. Charmaine, like her mother, is leery of revelations since the one to " live on faith alone," which meant he quit his job. Except for her mother's secret seamstress work, they would have lost their home. Charmaine prays to be strong enough for whatever course God has chosen, hopefully not incessant poverty.

At the airport, she hardly recognizes her father in the gaunt man wearing filthy tattered robes. Dazed by his surroundings, David barely greets his family and Charmaine can't help being embarrassed by his smell. That he immediately heads for their cabin by the river, is also disappointing, Charmaine and her mother can only hope that he will eventually come home.

Charmaine also worries that he's wandering in the dark, wrapped up in ceaseless prayer. This proves prophetic, when he stumbles into poison ivy, tries to kill the itch with bleach, and ends up in a hospital ward with serious burns. Then his possession by the Lord disappears, along with his ceaseless prayer, when a psychiatrist gives him medicine for manic depression. The prophet becomes a stranger, even to himself.

Phoebe is stunned by the idea of mental illness. She tells Charmaine the old story of how her father proposed marriage because God told him to marry her. When he recovers, he'll come to himself, she says. In the meantime, Phoebe gets a job as a substitute teacher, rents their house, and moves them to the cabin by the river, really a small trailer on a cement foundation surrounded by logs. For Charmaine this is a huge loss. Not only can't she visit her father but she has to leave her room and most of her possessions to a pompous missionary boy.

She begins 7th grade possessing a cat and some old clothes. Worse is the loss of
privacy in the claustrophobic cabin. And, as they sink into the struggle for daily survival on substitute teaching gigs, food is scarce. McDonald's is a luxury, when they scrounge coins for gas. So Charmaine takes the school bus, where her identity is constantly challenged from sexual teasing to Jesus Freak labels. But she's got a kind of internal discipline, viewed as "uppity," to withstand much of this, and she makes a couple friends.

For them, her father's absence is business as usual. Tracy's father started another family and stays when he feels like it. Kelly Lynne, the beautiful would-be cheerleader, never sees her divorced father, while her mother keeps starting over with new husbands. Charmaine is clear that divorce does not apply to her parents. Her father is ill and will come home. Yet she hears Phoebe, her confidant in close quarters, talk about how she never thought to doubt him. He was God's own and a wife was to "cleave" to her husband in all ways. She bitterly calls herself a fool. Charmaine doesn't say that cleave has two meanings, to tear apart and to stick together.

Charmaine's pastor asks her to choose people to "Lay on her heart" and she chooses her friends. They are not of her faith and she's questioning all she's been taught to accept. There's putting God first, when she doesn't feel a connection, and her father's prophecy may be mental illness, and the evils of lust, when she sees how repression in one townsman led to a twisted life. And while she respects the charitable values of her community, she dislikes the pity that's replaced reverence and the fact that financial aid hinges on her father's recovery.

In LAY IT ON MY HEART, Charmaine's foundation of belief cracks open with the reality of her father's mental illness and the hypocrisy of her community. Like Scout, she develops uncompromising honesty. She keeps faith with what she has experienced. At the end of the book, she climbs a water tower and looks down at all the places of her childhood. The police lights converge to rescue her but Charmaine has already rescued herself. She has found a place, where inspiration and sanity are one.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

New Review of THE ANARCHIST'S GIRLFRIEND, Definitive Edition Pub by Pelekinesis & Paradise Gardens March New Edition

New Review!

The Anarchist’s Girlfriend, a novel by Susan Weinstein; Pelekinesis Publishing Group
Known only as the AG, the anarchist’s girlfriend is a fey beauty with ESP, and an unlikely Go-Go Dancer in an out-of-the-way Brooklyn bar. The Anarchist, an Irishman who wants to fix the Irish troubles through organic food, having founded Food for Vendettas, plasters his subversive silkscreened posters all over the streets of 1980’s New York City. There is a sense of déjà vu as Sandy, the meanie of the story, sets in motion a terrorist act that will cause the country to believe in its eventual downfall, using dust as the weapon. “There will be a sigh that a catastrophe has finally occurred. Yet it’s limited in extent and duration.” The key to the anarchistic meme is effect, not result. It’s all eerily suggestive of 9/11. A deaf mute, Wayne, a con artist-like Llama, founder of the Denotational Church, and the Anarchist’s Girlfriend shape the plot in this past tense futuristic novel that taps into the absurd with sure-handed writing and a voice that does not judge but carries on quietly through downtown New York before it became real estate fodder, when artists and anarchists could still afford to roam the streets, with time to listen, to dream and to plot grandly, if naively. Susan Weinstein’s freewheeling prose, wry humor and inspired, madcap observations have created a romp of a good book.

Janyce Stefan-Cole, author of The Detective's Garden

"Somewhere along the Bowery the Anarchist's Girlfriend walks herself, her spirit taking her body. She wants to see the sunrise..." 

"Somewhere along the Bowery The Anarchist's Girlfriend walks herself, her spirit taking her body. She wants to see the sunrise..." and so this saga of NY begins.

 The Anarchist's Girlfriend New Edition, debut 12/11

's review
Oct 28, 2016

it was amazing
Read from October 22 to 28, 2016

This is a wildly entertaining novel-- seriously wacky, inventive and original. The plot manages to incorporate three different weird (Pynchonese) conspiracies/groups-- each well-drawn, persuasive and fresh- and naturally, they collide. The author draws their self-enclosed realities with pitch-perfect comedy; -and I loved the absence of traditional, hackneyed corporate villains, cops, etc. Also, the details of downtown arty Manhattan are sharp and funny. All in all, a joyride.

The AG's Bowery Below:

Here's a Paul the Book Guys Interview, about life vs. fictional life in the Anarchist's Girlfriend and my New Edition publicized by Pelekinesis Press. 

THE ANARCHIST's GIRLFRIEND 1st Definitive publication by Pelekinesis.
 Pub date is December 11, 2016

What is the difference between a reprint and a New Edition?  NEW MATERIAL!!  The AG began as a Serial performed in art bars/clubs, late 70's, early 80's. 1984 debut issue of The Portable Lower East Side features the AG. That Zine is part of NYU's collection of Art & Literature of the Lower East Side. This is the 1st! definitive publication, with historic material. The Eat Your Serial people enthusiastically ran it as a serial and had on demand for people who wanted books. This is a complete edition with the context of the era. If you know Slaves of New York about excess and real estate, this is the other side of the culture of art and ideas. Earlier versions are still offered by Amazon but the New Edition is simply much better.


THE ANARCHIST'S GIRLFRIEND walks the Bowery in late 1970’s-early 1980’s New York City when the bohemian underground was downtown and the city a far more gritty and random place. Inspired by Dostoyevsky’s divine “Idiot,” the AG is a clairvoyant Brooklyn Go-Go Girl who designs clothes of the future. Whether an innocent, simpleton, or genius depends on the projections of others and her encounters reflect her society—art, politics, business, religion.

The AG’s roommates include her beloved Anarchist, a silkscreen artist, who wants to resolve Ireland’s “troubles” with organic food, and nihilistic Sandy, a video vérité switchboard operator who wants to make her art “real.” The story also involves the Llama, who’s in the religion business, and Wayne, his employee, a deaf mute journalist with a nose for truth. All agendas intersect when Sandy obtains financing for a mysterious operation. As passion and hypocrisy erupt in a cloud of dust, it falls to the immaterial AG to save her imperiled city. Delightfully retro and powerfully prescient, this novel of ideas satirizes New York’s bohemian underground and the America of any time. Character truly becomes destiny and in the end innocence is not lost but transcended. The novel, developed in the art bars of the Lower East Side, is part of that art and literary movement, yet the AG’s passage is eternal.


The Anarchist’s Girlfriend is a “sneaky funny, ever-seductive, refreshingly unconventional novel,” says Howard Rosenberg, former LA Times TV critic. He calls Weinstein a “boldly creative, highly visual writer whose narrative moves with distinctive rhythms; she has a laser eye for hypocrisy and detail.”

“Like Balzac and Zola, it’s the novel as social history,” says Peter Cherches, author of Lift Your Right Arm, “and like Don DeLillo, it captures that weird parallel universe version of a place that’s frighteningly close to home.”

Sally Eckhoff, author of F*ck Art (Let’s Dance) calls the writing “very fine-textured and funny, but mostly beautiful.”

Ann Schwartz, former copy chief at Grand Central Publishing, calls it a “careening and suspenseful trip through not only pre-9/11, pre-cellphone Manhattan but into the souls of unforgettable characters...and further, into the world of ideas.”


Susan I. Weinstein is a writer, playwright, and painter. Susan’s short fiction and poetry have appeared in numerous literary magazines, including The Metric and The Portable Lower East Side—a literary magazine in NYU’s collection of the lower east side art and literary movement. Currently, she is at work on a WWII novel based on blacked out V-mail. Susan wrote Rabies, a new language play produced by A.C.T. in Squaw Valley in 1974 and later developed White Walled Babes at The Public Theater.Her play Something About That Face was produced at NY’s Harold Clurman Theater. Currently, she’s working on a new play called The Making of ADD/ADHD. Susan is married and lives in NYC.

NEW EDITION of The Anarchist’s Girlfriend by Susan I. Weinstein
Publication Date: December 11, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-938349-52-2
Suggested Retail Price: $21.95

Pelekinesis Press
112 Harvard Ave #65, Claremont, CA 91711

Former LA Times critic
Howard Rosenberg,
A Book to Befriend, January 14, 2014
The Anarchist's Girlfriend (Paperback)
Uh-oh, Woody, Manhattan may be in peril. Pre-Internet, pre-Kardashian, pre A-Rod New York is the setting for Susan Weinstein's sneaky funny, ever-seductive, refreshingly unconventional novel, "The Anarchist's Girlfriend." It's quite a head-spinning read. And no wonder, for Weinstein is a boldly creative, highly visual writer whose narrative moves with distinctive rhythms; she has a laser eye for hypocrisy and detail, and hits you fast with lots of stuff. Best of all, her imagined parallel universe here is occupied by a Rolodex of indelibly unique characters--starting with AG herself--unlikely to be found elsewhere. Well, at least not on this planet;UFOs come to mind.
A truly original work.

Introduction to THE ANARCHIST'S GIRLFRIEND, Excerpted in debut issue of The Portable Lower East Side

Somewhere along the Bowery, in a basement, a red-haired Irishman wears his eternal black suit. Somewhere in Chelsea, a Russian defector has a twin brother. Somewhere in midtown Manhattan, a switchboard operator is going on her night shift. She carries a little video cam. She doesn't know what it is filming. She assumes it will collage to a logical sequence of related images that will have meaning by juxtaposition. She doesn't know if this is so, but it doesn't matter; not to this girl who lived for American rock ’n’ roll blaring incongruously over a Greek coastal town. She doesn't matter, to anyone in that isolated fishing village she left at 17.

The Irishman works without a green card in a health foods restaurant. He likes beansprouts, nuts, and most goat cheeses. He also silkscreens posters in his basement at night. His long, white fingers are smudged with raw, red ink. The poster glows, DO YOU WANT TO KILL YOUR BOSS? It’s very prettily designed, it's graphically appealing. It ends with a handshake.

The Anarchist examines the new poster, frowning at the quality. His silkscreen is fraying. He thinks of a specialist who prints with an expensive offset lithograph machine, realizing there's a certain quality of poster you need in New York to be noticed. The specialist, who amuses the Anarchist, is fascinated by the “Spy vs. Spy” comic of the raincoated anarchist. His favorite episode is when the spy attempts to throw a bomb sticky with adhesive, ending up a very charred cartoon man. Once he embarrassed himself, by expecting the Anarchist to agree to the cartoon's subversive nature. "I mean, it's anarchistic, even if the magazine still makes money on it.”
The redhead laughed, "Anachronistic, you mean.”

The Anarchist's Girlfriend is from Brooklyn. She's apolitical. She works as a Go-Go Dancer for sixty dollars a night. She sews unusual ideas of what people could wear, might wear, perhaps will wear, in the next century at least. She can combine textures, styles, and periods to come up with any particular feeling in a short while. This is how she “positions” her creations. The Anarchist disapproves, since he is very careful how and where he positions his posters.

"One must have the largest audience possible!” he often admonishes her, "Who will buy these?"
She always answers with conviction, ''Museums of the Future. Underneath a holographic fashion cube a small latex placard will say, ANONYMOUS DESIGNER, 1980, DATE APPROXIMATE WITH TEUTONIUM 90.”

The Anarchist's Girlfriend has short blonde hair cut like Kim Novak and a ski slope nose under the largest, softest, otherworldly eyes. Though her heart is strong, she has very thin shoulders, and delicate highly-tuned nerves. Luckily, she is blessed with second sight. When the men hoot at her Go-Go Act, she excuses their ignorance. In her mind's eye, she is wearing a demure black dress.
In accordance with her futuristic visions, she dropped her name several years ago. She told her friends, “Oh, I don't have to carry it on; several others are listed the same way.” To tell the truth, she believed there would be no such designation in the future. Presently, she preferred the privacy of being known by how people referred to her. Since they often identified her by boyfriends, she became the AG, the Anarchist’s Girlfriend. She doesn't mind the abbreviation as she treasures her friends who entrust her with all their tragedies.

Sandy, the AG’s roommate, works on an answering service under an assumed name. She changes services every week to another area of the city. Fortunately, she is, as yet, only a personal nihilist, since her photographic mind retains much information.
Sandy records the auditory impulses of the city and the wires are long. Every tie-in has a magnate's love affair, a jilted mistress' confession that ticks off a multinational cover-up to be noted and diagnosed. Yes, Sandy knows her city and its moods. During full moons the wires go wild with people seeking absurdly definite answers from their shrinks, clients, bosses, lawyers, mothers, brothers, and lovers. Sandy prefers the graveyard shift, when the board lazily lights up in a few spots, like the windows of a high-rise during a holiday.
Sandy takes and collages photographs that hang in galleries. They show anonymous limbs, faceless or masked people in strangely objectified compositions. She pastes when her switchboard is quiet. This evening, her subjects are magazine cut-outs of glinty chrome car bodies and “Town and Country'' tweeded flesh. As she applies the glue, she wonders how best to use her video-cam's potential for arranging events. Sandy also wonders if the Anarchist can be manipulated. She knows that she controls the board. She has the right pigeonholes to stick the messages in. She cuts a hole in her collage of men and machines, tempted to go beyond art. It's a perfect square. It makes a great sunroof.

The Llama is a bald man with a broad back. His nose is flat; his cheeks are high-planed. His squint is evaluative. There is nothing of weakness in this man. There is something of self-delusion. He thinks his aim is peace through knowledge. It's really power through obligation.
The Llama’s "Denotational Church" is based on his empirical concept of the universe. The Llama experienced an epiphany on the Santa Barbara Freeway during a traffic jam. This former life insurance salesman had more in common with Saul of Tarsus than just being a merchant. Not in the desert, but on the highway, his eyes rolled back in his head, his mouth foamed and he KNEW. Yes, there, in his car, on that freeway, he thinks he received the meaning of life. THE ROAD, he could get off one ramp and onto another, pass the speed limit or respect it. His reflection in the rear view mirror became his only icon.

Saul of Tarsus was an epileptic. The Llama is not. He postulated that all his mental logic was absurd in the overwhelming reality of the traffic jam. He gave no credit to the heat, which had so effectively triggered his vision. Still, he did recall the odd light around the circumference of his eyes before he passed out. Miraculously, when he came to, he found himself on the exit ramp. Immediately, he went to Tibet for spiritual credentials from Buddhist monks and emerged several years later with certain compatible age-old credos that were nothing new to the Anarchist’s Girlfriend.

The Llama's Denotational Church offers a faith of demystification. Events have specific meanings. The truth is always in a homily. The Llama proselytizes in awkward homilies that are not important for inherent wisdom, but for implications in context. They provide a through-line to life's incomprehensible mysteries. The future can be faced as objectively as death. Fragmentation is heresy.
Denotational journalists work in a loft in Chelsea rented for the Llama by a pair of Russian twins. The paper is called "The Printed World." The Llama uses it for political influence and as a source of new membership for his church. It preaches his pragmatism. It couches his homilies in the repetitive manner so necessary to reorder the mind's perceptions.

Wayne can stop on a dime. He's got a snub nose and good eyes. He can smell spilled milk from three days ago. He can sight a black cat at night. Still, he uses notes to talk.
Wayne is a deaf-mute, who parks cars in a pigeon-hole lot. He's also a floater on "The Printed World." Both places are owned by the Denotational Church. Wayne is a devotee because the church eased his spiritual infirmity.

As a child, recovered from rheumatic fever, Wayne taught signing to his classmates as an elite code. He used his natural gift for mimicry as well. A popular boy, he was sought after as a man. He read gestures as speech. People found his attentions flattering; his understanding profound. Women, anxiously awaiting his notes, were careful how they shaped their syllables.
Wayne became a gifted lover, a master of tactile sensations, who would select a scent, a cheek, or the turn of a heel for an individualistic approach to sex. Making love filled him with the soundless echo of a theme. But, he demanded ultimate content in an impossible compression of time. His mind and senses split. He went to too many parties. He read too much philosophy. Temporary illusion became his only goal.

At the age of twenty, Wayne was a nail-bitten sensualist--an indecisive intellectual obsessed with impossibility. An academic career seemed inane, the job market worse, since his tolerance of boredom was very low. The Llama taught him a management system. Now, Wayne's smile rarely reflects that constant anxiety. In addition, the Llama has promised him an editorial column, when he's firm in his faith. Wayne is grateful for the Llama's techniques, but skeptical about his own potential for enlightenment. Sex, as transcendence, remains his first religion.

It was this reformed Wayne Niebold, who took a drink of light coffee. He only drank it at night. It seemed to jangle his nerves. Wayne liked the effect, especially for a task as boring as proofreading his feature, "Helpful Hints for Citizens.” Wayne compared the galleys with the corrected copy. The press proofs showed a neat line drawing of a woman in a very geometric kitchen. The pots on the stove had diagonal lines around them.

Copy read:
Wayne decided the slant was right. The Llama would like it.

Somewhere along the Bowery, the Anarchist's Girlfriend walks herself, her spirit taking her body. She wants to see the sun rise--the familiar landmarks that make her day. The lunatic, placarded Socialist is on his corner at Fourth Street. Hung around his neck are various mottos: THIS IS YOUR WORLD, NOT THEIRS. THE KABBALA IS NOT A POP SONG.

The Socialist is old and doesn't see well. He thinks she's a debater on a soapbox with wheels, giving a Pearl Harbor harangue in Hyde Park. He shouts to get in the last word, "And I reiterate my friends, we are not sufficiently accomplished for apocalypse, we are not worthy!"
The Anarchist's Girlfriend smiles compassionately at such madness. She thinks perhaps he lives in the apocalypse presently. Paranoia? She smiles to herself at the term. It sounds too much like annoyance. Gingerly, she steps over the dubious puddles in her shiny yellow boots.

Below info on PARADISE GARDENS, also to be a New Edition

One of the most disturbing yet oddly funny science fiction/dystopian sagas I've ever read. When corporations have wrung every drop out of nature and mankind has no other option but to build entire communities underground, how do you spin it to make it seem like a dream destination? You call it Paradise Gardens of course and you sell it like everything else. When we have no natural water, no natural food, and even the wind and the sunlight has been poisoned you will still have hucksters selling whatever is left for top of the line prices. A thought provoking story well conceived and brilliantly executed.--Patrick King, author of the Shane Cullaine Series

It is strange to reach the last chapter of a book started decades ago, when climate control and it's consequences was "paranoid" fiction. Hope people will take this as a cautionary tale. Some part of me thinks books can change the direction of a culture--when they're on target. The other thinks it's words blowing in the time space continuum, until another different path opens up and the book seems a quaint artifact from a bygone era. Hope that happens here. 


 Weinstein’s PARADISE GARDENS is an Orwellian dystopia, set in a near future world where the Federal government has dissolved amid ecological breakdown. Corporate business flees to an underground colony, PARADISE GARDENS, the home of the United Business Estates (U.B.E). Left behind are the Unconnected, people outside corporate protection. In the U.B.E. employees are conceived as Superior or Average. Capitalism has devolved into feudalism.
The novel is suspended between the settings of 2250 in New York City and 3011 in the Underground U.B.E. Chapters alternate with a revolving cast of characters determined by the Psychologicians, the priestly class that manages the civilization’s data base. In this cautionary near-future, Sinclair Lewis’ classic It Can’t Happen Here, has happened here. It is a vision at once strange and familiar. The recognition it brings is a dark pleasure.
Brandon Melendez, Maglomaniac


Here is an interview on VOA about THE ANARCHIST'S GIRLFRIEND, an earlier novel set in late 1970-s-80's pre cell phone NYC.