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In The Bohemian Flats, Mary Relindes Ellis’s rich, imaginative gift carries us from the bourgeois world of fin de siècle Germany to a vibrant immigrant enclave in the heart of the Midwest and to the killing fields of World War I.
Shell shock, as it was called, lands Raimund Kaufmann in a London hospital, a victim of the war but also of his own, and his brother’s, efforts to get out of Germany and build a new life in America. While his recovery eludes him, his memory returns us to Minneapolis, to the Flats, a milling community on the Mississippi River, where Raimund and his brother Albert have sought respite from the oppressive hand of their older brother, now the master of the family farm and brewery. In Minnesota the brothers confront different forms of prejudice, but they also find a chance to remake their lives according to their own principles and wishes—until the war makes their German roots inescapable.
Following these lives, The Bohemian Flats conjures both the sweep of irresistible history and the intimate reality of a man, and a family, caught up in it. From a nineteenth-century German farm to the thriving, wildly diverse immigrant village below Minneapolis on the Mississippi to the European front in World War I, and returning to twentieth-century America—this is a story that takes a reader to the far reaches of human experience and the depths of the human heart.
While the marquis de Sade was drafting The 120 Days of Sodom in the Bastille, another libertine marquis in a nearby cell was also writing a novel—one equally outrageous, full of sex and slander, and more revealing for what it had to say about the conditions of writers and writing itself. Yet Sade's neighbor, the marquis de Pelleport, is almost completely unknown today, and his novel, Les Bohémiens, has nearly vanished. Only a half dozen copies are available in libraries throughout the world. This edition, the first in English, opens a window into the world of garret poets, literary adventurers, down-and-out philosophers, and Grub Street hacks writing in the waning days of the Ancien Régime.
The Bohemians tells the tale of a troupe of vagabond writer-philosophers and their sexual partners, wandering through the countryside of Champagne accompanied by a donkey loaded with their many unpublished manuscripts. They live off the land—for the most part by stealing chickens from peasants. They deliver endless philosophic harangues, one more absurd than the other, bawl and brawl like schoolchildren, copulate with each other, and pause only to gobble up whatever they can poach from the barnyards along their route.
Full of lively prose, parody, dialogue, double entendre, humor, outrageous incidents, social commentary, and obscenity, The Bohemians is a tour de force. As Robert Darnton writes in his introduction to the book, it spans several genres and can be read simultaneously as a picaresque novel, a roman à clef, a collection of essays, a libertine tract, and an autobiography. Rediscovered by Darnton and brought gloriously back to life in Vivian Folkenflik's translation, The Bohemians at last takes its place as a major work of eighteenth-century libertinism.
It is possible . . .that literary historians of the future will decide that The Bones of Plenty was the farm novel of the Great Drought of the 1920s and 1930s and the Great Depression. Better than any other novel of the period with which I am familiar, Lois Phillips Hudson's story presents, with intelligence and rare understanding, the frightful disaster that closed thousands of rural banks and drove farmers off their farms, the hopes and savings of a lifetime in ruins about them.--New York Times Book Review"Hudson does a superb job of revealing the physical texture of farm life on the prairie--its sounds, smells, colors, sensations. Then she goes further, examining the spiritual texture as well. Her characters are bound to each other and to their land in a kind of harsh intimacy from which there is no relief. Weather, poverty, anger, and pride are the forces that drive them and ultimately wear them down. . . Like the best books of any era, it convinces us of its characters' enduring humanity, and surprises us, again and again, with the depth of emotion it makes us feel."--Minneapolis Star Tribune"At her best, Lois Phillips Hudson can make the American Ordeal of the 1930s so real that you can all but feel the gritty dust in your teeth."--Omaha World-Herald
Approaching midlife, after rising to comfortable suburban life, Edgar Bonjour becomes involved with a drug-trafficking Puerto Rican motorcycle gang from his old neighborhood and is brought down by an affair with a woman in the gang. News of his murder leads to introspection among other members of the Puerto Rican Bonjour clan, all descended from three now nameless French brothers remembered only by their surname. Though extended generations of the Bonjours dispersed, some settling in New York, they remain connected by the shared lore of their ancestry, that starting with the three original Bonjour brothers—all rampant adulterers—every descendent Bonjour male carries a reckless, womanizing gene.
When Moses descended Mount Sinai carrying the Ten Commandments, he never could have foreseen how one family in Los Angeles in the early twenty-first century would struggle to live by them.
Conchita, a voluptuous, headstrong single woman of a certain age, sees nothing wrong with enjoying the company of handsome—and usually much younger—men . . . that is, until she encounters a widower with unusual gifts and begins to think about what she really wants out of life.
Julieta, Conchita’s younger sister, walks a more traditional path, but she and her husband each harbor secrets that could change their marriage and their lives forever. Their twin sons, both in college, struggle to find fulfillment. Mateo refuses to let anyone stand in the way of his happiness, while Rolando grapples with his sexuality and the family’s expectations. And from time to time, Belén, the family’s late matriarch, pays a visit to advise, scold, or cajole her hapless descendants.
A delightful family tapestry woven with the threads of all those whose lives are touched by Conchita, The Book of Want is an enchanting blend of social and magical realism that tells a charming story about what it means to be fully human.
Or, Scenes from Clerical Life
Dennis Bacchus is a man who has outlived himself. HIV-positive and prepared to die at any minute, he finds himself in the late 1990s blessed with life-giving drugs, supportive friends, a boom economy, and an era of never-ending celebration—and he doesn’t know what to do with himself.
For ten years he has traveled and celebrated a curtailed life with the similarly infected Jimmy and, though Dennis was never that close to Jimmy, he decided to let the friendship run its course to the end. Now there’s no end in sight. Stuck with leftover friendships, careers, and commitments, what can a man do but become a priest? The Boom Economy covers what was supposed to be the last decade of Dennis Bacchus’ life, but turns out to be the first decade of the rest of it.
The Boom Economy is a novel about conversion—not just seroconversion or religious conversion, but all of the social, spiritual, and emotional problems of changing from one life to another. At once raucous and serious, pagan and saintly, it’s a look at the way we live now. Again.
In the title story, La Donna is a black stripper whose white boyfriend, an actor in adult movies, insists that she stop stripping. In "Melvin in the Sixth Grade," eleven-year-old Avery has a crush on a white boy from Oklahoma who, like Avery, is an outsider in their suburban Los Angeles school. "Markers" is as much about a woman's relationship with her mother as it is about the dissolution of her relationship with an older Italian man.
Dana Johnson has an intuitive sense of character and a gift for creating authentic voices. She effortlessly captures the rhythmic vernaculars of Los Angeles, the American South, and various immigrant communities as she brings to life the sometimes heavyhearted, but always persevering, souls who live there.
In these stories, Dianne Nelson illuminates that vast territory of pleasure and pain created within modern families. Whether it is a father trying to kidnap his young son from his estranged ex-wife or a woman celebrating her ability to produce babies without any help from men, Nelson's characters reveal the dark, haunting and sometimes comic dilemmas of kinship.
In the title story, seventeen-year-old April is an involuntary witness to the seemingly endless parade of lovers who frequent her mother's bed. "I don't know why my mother finds no lasting peace" she muses. Opening a book and trying to find her peace in "facts, dates, the pure honesty of numbers," April is overwhelmed finally by the sounds of lovemaking from the adjoining room. "The walls of this house aren't thick enough to keep that kind of sadness contained." In "The Uses of Memory," Netta and Carlene are engaged in a different sort of mother-daughter drama. The issue at hand is the fate of Franklin, their husband and father, who lies in bed in a near comatose state, oblivious to the nurturings or pleadings of either woman.
The past, with its countless repercussion on the present, tugs relentlessly at many of the characters. In "Chocolate," the lingering pain of an impoverished childhood plagues Janice; she recalls, in particular, the birthday and Christmas celebrations, the meager gifts wrapped in the same brown twine that was used to hold the door shut. Hillary, the narrator of "Dixon," is spurred into action by the memory of her dead brother. When a local barfly with "silt for brains" persists in telling outlandish lies about Dixon, Hillary takes up karate training with an eye to defending her brother's name the truth of what she knew him to be. Dee, in "Paperweight," can pinpoint the exact moment at which she came to think of the body as an earthbound trap, "a hopeless house with the doors all locked"; she traces it back to a grade-school theatrical performance and a classmate's luckless efforts to open the cumbersome stage curtains. "If it weren't for my body," she laments, "I could fly, I could go anywhere, I could be anything."
Ranging in setting from a restaurant in St. Louis to the rain-soaked streets of San Francisco, from a boisterous family reunion beneath the broad Kansas sky to a ranch in Utah where a young father dreams of becoming a movie star, these fifteen stories show men and women pondering--and often struggling against--the mysteries of their own circumstances, especially the bonds of flesh and blood.