The Spirit of the Place: The most emotionally daring novel I know

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Leslie Epstein, Director, Boston University Creative Writing Program writes about The Spirit of the Place:

Let me say at once it is the most emotionally daring novel I know. It dances out where no one else is willing to go. And it is very moving to see your characters out there, taking such enormous risks–and all the time knowing that YOU are the one taking them. I thought of Holden Caufield saying that after reading Out of Africa he wanted to call Isaac Dinneson and complete the connection. Well, your readers should be lining up to call you: and what a special treat to already know you and have you for a friend. I’m thinking particularly here of the death of Bill, the Doc. What an absolutely remarkable scene. Again, you dare to let the tears fall–and they mean so much more coming from essentially tearless people, people living behind a damn they pray will never crack.

This novel (like all art) shakes the ground and makes the cracks appear. (variation on Kafka’s art is the ax we use against the frozen sea within us). Anyway, your remarks about connectedness did two things for me. It reminded me of Jay Neugeboren’s remarkable review in NY Review of Books about six weeks ago, a book by a woman who was ONLY helped by the talking cure, after decades of drugs. Jay has a brother who was helped in the same way. Jay’s conclusion is that what matters is not the insight or the talk but simply THE CONNECTEDNESS, the sense that another human being is in the same room, and cares. After Jay’s review and your novel, I had the same impulse: to call my own brother. And in both cases I did (luckily he wasn’t home).

Read the whole essay here

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