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DYLAN THOMAS 100 FESTIVAL

May 22nd, 2014

Wales Celebrates its Rock Star Poet During His Centenary Year

The centenary celebration of Dylan Thomas’s birth (born Swansea: October 27, 1914; died New York City: November 9, 1953) – Dylan Thomas 100 – continues in Wales with news of additional multi-disciplinary events being added to the festival’s creative mix.

 

An inspiration for poet-musicians like Bob Dylan and John Lennon and actors like Richard Burton, Dylan Thomas was a bona-fide rock-star before there was such a thing – sometimes playing to crowds of 1,000 – especially in the USA.  Welsh actor Matthew Rhys (The Americans; Brothers and Sisters) who has channeled the poet (in the film Edge of Love) hopes you’ll join the festivities, “We’ve been celebrating Dylan Thomas in Wales for decades now. Come to Wales this year and celebrate his centenary.”

 

The eponymously named digital hub www.dylanthomas100.org  makes it easy and fun to discover Dylan Thomas, explore places in Wales he is connected with, engage via social networking and locate festival events via a Timeline tab.  The site americas.visitwales.com is a resource for planning your Dylan-themed trip to Wales and for downloading a full list of Dylan Thomas 100 events.

 

Here is a sampling of the inspired programs on tap during the second half of 2014:

 

A combination of dance, poetry and the visual arts will provide a fresh take on Dylan’s life and work.  The event will enliven several of the Library’s gallery spaces in Aberystwyth and will include displays of personal items, providing a unique view of Dylan’s world.

 

Using a camera, smartphone or tablet, entrants are asked to use innovation over picture quality to interpret Dylan-related themes throughout the day.

 

  • July 19:                   Dylan Thomas’ Swansea Hollywood: The Mummy and the Old Dark Horsewww.literaturewales.org

This Dylan odyssey visits three of Dylan’s childhood cinemas in Swansea with a talk in a secret space at a fourth.  The evening culminates with Andrew Davies introducing a screening of his new film, “A Poet in New York,” starring Tom Hollander, followed by a Q & A session.

 

  • Aug-Sept:               Bedazzled – A Welshman in New Yorkwww.ffotogallery.org

Celebrating Dylan’s special relationship with the USA, especially New York, a series of live events will “re-imagine” Dylan’s favorite watering hole – New York’s White Horse Tavern.  Audiences will be transported to the bohemian world of 1950’s Greenwich Village where Dylan held court.

 

  • Sept 5–Dec 24       Manuscripts Exhibition – Dylan Thomas Centre, Swansea – www.dylanthomas.com

Infrequently exhibited items on loan from the University of Buffalo include poems, lists of rhyming words and black and white photographs.

 

  • Oct 26-Oct 27         The Dylathon – The Swansea Grand Theatre – www.dylathon100.com

The Wales Theatre Company stages a non-stop 36 hour marathon reading of Dylan’s work.  Performers include Sir Derek Jacobi, Jonathan Pryce, and many more acclaimed personalities together with schools, bands and choirs numbering in the hundreds.

 

  • Oct 27-Nov 9          Dylan Thomas Festival – Dylan Thomas Centre, Swansea – www.dylanthomas.com

This 17th annual eclectic celebration will feature talks, exhibitions, workshops and performances.

 

Dylan Thomas 100 and www.dylanthomas100.org highlights Welsh locations closely associated with the poet such as his birthplace, Swansea, his old writing shed, and his home -The Boathouse – in the town of Laugharne.    And the program ranges across all artistic disciplines – from literature, to opera, theatre and painting. From high profile exhibits and live performances to community-based educational programs.

 

Business and Tourism Minister Edwina Hart said: “Dylan Thomas is one of the literary giants of the last century.” … “These events will help contribute to a fitting legacy for Dylan’s life and work, but I also hope they will resurrect a passion for literature and inspire people of all ages to connect more actively with our rich cultural heritage. In the spirit of Dylan, it is an opportunity to showcase Wales as a land of artistic excellence to an international audience and raise further the iconic status of this great literary figure.”

 

To find out more about these landmark events visit www.dylanthoms100.org. To plan your itinerary in Wales and for a downloadable program of Dylan Thomas 100 events: americas.visitwales.com


 

“THE ITALIAN PLEASURES OF GABRIELE PATERKALLOS”: MANEOS HEROICALLY REVIVES THE ITALIAN “GRAND TOUR” WITH POETIC PROSE THAT ONE DOESN’T FIND IN OUR POST-WASTELAND LITERARY ERA.

July 16th, 2012

Painting of Author, Pietros Maneos

Pietros Maneos produced this beautiful little book based on his correspondence with me (Roman Payne) while I was in Paris, and he was in Italy.  I was suffering a summertime illness that kept me in bed and too weak to work on my fifth novel, The Wanderess.  He inspired me and helped shorten the sentence of my illness.  Writers usually hate other writers—not that catty hatred of two fashion models trying out for the same cover photo; among writers it’s more an “annoyance” than a hatred.   Writers tune themselves to the clock of their own egotistical creation, and it’s maddening to fight your clock when another one is ticking beside you.

The times I have seen writers become friends—Fitzgerald and Hemingway, for example—is when they share a similar style, belong to a similar “school” of thought, or movement, similar values, same goals.  Their clocks tick at the same time.  This is what drew me to enjoy my correspondence with Maneos.  Like me, he is a “lover of the word,” a Romantic, a Classicist, heroic and Homeric, not of his time.  Maneos is beyond his time.  Like Keats, his reputation shall only grow stronger over the coming centuries.

In the fashion of the heroes of my novels, Maneos is devoted to living the aesthetic and poetic life.  These are novels I wrote before I knew Maneos existed.  While I was ill but consoled by the knowledge that my “poetic life” theory existed in practice, I asked Maneos if he was working on a novel, instead of just poetry.  This question, he said, was what made the hypomanic spark surge in his brain compelling him to sit and write The Italian Pleasures of Gabriele Paterkallos; and he didn’t rise from his chair until it was complete.  There is a strange beauty in books written this way—during a phase of hypomania—characters remain vivid, convincing, and all-too-real, from beginning to end.  The reader feels the inspiration on a deep level.

I would later meet Maneos in person on the Island of Cyprus where he introduced me to the dangerous and lucrative profession of selling guns to the Greeks to be used to get the Turks off their island.  We talked for hours about Homer, Greek myth, and both maintained that the “literature” being published today is weak and hopeless.  We were going to change that.  We were going to start a new school of literature, and only admit kindred souls like Mark Helprin and Doctor Praz.

After the drama of selling guns to the Greeks, Maneos ended up in a POW camp and the publication of his novel was put off until he could return to his native Florida this spring (2012).  The Italian Pleasures of Gabriele Paterkallos is an epistolary book, all letters written to “Odysseus Pane” (When I publish my responses to his letters, they will come from “Odysseus ‘Payne’”). The reviews of his novella are deservedly great.  The book  is remarkably short (160 pages) and is reminiscent of The Sorrows of Young Werther, the letters of Lord Byron, and Laclos’ Liaisons dangereuses.  But he uses such fine poetic devices that the 160 pages take on an epic scope.  The poetic imagery is better than that of Goethe’s “Werther” as I have read it in translation only. He entertains us with the seductions of nymphs using a language more beautiful than Laclos’s masterpiece (which I have read in the original French).  Maneos’ sentences are such a pleasure to read, one imagines he labored over them—although I know that the book was written effortlessly.  It flows like a waterfall, guided only by nature, with the grace and simplicity of nature.  This is the beauty of his genius.  We, as readers, experience the inner-workings of the mind of a masterfully-created hero (Gabriele) who lived passionately and for the moment. Part autobiography, part parody, the hero is now a dashing Lord Byron, now a sensitive John Keats… now a dreamer, like Dostoevsky’s Idiot, and finally reminiscent of a nutcase straight from a Charles Dickens novel. Always the waterfall flows, changing colors only as the sun changes position in the sky.  There is humor in the book, but beyond humor, the book speaks of that most important concept: Beauty.

Maneos is a poet with a beautiful cadence, and one would be happy reading his novella if only for the sensual phrases and sublime plays on word. But as a classical scholar and literary provocateur, his novella subtly attacks the modern wasteland of “literature.”  You can tell that in his soul exists all the glory that was Greece, and the grandeur that was Rome.  This is why I respect Maneos as a great writer and friend.  His literary aims are my literary aims.  There is no competition between us because we are building a new literary school together.  With the firm belief that his current oeuvre contains greatness, that his future works will be even more glorious, I will risk my own literary career to defend his.  That his words be read!

 

–         Roman Payne, July 2012


 

Five Authors Out-of-the-Mainstream – Author Awards from Literature Monthly Magazine

November 6th, 2010

|Will Christopher Baer | Roman Payne | Charlotte Roche | Stephen Graham Jones | Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt |

Will Christopher Baer

Baer’s Phineas Poe trilogy, three loosely-connected novels about their titular dysfunctional detective, ache with Baer’s precise analogies, knife-like turns of phrase, and literary experimentalism that is so à propos as to make the novels unimaginable otherwise. Baer doesn’t stop there: His novels are deeply rooted in both the modernist and the noir traditions, and he marries both the solid storytelling and plot-centricity of the pulp novel and the language-driven psychoanalysis of James Joyce at his finest. Baer is a literary mastermind fit to usher in our favorite “authors out-of-the-mainstream.”

Roman Payne

His novels have the intensity and thunder of Dostoevsky, the poetic lyricism of an English Romantic poet, and the aesthetic sensuality of a old French novel. The biography of this expatriate American author living in Paris is as interesting as any fiction. A traveler himself, his books focus on the quests individuals make in pursuit of living heroic lives. Payne’s fourth novel, Rooftop Soliloquy, was released in 2010 and secured for this young writer a place in Literature Monthly’s gallery of the Best Writers Out-of-the-Mainstream. Payne is at home with all sorts of literary genres, exploring the Bildungsroman, Classicism, the Picaresque Tradition, the European Adventure Novel. Payne is exciting to read and an author to watch in the future.


Charlotte Roche

It’s conceivable that Wetlands, Charlotte Roche’s debut novel, might be misshelved in “young-adult” fiction – but one would hope that only those young-adult readers with strong stomachs, “mature” attitudes towards sex, and a premature taste for “literature” would find it. Roche, formerly a VJ on German MTV, published her so-far-only novel in 2008 to shock and consternation in the German press, and it was only a matter of time before something so gross, funny and, ultimately, moving made its way across the Atlantic. The novel comes in the form of the digressive and explicit ramblings of an eighteen-year-old girl who, confined to her hospital bed, proceeds to try to get her parents back together. What Chuck Palahniuk did for disenfranchised manhood in Fight Club, Wetlands does for femininity – in all its wonderful and disgusting details.


Stephen Graham Jones

His style borrows from bygone genres, but his intelligence and pure literary voice make him one of our picks for the best authors “out-of-the-mainstream.” Stephen Graham Jones is an associate professor of English at the University of Colorado at Boulder – not all that unusual for a literary writer. But he is also Blackfeet. He is also an avid player of Dungeons and Dragons and a fan of ‘80s hair metal. All of these disparate interests and influences come together in Jones’ novels, most famously exemplified by “All the Beautiful Sinners,” an American epic about three FBI agents and one reservation sheriff on the trail of a serial killer. But throughout Jones’ oeuvre, cultural strata, ranging from kitschy Americana to post-modernist style games, blend and mingle to create a truly original voice in American fiction.


Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt

It’s not just the young authors who are out-of-the-mainstream. French author, Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt, has been writing plays and novels since 1991, but it’s only now that he is becoming famous in the English-speaking world. But fame is coming quickly enough. His plays have now been staged in over 50 countries. His works are translated into over 40 languages. Schmitt covers a variety of topics in his works but one of his major focuses is world religion. A convert to Christianity, Schmitt has, in the past, dealt with a variety of different religions and the relationships between them in his works. His novella, “M. Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran,” was adapted into an award-winning film in 2003 and, more recently, one of his short-story collections, “The Most Beautiful Book in the World,” was translated into English. Be prepared for great things from this author.



 

Awards: Top Ten Books Out-of-the-Mainstream

September 20th, 2010

Ten literary-fiction novels of the 21st century that you may not know, but should.

Now, more than ten years into the 21st century, we’ve seen the world change in the political, scientific, and academic fields in ways that few thought possible. Linguistic and communications advances have led to technological progression and easy international interaction, despite the odd language barriers. Amidst all this lie the books that tell the stories of our lives. Literary novels both deal with the issues of today while taking into account the influence of the past. Fictional works portray characters that echo our own lives. Given the tight relationship of our own life experiences with our understanding of literature, have the standards by which we judge a good book changed along with the times? Is there any validity to the claim that awards and prizes don’t accurately represent the truly good books today? You be the judge: read on for ten literary-fiction novels of the 21st century that you may not know, but should. These books are rated “Top Ten Modern Books Out-of-the-Mainstream” by Literature Monthly and Literature Weekly magazines.


The Thirteenth Tale
We start off our review with what may become one of the most influential books from the beginning of the 21st century. Diane Setterfield’s debut novel, The Thirteenth Tale, is a gothic-style novel reminiscent of the Bronte sisters. The protagonist, Margaret, is the daughter of a bookstore owner. Her hobby is writing biographies of lesser-known writers. She’s also a twin, though her sister died in childbirth.

The story isn’t actually about Margaret, though. It’s actually about Vida Winter, a famous author who commissions Margaret to do her biography. The thing is, everyone who has interviewed Vida Winter in the past got different stories, none of them the same. Is Vida Winter actually telling Margaret the truth? What kind of stories is she hiding?

Like most good books, the story is multi-layered. What began as a story about Margaret and turns into a story about Vida Winter becomes again in the end a story about Margaret as she comes to understand both Vida and herself. But does she understand everything? What, really, is truth? These are the questions that this book grapples with – similar to other literature, yet entirely different. At once a novel of literary fiction yet a readable modern fiction book. Diane Setterfield as both a first-time writer and novelist has won numerous novel awards, including recognition by the Quill Awards and Galaxy British Book Awards. The Thirteenth Tale will soon take its place among the 21st century’s great literary novels.

The Thirteenth Tale on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0743298039/ref=nosim/?tag=wwwmbmaonlinc-20


Juliet

Juliet
Ann Fortier walks a well-trod path when she starts yet another rewrite of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. This time, however, it’s 600 years later. We’re in Siena, Italy with the descendants of the famed Capulets and Montagues. The author was there with her mother, and got her inspiration from the city itself—yet another testament to the poignancy of our sense of place in an increasingly international world. Juliet stars protagonist Julie Jacobs, who inherits a key to a safe deposit box that supposedly holds an ancient family treasure. History sweeps her off as she discovers the depth of a 600-year-old feud. Juliet challenges us to reconsider the way that we view such monumental stories as Romeo and Juliet by leading us to reexamine the impact today of stories told long ago.

Juliet on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0345516109/ref=nosim/?tag=wwwmbmaonlinc-20


Agincourt
Their victory against the French in the Battle of Agincourt marked a major turning point for the English in the Hundred-Years War. King Henry himself fought and led his armies. As such, the Battle has long been immortalize in literature – it is featured in Shakespeare’s Henry V, a number of fantasy and science fiction novels, and was even the subject of a mock trial held in Washinton, D.C. With such a background, it takes a brave novelist to again tackle the battle.

Bernard Cornwell is that author. In the novel Agincourt, he tells the story of a fictional archer in King Henry’s army, Nicholas Hook. “English longbowmen” were key players in a number of battles of the era, largely because the French had no comparable weapons. We see the battle through Hook’s eyes. Because of Cornwell’s brilliant writing, we not only read about it, but almost actually feel the sweat and blood of this brutal time. When Hook starts hearing voices of long-dead saints, we, too, are entranced by their words. Cornwell is a stickler for historical accuracy, and as a writer prefers the brief and concise.. If you haven’t yet, read this book – not only will you come away with a bit more historical knowledge, but you will feels something akin to kinship as you put the book down and think on the soldiers.

Agincourt on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0061578908/ref=nosim/?tag=wwwmbmaonlinc-20


The Hittite
Just out in April of 2010, Ben Bova’s novel The Hittite Makes for another fascinating reading. You may not have heard of this book because Bova’s background as a novelist is different than most in this genre – he is best known for his prolific science-fiction writing. Here, however, he takes on retelling of The Illiad, one of history’s most well-known literary epics.

As a writer, Bova does well in this switch-of-genre. His writing is traditionally clear, yet he isn’t stuck to one particular style. Perhaps slightly overusing the flowery language, Bova depicts the world of Lukka, a Hittite warrior who returns home to find his family gone and his city torn by civil war. He goes searching for them, and arrives at Agamemnon just in time to catch the final portions of the Trojan War. Bove doesn’t pull any sly ones – his characters are true to the time. Women are more property than they are people, and brutality isn’t condemned. As a work of art, a work of history, and a work of literature, this book will continue to be important as part of Homer’s continuing odyssey.

The Hittite on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0765324024/ref=nosim/?tag=wwwmbmaonlinc-20


Roman Payne - Rooftop Soliloquy

Rooftop Soliloquy by Roman Payne

Rooftop Soliloquy
Voted one of the ten best novels of the 21st century. Rooftop Soliloquy, the fourth novel by Paris-based author Roman Payne, is a beautifully-written story of love, pleasure and seduction in the city of Paris. The style reminds one of a great 19th century novel, although the humor, sexuality, and poetic eroticism in its pages make the novel a true, ultra-modern work.

The narration follows the travels and life of an eccentric artist and composer—a character who changes residences as most people change clothes—who drifts around Paris frequenting women’s bedrooms, luxury nightclubs, and jet-set parties. All the while, he composes his masterpiece: an opera, or “Hero’s Tale,” based on Homer’s Odyssey. When the pleasures of Parisian life threaten his creative production, the narrator decides to orchestrate an ingenious love-intrigue, for the sake of his art, that results in a murder. The effect is an extremely creative and complex (though easy to read) literary masterpiece that is worthy of being compared to Dostoevsky. Roman Payne’s novel could be considered a high-brow, more intelligent and sophisticated version Brett Easton Ellis’ jet-setter novels; or a continuation of American Francophile prose begun by novelists Henry Miller and Ernest Hemingway. Whatever the comparison, Roman Payne’s Rooftop Soliloquy is great fun to read, a flashback in the past to the “Golden Age of the Novel,” and a flash-forward to the future of high literature.

Rooftop Soliloquy on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0578032813/ref=nosim/?tag=wwwmbmaonlinc-20


Blonde Faith

Mystery novels rarely qualify as literary works of art, yet Walter Mosley’s novel Blonde Faith goes beyond the bounds of a run-of-the-mill mystery. His detective Easy Rawlins is a black man who lives in Los Angeles in the 1960s – not an easy place nor time for anyone to make a living, let alone a person of color. But Mosely doesn’t fall into the trap of letting concerns about race overtake his novel. Blonde Faith isn’t about race, though as an honest writer the injustices still figure prominently; the book is about the character. This transcendence allows any reader of his literature to go beyond surface observations to a real look at the life that Rawlins lives. Rawlins himself isn’t perfect, either. He deals with his past mistakes, current pride, and a refusal to get in touch with his almost-wife who he threw out for having an affair. It’s one fear that he can’t overcome.
Mosely as a novelist doesn’t just write works of pulp fiction. He writes books with characters that you can care about, with questions you can think about. This book isn’t just a good read – it’s a book worth sharing.

Blonde Faith on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0446617903/ref=nosim/?tag=wwwmbmaonlinc-20


EverlostWhat is a teen novel doing on a list of serious literature? Pick up Neal Shusterman’s Everlost to find out.

Schusterman was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. At age 16, however, his family moved to Mexico City. He went with them. This international experience at a young age significantly influenced the way that he looked at the world – not as a Brooklyn teenager, but as an international citizen. He has been a writer since he was young, at one point as a child he even wrote E.B. White telling her that Charlotte’s Web needed a sequel. She wrote back, and he kept writing. Recently, his books have won the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award and the California Young Reader Medal. His books keep winning their novel awards, and Schusterman the writer keeps writing literature that is important not just to teen readers, but to everyone.

The novel Everlost is a story of the spirits of dead children trapped in this world who don’t know how to “get where they are going.” In simple language, Schusterman the novelist addresses age-old existential questions of life, meaning, and significance.

Everlost on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1416997490/ref=nosim/?tag=wwwmbmaonlinc-20


Hidden Talents

Hidden Talents by David Lubar is another work of literary fiction masquerading as a teen novel. This book centers on 13-year-old Martin, who is at the last resort Edgeview Alternative School. Lubar frequently quotes poems and pieces of famous literature, include Emily Dickinson’s Death:

Because I could not stop for death
He kindly stopped for me.

While some might say that this makes the book a bit heavy for literature inteded for young readers, it sheds light on young people’s experience in a more ‘grown-up’ world. Writer David Lubar defly juxtaposes the formal and the informal, the old and the young, the used and the new. The book takes an almost fantasy-like turning as the children discover that they have psychic powers. What is really real? Pick up novelist David Lubar’s book Hidden Talents.

Hidden Talents on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0765342650/ref=nosim/?tag=wwwmbmaonlinc-20


The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep And Never Had To

Ironically, the novel: The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep And Never Had To stands to take the place of Catcher in the Rye as the American coming-of-age literary novel, despite mocking it predecessor within its pages. Young novelist D.C. Pierson (who is also a comedian and actor) picks up on the language and attitudes of high schools today, never pulling punches. The creative crowd is outcast, but form their own friendships that carry them to success, despite the disdaining crowds. The book itself can be seen as a metaphor for the interaction of different groups in society today, especially those that challenge the status quo with their unacceptable genius. Do yourself a favor and pick up this book of literature by novelist D.C. Pierson.

The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep And Never Had To on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0307474615/ref=nosim/?tag=wwwmbmaonlinc-20


The Darling by Russell Banks

The Darling by Russell Banks

The Darling

Russell Banks wrote another book in 2004 worth looking at: The Darling. Inside you’ll find a story about an empty girl – one who doesn’t act for herself, but is led around by whatever man she happens to be attached to at the time. Eventually heading to Liberia, she gets involved with government officials and shady deals, eventually ending up in a laboratory doing experiments with chimpanzees. An authentic look at African and immigrant life, novelist Russell Banks lives up to his reputation as a writer and delivers literature this will be important not just now, but in the future as well.

The Darling on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0060957352/ref=nosim/?tag=wwwmbmaonlinc-20


Arslan

M.J. Engh’s novel Arslan may not technically be a book of the 21st century. It was first published in 1976, went out of print, was republished in 1987, went out of print again, and was republished yet again in 2001 – making it a newly-published book in the 21st century.

Why would a book go into and out of print so many times? Engh herself states that the book is “about fathers and sons, about power, about a genuinely ruthless (but not unfeeling) mind in pursuit of a practical solution to the world’s problems.” As such, the writer begins the book with the rape of two children, then ends it on a comparably brutal and gruesome note. As a work of literature, Arslan stands at the top. It is not necessarily, however, a pleasant read. It is a fascinating examination of power in the modern world, of family interactions, and of the psychology of a Genghis Khan-like mind in a small town in America. Not any novelist can write a book such as this, but Engh carries the burden proudly.

Arslan on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0312879105/ref=nosim/?tag=wwwmbmaonlinc-20


Picking-up any one of these books for a read will lead you to contemplate your own place in our 21st century world. Interestingly, many of these novels are set in the past. What does our frequent contemplation of the past in literature mean for our understanding of the world today? As we constantly gather and process the stories of our lives, sometimes we need to look outside of the popular and common to find the stories that help us understand our own unique experience.

Reprinted with permission from: www.greatnovels.org

– Gabriel Hemingway
Editor – CityRoom, Inc.


 

Jonathan Littell

October 31st, 2009

Jonathan Littell Introduction to author Jonathan Littell, whose controversial novel The Kindly Ones won two French prizes.

It’s not often that writing a novel wins an author citizenship in France–or any other country–but that particular prize was given to American-born Jonathan Littell after his 900-page French-language novel, The Kindly Ones, was awarded two of France’s most prestigious literary awards, the Grand Prix du roman de l’Academie Francaise and the Prix Goncourt, both in 2006.

Littell received French citizenship in March 2007, when French officials made use of a clause stating that any French speaker whose “meritorious actions contribute to the glory of France” may become citizens, despite not fulfilling a requirement to live in France for more than six months of the year.

His novel The Kindly Ones (Les Bienveillantes) tells the story of a former SS officer who helped carry out massacres during the Holocaust. It received mixed reviews in the United States; Publishers Weekly’s Jonathan Segura said that the novel’s “monotone voice quickly loses its luster” and “many tens of thousands of words does not necessarily a novel make.”

Littell, born in New York in 1967, is a bilingual (English/French) writer living in Barcelona. He has cited seeing a photograph of Zoya Mosmodemyanskaya, a Soviet partisan who was executed by the Nazis, as one inspiration for writing the novel. His original inspiration for the novel, he has said, was seeing Claude Lanzmann’s film Shoah, an acclaimed documentary about the Holocaust, in 1989.

Littell’s father is Robert Littell, author of mostly spy novels concerning the CIA and the Soviet Union. He lives in France.

Jonathan Littell lived in France from age three until his early teens, when he attended school in the United States, and he later graduated from Yale University.

– Catherine Arnold
Literature Monthly


 

A Powerful Carpe Diem Novel!

October 31st, 2009

Review of Roman Payne’s new novel: ‘Rooftop Soliloquy’

“Like Henry Miller’s ‘Tropic of Cancer’, Lord Byron’s story of Don Juan, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and a Paris Travel guide all poured into one great 21st century read. Payne has created a new Parisian mythology.”

Rooftop Soliloquy by Novelist Roman Payne

Rooftop Soliloquy by Novelist Roman Payne

A modern-day Casanova, with a half- crazy mind and elegant clothing, tramps around Paris from adventure to adventure in this latest (and perhaps greatest) book by American expatriate author Roman Payne.  While this Don Juan gallops around Paris like Don Quixote galloped around Spain, his numerous ‘Dulcineas’ are the luxurious ladies he finds in Parisian society parties, or the university girls he finds along the river Seine, or up near the Sorbonne; whereas Quixote fought windmills, Payne’s hero battles the artistic oeuvre he is working to create.

The narrator (most frequently named ‘Aleksandre’) of this highly-entertaining, innocently erotic, and lyrically beautiful book, is a composer of operas who isn’t sure if he should lock himself in one of the many apartments he keeps in Paris to compose night and day; or if he should go out and ‘seize the day!’ by enjoying the thrills offered to one in the French capital—not least important among them: copious amounts of French wine, and lavish French beauties.

Payne’s experience as a novelist shows through in this, his fourth novel, as he masterfully weaves two other narratives into the first, to create a rich and thought-provoking story.  If not for this, the novel might have been no more than a light adventure tale; but Payne tops off the narrator’s corporeal quest with a murder mystery (with scenes worthy of Dostoevsky in a setting Payne calls “The Bone Shop”) and a love story (vaguely reminiscent of Lolita and A Midsummer Night’s Dream).  References in the book travel from Ancient Greece to tropical islands—yet the book is first-and-foremost a ‘story of Paris.’  Like Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, Lord Byron’s story of Don Juan, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and a Paris Travel guide all poured into one great 21st century read. Payne has created a new Parisian mythology.

The 1st-person “Soliloquy” method of narration allows Payne a sort of freedom to communicate with unprecedented ease with the reader.  One imagines him perched like a bird on a rooftop, fluttering to a new district with each chapter.

Rooftops are fabulous (often frightening) locations: here, one can see out over the city,  meet a lover in private; contemplate life, or contemplate a self-propelled leap into the abyss of the unknown.  On a rooftop, one is a ‘spectator’—watching the comings and goings of the multitudes bustling in the streets below.  One is also ‘not a spectator,’ but the  ‘center of the universe’—like a god, or a child atop an anthill.   Such is the perspective that is offered to the reader of this book.  Its pages allow a certain airy freedom that is fun, exciting, and refreshing to those who are used to reading books with sad subjects or negative themes.  Rooftop Soliloquy is a pleasure to read.  One begins the book feeling curious, and one finishes it feeling happy. ≈

– Reactor Magazine
(Reprinted in Literature Monthly with permission from Reactor Magazine)