Thursday, February 25, 2010

Tales Of The Book Part Thirteen

By Paul Steven Stone

Reviewed by Manson Solomon

If the title of Paul Steven Stone’s novel doesn’t tell us that we are about to enter a world in which we are not quite sure what is real, the blind elephant tapping his way across the cover confirms it: something different is about to happen in these pages. The old Hindu legend of the blind men each feeling a different part of the elephant and coming to different conclusions as to what they are confronting is well known, but when it is the elephant itself which is portrayed as blind and groping its way through the world, what’s up with that?

Stone’s view of the world as it might appear through the eyes of a blind elephant will not surprise those already familiar with his wry sense of humor portrayed in his collection of pieces assembled in How to Train A Rock. Serious stuff masquerading as burlesque, Mark Twain meets Philip Roth meets Saul Bellow meets Paul Steven Stone. The hilarity begins very early on with the protagonist being dragged towards a ratty couch by his determined would-be seducer, who, we later discover, turns out to be his nine-year old son’s schoolteacher. Whom he discovered at a bizarre singles dance which he finds himself attending after his disorienting divorce. And then there is the hilarious encounter with the gold-digging single mother whom he picks up at the scouts’ pinewood derby -- where his creative effort to fashion a car from a wooden block – painted pink! -- results in embarrassment for him and his son. Yes, it’s funny, but it’s also serious, since behind the humor the protagonist’s escapades constitute an existential exploration, a quest to find solid reality – what is -- behind the illusion of appearances -- what seems -- and to restore dignity to his life after a debilitating divorce.

Sound like Bellow’s Moses Herzog with a sense of humor, Roth’s Alexander Portnoy without the hysteria? Well, perhaps so, since where Bellow tried to restore his hero’s emotional equilibrium via intellectual scribblings, and Roth paraded his overwrought Freudian ejaculations for help, Stone gives us an ongoing dialog conducted with The Bapucharya, a giggling videotape Hindu guru. Ah, the elephant, the Hindu god Ganesh seeking reality beyond the facade of illusion! But, being Stone, the dialog is laced with wry humor, parody, irony, is never didactic, always offbeat, amusing. How is this possible? Well, you’ll have to read it yourself to find out and to have your sight restored. And if you don’t make it all the way to Enlightenment, at the very least you will be wholeheartedly entertained while engaged in the quest.

Manson's review struck me as particularly perceptive, especially as it places the book into direct comparisons between the works of Saul Bellow and Philip Roth. Very interesting, I thought, and well worth sharing. So here we are. Sharing.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


(Written For Amy Before She Came Into My Life)

I imagine her as a bird. All silver in her feathered finery as she flies over landscapes reduced in size like a topographical map.

Where she is coming from I cannot say. But where she is bound, the far distant perch that calls to her like a guiding star . . . ah, there's a thought that brings up a smile!

For hers is a journey that could take her across continents, lifetimes, even the universe for all I know. While here I wait in the crow's nest of my solitary life, watching for a woman whose features I won't recognize but whose heart I will know intimately with the certainty of a lover.

And in truth I am not waiting, but also flying in my soul to meet her, a journey that has taken me across the span of my own lifetime and the gulf of that same mysteriously mapped universe.

I cannot say when she and I last met--in what former life, in what manner of relationship. We could have been brother and sister, parent and child, even lovers in a doomed marriage. But in this lifetime we have passed through each other's night skies without taking notice, living our lives apart while slowly and inevitably being drawn together like planets falling into each other's orbits.

Now, it is time for us to meet and I know it. Just as she must know the same truth within her own heart. What a beautiful illusion this is. What pride the Master Magician must feel to see us flying towards each other while the watching world believes us stuck in our lives, trudging across the same mundane existences we trudged across yesterday, and all the yesterdays before.

But no measure of time or distance truly separates two kindred spirits. What matters most is the rightness of the moment not the limitations of physics. What matters most is the urgency of two hearts to once again be joined.

And so I feel her presence. I sense the shadow of her wings as it glides across my soul's landscape as certainly as I sense fragrance from flowers and moisture in a mist. We are flying towards each other through a sky free of cloud or obstruction, both of us unable to resist the accelerating pull of love's gravity.

In a world where the laws of physics have been superceded by the inevitability of attraction, time no longer holds sway over possibilities; yet ironically it has somehow become the right time for this cosmic connection to be made. The right moment for her to find me and for me to find her.

I imagine her as a bird. Flying with a certainty known only by an arrow truly shot or a soul mate heading for the open perch in her lover's heart.

She is flying to me. And I am flying to her.

Two souls who, in the perfection of some unwritten Grand Plan, will once again become one.

Love, I am waiting.