Leading character, Hamlet, now 18, is “beginning to suspect that something is rotten in the United States of America, when health, happiness and freedom are traded for cheap Walmart goods, Paxil, endless war, standard curriculum, and environmental degradation,” according to one book review.
Unlike her other novels, this story mirrors Alexander’s life in many ways.
The book’s town, Amenia, is a dysfunctional one. The novel tells the story of a mother who tries to get school to use local vegetables instead of industrial food.
Alexander, who lives in Armenia, N.Y., took on her local government to fight unsuccessfully for two years to remove sugared milk from the school menu.
In the book, there’s a better, smarter town further north. This town is doing things right. Residents have their own currency, are agriculturally self-sustaining, and operate without any centralized power.
It’s similar to real-life Greece today, where the barbs of austerity forced the creation of new systems that bring consumers and producers together, eliminating the middleman.
“The story just developed out of my experiences,” said Alexander on Monday. “I got involved in local politics, and there was one guy, a counter-terrorist expert, who made me connect to a bigger story about federal and global corruption.”
Alexander contacted the Book Bower, operating downtown for seven years in the Main Street Market, and offered to come for a book signing.
“When I do signings, I try to pick small, locally owned small stores,” said Alexander, who left New York City years ago and moved with her son and husband to a place near the last stop on the Metro-North line in Dutchess County.
Her town’s population teeters between the one-percenters building fantastical estates and a generous slice of hard-luck situations for natives, many that have-not, Alexander said.
Supporting small local bookstores ties into Alexander’s overall philosophy of supporting local markets and systems. The author holds a PhD in English and philosophy of science, and is the founder of Dactyl, a foundation that fosters dialogue between artists and scientists.
Using Shakespeare’s Hamlet as an archetypal structure, the story casts “shadows over American stereotypes” of the country’s reality of junk food, junk politics and ever-creeping power of the National Security Administration and Homeland Security.
“She reached out to me, and the story grabbed my attention,” said Linda Bower, owner of the bookstore. Alexander recently made an appearance on WWUH-FM, 91.3, a Hartford radio station based out of the University of Hartford.
The bookstore offers a choice from 27,000 titles in its 2,000-square-foot location, tucked into the cozy ground level at 386 Main St.
People come from near and far to visit one of the few small booksellers in the state.
The book’s cover features an image of the American Flag, and Bower hopes people might come downtown early for the city’s fireworks festival which runs from 4-10 p.m. to support some of the local businesses — and stop by the 5 p.m. booksigning.
The book takes on local politics, education and industrialized farming and growing inequality.
“The hero in my book goes to public school system and finds everything dumbed down for standardized tests,” said Alexander of the “top-down-control in education causing problems today.”
Alexander always writes about “something really controversial from a different perspective,” she said.
“There’s a cycle for history,” said Alexander, who grows enough food to feed her family. “A tendency of power and money to concentrate.”
As the book progresses, Hamlet becomes very depressed when “on the very day of the eighth anniversary of his father’s death, his mother marries a horrid, boring bureaucrat named Claudius. Things get even more depressing for Hamlet when his friend Horatio, a conspiracy theorist, claims Claudius is a fraud.
“The deceptions, spying and corruption will ultimately lead, as in Shakespeare’s play, to tragedy,” according to descriptions of the book.
The book signing will take place at 5 p.m. at the Book Bower at 386 Main St., Middletown. Call 860-704-8222 or see www.bookbower.com or victorianalexander.com for information.
June 30, 2015
By Kathleen Schassler