Locus Amoenus a coming of age story for the post 9/11 generation

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Victoria N. Alexander’s latest novel, Locus Amoenus, turns Shakespeare’s moody dark Hamlet (something is rotten in the state of Denmark) into a glib, manic 9/11 conspiracy theorist who discovers that something is very rotten in the United States of America. The 191-page novel was released at the end of June and hit #2 in Amazon’s dark humor category briefly in August while Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five held out at #1. The novel has been highly praised outside of truther circles for its originality and acerbic wit, taking on, not just the inexcusably lax 9/11 investigation, but also pointing out the disastrous consequences of federal top-down control, for example, farm subsidies and nutrition guidelines, pharmaceutical subsidies, standard curriculum, and the “jobs and security” provided by the weapons and intelligence industries. Mainstream reviewers, award-winning novelists, and other celebrated critics have favorably compared Alexander to James Joyce, Jonathan Swift, Thomas Pynchon, Lewis Carroll, Barbara Kingsolver, Vladimir Nobokov, and Don Delillo, as well as the bard himself. Could this be a breakthrough for the truth movement?

As the truth movement enters its mature stage, falsifying the official narrative becomes less important than integrating the work of the 9/11 truth community into American culture, making it part of our literature, art and music. As literary book clubs form to discuss Locus Amoenus, and progressive and conservative radio programs and newspapers alike interview Alexander about her novel, it’s starting to look like it’s no longer controversial news that the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) did not really do much of an investigation into the destruction of the World Trade Center towers. Alexander has managed to write about 9/11 in such a way that readers do not have the common knee-jerk reaction to her narrative as a “conspiracy theory.” Readers are treating Locus Amoenus as thoughtful commentary on American political life by a talented and distinguished author.

Locus Amoenus and Alexander’s other novels are published by The Permanent Press, one of the finest little-known presses in the U.S., which has been “turning out literary gems on a shoestring,” since 1978, according to The New York Times. Dr. Alexander is also a philosopher of science, recipient of a number of honors, including a Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center fellowship. She sits on the boards of two prestigious journals, and she has made a name for herself in some rather controversial areas of science, which, like her novels, are now becoming more mainstream.

The plot of Locus Amoenus, loosely mimicking Shakespeare’s Hamlet, makes Gertrude a 9/11 widow and Claudius a useless bureaucrat who contributed a small and meaningless part to the NIST investigation. The story begins on the eighth anniversary of Hamlet’s father’s death, which Gertrude and Claudius have insensitively chosen for their wedding day. As in Shakespeare, the newlyweds try to persuade the still grieving Hamlet to move on. But Hamlet’s sorrows have just begun. He will soon find out that the NIST report is “nothing but a fermented blend of preconception and irrelevance,” and his father’s death was never investigated. Gertrude has married a fraud.

On 9/11 Hamlet was ten years old. He witnessed the collapse of the towers and, in a daze, scooped up some of the dust. Horatio, his science teacher, found him, got him home and accidentally kept the dust he’d put in a bag. Later, Horatio sent the dust to scientists, whose tests were completed in 2009. Horatio then finds Hamlet to tell him that traces of incendiaries were found in the dust. Hamlet reads the NIST report and finds they did not test for explosives or incendiaries, and they didn’t even try to analyze how the buildings actually came down. He and his mother had never read the report. They, like everyone else, had just trusted what others had said about it. Shakespeare’s Hamlet is the quintessential moment in history when doubt appears center stage. Likewise, Alexander brings doubt into the theater of U.S. politics. Locus Amoenus gets readers to question their assumptions about 9/11, question what they have heard. Importantly, the novel is finding its audience among general readers and it’s not strictly a truth-movement phenomenon. It’s inspiring people to open the NIST report and have a look for themselves.

The United States as a locus amoenus, a place where nothing bad can ever happen, turns out to be a dystopia, where security measures and laws to protect freedoms actually undermine them. Although the novel ends in tragedy (or at least seems to), it’s the story of an awakening, and that’s what Hamlet says is most important, “People have to know.” Slowly but surely, the truth is making its way into the mainstream consciousness.

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