Victoria N. Alexander’s new dark comic novel, Locus Amoenus, is the story of a 9/11 widow who moves with her son, Hamlet, to the countryside to start a sustainable farm. But when Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, marries a NIST bureaucrat named Claudius on the eight anniversary of 9/11, Hamlet becomes very depressed. Then Hamlet’s old science teacher, Horatio, arrives to tell Hamlet that Claudius, who worked on the investigation of the WTC towers, is a fraud: NIST never actually investigated how the towers came down and never tested for explosives. But there is more: young Hamlet had collected a dust sample at ground zero, which he had given to Horatio. Unknown to Hamlet, Horatio has sent the sample to scientists who have found evidence of incendiary material in the dust. Now Hamlet and Horatio have to figure out what to do. Is Claudius guilty of covering up murder or terrorism? or is he just a pawn?
Alexander’s novel re-imagines Shakespeare’s play to launch a scathing satire of post-9/11 political corruption generally, local and federal; something is rotten in the United States of America. From big ag to standardized curriculum, economic disparity, big pharma, intelligence contractors, and endless wars, no issue is left unexamined in this fast-paced, witty and tragically humorous novel.
Released on June 22nd, Locus Amoenus is finding an audience among the general public. Alexander shrewdly avoids controversy, hinging her plot-line upon a few simple facts that can be found in the NIST report, (e.g. the absence of investigation into the actual collapses of the towers) or NIST’s own admission that they did not test for explosives or incendiaries. The publisher, the Permanent Press, whose mission is to offer novels of both “social and literary merit,” has not had any problems with censorship. Some reviewers may be uninterested in whether or not NIST really failed to investigate, but all find the story compelling and the characters likable. Alexander’s novel is a great non-controversial introduction to the subject for people have taken the commonly repeated story about 9/11 on faith. Recently, Alexander appeared on NYC’s WBAI 99.5 FM (a progressive station that airs Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now show) talking about social injustice and noting that, however much the media may promote negative the stereotype, the “truther” is a powerful political figure in contemporary American culture.
Kirkus Reviews likened Alexander’s Hamlet to Holden Caulfield of A Catcher in the Rye. Cultural critic William Irwin Thompson said Locus Amoenus is “an important contribution to contemporary American Fiction.” Man Booker Prize finalist, Josip Novakovich, noted that although Alexander’s picture of America is dark, “despite the tragedy, we have the consolation of her humor. I haven’t laughed this well while reading in a long time.” The writing is “brilliant,” according to Kevin Baret, who favorably compared Locus Amoenus to Thomas Pynchon’s 9/11 truth-themed novel, The Bleeding Edge.
Victoria N. Alexander, PhD, is the author of two other novels, Smoking Hopes (Washington Prize for Fiction), Naked Singularity (Dallas Observer‘s “Best of 2003″), and a work of philosophy, The Biologist’s Mistress: Rethinking Self-Organization in Art, Literature, and Nature. Alexander’s fiction is published by The Permanent Press, one of the finest small presses in the U.S., has been “turning out literary gems…on a shoestring,” since 1978, according to The New York Times.