Victoria N. Alexander seems to dislike a lot of things. She seems to dislike the obese, who are either willfully ignorant or weak and corrupt. She doesn’t like medication – surely, PTSD and depression aren’t so serious as all that, the book wonders? She doesn’t like money or GMOs or really mass-produced anything–what do you mean you can’t afford artisan, organic everything? You aren’t – shudder – poor, are you? Bullies and conspiracy theorists, at least, are given a semi-sympathetic eye, but at its worst, Locus Amoenus reads like little more than an organized list of Alexander’s least favorite things about modern American life. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
Set in the nearby Harlem Valley region of New York, the story involves a 9/11 widow, Gertrude, and her son, Hamlet, who move to the country to run a sustainable farm. Unfortunately, they find their neighbors prefer the starchy products of industrialized agriculture. On the 8th anniversary of Hamlet senior’s death, Gertrude marries an incompetent federal bureaucrat named Claudius, who tries to get the eighteen-year-old Hamlet to “move on.” As Hamlet is becoming more and more disgusted by the hypocrisy of the adult world he’s entering, Horatio, a conspiracy theorist, tells Hamlet that his new stepfather is a fraud and something is rotten in the United States of America. With gallows humor, Alexander looks at the tragedy that is contemporary post 9/11 politics, as it plays out in small town America where health and happiness have been traded for processed foods, cheap Walmart goods, Paxil, and endless war.
Kirkus Reviews likened Alexander’s Hamlet to Holden Caulfield (the angry hero of The Catcher in the Rye), but he is more like his namesake, plagued with doubt about the news that Horatio brings him.
In the Wild River Review, cultural critic William Irwin Thompson compares Alexander to Thomas Pynchon and calls Locus Amoenus “an important contribution to contemporary American fiction.”
Man Booker Prize finalist Josip Novakovich praises Alexander for her critique of American consumerism: “despite the tragedy, we have the consolation of her humor. I haven’t laughed this well while reading in a long time.”
Victoria N. Alexander, PhD, is the author of three other novels, Smoking Hopes (Washington Prize for Fiction), Naked Singularity (Dallas Observer‘s “Best of 2003”), and Trixie, 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., which has been “turning out literary gems…on a shoestring,” since 1978, according to The New York Times. Locus Amoenus is set in Amenia, New York, an upstate rural community where Alexander’s family owns a sheep farm.
Interview starts at 9:55. Here’s a snippet:
AS: “What do you want people to get from this book?”
VNA: “Well, in the passage I just read where Hamlet [a conspiracy theorist] makes his big revelation. He makes some very logical points and asks some very good questions. But what’s the response to that? Evasion. Nobody really takes the point [chuckle]. Nobody really gets what he’s getting at. The whole thing is kind of ineffective, really [chuckle].
“One of the things I wanted to do for people, who have tried to talk to friends about some evidence they’ve read, is to give them a story that they can relate to. We’ve all gone through this. We all know what it’s like to bring up this conversation at dinner and have very good our friends treat us very coldly.
“And I wanted to give the conspiracy theorist a place in literature. He is a very important character, as was [Shakespeare’s] Hamlet, for really defining who the modern man is. Continue reading