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
Pleased to see my novel in the window at Oblong Books in Millerton.
Locus Amoenus by Victoria N Alexander
In this dark comedy, 9/11 widow and her son, Hamlet, move to Amenia to run an organic farm. Unfortunately, their neighbors prefer the starchy products of industrial agriculture, and Hamlet, who is now eighteen, suspects that something is rotten in the United States of America, where health and happiness are traded for cheap Walmart goods, Paxil, standard curriculum, fossil fuel pollution, and endless war.
Victoria N. Alexander, PhD, is also the author of Smoking Hopes (Washington Prize for Fiction), Naked Singularity (Dallas Observer‘s “Best of 2003”), Trixie, and The Biologist’s Mistress: Rethinking Self-Organization in Art, Literature and Nature.
WBAI 99.5 FM with host Barry Seidman
Developing a Progressive Narrative
As many may already know, science fiction and speculative fiction in general can investigate and articulate the state of our nation and/or world in very direct but also metaphorical ways. We have talked about Star Trek, for instance, on Equal Time and how Gene Roddenberry was able to discuss humanism and naturalism via the small and large screen. And there have been many novels and short stories since at least the late 19th Century which have done the same.
Victoria N Alexander and Adrienne Maree Brown are two authors who have relatively new speculative fiction books out. Victoria, who has a PhD in English and philosophy of science, is also a novelist and the founder of Dactyl, a foundation that fosters dialogue between artists and scientists. She is the author of several novels including the topic of today’s discussion, Locus Amoenus. The novel brings Shakespeare into the post-9/11 world we currently experience and sows an emotionally powerful geopolitical drama.
Adrienne Maree Brown is an author, a life/love work coach, a singer (including wedding singer), events facilitator and a scholar on the late Science Fiction novelist Octavia Butler. In Octavia’s Brood, Adrienne has co-edited a collection of both speculative and science fiction stories founded on the spirit and creativity of the late author.
Tune in, pay if forward, and question everything
Amenia–Local novelist Victoria N. Alexander will be promoting her new novel, “Locus Amoenus” at the Amenia Free Library book fair on Saturday, June 13th, from 10 a.m. to noon.
“Locus Amoenus” (which means pleasant locale) is a story based in Amenia which satirizes the Webutuck School District Wellness Committee. Local complacency and conformity feeds into a larger narrative of post 9/11 corruption, junk food, junk news, big pharma and war. Continue reading
Kevin is such an interesting and intelligent person to talk with. In the course of the hour-long interview, I was drawn into mentioning a thing or two about my favorite philosopher C.S. Peirce in relation to the plot of one of Pynchon’s earlier conspiracy novels, The Crying of Lot 49. Years ago I wrote about Pynchon and the link between teleology and conspiracy theory, here. We went on about Noam Chomsky’s ridiculously unscientific, because unfalsifiable, “theory” of universal grammar. (Chomsky has sent some hate Kevin’s way because Kevin has said that sometimes some people in or associated with the U.S. government some times to do corrupt things.) With his semiotic theory, my favorite philosopher (uh oh, Peirce again) explains the emergence of grammar much better than Noam. (Terrence Deacon provides a good slap down of Chomsky in The Symbolic Species.) And yes, we did talk about Locus Amoenus too, as well as Tom Breidenbach’s book of poems Wicked Child/IX XI. Tom, a mutual friend, was the initial inspiration for the Horatio character in my novel.
The interview is now archived online here: http://noliesradio.org/archives/99840