Locus Amoenus by Victoria N. Alexander centers upon the bucolic county seat of Amenia in upstate New York where Gertrude and her son Hamlet make their home after the horror of 9/11 deprived them of husband and father respectively. Seeking a new start in the rural quiet, Gertrude purchases a sheep farm where they intend to live a sustainable lifestyle butchering their own livestock, growing vegetables, and eschewing the material trappings and celebrity-devotion of the modern world. The Webutuck school district, where Hamlet attends classes, greet Gertrude’s healthy food campaign with suspicion and distrust; populated by overweight teachers overseeing equally rotund students, they are all fed on processed, pre-packaged, warehouse-shipped food portions that fast-track the next generation to dull-eyed diabetes. Gertrude’s persistence leads, eventually, to Hamlet’s expulsion Continue reading
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.
On Saturday, July 18th I’ll be at the NorthEast-Millerton Library at 1PM. Pick up a copy of Locus Amoenus at Oblong Books to bring with you to have signed. Here’s a piece from the June issue of Main Street Magazine.
Victoria N. Alexander has constructed a clever and engaging novel loosely based on Shakespeare’s masterpiece, Hamlet. This dark comedy revolves around the tragedy of 9/11. Alexander has several novels to her credit, as well as a work of non-fiction, The Biologist’s Mistress: Rethinking Self-Organization in Art, Literature, & Nature. She is also working on a comedy screenplay about a high security dystopia.
Hamlet’s father has apparently died in the collapse of the twin towers, and Hamlet and his mother Gertrude move to a rural village, Amenia where the residents are suspicious of strangers. The town suffers from an epidemic of obesity, because of a local connection to big agriculture farms producing only high fructose corn syrup. When Gertrude tries to sway the school board to a healthier diet for the students, she and Hamlet are isolated from the rest of the town. Hamlet’s former science teacher shows up and convinces Hamlet his father was killed on 9/11 as a result of a conspiracy to justify the Iraq War. Claudius, who has just married Gertrude, is an engineer, who worked on part of the official report of the events of 9/11. Continue reading
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. Continue reading