My life, sort of
The writers whose lives interest me most are either long dead or have led lives not typical of writers. Yet it evidently helps readers to know about writers. A writer whose works I’ve recently become acquainted with, Jodi Picoult, writes a lot about herself on her web page, posts candid photos, and I’m guessing this helps readers connect with her books.
Megan McCafferty, author of Sloppy Firsts, Second Helpings, etc., started a retroblog—her diary from age ten through twenty-something, in part, I gather from reading a review in Salon.com, to separate herself from her characters (http://www.meganmccafferty.com/retroblogger/ ).
There’s nothing about my life that will enhance the experience of reading my novels. To the extent that they’re autobiographical, they’re not so in any direct way. Flaubert said of Madame Bovary, “Emma, c'est moi.” In the same sense, I’m all the characters in, say, Rigoberto and his two wives: Rigoberto Calderón, Carmen Noble de Calderón, Juan the apprentice and Bernardo the curandero. Like personages in dreams, all the characters in a novel are the author.
Still, I think it helps to know where an author came from, not to read his or her works but to put you in touch with him as you would with a performing artist whom you can see in the flesh. Celebrity is an inappropriate concept for writers, usually, but feedback is a workable one.
So, here are some of the accidents of my life that I believe helped form me:
I’m the last of five children, my oldest sibling twelve years older than I, the closest in age six years my senior.
My mother died when I was six, an accident of her life I can’t blame her for but have never fully accepted: I never got enough of her.
My father had an extensive library, and I read constantly growing up, though since college television has cut into my reading time.
I was raised a Catholic, going to parochial schools and an all-boys Catholic prep school.
I graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, back when it was the consensus best university in the world. This is a humbling experience: you may have been a whiz in high school, you were no big deal on that campus.
I live in Ashland, Oregon, which is an interesting small town, with a world-class repertory theater and a satisfying mixture of foresters, bohemians, geeks, artists and coupon clippers.
I married (and divorced) three times, all interesting women, and fathered five children. All of these have shaped me.
These authors’ works have most informed my own writing:
Elmore Leonard, whom I put first because I’ve read him most recently. There is no one better at catching the flavor of places and peoples through using their patois.
Thomas Mann, whose Joseph and His Brothers is the nonpareil of epic novels, indeed, may be the best work of prose fiction ever written. (I consider Shakespeare’s plays to be poetry.)
William Faulkner, whose apocryphal Yoknapatawpha County was in my youth as familiar to me as any place I’ve ever lived, and who made me realize what power words have. Faulkner’s short fiction is matched only by Mann’s.
Ernest Hemingway, whose The Sun Also Rises surpasses any novel I’ve read in the way he put words down on paper; for a large part of my formative years I read this book every eighteen months or so.
Albert Camus, whose novel, The Plague, touches my heart beyond any prose I’ve read.
Carlos Castaneda, whose first four books (fiction? non-fiction?) blew out the corners of my imagination.
Aeschylus, whose Oresteia made me understand what drama is.
E. E. Cummings, who demonstrated that a seemingly mined-out convention, the sonnet, could be fresh and new in the hands of a master.
W. B. Yeats, whose corpus is the standard by which I judge all modern poets.
Here are some other likes and dislikes:
To cook: it’s the bead game, it’s a challenge, it is manic and relaxing at once. I bake all my own (sourdough) bread and make a mean soufflé.
My favorite movies: Black Orpheus and Shoot the Piano Player, with 8½ Some Like It Hot, Treasure of Sierra Madre and Chushingura not far behind.
My favorite music: almost anything but Rap and the heaviest of Rock and Roll—Allison Kraus to Denny Zeitlin, with Chopin, Beethoven and The Beatles thrown in for good measure. But if I were shipwrecked with the work of just one person, it would have to be Bach’s.
Writing is both a therapy and my compulsion. In 2011 I published eight novels, some started back in the Eighties, four completed last year, two started and finished in 2011. For a list of extant works, click here.
Where to find Angus Brownfield online
Strange things are happening when China begins exporting designer athletic shoes to the US that sell for less than cheap canvas shoes. Is there a connection between the shoes and violence that erupts on playgrounds across America?
Agamemnon, elected leader of the Greek expedition against Troy, must submit to an angry godess’s demand for human sacrifice or face rebellion from the assembled army.
Where Am I?
Richard learns the hard way that no good deed goes unpunished.
Who's Blue? (a tale about belonging)
Who am I? A Eurasian born in China asks that sooner than later. If Mom rejects you but a stranger gladly takes you in, the identity puzzle looms again. Gattling, Mom's first husband, might have been her father, but she stirs more than paternal feelings. Reaction to his mate’s dying? He’s just begun to accept her death when Eurasian Tan Xiaoqing, appears on the scene. An antidote or temptation?
A young man takes one last reckless fling before becoming a bona fide adult.
Day of the Dead
A family of gringos camp by the highway from Tijuana to Mexicali and experience some strange goings-on as the Day of the Dead advances to night.
4 Autumn Haiku
This is the final offering of haiku-like poems on the four seasons, devoted to nature in Southern Oregon.
3 (more) Poems
Three poems in no particular order, on no particular theme, written since the first three poems I published on Smashwords.
The Deep Blue Sea
A sprained ankle, anemia and conflicted feelings in 21st Century San Francisco.
6 Summer Haiku
Following "Five Winter Haiku" and "Five Spring Haiku," summer gets its due with an extra verse in honor of daylight savings time.
Five poems reminiscent of haiku, composed in the recent spate of winter weather in Talent, Oregon.
Three short poems selected from a plethora of unpublished material.
Guardian of the Lost Colony
Talkers: talking mice created by brilliant gene-splicer Eden Godwyn. Except for hawks and snakes, Casa Abandalao, their oasis home, is paradise. Along comes Gavin MacD., an envoy from the past, Jason Ramback, a psychotic threat to the future, and the CIA, who covet these potential mini-agents. Matilde Abandolao, their excitable guardian, shoots first and takes names later. But is her grit enough?
The Day's Vanity, The Night's Remorse
For Byeford Pritchett, bureaucrat isn’t a dirty word. With initiative and integrity, he rose to the top of middle management, only to be felled by a bureaucratic rule he’s too busy to honor. He vows “never again,” but an unlooked for offspring forces him back into the fray. He discovers, when there’s no time left for mistakes, integrity is not enough to win the day.
The Scrivener's Tale
A mystery writer contracts with the Feds to edit a talking mouse’s memoirs (Pool of Tears, first book of the Mustt Adventures.) Learning to respect the mouse, he defies her captor and the CIA, and aided by like-minded friends, spirits her away from a Marine installation. He shelters her while she debates whether to risk contacting others of her kind, which might lead to their capture as well.
Jacob Gleason wants to earn his spurs as a writer. He takes a job in Abrupt Edge, a lavish wilderness community, ghosting an autobiography. Once there he learns he's really to chronicle a war with Glory, an equally remote Fundamentalist LDS enclave. Abrupt Edge harbors the world's most exclusive brothel. It's workers are beauties who escaped Glory. Jacob has both scruples and fear for his life.
Rigoberto and his two wives
Master mechanic Rigoberto has it made but doesn’t know it. He sails smoothly through life till he angers the gods, boasting of his two wives. Smooth becomes rough when one wife wants the moon for their children--rougher when the other wife drops dead. He goes into a tail spin; it takes a talking wolf, a shaman, a beauty from the US and the sacrifice of a beloved apprentice to pull him out of it.
She's Got Her Own, an entertainment
Love and friendship trump greed, connivery and misspent sentiment in this tale of Lizzie Mae Brown. Kidnapped as an infant, Lizzie finds her True Father and a legacy from her True Mother, plus a mate for life while defeating the crook who tries to compromise her quest for fulfillment and happiness.
Pool of Tears, a Murine Memoir
Dorothy, a genetically modified mouse, can talk. She also keeps a diary on the computer of Jason Ramback, a human she loves from afar. She comes of age by discovering that a megalomaniacal mouse, Wom, wants to dominate all talking mice by threatening them with the Worst Case Scenario if they disobey the Prime Directive: never, ever talk to a Human. Think Animal Farm on a smaller scale.
RÍO PENITENTE, a novel of expiation
In the midst of his life an enviable man turns knight errant, looking for redemption in all the wrong places—until he finds his soulmate and a crossroads where happiness lies one way and danger another.
A lonely woman starts hearing voices coming from an electric heater.
The Spare Husband, a short story
Jack Bishop avoids a second trip to the altar until his first wife and her maid of honor close in on him, posing a dilemma.
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- 'Twas the Night Before Solstice (Southern Oregon Style)
on Dec. 10, 2011
My grandmother, Della, would have understood but little of this raucous poem. What she understood would have wrung an 'oh my' from her Southern Baptist lips. What's wrung from my lips is, "Dang, why didn't I think of that?"
This could bring a cult following in Humboldt and Mendocino Counties, where Kris no doubt got his original supply.
Keep it up, Celeste, let's have a poem about Father Time and one about the Easter Bunny.
on Nov. 12, 2014
Stars don't work for your work. I liked everything from "spell US" to the end. I would call it poetry rather than short story--why quibble about how it appears on the page. It's a lot closer to E.E. Cummings than Alice Munro. Keep up the good work.