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Short Takes: November 2012 

A Thanksgiving feast of Hudson Valley literature from small presses, serving fiction with a dash of truth.

As It Is On Earth
Peter M. Wheelwright
Fomite Press, 2012, $15.95
Taylor Thatcher is a 12th-generation New Englander, born into a “fast-paced but solemn world” of “hospitals, funerals, weddings, hospitals, funerals.” During the end days before a Millennium Conference, his life intertwines with his troubled half brother Bingham, an alluring Israeli photographer, and the indigenous past. Columbia County resident Wheelwright writes with an architect’s vision and intricacy, courting big themes as he follows gnarled family roots deep into bedrock.


Light Piercing Water: Guest Boy

Djelloul Marbrook
Mira Publishing, 2012, $4.99
Guest Boy follows the intercontinental odyssey of Bo Cavalieri, a peripatetic artist and merchant seaman of Arab-American lineage. Moving from German rathskeller to Moroccan burial, from wreck-diving off the coast of Oman to a brothel-trade slave ship, this first volume of an ambitious trilogy by award-winning Germantown poet Marbrook sails the seven seas in Homeric fashion, framing incident through character study.


The Agitator
Walter Keady
Castletree Books, 2012, $19.95
Irish-born Dutchess County novelist Keady starts his historical novel in a reeking laundry room at Dartmoor Prison in 1877, as Irish freedom fighter Michael Davitt is summarily released. Returning home to rally starving tenant farmers, he emerges as a leader in the Land War, a nonviolent class conflict with the slow burn of a peat fire. Diligently researched and bristling with period detail, The Agitator fights the good fight.


The Seduction of Erica Stein
Roberta Seligman
Epigraph Books, 2012, $14.95
It’s a set-up familiar from countless romances: lonely housewife meets handsome handyman. But documentary filmmaker Seligman adds some twists of her own. Her eponymous heroine (also a filmmaker) is 12 years older than the tattooed hunk who shows up to mow her Rhinebeck lawn, and he’s married with children. Opposites attract, prose becomes breathless, but Erica’s fairy-tale ending plays hard to get.


Suite for Three Voices
Derek Furr
Fomite Press, 2012, $15
In this ambitious “dance of prose genres,” Bard professor Furr interweaves personal narrative, short fiction, and essay to link an astounding diversity of subjects—Battlestar Galactica and Victorian ghosts, birdsong, and death—offering readers what amounts to a literary brain scan. As he writes of his grandfather, “At any given moment, we are the sum of the stories we remember; life after death comes to those whose stories endure.”


Another Insane Devotion: On the Love of Cats and Persons

Peter Trachtenberg
Da Capo, 2012, $24
A beloved pet vanishes; a marriage flounders. How to go on? Spiked with intellectual digressions and unlikely graphics (Masaccio, Rembrandt, a Victorian “mourning photo”), Trachtenberg’s eccentric meditation on loss and transition is not your everyday cat book. The author of The Book of Calamities and 7 Tattoos uses language as a flensing tool, peeling back layers to glimpse deeper truths. Reading 11/17 at 7pm, Oblong Books & Music, Rhinebeck.

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