Exaltations by Richard Garfinkle (late ‘70’s?). We first encounter Peter Refton, a biographer, on the battlefield in Afghanistan. When a bullet hits his head, what looked like the end turns out to be an opening into an unfamiliar multiverse with misty archipelagos reminiscent of computer games, where we meet a Carolingian knight, a Chinese ancestress/goddess, and a sorceress, where lives are reborn and sometimes time can be avoided altogether. Grandfather Quest emerges as Refton’s adversary. Stories have a life of their own, and Peter resists being sucked into participating in the same old quest plot in the overarching struggle between life and story. Beings transform, age, and become young. Words, ideas, histories, polemics, places, tumble out in profusion. This book constantly knocks you off your perch. Just when you think, “Well, here’s the nub that explains it all,” another voice enters to turn things around.
Nov 23, 2019
Murder at the Columbarium by Emily Gallo ’67. This is the third novel of Emily’s I have read with Jonestown survivor Jed as the protagonist. Having found a way to go forward as caretaker for this facility for cremains, Jed has also maintained a network of friends and a committed partner, Monica. A character of great empathy, Jed found in the past that rocking crack babies calmed both the babies and himself as he struggled to keep his past from overwhelming him. Now he finds himself in the midst of a murder mystery. After coming upon the body of a young woman wearing a hijab on the grounds of the Columbarium, he is startled to also find with her a healthy baby. Clues lead to a pot farm, international drug traffic, and some harsh Pakistani customs. The plot is well-paced and keeps the reader guessing as the facts unfold. Malcolm, whom I first met in Venice Beach, comes back to play an important role, and Jed’s baby rocking skills come in handy. Though a brutal murder is at the center of the story, the book provides a heartfelt, humanizing look at those often marginalized by society: the trans, the HIV positive, the poor, and even the skinhead.