Tag Archives: Literary Fiction

Author Dr. Richard Barager Talks about the Interesting Subject Matter of His New Book “The Atheist and the Parrotfish”

We are pleased to welcome to our blog today Richard Barager, the author of the exciting new upmarket literary novel, The Atheist and the Parrotfish. He speaks a little about his process, and about what led him to the unusual but compelling story he brings us.

 
A frequent question in author interviews is this one: “What made you decide to write this book, of all the books you might have written?” In the case of my latest novel, The Atheist and the Parrotfish, there were two images seared on my brain decades ago that lingered and refused to go away. The exploration of what they meant became the basis for my novel.

One was of an encounter with a patient of mine, years ago. He was a gruff tradesman who came to my office one day wearing a dress and a bra and female wig, at a time when public cross-dressing was rare. I asked him why he was dressed like a woman. “Because I like it,” he said. “And that’s all I want to say about it.” I wondered ever since what exactly it was that he liked about wearing a dress? My memory of him that day eventually gave rise, over two decades later, to my exploration of what it means to be transgender—and why—through the character of Ennis Willoughby, described as follows in the story.

“Hairless legs latticed by thick veins peeked out between the rims of his white socks and the hem of his dress. With caved in temples and sunken cheeks, a dusky wattle dangling practically to his chest, broken teeth, sallow skin, and a glaze of despair in his eyes…All he lacked was the striped garb of Auschwitz.”

Another image indelibly graven unto my brain back then came during a trip to Paris, on a visit to the Louvre. I came around a corner and confronted one of the most arresting and disturbing paintings I have ever seen, a masterpiece by the Romantic painter Paul Delaroche, entitled La Jeune Martyre (The Young Martyr). It was of a young girl floating face up in the Tiber River, with her shear white dress billowing in the water and her wrists bound in front of her. A halo hovered over her, described in my novel as “…a thin gold circle of empyreal light…The lambency of the halo colored everything beneath it soft and yellow, even in the dark, lapping water.” The intensity of Delaroche’s rendering marinated in my mind for years and finally launched me on an exploration of religious skepticism and faith.

My memories of these images formed within several years of each other, but I had no way of knowing at the time that not only would I search for their meaning two decades later, but that I would do so in the same novel. Nor would I have believed it possible that my story would discover the same essential truth in each, a brilliant paradox common to Christianity and to cross-dressing. So striking was this elemental truth that I nearly titled my novel The Christian and the Cross-Dresser, instead of The Atheist and the Parrotfish. (Parrotfish, by the way, are hermaphrodites, spending part of their life cycle as male and part as female—like Ennis.)

What made me want to write this story, you ask? What makes most writers want to write literary fiction—the search for truth.
 

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A doctor’s religious doubt is shaken by a transplant patient’s eerie knowledge of his organ donor’s most intimate secret.

Doctors tend to the needs of their patients, but patients give meaning to the lives of their doctors. So it is for Cullen Brodie, a twice-divorced California nephrologist, and Ennis Willoughby, a troubled cross-dresser whose life is saved by a rare heart-and-kidney transplant.

Cullen’s bitter disbelief in the afterlife is tested when Ennis begins to exhibit tastes and characteristics uncannily similar to those of his female organ donor—whose first name Ennis inexplicably knows. When Ennis becomes convinced that the donor’s soul has inhabited him, Cullen sides with Ennis’s psychiatrist, who tells Ennis he has subconsciously confused his emerging transgender personality with the imagined characteristics of his female donor.

While his psychiatrist coaxes forth Ennis’s female side, Cullen is summoned to the South Pacific by an old lover for a reckoning of their past. On the island paradise of Rarotonga, he is forced to confront the heartrending truth about a tragedy that destroyed their college romance—a tragedy Cullen blames on religious zealotry.

Filled with resentment over what he has learned, Cullen returns to Southern California determined to shatter Ennis’s delusion of ensoulment. But Ennis’s eerie knowledge of his donor’s greatest secret forces Cullen to consider the unimaginable: Is it possible he is witness to a verifiable incident of transmigration, tangible proof of a human soul? Or is he witness instead to the miracle of being transgender? Male and female at once, the glory of one and the glory of the other, both shining—like a parrotfish, another miracle of nature, changing gender apace, beside its glorious, ever-changing hue.

3 Upcoming Books (May 22, 2017) Now Available for Pre-Order

We are excited to announce the upcoming release of 3 new books, to launch on May 22, 2017, and each of which are now available for pre-order. We’ll provide all the details below, along with convenient links so you can pre-order your copies today.


 
 
Just click on the cover to see the book’s main page, where you’ll find some amazing endorsements/advance reviews of this great book.
 

 
A doctor’s religious doubt is shaken by a transplant patient’s eerie knowledge of his organ donor’s most intimate secret.
~~~~~
Doctors tend to the needs of their patients, but patients give meaning to the lives of their doctors. So it is for Cullen Brodie, a twice-divorced California nephrologist, and Ennis Willoughby, a troubled cross-dresser whose life is saved by a rare heart-and-kidney transplant.

Cullen’s bitter disbelief in the afterlife is tested when Ennis begins to exhibit tastes and characteristics uncannily similar to those of his female organ donor—whose first name Ennis inexplicably knows. When Ennis becomes convinced that the donor’s soul has inhabited him, Cullen sides with Ennis’s psychiatrist, who tells Ennis he has subconsciously confused his emerging transgender personality with the imagined characteristics of his female donor.

While his psychiatrist coaxes forth Ennis’s female side, Cullen is summoned to the South Pacific by an old lover for a reckoning of their past. On the island paradise of Rarotonga, he is forced to confront the heartrending truth about a tragedy that destroyed their college romance—a tragedy Cullen blames on religious zealotry.

Filled with resentment over what he has learned, Cullen returns to Southern California determined to shatter Ennis’s delusion of ensoulment. But Ennis’s eerie knowledge of his donor’s greatest secret forces Cullen to consider the unimaginable: Is it possible he is witness to a verifiable incident of transmigration, tangible proof of a human soul? Or is he witness instead to the miracle of being transgender? Male and female at once, the glory of one and the glory of the other, both shining—like a parrotfish, another miracle of nature, changing gender apace, beside its glorious, ever-changing hue.
 
 

 
The Last Meridian – crossing it was her only choice.

A telegram sets off a chain of events that destroys five lives, throwing Hollywood insider Nina Ferrer’s life into turmoil. The infant boy she gave up for adoption in Chicago sixteen years earlier has been arrested for murder. A plea from the boy’s adoptive mother pushes her to act, but Nina has a big problem—she never told her husband about the boy.

Nina must come to terms with her guilt, while accepting the reality of her fragile life and her cheating husband, who’s embroiled in another deadly plot. As her life unravels, the boy’s fate grows ominous. Set against the backdrop of the Hollywood heyday of the early 1960s, the quick-witted, smart-talking Nina, a designer for the well-heeled of Los Angeles, hires a private detective to uncover the facts about what happened back in Chicago, and save her boy. Maybe… just maybe… he can save her, too.

Or perhaps Nina will have to save herself, the most frightening prospect of all. To do that, she must cross The Last Meridian, the place beyond which life as she knows it will no longer exist.
 
 

 
The Grifters kidnap any metahumans living outside the Academy… like me. Only this time, they missed.

For centuries, a covert organization of metahumans called the Academy has protected unaware civilians from the Grifters, creatures whose humanity is as deformed as their craggy faces. I’d spent eighteen years ignorant of either group, and of their endless war. Then the Grifters found me.

The Academy whisked me away to safety, and we waited for the danger to pass. Only it didn’t. The Grifters, too stupid to know or too cruel to care that I’d left, kidnapped my best friend instead.

It won’t take them long to figure out their mistake, but I’m not going to give them the opportunity. Finding Kara means grueling training at the Academy—a sequestered hub of classified operations, psychic powers, and fighting creatures that should only exist in nightmares. We have the weapons, the technology, the brains. The Academists are strong, but Grifters are stronger. They can’t even feel pain. But we can, and Grifters are the perfect outlet for releasing that pain.

The Trace is the first book in the young adult trilogy “Whitewashed,” following Ella Kepler, a nascent metahuman whose strength and speed is matched only by the enemies set against her.
 

AND SO….

 
We hope you find one, two, or all three of these books to your liking, either for yourself or as gifts for your loved ones. As always, we thank you for your support. As an indie small press, we couldn’t survive without you, our loyal readers. Lastly, please share this great news with your friends.

Gregg Sapp

Description

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Gregg Sapp, a native Ohioan, is a librarian, academic administrator, and a Pushcart Prize-nominated author. Having written over 60 academic articles and some 300 reviews, Gregg published his first novel, Dollarapalooza (or “The Day Peace Broke Out in Columbus”) in 2011 with Switchgrass Books of Northern Illinois University Press.

Since then, he has published humor, poetry, and short stories in various literary journals, including Defenestration, Imaginaire, Kestrel, Zodiac Review, Marathon Review, and Writing Tomorrow, and he’s been a frequent contributor to Midwestern Gothic. His forthcoming book, Fresh News Straight from Heaven, about the life and folklore of Johnny Appleseed, will be published by Evolved Publishing in 2017.

Books

Coming Soon….

Up Next

Watch for Fresh News Straight from Heaven, a literary/historical novel, to come in the spring of 2017.

 
“I happen to believe that genius makes people weird,” the storyteller says, explaining how Johnny Appleseed could be at once so peculiar and so profound.

~~~~~

Between 1801 and 1812, Ohio and the Old Northwest territory was a brutal place where peace was fragile, living conditions were savage, and the laws of civilization were far away. Still, settlers staked everything they owned on the chance that they could build better lives for themselves in this new frontier. John Chapman – aka, Johnny Appleseed – knew this land better than any white man. Everywhere he went, he shared the “Fresh News Straight from Heaven,” which he heard right from the voices of angels who chatted with him regularly, that God had promised him personally that peace was possible through growing fruit.

Convincing people of that vision, though, was no easy task. Most folks thought he was mad. This land was populated by a miscellaneous assemblage of soldiers, scoundrels, freebooters, runaway slaves, circuit riders, and religious cultists. Ambitious politicians, like Aaron Burr and William Henry Harrison, had dreams of creating a new empire. Meanwhile, a reformed drunkard emerged among the Shawnee as a Prophet, who spoke with the Great Spirit, Waashaa Monetoo. Along with his brother, the war chief Tecumseh, the Prophet began building an Indian coalition to take back their land.

Even while the tensions mount, Johnny, with angels urging him on, skates blithely through the crossfire and turmoil, spreading his message, impervious to the mockery and derision being heaped upon him. Throughout his mission, Johnny is dogged at every step by Colonel Frank Bantzer of the Ohio militia. The two men share history with a woman–Sister Mona Junkin of a schismatic, all-female sect of the Shakers–whom Johnny befriends after she’d been betrayed by Bantzer.

Finally, Johnny’s faith is challenged when war breaks out in the land, leading to the bloody battle of Tippecanoe between Harrison’s army and the Shawnee Prophet’s warriors, and ultimately to the declaration of the War of 1812. A violent massacre near the northern Ohio town of Mansfield leaves its citizens terrified and vulnerable. In a desperate act of faith, Johnny promises the people that he can save them.

And thus Johnny dashes off on a midnight run, seeking to spread peace across a land on the brink of war. But, on his way, he must face various demons from his own past, settle old scores, and make things right. Standing in his way is an enraged Colonel Frank Bantzer. With many lives at stake, including his and Sister Mona’s, Johnny has to confront the ultimate test of his convictions.

Richard Barager

Description

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By day I’m a nephrologist, treating dialysis patients and kidney transplant recipients. By night I write fiction. I believe the two finest callings in life are doctor and writer, one ministering to the human condition, the other illuminating it, and each capable of transforming it.

I earned BA and MD degrees at the University of Minnesota and did my postgraduate training at Emory University in Atlanta and the University of California in San Diego. I live now in Orange County, CA.

I am a champion of the healing power of literature, and sometimes prescribe novels or short stories to patients to help them cope with illness. Fiction explores meaning in a way science cannot. Sometimes only fiction tells the truth.

Books

Books Written By:

Author: Richard Barager

The Atheist and the Parrotfish

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The Atheist and the Parrotfish

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Great Stories, Dynamic Worlds, Compelling Characters: The Making of Cassia by Lanette Kauten

Lanette KautenIn this interview, author Lanette Kauten discusses some of what went into her creation of Cassia, a literary exploration of the art scene, perfect for fans of literary or women’s fiction: a lesbian “Anna Karenina” set in an art district at the end of the Cold War.

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Interview with the Author:

CassiaWhere does your story begin?
Cassia begins at a baseball game in the year 2010. My main character, Tanya, is there with her husband and a married couple he knows professionally. The woman peppers Tanya with questions about Cassia, insinuating she knows too much about Tanya’s past.
 
The next chapter starts twenty years in the past and details Tanya’s torrid relationship with the enigmatic Cassia.
 
Who are your main characters? What do they want? What will get in their way?
As a reporter living in Deep Ellum, all Tanya Falgoust wants is to be accepted as part of the underground arts district. But living among free thinkers and musicians doesn’t make her one of them. Then she meets the sensual, rebellious Cassia, a performance artist who struts onto the stage and into Tanya’s bed.
 
No one knows who Cassia is, but her beauty and talents as an actress and dancer captivate the local scene. Tanya is mesmerized, and they quickly form a relationship. A close friend warns Tanya about Cassia, but she brushes him off. But when Cassia refuses to divulge anything about herself, where she lives, or even her real name, Tanya starts to realize her friend was right. And the secrets her lover is hiding are deeper and more damaging than Tanya could imagine.
 
As the pull of their relationship deepens and becomes more volatile, Tanya must decide whether to break from her desire before she loses the one thing she wants most—connection to the musicians who have accepted her into their community.
 
Where does your setting fit with what we know, and where is it unique?
Cassia is set in an arts/bar district just east of downtown Dallas, which in itself makes the setting both familiar and unique. A lot of cities have a section that’s pretty much reserved for the boho lifestyle—East Village in New York, 6th Street in Austin, and pretty much all of Portland, to name a few. Dallas has such an area as well, called Deep Ellum.
 
The neighborhood started as a Freedman’s town and was a Blues and Jazz hotspot at one time. For decades, it sat nearly empty except for the few businesses that never moved from the area. In the 80s, a handful of people saw tremendous opportunity to make it into a place for local musicians and artists.
 
What books, movies, etc, might this story be similar to, and in what ways is it unique?
The first book to come to mind is Rules of Civility by Amor Towles, because of its structure, and because the main character is a woman looking back on a particular year of her life and how the events of that year changed the direction of the rest of her life. But 1939 New York (Rules of Civility) is very different from 1990 Dallas (Cassia).
 
A generational tie exists with the book Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel, as both her book and mine deal with the struggles of a young crop of Gen-Xers. Outside of Wurtzel’s book being a memoir and mine being a work of fiction, there is a difference in writing style and focus. While Prozac Nation deals with depression in young adults, Cassia focuses on the postmodern view of art and sexuality.
 
Are more stories planned in this series?
I don’t write book series, but I am working on a new novel with Cassia as the protagonist. Tanya won’t even appear as a cameo in this new book.
 
Our thanks to Lanette Kauten for spending a little time with us, and we hope you enjoy her wonderful book, Cassia.

And if you love Cassia, you’ll also love:

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