Tag Archives: Novel

Tuesday Poem: “A Charlatan’s Orbit,” a novel by Zireaux

Works by Zireaux.

Works by Zireaux.

This week’s “Tuesday Poem” is my novel-in-prose, A Charlatan’s Orbit, which is now available in print and on Kindle.

I should probably be making a bigger fuss about it. The book was picked up by an ardent and capable agent two years ago, and presented to some leading publishers in Australia. None of them, however, committed to the novel — which, in their defence, is neither set in Australia nor has anything really to do with Australia.

I nearly forgot about it; moved on to other things. I’d written most of A Charlatan’s Orbit when I was much younger (my first novel, in fact), then, following this agent’s advice, revised and updated it for publication. Over the years I’d almost grown accustomed to the book’s slippage into obscurity, which is one of its themes in fact: the spectre of artistic obscurity in our changing literary landscape. It seemed almost fitting that no one would ever read it.

But then again, with the book having come so close to publication, “bucking in its chute” as a narrator of mine once put it, it also seems a pity for A Charlatan’s Orbit to remain as nothing more than a manuscript in my writing room; so I’ve followed the necessary steps and, with this post, release it into the wild.

Make of it what you will.

A Charlatan's Orbit - A Novel (Pre-release Review Copy)

A Charlatan’s Orbit – A Novel. Now available in print and on Kindle.

A Charlatan’s Orbit – A Novel
by Zireaux
6″ x 9″ (15.24 x 22.86 cm)
Black & White on White paper
424 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1482019278 (CreateSpace-Assigned)
ISBN-10: 1482019272
BISAC: Fiction / Literary

On September 15, 2009, the chairman of a major New York publishing house is found shot to death in his bedroom. Nearby, in the chairman’s study, lies the manuscript of A Charlatan’s Orbit, by one of America’s most successful and prolific novelists — Randall Ray.

The manuscript, Ray’s 98th and final book, is unlike any of his previous works. Part memoir, part confession, it describes Ray’s curious life — from his charmed childhood in California, to the strange cruelties of small-town India, to the financial and artistic pressures of New York City, and finally to a mysterious island where he now lives with an antique pistol, defending himself from angry natives.

But most of all, the book reveals the surprising truth behind Ray’s stardom — a truth which not only changes his legacy forever, but which exposes his passions, his duplicity, and ultimately the series of murders that have allowed A Charlatan’s Orbit to be written and published at all.

Get the print version.

Get the Kindle version.

More Tuesday Poems at Tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com.

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Terrorist, by John Updike

Terrorist, by John Updike

by John Updike

In a 2006 review for the Atlantic Monthly of John Updike’s last novel, Terrorist (which I read for the first time yesterday), Christopher Hitchens claims to have sent the book “windmilling across the room in a spasm of boredom and annoyance.” This, of course, is a lie; not to mention a cliche. Hardbacks can be heavy and destructive — so why are they always flying across the reading rooms of disgruntled critics?

The quibbles which Hitchens raises, however, are accurate enough: the plot of Terrorist is soap-bubble thin, the characters are patched-up hand-me-downs, several of the pop-cultural phrasings are “pitchy,” as an American Idol judge would put it.  But what sort of spine, I wonder, has the fluids to spasm in boredom over such trivial failings while reading a book about the hydra-headed Pep-Boys: Manny, Moe and Jack?  Or those inflatable attention-getters in front of New Jersey car lots, made of “weirdly lifelike segmented plastic tubes that when blown full of air from underneath wave their arms and jerk back and forth in torment, in constant beckoning agitation.”  Rising, falling, and — God bless America, God bless Levitra — rising again like an old man’s member.

With its “Terrorist” title, yes, the book compels lesser minds (and critics) to look for the same facile “explosions of some latter-day, dumbed down thriller” which 64-year-old Jack Levy watches at the movies, still holding his wife’s hand after 40 years of marriage despite the “coldly calibrated shocks of adolescent script mocking their old age.”  Like his character — and unlike many reviewers who actually misidentified Terrorist as a thriller — Updike always cared less about the popular projection of life than its flesh and blood texture.

Terrorist is a book about insects and worms and slime trails; about long brown stains from dripping faucets, “oval eyes of dubious toilet water,” crumbling macadam and asbestos, sooty churches, painted-over graffiti, the “rusting rails of abandoned freight car spurs,” cattails in brackish water, gutters “mint-green with age,” dying ad-starved daily papers, plastic flyswatters, Shop-a-Secs, Duncin’ Donuts,  Prime Office Suites, 1-800-TEETH-14, shops with tire-flattened styrofoam take-out containers in the driveway, lobster joints with the lobsters “still advertised but no longer served up steaming,” Subaru station wagons with Bondo-patched fenders and “red enamel abraded by years of acid New Jersey air” in another “pathetic attempt to join the easy seventy-mile-an-hour mainstream.”

It’s about the creation one finds in decay — and about Updike’s own decay after 74 years of embodying the golden age of American prosperity (that perfect life-time, 1933 to 2009).  Pressed to find the eponymous terrorist in Terrorist, I’d point to a little black beetle lying on its back, a miniature Gregor Samsa with his kicking legs, which frightens a young boy named Ahmed (the least terrorizing character in the book) the day before he, Ahmed (not Gregor-the-Beetle), sets off to blow up another three-headed, American Hydra — the Lincoln Tunnel.  Ahmed looks around for something with which to flip the little creature over, like “the dark little cardboard, for instance, used to give the two parts of a Mounds bar integrity, or to reinforce a double Reese’s Peaunut Butter Cup.”  Ahmed finally flips the insect over with the very C-class driver’s license he requires to deliver the bomb, but the beetle was already in its death throes, and, upright at last, remains still — “leaving behind a largeness that belongs not to this world.”

Does a mind which reacts to such a brilliantly observed novel, such a fine work of art, by sending it windmilling across a room in annoyance and boredom resemble in some way the mind of a weedy, misguided fundamentalist breaking through the asphalt cracks of America in fits of desecration, or a truckload of explosives?  Probably not.  But let the idea soak in.  “One of the worst pieces of writing since 9/11,” says Hitchens of Terrorist, granting Al Qaeda their calendrical synecdoche (perhaps their greatest conquest of all).  Updike died before Faishal Shazad tried to blow up a seventy-mile-an-hour mainstream Isuzu Trooper in Times Square, or before the events that really did change the world on 4/20, but he — as much as Kafka and the greatest of writers — has left behind a largeness that belongs not to this world.

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Radio New Zealand to Broadcast Epic Verse Novel by Zireaux

We’re pleased to announce that Radio New Zealand will be broadcasting Res Publica, Book One, an epic verse novel by the New Zealand writer, Zireaux. We’re especially pleased that the talented actor and theater director, Stuart Devenie, is lending his voice to Arcady, the main character of the book.

Adam Macaulay, Executive Producer of Drama for Radio NZ, had this to say about the project:

“Seldom does Radio New Zealand really ‘do’ poetry or verse even on a small scale — there really does need to be a very good reason to risk it. So the fact that we’ve just recorded the 10-part adaptation of the epic verse novel Res Publica (Book One) is extraordinary. But then the work itself is extraordinary and is, effectively, its own good reason.”

He and Devenie just finished the recording a couple days ago.

“It’s funny how you can read and re-read a script but something happens when you get it out into the air — when it travels out on the voice,” says Macaulay. “There were moments during the recording in the studio where we’d both just sit in silence at the end of a particularly stunning passage or stanza and well, savour the moment — the resonance, the image, the residual vibration of the verse. Or we’d just roar laughing.”

Macaulay admits that he’s unsure how the work will be received by Radio New Zealand’s listeners, but he adds, “We just had to do it. From the moment I began reading the book — and discovered I couldn’t put it down — I knew we should risk it. It’s a truly astonishing meeting of the deeply personal, the cunningly political, the cheekily tongue in cheekinal and the cuttingly social commentarial. And bugger it all, the verse is terrific.”

We’ll post the exact date and time of the broadcast as soon as it’s announced. All 10 episodes will also be available for download on the Radio New Zealand website.

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