BOOKS: Exit Roth

Notes on the Occasion of Philip Roth’s Retirement ◆ by Kevin Howley

Last October, a few months shy of his 80th birthday, Philip Roth, America’s most celebrated living novelist, quietly announced his retirement. Roth made the disclosure in an interview with Les Inrockuptibles, a French cultural magazine. Weeks later, Salon confirmed Roth’s retirement with his publicist at Houghton Mifflin and the Paris Review translated Nelly Kaprielian’s complete interview with Roth. Assessing his handiwork – some thirty books over the course of more than half a century – Roth invoked not a man of letters, but a sports legend from his youth: “At the end of his life,” Roth recalled, “the boxer Joe Louis said: ‘I did the best I could with what I had.’ This is exactly what I would say of my work: I did the best I could with what I had.” Roth’s “best” is a poignant, incisive, inventive, raucously humorous, sometimes controversial body of work. Any appreciation of Roth’s legacy, however modest, would do well to take Roth’s own assessment as a starting point. What was it, then, that Roth had to work with?

Born in Newark, New Jersey in 1933, Philip Roth was raised in a working class, secular Jewish household: a milieu Roth plumbed for his antic comedy, most notoriously, Portnoy’s Complaint, as well as his darkest imaginings, The Plot Against America. The Newark of Roth’s youth – a vibrant urban space with decent schools, ethnic neighborhoods, and a bustling downtown figures prominently his work. As does Newark after de-industrialization, white flight, and the racial tensions of the 1960s that decimated a quintessentially American city. Roth’s evocations of Newark are rarely romanticized; instead, Newark serves to ground his characters, and their stories, in a discrete and discernible time and place.

Roth

Of his forsaken city, Roth writes in the Pulitzer Prize-winning American Pastoral, “It was Newark that was entombed there, a city that was not going to stir again. The pyramids of Newark: as huge and dark and hideously impermeable as a great dynasty’s burial edifice has every historical right to be.” The calamity that befalls Newark provides the backdrop to the familiar catastrophe that wrenches the novel’s protagonist, Seymour “Swede” Levov, from his “longed for American pastoral … into the indigenous American berserk.” Levov’s harrowing tale, as recounted by Roth’s most enduring character, the writer Nathan Zuckerman, is part of a trilogy that includes I Married a Communist – a period piece set in the McCarthy era – and The Human Stain. Arguably one of Roth’s most vivid, sympathetic, and penetrating portraits, The Human Stain tells the story of Coleman Silk, a respected professor of classics at a small liberal arts college in Western Massachusetts, and his great undoing on the alter of political correctness at the height of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal.

The gravity of Roth’s work finds its antithesis in the comic absurdity of some of his most memorable and imaginative fiction: The Breast, wherein the protagonist, Professor David Kepesh, another of Roth’s recurring characters, undergoes a Kafkaesque metamorphosis into an enormous mammary gland; Our Gang, an uproariously indignant response to the excesses of the Nixon White House; and, most famously, the aforementioned Portnoy’s Complaint – the book that made Roth rich and reviled. At once a product and send-up of the sexual revolution of the 1960s, Portnoy’s Complaint signaled Roth’s arrival as one of America’s preeminent satirists.

Alexander Portnoy’s psychoanalytic confession of sexual defilement and insatiable appetite to the silent therapist, Dr. Spielvogel, is an extended Jewish joke. Of course, not everyone got the joke. Despite its rebellious, ribald, and unprecedented assault on sexual taboos, feminists decried Portnoy’s Complaint, chiefly, but not exclusively, for its caricature of Mary Jane Reed (aka The Monkey). Others lambasted Roth for exploiting, reinforcing, and legitimating stereotypes of Jews and Jewish life. This was not the first, nor would it be the last time, Roth provoked the ire of Jewish readers. His first published short story, “Defender of the Faith,” created an uproar among those who took the tale to be the work of a “self-hating Jew” whose comedy did nothing to dissuade the goyim from their distaste and distrust of the chosen people.

Roth’s work provokes and explores a central question: What does it mean to be a Jew living in postwar America? This thematic concern – some, including Roth in the guise of any number of his protagonists, might call it an obsession – is a particularly rich vein for his fiction. Indeed, Roth’s autobiographical dexterity – as much a reaction to his perceived self-hatred as it is a declaration of his Jewishness – proved an excellent vehicle to interrogate the relationship between fact and fiction, lived experience and imagination, authors and their creations. Most evident in the Zuckerman trilogy – The Ghost Writer, Zuckerman Unbound, The Anatomy Lesson – this theme permeates other work as well. Consider, for example, Operation Shylock, wherein the writer Philip Roth confronts his double, or Roth’s nonfiction, including the deeply moving account of his father’s prolonged illness, Patrimony, and The Facts, Roth’s autobiography, in which Nathan Zuckerman writes an afterword that puts the book’s veracity into question.

And yet to define Roth exclusively or even primarily as a Jewish writer limits our understanding, and appreciation, for his art and craft. One needn’t have grown up a Jew to know the shame and guilt that adolescent boys, fond of whacking off, know all too well. One only needs a prick to register a familiar laugh, as when Alex Portnoy, fearing the worst – that his self-abuse has given him cancer – just can’t leave it alone.  Inevitably, inextricably, Portnoy’s paranoia yields to his desire: “If only I could cut down to one hand-job a day, or hold the line at two, or even three! But with the prospect of oblivion before me, I actually began to set new records for myself. Before meals. After meals. During meals.”

Then there is Roth’s love for that other national pastime: baseball. Consider the audaciously titled The Great American Novel, which tells the story of the ill-fated Port Ruppert Mundys: a team so bad it has no home field. A team so inept that the franchise has been stricken from all of baseball’s recorded history. When the Mundys actually win a game – albeit an exhibition game against the inmates of a local insane asylum – the players recount their exploits with the same gusto and gravitas you are likely to hear when Bloomington’s boys of summer enjoy a bit of tailgating down at Twin Lakes softball field. “‘Yep,’ said Kid Heket, who was still turning the events of the morning over in his head, ‘no doubt about it, them fellers just was not usin’ their heads.’”

Roth’s gift for farce is matched by his single-minded devotion to the novel. From the writerly introspection of his most radical work of fiction, The Counterlife, and his editorial stewardship of the Penguin series, Writers From the Other Europe, to his collection of literary interviews and criticism, Shop Talk, this much is clear: Roth is a writer’s writer. In his exit interview, Roth said, “I’ve given my life to the novel. I’ve studied it, I’ve taught it, I’ve written it, and I’ve read it. To the exclusion of practically everything else. It’s enough! I don’t feel that fanaticism about writing that I felt all my life. The idea of trying to write one more time is impossible to me!”

If Roth, trickster that he is, is to be believed and he really is retired, his final series of short novels, culminating with Nemesis, a study in “the tyranny of contingency,” caps a luminous and prolific literary career.

[Kevin Howley is professor of media studies at DePauw University. He is indebted to Professor Parke Burgess, his undergraduate advisor in the Department of Communication Arts & Sciences at Queens College, for introducing him to the work of Philip Roth.]

The Ryder ◆ July 2013

MUSIC: The Thrill Of Victory

The USA International Harp Competition ◆ by Megan Landfair

This time last summer people around the world were waiting with bated breath for the start of the 2012 London Olympic Games. The excitement of seeing the world’s top athletes strive to perform at their highest level had audiences from all walks of life glued to their TVs and computers for two weeks. This summer, you’ll be happy to know that you can witness the competitive spirit again right in Bloomington! On July 10-20, the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music is hosting the 9th USA International Harp Competition.

Fifty of the best harpists from around the world, ages 16-32, representing twenty countries will travel to Bloomington in hopes of winning the gold medal. One of the first traditions they will take part in is the Opening Ceremony scheduled to take place in Auer Hall on July 10th at 4:00 p.m. Contestants will be greeted by Indiana’s political elite and be assigned their performance order.

Throughout the ten days competitors strive to achieve their peak performance in order to win the coveted $55,000 Lyon & Healy Gold Concert Grand Harp. To win the gold harp, they must pass through four stages in which they will be judged by seven world-renowned musicians. Like many Olympic events, the competition jury members will utilize a point system for each harpist but instead of being judged on their athletic prowess the points are based on musicianship, technique and artistic presentation.

The first stage will last for three intense days, after which the jury will identify only half of the harpists for the next round. From the field of 25 in Stage II, only eight will move on to Stage III.

At this point the harpists will have to show mastery of the instrument by demonstrating their ability to perform both traditional repertoire and a brand new piece, written specifically for the competition by French composer Benjamin Attahir. At the end of Stage III the jury will decide which three harpists continue to the final stage.

Following nine days of intense competition, diverse musical interpretations, and world-class performances, the excitement will culminate at the Musical Arts Center on Saturday July 20 where the finalists each perform with the Indiana University Summer Festival Orchestra. Shortly following their performances, the Closing Ceremony will commence with the presentation of the medals and the gold harp.

So why does the Jacobs School of Music host this prestigious event? The school has the largest harp department in the world. It also has Distinguished Professor of Harp Susann McDonald who founded the competition in 1989. Just like the USA Gymnastics team, the IU harp department has had a long-standing tradition of distinction and excellence. This year six participants from the Jacobs School will represent this country.

2010 Harp Competition Winners

2010 Winners (l-r) Vasilisa Lushchevskaya, Russia; Agnes Clement, France; Rino Kageyama, Japan. Photo: Alain Barker

While it is exciting to watch the competition unfold and see a winner announced, the ultimate goal of the USA International Harp Competition is to foster friendships, bring together musicians from around the world, and introduce the harp repertoire to a broader public. Just as with watching an Olympic sporting event, the recognition of the competitor’s hard work is celebrated throughout the ten days.

This summer, be sure to come out and be part of the excitement. The competition is in your own back yard and all events, including the finals at the MAC, are free and open to the public. For more information a complete schedule of events visit USA International Harp Competition.

The Ryder ◆ July 2013

MUSIC: From Heroic Complexity to Beautiful Simplicity

Britten

The IU Festival Orchestra Performs Works by Richard Strauss and Benjamin Britten ◆ by Kristen Strandberg

The Indiana University Festival Orchestra will perform an exciting variety of works from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as part of the annual Summer Music Festival. The orchestra, under the direction of David Effron, will appear with internationally renowned soprano and IU alum Heidi Grant Murphy as guest soloist on July 12. The program features several short pieces for soprano and orchestra, along with two orchestral works, ranging from Richard Strauss’s somewhat complex pieces, to Benjamin Britten’s beautiful arrangements of folk songs.

The orchestra will perform several songs and an orchestral work by Richard Strauss, whose music is sometimes dark and chromatic, while also at times triumphant and heroic.  The composer wrote Ein Heldenleben (A Hero’s Life) for orchestra in 1898—the same year he wrote his best-known orchestral work, Also Sprach Zarathustra, which film director Stanley Kubric famously used in his 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Ein Heldenleben, in which each movement serves as a vignette representing one facet of the hero’s life (loosely based on the composer’s own life), presents some similarities to the now-ubiquitous Also Sprach Zarathustra. Both works demand a variety of techniques from the orchestra, often contrasting powerful bursts of sound with smooth, lyrical melodies. Strauss also uses recurring melodies that represent specific people, objects, or ideas, known as leitmotifs. Strauss borrowed the concept of the leitmotif from composer Richard Wagner, and modern film composers commonly use leitmotifs to represent characters or situations. Ein Heldenleben’s opening melody in the cellos and horns, for example, represents the hero himself. The work premiered in Frankfurt in 1899, conducted by Strauss himself, and its American premiere took place in Chicago in 1900.  It remains an audience favorite and is still frequently performed.

R. Strauss

The Young Richard Strauss

The orchestra will perform three other works by Strauss, alongside soprano Heidi Grant Murphy. Along with his tone poems and operas, Strauss is well known for his over 200 songs for solo voice accompanied by either piano or orchestra.  The three Strauss songs on the Festival Orchestra’s program offer some variety to listeners. The music in Ständchen, for instance, clearly depicts the images of nature in the text, such as a babbling brook, and noticeably shifts when the text describes images of darkness.  In Meinem Kinde, written about ten years later in 1897, the orchestra and voice sound like two separate entities, only briefly coming together about halfway through the piece. The soprano melodies in Säusle, liebe Myrte! are perhaps the most operatic of the three Strauss works on the program, with soft, subtle sections, balanced with soaring high notes.

In contrast to the variety and complexity of Strauss’s songs, Benjamin Britten’s folk song arrangements for solo voice and orchestra evoke a familiar simplicity. Britten, a twentieth-century British composer, firmly believed that music should be available to everyone. He wrote some of his music for amateurs and, unlike many of his contemporaries, was concerned with accessibility and popular taste. His folk song arrangements follow this philosophy, with their popular origins and simple melodies.  The Salley Gardens, for instance, features a smooth, murmuring orchestra in the background, accompanying a beautiful soprano melody without big melodic leaps or impressive operatic techniques.

Britten

Benjamin Britten

The Festival Orchestra’s concert also features two other folk song arrangements by Benjamin Britten and arrangements of two traditional songs with Murphy, along with one other orchestral work, Barber’s 1931 Overture to ‘School for Scandal.’  The concert takes place on Friday, July 12 at 8pm at the IU Musical Arts Center.  Tickets may be purchased at the MAC Box Office (855-7433), or online.

The Ryder ◆ July 2013

ARTS: The Petit Paris And Me

Correcting Life’s Little Mistakes ◆ by Tom Roznowski

Childhood is about entering life through doors left unlocked. I was taught from an early age that America has more doors with light shining under them than anywhere else in the world. Growing up here, you sense it must be coming from the sun shining on a distant horizon: the satisfaction of a good day past or the anticipation of the new day ahead.

A few years ago, there was a historic analysis done of the so-called happiness index. It indicated that collectively Americans felt the greatest sense of optimism and security in their lives during the year 1957. Statistical guru Jeff Sagarin tells me it’s even more definitive than that. He focuses on the resonance of one single day: October 4, 1957. That Friday saw the launch of the Sputnik satellite into space, the television debut of Leave It To Beaver, and a travel day for the Milwaukee Braves and the New York Yankees as they battled in an epic seven game World Series. (I should mention here that the previous week, “That’ll Be The Day” by Buddy Holly and the Crickets was the hottest selling single in America).

Curiously, that year has also been cited by long-time New York City residents as the finest the city ever felt during the 20th Century. Urban environments are by their very nature dynamic and complex, so calculating the high point of their evolution is at best a doubtful exercise. That said, in 1957 New York City Miles Davis was recording Miles Ahead, Madison Avenue had real Mad Men, and My Fair Lady was playing on Broadway. Oh yea, and Mickey Mantle was 25 years old as he trotted out to play center field for the home team. I consider this some fairly persuasive evidence.

My own childhood was spent in the post-war suburbs of Albany, New York, which in 1957 was the capital of the most populous state in America. New York would be eclipsed by California in that regard while I was still in grade school, but culturally and commercially the Empire State remained the nation’s epicenter for a while after that. This was another random stroke of good fortune for me. California would come to reflect America in the last quarter of the 20th Century, when we were obviously not at our best.

Friday, October 4, 1957, would have found me walking home from school along another Madison Avenue, the main commercial district for my neighborhood. Albany was about 135 miles from New York City, a far greater distance back then. I don’t think I’d insult my hometown by remembering it as comparatively provincial. Still, Albany was close enough to absorb occasional cultural resonance from the great city to the south.  If one could have ever devised an antenna expressly for that purpose, I believe it might have been planted on the roof of 1060 Madison Avenue.

I always had a fascination with the building as I passed by it back then. But as a small child, my curiosity would have only been met by a locked door. So now it’s left up to me, over 50 years and 700 miles distant, to uncover the secrets of what lay hidden on the other side. That light beneath the door is dim and smoky. Press an ear close to hear the music and chatter, occasionally punctuated by a loud laugh and the clink of plates and glasses. Inhale the aroma of strange cooking and imagine some big fun for adults inside.

1060 Madison Avenue in Albany, New York was the address of the Petit Paris. I remember it as an undistinguished stucco building with weeping ivy and a plain wooden sign. Modest elegance, you might say. Tiny windows were set to either side of an arched oak door; an indication that daylight held little sway with the business going on within.

Petit Paris

The Petit Paris, Albany, New York

A restaurant—that was about all it revealed to me. The dinner menu for was framed in a showcase above the mail slot. It featured Flaming Sword Coq-au-vin, Escargot, and Crepe Suzette: generic French cuisine for post-war America. I would guess that more than a few of the customers had served in France during the war. Having experienced the country at its worst, perhaps some veterans were eager for a chance to change their impressions. A skilled chef and a full bar might help there.

So would the movie Gigi, which would soon premiere to rave reviews, eventually winning the Best Picture Oscar. Set in the vibrant Paris of the 1890s, Gigi was originally intended by Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner to be follow-up to their tremendously successful run of My Fair Lady on Broadway.

Turned out they took a detour on the way to the stage. Hollywood producer Arthur Freed essentially made the pair an offer they would not refuse, yet one more victory for California over New York. Already in 1958, New York City and Brooklyn had lost major league teams to the West Coast. To some, Gigi justified the means by grossing over four times the film’s bloated budget.

This was essentially the same method of persuasion used to dispatch the Petit Paris. One afternoon as he was wiping down the bar, owner Mike Flanagan received an early visitor. He inquired whether the place might be for sale. Mike named an unreasonably high price, figuring it would discourage a merely curious buyer. One month later, the visitor returned and they shook hands on the deal. On July 3, 1973, the Petit Paris closed. Within two months, it was bulldozed to make way for a supermarket. I was working a summer job in the Catskills and heard the news in a phone call home.
So I never did walk through that big oak door and I guess I must have regretted it ever since. On a whim recently, I entered “Petit Paris Albany” into the Ebay search engine. Lo and behold, there it was. An old unused postcard revealed what was waiting on the other side in that smoky light.

The photograph shows white linen tablecloths with napkin tents and champagne buckets. A huge painted mural on one wall depicts something regal and historic. Soft blue colors dominate the club. I imagine Maurice Chevalier’s top hat in Gigi was a similar shade.

And then, an unexpected surprise; the kind previously locked doors can reveal when you get past childhood. An elevated stage for live performance complete with velvet curtains, a baby grand, and huge potted palms to either side. Wonder of wonders, it turns out the Petit Paris was actually a swanky nightclub.

Looks like there would have been just enough room on stage for a five piece combo. Why, after few phone calls a long weekend of dates featuring Miles Davis and his road band might be arranged. Maybe the core group he’d use for the Kind of Blue sessions. Do you think Coltrane would make the trip? Friday night.  I’d order an appetizer, their best vintage, the Chateaubriand, saving just enough folding money to bribe the band into playing “My Funny Valentine.” And the waiter would keep filling my glass.

After the last set, I’d step out into the brisk October night and hail a cab. Union Station, I tell the driver. I check my wristwatch. Last train to Grand Central. Game Three of the World Series is tomorrow afternoon in Yankee Stadium. I have box seats along the third base line.

Sure, I already know the outcome. That’s why I’ve set my dream date for New York City one year later: October 4, 1958. Game Three on that Saturday will still feature the Yankees and the Braves with Mantle in center. Only this time, the Yankees win in seven.
A short stretch of perfection; just enough to make me believe that there are no locked doors; that every knob I reach for will turn gently in my hand.

The Ryder ◆ July 2013

FILM: Summer’s Here And The Time Is Right…

From "Summer Rental"

…For Watching Films Indoors ◆ by Craig J. Clark

According to Hollywood, the summer movie season has been in full swing since the beginning of May, but by the time July and August roll around, temperatures are sweltering enough that it just doesn’t pay to go outside, even if your destination is an air-conditioned screening room. That’s why, instead of putting yourself at the risk of sunstroke, it’s much better to stay put and watch one (or more) of these summery cinematic treats.

The mid-80s had no shortage of movies about how people chose to spend their summer vacation – or their lack of one as in Carl Reiner’s Summer School. In it, high school gym teacher Mark Harmon’s planned getaway to Hawaii is scuttled when he’s tapped to shepherd a class of misfits through a remedial English class. Helped along by fellow teacher Kirstie Alley (his requisite love interest), Harmon tries his best to engage his inattentive charges, which leads to much high-jinks, including a classroom screening of Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Nothing spells “summer” like watching a movie where other people watch a movie.

From "Summer Rental"

“Summer Rental”

Carl Reiner was also responsible for Summer Rental, in which frazzled air-traffic controller John Candy is given some much-needed time off and uses it to take his family to Florida, where a cascading series of mishaps prevents him from getting much rest and relaxation. His plight does give rise to one of the mainstays of ’80s comedies, though: the montage sequence where everybody pitches in to fix something up. In this case, it’s a boat that Candy needs to get shipshape so he can win a regatta, a plot point that also figures into the Nantucket-set One Crazy Summer. Written and directed by Savage Steve Holland, the auteur behind the ’80s classic Better Off Dead, it’s about a singular season of screwiness during which hapless cartoonist John Cusack and his pals (whose ranks include Bobcat Goldthwait, Curtis Armstrong, and Joel – brother of Bill – Murray) band together to save Demi Moore’s grandfather’s house from being razed by some shady developers. (That’s another trope of ’80s movies that could inspire an article all its own.)

From "One Crazy Summer"

“One Crazy Summer”

If you don’t mind getting a little arty, boating is also central to Ingmar Bergman’s Summer with Monika, which was his first film to make a splash on these shores, largely because its American distributor capitalized on the title character’s fleeting nudity by releasing it under the lurid title Monika, the Story of Bad Girl. Said bad girl is played by Bergman’s muse, Harriet Andersson, who convinces her boyfriend to steal his father’s boat so they can get away from Stockholm for a few months. Andersson returns in Smiles on a Summer Night, which was made two years later and deals with the romantic entanglements of several couples. A classic of world cinema (one of many Bergman would turn out over the course of his career), Smiles later inspired the Stephen Sondheim musical A Little Night Music and Woody Allen’s pastoral A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy, which isn’t quite on the same level, but it’s still plenty funny.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream has been brought to the screen on a number of occasions – most notably in a 1935 adaptation with the once-in-a-lifetime cast of James Cagney, Olivia de Havilland and Mickey Rooney (as Puck) and one from 1999 that features Kevin Kline, Christian Bale, Rupert Everett, Michelle Pfeiffer and Sam Rockwell, among others – but if William Shakespeare seems too daunting, you can always give Tennessee Williams a try. First staged in 1958, Suddenly, Last Summer was adapted by Williams and Gore Vidal the following year for Joseph L. Mankiewicz to direct. In the process they had to skirt around some of the issues that the play addressed more directly, but Elizabeth Taylor remains a force of nature as a patient in a mental hospital whose vindictive aunt (Katharine Hepburn, who was nominated alongside Taylor for Best Actress) wants kindly lobotomist Montgomery Clift to go to work on her. Before he can do so, though, he has to get to the bottom of what happened the previous summer, suddenly.

From "Suddenly, Last Summer"

Elizabeth Taylor In “Suddenly, Last Summer”

Williams’s flair for the psychosexual reared its head again in 1961’s Summer and Smoke, based on his 1948 play. Directed by Peter Glenville, it’s about a wastrel of a bacteriologist (Laurence Harvey) and a repressed preacher’s daughter (Geraldine Page, earning her first of many Best Actress nominations) who live next door to each other in a small Southern town and are about the most incompatible would-be lovers as you could ever imagine. That doesn’t prevent Harvey from trying his best to drag Page down to his level over the course of a particularly sultry summer.

Those who wish to go abroad without actually leaving home would be advised to look up David Lean’s Summertime, which got the director hooked on location shooting. Set in Venice and filmed in glorious Technicolor, it stars Katharine Hepburn as a spinster fulfilling her lifelong dream of visiting that most photogenic of Italian cities. What she doesn’t anticipate is that she’ll fall in love with a handsome Italian in the process.

From "Early Summer"

“Early Summer”

If the Far East is more to your liking, you can visit Tokyo in Yasujiro Ozu’s Early Summer and The End of Summer. In the first, Ozu regular Setsuko Hara plays a young woman who wants a say when her family decides it’s time for her to get married, and in the second, released a decade later, she’s one of the daughters of a widower who takes up with his old mistress. As is Ozu’s practice, both films are punctuated by shots of the Japanese countryside and downtown Tokyo, making them a miniature travelogue.

Doubling back to Europe, why not spend a couple of Summer Hours in the French countryside? In the 2008 film, which comes complete with the Criterion seal of approval, a family that is widely dispersed has to figure out what to do with their estate when matriarch Edith Scob dies. All three of her adult children have their own ideas about what to do with it, but as writer/director Olivier Assayas observes, it is the next generation that will be most keenly affected by their decision.

If beating the heat isn’t high on your agenda, then turn off the air conditioning to get the full effect of the sweltering Summer of Sam. Directed by Spike Lee, whose Do the Right Thing proves that he knows how to evoke a hot summer’s day, the film is set in New York City in the summer of 1977 when the Son of Sam was on the loose and tempers flared across the boards. Of course, if you’d rather not be reminded of real-life horrors, there’s always Red Hook Summer, in which Lee reprised his role from Do the Right Thing. Like Summer of Sam, that one had a hard time finding an audience and divided critics, but perhaps it plays better when people can watch it in the comfort of their own homes.

Oddly enough, Red Hook Summer could have easily been an alternate title for I Know What You Did Last Summer, which is about what happens when a quartet of fresh-scrubbed television stars is stalked by the Gorton’s Fisherman. Photogenic young people are frequently the focus of contemporary horror movies, especially those that take place at summer camps, but it took the makers of I Know What You Did Last Summer and its follow-ups – I Still Know What You Did Last Summer and I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer – to put the word right in their titles. I cannot in good conscience recommend that you watch any of them, though (unless you’re nostalgic for the days when Jennifer Love Hewitt and Freddie Prinze, Jr. were considered bankable stars). Instead, why not cool off with an affectionate send-up of summer-camp movies?

From "Wet Hot American Summer"

“Wet Hot American Summer”

Set on the last day of summer camp in the Catskills, way back in the mists of time (also known as 1981, making it the spiritual successor of the Bill Murray vehicle Meatballs), Wet Hot American Summer was the debut feature of David Wain, who co-wrote it with fellow State alum Michael Showalter and stacked the cast with troupe members Michael Ian Black, Ken Marino and Joe Lo Truglio, plus such ringers as Janeane Garfalo, David Hyde Pierce, Paul Rudd, Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler and H. Jon Benjamin. It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that if you’ve watched any American comedy film or television series in the past decade, you could have seen (or, in the case of Benjamin, heard) half its cast here first. Few did, though, because Wain’s film received a critical drubbing and at best a token theatrical release in the doldrums of 2001, but in the years since it’s attracted a sizable cult audience. If you’re not yet a part of it, now’s your chance to hop aboard.

The Ryder ◆ July 2013

3 Days In Bloomington

THURSDAY, MAY 16TH, 2013

■ EXERCISE SilverSneakers Cardio Circuit; Twin Lakes Recreation Center; 8:30AM

■ EXERCISE Nia; Twin Lakes Recreation Center; 8:30AM

■ EXERCISE SilverSneakers Cardio Circuit; Twin Lakes Recreation Center; 9:30AM

■ YOGA Yoga class; St. Thomas Lutheran Heritage Hall; 10AM

■ ART TAPA: Unwrapping Polynesian Barkcloth; IU Art Museum; 10AM-5PM

■ EXERCISE SilverSneakers Muscle Strength and Range of Movement; Twin Lakes Recreation Center; 10:30AM

■  YOGA Hatha yoga class; Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center cultural building; 4:30PM-6PM

■  BOOK CLUB Secular Alliance book club; Rachael’s Cafe; 5PM-7PM

■ EXERCISE Core Essentials; Twin Lakes Recreation Center; 5:30PM

■ CLASS Put It in Order: Circulation Volunteer Training; Monroe County Public Library; 6PM

■ CLASS Job Search and Resume Help; Monroe County Public Library; 6PM

■ YOGA Yoga Class; Unity of Bloomington; 6:30PM

■ MEDITATION Sitting/walking meditation; Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center; 6:30PM-7:30PM

■ EXERCISE Body Blitz; Twin Lakes Recreation Center; 6:30PM

■ LIVE MUSIC Built for Comfort; Player’s Pub; 6:30PM; $4.oo

■ DOCUMENTARY Room 237; IU Cinema; 7PM

■ LIVE MUSIC Live Music at the Brewpub; Upland Brewing; 7PM

■ LIVE MUSIC Dead Roses; Max’s Place; 9PM

■ COMEDY John Dore; The Comedy Attic

■ LIVE MUSIC Three Story Hill; The Bluebird

■ PLAY Underneath the Lintel; John Waldron Arts Center

FRIDAY, MAY 17TH, 2013

■ ART TAPA: Unwrapping Polynesian Barkcloth; IU Art Museum; 10AM-5PM

■ RACING USAC sprint cars Larry Rice Classic; Bloomington Speedway; 5:30PM-11PM

■ FOOD & DRINK National Bike to Work Day Block Party; Upland Brewery; 5:30PM

■ ART Kinsey Institute Juried Art Show: Zoom; artist Sophie McMahon; Grunwald Gallery at the Kinsey Institute; 6PM-8PM

■ DOCUMENTARY Room 237; IU Cinema; 7PM

■ LIVE MUSIC Monika Herzig & Oliver Nelson Duo; Cafe Django; 7PM

■ LIVE MUSIC/COMEDY Heywood Banks; Brown County Playhouse; 7:30PM; $25.oo

■ PLAY Spun: A Brother/Sister Rock Musical; Bloomington Playwrights Project; 7:30PM

■ LIVE MUSIC Summertime Band; Player’s Pub; 8PM; $5.oo

■ LIVE MUSIC Instrumental Pop Series; Rachael’s Cafe; 8PM; $5.00

■ LIVE MUSIC Here Come the Mummies; The Bluebird; 9PM

■ LIVE MUSIC Charley; Max’s Place; 9PM

■ COMEDY John Dore; The Comedy Attic

■ LIVE MUSIC Time Travels; John Waldron Arts Center Auditorium

■ PLAY Underneath the Lintel; John Waldron Arts Center

■ LIVE MUSIC River Roots Festival; Bicentennial Park

■ BIKING Bloomington Bikes Month Cycle to Service Weekend; City Hall Showers Building; all day

■ BIKING Bloomington Bikes Month National Bike to Work Day; City Hall Showers Building; all day

SATURDAY, MAY 18TH, 2013

■ MARKET Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market; City Hall parking lot; 8AM

■ BIKING Bloomington Bikes Month Bike to Market; City Hall Showers Building; 8AM

■ EXERCISE Beginner Boot Camp; Twin Lakes Recreation Center; 8:30AM

■ HEALT Active Living Coalition Health Fair; City Hall Showers Common; 9AM

■ YOGA Hatha yoga class; Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center cultural building; 10AM-12:30PM

■ ART TAPA: Unwrapping Polynesian Barkcloth; IU Art Museum; 10AM-5PM

■ ART International Art Museum Day celebration; IU Art Museum; 10AM-5PM

■ ART Trained Eye Arts Art Sale; Trained Eye Arts; 10AM-3PM

■ EXERCISE Zumba; Twin Lakes Recreation Center; 10:30AM

■ HEALING Ch’i Gung Healing Circle; Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center; 10:30AM-12PM

■ WORKSHOP Emerald Ash Borer Workshop for Homeowners; City Hall Showers Building; 11AM-12PM

■ WORKSHOP Discover the Spirit of Gratitude and Generosity by Rediscovering Macedonia; St. Thomas Lutheran Church; 1PM-4PM

■ MARTIAL ARTS Tae Kwon Do; ages 6-12; Unity of Bloomington; 1:15PM-2:15PM

■ ART Power of Pattern workshop for simple block carving; Mathers Museum of World Cultures; 1:30PM-3PM

■ MARTIAL ARTS Tae Kwon Do; ages 6-12; Unity of Bloomington; 1:15PM-2:15PM

■ PETS Adorable Adoptables; Monroe County Public Library; 2PM

■ MARTIAL ARTS Tae Kwon Do; ages 13 to adult; Unity of Bloomington; 2:15PM-3:45PM

■ FILM The Shining; IU Cinema; 3PM

■ OPEN MIC LGBT Aging & Caring Network Open Mic/Open House; Rachael’s Cafe; 3PM-6PM

■ DOCUMENTARY Room 237; IU Cinema; 7PM

■ LIVE MUSIC Der Vorfuhreffekt; Rachael’s Cafe; 7PM-9PM

■ PLAY Spun: A Brother/Sister Rock Musical; Bloomington Playwrights Project; 7:30PM

■ LIVE MUSIC Hoosier Young; Brown County Playhouse; 7:30PM; $20.oo

■ DANCE Dancing with the Celebrities presented by Arthur Murray Dance Studio; Buskirk Chumley Theater; 8PM

■ LIVE MUSIC Harsch Reality; Player’s Pub; 8PM; $5.oo

■ LIVE MUSIC Istanbul Breeze; Cafe Django; 8PM

■ LIVE MUSIC Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials; Max’s Place; 9PM

■ EVENT A Night at the Club with Mr. Gay Southern Cities ’13; Uncle E’s Nightclub; 10PM

■ COMEDY John Dore; The Comedy Attic

■ LIVE MUSIC Smooth Country; Mike’s Dance Barn

■ LIVE MUSIC Dot Dot Dot; The Bluebird

■ RECORDING Creative Aging Month oral history recording; Monroe County History Center

■ PLAY Underneath the Lintel; John Waldron Arts Center

■ LIVE MUSIC River Roots Festival; Bicentennial Park

■ BIKING Bloomington Bikes Month Cycle to Service Weekend; City Hall Showers Building; all day

The Ryder & Kurt the IT Freelancer bring you the best of Bloomington.

MUSIC: Local Live—Bloomington Magical Musical Mojo

by Ryan Dawes

With a limitless broadcasting format, WFHB (FireHouse Broadcasting, FM 91.3, 98.1, 100.7, 106.3) becomes a busy crossroads for countless bands and musicians representing a daunting array of genres. Besides the thousands of albums mailed to the station from labels across the globe, WFHB also draws bands and musicians in the flesh, ready to perform live for listeners via in-studio or remote broadcasts. A select portion of this artistic traffic has been captured on a series of albums featuring local musicians performing at remote broadcasts at various recording studios in Monroe County. WFHB’s Local Live: Remote Broadcasts, Volume 3, is due out just in time for the station’s Spring Fund Drive.

WFHB’s downtown studios have hosted thousands of live broadcasts with touring and local bands alike, but this particular series of recordings features exclusively local artists performing at remote broadcasts transmitted from area recording studios including Russian Recording, Midwest Audio Recording, Farm Fresh Studios, and White Arc Studios. Given that each of the recording studios are inarguably of professional caliber, the audio quality is clearer and better mixed than what you would expect of a live recording elsewhere at a venue or club. In addition to each recording studio’s full time engineer, the remote broadcasts are supported by station music director Jim Manion and a seasoned squad of volunteer producers.

“All the studios offer different environments but the sound is consistently great at each one,” says Manion. “The talent pool of audio engineering in this town is insanely good.”
While you could find traditional recordings from most of the artists featured on the Local Live series, many of the tracks include songs unreleased elsewhere. Furthermore, as Manion explains, there are unforgettable qualities in the recordings that could only come from performing live, before an audience.

“The added value is the ineffable magic musical mojo that is present on the live songs we pick from the sets we archive. You could never find all these songs out there in the form they take on our CDs.”

Volume 3 is as diverse as the first two volumes, featuring old-time bluegrass by the Indiana Boys, blues from Gordon Bonham, Motown/garage-rock from The Vallures, psychedelic surf-rock from the Triptides and a more, amounting to 16 tracks in total.

The station gives away copies of the CDs as fund drive incentives to donors, but the intent behind these recordings is culturally much broader. Manion also sees this initiative as a means of historic preservation, marking trends and strengths in the local music scene at this point in time.

“I hope these recordings show that Bloomington has a high-quality and wide-ranging music community full of creative musicians and songwriters,” says Manion.

The Ryder, March 2013

Dido and Aeneas

A sorceress intervenes and destroys a budding romance.

by Kristen Strandberg

Shifting between pleasant consonant sounds and stunningly beautiful dissonance, Henry Purcell’s 1689 Dido and Aeneas is still regarded as one of the most significant musical works of the seventeenth century. It is a rare treat to hear such a work performed, and while it is certainly a product of its time, the music is still emotionally striking and relevant over three hundred years later. Indiana University’s Summer Festival Chorus will perform an un-staged version of the work on June 25, under the direction of Dominick DiOrio.
While Dido and Aeneas has remained popular within early music circles, little is known about the circumstances of its composition. The first known performance took place at a boarding school for young women in the London suburb of Chelsea in 1689, although some evidence suggests it may have been written for the coronation of King William and Queen Mary earlier that year. Very few operas were written in seventeenth-century England, largely due to a lack of patronage and royal support. Yet, Dido and Aeneas’s composer, Henry Purcell, and librettist, Nahum Tate, both had royal connections- Purcell was an organist at the Chapel Royal, and Tate would soon be named court poet. Historians have suggested that the text for the opera’s prologue (the music for which has been lost) may allegorically reference the union of William and Mary. Additionally, the earliest surviving musical score includes male vocal parts in low ranges, which could not have been sung by the young female students. Still, no record of a court performance exists, so we can only speculate as to whether Dido and Aeneas was a court-sponsored work, and there is no other documented performance of the work during Purcell’s lifetime.
The opera’s plot is based on the fourth book of Virgil’s Aeneid. Dido, the queen of Carthage, is in love with the visiting Aeneas, who will eventually establish Rome. A sorceress intervenes and destroys the budding romance, leaving Dido to die of a broken heart. Just before dying, Dido sings her famous and heart-wrenchingly beautiful lament. Purcell borrowed the concept of a musical lament from earlier Italian operas, and retains the genre’s trademark repeated bass line. While laments traditionally included a repeated bass line of four descending notes, Purcell adds chromatic half steps to create a six-note descending pattern. The lament’s smooth lyricism combined with dissonant harmonies gives it a tragic, yet unique and strikingly beautiful sound.
The opera involves a small orchestra of strings and harpsichord, and eight sung characters, plus a chorus. Purcell’s chorus fulfills various functions throughout the work, acting as groups of background characters to provide commentary on the narrative.
IU’s production will consist of Jacobs School of Music students participating in the annual Summer Festival, including the Summer Festival Chorus, directed by Choral Conducting Professor Dominick DiOrio. The performance will take place on Tuesday, June 25 at 8pm in Auer Hall in the Simon Music Center.

MUSIC: Jazz, Funk, And Cuban Rhythms

The IU Latin Jazz Ensemble ◆ by Kristen Strandberg

Latin jazz’s fusion of Cuban music with American jazz and funk has captivated audiences for decades with its catchy syncopated rhythms, and prominent brass and percussion sections.  Long known for its outstanding jazz program, the IU Jacobs School of Music has recently broadened its scope to include a Latin jazz ensemble, directed by percussion professor Michael Spiro.  On Monday, April 8, the IU Latin Jazz Ensemble will perform in the Musical Arts Center with internationally acclaimed composer and trombonist, Wayne Wallace.

What began five years ago as a small jazz combo has since grown into a group of twenty to thirty performers featuring Jacobs School of Music students on piano, guitar, drum set, trumpet, saxophone, and trombone, along with Latin American percussion instruments including the conga, timbale, batá drum, bongo, chekeré, guiro, and maraca.

The ensemble specializes in music often described as a blend of Cuban music and American jazz — a genre that emerged in the late 1940s, which, according to the group’s director, Michael Spiro, is “rooted in Cuban rhythms and American harmony.”  The repeated, syncopated Latin dance rhythms worked their way into American jazz in the 1940s and 1950s, as jazz legends such as Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie worked alongside Latin American performers.  Genres such as the mambo, bolero, and cha cha cha eventually became popular choices for big bands playing in American dance halls.  By the 1960s, Latin Jazz musicians were incorporating elements of African-American popular music, leading to boogaloo and eventually salsa, which combines Cuban music with American rock, R&B, and funk.  While the Latin rhythms and unique timbres of Cuban percussion instruments give the music its distinct Latin flavor, the brass section, along with the piano and guitar, are reminiscent of the funk styles of Earth, Wind & Fire, and James Brown.

San Francisco-based Wayne Wallace continues this tradition of combining Cuban and American musical styles.  Spiro particularly points to Wallace’s bass, horn, and drum set patterns, which are strongly influenced by funk.  Wallace is a five-time Grammy nominee who has performed with a wide variety of well-known musicians including The Count Basie Orchestra, Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor, and Tito Puente, among dozens of others.  Additionally, Wallace and Spiro have collaborated in many previous performances and recordings, including the CD ¡BIEN BIEN!, which was nominated for a Grammy in 2011.

The IU Latin Jazz Ensemble concert, featuring Wayne Wallace, will take place on Monday, April 8 at 8pm at the Musical Arts Center.  A smaller jazz combo will perform in the lobby beginning at 7:15.  The event is free.

The Ryder, March 2013

Gumshoes In The Heartland

Fictional detectives have found a place in the Midwest ◆ by Ray Zdonek

Philip Marlowe hung out amid the glitz and grunge of LA, Mike Hammer around the mugs and dames of the Big Apple, and Sam Spade in a fog-shrouded San Francisco. It was the name of the game — glamorous places full of mystery, sex, greed, and frequent violence — the action was on the “coasts”, left and right. The Big Time, you know? Maybe it’s the Cyber Age democratizing the landscape or maybe it’s a sort of literary tourism, where a simple paperback takes you on adventures in places you hadn’t imagined you would go. But the mighty Midwest is finally making its mark on the private eye archetype, setting the action and characters into heartland communities, great and small.

The road, however, has been a bumpy one. Jonathan Valin, whose private detective Harry Stoner visited the dark back alleys of Cincinnati in books like The Lime Pit, a world populated by bikers and sprinkled with meth labs, was an early casualty. Though it was great stuff, Valin finally gave up writing altogether and is currently immersed in a high-fidelity sound equipment business in the Southwest. Harry was a tenacious investigator with a soft spot for lost causes, an essential aspect of the private eye brand, and the proximity of Covington across the Ohio River carried over the Southern grit of Cincinnati’s Kentucky neighbor, in a relationship like New Orleans and Algiers, or Los Angeles and Long Beach. But as fate would have it, even a TV movie couldn’t save the Harry Stoner series.

Another Midwestern series that has gone out with more of a whimper than a bang is Michael Z. Lewin’s notable mystery novels featuring Indianapolis detective Albert Sampson, whose business is so threadbare that he has to operate out of a spare room behind his mother’s business. Quirky and erratic in quality, the Sampson series of books is petering out slowly, and no one should miss them much. Lewin became an expatriate and has lived in England for some years, and it appears his once-vibrant character is withering now that the author has left his Indy roots, seemingly for good.

Of course, the elephant in the room has to be the ultra-successful V.I. Warshawski bestsellers by Chicago writer Sara Paretsky. The tables began to turn when her female detective made the scene. Rivaled only by the likes of Robert B. Parker and Jonathan Kellerman, Paretsky struck a well-timed blow for feminism in a genre that much needed to think outside the box. Vic is feisty to the extreme, and will toss caution easily to the wind if an issue of bigotry or a failure of justice looms. Caring and loyal, Paretsky’s prime character is relentless in the hunt, and surrounded by a cast of returning characters like Mr. Contreras and Dr. Lotty Herschel, who add richness and color to the novels, and make you look forward to the next installment. In books like Burn Marks, Total Recall, and Hardball, Paretsky over the years has not been afraid to deal with the hard edge of life in the Windy City, from homelessness, to Holocaust survivors, to the blacklists of the 1950’s, to the not-yet-won battle against racism against African-Americans in Chi-town. V.I. is beautiful and hard-nosed — a perfect combination.

Sometimes, though, a strength can morph into a weakness, and while the matters at hand are new each time, the character development is practically at a standstill. Vic’s young cousin Petra has been added to the mix, but not much else. Oh, Vic’s had a classical musician boyfriend for a few books now — he lives in her building—big deal. I have to think of the Sharon McCone mysteries by San Francisco author Marcia Muller. Shar has lived through more than twice the number of novels as her Chicago counterpart, as well as finding out she’s a full-blooded Native American who’s been adopted by her white parents, being shot in the head and virtually paralyzed for a book or two, and getting married to an ex-mercenary security specialist and pilot to boot. Still, mystery lovers swell with pride when V.I. Warshawski steps into the literary room every time.

We lucky folks in Bloomington, of course, have our own resident private eye novelist, at least for part of the year. That would be Michael Koryta, the youngish ex-crime writer for the Herald-Times, who broke through with the intriguing debut novel Tonight I Said Goodbye, and the worthwhile follow-up mysteries Sorrow’s Anthem and A Welcome Grave, introducing readers to the Cleveland-based PI Lincoln Perry. Tonight I Said Goodbye won the Best First Novel award from the Private Eye Writers of America, and was nominated for an Edgar in 2004, the year Koryta turned twenty-one. A Welcome Grave was nominated for a Shamus award as best PI novel in 2007 by the Private Eye Writers group.

Michael Koryta’s Latest

Going somewhat in the direction taken by Dennis Lehane, Robert Crais, and others, Koryta has turned to standalone novels mainly in recent years. Whether he wants salability to Hollywood or bestseller status for his books, his standalones have received generally good reviews from critics. The Lincoln Perry series stands currently at four entries, and its future remains in question. In some ways, Lincoln Perry is a throwback to earlier fictional private eyes, and something about him seems strangely out-of-date. He doesn’t embody the technical savvy and modern stance of V.I. Warshawski, and his personality lacks real depth. Particularly, his relationship with his journalist girlfriend comes across as wooden and unconvincing. I found the most recent Lincoln Perry novel, The Silent Hour, the weakest of the series. Let’s hope Mr. Koryta injects some vitality and relevance into his private eye and returns with a Lincoln Perry novel that really grabs us by the throat. A feel for suspense and an ability to generate tension are Koryta’s strong points; characterization, not so much, at least not yet.

Last, but certainly not least, is the case of mystery writer Steve Hamilton, a novelist originally from Michigan, now living in New York. Reluctant part-time private eye Alex McKnight is Hamilton’s Upper Peninsula Michigan creation, a Detroit ex-cop with a bullet lodged near his heart who has “retired” to rural northwestern Michigan, where he owns and manages a bunch of vacation cabins his handy-with-tools father left him. Atmospheric and moody, the McKnight novels have engaging supporting characters and dazzling action. What’s scary is: he’s getting better. His last novel in the series, Misery Bay, was nothing less than riveting, certainly one of his best. When he’s on his game, he captures some of the passion and drama of James Lee Burke, which is a considerable achievement in the world of mystery and crime novels today. The heart-wrenching death of Alex’s Mountie fiancé Natalie Reynaud at the end of Ice Run gets lodged in the reader’s memory in much the same way as Dave Robichaux’s wife Annie’s graphic killing in Heaven’s Prisoners. Hamilton’s current release, Die a Stranger, is not quite as powerful as Misery Bay, but still provides page-turning action and further fleshes out the McKnight character, as well as his Ojibwa best friend.

Michael Koryta’s latest standalone novel, The Prophet, finds our Bloomington author painting the sad and dark landscape of Chambers, Ohio, a Rust Belt community where the only going enterprises are prisons, bail bonding, and the local high school football team. And a serial killer is trolling for victims there. Think Stephen King meets Elmore Leonard. The main characters are brothers, Adam and Kent Austin—one a bail bondsman, whiskey-laced and tortured by guilt over the decades-before murder of his sister by a killer who has since died in prison; the other a God-fearing football coach who has successfully buried the loss along with his failed previous gridiron seasons. It is indeed a sad thing that pop culture has been dominated by a serial killer fixation since Anthony Hopkins first brought Hannibal Lector to the big screen in Silence of the Lambs, as sequels, imitations, and outright rip-offs have seemed endless in subsequent years. More than that, spinoff genres populated by FBI profilers and police CSI technicians have provided pulp fiction writers and TV hacks with a steady income, making it largely impossible to write a crime blockbuster without plenty of forensic trivia and thank-you’s to their technical consultants. Fortunately, Koryta does not fall for these DNA diversions, and instead gives us an in-depth look into the hearts of the brothers Austin. The football analogies are carried to the extreme, but then all the time the author spent with the Bloomington High School North football squad couldn’t have been for naught, now could it?

While The Prophet is testosterone-soaked and sometimes dreary, especially in the beginning, the action picks up in plenty of time. More importantly, we care about the characters, which is a vital element in any kind of suspense novel in which danger confronts the protagonists. Adam’s girlfriend Chelsea Salinas, to Koryta’s credit, comes across as a fully-realized human female, which is an accomplishment, considering some of his previous attempts, and this bodes well for his future writing career, since American women purchase a vastly higher percentage of fiction novels than do men. Witness the extraordinary popularity of Stieg Larsson and his cyberpunk detective, Lisbeth Salander. There are plenty of twists and turns in The Prophet; some can be anticipated by the reader, but others come unannounced. All in all, Koryta shows a maturity in this standalone novel that I have not seen before, so maybe the standalone field does bring him a freedom that the private eye novel never did. Real people in extraordinary situations—that formula can certainly stir fear into the mix when it’s done well, as it is here. Maybe I’ll go back and pick up another of Koryta’s standalones, which I have bypassed until this one. Stephen King, James Patterson, Michael Connelly, and Dean Koontz have all gushed about his work. Guys like that can’t be wrong, can they? Still, I wonder about no females being on that list.

The Ryder, March 2013

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