Jonathan Swift’s 1729 essay, “A Modest Proposal,” argues a single solution to homelessness that Swift proudly suggests would provide a host of beneficial side effects. Satire is sometimes hard to get, or hard to take, the difference between satire and farce being that satire aims at a target. One might today imagine a certain presidential candidate coming up with a proposal like Swift’s that many might take seriously, missing the satirical target – and that would be farcical.
Of the critical reviews appearing for “Penina’s Letters,” several stand out for their clear and concise but right-on insight into the book. Lisa, a family friend from the Vatican Hill days, posted a picture of “Penina’s Letters” being read in a swimming pool in Cabo with the comment:
“So this was a great read – hit on some serious issues – but I enjoyed the ride – and still can’t figure out where 48th Street is located.”
Lisa’s comment hits on significant aspects of the book – how do we treat serious issues in fiction that is also intended to entertain? And she joins in the fun by wandering around looking for a fictional street she knows doesn’t exist.
My friend Dan posted a longer review to his blog, and when I thanked him in an email, he wrote back,
“It’s a very good novel.”
Dan’s a reader, suffers no delusions about stuff, and is thrifty with his complements.
Meanwhile, over at Youssef Rakha’s Cosmopolitan Hotel site, Philippa Rees has this to say in a comment:
“Hugely atmospheric, and sharply conveys the sightly abrasive affection, the wind and the sand papering the uncertainty. Enjoyed the drive to the ocean.”
And under the “Penina’s Letters” excerpt published by Berfrois, Philippa wrote:
“An underpinning of real harrowing tension in this. Could hardly bear the savage exposure of the truly private in a ribald public arena. There are some crimes of insensitivity that merit the return of the stocks!”
Also meanwhile, my Facebook friends had a bit of fun posting pictures of their copy of the book, being read or held or posed at various locations, including Mexico, France (on a Kindle in Paris), Montana, airplane to Los Angeles, dashboard of car in Sellwood, Studio City, Minneapolis airport bookstore, in the woods above Los Angeles, on an office desk near the Willamette, a deck in Bend, Voodoo Doughnuts, a pool room in Portland’s Hawthorne neighborhood, a bike repair apartment in Seattle, outside the Mojave Cancer Center, a very cool San Francisco pad, a neighbor’s house on 69th, a laptop with Instagram photo in Aloha, another sitting out in the yard on a warm day on the west side, on a table with the rest of the mail in Ione, on a shelf at Em’s with her cookbooks, Warren’s place in North Portland, a desktop in El Segundo, on a quilt in Barstow, and please let me know if I missed one, because what a great marketing idea!
Anyway, I was encouraged by the reader response to “Penina’s Letters.” The novel may not be what many expected it to be. And most readers seem to intuit that we probably should not criticize something for not being what it was not intended to be. It’s also hard to finish everything we pick up. I get that. I’ve nearly always got a dozen or so books and magazine articles in disarray around the house in the process of being read, but then there’s always something that pulls you to it, and you wind up finishing it before anything else. That’s maybe a good definition of a good read.
And I was so encouraged by the reader response that I’m now announcing the sequel to “Penina’s Letters,” called “Coconut Oil.” Please don’t think I wrote “Coconut Oil” in a couple of months. Like “Penina’s Letters,” “Coconut Oil” is a final (Beckett said abandoned) draft of years of writing and reading work. As Cornel West said in “Examined Life,” “Time is real.” So I finally decided to “light out for the Territory,” though unlike Huckleberry, ahead of hardly anyone else.
I’ll let you know when “Coconut Oil” is ready to launch!
Oh, yeah, that bit above about Swift’s “A Modest Proposal.” That has to do with “Coconut Oil.” You’ll see.
Meantime, thanks to the readers of “Penina’s Letters”!