Coconut Oil – A Novel Book Launch

Salty and Penina, the war torn, young couple from “Penina’s Letters,” return to Refugio in “Coconut Oil,” a sequel.

They come home to Refugio (the fictional beach town located north of El Porto and south of Grand on Santa Monica Bay) in an attempt to retire a bit early. So forty or so years have passed since the close of “Penina’s Letters.”

Salty is again our first person narrator. But “Coconut Oil” continues an experimental narrative form, and Sal hands the mic off to several other characters as we are brought up to date on Refugio.

The themes of “Coconut Oil” include aging, housing and homelessness, gentrification, and how we occupy ourselves over time. The form is experimental in a way a common reader might enjoy.

The paperback version of “Coconut Oil” is available now, and the electronic version should be up next week.

The back cover photo for “Coconut Oil” was taken from the northbound Coast Starlight train as it passed by the point at Refugio Beach, California, a campground about 26 miles north of Santa Barbara. The photo was taken sometime in the late 70’s.

Refugio from Coast Starlight

Refugio from Coast Starlight Special

 

Coming Soon! Coconut Oil, a New Novel by Joe Linker

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”!

IMG_20160417_143645

on Hawthorne Blvd

 

 

A Concrete Poem at VERStype

The concrete poem, “A Visual Depiction of the Chapter ‘On a Surfboard in Santa Monica Bay,’” published yesterday by VERStype, is an illustration that might appear somewhere in the sixth chapter of “Penina’s Letters,” were the novel a comic book. There are no words in the poem. The poem is composed primarily of tildes.

“A Visual Depiction of the Chapter ‘On a Surfboard in Santa Monica Bay’ [from the novel “Penina’s Letters”], VERStype, 20 May 2016.

The Hep Cat Book Club

IMG_20160513_072133What are we reading?
Joe wrote a book.
Really? What’s it called?
Penina’s Letters.
Who’s Penina?
Are there any cats in Joe’s book?
One, Castus.
Hmm.
I hear Joe’s working on a sequel.
Tell him to put more cats in it.

“Penina’s Letters,” get yr copy!

Book Review: Penina’s Letters

Over at the It Kind of Got Away From You blog, Dan Hennessy has posted a thumb’s up review of my novel, Penina’s Letters. Paddle on over and check it out!

Dinner Walk & Theatre

The Willamette River flows north through the Valley roughly parallel I-5, and after making the turns near the Falls at Oregon City, moves through Portland before joining the Columbia on its way to the Pacific Ocean, but no worries, this isn’t going to be a geography lesson.

IMG_20160320_172506

Ross Island, from the west bank of the Willamette River, south of Portland (Mar 2016)

After passing under the Sellwood Bridges (there are two currently, the old one and the new one, side by side), the river wraps around Ross Island, across from the Old Spaghetti Factory’s rococo restaurant – where we met friends last night for dinner before heading up river to the Headlee Mainstage of the Lakewood Center for the Arts, tickets waiting at the Will-call window, to see Spencer Conway play Hugh in a live production of BULLSHOT CRUMMOND: THE EVIL EYE of JABAR and THE INVISIBLE BRIDE of DEATH.IMG_20160320_172520

The four of us shared a carafe of house Chianti and ate lasagna, pasta with clam and tomato sauces, fresh oven hot bread, salads and minestrone soup. We sat upstairs, at a booth in the bar area, paying scant attention to the river slooming below about sixty feet to the east. After dinner, we took a short, giddy walk along the river and paused for a few silly, group selfies with the island in the background.

After the short, after dinner walk, we hopped into one car and drove upriver to the theatre and picked up the tickets with still time to lengthen our river walk down to the local historical park to check out the 19th Century iron smelter.

We had seen Spencer Conway a couple of years ago in NOISES OFF at Portland’s downtown Newmark Theatre. All acting is, in a sense, a physical activity, and Spencer excels at employing his entire body in his work. When, for example, as Hugh ‘Bullshot’ Crummond, Spencer is hexed by a magnetic trance and becomes a human magnet, or slips into a parachute prop of sand, or rides the magic carpet, and more, he’s as good at physical acting antics as the great Jerry Lewis.IMG_20160321_093427I had not heard of Bullshot before last night. The form is satire, not quite farce, since there are targets – a causal argument of British colonialism reduced to buffoonery via the vehicle of a B movie on stage. Using inventive props in what seemed a record number of scene changes, the cast and production hands succeeded in creating the stage magic that allows the audience to suspend for a couple of hours and float effortlessly down the drama river. Rick Warren was perfectly cast as the evil Otto Von Bruno. Stephanie Heuston and Kelley Stewart each created original replays of B film vixen and heroine. Andrew Harris and Burl Ross filled out the cast, each frequently quick changing costumes to play multiple characters throughout the laugh-out-loud play.

IMG_20160320_180306

All the world is a smelter.