Saturday, October 17, 2009

Guest Post: Edward Falco author of Saint John of the Five Boroughs

Edward Falco, author of the book Saint John of the Five Boroughs, stopped by to share with us a piece he wrote for us.

Someone, I think Henry James, said that a writer’s only nonnegotiable responsibility is to entertain. John Gardner echoed that sentiment several decades later in critiquing an early short story of mine, which was, frankly, dull. He argued that writers had a responsibility to engage their audiences. “Make them laugh, make them cry,” Gardener advised. It was advice I took to heart, and in all my writing since (traditional writing, not new media and experimental writing, which is another story), I’ve worked hard to create engaging characters and place them in the midst of compelling circumstances. I want my readers to want to turn the page, to want to know what will happen next. At the same time, I am drawn to writing that explores cultural issues on a personal level. I am interested in how what happens in the personal lives of characters reflects and influences the larger culture, and how what happens in the larger culture reflects and influences the interior lives of characters. In Saint John of the Five Boroughs I hope I have told a compelling story that also explores some questions relevant to our particular times and our particular culture.

Avery, my central character, is a twenty-two year old art student at Penn State. When we meet her, she’s just starting her senior year. She’s been drinking with her friends and she’s on her way to a party off campus. Avery’s life had been disrupted four years earlier, when her father died suddenly the summer after she graduated from high school, and the loss of her father is never very far from her thoughts. At the party, she meets Grant Danko, a performance artist from Brooklyn, whose stage name is Saint John of the Five Boroughs. Grant is thirty-seven (though he lies to Avery and tells her he’s younger), and he too is living a life that’s been disrupted by death––only in his case the death wasn’t a result of natural causes. Grant and Avery connect on levels that are mysterious to both of them, and they fall almost immediately into a disturbing and intense relationship. Two days after they meet, Avery leaves Penn State to go to Brooklyn with Grant, where she moves into his apartment and falls in easily with his friends, who include Mei Mei (which I pronounce me-me, rather than my-my) Tropp, who is an internationally successful artist, and Jun Xu (Zoo, to his friends), who has had a good deal of success as an actor in New York. Avery finds herself happy in Brooklyn, among Grant’s friends, though her relationship with Grant remains complicated and something less (a good deal less) than honest. Eventually Avery’s mother, Kate, comes to look for her in New York, bringing her brother-in-law Hank and his wife, Lindsey, along with her. All of these characters share lives that have been disrupted and thrown into confusion by loss and deceit––and so the novel gets to explore the issues of loss and deception, while following these characters through their individual, intense, and, I hope, compelling stories.

Saint John of the Five Boroughs is about lots of things. As is the case so often in my writing, it’s about violence, cultural and personal, and it’s about the choices characters’ make, why they make them, and what they mean. At the same time, I hope it also, and simply, a good story.

About Saint John of the Five Boroughs:

When 22-year-old Avery Walker, a senior at Penn State, meets Grant Danko, a 37-year-old performance artist from Brooklyn whose stage name is Saint John of the Five Boroughs, her life changes radically as she leaves college to live with Grant in Brooklyn and pursue a life as an artist. Worried about Avery, her mother, Kate, and her aunt, Lindsey, and Lindsey’s husband, Hank, travel to Brooklyn, where they all face a crisis of their own and make life-altering choices.

Grant is an angry guy with a curiously attractive personality and a coterie of bright, artistic friends. He’s used his good looks and his accomplishments, and the accomplishments of those friends, to get by while he works hauling stolen goods for his gangster uncle. He carries dark secrets that have caused his life to go off the rails. Grant is about as lost as a man can get, adept at making wrong choices. But when he finally faces his explosive moment of truth, something extraordinary happens.

Saint John of the Five Boroughs is beautifully turned—a stunning and layered novel about the effects of violence, both personal and cultural, on its characters’ lives. It’s about the way violence twists character, but also about the possibilities for redemption and change, for achieving a kind of personal grace. Edward Falco once again proves to be a master of urgency and suspense, of events careening out of control, as he brilliantly explores why we make the choices we make—both the ones that threaten to destroy our lives, and those choices that might save us.

About Edward:

Edward Falco was born in Brooklyn and teaches at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Virginia. He’s the prize-winning author of Wolf Point, along with three previous collections—Sabbath Night in the Church of the Piranha: New & Selected Stories, Plato at Scratch Daniel’s and the Richard Sullivan Prize winner, Acid—and a novel, Winter in Florida.

Author photo courtesy of Virginia Tech/Jim Stroup.

Thank you so much to Edward for joining us today! If you'd like to pick up a copy of his book Saint John of the Five Boroughs click on the cover image below.


Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Hey, babe. Just me, dropping in to say thanks for the e-mail. I've got this posted at Win a Book.

Lisa said...

This sounds really interesting.

mariska said...

It's always great knowing a new Author for me. The book sounds Good :)
uniquas at ymail dot com

sharon54220 said...

This definitely sounds like a great book. Another book to add to my list. Being originally from NJ, i like to read books based in NJ and NY for a change of pace.

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