Wednesday, November 28, 2018

FINDING A QUIET PLACE: An Essay in Cleveland Magazine

"Our minds, for better or worse, have adapted (one can plausibly argue evolved) to cope with the innumerable challenges presented by a human rather than a natural environment. Our restless brains are hard-wired to help us navigate not only crowded city streets and congested interstate highways but also the labyrinth of complex interpersonal relationships. It’s a world fraught with social pressures of every kind, made that much worse by online media with its armies of trolls and ideologically possessed Twitter mobs." 


Sunday, November 25, 2018

VOICES FROM THE VOID: An Essay in Assignment Magazine

"Any artist who is honest about the source of inspiration must contend with the power of the void, the abyss, the darkness, the thing that obeys no authority, the thing (which is no thing) that devours and destroys predictable patterns of behavior and pathological systems of thought. This is not to say the abyss is without its dangers. The adverse effects of this self-dissolution and terrifying emptiness include neuroticism, depression, suicidal impulses, insomnia, nightmares, anxiety, psychosis, dysphoria, even alien abductions. And can you think of a single artist who hasn’t experienced at least some (or in the unusual case of Philip K. Dick all) of these symptoms?"


Tuesday, March 13, 2018


Cleveland-area novelist Kevin P. Keating is the 2018 John E. Nance Writer-in-Residence. Keating will reside for four weeks at the historic home of author, humorist, and New Yorker cartoonist James Thurber and receive a $5,000 stipend. He will begin his residency in late summer of 2018.

Keating is the author of many short stories, essays, and reviews, and two novels: The Natural Order of Things (2014), which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for a first work of fiction, and The Captive Condition (2015). Keating is nearing completion of his third novel, tentatively titled In the Secret Parts of Fortune. He will be working on final edits of this project and drafting his fourth novel during his residency.

Friday, May 05, 2017


"The board of trustees announced the winners of the Cleveland Arts Prize Wednesday, May 3. Two prizes are awarded to "emerging artists" currently living in Northeast Ohio or who have resided, worked, or studied here, and who show promise and have produced significant work. This year's winners include Kevin P. Keating author of two well-received novels, The Natural Order of Things and The Captive Condition, and a prolific and widely-published writer of essays and short stories. A graduate of Columbia College and Cleveland State University, Keating is currently pursuing a degree from Southern New Hampshire University and teaching at Baldwin Wallace University."

The oldest award of its kind in the United States, the Cleveland Arts Prize is a testament to the standard of excellence and quality of artists in Northeast Ohio.  In addition to artists, the Arts Prize honors individuals who have expanded the community’s participation in the arts and helped make the region more hospitable to creative artistic expression. 


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

From Cleveland State University's Alumni Association:

Named "Fascinating Alumni" by Cleveland State University. 
As a 27-year-old union boilermaker, Keating worked his way through college, earning his BA from Columbia College in Chicago and his MA in English from Cleveland State University. He recalls pondering the latest version of his master's thesis while his blowtorch melted thick sheets of steel in the dark pit of a dust collector. Upon graduating with his master’s degree, Keating was approached to teach English Composition at Cleveland State and was happy to oblige. He also became a professor of English at Baldwin Wallace University, Lorain County Community College and Lakeland Community College.

Monday, July 18, 2016

An Essay about Cleveland, Ohio for Zocalo Public Square:
For 10 years, on and off, I worked in those mills as a union boilermaker, earning my way through college and graduate school. At 7 a.m., with an acetylene torch in hand, I would climb into the black asbestos pit of a dust collector and begin cutting through enormous pieces of warped and rusted metal, all the while thinking of my unsmiling professors and how they remained unimpressed by the latest draft of my master’s thesis, an unwieldy tome by a 27-year-old pseudointellectual who’d fallen under the sway of Joseph Campbell. While my blowtorch melted the inch-thick sheets of steel, I tried to remember Campbell’s words: “Life is a wonderful, wonderful opera. Except that it hurts.”

Read the Entire Essay Here

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Interview about THE CAPTIVE CONDITION in Fiction Southeast:

Q: The book contains an amazing balance of dark comedy and horror. Was this difficult?
A: I think the lines demarcating one genre from the next are unnecessarily artificial. Life is both horrifying and funny, and sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish between the two things. What is comedy but horror gone wrong? And what is horror but comedy gone wrong? I have always been deeply inspired by the films of Stanley Kubrick, and I think you can view each of his films as simultaneously comedic and horrifying. A great example is A Clockwork Orange. Kubrick’s depiction of Alex, the protagonist as played by Malcolm McDowell, is laugh-out-loud funny and, at the same time, incredibly disturbing. For me this tension between comedy/horror has always been sort of natural and intuitive.

Read the Full Interview Here

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Review of THE CAPTIVE CONDITION in The Barnes & Noble Review:

"The Captive Condition is a violent, disturbing book, but it is also a joyful one, a tribute to the pleasures and stylistic tics of an old and unkillably popular genre. One supposes that writers as varied as Hawthorne, Lovecraft, and Stephen King would be proud."


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Review of THE CAPTIVE CONDITION in Mystery Scene Magazine:

"Literary novels, horror, and humor seldom mix—fantasist Christopher Moore being one of the rare exceptions—but now comes Kevin P. Keating to deliver a brilliant novel so dark, yet so laugh-out-loud funny, that he’s close to inventing a new genre...Keating first broke on the literary scene with the highly praised The Natural Order of Things, which was described as a combination of Jack Ketchum and Jonathan Franzen. This second book, every bit as masterful, illustrates what might have happened to Holden Caulfield if he had wound up in Normandy Falls instead of the relatively virtuous New York City."

Read the Entire Review

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Review of THE CAPTIVE CONDITION in the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

A carefully crafted, darkly humorous work, pulsating with our passion for revenge. It drags us up out of the muck, dripping with all of our human weaknesses, failures and cruelties, and says, "Take a close look at how far we haven't come." Early on, the protagonist says he wants one day to write "an enigmatic, ruthlessly apocalyptic, elegantly filthy dirigible of a novel." And now – with Keating as his amanuensis – he has done so.


Saturday, July 11, 2015

Review of THE CAPTIVE CONDITION in Lit Reactor

"I like weird. No, actually, I love weird. If a book contains quirky Lynchian characters, occult ritualism, and en masse drug usage, generally speaking, I’m in. Luckily, The Captive Condition contains all of this in spades. Every character would be right at home in a Lynch film. But don’t get me wrong, even though I’ve mentioned Lynch twice in the same paragraph (and now a third time.), The Captive Condition isn’t a rip off of a David Lynch film (now four times), because Kevin P. Keating has created a wholly original and intriguing universe in the bizarre world of Normandy Falls."


Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Review of THE CAPTIVE CONDITION in Open Letters Monthly:

"The Captive Condition is a big, smart, showy Grand Guignol feat, an order of magnitude more accomplished and more interesting than The Natural Order of Things, but it’s also involvingly funny. This is the book that renders it now impossible to ignore – or even safely categorize – Kevin Keating as an author, and in a publishing season full of too many near-cloned novels, that’s a wonderful arrival."


Thursday, July 02, 2015

Publishers Weekly "Picks of the Week": THE CAPTIVE CONDITION:

"This week, dirty Seinfeld fan fiction, a David Lynchian campus novel, and Kim Stanley Robinson's latest..."


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Review of THE CAPTIVE CONDITION from Cleveland Scene by James Renner:

"Let’s get this part out of the way: this is a breakthrough novel, one that makes a career...The plot is juicy but it’s Keating’s wordplay that draws a reader in. Early reviewers have already compared his command of prose to Franzen or David Foster Wallace...But anyone who’s read classic horror can quickly see he’s more influenced by the words of Poe and Lovecraft than those pretentious Writer’s Lab types...This new novel is a hallucination and certainly reads like a terrible trip, like some early Cormac McCarthy. And it was a hallucination I was delighted to be captivated by for a while."


Tuesday, June 09, 2015

THE CAPTIVE CONDITION launches at the 2015 San Diego Comic-Con International on July 9!

Kevin P. Keating has received starred reviews for THE CAPTIVE CONDITION (Pantheon Books, 7/7/2015), including this from Library Journal:  “A weird and wonderfully rendered universe . . . . A highly literary look at the faces of evil in almost all of its guises . . . . Oh, and many characters here are constantly high on psychedelic carrot juice.”  Emulating a modern day Edgar Allan Poe, coupled with the creepy brilliance of HBO’s True Detective, THE CAPTIVE CONDITION is at once chilling, deliciously dark, and quirkily hilarious. As a boilermaker turned author, Kevin has a fascinating and unique take on thriller writing. Kevin appears on the Horror/Thriller panel on Thursday, July 9 at 4 pm (Room 25ABC).


Saturday, May 23, 2015

Library Journal starred review of THE CAPTIVE CONDITION:

A Catholic school preppy enrolls in a seemingly idyllic Midwestern university that is anything but. Academic troubles doom him; his pompous and prolix mentor snubs him; and he comes to work for a medium-level criminal known as the Gonk, at the power plant, aka the Bloated Tick. Then, the mentor's mistress drowns drug-addled in her pool, her creepily prescient twins come to live with the mentor, trash his house and then freeze to death in a barn, after which their ghosts doom their seaman father to freezing. Then the Gonk takes revenge on his ex and her new love, who becomes the first of two in this book to be buried alive. The preppy takes revenge on the mentor, but only after all the other Tick workers die at sea. Oh, and many characters here are constantly high on psychedelic carrot juice. You get the idea. Many complicated plots weave and intertwine in a weird and wonderfully rendered universe. Also, there's heavily cadenced prose and A-level vocabulary, along the lines of Tristan Egolf's Lord of the Barnyard. VERDICT: Not an academic send-up à la Richard Russo or Jon Hassler but a highly literary look at the faces of evil in almost all of its guises. 

Publishers Weekly starred review of THE CAPTIVE CONDITION:

Keating’s sophomore novel (after The Natural Order of Things) is a black comedy that transcends its own offbeat energy and becomes truly disturbing. Jesuit-educated Edmund Campion is attending graduate school in the small Midwestern town of Normandy Falls. When his master’s thesis topic is rejected by his self-important advisor, Dr. Kingsley, Edmund drops out and takes a job as a campus groundskeeper, working for a brutal supervisor known only as the Gonk. Meanwhile, Kingsley’s lover, Emily Ryan, is found dead in her swimming pool, and Kingsley and his amateur bodybuilder wife end up taking in Emily’s disturbed twin daughters. Morgan Fey, Edmund’s ex-girlfriend, takes a job in a French restaurant, where the chef brews up the hallucinogenic carrot juice that is the town’s drug of choice. This is only the beginning: hauntings, murders, live burials, and imprisonment in underground chambers are just some of the fates that lie in store for various unsuspecting townsfolk. The comically formal tone of the first two-thirds shows Keating to be an astute student of spooky scene-setters from Edgar Allen Poe to Stephen King to David Lynch. But in many of the final passages, such as a horrific building fire, he proves to be at least their equal. It’s a mysterious novel, both in terms of its plot and its ambitions—the book’s biggest missed opportunity is that its world feels a bit too hermetic and detached from our own—but it’s also a darkly funny read and a stylistic tour de force.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

THE CAPTIVE CONDITION: Now Available for Pre-Order! Releases July 7, 2015

From a thrilling new voice in fiction comes a chilling and deliciously dark novel about an idyllic Midwestern college town that turns out to be a panorama of depravity and a nexus of horror.

For years Normandy Falls has been haunted by its strange history and the aggrieved spirits said to roam its graveyards. Despite warnings, Edmund Campion is determined to go there and pursue an advanced degree in literature. At first things proceed wonderfully, but Edmund soon learns he isn’t immune to the impersonal trappings of fate: his girlfriend Morgan Fey smashes his heart, his advisor Professor Martin Kingsley crushes him with frivolous assignments, and his dead end job begins to take a toll on his physical and mental health.  

One night he stumbles upon the body of Emily Ryan, a proud and unapologetic “townie,” drowned in her family pool. Was it suicide, Edmund wonders, or murder? In the days following the tragedy, Emily’s husband Charlie, crippled by self-loathing and ultimately frozen with fear, attempts to flee his disastrous life and sends their twin daughters to stay with the Kingsleys. Possessed with an unnamed, preternatural power, the twins know the professor seduced their mother and may have had a hand in her death. With their piercing stares, the girls fill Martin with the remorse and dread he so desperately tries to hide from his wife. 

Elsewhere, a low-level criminal named The Gonk takes over a remote cottage, complete with a burial ground and moonshine still, and devises plans for both; Xavier D’Avignon, the eccentric chef of a failing French restaurant, supplies customers with a hallucinogenic cocktail he makes in his kitchen; and Colette Collins, an elderly local artist of the surreal and psychedelic, attends a New Year’s Eve retrospective that is destined to set the whole town on fire.

Delving into the deepest recesses of the human capacity for evil, Kevin P. Keating's masterful novel will hold readers captive from first to last.

Keating named "One of the Most Interesting People of 2015" by Cleveland Magazine:

"Keating's debut novel, The Natural Order of Things, was a finalist for the 2013 Los Angeles Times Book Prizes' Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. The St. Ignatius High School graduate set the darkly compelling series of 15 interwoven stories in a familiar place — at a Jesuit all-boys school in a Midwestern industrial city. The novel landed Keating, an adjunct professor at Baldwin Wallace University, Cleveland State University and Lorain County Community College, a book deal with Random House, which will release his second novel, The Captive Conditionin July...."

River City Reading: Pre-Publicity for THE CAPTIVE CONDITION

"Ten Books I Can't Wait to Read in 2015"


Library Journal: Pre-Publicity for THE CAPTIVE CONDITION

"People in the know are talking about this new work from Keating, a former steel mill’s boilermaker who became an English professor and literary journal regular until his small-press first novel, The Natural Order of Things, was named a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction in 2012. The current publisher did the paperback reprint but is putting its energy behind this dark and edgy tale..."


Publishers Weekly: Pre-Publicity for THE CAPTIVE CONDITION

Monday, May 12, 2014


In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book. Previous contributors include Bret Easton EllisKate ChristensenKevin BrockmeierGeorge PelecanosDana SpiottaAmy BloomAimee BenderMyla GoldbergHeidi JulavitsHari Kunzru, and many others.

Kevin P. Keating's The Natural Order of Things is an intriguingly told, dark and often disturbing novel-in-stories.

Booklist wrote of the book:  "This is Peyton Place sunk a few rungs lower in hell, featuring the abuse of animals, prostitutes, handicapped children, and just about every husband and wife in town. Keating's prose, though, is serpentine and sinewy and all-around gorgeous; if Jack Ketchum had plotted Franzen's The Corrections (2001), it might’ve looked something like this."


Monday, January 27, 2014

Keating Named a 2014 Creative Workforce Fellow

The Community Partnership for Arts & Culture (CPAC) announced today the names of the 2014 Creative Workforce Fellows.  Each of the twenty Fellows will receive $20,000 this year to be used to advance their artistic endeavors and development.  This annual program has, since its inception in 2009, provided nearly $2.5 million in Fellowship grants. 
“This year’s fellows represent some of the most creative and innovating artists who make their homes in Cuyahoga County, and we are honored to welcome them to the select Fellowship family,” said Thomas Chema, chair of CPAC’s Board of Trustees.  “Northeast Ohio is fortunate to be home to thousands of exceptional artists, working in a variety of disciplines. These artists produce practical and intrinsic values for our community. They are investing and working to revitalize of our neighborhoods.  They are principal players in knowledge and creative-based economies. Through their art they can raise new ideas and impart sharper insights that expand our perceptions. They help to make our community, and our lives, more vibrant.”


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Booklist starred review of THE NATURAL ORDER OF THINGS

"If you look at Keating’s debut as a sort of horror anthology—no supernatural here, but plenty of monsters—each lurid shock becomes all the more impressive. (The fact that it takes place over a single Halloween weekend is our hint.) The book is arranged as a series of character studies that keep circling back over the same few events, with minor characters from previous stories graduating to the spotlight...This is Peyton Place sunk a few rungs lower in hell, featuring the abuse of animals, prostitutes, handicapped children, and just about every husband and wife in town. Keating’s prose, though, is serpentine and sinewy and all-around gorgeous; if Jack Ketchum had plotted Franzen’s The Corrections (2001), it might’ve looked something like this...."

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

From the November 15, 2013 edition of Publishers Weekly:

Last fall, Timothy O’Connell, an editor at Vintage, noticed a starred PW review of The Natural Order of Things by Kevin P. Keating. In February he learned that the novel, at the time available via print-on-demand from Aqueous Books, had been nominated for the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. By then, his interest was really piqued and, by coincidence, an opportunity to acquire the paperback rights landed on his desk shortly thereafter.

David Patterson, an agent at Foundry, submitted the book in early March alongside Keating’s next novel, Captive Condition. During the first week of April, O’Connell secured a two-book deal at auction for paperback rights to The Natural Order of Things and rights for all formats for The Captive Condition. Vintage released an e-book of The Natural Order of Things in advance of the L.A. Times awards to put some version on the market in the event that the novel won (it didn’t; Keating lost out to Maggie Shipstead for Seating Arrangements), and will publish the book as a Vintage Contemporaries paperback original in April 2014, alongside an updated e-book. O’Connell expects the manuscript for The Captive Condition soon, and hopes for hardcover publication next fall by Pantheon.

Read the entire article

Monday, October 07, 2013

Cleveland Scene: excerpt of THE NATURAL ORDER OF THINGS

For more than one hundred years, the Jesuit school has been regarded by its students, administrators, and staff as a beacon of uncompromising moral standards, an important symbol of Catholic piety located at the center of a labyrinth of winding boulevards, blind alleys, and crumbling brick lanes; streets that seem to twist and turn and double back on themselves so that even the slavering packs of stray dogs, the most intuitive of cartographers, have great difficulty navigating the chaos of slate sidewalks as they scrounge for rancid gobbets before vanishing like ghosts into the dripping cellars of abandoned houses; a once picturesque quarter of the city now overrun by liquor stores, empty factories, and a small cheerless café that has garnered notoriety as a literary demimonde where uninspired poets squabble with the barista over the price of a cup of coffee; "the old neighborhood" as it is sometimes called—old because the Gilded Age mansions and Depression Era brownstones are in advanced stages of decay; the rooftops leaking, the foundations sinking imperceptibly into sandy soil, the copper pipes waiting to be harvested from the plaster walls and sold for scrap; old because no developer has been willing to risk the necessary investment to tear down these decomposing behemoths—the grand movie palace, the marble rotunda of a failed bank, the famous hotel ballroom with its Corinthian columns covered in gangland graffiti—to clear enough land for a sparkling new shopping center, a high dollar bistro, a fashionable boutique, a well-lit parking garage.

Read the full excerpt

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Quivering Pen: "My First Trip to Los Angeles"

From Culver City in the northeast to Venice Beach in the southwest, the immense concrete slab of Venice Boulevard runs diagonally through some of the least scenic terrain in all of Los Angeles, passing under Interstate 405 and bisecting the Mar Vista neighborhood until it reaches, after seven interminable treeless miles, the freakiest beach in North America where middle-aged men wearing floral pattern Speedos do drug-induced dances on the boardwalk with their 1980s boomboxes pressed to their ears and where thickly muscled acrobats hopping around on pogo sticks mesmerize large crowds of weekend sun-worshipers.  As I boarded the number 33 bus near Culver City I asked the driver, “How long does it take to get to the beach from here?” 

The driver was strangely evasive.   “Uh…maybe…oh…twenty minutes or so,” he said, and I knew he was lying. 

“Really?  But it’s only seven miles away.” 

Standing behind me, swaying back and forth like a deckhand in stormy seas, a stout man of fifty tugged on his stylish el capitán mustache and slurred with indignation, “Twenty fucking minutes, my ass.  We’ll be on this fucking bus for an hour before we get close to the fucking beach.  Twenty minutes.  Fuck.  Ain’t no twenty minutes on this bus.” 

Read the entire story

Salon: "Cleveland's Heart of Darkness"

As a native of Cleveland, I’ve been fascinated, on the one hand, by the city’s desperate, dystopian “Mad Max” hellscape of shuttered warehouses, gruesome rendering plants and rusted iron ore unloaders. It’s a world that still echoes dimly with the cacophonous clanging of ancient machinery and the inferno roar of steel foundries and blast furnaces. On the other hand, there’s the shining modern metropolis that boasts of having one of the world’s great orchestras, a renowned art museum and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  These disparate worlds can be viewed simultaneously from the observation deck of a building with the inauspicious name Terminal Tower.
While many non-residents are aware that the Cuyahoga, that most notorious of all rivers, vivisects the city into two roughly equal parts — the east and west sides — they may not know that the city is also divided to a certain degree into north and south by Interstate 90. On the north side you will find historic neighborhoods with splendid Victorian-era houses that have undergone the slow but steady process of gentrification, its newly resurfaced streets teeming with award-winning microbreweries, intimate bistros owned by celebrity chefs, trendy nightclubs and quaint thrift shops.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

From Vintage Paperbacks

The Natural Order of Things

Comprised of 15 interconnected stories, The Natural Order of Thingsis properly thought of as a novel in the tradition of Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio or John Steinbeck's The Pastures of Heaven ― but with a gothic sensibility. The novel concerns the adventures and exploits of a small group of students, teachers, employees, and priests at a Jesuit prep school in a dying industrial city. Its stories harbor star quarterbacks who sabotage important games, the head coach with a gambling addiction wagering on his own team, an elderly priest suffering from acute memory loss who dabbles in heretical beliefs, and others who swim against the tides of society's proscribed roles.  "The Black Death of Gentile da Foligno" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize by author Thomas E. Kennedy. Another story, "Uncreated Creatures," was nominated for a StorySouth Million Writers Award by the editor of The Stickman Review. A third story, "The Spy" won second prize for the Lorain County/Ohio Arts Council Award, judged by Nancy Zafris, editor of The Kenyon Review.

Publishers Weekly said of The Natural Order of Things in a starred review (October 15): Keating toys with narrative chronology in this debut collection of interwoven stories that follows the lives of several “reprobates who have descended into... Hades.” At the center of an unnamed, ruined city of American industry thrives, tumorlike, a Jesuit high school and the Zanzibar Towers and Gardens, a flophouse where both students and alums slum it with prostitutes. In the opening story, “Vigil,” students have gathered at the Zanzibar to celebrate Halloween and the next day’s big football game with kegs of beer they stole from a senile priest in the final story, “Gehenna,” that was delivered in the second story, “Box,” by the father of star quarterback Frank “the Minotaur” McSweeney. “I’m counting on you. We all are,” says the Minotaur’s father, but the day of the big game, as in all the connected stories, we find out just how big a letdown everyone in this life can be. Story by story, the collection circumnavigates suffering—someone lights the homeless on fire at night; a merchant marine boxes up a man to ship him overseas; priests humiliate and shame their students, while one teacher loves them too much—in a place where most of its inhabitants “would rather gamble on a human life than try to save one."

Order Now on Amazon

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

The Tao of Flitcraft: Some Thoughts on the Ancient Art of the Near-Death Experience

From the December 2011 edition of Blue Lake Review:

There is a private joke among my family (you’ll excuse the redundancy of the expression; the reader will understand that most family jokes are of the “private” variety, but perhaps given the grim circumstances there is special need for emphasis here): I am, they say, the proverbial go-to man when a misfortunate loved one is in immediate need of eulogizing. Certainly I’ve written my fair share of these dismal things except that there is something so manifestly unfair about the solemn, and often gut-wrenching, proceedings that it would probably be more fitting to say that Heaven has blessed me rather inequitably with the honor of having to compose so many of them. But let it not be said that Heaven watches over us without a sense of the sardonic: On Monday, June 27th, the day I normally celebrate my birth, in this case the dreaded 40th (halfway to the finish line, one foot in the grave), I very nearly had the dubious distinction, not to say plain bad luck, of having one of my eulogies read back to me, or at least read back to my horrifically mangled and unrecognizable corpse.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Eyes Wide Shut: Kubrick's Epic of Copulation

From Issue #7 of Mad Hatter's Review:

When director Stanley Kubrick’s final masterpiece Eyes Wide Shut was released posthumously in summer 1999 (shortly before rumors spread that Tom Cruise and a band of disgruntled Scientologists had him “silenced” for what they felt was an unflattering portrayal of their secret society) there was a public uproar over its paradoxically realistic and outlandishly stylized depictions of sexuality. Some critics brazenly dismissed it as “a sex movie made by a dirty old man,” though perhaps madman would have been more apropos, considering Kubrick seems to fit into that category of latter day prophet-philosopher-artist, not unlike Nietzsche and de Maupassant and Schubert, syphilitic geniuses one and all, ironic considering the psycho-sexual themes of the film. Of course there is no evidence that Kubrick contracted much less died of a venereal disease.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Desperation Follies

From the February 2007 edition of Undergound Voices:

Zihuatanejo, Mexico, a once remote fishing village north of Acapulco, has in recent years become a destination for savvy gringos who want to avoid the crowds in the usual tourist spots like Puerto Vallarta, Cancun, Cozumel and the all-inclusive resorts sprouting up along Baja and the Yucatan. But like those better known places, Zihuatanejo caters mainly to Americans who hesitate to leave the safety and comfort of their hotels and rarefied social circles to wander the narrow, litter-strewn streets of the barrio (think of crushed cans of Tecate and Modelo Especial in the gutters and packs of mangy dogs scampering through the evil-smelling alleys) where portly men in ragged clothes accost you at every turn to buy worthless trinkets. Little wooden lizards painted in the festive colors of the tropics, chess pieces whittled from soapstone that snap in two or disintegrate before you can capture your opponent’s queen, bottles of mescale and absinthe, overpriced Cuban cigars, costume jewelry made of copper and glass. And we must not forget the occasional dope peddler who, with the slightest shift of his eyes, tries to sell you “the real McCoy, and, ah, senor, maybe a pipe for you? hand-carved, eh? do you like the leering skull?” Yes, a sort of Mexican memento mori, a reminder to the hapless tourist that your trip might end in total disaster. “Smoke up, for tomorrow we die.” My trip did coincide after all with the Mexican Day of the Dead.

Read the entire essay

Monday, January 15, 2007

My Summer in an Evangelical Gulag

From the January 2007 edition of Perigee

Lake Cumberland, one of the largest man-made lakes in the United States, stretches along the misty hills and valleys of the notorious bible belt of southern Kentucky near the Tennessee border. There the educated elite, barricaded inside fortified vacation resorts like medieval royalty seeking refuge from marauding barbarians, wile away the hours, boating and fishing and drinking bourbon on the rocks with a practiced air of ennui. Last summer I visited one such resort, and because I quickly grew weary of lounging beside a pool and chasing after my two-year old daughter (a Marie Antoinette in the making), I dared to leave our impregnable compound with its battalion of nervous security guards and journeyed into the heart of darkness where, among the winding roads and four-lane stretches of highway, there raged a cultural conflagration the likes of which I have never seen.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Monsters of Antiquity

From the December 2006 edition of Smokebox:

Like most dreams this one begins in media res.

I was incarcerated in an old industrial complex not unlike those abandoned, asbestos-filled warehouses that crowd the neglected streets and labyrinthine alleys of my hometown Cleveland. Around the crumbling ruin of this makeshift prison stretched an imposing gray wall topped with glimmering razor wire. Rumors circulated that the wall had a secret opening, a small hole just big enough for a man to squeeze through and make his way back home to friends and family. At certain times during the day prisoners were marched outside and permitted to stretch in a narrow concrete pen along the wall, but no one dared search for the opening in broad daylight. Somehow I knew, with the inexplicable logic of all dreams, that this “exercise yard” was frequently used for other, more diabolical things. When the guards informed us that it was time for our daily “exercise,” many of my fellow inmates would turn pale, cling to their cots, kick their legs like small children, scream for mercy.

Read the entire essay

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Jazz & Cocktails at the Center of the World

From the November 2006 edition of Fringe Magazine

During a trip to New York City several years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.

It happened this way. I was visiting my friends, Kevin and Kathlene, who like thousands of other ambitious twenty-somethings had moved to the city to seek out their fortune, and even though fortune was a little slow in arriving, had in fact been delayed indefinitely, they nevertheless assumed an air of sophistication and decadence. From a distance and in silhouette Kevin and Kathlene looked like those svelte, stiffly posed figures you see in Jazz Age advertisements, all sharp angles and long lines, a man and woman sipping martinis while standing at a penthouse window; a flapper in a sequined dress, a dandy in a tux, templates used by graphic artists who designed the programs for the latest Gershwin or Cole Porter musical. Girl Crazy, Oh, Kay!, Anything Goes. Whenever they were nearby I heard, or at any rate imagined I heard, muted trumpets, saxophones, syncopated rhythms, Strayhorn’s “Lush Life,” Ellington at the Cotton Club...

Read the entire essay

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Review of Paul Auster'sThe Brooklyn Follies

From the spring 2006 edition of Ascent Aspirations:

Paul Auster, now regarded as a major American writer by many critics, ordinarily concerns himself with large, abstract notions of fate, destiny, chance, coincidence and other quasi-mystical matters typically categorized as existential in nature. Auster is, after all, fluent in French and has translated the work of many obscure French poets into English. He may also be the closest thing we have in this country to a café society intellectual. Like some of the better known writers of post-war Paris, Auster examines the dark side of human nature; think of Sartre’s No Exit with its famous adage “Other people are hell” and Camus’ The Stranger with its bleak insight “A man who has lived only one day can easily live for a hundred years in prison. He will have enough memories to keep him from being bored.”

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