Terrorism, crack cocaine and rape. Failure, miscarriages and suicide. Divorce, incest and misery. This Other Eden is Michael Hemmingson at his most brutal. A man wins the lottery and loses his family. A book agent must deal with a wild girl writer, a white trash genius and a limousine full of angry teenagers. His protagonists scratch at the bottom of society desperate to mTerrorism, crack cocaine and rape. Failure, miscarriages and suicide. Divorce, incest and misery. This Other Eden is Michael Hemmingson at his most brutal. A man wins the lottery and loses his family. A book agent must deal with a wild girl writer, a white trash genius and a limousine full of angry teenagers. His protagonists scratch at the bottom of society desperate to maintain delusions of adequacy. They fall into each other with hatred and bile; emerging with their own unique form of heroism. Provocative and intriguing, THIS OTHER EDEN by Michael Hemmingson is akin to reading a cross between someone's private journal and a True Crime magazine. Feeling titillated and naughty, as if reading a sibling's most private and dirty secrets, I found myself wholly unwilling to put this book down. It is glorious train wreck of loss, betrayal, and crime mixed with intimate thoughts and a poignant sense of loneliness. THIS OTHER EDEN is the kind of book that will make you forget your own life for a while but will also allow you to be grateful for it when you put the book down. Jennifer Brozek, Submissions Editor, Apex Book Company...
|Title||:||This Other Eden|
|Number of Pages||:||216 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
|Last checked||:||21 Minutes ago!|
This Other Eden Reviews
When I first read the back cover blurb for This Other Eden by Michael Hemmingson, I was hesitant about plunging into the story and novella collection. "Terrorism, crack cocaine, and rape. Failure, miscarriages, and suicide." Though I've read plenty on these subjects, I didn't feel up for disillusionment about life. Maybe I'd been having a bad day.I'm so glad I opened the first pages. These tales are not about disillusionment, though they almost seem that they should be. They're about surviving all the things that happen in our lives, even as we plug along in the repetition of bad luck and bad choices.The titles of the three stories and three novellas in the collection all feature the word "happen" in some way: "Nothing Like That Ever Happened," "What Happens When Things Happen to People," and "Where He Was the Day It Happened," to name three. "Happen" suggests that our lives are not in our control, that we're part of events that we react to and adjust to and quarrel with, and the characters in these stories all follow the same patterns of letting life pull them along, coping or not coping as life "happens" to them. Yet, in each tale, I was surprised by genuine love that unfolded, by quiet emotions that surfaced, and the feeling that something good could still happen.In "Nothing Like That Ever Happened," the narrator tells the story of his prodigy child who writes successful novels at age nine. The tone is a rather contented resignation. He says, "I'd given up on my dreams ..." and "I'd convinced myself I was better for it." He sits alone in his chair "and watches everything," while the reader get glimpses of what the daughter writes about, the story she needs to tell. And what's unveiled should be more disturbing than it is; but it comes subtly in the form of quiet, unspoken love, which left me startled at my own reaction."What Happens When Things Happen to People" begins with a woman Ivy taking firm, assured steps toward a planned destination to become an editor in New York; she has a dream she plans to follow, and her partner Edmond is happy to tag along: he shrugs and says "Sure." Edmond is a self-professed "day-to-day guy." They go to New York and each meets new people, with relationships developing and breaking apart, and goals pushed aside or squashed. These personalities are strong forces, stronger perhaps than their own will and determination can combat.It's partly through authentic, energetic, idiosyncratic dialogue that Hemmingson creates the force of people that work for and against the characters. Alonzo, an editor Ivy meets, takes her out one night and, humorously, in third person, provides a long monologue of his life: "But Alonzo had dreams, yes he did, and although, like yourself, he met many closed doors when trying to find a job in publishing, he was determined as holy hell. So what did he do? What did I do? ..." And as Alonzo is schmoozing her, a stockbroker Mark is selling Edmond on a new job: "Listen, you don't have to be some MBA whiz-kid and you don't have to be from some prep school with a father in the biz. Look at me. I'm a guy from Hoboken. Now I live in Manhattan." And his new sponsor says, "Ninety-nine percent of the time you'll meet rejection. You'll live for that one percent when a sale is made; you make your living off that one percent; we keep the firm going on that one percent." As the story goes on, we see that people are living off that one percent their entire lives. With each new person Ivy and Edmond meet, their lives become more complicated and they fall into situations--"choices" is a difficult word to use in these stories--that become harder, darker, and sadder."Where He Was the Day It Happened" begins with Martin Tucker having sex with a married woman as the violence of the Trade Center happens. And he realizes he's at the end of another affair. He wants to connect with his daughter who's afraid, as he's afraid, as everyone's afraid, but at the house he only encounters more violence and hatred from his ex-wife, and back on the streets, it's not connection he finds but a release of his own frustration.In "Now That I Know What Happened, Could You Hold Me, Please, and Say This Is Love?" Paul takes what little money he and Karin have and heads to the grocery store, only to be sidetracked as he meets an old friend. We learn then about his affair and later more affairs, and as in other stories, each new person the characters meet seems to bring new complications. Temptation seems too much to combat; small incidents escalate into disasters, betrayals, and violence. The woman Paul is having an affair with says, "Free will got in the way. I made the wrong choice." But all of life seems to be not choices but patterns. When Karin finally leaves him, Paul says that "days just blended."It was in this novella that I began relating the tales to Waiting for Godot, with characters waiting as life happens, falling into whatever takes them. Paul starts to realize that people are waiting for that dream, that sunray shining down. He takes a job on a psychic hotline and tells people lies so life still seems possible. And then he meets Olivia and her daughter Ella, and we get that glimmer of hope, of potential. There's no smooth going here, with much drinking and self-destruction, but through it Paul's underlying kindness and caring begins to take shape as something that can, perhaps, finally move people to something good.When, in the final story "And Then It Happened," Harry M. Evans wins the lottery, it feels like life is changing. He speaks in assertions, commands, and Hemmingson separates each assertion as a new paragraph, as definite, assured statements:"So he said, `Fire me.'""He said, `I don't care.'""He said, `Do it.'"But as the people start to call, as greed kicks in, Evans's short statements are melded in one questioning line, his assurance quickly zapped: His stepmother says of the win "This is grand news" and Evans replies, "It is; it is. Isn't it? It is."Equally masterful is how Hemmingson captures the manipulations of greed through dialogue: Evans's cousin calls wanting money for his grand plan: "I think it would be good for you to listen to me, listen to my voice, hear me out, hear what I have to say, cuz your old cuz has the big ideas, he knows what is what. Am I right, or am I right?" Evans's ticket, the reader finds, was won through quick-pick, all chance, and it begins to feel that what happens to us isn't really ours unless we make it happen. But amid all the clinging friends and relatives, Evans finds one woman who loves him knowing nothing of his money. The hope we feel is welcome but tamed by the knowledge that dreams, as we've experienced throughout the collection, are very fragile in a world where so much else keeps happening.I came away from the collection not disheartened but knowing that amid all the failures and sad patterns of life good things still happen; Hemmingson's tales refrain from despair and offer a way up and out. And please don't let the length of this review fool you into thinking the collection is a long, slow read as well. The tales move quickly, led by fast-paced dialogue and sprinklings of humor. Once you start them you don't stop.
S**T Happens!Michael Hemminson is a writer whose works crawl insidiously through your skin and loge in the psyche like an uninvited guest who ends up being the only member of a party worth the effort. He is bold in topics, shares a rather fecund imagination, and manages to create stories in this collection THE OTHER EDEN that make looking into the mirror of humanity something we'd rather avoid. But that does not for a moment mean that we CAN avoid his little pocketbook of six stories linked (at times obtusely) by the word 'happen'. Take the story "Where He Was The Day It Happened' - a tale of that dreadful moment in time on 9/11 when as the towers were being terrorized he places in a cheap hotel room a married woman who is a lawyer and a divorced editor are practicing their weekly (or more frequent) shenanigans and shows us how each responds (with dollops of negativism) to the other: the incomplete physical performance disrupted has manifestations that make the incident seem tame. The man ends up brutally kicking a turbaned, bearded cab driver and that is how Hemmingson resolves his story's dilemma. The author drags us through the muddy existence of drugs, rape, suicide, the lottery - think of a topic that could raise hairs on your neck and Hemmingson goes there. And he does it so well that he glues us to the page like voyeurs peeking at things we know we should not be quietly and privately enjoying. That is talent, and Hemmingson has it - an evocative wordsmith that makes the reader want to go bathe. Grady Harp
Readable but ultimately pointless fiction. The characters are sketchy (they all seem the same - struggling writers) and the plots wind up down dead ends or run out of steam. I got the impression that the writer didn't know where he was going with these stories. The prose is a bit too journalistic and the sex is corny (cheating husbands/wives etc. etc.) and seedy. One of the stories about 9/11 wasn't supposed to be funny, I'm sure, but I couldn't help laughing at the ridiculous adolescent violence at the end. The only good thing I can say is that the stories were highly readable because they were simply written.
Fun. Scary. Sad. Happy.
This Other Eden A good collection of short stories if you are not put off by the blurb which says: "Failure, miscarriages and suicide. Divorce, incest and misery"