Time to fulfill a promise. Last year, about nine months ago now, I previewed a novel I had then nearly completed and which now has been available for about three months online. At the time it was called Blocked, not that names matter, and I wrote that I’d comment on the novel, its various themes and other elements, leading up to and beyond its publication. Alas, that didn’t happen. Sorry. I know you were waiting with baited breath. Anyway, I got distracted, like my protagonist Daniel Pierce often does; became sarcastic, as I still am, though he is less so. Among other things, my object relations explicating Tommy article got accepted for publication in an academic journal (I’m quite proud of that, in case you can’t tell), and random events occurred, concerning dogs, graphic novels, the politics of evidence-based psychotherapy: all happening with Bionic (as in Wilfred) meaning.
So the novel’s called Venus Looks Down On A Prairie Vole, which is a meaningful title, but you’d have to read the novel to learn fully its point. I know. What a typical, asshole-self-important author thing to write. Well, I’ll give a heads up on a couple of things, hopefully make this labor of my last two years interesting for you. Venus is a reference to women, which shouldn’t surprise. A prairie vole is a monogamous rodent. There. Figured it out yet? Oh well, let’s take it one step at a time, one day at a time, which should clue you into one theme of the story, at least. So, the first chapter (about five pages, I think), will introduce you to Daniel Pierce, a lonesome psychologist (actually, the reader doesn’t really learn his name and vocation until chapter two) who is talking to an insurance representative, seeking payment for a claim that’s gone awry, but also flirting somewhat. There’s some foreshadowing in this comic opening, but mostly I’m introducing a voice—one that’s flippant, like this blog entry—and a theme of subjugation to a system or machine. Daniel suffers and doesn’t “forgive” systems, but he latches onto individuals, like his clients, and also like the angelic-seeming, barely English speaking helper on the line. She’ll listen to him, he hopes. She might really listen. No one else does, he explains sourly.
There isn’t much to help a reader feel sorry for the self-pitying Daniel Pierce, but a troubled, flaky son, and a deceased wife give some cause early on. Later, as he becomes dogmatic, contrary, awkwardly humored, if self-deprecating, liking him might get even harder. But try, won’t you…he needs help. As to his crises, the reader first learns about Ryan, his early twenty something son: absconded from Daniel’s home after completing a stint in rehab and winning from him the reward of an inherited car—a bad move, Daniel concedes. You’ll learn that it’s one of many mistakes he is making in his life, though hereafter they will relate mostly to his working life: his poor boundaries, and at least questionable ethics. In the early pages, Daniel’s wife, Lisa, is introduced as “sleeping”—a figurative trick, for she is really gone. She and Ryan are spectral figures in this tale: oblique motivators, sources of regret, or in Lisa’s case, an overseer of sorts.