On a trip to New York City last month, I strolled over to Fifth Avenue where the Scribner’s Bookstore building is located.  I could have made my way blindly, since I’d taken these exact steps five days a week for almost four years.  Now, nearly twenty years later, I could almost see my younger self reflected back as I peered into the storefront window: a drowsy commuter in an ill-fitted suit, dreamy and impatient and uncertain.

But this wasn’t an instance when, to borrow F. Scott Fitzgerald’s words, “the fulfilled future and the wistful past were mingled into a single gorgeous moment.”  Rather, it was an occasion of less transcendence as I realized that the future at which I’d arrived and the future for which I once hoped would, in fact, never be mingled.  And I’m not so sure that in these days of rapid technological progress such a mingling is possible anymore.  Yet it seems that we can’t help ourselves from believing so.  For what else is a dream, but the hope that the wistful past will become the fulfilled future?

Scribner’s, the eponymous retail store of the publisher of Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Thomas Wolfe, was once the architectural manifestation of my dream.  The large and severe squares of glass fronting the building, the stoic, marble staircase and book-lined walls were, to me, a promise and an answer.  I visited every week, in rain and snow, and amidst the sirens and taxi cabs and homeless men.  I imagined having a book of my own in the window of that cathedral.  One day, I wanted to be able to point and say, “I wrote that.”

But the novel was slow in the making.

In the meantime, I married, moved to Europe, had a family and settled in California.  I wrote stage and screen plays and enjoyed some success, but it was a novel I desired – the novel being an unfiltered communication between writer and reader and possessing a permanence and immediacy that those other mediums, vibrant as they may be, lack.  So the novel was always there, the Ithaca that for more than twenty years called to me… and that I finally wrote.

My journey had been a long one.

Now that my novel is to be published, the Scribner’s building no longer exists as a bookstore.  I’d known that, of course, but last month I needed to see the building once again, to reinforce the understanding that no novel of mine will ever appear in its window.  That it’s unlikely that any novel by any writer will ever appear there again.

But whatever sorrow I felt at having been too long in the writing was overwhelmed by a sense of gratitude.

For as I stood there, twenty years gone from the dreamy commuter I’d once been, I realized that in some small way I was confronting the wisdom of the ages, wisdom that’s as old as Homer (by way of C.P. Cavafy): the Ithaca of Scribner’s Bookstore had given me the journey, without it I may have never set out.  But it has nothing left to give.

That’s exactly as it should be, because by now, older and possibly wiser, I should have understood what all such Ithacas mean.

You can buy ‘THE LAST ISLAND’ here.


Below is a video of Sean Connery reading the poem ‘Ithaca’ by C. P. Cavafy, with music by Vangelis.  It’s a little over four minutes long and worth every second.

The Prettiest Novel at the Party

There’s a half-naked woman in the corner, and she’s screaming at a short man with a monkey on his shoulder.  A crowd is closing in around them, and it’s hard to turn away for any number of reasons — three of which are the partial nudity, potential violence and an angry monkey.

But you manage to do so.

The place is packed.

Someone hands you a plastic cup overflowing with a peach-smelling blue liquid.  “What’s in it?” you ask but can’t hear the answer over the three (or is it four?) songs blasting from three (or is four?) different directions.

You step onto the rear balcony of the house and consider dumping the blue liquid into a tall hedge, but curiosity wins and you take a small sip.  It tastes exactly like it looks: syrupy and strong.  You almost gag.

In the backyard pool, a younger crowd of skateboarders whirl around.  One of them slams his head on the concrete edge of the deep end.  He’s dazed, bleeding and smiling.

Behind the pool, a half dozen people are roller dancing.  Jive Talkin’ by the Bee Gees is playing, and their roller skates are old-style, and it’s like you’re peering into a time warp.

You wonder what was in that blue liquid.

“This is crazy!” you hear from the house.  You turn back to find everyone and everything clamoring for your attention.

“I don’t believe it!”

“Take it off!”

The monkey screeches.

Every corner seems to hold something shocking or titillating or disgusting or funny.

But that’s when you see her… leaning against the bookshelf in a small side-room.  She’s silent, remarkably so in this environment, and old fashioned, if in a novel sort of way.  Though she’s entirely self-contained, you feel as if she might have something to tell you.

This woman isn’t going to come to you; you know that much.  You’ll have to go to her.

There’s some risk involved.

You might miss something at the party for one thing.  (A chair has just flown overhead, and there’s a rumor that a ferret is loose.)  And she could be dull or crazy or pompous or bitterly sarcastic.  She might have a hyper-jealous, steroid-raging boyfriend chugging gallons of blue liquid.

But you know something else as well — unlike any other person or thing at the party, she might possibly, just possibly, change your life.

You can buy ‘THE LAST ISLAND’ here.


Audio Preview of ‘The Last Island’

Listen to the prologue: ‘The Last Island.’

Soon to be published by Betimes Books.

You can buy ‘THE LAST ISLAND’ here.

%d bloggers like this: