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writer : MikeKennedy@GoodStorySaloon.com
Mike Kennedy
illustration

Tunnel boring machines, each the size of attack submarines, are assembled beneath the planet's crust within the Madison Valley Abyss. Purdue geologists discovered the first of the lava and proposed the plan. When one or both of the tunnels connect, the Yellowstone magma chamber will drain, releasing pressure, and giving mankind a century, or an age, or an epoch in which to prepare once more. Yet, it began with brush strokes, tentative, as a painting might begin. A lazy summer of field work at Yellowstone is always the plum of Purdue’s PhD program. The Geology Department sends one lucky candidate out with Professor Bennington and his four Karelian Bear Dogs. Pretty Claire Cheviot is this summer’s lucky pick. West Lafayette, Indiana moves slower than erosion during the summer sessions. Even a romantic fling would seem a still life compared to drilling holes for dynamite charges, as the lovely LADY OF THE YELLOWSTONE might tell you.

A fiction such as this could become tomorrow’s news, lacking, as it does, only a crack in the earth and the stiff-necked resolve of a moon-shot.

Kennedy's message to the publishing world, "I have read Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness from time to time across fifty years. During this, my most recent reading, it occurs to me that I am Kurtz and that all of you are Marlow. Kurtz lay dying in the pilot house of the river steamer. Marlow, the company agent, has found him and returns with him. Kurtz has spent years in the jungle pulling out ivory and sending it downstream. Finally, Kurtz agrees to return down river to civilization because he realizes that he has something to say, something with a value beyond his ton of treasure. Kurtz realizes that he has achieved a synthesis from out of his brutish experience. Kurtz imagines being met by representatives at each one of the string of railway stations during his return to civilization. He tells Marlow, 'You show them you have in you something that is really profitable, and then there will be no limits to the recognition of your ability.' And then, sounding as though he steps into our own millennium, Kurtz adds, 'Of course you must take care of the motives—right motives—always.' Now I see that Kurtz is Conrad. Kurtz is not unique. He is every writer. It is only Marlow, the agent, who is unique, unique in his fidelity, not just to the job, nor only to the company, but to the civilization that sent him.

Gutenberg published only 160 bibles, not enough to cause anyone since to reject it as a "previously published work."

Flannery O’Connor criticized readers for draining a concept from a story. Character, plot, and voice cannot hold Kennedy as much as can a concept. Hamlet’s characters and actions were for the groundlings. The galleries could have the concept and conclude that the play was all about revenge as they witnessed everyone serve the ghost as accomplices, as dupes, or as road-kill. Hamlet will revenge the ghost. Laertes will revenge his father. The son of Old Norway, will arrive at the end to revenge his father upon the ghost who, by now, surely has had his own surfeit of revenge, and has skulked from the ruins and back to Hell.

In a larger sense, this is the concept of the tyranny of the old men. In one way or another, every younger generation is commanded by Hamlet’s ghost to “fight for a fantasy and a trick of fame, and for a plot of land which is not tomb enough to hide the slain.”

Similarly, Aeschylus’ Agamemnon is less memorable as the story of the returning king. For Kennedy, the Watchman is the story, watching the irony of man unfold: Cassandra’s “painted show.” In this same way, Kennedy’s five novels and twenty-four stories of shorter fiction practice the same alchemy of HIGH CONCEPT wherein the characters are trapped, as the reader is trapped, as the Greek chorus was trapped by the bounds of the proskenion, all witnesses to a story “that is as it is”, a story which can only “end as it must.” Greek stories were old tales told to audiences who already knew their endings. In this way, tension was diverted from the surface into deeper levels. With unconscious irony, Flannery taught us this. Concept driven stories are more likely to have drama (the Greek word for “deeds”), and more likely to have genuine endings. Concept must be served.

The Indianapolis Public Library has purchased all seven of these works of fiction. It was at their Broad Ripple Branch, by way of bicycle, where the abundant scope & compass of books was discovered. This was eventually followed by the venerable rack of paperbacks at McSoley's Drug Store, where paper route profits were given over in that unblemished faith that makes calamity of so long a life. Having these stories back at the place of those beginnings imparts the Greek's almost-perfect almost-elliptical shape that the ancient tragedy of the Cretan Labyrinth demands.

When Kennedy writes, his sympathy is with the public patience, for a customer betrayed by the broken promise of a cover, for a reader angry at a reviewer’s brazen flim-flam, and in empty moments before a crash as a story slows to stall speed when a reader must cut it loose like ballast.

This writer's purpose is modeled after Robert Louis Stevenson's dedication of his novel Kidnapped: “…a book for the winter evening school-room when…the hour for bed draws near…[whose] purpose [is] to steal some young gentleman’s attention from his Ovid, carry him awhile into the Highlands…and pack him to bed with some engaging images to mingle with his dreams.”


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