Tag Archives: Geoffrey Craig

One-Eyed Man and Other Stories, by Geoffrey Craig

I promise to follow in the next few days with the final segment of my First Democracy review, but first a change of pace. The following review of Geoffrey Craig’s new collection of stories is by Sandy Raschke at Small Press Book Review. A few years ago, when I was managing editor at New Works Review, I had the pleasure of editing one of these stories, “Morocco,” which I still remember with some vividness, if that tells you anything.  I have previously reviewed his novel, Scudder’s Gorge, on this blog. Beyond that, I refer you to Raschke’s review:

One-Eyed Man and Other Stories by Geoffrey Craig, Golden Antelope Press, 300 pgs, ISBN: 978-1-936135-57-8. $21.95, paperback.

Geoffrey Craig’s new short story collection contains twenty-one stories, all of them an insightful look into the human condition. The book is divided into five sections, each with four to five stories. Most concern the lives of minorities—Latino and African-American, and one segment, The Carmichael stories, which have previously been published in Calliope, are about the descendants of Swedish immigrants. The one stand alone story, “Morocco,” lingered a long while after I finished it.

The Blue Heron Lake stories are about a community of Latino workers within the general population and how one, Pedro Sanchez, rises to prominence and becomes the mayor. When, in the story “Upheaval,” he suggests making Blue Heron Lake a sanctuary city, all hell breaks loose. After various threats and a “no” vote by the Council, Pedro thinks seriously about resigning and moving away, but then with the help of his wife, decides to stay and fight another day for what he believes is right.

            The Brandon Forsythe segment is about a young African-American man who is wrongly convicted of a crime. When he is released from prison, he can’t find work and ends up in a drug ring, eventually rising to the position of drug lord. Then he has an epiphany and after the death of his beloved wife from cancer, slowly transitions into a legitimate business person and philanthropist.

The Snake stories are about a struggling black family in South Carolina and follow them over a period of twenty years, from 1919 to 1933. It is the period of the KKK, lynching and burning, and Craig deftly reveals how hard it is to survive amid a “Whites Only” policy.

In the story, “Lying in Wait,” the narrator and his wife, Mary, find one of their children bitten by a snake; they rush him into town to be treated—and are refused service at the hospital. They are told to take the boy to the “Negro” part of town where there “might be” a doctor. Unfortunately, the boy dies just as they reach the “Negro” doctor’s office and the narrator compares his child’s death to the lynching of his brother James shortly after he returned from Europe after World War I.

“Morocco” is about two women, bunkmates on a freighter to Morocco. One woman, Abigail, has lost her entire family in a terrible house fire; the other, Tracy, is a hip young woman, who likes to smoke marijuana, but is grieving over the end of her last relationship, of which there have been many and never successful. The two women, a generation apart, at first don’t understand each other, but eventually lift the veils of their own disappointments and sorrows and end up visiting Morocco together, where they develop a bond after rescuing a little boy being carried out to sea.

In these stories, Geoffrey Craig has woven a rich tapestry of narrative and dialogue, to create three-dimensional characters, who reveal their strengths, weaknesses, their triumphs and failures, each within its own historical capsule of place and time. This collection spotlights Craig’s growing talents as a writer and the depths of his understanding of the American character.

Highly recommended.

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Scudder’s Gorge, by Geoffrey Craig

12dee362a1fccccda845785f332e98ef.image.152x236[1]I have just ordered this novel by Geoffrey Craig, one of whose stories I edited for New Works Review during my year as managing editor, so I am well acquainted with the quality of his writing. I am chomping at the bits waiting for Scudder’s Gorge to come in the mail so I can begin to read it. But why wait for my review when I can show you this excellent one that the author just sent me?

Scudder’s Gorge, by Geoffrey Craig, Prolific Press, 290 pages. ISBN #978-1632750556. Price: $16.95 paperback, $8.95 Kindle format.

Reviewed by Sandy Raschke, Fiction Editor / Calliope, A Writer’s Workshop by Mail /Spring 2016 issue (#151) /www.Calliopeontheweb.org.

Calliope’s readers are familiar with Geoffrey Craig’s short stories, as several have appeared in our pages over the years. Although he has had a verse novel and novella serialized in a literary review, Scudder’s Gorge is his first full-length novel.

Scudder’s Gorge is a masterfully told story of family, unrequited and romantic love, hate, secrets, joys and tragedy, and exposes the depths of what man is capable of doing to his fellow man.

Craig’s elegant prose (evocative of the late Wallace Stegner), is impressive; he is like an artist, first using a broad brush to create the background, then employing a smaller one to fill in with details. The vivid imagery he uses to describe the Vermont landscape gives the story a genuine sense of place and atmosphere, and sets the tone for this family saga spanning almost one hundred eighty years and six generations.  It is a history that sometimes repeats itself, with sadness and agony. Several themes are reiterated throughout Scudder’s Gorge: tolerance vs. bigotry; peace vs. war; expiation for previous wrongs, and respect for all people.

An enigmatic Prologue begins the story, of an elderly Japanese man taking a walk in Hiroshima on the morning of August 6, 1945, stopping at a small temple after several air-raid sirens go off. But, unable to see any evidence of the bombers, he goes outside again…facing the bright flash in the sky…

Then moving back in time, Craig unveils the story of the Scudder family and others who settled on a land grant from the Territory of Vermont in 1795. Out of the wilderness, Lucas Scudder and ten settler families created farms and community. They live in peace, trading with nearby Native Americans, the Abenaki. That is until 1799, when Philomena, the daughter of Lucas Scudder, falls in love with a young Abenaki man she meets in the woods while picking berries with her sister Carrie. Eventually smitten by Susuph, she initiates a sexual relationship, which they carry out in secret places, unknowingly witnessed at times by Sean Reynolds, a mentally-challenged young man from the settlement. Philomena and Susuph want to marry, but an accident changes everything. After their last tryst, Philomena loses her footing and tumbles down a hill.

While Philomena lies unconscious at home, Lucas Scudder and eleven men from the settlement take revenge on the Abenaki, based upon their prejudices and Sean Reynolds’ misperception—that Philomena was raped and battered by Susuph then dumped in front of the Scudder’s cabin.

The settlers raid the village and are met with resistance; a shot is fired by one of the Abenaki, hitting one of the raiders in the shoulder. The ensuing carnage leaves twenty-one Abenaki dead: all the young men, five women and seven children. The few survivors flee to the north to another Abenaki village, but the reverberations of the massacre will last long into the future.

Philomena awakens two days after the raid, and when she discovers that Susuph has been killed along with the other Abenaki, calls her father a murderer and cuts off all communication with him.  Months later, she delivers a healthy baby boy that she names “Remember,” then dies within four hours of his birth. She has left her sister Carrie a letter, in which she describes the sins of her father and the responsibility of the family to see that such prejudice and violence never happen again.

Carrie marries and raises Remember as her own, and when she dies, she passes on Philomena’s letter to him.

The story moves from the first generation of Scudders slowly into the future, through recessions and depressions, World War I and II, the postwar era and the atomic age, into the late 1960s, and ends during a demonstration against the Vietnam War.  And through it all, Philomena’s letter is passed on to each successive generation, a reminder to the Scudders of their responsibility to regard all of humanity without prejudice.

Craig’s deft hand and sensitivity regarding controversial but important social matters draws the reader in and keeps one turning the pages. Highly recommended.

Calliope is the official publication of the Writers’ Special Interest Group of American Mensa, Ltd.