Newest book: Consolation

Consolation, a novel, will be published this week by the wonderful Pressed Wafer Press, in Cambridge MA.

Ordering information:  here.

From the opening chapter:

Richard Morelli had little use for recent technological innovations, but when he learned that a particular student of his had put up a website, he found himself curious enough, not exactly to visit it but to ask Jack Childress, his sympathetic officemate, for a printout. Professors Morelli and Childress were frank with each other about current favorites, though Jack, who came from the heterosexual angle, was generally more circumspect. So far this second term—it was still January—he had mentioned Consuelo Young less frequently than Rich had slipped the name of Darren Ryleston into their conversation, but each man knew instinctively where the other’s thoughts were tending. Infatuations of this sort were only a small part of the pleasure they took in their teaching. They did not attempt to excuse them as healthy Platonic pedagogy and rather considered colleagues who denied such susceptibilities or imagined some great taboo hanging over the undergraduates of Knighton College either to be lying or severely repressed. Every semester Rich Morelli and Jack Childress welcomed the visual and psychological stimulus of a fresh face or two, which they found had the further useful effect of invigorating the life-long conjugal relationships they had happily settled into off campus.

But technology, so central to end-of-century academic life, even in a smallish liberal arts college in northern Illinois, was creating an atmosphere in which Richard Morelli no longer breathed entirely easily. He had gone along as far as the copy machine but then resisted each ensuing information revolution. Rich tried to convince his students there was historical value in having a human fossil in their midst. He showed them his manuscripts in black Papermate fine-point scribbles and his typescripts—manual typescripts, at that—with white-out splotches and cross-outs and arrows inserting new lines. He did not compose with quill pen by candlelight, but to a student like Darren Ryleston he might as well have. “This must be how poetry used to be written,” the sophomore had said in all innocence. A steeliness in Rich’s eyes informed Darren of the obviousness of his remark, but a sly accompanying smile reassured him nevertheless of his teacher’s fondness.
Rich had learned of the website not from Darren himself but from Darren’s theatrical friend Lakshmi Satyanarayanan, who was taking the same poetry seminar. Lakshmi was an easy source of information because she loved to come to office hours and talk confidingly about her classmates. Rich maintained an aloof and amused expression that, without seeming to encourage gossip, was careful not to shut off the flow. Because he was faculty advisor to the Knighton Pride Alliance, Rich was somehow more approachable than many professors whose sexual politics remained obscure. Indeed, straight boys, in response to his openness, seemed distinctly at ease with him. What had been unmentionable two decades earlier was now an attractively safe component of the business of higher education.
By a term’s third week one of these mentor-seeking lads had usually emerged, mere looks having first contended with personality and maybe even intellect, as a regular subject of conversation behind the closed door of Bolster Hall 44. But a gay student who had been completely out from the day he arrived at Knighton was something of an anomaly for Rich. And that Darren had his own website presented a temptation Rich had hitherto managed to avoid. It was as if the clever world of electronics had contrived to send forth this appealing young fellow to win him over. Luckily, Jack Childress was pleased to act as Internet pander because it allowed him to feel less reticent when speaking of Consuelo Young, and what in past semesters had been a tentative admission between the two men could now turn into a more satisfying indulgence.

Richard Morelli had little use for recent technological innovations, but when he learned that a particular student of his had put up a website, he found himself curious enough, not exactly to visit it but to ask Jack Childress, his sympathetic officemate, for a printout. Professors Morelli and Childress were frank with each other about current favorites, though Jack, who came from the heterosexual angle, was generally more circumspect. So far this second term—it was still January—he had mentioned Consuelo Young less frequently than Rich had slipped the name of Darren Ryleston into their conversation, but each man knew instinctively where the other’s thoughts were tending. Infatuations of this sort were only a small part of the pleasure they took in their teaching. They did not attempt to excuse them as healthy Platonic pedagogy and rather considered colleagues who denied such susceptibilities or imagined some great taboo hanging over the undergraduates of Knighton College either to be lying or severely repressed. Every semester Rich Morelli and Jack Childress welcomed the visual and psychological stimulus of a fresh face or two, which they found had the further useful effect of invigorating the life-long conjugal relationships they had happily settled into off campus. But technology, so central to end-of-century academic life, even in a smallish liberal arts college in northern Illinois, was creating an atmosphere in which Richard Morelli no longer breathed entirely easily. He had gone along as far as the copy machine but then resisted each ensuing information revolution. Rich tried to convince his students there was historical value in having a human fossil in their midst. He showed them his manuscripts in black Papermate fine-point scribbles and his typescripts—manual typescripts, at that—with white-out splotches and cross-outs and arrows inserting new lines. He did not compose with quill pen by candlelight, but to a student like Darren Ryleston he might as well have. “This must be how poetry used to be written,” the sophomore had said in all innocence. A steeliness in Rich’s eyes informed Darren of the obviousness of his remark, but a sly accompanying smile reassured him nevertheless of his teacher’s fondness. Rich had learned of the website not from Darren himself but from Darren’s theatrical friend Lakshmi Satyanarayanan, who was taking the same poetry seminar. Lakshmi was an easy source of information because she loved to come to office hours and talk confidingly about her classmates. Rich maintained an aloof and amused expression that, without seeming to encourage gossip, was careful not to shut off the flow. Because he was faculty advisor to the Knighton Pride Alliance, Rich was somehow more approachable than many professors whose sexual politics remained obscure. Indeed, straight boys, in response to his openness, seemed distinctly at ease with him. What had been unmentionable two decades earlier was now an attractively safe component of the business of higher education.

By a term’s third week one of these mentor-seeking lads had usually emerged, mere looks having first contended with personality and maybe even intellect, as a regular subject of conversation behind the closed door of Bolster Hall 44. But a gay student who had been completely out from the day he arrived at Knighton was something of an anomaly for Rich. And that Darren had his own website presented a temptation Rich had hitherto managed to avoid. It was as if the clever world of electronics had contrived to send forth this appealing young fellow to win him over. Luckily, Jack Childress was pleased to act as Internet pander because it allowed him to feel less reticent when speaking of Consuelo Young, and what in past semesters had been a tentative admission between the two men could now turn into a more satisfying indulgence…

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2 Comments

Filed under Books, Information

2 responses to “Newest book: Consolation

  1. My latest book will be out this week!

  2. Just finished it yesterday and loved it.

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