Hello Readers : )
Today I’m featuring a book spotlight for Awake in the Mad World by author Damon Ferrell Marbut. This novel is available for free for two short days, December 15-16 on Amazon Kindle so be sure to grab a copy.
“I hadn’t thought of it, in real truth. I hadn’t thought about love because when I was at work, I didn’t think, I am at work. I hadn’t thought, when I was at the grocery store, I am at the store. We just are where we are. We’re in what we’re in.”
Pete Rattigan is a frustrated young newspaper journalist caught up in uncertainty of the post-graduate “real world”. One night, one seemingly minor encounter sparks a philosophical journey which leads him to discover that in the most beautiful or even cruel moments of life, the power of friendship explains the power of the universe. And that perhaps there is no such thing as chance. With force, humor and sensitivity Damon Ferrell Marbut presents his debut, Awake in the Mad World, which frees its audience to believe again in the wildness of the young American heart, how it beats just to prove that it will always survive and succeed on its own terms.
The many hours after posed as a collage of blurs and redemptions in the subtle light sliding halfway through cracked blinds in her kitchen of late morning, where I’d sit unbothered for a brain stretch at her table, waking with a slow high from the cold coffee made the night before, the early morning before, feather-fingering the keys so as not to force her from her heavy rest upstairs. I could hear the frustration in her quick steps to the bathroom when she’d wakened herself and was physically and sleepily furious with the requirements of her body. I felt inextricable from the inside of the townhouse and spent smoke breaks on the patio lying to myself that I could stay there forever. To warm up once fully alert, I wrote a few junk pieces on forever and infinity just to play with the notions behind the words, and I grinned to tears in the stillness of both soundless mornings, the requirements of my own body insisting I missed the proximity of Knox and our romantic semi-squalor. And in thinking of Brody I imagined him, too, at a table somewhere across the house from a sleeping stranger, bending a propped elbow to house his chin in a hand that climbed around his jawbone as he stared down the progression of his book. Dawn and I had neared exhausting ourselves from what we were eluding, her with what we’d discussed during night one below the war canopy of flying darts, and me, the appeasement of the groan as if I’d been a child in a tribe wanting not to leave the village, but just to walk to its edge and make determinations on my own about the growth of the circle itself—to watch the world get bigger below my feet, to study its happening with wide, ready eyes.
The novel was becoming exactly a novel, but I’d somehow forgotten whenever it was I recognized the small truth of this, in that it was at the same moment, I assumed with Dawn the night before, that I stopped with concern that it would. “Oh,” she’d said, slapping me on the upper back as she took in a sword of olives from her martini glass at a restaurant bar where we’d begun our second night. “That’s a young person’s luxury. To get blown away by the discovery of small truths. To quote Mohler.” And after a late sleep-in for her and another characteristic long morning for me, we parted ways as I tucked the typewriter under my arm and the rolled pages in my back pocket as she walked me to the door, kissed the side of my face and said she’d terribly needed them, the nights. I returned to the guesthouse in mid-afternoon to find Knox on her machine in the bed, her hair wet from a shower and the smell of laundry drifting through the courtyard and through the cracked window on our north side.
“Hey, you,” I said as I kicked out of my sandals and slid into bed beside her.
“Hello, traveler,” she said, furrowing her face at the screen.
“I’m so glad to be home.” I buried my face in a pillow and tucked inward and curved my back up to the ceiling as if to force my stomach into my spine and my entire self into the bed’s memory, fearing maybe it had forgotten me or was silently calling me a traitor. “These last couple days have been intense, man.”
“They’ve been that way here, too. Completely unexpected.”
I rolled to my side and faced her before closing my eyes.
“What’s been going on? This must be how rainbows smell.”
“Maybe so. I let the window so I could smell the laundry from here. I’ve actually been on some new pieces, which I like, but usually I handwrite them first, so it’s strange using this computer for…”
“I’m relieved about the poems. Tell me I can say it,” I said, smiling and opening my one exposed eye from the pillow.
“I told you so.”
“No,” she said, punching my shoulder. “It’s just an adjustment.”
“It might affect your style.”
“Well, at least I can read my first draft for once.”
“Your chicken scratch is pretty wild.”
“What have you been up to?” She asked after finishing some business and closing the laptop and setting it at the bed’s end by her feet.
“Crashing Dawn’s. Worked a little. She’s been needling through a breakup and she’s been too unwilling at work to admit it’s messed with her.”
“That sucks, man.”
“She’s good though. I think she’s good.”
“Not the actual breakup that sucks,” she continued. “Just the process of, I don’t know, processing the new reality that comes after the bullshit. Identity shifts and all that.”
“Yeah,” I sighed. “I think that’s what’s really nailing her right now, how she’d found herself allowing her personal definition to change a little by having him so involved in her day-to-day, you know. Like her powers had been diminished from the sacrifice. But once we talked it out, there was just that struggle with trying not to kick herself for being vulnerable to it. Who knows? We’ve all been there. But I guess it helps to realize you’re not the only victim in the history of the world when it comes to taking a stab at sacrifice. You seen LaCoste?”
“That lovely man is MIA. I think between the rigors of ignoring Penguin and being into this girl and his new body infatuation, who does know, man? If I’ve seen him at all it’s been a ghost of him encouraging the neighborhood kids to rebel and toilet paper houses.”
“I noticed that,” I said, laughing, having driven through the east side of the estates on the way home from Dawn’s, spying the wind-whipped 2-ply snakes dangling in their own mischief from multiple limbs of the opulent landscapes. I thought of Pied Piper Brody in the breeze, invisible, teasing teenagers on their bicycles to resist, resist in any manner, resist at all (la)costs.
I was suddenly struck with a worry for Brody in that Knox might have been partially right that he hear out his editor. And from not talking to him, not getting at least a partial read on his face when he shrugged off if not ignored what he was being asked, it presented a very unbalancing feeling to latch on to, which I did, in that I knew I was allowing the worry if not inventing it in his absence. On the other side of the worry wasn’t worry at all—same as I’d been feeling over the impromptu weekend with Dawn, the good nothingness of doing a very real something—that Brody wasn’t shrugging off anything at all, wasn’t taking time like I had endlessly needed to in terms of letting an answer come on its own, nor would he pursue the correction of such struggle because he usually stayed busy with the new. I thought, after lying in bed next to Knox and hearing the guileful whir of her laptop putting itself to sleep, that maybe he was getting out of body by entering another, that he was not getting laid or falling in love but disappearing into the activity of either possibility. And then it became clear, clear as the air between Knox’s elbow and my left eye, that I had unknowingly wished to be the only one of mystical disappearing acts that week, and LaCoste, of course, had floated out of the realm, again, of his usually unpredictable self, and I had wanted him to come home, too, and spin with me on a wheel of just my own discovery. “When’s the last time you talked to him? I miss the kid.”
“A while. I’m not sure exactly,” she called out from the kitchen after having pushed from bed, declaring renewed energy from someone else at last contributing to the fullness of the house. An odd confession I thought, but one for which I was thankful after fearing for that pair of days alone but not alone, removed from one world for another without having really left either, that I was unsure of their sameness. I wondered when the onslaught of Knox’s laptop would replace the purpose and fervor of me tugging her out into that sameness, to share it, to prove it was one real thing. “He taped a note on the door after you left the other day. It’s with your mail behind your head. It’s great. Read it aloud.”
Folded, crumpled pieces of notebook paper sat atop a few white envelopes I ignored when I rolled over and selected it from the pile, opening it and returning to my back to hold it overhead, to split my body from the ceiling to read it.
Sparring partners, it began. I no doubt feel your energies across the city. Something’s decided to swim into me and I’m rolling with it, or turning in the wild surf, I can’t even know right now. But I miss you and here is a gift of that recognition. Words, right? Always words. And I’ve been in this ocean like a pirate or raft-riding madman or solitary lover, it’s all so bizarre, or maybe I’m not anything in it other than just In It. A wonder, an utter and genuine mystery being unraveled…you both dig into many of your own so we can share later. I’ve been thinking about the body lately, as you know, and somehow grew tired of my own a bit, which turned out a miraculous exhaustion in that I started studying vibration states and sleep bordering and almost drum now in the air to a song both parts of my being seems to experience when “asleep.” It’s crazy! I’ve come back to breathing—so boggling that we forget it, or say we forget it, but we’re ignoring it, aren’t we? Aren’t I? Are both of you? I’m so interested in where you’re breathing! Rattigan, I hear you’re taking to a bit of evanescence, which is great. Knox slipped some of her new stuff under a wiper blade yesterday when I was “working.” Why you didn’t stop in, woman! I think timidity has no room even if the work is newborn. Knox, read it to Rattigan! Hold each other accountable! Start talking of pulsation and methods of calmness, if you feel like it. We can’t talk now, as I’m on the rise, if even trying to shake this desire for levitation, but I’m thinking we’re all in the air all the time anyway and the best we can do is determine how to get back on the ground. Does that make sense? It better. We’ll get on with it soon. Heidi’s been a mad enabler with all this, got parental money and a good terrace, no real interest in anything but pursuing answers. And she seems pretty involved in a nearness with me I find inviting. Crazy. No You, soul friends, not at all comparable! Be blessed and well and hang out here on the earth and I’ll be there in a flash. But don’t wait for me for a damn thing…Rattigan, I’m taking off at the Stone a good while. Knox, talk to this man in stanzas…be well, be well, be well.
I smiled and set down the letter on Knox’s side of the bed. She sighed loudly from the kitchen and I belatedly followed her there.
“You sold me out, Knox,” I said, passing her to the refrigerator. I removed a pitcher of cold tap water from inside, reached over the sink for a plastic Mardi Gras cup, filled it and looked at her over the brim. She rolled her eyes and shook her head as she cut an apple on the small cutting board slid sideways between the coffee maker and old knife block with too few knives versus holes for them.
“Not really. I told you I worked a little when you were gone.”
“But it’s good,” I said. “It must be good, on both accounts, if you slipped it to LaCoste and he mentioned it. So you know what this means.”
She handed me the first slice and I crunched on it with fake, theatrical frustration. She laughed.
“There’s a self-addressed stamped envelope in your mail. Did you notice that?”
“It means you owe me a read. No, I didn’t look. It’s just another rejection.”
“It’s from Tennessee, I think. Isn’t that one of your contests? It could mean money,” she said, turning to lean her lower back against the chipped countertop beside the sink, briefly chewing her tongue’s tip at the side of her mouth.
“We’re both off tonight,” I said, returning to the bed and leaning across it for the mail. “So start thinking up somewhere we can go so I can see the new goods. It’s gotten cloudy out, but we could still go to the park. Not too hot. But I’m a little beat. It’s up to you.”
“I’m into being a hermit today. But I’m down for a co-conspirator.”
She raised her eyebrows a few times and bit into an apple slice.
“That’s good, too.” I shrugged as I stood at the edge of the kitchen, continuing to pry open the taped-shut envelope. “They’re determined to make you work to find out how irrelevant they think you are. I need a shower.”
“There’s a couple of library movies by the player. See what you think.”
“That definitely sounds good. Maybe I’ll get some real rest for a change before tomorrow. Or attempt it. I could certainly use…”
I paused over the unfolded letter in my hand, a typed letter, a galaxy apart from Brody’s lustful script.
“You look confused,” she said.
I took a deep breath and exhaled.
“I might be.”
“What’s it say?” She asked.
I shook my head.
“What? Is it harsh?”
“No,” I said and began to laugh. “I won, man. At least that’s what it says.”
“Shut the fuck up!” She shouted, bounding to my side and pouring over the letter as I read it a third time. “Holy shit, Rattigan.”
“Yeah,” I said, still laughing. “I guess so. Holy shit. And I don’t…” I quickly looked around me as though an answer lay at my feet. “I don’t even remember what the first prize is.”
“We can look it up.”
We stood in place a short moment, grinning at one another before racing toward the stack of magazines across the room. We flipped through the one I’d dissected two months earlier and from which I had pulled a few dates and deadlines, half-committed to them before going about the business of forgetting.
“Eight hundred dollars,” she said, staring into the page with me. “As in almost a thousand bucks.”
“For a short poem I wrote two years ago?”
“You can buy a laptop now, Rattigan.”
“I’m just saying.”
“And they want me to come to Nashville to read? This is crazy. Too crazy. A month from now.”
We stood beside the lifted window in the fog of laundry and we hugged, dancing a partial dance of victory against, I’m unsure still, perhaps the self-doubt about which we rarely spoke. And we missed Brody. We stood in the dance and laughed like maniacs and we missed Brody like mad, agreeing to send him back his offered energy across the city, doubly, triply, even though I hoped I’d cross paths with him down the street some time soon at the Stone, or he’d come by when either of us were home. And though he was off flying above the roads and avenues and trees and rooftops, looking for the ground, we had all just done something remarkable together, unwittingly, from just one of us having opened a wrinkled letter.
“Get your shoes,” Knox said, pacing around the bed and walking into a pair of jeans. “Let’s get out of here. We’re celebrating. We have to.”
“What if it rains?” I asked, smiling large, still confused at the letter in my hand.
“Oh, I dare it,” she said, shaking her head.
“Then bring your poems. We’re not going without them.”
“And you, my friend,” she said. “You’re not going to Tennessee without me.”
About the author:
Damon Ferrell Marbut is a Southern poet and novelist. Originally from Mobile, Alabama, he now lives and writes in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he his working on a new novel. Awake in the Mad World, his first published novel, is an entrant for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. He is a featured anniversary speaker at the 10th Annual Saints and Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans, May 2013. His second poetry collection, The Difference Between Young Gods, is currently under review for publication.
Facebook Author Page: http://www.facebook.com/DamonFMarbut
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Damon-Ferrell-Marbut/e/B008E72MCK