Review of “Literary Explorations: Contemporary Fiction and Poetry,” by Abhimanyu Pandey

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A book for philosophers, writers, readers, and students. “Literary Explorations: Contemporary Fiction and Poetry” is an eclectic mapping of literary trends. It is a 104-page collection of academic essays and articles assembled in a way that touches on gender, voice, multi-culturalism, and spirituality in works from the East and West. Among essays exploring the texts of Atwood, Ondaatje, and Malkani, I particularly appreciate the way he handles magical realism as it concerns “The Tailor’s Needle,” by Lakshmi Raj Sharma, and my novel, “The Improbable Wonders of Moojie Littleman.” While the author is an academic, he never gets too highbrow. The information is presented as he discovered it—through an obvious love for literature, as well as for intensive study and scholarly research.

Excerpt #3 from upcoming Book 2 of the Moojie Littleman Trilogy: The Boy Who Killed Time

Dear friends and family,

Here’s the third and final excerpt from upcoming Moojie Littleman Trilogy, Book 2: The Boy Who Killed Time. I’m finishing the novel and other projects, so I’ll be posting occasional interviews and articles for a while. But for now, I’d like to introduce you to Abu, Moojie’s sidekick…

CHAPTER 4

An account of the sage discourse that passes between Moojie and Abu, wherein much is revealed to complicate our ingenious hero’s plot

A long time ago, a holy man from Spain told Abu the map of his life could be found on his palms. When he looked at Abu’s hands, his brow furrowed and his left eye twitched. “You are leading a double life,” he said. The next time they met, Abu said, “Tell me something I don’t know.” To this the holy man said, “You will father a new race.” Abu grinned. “Either that,” said the holy man, “or you will grow fat.” Disgruntled, Abu asked if there was anything else? The holy man said, “There is no future in goats.”

Abu never could remember the holy man’s name. Anyhow, it was not important, he was long gone before Moojie came along. They met when the young Moojie was living in the village, a foundling adopted by Henry and Kate Littleman. Abu was a salesclerk at the grocery and dry goods store, at least until the pandemonium demolished the village. He and a handful of villagers took refuge in emergency shelters they erected in the fields of St. Isidore’s. By the time San Miguel was rebuilt, everyone but Abu had left the dairy. He helped dismantle the emergency shelters in the South field of the sprawling ranch, and soon moved into the barn quarters where he slept in the tack room on a roughhewn hammock. His walls were lined with musty-smelling books, stacked floor to ceiling, and his illustrious wardrobe of vests, breeches, and hats hung amid bridles and halters.

Apart from an insatiable appetite for food and literature, he had taken up knitting—spinning and knitting. He made goat-hair cushions stuffed with straw, which he used as cushions to keep the fainters from hitting his book stacks. He had never confided in anyone regarding his true origin. His almond-husk complexion and dark eyes advertised a mysterious foreign ancestry, and, in keeping with the times, he knew he must never let down his guard. Family? He never spoke of it.

Long after the Thanksgiving guests left the dairy, Abu was lounging in his hammock, swinging slightly, letting his beloved pigeon, Teresa, peck pellets from his hand.

Moojie knocked on the door and entered with a milking stool to sit on. “Driftin’, it’s kind of like a wing and a prayer, isn’t it?” He was weighing in on whether or not to trust the ranch hand to take him to Uta.

Abu made a “maybe” face.

“Faintin’ goats were never what I had in mind for the future,” Moojie said. “The poor things cramp up and topple over every time the wind blows…I should just heal them.”

“So they are different,” Abu said. “What is wrong with different? You above all should know there is nothing wrong with different.”

It was true that Moojie didn’t begin to talk at a normal age, and the whole village thought he never would. It was also true that he walked with crutches most of his early life. Not so long ago, villagers hung out their windows or gathered their children away from him as he passed by on his crutches. “There’s that half-breed cripple,” they whispered. “Found him in a bucket outside the chapel.” He pretended to be immune to their words and stares. His adoptive mother had kept him out of school and tutored him privately. She used to say, “If life were all sunshine and chocolate, there wouldn’t be any saints, and we’d never find our way back to heaven.”

“If it hadn’t been for the Light-Eaters,” Moojie said, “I might never have learned how to heal, how to forgive the villagers.”

“It is true, one must heal oneself before ministering to others.”

“How do you know so much about it?” Moojie asked. You’re not a Light-Eater.”

“Let us just say, where I come from, drifting is not only possible, it is a possibility.”

“Where’d you come from, anyway?”

“You would never believe it.”

“Try me.”

“Pleiades.”

“Very funny,” Moojie said, not believing him. He was in no mood for jokes.

“I speak the truth! Whereas I cannot read minds, speak world languages, or heal the sick, I am a planet-jumper, able to travel the dimensions. However, I am not supernatural in the least. Not even a halfkin.”

Moojie looked at him sideways. “So, what are you doing here?”

“I am looking for a place to settle down.”

Moojie paused to think.

“If that’s true, maybe you’re better off not bein’ a Light-Eater. They were hunted like crooks. It’s like Pappy and McTavish, and all the villagers who mistook them for American Indians, were shootin’ at their own guilt. They turned blind eyes to the broken treaties. Heck, as an Army officer, Pappy did his worst, when all along this dairy was probably stolen from the Indians.”

“Resembling the natives made it worse for the Light-Eaters,” Abu said.

“No wonder they holed up in the hills.”

Abu stroked his pigeon’s head. “In a world where you felt no sense of family or belonging, you identified with the outliers,” he said to Moojie. “You became their Robin Hood.”

“They came here to save stupid people from themselves. If only they were here now to save me from my so-called family.”***

 

 

Excerpt #2 from upcoming Book 2 of the Moojie Littleman Trilogy: The Boy Who Killed Time

Dear friends and family,

It’s the 25th! Here’s the next excerpt from upcoming Moojie Littleman Trilogy, Book 2: The Boy Who Killed Time. You will notice, the sections are not linked directly to each other, they are independent snippets that give the flavor of the book. They have not been professionally edited yet, so please forgive any typos. I look forward to hearing what you think!

CHAPTER 3
In which is recounted Moojie’s disenchantment and
further indictments that drive the valiant wonder worker to undertake an impossible journey

Night was falling when Moojie and Abu rode through the gate of St. Isidore’s Fainting Goat Dairy, three miles inland in the Valley of Sorrows. They were greeted enthusiastically by Millie Mae, the dairy dog, and goats fainted to both sides, a sea of falling beards. There was an unfamiliar motorcar and a buggy parked in the yard. The cabin curtains were drawn. Despite his crisis of hunger, Abu raised a wary hand to signal for Moojie to wait while he scoped out the scene inside. He threw open the door, and took one sniff of the steamy air laden with fried onions, turkey fat, and wood smoke, and swooned.

Henry, Moojie’s bespectacled father, looked up from minding the turkey, and said, “You’re late!” His eyes, the size of robin’s eggs behind thick-lensed eyeglasses, were pink-ringed from lack of sleep, and dotted with untreated cataracts, which had precluded his mapping days. He refused to have medical treatment. He didn’t want anybody poking around his eyeballs. He rejected Moojie’s offers to heal him with inflexible determination, the reason for which he never explained. Five and a half years ago, Henry returned from his last disastrous expedition, which had been more of a diversion to avoid home life without his deceased wife, Kate, than it was a job. With a twinge of conscience, he had left Moojie with his grandfather and sailed to a remote island in the Lesser Antilles for Monk Magoon’s “import business.” At the time, he had no idea the doomed trip was meant to establish an outpost for smuggling heroin from South to North America in fruit juice cans. After weeks at sea, the ship, Sheherazade, was driven ashore in a hurricane and wrecked on the coast of Little Tobago, becoming a total loss. He, and the rest of the crew, survived by swimming ashore, only to be met by pirates. At gunpoint, they conscripted Henry to draft a letter to his bankroller to extract a ransom of thousands of Trinidadian dollars, which roughly equalled thirty-two hundred American dollars. Monk contacted an associate in Trinidad, who delivered the ransom, and Henry and the others were set adrift in a tiny fishing boat. With one oar, they were able to paddle to the main island of Tobago, where Henry enlisted to play piano on a steamship line in exchange for the fare back to America. He still owed Monk the ransom money, plus fifty-percent interest. By then, Henry’s heart had iced over concerning Moojie. After all, his adopted son had been one grand disappointment after another, and was the reason his beloved Kate ran into the path of a runaway horse carriage. Once Henry was back from the sea, he kept a low profile in San Miguel, living off piddling savings and barter, pacing his backyard in pajamas—until the pandemonium. Had it not been for Moojie, Henry, who had succumbed to a chronic state of melancholy, would have been dragged out to sea with the tidal wave following the 1906 earthquake.

“Sorry, Papa,” Moojie said, coming into the cabin behind Abu. “Say, did you see that poster in town?”

Auntie Tilda interrupted. She shoved Abu aside and presented her cheek to Moojie for a kiss. An assortment of guests emerged from candle-cast shadows to greet Moojie and refill their glasses with mulled wine. Among them, Duncan McTavish, a neighboring rancher and Scottish immigrant who had served as a Civil War field medic. He had the face of a pickled tomato, red and withered. Having noted Abu’s defensive stance, McTavish offered a mixed metaphor as a parody: “I am watching you like you are a hawk.” Red-haired Tilda laughed wickedly, taking pleasure in any opportunity to put the cheeky ranch hand in his place. Having outgrown the need to dress like an African matriarch—a progressive statement in favor of Negro freedom—she had given up the colorful bubu gowns of her earlier years in favor of woolen skirts. However, she still wore flamboyant scarves, designed and made to order after foreign flags.

“I’ve got an important announcement to make!” Henry chirped.

“Oh no,” said McTavish, Henry’s good friend. He lit a hand-rolled smoke and spit out a bit of tobacco.

“The Spirit will descend like a dove from heaven, and the multitudes will see the Chosen One of God!” Henry said, pointing the carving knife upward.

“Not yet, not yet!” McTavish said. “Let the boy settle in first.”

Monk Magoon and his driver, a giant called the Barber who looked like a dressed up ape, approached Henry. “This better be good. I want my money and I want it yesterday. I’ve got plans.” He had once been the charismatic leader of the Gang of Five, a high-rolling pimp, heroin dealer, and mercenary for the Tammany politicians. After serving a prison term for cutting out a rival’s tongue and sending it to his wife, he had set up his own wife and children in a little house in San Miguel de las Gaviotas, and bought the general store. Despite an air of sophistication, he preferred riding a bicycle, while his socialite wife, Lila, insisted on a driver and horseless carriage. “I’m gonna build a city that works,” Monk said, “like New York. I’m gonna be the next mayor and I’m gonna make San Miguel great. Casinos, show halls, hotels. It’ll be a watering hole for dignitaries. The people of San Miguel may be stupid, but they’re not fools.”

“Yea, all that,” the Barber said.

“Wait till you hear what I have planned,” Henry said. “I’ll have your money and sweeten the deal to boot.” To appease Monk, Henry had been shaving off the middling profits from Monday’s healing meetings to make payments to this dandy with criminal connections, who had bankrolled his mapping expedition. But Henry still owed two-thirds of the hefty sum that had inflated with fifty percent interest. It was only because Monk had taken a liking to Henry’s homing pigeons, that it hadn’t gotten ugly. One nice thing leading to another, St. Isidore’s—deeded by Pappy, Captain Sean Finnegan, to Moojie, and run by Henry and Tilda—was barely able to pay the bills, much less old debts.

Squirming with anticipation, Auntie Tilda gestured toward Ginny Magoon, across the room with her brother, Patrick, and mother, Lila. “Moojie, look who’s here!” Ginny, her parents, and the Barber were dressed to the nines in the latest fashions. They looked like an advertisement in Harpar’s Bazar magazine. “Go on, talk to her,” the Irish auntie chirped. A spinster, she often bewailed the tragedy of her dying a “petrified barnacle” without grandchildren. If only Moojie would marry and get on with sprouting a new family tree! “Your entire life, all you wanted was a family, and now that you can have your own, what do you want? To hold out for a Martian in outer space!” She leans closer. “Sometimes love is an apple. ’Tis too big to fit in your mouth all at once…you were a stubborn, undisciplined child. You never did what was expected of you. Marry Ginny, dear. ’Tis time to settle down with someone of the same species, for the love of St. Peter!”**

My Screenplay Adaptation “Halfkin” is out for Pre-Production Review

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Yippee! My screen adaptation of The Improbable Wonders of Moojie Littleman has gone out for review. I couldn’t believe my ears when, after two years of working on it, my producer, John Crye, finally said the words, “It’s ready!”

Film description of Halfkin: A physically-disabled orphan discovers he has miraculous  abilities similar to the Light-Eaters, a primordial race that warns intolerant locals in early-1900s America of an upcoming natural disaster.

In order to make the 294-page story fit into less than 2 hours on screen, we had to cut a few characters and scenes. Pappy and Auntie Tilda are now the central the focus of Moojie’s domestic squabbles. Light-Eaters, Ninti, Babylonia, Sarru’kan, and others remain true to the novel. Dear Moojie is exactly the same character. Early on, he struggles with disabilities and unrecognized healing powers, while searching for a sense of belonging.

More news: Book 2 of The Moojie Littleman Trilogy is nearly done. The Boy Who Killed Time picks up four years later, when 18 year-old Moojie, now hailed in his hometown as a healer, escapes family and worshipful throngs to find the inter-dimensional realm where his true love awaits. What he finds when he gets there is completely unexpected.

I’ll keep you posted on any news!

 

 

 

We Have a Winner!

✨ Congratulations, Jared Ryder, our winner!  💃🏿🕺🏿🌷📚👯‍♀️ Thanks to Maia of Silver Dagger Book Tours, 30 awesome bloggers, and 10,060 sign-ups, it was a fantastic giveaway! 💫

Welcome Book Bloggers & Reviewers!

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m- about the book

The Improbable Wonders of Moojie Littleman by Robin Gregory Genre: Fantasy, Magical Realism Early 1900s, Western America. A lonely, disabled boy with a nasty temper and uncontrolled mystical powers, Moojie is taken by his father to his grandfather’s wilderness farm. There, Moojie meets an otherworldly clan of outcasts that he wants to join. Following a series of misadventures–magical and mystical–he is summoned by the call to a great destiny … if only he can survive one last terrifying trial. Having won a number of awards, Robin Gregory’s The Improbable Wonders of Moojie Littleman is being lauded as a classic. A haunting, visionary tale spun in the magical realist tradition of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude and Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, the profoundly unique voice and heart-stirring narrative recall great works of fiction that explore the universal desire to belong.

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Amazon * Goodreads

m- about the author

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ROBIN GREGORY is a devoted wife and mother, and student of mystical teachings. Born in Pensacola, Florida, she grew up in California, accompanied by seven siblings, and surrounded by horses, real cowboys, and the occasional rattlesnake. She has always been drawn to helping others, a trait that began, to her mother’s horror, with bringing home swallow chicks stricken from their nests. She has worked as a journalist, lay minister, and infant massage instructor for mothers and babies at risk. Her studies include Literature and Creative Writing at University of California, Santa Cruz and Stanford University’s Writer’s Workshop. She lives with her husband and son in a Carmel cottage old enough to make you sneeze. “The Improbable Wonders of Moojie Littleman” is her first published novel.

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Follow the tour HERE for exclusive excerpts, guest posts and a giveaway! A Rafflecopter giveaway!

m- guest postMy Date With Marc Chagall
by Robin Gregory

When I was a kid, I used to like to build forts and dress like Zorro. At a certain point, I had to ask myself if I could make a living doing this, and realized I couldn’t, so I decided to be an artist. I loved the Expressionists, especially Marc Chagall. In fact, I give him some credit for why I became a writer. First, I spent a few years studying art. Much later, when my husband and I visited France, I wanted to find Mr. Chagall. I had questions. I found his address in an international registry: La Colline, St. Paul-de-Vence. No numbers, no letters. It took a bit of snooping around, but we did find the beautiful, old estate high on a hill above a dirt road. There was a wrought-iron gate with the word La Colline forged in it. Not so hard to find. My gosh, I thought, he probably welcomes visitors! Here was the plan: we were going to leave a potted plant at the gate, along with an invitation to meet for coffee at our hotel. How could he resist, we came all the way from the US to meet him! Anyway, what harm in asking, right? When I got out of the car to deliver the plant, I leaned down and grabbed hold of the gate, which it turns out had just been freshly painted. I recoiled to look at my black hand, and set off an alarm across the valley. Then this herd of Doberman’s the size of small horses came bounding down the hill toward me bearing teeth. I dropped the stuff, raced back to the car, and we sped away like a couple of frito banditos. NOTE TO MYSELF: This is the kind of thing that happens, and the next thing you know, there’s a warrant out for your arrest, and you end up in some rat- infested island prison, and following a hair-raising escape, you launch an elaborate plot to extract a bitter revenge against your betrayers … or not. So here’s how Mr. Chagall helped me become a writer: I learned from this experience that it’s a lot more fun to tell a story than it ever was to paint. I spent a few years studying Literature and Creative Writing, and worked for a while as a journalist. Surprisingly, my first novel was about a girl who wanted to be an artist, but ended up a writer. Nowadays, when I’m not writing about boy-wonders and aliens and fainting goats, I look after my son, make maps with my husband, drink tea, and am thinking of transforming that first novel into a series of knock-knock jokes. Who knows what makes a good writer? You don’t have to make money at it, or get a film deal, or win awards, or even publish your work. You could just start by stalking famous painters.

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PART I
The Year of the End and the Beginning—1892

Chapter 1

SAINT MOOJIE

He arrived on the heels of an earthquake. A minor hiccup as disasters go, the murmur rippling undersea, causing dories in the bay to bob and spider crabs to flood the beach like a ghostly pink tide. It was the sort of earthquake that hushes everything for an instant before nesting birds and sleeping butterflies burst out of trees. It makes your heart jump for joy because you realize the earth is flying through space at one thousand miles per hour and you have been spared the dreadful experience of the whole world falling apart and having to put it back together. It was the sort of earthquake that the nuns of San Miguel de las Gaviotas would call a mystical grumble. Really, there was nothing about it to suggest the terrible wonders looming on the horizon.

At a quarter past seven, the candelabras in the chapel stopped swaying. The nuns crossed themselves, went outside and found a wooden fishing bucket on the porch. Expecting the catch of the day, they were nothing short of horrified to see a baby boy bundled in fur and tucked inside it. He had bright black eyes, enormous ears, and his hair was the texture of caterpillar fuzz.

“He’s a Hostile, if I ever saw one,” said Mother Teagardin.

The word Moojie had been smudged across his forehead. And that was what they called him—a peculiar name for a peculiar boy, who wasn’t particularly welcome. Against her better judgment, Mother Teagardin, who always said the natives were ill- suited for local society, hadn’t the heart to surrender him to the local Bureau of Questionable Peoples. She appealed to the local families to adopt him. But the villagers were a superstitious lot. They believed the mysterious child to be, well, too mysterious.

It didn’t help that before he cut his first teeth, Moojie amused himself by magically snuffing out candles with the blink of an eye, and by sending objects into flight with the power of his mind. When he didn’t get his way, he caused the wind to rip off the nuns’ veils and flash their knickers. Like Odysseus, he was quick to act and slow to regret. Meanwhile, the sisters clicked their clickers, and swatted his bottom, and continued looking for a family for him.

Except for one early chapter of his childhood, Moojie was a virtuosic flop when it came to the only thing he cared about: finding and keeping a family.

This golden parenthesis began just before he was one year old, when Henry and Kate Littleman, a childless couple who had moved from the East Coast to San Miguel—along with hundreds of recent immigrants from Europe and the Far East, since America had opened her doors to the world—took him home to raise as their own. Mamma immediately left her post as a science and French teacher at the Charles Darwin Free School to look after him. Mornings, she tucked him into a knapsack suspended from a tripod, and went about her housekeeping. He grinned and giggled as she baked bread, smoked little cigars, knitted hats and booties, and arranged his wet flannel diapers on a drying rack near the fireplace. She wheeled him to the beach in a wicker pram, where they collected spider crabs and napped in the salty sand; she rocked him before a glowing wood stove; she bathed and coddled him. He watched Papa, a mapmaker, spin his curta and level his transit, slurp scalding tea, and leap out the door every morning in a pocketed vest. Sometimes, in the afternoon, Papa played piano for him or showed off his soccer moves in the backyard.

In those days, Moojie was a model child, the ambassador of lovability. He delighted at being the center of attention, always looking intently into people’s eyes, always smiling, as if he were in on some cosmic joke. In those days—before San Miguel de las Gaviotas had gone the way of Atlantis, that is to say, before it fell out of favor with the gods—Moojie was passed around at church like a peace pipe. Warmed by his charm, suspicious villagers now lined up after the service to take turns holding him. Once Mrs. Littleman contrived a plot to put the smiling Moojie into the arms of a miserable scrooge, and everyone sighed with awe as the long-suffering soul wept and sang praises to God in heaven.

“Have you noticed, my cupcake?” Mamma said to Papa as she pushed the pram home from church. “This is no ordinary child.”

“He’ll make a fine field hand, lovey,” Papa said.

At the time, San Miguel de las Gaviotas was a nick on the Pacific Coast of America, a clammy, cluttery mishmash of thatched rooftops, crumbling walls, and crooked towers surrounded by rugged mountains that rose out of fog like ancient pyramids. Moojie’s new home, Number 11 Wimbley Wood, a mildewy cottage with a drip line and assorted mushrooms growing in the basement, appealed to otherworldly visitors. Only Moojie could see the celestial bodies spinning and whirling all about him. And he sometimes heard voices beyond the range of normal hearing—gifts, of course, that he did not yet understand. In the witching hours, lights floated down through the ceiling over his crib. He giggled and tried to grasp them as they bobbed playfully into and out of his hands. Mamma came in and held him in the rocker, while moths and flower flies haunted the spirit lamp—like all that is born, seeking to return to light.

Having landed in the nucleus of love, charming, handsome Moojie surpassed his parents’ every expectation, blessing them with unmitigated joy.

But all of that was soon to change.***

m- my review