Posts tagged “critic

GIFTS Named Finalist in 2014 Indie Book Awards!

awardMy thanks to the 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Awards for naming my collection, Gifts Not Yet Given, as a finalist in the LGBT category! It’s always gratifying to have others acknowledge your efforts, and I so appreciate this recognition.

I was honored when the Next Generation Indie Book Awards tapped my debut novel, Songs for the New Depression, for the top LGBT award in 2012, and having my next book be honored by them this year is humbling indeed.

Thank you!


Thanks to Author Carey Parrish for His Lovely Review of GIFTS NOT YET GIVEN!

Gifts Cover Low Res (427x640)I so appreciate the lovely review of Gifts Not Yet Given at Sole Focus. Carey Parrish is a talented author (Marengo and Big Business) whose books I’ve enjoyed and I was delighted to read his review of my new book. In part, his review reads:

Very few writers can touch a reader’s heart but Kergan Edwards-Stout knows how to do just that. Gifts Not Yet Given easily jumped onto my top ten books read in the past year and it will remain a favored selection in my library. With so many writers competing in the literary world today, it takes a true author to rise above the pack, and Mr. Edwards-Stout is one of those few gifted storytellers.

His full review can be found here.  Thank you, Carey!


GIFTS NOT YET GIVEN is on ANOTHER “Best Books of 2013” list!

Gifts Not Yet GivenMany thanks to the fun blog of Canadian Brahm Kornbluth for including Gifts Not Yet Given in his Alfred Lives Here top 5 book list for 2013. I was honored he included my debut, Songs for the New Depression, on his list last year, and flattered to find Gifts there this year! He says of Gifts:

The second book from an author who was on the list last year, Gifts Not Yet Given is a collection of short stories, a format which unusually doesn’t hook me, but these did. Three stories stayed with me: “The Stepping Stone” about a geeky son and his mother from hell, “Holes” about a life devastated by disease, and the title story about a family still struggling with a choice long in their past. These stories are original and intriguing, and the characters are strong and flawed, loving and broken.


Grateful for the Review of “Gifts Not Yet Given” in Frontiers Magazine/Los Angeles

FrontiersA special thanks to Dana Miller for including mention of Gifts Not Yet Given in his entertaining “Out & About” column in Los Angeles’ Frontiers Magazine.  In it, he writes:

“Also on my must list is… Kergan Edwards-Stout’s new collection of tales of holidays, Gifts Not Yet Given. I loved Kergan’s first novel, Songs for the New Depression, and once again he delivers compassion, sincerity and a warm honesty in his writing that I just treasure. Plus, hell, one excellent piece is called ‘Festive Beaver.’ Kergan was honored as one of HRC’s Dads of the Year in 2011. He and his partner Russ are raising two beautiful boys. Gifts is a stunning compilation from a smart and skilled author.”

Thank you, Dana, for the kind words!


Rave Review of “Gifts Not Yet Given” from Edge on the Net

Edge on the NetI’m so thankful for the amazing review that Gifts Not Yet Given received from Edge on the Net, the world’s largest network for gay news and entertainment, by reviewer Christopher Verleger.

I am so appreciative to share the review with you!

“Author Kergan Edwards-Stout follows up his engrossing debut novel, “Songs for the New Depression,” which examines thirty years in the life of an AIDS-stricken California man, with the equally profound, “Gifts Not Yet Given,” a short story collection of compelling characters and circumstances ranging from the mundane to the maladjusted.

The events depicted in all fourteen stories occur on or around a specific day of celebration, including family gathering holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, such festive occasions as Halloween and Mardi Gras, Mother’s and Father’s Day, as well as the obligatory wedding and office party. With a holiday or special occasion as the backdrop for each entry, emotions run especially high throughout and the behavior of the represented individuals is contrary to the everyday.

One of the strongest and more uplifting stories, “Hearts,” describes the unbreakable friendship between Karyn, an insecure teen, and her gay best friend, Kevin, who accompany each other to a high school Valentine’s Day dance. The equally heartwarming “The Fourth Christmas” introduces Andrew and David, a couple celebrating their fourth anniversary despite the opposition of Andrew’s conservative mother, Natalie.

Conservatism and religion appear prominently in several stories, including “The Old Rugged Cross,” a heartbreaking, albeit somewhat affirming, tale of a mother, Cassandra, who begins to question her faith and purpose in life after her firefighter husband and son perish in the line of duty. Evelyn, the stubborn, bible-thumping protagonist in the grim “Mother’s Day,” believes having three estranged sons is just another example of God’s will. Thom, Evelyn’s youngest son, makes a surprising, conciliatory appearance in the sequel, “Father’s Day.”

My personal favorite, “Glenbourne, IL” tells the moving story of a cancer survivor revisiting his past during a Thanksgiving visit to his childhood home.

Although select stories are arguably too brief, all never fail to pack an emotional punch, and the collection, as a whole, is chock full of joyous albeit occasionally awkward instances and imagery (divorce, a sacred family recipe, an Easter bunny outfit) that are relatable, or at least familiar to everyone. With the holiday season approaching, “Gifts Not Yet Given” reminds readers, however flawed, to accept, appreciate and when warranted, forgive our families and friends.”

Thank you, Edge on the Net!!!

 


Kirkus Reviews on “Gifts Not Yet Given”

KirkusLogoHiResI’m grateful for the review of my new book, Gifts Not Yet Given, by Kirkus Reviews (“The World’s Toughest Book Critics).

“In 14 stories, Edwards-Stout assumes an impressive range of voices… This willingness to step inside the minds of such disparate, often nonmainstream characters hints at Edwards-Stout’s confidence as a writer and his broad life experiences. Edwards-Stout’s stories are original and important… provocative stories with a clear, vital message.” Kirkus Reviews

Available now in paperback and e-book at Indie Bound (Independent Book Stores), Barnes and Noble, Amazon, or at your favorite book sellers!


New Review says “Songs for the New Depression” Shines!

AU reviewVery grateful for a new review in Arts & Understanding, a magazine devoted to HIV/AIDS, on Songs for the New Depression. The review (found on page 48) notes “the laughs make the book deceptively breezy. SONGS shines with psychological truth and historical accuracy.”  Love it when folks “get it!”


“Songs for the New Depression” lands on another Top Books of 2012 list!

Best LGBT BooksMy sincere thanks to Butterfly-O-Meter Books for including Songs for the New Depression on their Top 10 Books of 2012 list. I’m overwhelmed with the response to my novel, and truly appreciate the mention! Also, thanks to Out in Print, Alfred Lives Here, and QueerMeUp for inclusion on their lists as well.  It has been a wonderful year, and I appreciate all of the notes from readers about how the novel has touched you.

The holidays encapsulate all of the bittersweet, subtle emotion I hoped to convey in the book.  At times joyous, others sad, and still others sexy and raucous…  Life is a wonderful mix, and I am grateful every day that I’m alive and able to experience and be moved by it.

I hope that you each have a wonderful holiday season!

Kergan


An Acclaimed Gay Author Surprises with Two New Novels

I first met fellow writer Trebor Healey at Palm Springs Pride, where we were both signing copies of our novels at the Authors’ Village.  Given that the title of my first novel includes the word “depression” and his recent title contains the word “sorrow,” we quickly bonded over a shared lament of others trying to convince us to change our titles into something “more happy.”  Feeling that our work embodies both joy and heartache, we each chose to stick with our original vision, and I’m happy to say that Healey’s new work, A Horse Named Sorrow, is as wonderful and nuanced as its title.

Healey’s debut novel, Through It Came Bright Colors, was awarded both the Violet Quill Award and the Publishing Triangle’s Ferro-Grumley Award for Fiction, making his new work highly anticipated.  Entirely by happenstance, Healey found himself with his next two works both released on the same day.  While A Horse Named Sorrow is a meditative tale set in San Francisco, Faun focuses on an adolescent boy discovering that his body is quickly morphing, but not into the expected stage of puberty.

Having just named A Horse Named Sorrow as my favorite LGBT read of 2012, I was pleased that Healey was able to take some time with me to discuss his work and inspirations.

Trebor, when we first met, we talked about the use of “sad” words in our novel titles.  Why did you feel so strongly about your title for A Horse Named Sorrow?

Well, first of all, it’s a line from a Nick Cave song, and it’s a song I really love—the Carny Song—and it’s very much evocative of what San Francisco was to me at that time…a carnival, a circus, but a macabre one haunted by an enormous overarching sorrow. And when you think of how a horse plods along when it’s tired, it’s just such a perfect metaphor for the weight we feel when we carry sorrow. And we carry it. Grief is a profound experience, it’s one of the cardinal experiences if you will. But my book is not really a sad book; in many ways, it’s very comic and full of youthful enthusiasm, but it’s about something real, and one of the things the characters have to do—that we all have to do—is carry the sorrow of life with us until we are able to set it down or transform it into something else. I also think sorrow is a beautiful word—the symmetry of it, with the two r’s and two o’s, and the sound of it is wonderful. There is a lot to every word and we can experience it fully, and I think words in titles of artworks are important that way. They have a lot of work to do and they need to be good, full words.

In A Horse Named Sorrow, you vividly recreate San Francisco in the late 80’s and early 90’s.  What is your impression/recollection of that period?

It was a very intense time—terrifying and urgent and enormously alive as only a place under siege can be. I came out into the AIDS crisis and the city was on fire in a million ways. There was anger and activism, art, conflict, love and sex, and the feeling that you were at the center of history on some level. Maybe we all feel that way when we are 21, but there was a vitality during that time that I’ve never experienced anywhere or anytime since. It was a time that demanded things of people. My brother was fighting cancer, I was working at an AIDS hospice and active in ACT UP and Queer Nation, I was meeting my first boyfriends, reading my first poems out loud to strangers in smoky cafes. It was a time of birth for me, I suppose, in all the pain and blood and wonder that birth entails. It was exciting, and yet that overarching sorrow was there, like the fog rolling in every night.

How did that then lead to this novel?

Well, the things that make you feel, in all the rawness of feeling, are what you write about, I suppose. I worked on this book for 15 years. I knew it was a book I had to write. And I had to get it right. And oddly, or maybe not, it wasn’t until I was in a place where I felt that intensely again—in Argentina where I lived for a year—that I was able to finally get it right.

One of the key images in the book is a bicycle, wrapped in different strings.  How did that come to you?

I actually rode a bicycle across the country in the summer of 1986. It was an amazing way to travel, and felt to me like traveling by horse, which is how the whole horse/bike/sorrow metaphor first came together. The speed, the human scale, the way you had to maintain your vehicle and plot your trip. It’s very meditative and seemed a perfect style of journey for a person in need of retreat and reflection. As for the strings, I think that came from how kids used to tie strings around each other’s ankles and wrists, and the idea was that you’d make a wish, and when the string came off, the wish you’d made would come true. There is a lot about wishing in the book, both the good and the bad of it.

You have a very diverse body of work, having written everything from poetry, to erotica, to fantasy, to both non-fiction and fiction…  As a writer, do you follow your muse, or do certain influences impact your decision of what to write next?

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Out in Print names “Songs for the New Depression” one of their “Best Books of 2012”

I’m so grateful for Out in Print Reviews including Songs for the New Depression in their wrap up of the top books of the year; it is a career highlight for me.  Not only does it affirm my instinct to write, but it also means that others may eventually discover my tale, and hopefully it will inspire and resonate.

Out in Print wrote, in part:  “Brilliantly conceived and masterfully written… You’ll read this once for its emotional impact and again to see how the author achieves it. But no matter how many times you dive in, you’ll be impressed.”

My Christmas gift came early this year!


Thank You to My Readers!

I wanted to express my sincere gratitude to all who’ve taken the time to read either my articles on Huffington Post, LGBTQ Nation, and Bilerico Project, or my novel, Songs for the New Depression.  Since the book’s release just over a year ago, I’ve met many wonderful people, including one terrific man who’s read my novel four times and came to the West Hollywood Book Fair, just so we could meet.  I’m humbled that anything I’ve written could so impact another, and cherish the inherent responsibility which accompanies it.

From beginning to end, my novel took 12 years to write and publish, and it is gratifying to have people discover it.  Conversely, my “Please De-Friend Me” article was written early one morning, in less than an hour, when I couldn’t sleep, and at this writing has over 124,000 facebook likes!  The power of social media is simply staggering…

In the past months, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting readers at the West Hollywood Book Fair, Homo-Centric, and Palm Springs Pride, and these interactions have touched me deeply.  I value “connection”, and believe that our common humanity has the power to enlighten us and lift up our souls.

I’ve been working on a new book, a collection of short stories called Gifts Not Yet Given, which will be published next year, and as we head toward the holiday season, I can’t think of any better gift for an author than the responses of readers.  Your feedback and support mean more than you’ll ever know, so please keep it coming!

Thank you,

Kergan


New Review Calls “Songs for the New Depression” a “Gem”

I’m so grateful for the wonderful review of Songs for the New Depression in the Examiner by noted author Alan H. Chin, calling it “a gem.”  Under any circumstances, that alone would  be high praise, but what most people don’t realize, though, as I normally don’t discuss it, is that–from beginning to end–I published the novel largely by myself, making the accolades even more meaningful.

In December 2010, after 12 long years of on-again, off-again writing, I finally finished the novel in order to be able to give it to my partner, Russ, as his 50th birthday gift.  After meeting my deadline, I then began trying to sell the book in the traditional manner.  I approached over 250 literary agents, and was rejected or did not receive a response (which is the same thing as a “no”–just less polite) by every single one.  I sent the manuscript to publishing houses, large and small, and was again rejected.  I took every route possible, and was told “no,” time and again.  It was incredibly demoralizing, to have written something which I felt so passionately about, only to have my baby repeatedly deemed ugly.

Finally, I received two rejections which sent me off on an entirely different path than anticipated.  One was from the agent who represents Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Cunningham (The Hours.)  She’d read the novel, enjoyed it, and had shared with other agents in her office, calling the writing “contemporary, fresh, funny,” only to then let me know that she couldn’t “sell it.”  There was a glut of literary fiction on the marketplace, she noted, and marketing a book such as this would be difficult, at best.  While that should have been disappointing, it really wasn’t.  Neither was the next rejection letter I got.

An esteemed editor and publisher, Don Weise, who used to run Alyson Books and now heads the LGBT press, Magnus Books, also read the novel.  Again, I got the same response, which essentially said,”I love your book, but literary fiction just ain’t selling!”

While no one likes rejection, to have been told by two well-respected sources such as these just how great they thought the book was proved a huge boost to me, launching my “make-it-happen” instincts into overdrive.  My feeling was, if these amazing folks love it, but there just isn’t a marketplace for it, why not create my own marketplace?

Thus began a huge leap into the world of indie publishing.  I had no money, so leaned on friends to help me edit the novel.  I learned how to make videos, in order to create my own promotional tools.  I learned code to be able to build my website.  I wrote my own press releases, contacted reviewers, acted as my own shipper, and more, in order to both publish and promote my book.

While the novel may never make me rich, that was never the intent.  I wrote a cautionary tale of love, loss, and redemption, and for those folks who’ve read and “gotten it,” my hope is that the novel will feed and nourish their souls.  Happily, most of the letters I’ve received tell me that it has.  Others won’t like it, and that’s okay, too.  I’d rather have written something which is polarizing than to have written something bland.

This particular reviewer, however, “got it,” and I feel so grateful.

Songs for the New Depression isn’t the story of my partner, Shane, though he inspired it.  This is really my emotional journey, entirely fictionalized, of going from self-serving to self-loving.  Of going from a person I hated into one in whom I now see value.  Going from someone scared of taking leaps into one for whom leaping has become mandatory.

Each and every person who reads and appreciates the journey means that my learning and efforts have not been in vain.

For those of us who choose the lonely road, it is a hard one, but the rewards at the end are also ours to savor…

Please check out the full review here, but following are a few lovely quotes:

“This is a sad story brushed onto the canvas with insightful, dark humor and touching flourishes…

Gabe is not a likable character, yet the author skillfully presents his protagonist in such a way that the reader understands why Gabe chooses to push people away, even people he loves. Also, the three snapshots are told in reverse-chronological order, so the reader builds up sympathy for the character while he struggles with AIDS, and then in the end, reveals the sexual incident that derailed Gabe’s life, to finally bring understanding. Reversing the order was a stroke of genius.

The author presents a story that is heartfelt and authentic, and told with great skill.

If you are looking for a gushing mm romance with a happy ending, keep looking. If you are looking, however, for a well-written, intelligent, bittersweet tale of love and overcoming a troubled past, then I can highly recommend this gem of a book.”


Butterfly-O-Meter Gives “Songs for the New Depression” 5 Butterflies!

Gotta tell you, I love-love-love it when someone reads and understands my book, Songs for the New Depression.  With a challenging lead character in Gabriel Travers, it seems from most reviews that readers either love or hate him; there is no in-between.  Yes, he is flawed, critical, and at times downright awful, but he is also smart, funny, passionate, confused, and genuinely attempting to change his ways, if only he knew how.  I sympathize with him a great deal, and don’t always understand it when someone else writes him off as simply mean, unlikeable, or without redemption.

Happily, most folks do “get” him, including this terrific new review at Butterfly-O-Meter.

You should head over there to read the full review, where she notes that the book is in her top 5 reads of the year thus far, among other flattering things.  Here, though, is my favorite of her quotes:  “So, all in all, this book is a work of art. It won’t be a hit and run, it won’t fleet away after you’ve galloped through it, it won’t leave you the way you were when you started the read. I was touched, moved, impressed and sort of shaken after reading this, and I’m still recovering now, 24 hours later, and you know what? That’s what a book should be able to do for you. That’s what art should be able to do for you, alter your soul once you’ve been touched by its magnificence. I’m altered.”

Thank you, Butterfly-O-Meter!


A Lovely Quote from Steven Fales, Creator and Star of “The Mormon Boy Trilogy”

I’ve long admired the talented artist Steven Fales. He’s a writer and performer who is also an advocate, never afraid to share his life, loves, and struggles through his artistry. Audiences worldwide have loved his performances, especially his well-known play, Confessions of a Mormon Boy, which he is currently performing in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Confessions is part of The Mormon Boy Trilogy, which he recently performed in repertory in Los Angeles.

I was thrilled to learn that Steven recently read my novel, Songs for the New Depression, and even offered me a lovely quote, which I’m proud to share.

Songs for the New Depression is an impressive, innovative, and dynamic love story. Rich, witty, and vivid, this is a heart-wrenching, hilarious and sometimes shocking journey of an everyman-narcissist who finally finds redemption in embracing his humanity and ultimately reunites with the hero he was always looking for between the lines of Paris, Bette Midler, and all things fabulous. I found myself singing along until I was able to shout, ‘Amen!'” – Steven Fales, Confessions of a Mormon Boy

Thank you, Steven!


Top 2 Bottom “5 Kisses” Review of “Songs for the New Depression”

I’m very grateful to the folks at Top 2 Bottom Reviews for the wonderful “5 kisses” review of my novel. I also appreciate just how well written and thoughtful the review is!

Songs for the New Depression, by Top 2 Bottom Reviews (D.H. Starr, Reviewer)

Songs for the New Depression by Kergan Edwards-Stout was one of the most emotional, touching, heart-wrenching, and intelligent stories I’ve read in a very long time. With a dark wit reminding me of David Sedaris, this story examines the life of a man who’s made many mistakes and, at the end, has managed to learn a few lessons.

Written in the first person from the perspective of Gabe Travis, the story is broken into three sections. The first section focuses on his later years as he is dying from AIDS. The next section focuses on his twenties at a juncture when he had lost his youthful idealism, but still had hope for a happier future. The third section depicts his high school years and the awakening of his physical sexuality and first love.

Part of what made the story so touching was this backwards design. As we moved forward in the book, we learned about Gabe’s past, but we learned about it already knowing where he’d end up. References and dreams take on a new meaning because we know, ultimately, where the desires of the younger Gabe will lead him.

The language is sophisticated and elegant, each word precise, depicting clear images and evoking specific emotions. The description, whether of location, food, clothing, people, or emotions draws the reader into the moment as if it were actually happening. As a result, we experience Gabe’s highs and lows on a powerful level, truly understanding Gabe, his limitations, and his dreams.

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Author Spotlight: Drake Braxton

I love discovering fresh literary talent, particularly in the genre of gay fiction, and was pleased when Seventh Window Publications introduced me to one of their new authors, Drake Braxton.  His debut novel, MISSING, is a fun and sexy read, detailing what happens when a happily married man journeys to the Deep South for a 20 year high school reunion, only to find that his husband has mysteriously disappeared.  Part romance, part suspense, MISSING takes readers on a fast paced ride, with twists you never see coming.

Drake Braxton took the time to engage in an interview via email, sharing more about his inspiration, gay literature, and his debut novel, MISSING.

Thanks for taking the time to “chat”, Drake!  Tell me about MISSING.  How did the story originate?

Most stories have a strange place where they start and this one, as cliché as it sounds, was a real dream. I awoke in a panic, full of fear and sadness, as I’d dreamt that I had attended a reunion with my other half and he disappeared. My goal was to recreate that horrible feeling in the early part of this book.

Your lead character, Blain Harrington, has many issues he is dealing with, which I won’t go into, as I don’t want to ruin any surprises.  But how did he come into being?  What was your impetus for his character?

Blain is someone so different from me and yet, I’m sure there are parts of me in all of my characters. He wants desperately to be the good guy in the relationship, but he is deeply flawed and has done things in his past that haunt his current relationship. I also wanted to show a character that gets on a soapbox about how people are so judgmental towards gays and yet he has judgments of others based on their education, intelligence, background…a little Shakespearean book snob.

While MISSING isn’t strictly a romance, it also isn’t strictly a suspense novel, either.  It straddles the two genres quite well.  Were you aware, when you began the book, that it wasn’t quite one or the other?

I love reading books that are not afraid to mix genres–that have sensual moments that propel the story, but also other moments of great romance or suspense. I needed to unravel the past romance of these two men and that led to twists and turns I did not expect.  Interestingly enough, a few years ago, an LGBT publisher really wanted to publish the book, but only if I changed it to be a “true mystery.” I couldn’t do it. And in hindsight, I’m glad I waited and that Seventh Window has took the chance with the book.

Given the genre-bending, who is your reader?  To what kind of person would MISSING appeal?

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Humbling Edge on the Net Review of “Songs for the New Depression”

Once again, I find myself thoroughly humbled.  I received an advanced copy of this review, and had to keep my mouth shut, or else folks all over the world would’ve heard my guttural screams of ecstasy. I’ve reread this amazing review of Songs for the New Depression on Edge on the Net eight times, to make sure I’m not misreading their lovely praise!

Songs for the New Depression – Review by Christopher Verleger

Screenwriter and director Kergan Edwards-Stout’s compelling, beautifully written debut novel, “Songs for the New Depression,” examines three decades in the short life of Gabriel Travers, an AIDS-stricken California man who fails to recover emotionally from unfortunate events that transpired when he was an effeminate teen.

Named after an album by Bette Midler, “Songs for the New Depression” has all the trademark ingredients of gay men’s literature–a witty albeit troubled protagonist, his incorrigibly loyal female best friend, an emotionally absent father, a quirky yet lovable mom, and an incomparable first love. Despite the seemingly familiar premise, the author’s darkly comic, brutally honest prose reads like poetry and has a melodic flow that is equally funny and heartbreaking.

Told in reverse, beginning when our narrator is approaching forty and increasingly symptomatic, Gabe confronts death with sarcasm, insecurity and regret, much like how he has dealt with everything throughout life. Knowing his days are numbered should soften his disposition, but initially it has the reverse effect, as shown when best friend, Clare, writes him off after having had enough of his insensitive commentary, and when Gabe tries to dismiss his young lover, Jon, assuming he’ll eventually abandon him anyway once the disease takes over.

The next two parts paint a picture of Gabriel as a reckless, disenchanted twenty-something having evolved from a feisty high school teen, forever scarred by a hazing incident that exacerbates his already-strained relationship with his parents, and especially his father. Although he has Clare to confide in, Gabe only begins to truly understand friendship and unconditional love after becoming attached at the hip to his free-spirited, fellow classmate, Keith. Another pleasant version of Gabe surfaces later in life, upon meeting Pastor Sally, the object of his mother’s affection.

Readers will certainly empathize with Gabe, but most of the time, it’s hard to like him, perhaps because we all have someone like him in our lives, or recognize one or more of his traits in ourselves. Regardless of your opinion of him, Gabe’s story is bittersweet, heartfelt and profound.

Even with the grim backdrop of AIDS and a narrator of questionable character, “Songs for the New Depression” is a quintessential page-turner and the product of a truly gifted author.

 


Chapters and Chats Reviews “Songs for the New Depression”

Very grateful for the wonderful review of Songs by Chapters and Chats, which calls it an “important book.”  Wow!  Thank you!

Songs for the New Depression by Kergan Edwards-Stout (Circumspect Press 2011)

Link: http://www.kerganedwards-stout.com

This is an incredibly important book. I was raked over the coals with the raw emotion that Kergan Edwards-Stout creates in the telling of this story. You can feel the anguish of someone wanting, needing to be loved; and the pain one wishes to inflict, at their failure to find what they are looking for.

Kergan Edwards-Stout writes his debut novel ‘Songs for the New Depression’ with the experience of someone who has lost a partner to AIDS. Given his knowledge, his readers will come away shaken by the painful and often graphic memoir of Gabriel Travers; a fictional character, as he reflects on his life.

From his deathbed, Gabe tells his story broken down into three decades; 1995, as he comes to terms with his choices in life, the 1980s, when sex was his way of looking for love and AIDS became an ugly result of free love, back to his tumultuous youth in 1976, when he begins his journey with reckless abandon, through the gay scene after experiencing a broken heart.

Given that the book deals with such a difficult topic, Edwards-Stout manages to lighten the mood of what could be an oppressive book, by injecting humor and light-hearted moments. Regaling us with stories of Gabe’s relationships with his unlikely friend Clare; one of his only friends high school, his mother Gloria, who is exploring her new found freedom and finally the man who becomes his partner guiding him through the final journey of his life.

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Q Magazine Edmonton Reviews “Songs for the New Depression”

I’m not sure what it is, but I’ve gotten amazing reviews from Canadian critics, as well as heartfelt letters from Canadian readers.  Not sure why the novel resonates so with them, but am grateful for the reception it has received!  Check out the lovely review from Q Magazine Edmonton!

Songs for the New Depression

Gabe Travers is dying. He knows it. He is surrounded by the people he loves, his mother and her new wife Pastor Sally, his best friend Clare, his lover Jon. These are the people who have clung to him through the years, who have stood by him through bad decisions and bitchy remarks. Dying, he takes Jon to Paris; what better gift to give the man you love than the world?

It was a gift he’d been given 9 years earlier, by a man he loved, and as the book goes back in time, we the readers are taken on that journey with him. And then that journey continues back 10 years, to first kisses, to coming out, to a time when Gabe begins to make those relationships that will set the course of his life. To when he first hears Bette Midler.

When you look back at your life, how do you want to see yourself? Why did you make the decisions you made? How did you get here, to this point? Those are just some of the questions Gabe faces, and while he faces them, we explore his life, stripped away of pretension, bare, honest, pure. (more…)


Blade California Covers “Songs for the New Depression”!

My sincere thanks to the great folks over at Blade California for including Songs for the New Depression in their June gay pride issue!  Our family did a photo shoot for them many years ago which was lots of fun, and it is terrific to be included now with my book. The magazine is on their website in flash format, so the screenshot is difficult to read, but if you head over to their site, the article is on page 31.  Thank you, Blade!


Indie Reviewer: “Songs for the New Depression”

I so appreciate the wonderful review of my novel by Indie Reviewer.  There are times, even now, when I wonder if what I’ve written is as intended, and it is only through reviews such as this and the lovely notes and emails I’ve received that I can see that it is indeed having the desired effect.  Thanks, Indie Reviewer, for your understanding and appreciation.  I’m very grateful…

Songs for the New Depression by Kergan Edwards-Stout

“I’m leavin’ my fam’ly
Leavin’ all my friends
My body’s at home
But my heart’s in the wind
Where the clouds are like headlines
On a new front page sky
My tears are salt water
And the moon’s full and high”
(Shiver Me Timber by Tom Waits, 1974)

Kergan Edwards-Stout’s debut novel, Songs for the New Depression, is the poignant and darkly humorous story of Gabriel Travers who is HIV positive and convinced that he’s dying despite his doctor’s proclamations to the contrary. His viral load is undetectable, his T-cell count is up, but according to Gabe one glance in the mirror tells him everything he needs to know. “His ass, once the talk of West Hollywood, now looks suspiciously like a Shar-Pei…” Faced with his own mortality, Gabriel’s first person narrative takes the reader on an emotional journey as he recounts his life experiences and relationships, reflecting on the choices that he’s made along the way and questioning his treatment of the people in his life.

“It seems impossible that my choices have led me here, to this spot, drained of every ounce of life. Despite my long-held belief that one’s journey – or ride, if you will – holds more importance than one’s destination, I am no longer cocksure. For if I, at age 17, had been handed a snapshot of myself as I am right here and now, providing the gift of foresight, isn’t there a chance I might have chosen a different path?

…Perhaps I would have ended up here, regardless of choice. Perhaps it was destiny. Fate. An unlucky draw of the straw. Whichever, it is much too late to ponder, for no amount of wishing can change who I am or what I have done.”

The title of the novel is taken from the Divine Miss M’s 1976 album of the same name. The story spans some two decades, from 1976 to 1995, and unfolds in retrospective but begins and ends in the present with the Prologue and Epilogue. Divided into three parts, each section of the story delineates a specific period in Gabe’s life, and each is thematically linked to a particular song from the album. Part I of the novel (Shiver Me Timber by Tom Waits) takes place in the near present (1995) as Gabe ponders his life and mortality. The reader is then taken back in time to 1986, Gabe’s 20s and a time of love, money and sex (Samedi et Vendredi by Bette Midler and Moogy Klingman) and finally to 1976 during Gabe’s adolescence and the determining events that occurred during this period time in his life (Let Me Just Follow Behind by Moogy Klingman).

Songs for the New Depression is beautifully written with a rich narrative and resonant characterization. Gabriel is written with honesty and depth. While he is self-absorbed and can be insensitive in his treatment of others, at the same time, he is both generous and sympathetic. There is an authenticity to this character that makes him altogether accessible to the reader. I loved Gabriel’s sarcasm and manner of viewing the world and there were many laugh-out-loud moments throughout the story, including his description of his somewhat zany mother, her new wife Pastor Sue and their wedding. Most heartfelt, however, is Gabe’s narrative in respect of his relationship with his partner Jon, and his first love Keith.

The author peels the proverbial onion one layer at a time when it comes to Gabriel as he looks back on his life. From the beginning we are aware of Gabe’s often-difficult relationship with his parents but are unsure as to the reasons. There are also hints early in the story as to a life-altering experience in high school that still affects him as an adult and of course the pivotal importance of Keith in his life. All is slowly revealed as the story progresses and the present-to-past narrative is extremely effective in not only emotionally enveloping, but also deeply investing the reader in Gabriel’s journey.

This story touched me on such a personal level that it was difficult for me to immediately put my thoughts out there via review without feeling exposed. While I finished reading this novel a number of weeks ago, I needed a level of emotional distance from the story before putting my thoughts on paper. In many respects I believe that I was blind-sided by Gabriel. Lulled into a false sense of emotional safety by his sarcasm and acerbic wit behind which he hides. But Gabriel wasn’t going to let me off the hook that easily. Even with an extremely engaging character and his humorous descriptions of some of the events in his life, this story remains one of a 36 year-old man facing the sheer horror and trajedy that he’s dying of AIDS. As the story progressed to its fruition and the many mysteries of Gabriel’s life are revealed, including the heartbreaking circumstances surrounding his HIV infection, so did the blurriness of the pages increase.

“Voices call to me. Soft whispers, beckoning, offering tales of the sea. Suddenly I am in the sails of a pirate ship, adjusting my cap, a gull perched at my side. The wind cools my sunburned face.

Below, the men, my brothers, count towering stacks of gold coins while eating gigantic turkey legs. It is odd, though, that the turkey heads and bodies are still attached.

Even odder still is one pirate in a wheelchair, dressed as a mermaid. He looks to me, knowingly.

Though I cannot place his face or the long ringlets of hair, I am certain we once shared a meal or conversation.

The bell clangs as I glance to the stern, my father at the wheel. He winks at me, playfully, before turning the boat toward open sea. As he does, a purr, sad and resigned, plays through my head.

Shiver me timbers, it whispers, and before I can fully grasp what is happening, I find myself sailing away…”

Songs for the New Depression is both heartrending and bittersweet without melodrama, or attempts by the author to manipulate the reader’s heartstrings with cliché. This, coupled with the sincere and textured depiction of Gabriel, who is altogether human, demonstrates respect for the character and his story, but also for the reader. It is a deeply soulful account of a man coming to terms with having AIDS and his eventual death from the disease, of redemption, and ultimately of both human fragility and enduring spirit.

“What I wouldn’t give to once again experience such brazen, all-embracing delight. To hold Jon in my arms, heart racing, and say nothing. Just to feel a flicker of sunshine, a spark, some reminder, of our love. A love that lingers, now only as memory. The weight, the truth of it, I am no longer capable of feeling.

And if all feeling is gone, I ask myself, what, then, remains?

With a jolt, the elevator completes its descent, doors opening. The influx of wind sends the sounds and regrets of Paris coursing through me and, pulling my jacket tighter against my throat, I step into the waiting city to begin my life anew.”

Songs for the New Depression by Kergan Edwards-Stout received the 2012 Next Generation Indie Book Award in the LGBTQ category and was also short-listed for the 2011 Independent Literary Award in the same category. The novel is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and through Indie Bound in print and ebook formats.


Terrific New Review of “Songs for the New Depression”: Out in Print Queer Book Review

I’m so appreciative when a review ‘gets’ my novel.  The lead character isn’t easy to like, so when a reviewer or reader understands his tale and embraces it, as Out in Print has done, it means the world to me.

Songs for the New Depression Review by Out in Print Queer Book Review

Buy it now.

I don’t have to like the narrator of a novel to be engaged with it. Empathy certainly helps, but it isn’t necessary. I can think of many wonderful books narrated by extremely dislikeable characters—one of my all-time favorites, A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, being the obvious front-runner. Gabriel Travers, the protagonist of Songs for the New Depression is no Ignatius J. Reilly, but he’s a despicable character telling a marvelous story.

Gabe, a caustic, suspicious, mistrustful cynic, is dying of AIDS, cared for by his boyfriend, Jon—who is the only person Gabe is unable to alienate. He has nothing but scorn for his parents, Lenny and Gloria, his best girlfriend Clare and the many tricks he has encountered. In every exchange that calls for compassion or at least civility, Gabe manages to be sour, mean and utterly unlikeable—which is what makes Songs for the New Depression so damn fascinating.

The book is structured in a reverse linear fashion, each of its three sections mirroring a song from Bette Midler’s third album, “Songs for the New Depression.” It begins with Gabe in 1995 (the song is “Shiver Me Timbers”), suffering from AIDS and trying to have a marvelous European vacation with Jon as he tires and eventually gives out. The second part of the book takes us to 1986 (the song is “Samedi et Vendredi”), Gabe in his twenties—trying on and discarding faces and friends as he seeks to find his place in the gay scheme of things. The third part takes place in 1976 (the song is “Let Me Just Follow Behind”), and Gabe is in high school, recovering from an abusive incident alluded to in the previous sections but explored in depth here.

This reverse structure is brilliant. Layers of the adult Gabe are peeled back, but rather than revealing the root cause of his cynicism—as common sense would dictate the author do—Edwards-Stout instead reveals that Gabe has always been like this and was, in fact, worse when he was younger, for no apparent reason. Sometimes he gets close to being human, but he always ends up saying the bitter thing rather than the right thing.

But the bitter thing is, many times, the telling thing. The trenchant observation. The unutterable truth that no one else dare speak because its very blasphemy underlies a fundamental veracity. In this, Gabe is fearless—refusing to sugarcoat or varnish his words to spare anyone’s feelings. It is his largest gift and his biggest fault.

Full of wit, wisdom and woe, Songs for the New Depression is an ugly yet irresistible piece of fiction. Buy it for someone you hate.

Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler