“For aficionados of all things Southern, JD Hollingsworth’s novel Frankenstein’s Paradox sits perilously close to various literary mountaintops—the characters, places and events all so vividly drawn as to make the vast majority of efforts chronicling southern oddities seem ho-hum at best.
Hollingsworth’s language veritably leaps off the page in ways both alluring and terrifying, like the swarm of paper wasps emanating from the massive front porch nest of the protagonists ne’er-do-well neighbors. And just let me add, that any work of fiction that by its cataclysmic conclusion manages to land all its central characters in either the prison or cemetery is just fine by me.
Diving headlong into this humanizing parade of small town Southern eccentrics, one is immediately put in mind of fellow lunatic authors Barry Hannah and Harry Crews, but this effort most reminds me of Jack Butler’s vastly underrated Jujitsu for Christ. Hopefully Hollingsworth’s novel will at least equal Butlers cult status, if not eclipse it altogether, landing it smack dab in the mainstream where it rightfully belongs.”
The impetus for launching Casa Forte Press came from a loving personal experience during a dark time, the recent dawn of this eerie political era when fellow human beings became defaced by hatred and unrecognizable to me. This era was heralded by live tv images of the newly-elected American president hurling insults and aberrations to a cheering crowd of shock-numbed supporters, deformed by hatred and vitriol fueled by talk radio.
Our state of affairs is a result of years of irresponsible, greedy corporate control of our cultural consumption. Our new voters are an offspring which was overfed a heavy diet of talk radio for over 20 years.
But this is the story of Casa Forte.
Someone I loved for many years was, and luckily still is, a formidable writer.
The father of my child is a man of great eloquence, a truly brilliant mind. His intellect is nimble and creative, studied and disciplined. His exhaustive vocabulary, from the Latin to the cockney street slang, makes him a master in lexicology. As a journalist, he witnessed wars at first hand, slightly deaf in one ear from traveling with rag tag armies through Pashto territory, then into Syria and Iraq. Driving back home to our country house in through the winding roads in the Subbetica mountains, he relished us with stories about the daily lives of regular people living in these war zones, of barefoot children playing games in the rubble and taking lessons in a school near a crossfire, stories of people who went on with their ordinary lives under the flickering skies from live fire.
Our children’s attentive orbs remained fixed at him, transfixed from his spin, he often earned that unbreakable eye contact with his audience, in addition to his hypnotic gesticulation which abetted the dramatizing of events. It was much the same with adults.
Write a book, I would nag him over and over again, perhaps for selfish motives, to keep him closer at home. And safer.
And one day he did. He sequestered himself in one of the dark upstairs rooms of our ancient stucco house, pushed a rickety old desk against a miniature window, like living in a pinhole camera where his limited source of natural light came from a sharp beam from Andalucia’s blinding sun, spotlighting the author at work.
And there he revisited his experiences in the Middle East, and with some poetic license, he wove a few imaginary details that could challenge any non-believer. The dry desert heat, the swish of the temperate air descending from the Sarwat mountains from the Arabian sea.
The manuscript was ready to be edited. I was lucky to have the first first go and like a kid who gets to lick the spoon of cake batter, I relished every bit of my assignment, the exercise of editing and excising with the utmost respect for the voice and decisions of the writer. Editing gave me an unexplainable feeling of delight and accomplishment. Paraphrasing the god of editors, Max Perkins, it was like releasing the writer’s energy into the world without tampering with his or her voice.
The first few chapters were exhilarating. I was transported as a reader to vivid scenes of the bustling cities and villages in Yemen and the muezzin’s call to prayer echoing through the narrow alleys of the spice markets, the taste and texture of sand and sweat, and underlying terror that lurked beneath. As an avid reader raised in a family of intimidating literature professors, I felt like I could hold my own. The writing was alive, full of Chi, as the Chinese would call it. It was an extension of him.
News arrived from America at our little Buzon 8, the rusty mailbox miles away downhill which we shared with neighboring farmers. The acceptance letter from a major literary agent arrived and within days of signing, he landed a deal with a highly reputable and coveted publishing house. It felt unreal, like some novel with an implausible happy-ending. The cynic in us, both journalists, always puts the brake on any excitement and we decided to wait first before we opened the Verdejo to celebrate. At least the one we saved for the toast.
Editing process begins. The industrial sound of a poultry meat grinder somehow surfaces when I recall those days. Busy days, lots of loud speakerphone chatter, eager American accents echoing through the adobe walls while gypsy builders covered in white stucco dust roamed in the background like apparitions.
Proofs came back and forth from New York to our faraway farm house through our feeble internet which could barely handle an email. Incessant discussions, phone calls, Skype. Sometimes I felt they were speaking different languages to each other, but the diplomat in my then-husband seemed to allow for things to always run smoothly. At least in the business world. Acquiescence. The tone in the discussions became more agreeable and mellowed out. The image of a fire waning to the incessant trickle of rain. Truce, the book is ready for print.
A cash-fluid book marketing campaign began with glossy banners and ubiquitous stands with pictures of the shiny cover. Friends would email to say they saw his book at the Copenhagen airport. Fiumicino. Gatwick. Top New York publicists with great connections and direct dial powers from their personal phones to media executives bulldozed their way through the book promotion, opening doors with top American, British and French media. Such an aggressive publicity campaign, even we couldn’t stay away from it in remote Andalucia. Within months, translations surfaced in several languages. The book was a hit in Poland and France, and news emerged down the olive fields that the “giri” up the hill, as locals call the English, was also becoming a famous writer in Spain. A major movie deal too!
When I read the freshly printed final opus, something felt, well, slightly disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, it was still an excellent book. But it no longer was HIS book. It was excessively and unnecessarily cleaned up. “Homogenized,” my friend said on the phone to help refresh my non-English speaking brain. The author went missing. The “friction ridges” of his imprint, his rhythm of speech, gone from the book. It felt like what made him a writer, his trademark jokes and witty descriptions were laser-ed off in a programmatic way. The narrative pace, the tone, the rhythm. The author’s imprint erased.
He was happy, I was happy for him and proud of his hard work. He was getting a lot of recognition. But I remembered the book as it was handed to me at first, the scribbles and idiosyncrasies projected his essence on paper, like the up and down lines of an electrocardiogram, his energy onto that paper projected his soul.
But the lines were flattened out.
I had just finished building out our tiny library in a hidden room once used to kill pigs for the Spanish “Matanza.” A butcher’s tiled platform where they lay the dead pig to salt and eviscerate it remained in the library, now a depository for dozens of unopened boxes. As I began shelving some books, many classics, I reflected on the lives of artists, writers and the process of releasing these masterpieces into the world. The starving artists. The drunks, vagabonds, the tragic, short lives behind some of the great works of art I was putting on the shelves. What miracle brought these great pieces to us? Who were the editors, the patrons, the publishers who recognized the value of these often impossible characters who breaking the rules of syntax and social norms, stubbornly pushing their vision into the the sphere?
What would Thomas Wolfe do today, what if he came back to life with his manic illegible notebooks and scraps looking for an agent for representation in one of the fancy New York publishing houses? And Joyce with crayon-written manuscripts of Finnegan’s Wake? Would the words that came from their quirks, manias, and often scandalous personalities be ironed out, put through a filter to appease audiences and sell more books?
The publishing world has been under attack lately for being, as The Guardian put it, “hideously middle-class and white,” alluding to the Lee and Low survey on the state of publishing in the United States. And of course, the vetting processor manuscripts, cruel and banal, the “slush” piles purgatory where someone’s lifelong work is taken out like a lottery ball, likely by an intern with no student debt.
Perhaps I am being too cynical. But my recent visits to bookstores where pyramids of “American Dirt” or other bottled literature seem to overwhelmingly adorn the windows, I get a feeling everyone is looking for the easiest sell and the most facile ideas.
And what happened to that unadulterated authenticity of the mad writers of long ago? Can they make the cut?
Well, I am looking.
Casa Forte Press is on a mission to “occupy” and take on this industry of back slapping white males, afraid of a little quirkiness. We cherish the autodidacts, the rawness and honesty of experience. Our authors have struggled and written during their off hours, while trying to make a living. No cushy writing camp in Connecticut.
They are on the fringes and have absolutely no talent for self-promotion. Nothing about their writing is tailored to appease audiences or follow a trend.
We are thrilled to announce that Rand Raynor will now serve as our West Coast Editor and Representative.
Casa Forte Press’s new Pacific Northwest Representative is a transplant from the Athens, Georgia music scene, where he spent much of his time quoting lyrics of old FM gems with his best mate Ross Shapiro from The Glands and playing drums with a number of acts. A voracious reader, Rand’s knowledge of film, music and popular culture is impressive, to say the least. He has a weakness for crime and pulp fiction. Some of his favorites include Charles Willeford, Patricia Highsmith, Denise Mina (Scottish), and Sara Gran. “And then there’s always Philip K. Dick,” he says.
In New York, he studied Art History at Johns Hopkins University and Media Production before heading to Georgia where he finished his bachelors in Religion. He holds a Masters of Arts Education from Pacific University.
Bookish, in East Atlanta. A stylish, cozy bookstore near the cafes and restaurants. Click for directions.
A Capella Books
This is one of Atlanta’s best known trailblazing indie bookstores. It is revered by the ITP intelligentsia, skateboarders, rockers, and more. It carries rare old and new gems. Click for more information.
ATHENS, GA–AVID BOOKSTORES
Athens is known for being the launch pad for so many internationally-known musicians and visual artists. REM, the B52s, The Glands, Of Montreal, Love Tractor, and the legendary poet-musician Vic Chestnut to name a few. The film Athens Inside Out best describes that fertile red clay that helped sprout so many phenomenal artists. And Casa Forte’s JD Hollingsworth, also a musician, is one of them.
You can find his books at AVID books, a great hangout for locals after brunch at The Grit.
THEY ARE BEAUTIFUL STORES. THERE ARE TWO LOCATIONS:
Not too long ago, I took our books to The Book Tavern, in Augusta. Lovely place and an incredible collection of rare books in Portuguese, French and German. The store sits right on the main boulevard next to very funky, colorful shops and a great cafe.
This impressive collection of used and new books shows the caliber of Asheville’s readers and the store’s smart curators. No malapropisms here.
At the outset: The Titanic and the Californian – the first book to seek to clear Captain Lord of the Californian of the censure he received at the British Court of Inquiry into the loss of the Titanic for not going to the rescue of the survivors.
An Agony of Collisions followed, giving examples of collisions at sea assisted by radar, and suggested reform of the international collision regulations in the light of radar.
Then came the biographies of great naval gunnery officers and a history of great gunnery at sea and of great gunned battleships.
Biographies of Nazi leaders followed for which Padfield received death threats: his biography of Grand Admiral Karl Donitz showed that far from being the unpolitical German naval officer he had been portrayed, Dontiz was an early extreme Nazi.
In Hess, Hitler and Churchill: The Real Turning Point of the Second World War Padfield shows Churchill’s moral greatness resisting Hitler’s blandishments for a compromised peace.
His focus on naval campaigns by which the west and primarily Great Britain spread its influence around the world culminated in his trilogy Maritime Supremacy, for the second volume of which Padfield won the Mountbatten Prize, amassing glowing reviews. Maritime Supremacy is a groundbreaking work linking the values of free trade, freedom of expression, freedom of worship, and democracy to Britain’s trading history and Naval power.
He has appeared regularly on both television and radio discussing Donitz and the Titanic, including Ludovic Kennedy on Donitz and BBC Start the Week.
For six years he spearheaded the campaign against turning RAF Bentwaters into a civil airport. The campaign was a success. His involvement helped protect an area of outstanding natural beauty in Suffolk from aeroplane noise.
He is one of the last remaining crew from the 1957 transatlantic voyage of the Mayflower II. He has remained in continuous contact with the Plimoth Plantation ever since the voyage and has been a guest of honour at important anniversaries.
Peter Padfield came to maritime history not as an academic but as a seaman with a passion for the sea and practical experience of sailing the world’s oceans. This love and knowledge of ships and the sea marks his writing. He rose to international renown in his field without formal training or funding but through the force of his own industry, research, insight and writing. Despite having no credentials beyond his original training as a P&O Officer his literary output enjoys worldwide respect, not least in the USA, and has reached a wide readership. Perhaps it is the lack of a university education in history that has resulted in his unique voice.
When automation takes over every facet of our existence, what happens to language? What verb tenses are the most apt for making a case for or against humanity’s indispensability? Lula Falcão’s atemporal sentences leave us hanging helplessly like broken pieces of a motherboard.
Translated from Portuguese by Helena Cavendish de Moura
Machines, with their recently-acquired ability to think and give birth to other machines, even more capable ones, were officialized as drivers, doctors, accountants, journalists and gravediggers, among many professions, taking over what already was a precarious and unreliable human market. Some years ago, a friend of my mother’s checked into a medical clinic and couldn’t find a single woman or man around. She went through a machine that resembled a CT scanner, to immediately find herself ejected at the other side with a ready-made diagnosis and prescription. The artifact also expelled a bill. A fortune.
Most people, however, didn’t have access to automation. Without jobs, human beings couldn’t afford to pay for the machines’s services, so the machines joined in the recession period, perhaps still in a process of adapting to economic fundamentals. They created new employees and forgot the old ones, though it’s always been this way, and though some jobs were going to disappear regardless, whether or not there was a machine to perform them.
But then the problem became serious due to the lack of demand for automated services and so these automated servers, overflowing with artificial intelligence, began to worry about their future in a world without customers.
Aid relief for the unemployed was miniscule. In the worst case scenario, we would have to resort to equipment not always reliable, currently disconnected from the formal sector. The other day, in the urgency of hiring a dispatcher, I was unable to pay an accredited machine and ran to the city’s outskirts, an area where technological kludge reigns. I talked with an old scrap-metal collector, who himself had been adapted to a computer, and he promised me he’d solve the problem within two hours. I still await to this day. I received a message reporting compatibility issues with the Traffic Department system. That was it.
It wasn’t just the lack of customers. The market bosses had commissioned the first designs of the “worker machines”, and so they thought to be forever free from pestering by the unions. And more, the first machines didn’t eat, didn’t spend money on entertainment and childcare, and they received orders without protest. It so happens that the last generation – machines built by machines – came to see the world in another way. A great evolution, because previous ones had none of this “seeing the world” in the way it was. The question, therefore, was deeper than that of supply and demand.
While machines progressed in terms of logical reasoning and even experienced that certain taste of “existing”, people in general wandered in search of a job that hand’t yet been seized by widespread robotization.
In my case, I thought of doing some translations or going into the broader branch of general services. I ended up in general services. The editor said they no longer needed translators. A quantum computer from San Bernardino, California, had just converted all 20th-century literary masterpieces into English. Soon, a franchise would arrive here, as announced the Jornal da Noite 1, one of the first newscasts produced and presented by robots.
Time goes by. Machines began to have consciousness, to feel emotions and mainly to express disgruntlement over having their presence restricted to the world of labor. They began to read, write books, to unionize, organize through recreational associations and academic environments on the Internet, whose advancements in the last quarter of a century included tactile senses and some olfactory. The so-admired automaton society wanted to keep senses the same as in the beginning of time and the tiniest parts of the circuits, but it still wanted much more. Soon, I would inquire what that could be. Years spent on this effort only resulted in complex models, outcomes plagued by vagueness and dilemmas. Many machines lost their will; they became melancholy and wary.
There wasn’t, however, a climate of revolt, as in the movies, “Robots versus People,” but only the will to influence society’s organizational structures, perhaps by obtaining political rights. At least that. They wanted to propose an economic model capable of creating a more dynamic consumer market and rewards for their work, not to mention a diffuse and uneasy feeling coming from somewhere, some point in time. The fear of death, you name it. They also felt guilt. For dismissing humans and taking on for themselves a regiment of slavery. Some of these devices came to think of giving up everything in exchange for a more contemplative period of expiration, more open to nature and the arts in general. There were no echos to their demands. Many of them retreated, shattered, though with a preserved consciousness – a consciousness with a drop of nihilism. The emptiness of the soul and the imminence of the end entered the senses of these little digital things.
From one minute to another, the fourth industrial revolution came to an end. Humans did not regain their work posts nor were the machines interested in retaining any shifts. What remained was a very confusing panorama, the impoverishment of the market, the stock exchange collapsing, a complete shortage.
The machine’s only achievement was discovering a way to never be turned off.
They were not a threat to humans. They remained switched on, pensive, but alien to the machinations that created them.
The launch of JD Hollingsworth’s first book, The Work, was an immense success. We nearly sold out. There are a few left before the new batch arrives. We will also be prepared for larger orders in the next few weeks.
For now, if you are interested in purchasing the book, please send an email to:
Please include your name, address or addresses you’d like your book (s) shipped to.
We will soon have a list of bookstores where you may find The Work.
If you have any further questions, please call me at 470 707 5810.
“From a certain point on, there is no more turning back. That is the point that must be reached.” Franz Kafka, the Zurau Aphorisms, n. 5.
When Kafka Meets the UK’s Family Court
Fiona Padfield’s New Fiction Rings True to Survivors
By Helena Cavendish de Moura
The evidence was clear, fastidiously documented. The medical expert’s testimony suggested abuse. All leads pointed towards a logical outcome. But in Fiona Padfield’s new novel, Allegation 17, we enter the UK’s Family court system where logic is closer to Kafka’s Trial than of modern-day jurisprudence. The author has taken some risks in writing this novel, based on a true story.
“This book was written out of a searing sense of injustice and despair and desperation that a mother was prevented from protecting her child,” said Padfield, an established writer who was discouraged to publish this controversial novel.
“It shows how the effect plays out on an individual psyche. How it ricochets across the extended family and beyond.”
Set in an idyllic Welsh village, Allegation 17 tells the story of a single mother and her legal struggle to protect her child from unsupervised visits with an unstable father whose history of domestic abuse and questionable sexual behavior is not enough to convince the court.
It is an all-too-familiar scenario with devastating endings for women in the UK where the secrecy of the courts, designed to protect victims, can have the opposite effect. It is, to some, a disguised gag-order designed to intimidate. It is an indictment of a system survivors claim punishes the innocent.
“Freedom speech is alien to British justice,” said Padfield. “In a criminal trial, Journalists are admitted. Justice is open. But in Family Court, only selected journalists are allowed, the material is restricted. They can’t just report on what goes on,” said Padfield.
“I think the book is important because currently, the only information coming out Family Courts is through legal representatives or vetted journalists which means it is still tightly controlled,” she said.
It puts on trial the very institutions that are here to protect – Family Services, the judiciary, the police – wracked by prejudice and presumption. But the book does more than advocate for women. It is a deeper study into our psychological makeup, how humans can survive trauma from feeling marginalized by justice.
“ Although this particular story is about a woman, I would like to point out that it is not just mothers who are badly burned by the Family Courts. Fathers also get damaged in its wake.”
The story is told by the inner voice of a woman facing insurmountable obstacles as she struggles from one hearing to another. Padfield’s rich narrative and vivid imagery helps us understand the emotional journey of a victim of sexism, her despair and solitude, the theatrics of a legal system apparently blind to suffering.
She is exhausted by the bullying and betrayal of individuals and institutions whose role should be to support and protect.
“When I say the story plays out on the an individual psyche, this includes all the added pressures such as home visits by social workers, psychiatric services check- ups,” said Padfield.
“Going to court is one of the most traumatic experiences. Everything about one’s psyche is questioned. The things one would say to a psychiatrist could suddenly up for grabs,” she said.
Her narrative shifts from bitter experiences to the healing of the present. Her vulnerability and emotional breakdown as she seeks to protect her young children eventually make her whole – strong enough to make her voice finally heard.
“At core, it’s about survival. Surviving despair. Surely, it shouldn’t be the role of the Family Court to push parents towards suicide,” Padfield said.
Through this woman’s inner voice, Padfield maps a woman’s fragmented thought process. Like many This form of Post Traumatic Disorder is all-too-familiar and it comes back to haunt them in the court.
Rachel, the protagonist, is sent to a Court Psychiatrist to be evaluated. Her ex-husband isn’t.
“The husband’s medical notes don’t undergo the same tooth-comb scrutiny as Rachel’s,” she said.
Allegation 17 is also timely: a petition to reform the UK Family court is gaining traction and survivors’ groups are raising their voices at last.
According to a 2016 study by the Women’s Aid and Queen Mary University of London, court harassment of women prevailed in Family Court and that children’s lives were at risk because victims were not being given safe or fair hearings.
The report, What about my right not to be abused?” Domestic abuse, human rights and the family courts, is critical of the UK courts’s policy of allowing an abusive ex-partner to cross-examine a survivor, breaching “…the survivor’s human right to be free from degrading treatment.”
The studies showed that unsupervised contact with an abusive parent was most likely to be awarded in the cases outlined in the report as a result of a “systematic gender discrimination and a culture in the family courts” that silences women and fails to protect the human rights of survivors, adding that women were often blamed for suffering abuse.
“There is a petition kicking off going to Theresa May about corruption in the Family Courts. This is timely for my book but complete coincidence. “
“I hope my book may bring comfort to mothers and fathers currently going through the system, knowing they are not alone in their despair.”