The Alchemy of Nourishment
NOVEL It’s a dark, funny and heart-breaking story that reads like a cross between A Visit From the Goon Squad, SantaLand Diaries and The Minority Report.
The Alchemy of Nourishment is the result of a five-year collaboration with Iowa Writers’ Workshop graduate Kurt Gutjahr (winner of the D.H Lawrence Award for Short Fiction.) In addition, the manuscript received a professional edit from Arielle Eckstut of The Book Doctors; it also received edits from Steve Almond (My Life In Heavy Metal and Donkey Greedy, Donkey Get Punched featured in Best American Stories of 2010) and Robert Boswell (The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards.) A chapter, Grinding Machines, can be found, along with an audio of my reading, in The Dirty Napkin, http://www.thedirtynapkin.com, in October 2012. Another chapter, Legally Ted, will be published in The Gettysburg Review in the fall of 2012.
is the director of WordSmiths, a consortium of Iowa Writers’ Workshop graduates. Grinding Machines is an excerpt from his most recent book, The Alchemy of Nourishment, the story of a post-Catholic, B minus Buddhist who joins a cooking class in the new-age Mecca of Boulder. The class is put on by a charismatic Wise-Woman with a dark past, and her precocious teenage daughter, resulting in a love triangle that explores the very limits of hunger, food, love, betrayal, madness, revenge, Clock–Work Orange-like programs, organized resistance to such programs and ultimately—redemption. His next project is about a Hindu Sherlock Holmes, a Brahmin postal worker in the British Raj who uses Hindu logic to solve crimes. In his free time Joseph writes, reads, broods, drinks way too much coffee and listens to New Order.
He has been published in leading literary journals including The Gettysburg Review, The Santa Clara Review, The Southeast Review and The Dirty Napkin. He was recently awarded a month long Colorado Art Ranch residency.
The Great Game (A Hindu Sherlock Holmes)
Sonam Singh was the oldest son of an oldest son going back untold generations, long past the time when the Marathas built Kashi’s – Varanasi, to the barbarian British, the vowels all flattened out like chapatis – ghats, perhaps before Buddha’s his first sermon at Deer Park and some even whispered before Shiva struck his trident at the confluence of the Varuna, Assi and Ganges Rivers forging the world’s oldest inhabited city – though that was all speculation, and Sonam was not one given over to unfounded speculation.
No, what was certain that in the year of our lord eighteen-hundred and sixty-eight, in the second decade of Queen Victoria’s rule, Sonam, against the admonishments of his Brahmin family, wedded a common peasant, Paravati, and enjoyed several years of domestic bliss, followed by a series of harrowing miscarriages, the birth of a son, the poor boy’s death by cholera six years later and his wife’s ever growing retreat into a despair that seem almost palpable at times, and though her suffering only seemed to increase his love for her, they were unable to have any more children and, again against his families’ wishes, he refused to divorce her or even take on a concubine to bear him a son, or at the very least, a daughter.
Exiled from his caste and no longer able to either read the Vedas or perform the rituals for birth, marriage and death, to earn either income or merit, he took employment with the hated British as a lowly postal worker, zip code 20001, to eke out a living and such was the situation when his supervisor – in a terrible breach of protocol, arrived at his simple home with a letter from his supervisor asking for his help in finding Lord Tallison’s son who had disappeared during his grand tour of the Raj and who by all accounts did not want to be found.
Uncanny, but not unkind
Uncanny, but not unkind, is a collection of linked stories about love deferred, lost and betrayed, offering characters its hollow replacements: sex addiction, mental illness, politics, crime and terrorism. Some of these stories are based on fictionalized accounts of historical people (Bobby Fischer, Lucian Freud, Pope Benedict the 4th.) Others characters are obscure, ordinary and damaged in unremarkable ways.
Opening Theory is the story of former World Chess Champion, maniac-depressive, and anti-Semite Bobby Fischer spending two days in jail in Pasadena, California in 1981. During his incarceration he contemplates being raised by his single mother in Brooklyn, teaching himself how to play chess using the instructions from a set bought at a candy store beneath their apartment, his rise to become the youngest grandmaster in chess’s history, games and feuds against various grandmasters, as well as affairs with their wives and daughters, challenging the Russian supremacy in chess, his rabid anti-Semitism, love of the New York Yankees, twenty years retirement from chess, and the attempt by Lubavitcher Rebbe to bring him back to the fold of being, if not a practicing Jew, then at least a decent human being.
Bottleneck is the story of a polyamorous female ornithologist who dominates male lovers psychologically and physically as she travels through North America researching the Bottleneck hypothesis, the theory that the human race was winnowed to a mere few thousand people after a catastrophic volcanic eruption that brought on a thousand-year ice age. Strangely enough, the survivors experienced dramatic increases in ingenuity, mobility and fecundity. As the pressures of her work, past, science, sexuality and heartbreak build to breaking her own bottleneck becomes increasingly likely if not inevitable.
Break is the story of two men, one fighting for his future and the other trying to escape his past, discussing food, the mutability of justice, the proper way to cook roast beef, Migraines, William Tell, the fallibility of polygraph machines, loss and grief, Kerouac and why non-caffeinated coffee can be a good idea when dealing with law enforcement.