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Beneath The Coyote Hills Paperback – September 26, 2016
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"Beneath the Coyote Hills has cost me a sleepless night that I can scarcely afford, and has left me cold with awe at the unwavering skill and subtlety of the narrative. The sheer scope of the author's imagination, and the almost impossibly delicate poetic weight of the prose, has made the discovery of William Luvaas' writing one of the genuine joys of my reading-year. He is a remarkable writer, comfortably among the finest at work in America today, and this novel is a towering and maybe career-defining achievement, art of the highest order."
- Billy O'Callaghan, Irish Book Award-winning author of The Things We Lose, The Things We Leave Behind
"With his third published novel, Beneath the Coyote Hills, master storyteller William Luvaas demonstrates once again his remarkable talent for creating over-the-top characters and tragic lives that feel entirely true and believable. And he does so in his signature lyrical style of writing, brilliantly enhanced here by grace notes of hyperbole and humor and anti-heroic irony, juxtaposed with imagery that's realistic, viscerally affective, and relentless."
- Clare MacQueen, Publisher of KYSO Flash and editor at Serving House Journal
"Within what is a fascinating and multi-layered narrative, the reader is introduced to a host of characters who populate the valley. Each in his/her own way a unique example of a quotation Luvaas borrows and modifies from Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina: 'All happy families are alike, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Luvaas changes the quotation to: 'All successful people are alike, but all failed people are failures in their own way....It is us fuck-ups who author our own biographies. Each of us fails in our own peculiar way.'"
- Duff Brenna, MyShelf.com
"A great part of the novel's charm is this thoughtful, hilarious, imaginative, and enterprising community of like minded misfits and outcasts who befriend Tommy and who look out for each other. The total result for the reader is a compelling POV and a fascinating and inventive narrative."
- Elan Barnehama, The Huffington Post
"In his latest novel, William Luvaas meanders through a philosophical landscape dotted by strange people and even stranger circumstances and events."
- Randall Radic, BookCritics.org
From the Author
CAROLINELEAVITT BLOG POST:
1) What was haunting orobsessing you that made you write this particular book? Or any of your books?
I have long been troubled by our American obsession withsuccess and failure and how it poisons our lives. Like Heraclitus, we Americans believe that "characteris fate." Each of us alone is responsible for our successes and failuresand all that befalls us. Luck,happenstance, timing, misfortune, other people have nothing to do with it. If we get cancer, we must not be eating aproper diet. If we lose our job, we mustbe deficit; it has nothing to do with economic downturns or off shoringjobs. So the successful among us areoften burdened with pride and arrogance and the unsuccessful with self-loathingand despair. We don't accept that badthings happen to good and worthy people through no fault of their own-theresult of accident, foul weather, disease, economic turbulence, betrayal,crime, aging...foul luck. Luck is aforeign notion to us.
After a recent disappointment, I found myself writingabout this in Beneath The Coyote Hills, which poured out in a rush as ifwaiting there all along: 3 months to finish a draft.
Tommy Aristophanos, the main character in Beneath TheCoyote Hills, is a luckless man: a homeless freegan, visionary epilepticand self-described failure. While V.C.Hoffstatter, the main character in the novel Tommy is writing, is a businessmogul, successful in all he undertakes.Tommy knows he will fall; the question is whether he can get upagain. Hoffstatter disdains all weaknessand believes he will never fall. Intime, he steps from the pages of Tommy's novel to invade his life, and thesetwo old rivals, "success" and "failure," do battle on the page.
2) Critics have hailed you for yourhaunting, poetic prose. So does theprose come first for you? Or thecharacters?
I would say they come in tandem. I must first find a voice, the narrator'svoice-often multiple voices-which is, of course, my own voice to anextent. Likely that is the wellspringfor the "poetic" & "haunting" element of the prose (I appreciate thecharacterization). But I must also findmy characters' voices to bring them to life.Those voices differ some from my own-not completely, they couldn't. Once a character begins speaking on the page,there's a negotiation between thestylist in me and the character, who may refuse my wishes: "Sorry, that's nothow I would say it." I do believe, asFaulkner did, that there is poetry in all of us, however coarse anduntutored. So I generally can work itout with my characters.
However, occasionally a character is totally alien to mywriting style and has a voice I cannot-or will not-hear. Such works usually fail...or are never born.
3) Whatkind of a writer are you? Do you mapthings out or just try and follow the Muse?
Definitely a follow the Muse sort. The couple times I have tried to map things outI've failed utterly. This applies toboth my fiction and nonfiction. An agentonce asked me to write a detailed proposal for a memoir I was writing to submitto editors. I felt like I was working ina closet: I couldn't breathe, the work couldn't breathe. So I learned: always write the book firstthen send out the proposal. Don't try tofollow a pre-arranged plan. He's nolonger my agent, by the way. I am alittle in awe of writers who can map things out in advance.
Although it may be out of fashion to speak of thesubconscious-as Freud, Jung, George Eliot, and Dostoyevsky so eloquently did-Iam a firm believer that art is born of the deeper and wiser mind that extendsfar below the surface of consciousness.
4) What'sobsessing you now and why?
I am obsessed of late by climate change and the fate ofour precious planet, our home. We havefouled our nest, and that is a sin against all we hold dear. I cannot imagine anyone not being alarmedgiven the accelerated rate of extinctions, melting ice caps, etc. My story collection Ashes Rain Downfocused on this. So does my novel WelcomeTo Saint Angel, which comes out next year.The work I'm writing now will likely touch on it metaphorically: how dowe construct something good and sustaining from the rubble? Although this book focuses on the rubble of awoman's life.
I also remain obsessed with outsiders, outcasts, peoplewho don't fit in, as I have been all along.Ours is a society that demands conformity to certain ideals, behaviors,life trajectories. Self expression andindividualism are discouraged, despite all our ballyhoo about ruggedindividualism. Something in me rebelsagainst this and is attracted to the outcasts, rebels, and iconoclasts who haverejected the American dream to discover life on their own terms. Some would call them "losers." I find them compelling in part because of theconflict implicit in their lives and the difficulties they must overcome intheir struggle to affirm themselves.Why do some people long for structure and security and others forfreedom and individual expression? In mynew novel, I write about a woman who is trying to escape the confinement of astifling marriage, an abusive, controlling husband, and an imperiled sense ofself. Her struggle to establish a newidentity is grueling and seemingly hopeless.
5) Whydo you write?
So here we arein a fast-track digital age of diminishing audiences for all traditional art forms,including fiction. One might ask: Why bother?Fifty years from now there may be no books, no libraries. If you are going to write, why not write filmscripts? Why books?
While it is gratifying to see my work in print, to havereaders, sales, positive reviews, readings and book signings, to giveinterviews and all those other trappings of writerly success, this isn't whatkeeps me going as a writer. It's amazinghow quickly such acknowledgment hits the rearview mirror. We whiz past and barely remember it, lookingahead to the next book. It is the workitself that sustains me: the attempt to master a craft that I know I will nevermaster, to answer questions that I know I will never answer.It's the quest that makes it all worth while. Thomas Mann famously said that we shouldn'tattempt to be writers unless we can't live without writing. How true.Perhaps writing gratifies some psychological need in us, fills somevoid. But the bottom line is we do itbecause we need to do it.
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Top customer reviews
What I saw growing up was a brother who fell hard, always picking himself up to become stronger and stronger. A pillar of strength, courage and tenacity. Not everyone can accomplish that. I had a friend who recently took her own life. After 72 years of struggle, she could no longer keep up the "look good" . . . the "secret" of her seizure-stricken life.
Now my brother has had the courage to write this multifaceted story with epilepsy woven throughout. A story of struggle . . . mostly a story of hope. When I go to a movie, I generally pick a sweet, feel-good movie. When I read literature, I prefer an uncomfortable-to-read book . . . one that is difficult and sometimes really ugly: One that accentuates the human condition of poverty, neglect, seeming self-destruction . . . but, one that ends with healing forgiveness, accomplishment . . . and in this case, HOPE.
If I knew how to find Oprah, I would suggest to her that this is definitely a book that she could proudly recommend. This book should resonate with each of us. For, we all have a "Lizard Man" (or a "shadow self") that lurks in the background. We all, periodically, have people, thoughts or experiences that bring us down. After we have fallen, we have a choice to be victims or to stand back up and keep on keeping on.
I say this in part because I've just finished reading a work of fiction where "boyhood memories" play an important role. William Luvaas, whose story The Beating you might recall as having appeared in this "Boyhood Memories" blog, has just published a new novel, Beneath the Coyote Hills. Its hero--more accurately an anti-hero--Tommy Aristophanes is a believer in destiny. Unfortunately, in his case, he believes it to be a bad one. Pretty much destitute and homeless--he's camped out in a shack in an olive grove in Southern California--he's writing a novel about his fictional nemesis, V.C. "Volt" Hoffstatter, whose wild and seemingly unstoppable material success is the polar opposite of Tommy's bad-luck karma.
(Volt, we should note, is short for Voltaire--a reference to the 18th century writer/philosopher whose fictional hero Candide, you'll remember, was plagued by the same inescapable bad luck as Tommy. His mentor, the Leibizian philosopher Pangloss, preached the gospel that "All is for the best in this best of all possible worlds." Luvaas has created with all this a nearly impenetrable web of ironies!)
Relevant to us, here in this blog, are Tommy's recurrent, traumatic memories of a boyhood plagued by "spells," or fits, whose advent was heralded by a mocking "Lizard Man"--a malevolent figure that continues to haunt and taunt him through his present miserable existence, and one that is readily confused with Tommy's abusive father, another mocking and intrusive presence in his life, for whose accidental death the son blames himself. His mother, by the way, was a bedridden wreck, quite unable to provide him with the protection little Tommy obviously needed.
If all this sounds a bit like a bad acid trip, well, it is. The wildly eccentric characters flitting at apparent random in and out of Tommy's adult life read like something out of either Mad Max or Alice in Wonderland. The lines between reality and fiction increasingly blur as the story progresses in a bewildering, sometimes brutal (and always highly entertaining!) mind game, until a final apocalyptic inferno intervenes to incinerate fact and fiction alike into an aching void. Voltaire's Candide ends with its hero's abandonment of the Panglossian ideal and his sad resignation to the immediate realities of life: il faut cultiver son garden ("we must tend our garden.") William Luvaas concludes on a strikingly similar note: "Maybe, if I'm lucky," (Tommy writes) "I will find myself another olive grove somewhere. There is always hope."
Forlorn, we suppose, though it may be.