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Winged Paperback – October 12, 2011
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About the Author
I was born on Long Island to military parents who would have much preferred a new dining room set. After a peripatetic childhood I did hard time at the University of South Florida before moving to Los Angeles to be either a stand-up comic or a writer. Since writing paid actual money while doing stand-up did not, I signed onto the original writing staff of MORK AND MINDY, leaving two seasons later after having written 15 of the initial 52 episodes, one of which was a finalist for the Humanitas Prize. I then relocated to New York to write and produce the premier season of LOVE, SIDNEY, starring Tony Randall and Swoosie Kurtz, the first prime-time comedy featuring an openly gay lead character (many years before WILL AND GRACE) and the show for which I received my second Emmy nomination. Back to the west coast, I wrote and produced series such as 9 to 5 (the TV version of the feature film), TEACHERS ONLY, starring Lynn Redgrave, and WEBSTER, before co-creating the first half-hour comedy specifically made for cable, SANCHEZ OF BEL AIR. From 1987 to 1991 I stopped doing TV staff work so I could take a four-year course at the oldest homeopathic medical school in England. During that time I worked strictly freelance, supporting myself by writing made-for-television movies and mini-series. After graduating from The College of Homeopathy in London, I returned to television, co-creating the series BOY MEETS WORLD which ran on ABC from 1993 to 2000. In 2000 I moved to a farm in Tennessee, where I now write less soul-sucking material than TV scripts. I have two dogs who stay with me more from Stockholm syndrome than any genuine feeling of affection.
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Back in high school, Kelly was already an extremely able word-smith and a powerful young persona as a consequence. She was our senior class's unassailable word-meister, no one compared, no one could keep up with her wit & verbosity in conversation or argument. Significantly, she was also the class comic, and would go on to begin her career with a stint in stand-up comedy, followed by another much longer one in prime-time TV comedy writing.
Thus, "Winged", a serious story if ever there was one, has a definite comedic intonation in the writing. The characters' inner and outer dialogue are of a kind in which people are using the chuckle, the one-liner, the weird anecdote, a general levity, as ways of dealing with the deep and perennial problems of life, thus consigning them to the normal, the average, every-day, what-everyone-has-to-deal-with. It's a comedic kind of thinking and language that actually conveys the dark or tragic things in life by implication only, in ways that make bearing them easier, in a kind of stoic stand that says something like, "I'm sure you get it, this is how it is and I'm not broken up over it, although maybe I could and should be, but hey, it's kind of funny, isn't it?"
The serious side of "Winged" - and it is all serious, even with its comedic writing style - is a kind of allegory about human aspiration. Wings are for flight, of course, the perennial metaphor for aspiration, and a child born with what appear to be the beginnings of wings - as little nubs on her back that her mother refuses to allow to be surgically removed - must be destined for an epic role in life. The story is about such a child and her growth into her destiny, and equally about her mother, through whose eyes the story is mainly told and whose life is as singular as her daughter's.
Human aspiration invariably flies in the face of bad people, by whom the dreams that sustain it so often get shot down. In "Winged", the bad people are pretty bad. Not the worst villains in all of literature for sure, but remarkably like some of the worst characters wandering around in the real world these days. Confronting such people, as everyone invariably has had to deal with bullies of one sort or another, everyone loves a story of aspiration's success. Do such stories make for good literature? I don't really know, probably not. But I'm not going to tell you whether this story ends well or poorly. You should read it for yourself.
But "Winged" is maybe more importantly a love story. I'm not a reader of love stories, but I've always been affected by them as they invariably appear in all good literature and film. I liked "Titanic", for example, as much, maybe more, for its story of an old woman recounting the first and best love of her life as for its disaster entertainment. Who doesn't love a good love story? In "Winged", love is the source of aspiration's fulfillment: not so much the object to which the heroine aspires, although there is, as always, some struggle between the lovers to find each other, instead love is more importantly, once she's attained it, what enables the heroine to aspire to her "flight". What this book says is that human love is the great enabler.
That's something. Like I said, I have no idea how to judge among love stories, but this one was very affecting. Kelly is a good writer for sure, and perhaps this single short excerpt from the main love scene may indicate how well her deep while comedic writing works: "The touches as unselfish, insistent, teasing, inquisitive, gentle, surprising and painful as they have been since the beginning of time. As it has always been, the most beautiful, sensual woman in the world joined the handsomest, most virile man for a ramp-up to a perfect union. In other words, those details are not for you to read." The scene (and by the way, you do get further detail!) was recounted by the male in the scene, a bit wistfully, in interior monologue long after the fact.
Should you read this book? Yes, read a good book about love and aspiration.
Winged is an intricate, intriguing mystery and it is worthy of your attention. You won't regret reading it.
Allison is a retrospective narrator, looking back on her experiences from a distance. The technique allows the author to condense events at will and end chapters with cliffhangers that keep the reader turning pages breathlessly. Slowly the author reveals secrets: the dysfunctional family Allison was raised in, the truth about Allison's pregnancy, the way she tries to control her world with mental mathematic gymnastics, and the reason Allison is telling her story now.
Winged seizes the imagination because of its unusual premise, but it wins our hearts because it is, after all, a love story. The story of our need to search for our perfect "other." The bond between siblings. And, above all, the boundless love of a mother for her child.
It's also the story of the universal need to pursue passions and dreams, often at high cost.
Read the entire review by Donna Meredith, author of The Glass Madonna and The Color of Lies, posted at Southern Literary Review.