Wednesday, October 25, 2006

RANSOM SEABORN by Bill Deasy (Velluminous Press)

Last year, I reviewed a tasty little novel written by Arthur Edwards titled STUCK OUTSIDE OF PHOENIX. It was a heartfelt story about an introspective (and physical) journey, and written by the former bass player for The Refreshments.

Well, it turns out musicians (especially songwriters) have a real talent for penning novels, because today's pick, RANSOM SEABORN, was written by Bill Deasy. Yes, that Bill Deasy, the singer/songwriter from The Gathering Field. I guess sometimes you just need to tell a story that requires more than you can fit into a set of lyrics.

Deasy's novel is a sort of coming-of-(late)-age tale about young Dan Finbar and his relationship with college buddy Ransom Seaborn. Poor Ransom only survives forty pages, leaving Fin and Ransom's girlfriend, Maggie, to sort out the whats and whys of what happened--and how to move on. It's an earnest and rewarding journey, a simultaneous opening up and closing down of the human spirit, like a gentle walk through the woods--while learning how to avoid tripping on the broken branches. Bill Deasy knows how to pen compelling prose, capturing the mood and style of classic American writing.

The book is filled with delicious snippets of the transition from adolescence to adulthood, like this one, where Fin had been drinking before a dance at his Christian-infused college:

The song ended and Lynn asked, "Can we step outside for a minute?" This was going even better than I'd hoped. Standing in the cool, night air, I gazed into her almond eyes awaiting her cue. After what seemed like an eternity she said, "Have you been drinking, Finbar?"

It gets fuzzy after that. She became the missionary and I the unconverted native. I mostly tuned out her speech, which revolved around her God and her values and the dangers of alcohol and the fact that I had held her too closely. It became the sound the TV makes when a station runs a test of the emergency broadcast system.

The book references J.D. Salinger--both literally as well as in writing style--repeatedly, and fans of Salinger's magnum opus will certainly not be disappointed here. Fin wanders through his days at college in a haze, reconstructing his life piece by piece, page by page, until you reach the unexpected and vaguely hopeful end.

N. Frank Daniels' FUTUREPROOF is the post-modern adolescent abyss, RANSOM SEABORN is several fields from the edge of the cliff. This is a sweet, enjoyable read--absolute fantastic literature. And at $12.95, it is exactly what Random House would charge you if they had published it. One final note: This novel has one of the best covers (front, and especially the back) that I have seen in the realm of POD to date. Buy two copies; the holidays are upon you.