Archive | August, 2013

WIPs Conversation: Randolph Splitter on His Work in Progress

Randy SplitterRandolph Splitter has published two books, the novella/story collection Body and Soul (Creative Arts) and a critical study of Marcel Proust from Routledge & Kegan Paul. His recent and forthcoming publications include stories in Chicago Quarterly Review, amphibius, Ducts, The Milo Review, and He’s also written prize-winning screenplays (Gotham Screen, Amsterdam Film Festival, Oaxaca Film Festival) and made short films. The Gotham Screen award-winner is a version of Bonobo Boy. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Hamilton College; earned a Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Berkeley; taught literature and writing at Caltech and De Anza College; and edited the national literary magazine Red Wheelbarrow.

Randolph, this is quite a chapter. The courtroom scenes are like an amalgamation of the recent Steubenville rape trial and the Scopes Monkey Trial of nearly a century ago. What inspired your work on Bonobo Boy?  Should the reader consider the court case and arguments having broader implications than simply relating to Ben individually?

I became interested in the subject of violence (and how to prevent it). I was even teaching classes with that topic. In the process I read a lot about nonhuman primates, and I discovered that bonobos are quite different from chimpanzees—but both are closely related to us.

Yes, there are broader implications. I’d like the reader to think about human gender roles, with bonobos as an alternative role model.

Although I’m firmly committed to realism—depicting what things are really like—I have a fondness for slightly outrageous ideas that stretch the bounds of plausibility but give us deeper insight into reality.

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Randolph Splitter: “Bonobo on Trial,” an Excerpt from Bonobo Boy, a Novel in Progress

Allowed one phone call, he calls his father.

“I don’t know, Dad. I have no idea.… No, I didn’t do anything.… I know it’s crazy.…Yes. Right.… I don’t know. I hope not.… A lawyer? Yeah. I guess.… Okay. I love you, too.… Say hi to Maria.” His dad’s girlfriend. “Thanks. Bye.”

A policeman escorts Ben to a small, bare cell. It looks a lot like his dorm room except that there are no bookshelves, no computers, no stereo speakers, and no posters on the walls. A tiny barred window near the ceiling lets in a small amount of light. A sink and a toilet are tucked away in a corner.

The policeman locks the cell door and walks off, his heels clicking sharply on the linoleum until the sound gradually fades away.

A man with reddish hair and reddish-black skin is stretched out on the upper bunk.

“What you in for?” says Red without turning his head.

“Uhh, well—”

“That bad? You don’t look like a criminal.”

“I didn’t do anything,” says Ben. “What about you?”

“Burglary,” says the young man. “I stole my mom’s flat-screen and sold it to pay for drugs.”


“Don’t worry. I’m clean now.”

Ben stretches out on the lower bunk and closes his eyes.

“Don’t let the bedbugs bite,” says Red.

In an instant he is asleep. The floor of the rainforest is planted with grave markers. The bonobos are rubbing their genitals against each other’s and emitting high-pitched panting sounds. The bonobo that looks like Gillian is trying to push him off of her. “Stop it!” she cries. “I’m not that kind of girl!”

He wakes up sweating. For a second he has no idea where he is.

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WIPs Conversation: Domnica Radulescu on Her Work in Progress

Domnica RadulescuDomnica Radulescu is the Edwin A. Morris Professor of French and Italian literature at Washington and Lee University, and is a consultant with the Romanian Studies Association of America. She is the author of two best-selling novels: Black Sea Twilight (Doubleday 2010 & 2011) and Train to Trieste (Knopf 2008 & 2009). Train to Trieste has been published in twelve languages and is the winner of the 2009 Library of Virginia Fiction Award. Her play The Town with Very Nice People: A Strident Operetta has been chosen as a runner up for the 2013 Jane Chambers Playwriting award given by the Association for Theater in Higher Education. Her play Naturalized Woman was produced at the Thespis Theater Festival in New York City in 2012. She has authored, edited and co-edited several scholarly books on theater, exile and representations of women and received the 2011 Outstanding Faculty Award from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. She is also a Fulbright scholar and is presently working on her fourth novel titled My Father’s Orchards and on a new play titled Exile is My Home.

Domnica, as evinced by this chapter (“We’ll Always Have Hollywood”), Country of Red Azeleas packs a powerful punch through beautiful prose, bringing together soul mates Lara and Marija in an LA reunion after many years, ones which included horrific episodes in Marija’s case during the Bosnian War. When in the novel does this chapter appear?

The chapter “We’ll always Have Hollywood” comes towards the end of the novel and is of crucial importance in the development of the story as it reunites the two heroines after a long period of separation. Up to this point in the novel we have traced the destinies of the two protagonists starting from their childhood growing up in the former Yugoslavia, partly in Sarajevo, partly in Belgrade and then separately throughout their different and tumultuous journeys. At the start of the Bosnian war in 1992, Marija and Lara part and go their separate ways: Lara immigrates to the United States by marrying an American literature professor and Marija returns from Belgrade to her native Sarajevo where she works as a wartime journalist until the summer of 1995 when she and her family become the victims of atrocious war crimes by Serbian soldiers. Following the summer of 1995 all communications between Lara and Marija are interrupted, yet the reader follows for some time their separate stories: Marija’s story as she tries to recover from the terrific traumas suffered at the end of the war and her own immigration to the United States and Lara’s story as she becomes a professor of political science in the nation’s capital, as she has her daughter Natalia and as her marriage dissolves into a rollercoaster of adultery, a turbulent divorce and custody litigation.

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Domnica Radulescu: “We’ll Always Have Hollywood!”, an Excerpt from Country of Red Azaleas, a Novel in Progress

Marija was not answering the phone and I stood confused in front of the Los Angeles airport, not knowing what my next move should be. Tanned, slender and over confident Californians passed by me as I tried to take myself out of the existential torpor that was descending upon me. I wanted to be in a white room with no noise and no strident colors. By some stroke of luck the taxi driver I flagged down was a kind man from Uzbekistan who decided to give me a tour of the city and then drop me in front of a lovely white hotel with blazing azaleas hanging from every window on a sunny street in Los Angeles. I couldn’t say no to anything and to anyone on that day of extreme jet lag and existential murkiness and the taxi driver must have taken my dazed smiling as a sign that yes, he could just take me on a two hour tour of that dizzying conglomerate of highways punctuated by short tours of LA neighborhoods and areas. It didn’t matter that I had no spatial direction and knowledge of where I was, since I had no idea where any part of my life was going. Maybe from the meeting of two chaoses some sharp idea of order would reemerge.

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