October Song

My new novel, Song of the Mockingbird, is now available as an ebook at Amazon.com. Soon it will also be available for Nook and at Smashwords for all other platforms. It will be out in paperback via my publisher Savvy Press early next year.

You can read the first three chapters here.

From the “dust jacket”:

“SONG OF THE MOCKINGBIRD is the story of a mature woman’s self-discovery. Five years widowed but still bound to the man to whom she was married for thirty years, Doris gradually comes to discover her life not only is not over but is just beginning in a way she had never imagined possible. In the process, she also discovers a good deal about her marriage that contradicts the ideal image of it she has nurtured all her adult life.

Meanwhile, her daughter’s own marriage is breaking up. After her father’s death Evelyn willingly took over his role as her mother’s guardian. Strong-willed by nature, she is nevertheless at a loss when she is no longer able to control her husband’s will. Alone with a small child, she comes to discover that the mother she has treated almost as a second child is a source of strength where she had least expected one.

Doris’s odyssey includes close friendships with two women who despise each other, a love affair which awakens her to a sense of her own sexuality she had never thought possible, and a new relationship with the daughter she has previously seen as merely a female clone of her late husband.”

This is one of my longer (78,000 words) novels. Usually I write that many words and then cut about 20,000. This time, even after the edit,  the book is still hefty by my standards. That’s partly because I follow two story lines instead of one–the mother’s as well as the daughter’s–intimately connected, as you can see from the synopsis, but each treated fully as its own narrative. I typically don’t concentrate on more than one main character, but this time the material and my state of mind (on which I’ll elaborate shortly) were such that I felt like taking a shot at a more traditional novel form. It doesn’t quite match the four or five plot lines of a Dickens or Trollope, but following two characters in detail rather than one meant for me keeping a couple more balls up in the air than I typically do.

Now, to my state of mind while writing this book…

I think of this book as my “second symphony,” not because it was the second novel I wrote–I had written several before it–but because I wrote it in the kind of mood that I hear in Brahms’s second symphony and Tchaikovsky’s second piano concerto.

Brahms labored long and hard on his first symphony, always hearing Beethoven’s 9th thundering behind him. When that first symphony, a great masterpiece in its own right, was finally out of the way, he seemed to revel in the sheer joy of creative freedom evident in his second. It seems to sing for the pure pleasure of singing. It’s as if it was written while the composer was on a well-deserved vacation, which he may well have been.

I hear a similar delight in Tchaikovsky’s second piano concerto, the one so rarely performed, though his first is a war-horse of every symphonic orchestra, or used to be. In this case it’s not so much a question of Tchaikovsky’s getting out from under the deep shadow of the greatness that preceded him as his finally finding full confidence in his own massive talent and allowing himself to enjoy it.

I remember writing some chapters of Song of the Mockingbird in Prospect Park seated at one of the deserted picnic benches near the children’s playground. It was autumn, this time of year, chilly but sunny and pleasant to be out of doors. I too was in a relaxed, happy frame of mind, as sure of my story-telling abilities as I am ever likely to be and delighting in the pure pleasure of recording each new line of narrative or dialogue in longhand on yellow legal-size paper. Something must have happened to give me that wonderful mental freedom and creative confidence–it may have been the period when I had an agent enthusiastically shopping around the novel I had completed before this one. I don’t really recall. What I do remember is the sense of working at the very top of my abilities and enjoying every minute of it.

Which is not to say this book is the best thing I have written, or to make any judgment of what I did or did not achieve with it. I can’t make that call, and  in any case authors always think their last book, in my case My Bess (which also has a middle-aged woman as the main character, come to think of it), though my readers seem to prefer Look at Me Now, if sales are any indication. After a book is done, the author is just another reader, after all. What’s special to me about Song of the Mockingbird, though (all an author’s works are special to her/him in some sense, just as, to restate the cliche, each child is special to a parent), is that sense I had for the first time of being up to the challenge of writing a “real,” i.e. old-fashioned, multi-plot narrative like the Big Boys and Girls did back when the novel was the world’s greatest and most popular art form. That and the way the writing flowed as easily as the pencil did across the lined yellow paper as autumn leaves fluttered to the ground around me.

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About Thomas J. Hubschman

Thomas J. Hubschman is the author of Look at Me Now, My Bess, Song of the Mockingbird, Billy Boy, Father Walther’s Temptation, The Jew’s Wife & Other Stories and three science fiction novels. His work has appeared in New York Press, The Antigonish Review, Eclectica, The Blue Moon Review and many other publications. Two of his short stories were broadcast on the BBC World Service.

Posted on October 10, 2012, in Books, My Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I can’t wait to download it!

    I am also going to make time to listen again to Brahms’s second symphony and Tchaikovsky’s second piano concerto. I’ve never heard it described like that, and I’m sure I will hear them both with new insight. (I only wish my introduction to all the arts had started out with these kinds of descriptions, instead of the dry analyses that so often drained them of life.)

    • I agree whole-heartedly, Terry. It’s a bit like the way classical musicians are expected to dress in clothes suggestive of a class that reserves “culture” for itself. Ditto for the way classical music is typically presented on the media. I was lucky enough to be born with a passion for music, and then an exposure to classical music at an early age more or less by a stroke of chance. Even so, it’s taken a long time for me to “own” music as my own, as a familiar and so feel comfortable talking about it in terms I would use for anything else I felt close to. The same thing happens in science, no? Young people think it’s the dry, unimaginative bore presented to them in the typical classroom rather than something that is exciting and creative.

      • Come to think of it, the same thing does happen in science, though I admit I never thought of it like that. But when you really experience them, both science and the arts have the capacity to call forth that silent overwhelming joyful awe at the incredible mystery of which we are a part. As Victor Weisskopf said “When life is very bad, two things make life worth living – Mozart and quantum mechanics.”

  2. Congratulations on this, Tom. Looking forward to it. And yes, I’m one of those who loved Look at Me Now — a wonderful read. I’ll probably trouble you sometime to share how yóu get to realise the feminine voice so flawlessly. Once again, congratulations.

  3. Thanks very much, Crispin. Wasn’t it Flaubert who said (or something like), “Madame Bovary, elle est moi”? I could say the same about your own characters, or any writer’s worth his salt. But I imagine a psychologist could have a field day exploring the question you pose.

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