Marialisa Calta is a well-established Vermont writer who specializes is cookbooks. She liked STRIPAH well enough to send it to her agent, with the following note. Thank you, Marialisa!
Here is your slightly doughy copy of Stripah Love by Stephen Morris, fellow "Vermontah" and, in my humble opinion, a rawtha good writah. (Okay, enuf).
Steve has started a new publishing venture called ThePublicPress.com, along the lines of those highlighted in that NY Times Book Review last week. Stripah Love is his own novel.
Here's what I thought about it – and I'm sending this note to Stephen, so I'm not talking behind his back – and I apologize if I repeat the info I sent in my email.
Stripah Love is a small but ambitious book; ambitious in its themes (aging, mortality, love, sex, the meaning of "home" and, of course, the fly fisherman's quest for The Fish). Along the way, it tackles issues like Political Correctness (feminism, Native American land rights), environmentalism, box stores, rock music and the recipe for the perfect tartar sauce. It is also funny. It reads, to me, almost as if Morris wrote it in one headlong plunge (I'm sure it took along time and was crafted on purpose to read like that) and it carried me right along. As I wrote earlier, I felt compelled to finish it.
It is also a flawed book. For one thing, it needs some basic copy-editing (I began circling typos and such late into my reading, because they started to annoy me). While many of the characters (particularly Artie's son, and the Native American activist) are well drawn, I felt one of the central characters, Cuzzin' a bit too much. He was too large; reminded me of something in, say, The Great Santini (which I hated.) If I were the editor, I'd tone Cuzzin down. But that's me. There's also, perhaps, just TOO MUCH STUFF in the book – I'd nix the recipes, for example. And the "to do" lists. But maybe this is good for folks trained to read all the crap that pops up on the average computer screen. What do I know? I KNOW I'd change the title, and I would also take out the cutesy references to Steve's previous novels in the text. (In my humble opinion, Steve has a history of self-sabotage; he wrote a column for the Sunday paper for several years about rural Vermont – a TERRIFIC column, very well-written and funny and thoughtful and astute as anything – but many readers [and I know this for a fact, it's not just me] could not get past the cutesy title of Beyond Yonder or Beyonder or whatever he called it. I myself had a hard time getting over it, but once I started reading it I was hooked.)