By Joseph Mendelson, Herpetologist and Conservation Biologist, Zoo Atlanta
Book promotion’s a bit out of my line of work, but I’m happy to recommend my Grant Park neighbor James Gallant’s new novel Whatever Happened to Ohio?, just published as an e-book in Vagabondage Press’s “Battered Suitcase” series.
Jim’s earlier book, set in Grant Park, The Big Bust at Tyrone’s Rooming House: A Novel of Atlanta, has a lot of fans around the intown ‘hoods. He wrote that book out of his experience as a home-renovating newcomer to Grant Park during the crack-cocaine epidemic of the ‘80s and ‘90s.
His new work reflects his Midwestern small town origins. The initial inspiration for the book was the case of the nervous bride-to-be here in Atlanta some years ago who on the eve of her wedding hopped on a Greyhound and took off into the West. (Jim ups the ante by having the bride and the groom both vamoose in different directions just before the nuptials.)
Social observances abound: a wedding, parades, a family reunion, and an old-time baseball game – some associated with the 2003 Ohio Bicentennial celebration. However, these hang rather loosely about Gallant’s distraught, divisive, sexually ambiguous, sometimes mystified characters.
The novel displays Jim’s interest in things occult: UFOs, materializations, synchronicity, and such. The book comes with the endorsement of Jeffrey J. Kripal of Rice University (author of Authors of the Impossible: Paranormal and the Sacred), who remarks that Gallant’s novel “displays in graphic and entertaining form … that invasions of occult influences become especially likely in disorderly societies like our own – in the gaps, in the interstices of what we think of as the real but which is in fact a social construction, and a wobbly one at that.”
Jim’s essays and short stories appear in his column “Verisimilitudes: essays and approximations,” published online by Fortnightly Review (UK) (http://fortnightlyreview.co.uk/category/verisimilitudes/). His website is www.jamesgallantwriter.com.