Short Stories

The Spirit Flies Wonderful Distances

Spirit Flies Wonderful Distances COVER.indd

The First Day of the World, Robert Michael Congemi’s tenth book, tells the stories of young men and women at the start of their adultlives and careers, marriages and artistry. It is a world of the past, the late 1950’s, a simpler time where comedy and romance, mysteries and epiphanies abound. Set on Long Island and Albany and south eastern New York, Congemi’s stories tell of first insights of teenagers into the adult world, the further epiphanies of young graduate students and civil servants, and, favorites of Congemi—young, aspiring writers and actors coping with the cost of pursuing their artistic dreams. He also presents stories of the early life of Paul Scriber, the writer and teacher who figures in much of Congemi’s fiction, stories of Scriber’s early marriage, teaching days, and personal resolutions. Finally, Congemi includes in The First Day of The World, Scriber’s first novella, “The Bridge Dwellers,” written when Paul was twenty one about his college days in the late 1950’s. The novella captures a part of this time in American history, the character of early ‘hippies’ and their encounter with the world. Scriber writes of three young men on a philosophical bridge between the conservatism of the 50’s and the cultural explosion of the 1960’s.

The First Day of the World

The First Day of the World, Robert Michael Congemi’s tenth book, tells the stories of young men and women at the start of their adultlives and careers, marriages and artistry. It is a world of the past, the late 1950’s, a simpler time where comedy and romance, mysteries and epiphanies abound. Set on Long Island and Albany and south eastern New York, Congemi’s stories tell of first insights of teenagers into the adult world, the further epiphanies of young graduate students and civil servants, and, favorites of Congemi—young, aspiring writers and actors coping with the cost of pursuing their artistic dreams. He also presents stories of the early life of Paul Scriber, the writer and teacher who figures in much of Congemi’s fiction, stories of Scriber’s early marriage, teaching days, and personal resolutions. Finally, Congemi includes in The First Day of The World, Scriber’s first novella, “The Bridge Dwellers,” written when Paul was twenty one about his college days in the late 1950’s. The novella captures a part of this time in American history, the character of early ‘hippies’ and their encounter with the world. Scriber writes of three young men on a philosophical bridge between the conservatism of the 50’s and the cultural explosion of the 1960’s.

Les Yeux

Les Yeux (the eyes) is author Robert Michael Congemi’s ninth book. Its theme is a modern one, the existentialist’s assertion that other people’s conceptions of us, so often reductive and hurtful, if not devastating, constitute a kind of hell. Going beyond expressing this theme only in fiction, Congemi demonstrates it in the two other principal literary genres—drama and poetry. Nor is the phenomenon of the eyes limited to what is done to us. We are guilty of it ourselves. As Congemi says in his book’s epigraph:

“The eyes, that second hell, which pin us down with their own perceptions. How we must struggle against this further Absurdity, consider our own misunderstandings!”

The author of Les Yeux pursues this theme in a variety of ways. Some of his writing focuses on our misconceptions of the poor, those beneath often comfortable and unchallenged bourgeois mentality. Other work traces his theme as it manifests itself with regard to those who are significantly different from ourselves or above us in social level and victims of our self-protecting stereotypes. A notable thematic variation is depicted in his writing that clarifies the identity of the traumatized, a reality often very far from our customary understanding. Still further variations provoke us to reconsider those who are most close to us or to uncover the invalidity of self-deception. In the eponymous story of Les Yeux, Congemi demonstrates, as if working through a theorem, the truth about this threat of arbitrary opinion and general viewpoint. Finally, the author invites us to a transvaluation of our sense of the past, particularly our own.

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The Penny Garden

The Penny Garden, Congemi’s fifth collection of short stories, a sequel to his previous quartet of stories, are mostly short short stories, though they continue to present his overriding literary outlook, themes and formats. For Congemi, life is Absurd and can be cruel, but it also provides healing insight and its expression in literary art. He continues to believe in the value of short fiction for our times, fiction providing immediate meaning and at times at its best an intimation of scripture. In this regard, such stories as Congemi’s “Baby Doll,” “Candy’s Final Exam,” and “Salon de Beaute” highlight personal cruelties, while “Afterwards,” “The Night of Chekhov’s Dying” and “Amber and Danielle” depict existential suffering. On the other hand, the power of art is celebrated in such stories as “Meeting the Poet,” “Backyard Barbeque” and “The Gauguin Exhibit,” while a measure of heroism or happiness is shown in “Danny Boy,” “The Russian Weight Lifter” and “Pop’s Millennium.”

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In These Times – A Quartet of Short Stories

Dreaming Mother into Existence

The stories collected in Dreaming Mother into Existence seek to pay homage to the art of the short story, being suggestive, textured, varied. While the august and elegant novel carries complexity to substantial length, the short story may choose to provide succinct attention to theme, sudden turns of plot and startling epiphany. Nor is meaning neglected.

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ISBN: 978-1-933994-758
386 pages, $17.95

Vagaries of Fate

In his second book, Vagaries of Fate, Robert Michael Congemi continues to express his sense of contemporary life as existential absurdity, as well as to present individual attempts to deal with such a condition. This collection of short stories gives new emphasis to two themes associated with his conviction—the role that human beings at times negatively play in adding to absurdity, and to the moderating, even redeeming quality of appreciating or creating a micro-moment of meaning.

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ISBN: 978-1-935534-303
404 pages, $18.95

The Absurd Heart

In this third volume, The Absurd Heart, of his short-story quartet entitledIn These Times, Robert Michael Congemi has written a collection of stories set in New York City, Brooklyn, Long Island and counties nearby. In these New York stories, Congemi presents further epiphanies and transformations, paradoxes, and tragicomic variations on this principal themes. Stories concern re-evaluations of the past in order to create present meaning, the seductiveness of religious need, and the often mystifying behaviors of loving.

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ISBN: 978-1-935534-600
408 pages, $18.95

Temple of a Thousand Buddhas

In this fourth and concluding volume of his short story collection quartet IN THESE TIMES, Robert Michael Congemi further extends his thematic considerations. On the one hand, in Temple of a Thousand Buddhas an aged and failed bohemian deems existence a trickster god, an artist experiences the exorbitant price of intellectuality, and the husband of a dying wife fails to render cancer in any way intelligible to his family. On the other hand, a vaguely-perceived narrator bears witness to the working class, a cluster of women strive to comprehend the unfathomable, and an academic insists on the grace of insight and love.

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ISBN: 978-1-935534-990
412 pages, $19.95

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