John Biscello's newest novel, Nocturne Variations, is exactly what the title promises, a dreamy narrative landscape bursting with a lyrical kaleidoscope of sights, sounds and perspectives.
by John Biscello, 348 pp. Unsolicited Press, $18.
John Biscello's newest novel, Nocturne Variations, is exactly what the title promises, a dreamy narrative landscape bursting with a lyrical kaleidoscope of sights, sounds and perspectives. The reader is given the pleasurable task of piecing together a puzzle from found ephemera of one young woman's attempt to escape, not just a crime boss, but memories, adulthood, loneliness and herself.
Some people grow up too fast. They are thrust into maturity for any number of reasons and miss out on the joys and freedoms of childhood.
Other people are slow to mature. Late bloomers avoid adult responsibilities and extend their childhood beyond years that society deems acceptable.
But what about a person who does both? What if someone was forced to grow up fast, but held on dearly to childish things? What if Peter Pan had to take paternal responsibility for all the Lost Boys in a Neverland where the repercussions of careless actions were all too real?
Biscello rewrites Peter Pan, the iconic character who never grows up, as a 17-year-old runaway with a voracious appetite for beautiful young women and an addiction to a drug called Sike that gives one the sensation of childhood, "like that little girl who spins around and around and falls down and is happy."
Piers lives in Los Angeles in the '80s. She has a mystical talent for puppetry. And though puppet shows are often associated with children, her shows are better suited for adults, underlining the conflicting themes of holding onto childhood and growing up too fast.
Piers is on her own except for her friend and performance partner, Tink (a nod to Peter Pan's best friend, the fairy Tinkerbell). But when Tink is taken away by drug dealer DeLeon's thugs and disappears without a hint, Piers is set on taking revenge.
"If this were a fairy tale, then L.A. would be the Kingdom, and DeLeon the evil monarch, and me … the what? Not the f*****g princess, that's for sure. I'd be the urchin, no, I'd be the dark angel, no, I'd be the entertainment, the court puppeteer. Yea, that'd be me. The court puppeteer turned criminal, wanted dead or alive. Something like that."
She steals a briefcase of Sike and hops a Greyhound east.
"I wonder where I'll go?
Too much wondering never got anyone anywhere. That's definitely something my Uncle Clark would say.
Well, wondering got Alice to Wonderland, didn't it, probably would have been my smartass reply. Anyways, I'm pretty sure Greyhound doesn't stop in Wonderland, so I'm gonna have to choose another destination."
Ending up in the southwest town of Redline, she meets a man with an eye patch named Henry Hook. (Yes, like Captain Hook.) Henry is not a pirate. He's just an old guy who wants to help Peirs and gives her a place to stay. However, DeLeon's thugs are not far behind.
An epistolary novel, Nocturne Variations is written in a series of documents including, journal entries, book quotes, production notes, book reviews, missing person signs, newspaper clippings, photo captions, historical overviews, letters, interviews and poetry.
"The sea is the sea,
But it is also a sound recording of the sea.
It is Memory, shroud and fathomless
And frightened with echoes."
A third-person narrative voice appears throughout like a thread linking the pieces and holding them all together. Large sections of blank space also serve to give the story a place to pause and take a deep breath.
Peirs must hide out in the badlands in hopes DeLeon's thugs don't find her. But it is in the badlands, a kind of alien Neverland, where she gets both lost and found.
"It is geography modeling Mars and prehistory,
a geography that has converted its mirages and rage
into a muted stoicism, though its temper remains mercenary,
a scorpion's callous flick."
Sometimes life is not so kind, and when terrible things happen to us, it is easier to run away than to face them. Like Peter Pan and Peirs, we would much rather live in a fantasy world than face the world of growing up and dealing with responsibility.
Living in limbo, neither coddled nor accountable, can be a lonely place. We can only escape adulthood for so long before we must come to terms with our past. All we can do is leave the window open.
Originally from Brooklyn, New York, writer, poet, spoken word performer and playwright, John Biscello, has called Taos home for the past 12 years. He is the author of the novels, "Broken Land, a Brooklyn Tale" and "Raking the Dust," and a collection of stories, "Freeze Tag."
His fiction and poetry have appeared in Art Times, nthposition, The Wanderlust Review, Ophelia Street, Caper, Polyphony, Dilate and The Tishman Review, among others. "Broken Land, A Brooklyn Tale" was named Underground Book Reviews 2014 Book of the Year.
To celebrate the release of his new novel, Biscello will read excerpts from the book and copies will be available for purchase Tuesday (Dec. 18), 7 p.m., at SOMOS, 108 Civic Plaza Drive, Taos. The evening will also include a musical performance by Art of Flying's David Costanza. For more information about the reading contact SOMOS at (575) 751-0081 or firstname.lastname@example.org, Visit somostaos.org.
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