Reviewer James Broderick, Ph.D: James is an associate professor of English and journalism at New Jersey City University. A former newspaper reporter and editor, he is the author of six non-fiction books, and the novel Stalked. His latest book is Greatness Thrust Upon Them, a collection of interviews with Shakespearean actors across America. Follow Here To Listen To An Interview With James Broderick.
Author: Gordon Osmond
Publisher: Secret Cravings Publishing
When is a sequel not a sequel?
That’s a question that kept occurring to me as I dug deeper into a wonderful new novel called Turner’s Point by Gordon Osmond. You see, the novel is, technically, a sequel to Osmond’s earlier and uproarious Slipping on Stardust, a deft dissection of the ego-fueled felicities of community theatre.
True, it contains many of the same people that I loved in Slipping on Stardust, but their adventures are so fresh and the development of their characters so rich and, at times, so marvelously unexpected, that I found myself falling for them as if it were the first time I’d encountered their endearing eccentricities. This is that rare sequel that will speak to lovers of Osmond’s previous work as well as first-time inhabitants of his Johnsonian diaspora.
The previous plot points of Stardust are slipped into Turner’s Point seamlessly, with a clever and logical means of recapping the necessary exposition through a brief early section that establishes the “quest” nature of the novel – with the proto-typically American twist of the road trip as the facilitator of insight. All of our favorites are back from the Johnson, Ohio household of Eileen Brockway, the dream-addled matriarch in Stardust’s spotlight and her husband Dan, whose delusions of domestic control leave him groping for answers to questions he doesn’t even understand.
Though the book is really about Eileen’s journey towards a kind of détente with the social forces that both batter and bolster a soul in the modern world (“Eileen took the disparity between the old and the current as another bit of evidence that her path to human-hood was still progressing in the right direction”), the real joys of the book for many readers will be the sublime and ridiculously good writing. One can simply groove on the poetic pulse of the language, as in this ear-catching but soulful quip:
“We dug ourselves a den of denial and found a kind of comfort in the confinement. But now I ask myself: must we stay locked in the loss of our son forever?”
or smile at such efficient characterizations as “Alan seemed a willing co-conspirator in the fiction that the Beach Bar had anything to do with a beach. He wore sand-friendly sandals, and the blues of his eyes, jeans, and shirt blended in a powerful evocation of tropical skies and seas.” or admire Osmond’s embrace of the serio-comic, as with the kinetic character of Kyle’s “own confusion about which pew in the church of human sexuality he wanted to occupy.”
Such fun and fecund wordplay doesn’t undermine Osmond’s confident embrace of “big picture” concerns: love, religion, death. His prose, often decorous, can be delectable, (as when he describes one character’s attempt to “salvage some tolerable future out of the spilled milk into which her recent past had curdled”) but also acidly astringent (“If it’s a part of life, it’s a part of life I want no part of.”)
Another of the frequent joys of Turner’s Point is Osmond’s Baedeker-buttered prose when he describes New York’s restaurant scene, Los Angeles’ glitterati, or the languid charms of San Diego:
“Spread beneath the couple as they were seated at the windows of the elegant rooftop restaurant Raul saved for special occasions and clients were the museum-dotted greenery of Balboa Park, the mid-height office buildings of downtown San Diego, the runways of Lindbergh Field, probably America’s most conveniently located metropolitan airport, which for decades had resisted efforts to relocate, and farther in the distance, the calm and clear waters of San Diego Bay. Raul found himself touting San Diego as the perfect Mama Bear city—neither too big like New York, nor too small like Johnson.”
I cannot imagine a more congenial travel companion than Gordon Osmond, and I’m grateful that he’s taken me on yet another splendid trip, a coast-to-coast romp made memorable through his inimitable insight and wit.
Reader, take this trip!