Saturday, August 15, 2009
Breaking the Curse
Author Jeremy C. Shipp is never content to merely give his readers a diversion. Sure you laugh; you fall in love with his characters, are emotionally swept into his world; but his work is always so much more than emotive string pulling.
Shipp wants your mind. He wants your heart. He wants you to be so taken in by his words that by the time he is through with you, you see the world differently. He wants to wake you up, and he won’t sugar coat the brutality or the beauty of life as he delivers his message. In making you honestly examine yourself and the world, he offers you a great gift – a chance at healing. Shipp’s second novel, Cursed, is such an adventure and is due for release this October. It is available for pre-order at http://www.rawdogscreaming.com/cursed.html.
Cursed resonates as a love story to those of us who feel like outsiders. Though Shipp makes explicit use of a physical disability in this novel, that sense of being “other” could come from any of the millions of details that make up our personal story such as one’s faith or sexuality. It is a reminder that being unique is not a curse as society would have us think. In fact our differences are our gifts. We are meant to celebrate them and use them to heal ourselves, each other, and ultimately the world.
One immediately has great empathy for Shipp’s lead characters. Cicely and Nicholas can be nothing other than the cursed beings they are, but thank God for that. In the book, they literally hold the fate of the world in their hands. There could be no more intelligent, humorous, kindly souls to be at the mercy of. They are given an awesome responsibility, and through their journey we can see the best and worst within ourselves as well.
Like many, Nicholas just wants to blend in. He wants to pretend he leads an unexceptional life. But for Nicholas there is no out. He must do what he is destined to do. In the end, the same goes for us all. Shipp is calling out those who would wear masks and try to live a small existence. Not following an authentic path would have consequences in Cursed, just as it does in the real world.
Shipp forces us to confront the pain, fear, loneliness in our lives. They are a warning that action needs to be taken. We are given a very explicit reminder at the very beginning “This isn’t only your life that you’re messing with. We’re connected. We’re all connected.” My pain is your pain; your pain is my pain. And what is most vital for ending our personal nightmares? Forgiveness. It is through this we heal.
There is also a recurring theme of being ignored, not being heard. Nicholas constantly faces this in his attempts to connect with others. But he can’t truly be heard because he is hiding. He is afraid if someone really did see him, truly know him inside and out they would be horrified. In contrast Cicely has the strength to claim who she is and fight against those who would dismiss her as wrong. She faces the world with an open heart and creativity. She is the kind of empowered being that comes from living from a place of love instead of fear. She pushes Nicholas and hopefully the reader to a breakthrough where they find themselves capable of more than they had imagined.
As in his short stories and his first novel, Vacation, Shipp’s prose in Cursed is distilled down to the finest essence. No triviality remains. With a lot of wit and a huge heart full of passion, he enthralls the reader. The writing is elegant and quite simply a pleasure to read.
Shipp’s work always carries with it a sense of magical realism that I find incredibly seductive. I’m always eager to see what rules he’s playing with in each new piece. And I must admit as a writer I’d kill to have a little bit of that awe-inspiring creativity Shipp has in his deliciously demented mind.
So in the end does Cursed succeed? In a word: yes. Readers can’t walk away unmoved. They will recognize themselves in the characters. They will see the indictment of the energy spent on imaginary problems while the real ones burn the world down.
He gets you – mind and heart. And I have to believe that his readers and the planet will come away altered for the better because of this experience.
Jeremy C. Shipp may be just one author, but maybe that’s enough.
Please Visit Jeremy Shipp’s site at http://www.jeremycshipp.com/ and then pre-order the book at http://www.rawdogscreaming.com/cursed.html