Review of “Postlude to the Afternoon of a Faun” by Jerome Stueart

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This novelette is a finalist for the 2020 World Fantasy Award in the short fiction category, plus the Eugie Foster Award, presented annually at DragonCon. It was published by F&SF magazine 3-4/2019. This review contains spoilers.

Mr. Dance is old and joyless satyr, crippled by Billy Sunday and the Prohibition gang years ago. He uses a wheelchair and lives in a dark, messy house with the yard gone to seed. In an effort to do something different, he signs up to teach jazz clarinet through the State of Missouri’s Masters/ Apprenticeship Program. His first student, Eric Elkridge, arrives and confides that he plays football, but his heart really isn’t in it. He wants to be a musician instead. When the boy brings out his clarinet, Dance is shocked to see that it’s his own clarinet, the Shaft of Moonlight, stolen from him all those years ago by Billy Sunday. Eric has learned to play classic jazz tunes, but his playing lacks any magic, and he has no feel at all for improvisation. Dance suppresses all the issues the clarinet brings back about his past, and works hard to help the boy improve his musical sense. He eventually convinces Eric to go with him to a local bar to play jazz, but now Dance has to deal with his own loss of magic. Is there some way he can become the jazz player Moonlight Dance again?

The faun is actually a well-known character, and there are literary allusions here. The best known is “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun,” a.k.a. “Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune,” an impressionist musical composition by Claude Debussy from 1894. This, in turn, was inspired by the poem “L’après-midi d’un faune” by Stéphane Mallarmé from 1867. Debussy’s composition is considered the moment of transition from the Romantic period to modern music. His work later inspired the ballet Afternoon of a Faun choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky (considered scandalous), followed by a later version by Jerome Robbins. There’s also a fairly well-known painting of Nijinsky as the faun, done by artist Léon Bakst for the program to Nijinsky’s ballet. Take what you will from all these works.

Besides the allusions, there’s also a subtext here about Prohibition crippling jazz music. Billy Sunday was a celebrated and influential US evangelist during the first two decades of the 20th century and was instrumental in establishing Prohibition with the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution (repealed January 16, 1919). The Amendment forbade the “manufacture, sale and transportation of intoxicating liquors,” but not their consumption, which fueled a lively trade in production and transport of illegal moonshine spirits.

Okay, about the story. This is very touching, an old man revitalized by a young student interested in his art. It’s also about life and joy and the magic of music. The characters are fairly well fleshed out, and the story develops gradually, from the first meeting on though the revitalization process where Dance cleans up his act and gets his life back in order. There is a certain sexual tension, mostly in Dance’s notice of Erik’s young, healthy body, but nothing comes of it here. The allusions do seem to fuel a few jokes about sex toward the end of the story, but that’s all.

On the less positive side (and I’m being nitpicky here), the story doesn’t flow like it might. I think the issue is a bit too much telling and not enough showing. Plus, it feels a little stilted in the beginning, where the author tries to slip in too much background information by way of adjectives, rather than, say, revealing it through events or dialog. That adjective thing always just feels really awkward to me.

Four and a half stars.

More on Sales! and other Holiday Stuff

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Am still being productive. I’ve been to the Knoxville Writers’ Guild to do a reading tonight, and tomorrow night I’m going to be at the Knoxville Arts and Fine Crafts Center, a local gallery, for their First Friday Christmas art sale, 5:00 – 8:00 p.m. EST.

Meanwhile, a couple of my recent sales are now up for reader enjoyment. Here’s “Zombie Love” a short poem in Liquid Imagination, narrated by yours truly. And here’s “Wine and Magnolias” at Mischief Media: A Story Most Queer Podcast narrated by Gwendolyn Boniface. The story takes about a half hour, but the poem is quick. Please check them out!

Also, this Sunday (December 8) I’m singing in a couple of holiday concerts. The evening concert will be at Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church and will stream from the website from 6:00 to about 7:30 p.m. EST. The link I’ve posted should go direct, but if not, from the website, click on the link that says “listen.” Trigger warning: this is a sacred concert, as you might expect from the setting, and includes two choirs and an orchestra. I sing first soprano, and assuming the after Thanksgiving cold clears up, you will hear me at one point or the other. If you’re in the area, the concert is free, but get there early to get a parking spot. Enjoy!

bells

Calling art fans!

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three-chickens-lela-buisI have paintings in a show at Broadway Studios & Gallery this month. Tonight there’s a First Friday event from 5-9:00 p.m. If you’re within reach of Knoxville, stop by. The show looks great, with several very talented artists showing their work. I’ll be there!

The Lunar Initiatives Flash Art Competition

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I’m interrupting the discussion for a news notice. This looks like fun, but check out their submission guidelines. There is a transfer of rights.

Press Release:
We are inviting people world over to join us in promoting Lunar and Space Exploration by participating in the Lunar Initiatives Art Competition: 2D Visual Art and Literary Art.

Before a problem can be solved it must be imagined. We are daring people from all backgrounds to dream the impossible and to encourage interest in space activities through their artwork.

2D Visual Art includes paintings or drawings made from watercolors, oils, pencil, inks, charcoal, mixed media, Photoshop, astro-photography, etc. Literary art categories include poetry, short stories (fiction), consisting of 2500 words or less, and essays (non-fiction) of 1000 words or less. Monetary prizes of $1000, $500 and $250 for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners will be awarded in each category.

You may visit the challenge page here to find out more and to register as an innovator. No entry fee required. Last date for submission is October 31, 2015.

Please let us know if you would like to participate or know anyone else who might be interested in participating.

Email: henna@herox.com
Organization: http://lunarinitiatives.com/
Contest Website: https://herox.com/FlashArtCompetition

Open for Business

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three-chickens-lela-buisThis website is doing double duty as of today. I’ve had paintings for sale for some time here locally, and I’m in a gallery show at the Knoxville Fine Arts and Crafts Center right now. However, I’ve not had an online outlet. Now I do. I’ve opened an account at Fine Arts America, where I’m going to be selling prints, cards, sofa cushions, phone covers, and whatever else you might like to order with my artwork on it.

So, what is this wonderful artwork, you ask? The answer is that I’ve been drawing and painting for a long time, and it may take a while to get things uploaded. Right now I have some acrylics available, one watercolor and one drawing. I’ll have more up as soon as I figure out how deal with oversize files and other impediments. Check it out here. By the time you see the offer at Fine Arts America, most of the works will be already sold, but you can use the contact page here on my website to ask about buying an original.

Painting: Three Chickens by Lela E. Buis.

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