I don’t often do book reviews for a couple of reasons. They are one, if I write an overly Reader’s Digest review I probably kill some sales of the complete tome. Secondly, if I am too laudatory and they disagree I might inhibit others from purchasing a copy.
So, in this instance I am going to report on a prestigious award that my grandson, Paul Kerschen, received for his first novel. Whenever a blood relative does something spectacular you tend to brag about that person. So, in this case I am going to let some dispassionate critics do the work.
The 39th Annual Northern California book awards, celebrating books published by Northern California Authors in 2019, was held on September 13th of this year. In the fiction category, which contained five novels, the winner was Paul Kerschen, author of “The Warm South”.
A few of the many reviews of the book follow:
“Kerschen’s gem-like, crystalline prose is the book’s best feature…The plot that gets underway in The Warm South is full of both stuff and matter. It’s reminiscent of Shakespeare, replete with political intrigue, missed connections, gender-swapping disguises and a nested play, as well as deep themes and foundational questions about the imperfect, porous skins that are never quite able to encase and separate art from politics, life, love and duty.”
—Tyler Malone, Los Angeles Times
“Brilliantly wry… [a] subtle rewriting of history. But for every literary Easter egg situated here, there are also moments of raw emotion.”
—Tobias Carroll, Tor
“The Warm South is a masterful meditation on a writer who has transfixed us for well over a century, but more than that, it’s a meditation on our relationships with literature and with our own creative impulses’”
—NCBA selection committee
“A tour de force… it’s the experimentation that went on in Kerschen’s laboratory that has enabled him to work this compelling shock through the literary tradition.”
—Caleb Crain, Book Post USA
In addition to critic’s comments, most writers appreciate kudos from other authors. A couple of those were:
“Paul Kerschen’s miraculous first novel grants the poet John Keats an extended life in Italy as the surgeon he trained to be, and as the husband and father he never became. Superbly imagined, impeccably written, uncanny in its intimacy with Keats’s mind and feelings, this book also conjures the Italy in which Keats lived and died—and here lives on. Kerschen brings this material astonishingly alive and close. This is the best novel I’ve read all year.”
—Carter Scholz, author of Gypsy and Radiance
“The Warm South offers an alternate biography, a second chance—a daring and deeply imagined portrait of genius made more human, more accessible, and more moving and vital than any history or scholarship can allow.”
—Vu Tran, author of Dragonfish
Every author has what is called his own “style”. In looking up Webster’s definition of style I found that it was one of the longest definitions in the dictionary. Also, the first line offered a connection to writing as the word was identified as an ancient tool for writing on wax tablets. In Kerschen’s case his style has been called to shimmer.
I offer the following tidbit from Kerschen’s work.
“A Roman morning is a glass bead on the horizon, pearl-gray to start, then stained by lower lights. Blue rises from the roofs, flat white follows and in a flash of gold the sun mounts the sky and divides the world into light and shade.”
Having read my fair share of books, I think the most obvious example of polar opposites, when it comes to style, would be that between Earnest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Hemingway wrote in a terse way, probably because of his early training as a journalist, while Fitzgerald was a flowery and expansive writer.
In Kerschen’s bio it was revealed that he has had many different forms of his literary work published and has also been the recipient of numerous awards and honors.
At present, he is a software developer at UC Berkeley and is married and the father of a young girl. Because he is only 42 years of age, I don’t think we have heard the last of his literary efforts.
The future trajectory of Paul’s life was probably obvious early on when he became a SCRABBLE Master at the age of 12.
Harry Spencer is a 75-year resident of Nevada and a freelance writer living in Reno. He writes a weekly column for the Sparks Tribune.