by Robert Marshall
In this brilliant first novel by visual artist Robert Marshall, we find a new writer who boldly tackles confronting anthropologist-author Carlos Castaneda's Influence on a middle-school student who vacillates between desire to be an acceptable member of the human family (tonal) and losing all desire through entering the silence and "seeing" as his non-self (nagual).
Marshall's experimental stream-of-consciousness format begins with the ending, which thrusts the reader into contemplation about the 20-year hiatus between the main character's 12th and 32nd years of life: "Was his mind blown, enlightened or flip-flopping between realities?"
Robert Marshall threatens to upstage Philip Roth (author of 'Portnoy's Complaint') as creator of this great coming-of-age novel about a young liberal Jewish poetry-writing male in America. Humor, pathos, and plenty of historical facts about the political seventies, mixed with fears, guilts and sexual unfoldment, threaten to displace Portnoy's most-memorable secret sexcapade: masturbating with the raw liver he later is served for dinner. In 'A Separate Reality' 12-year old Mark Grosfeld of Phoenix, Ariz. acknowledges his first ejaculation with secrecy and poetic license as he apologizes to all the future people he destroys by wrapping his sperm in a tissue and throwing it away.
Nixon is president during the end-of-the-Vietnam-war era when young Mark first smokes pot and drinks wine with Anna Voigt, a liberal art teacher from his posh private school Loloma; he tries to follow the teachings of Carlos Castaneda's don Juan Mateus, and winds up discovering what makes him such a misfit among other boys. The book is listed as Fiction/Gay, but it actually transcends age and gender lines by offering insightful, loving looks at the question of sexual preference: Is a person born gay or is the gay lifestyle a choice that can be changed? More importantly, it exposes suffering caused by being under the Castaneda Influence and not knowing how to return to the way things used to be in the good old days of B.C. (Before Carlos) and A.N. (after Nixon). Sound or feel familiar? Intrigued? Read the book.
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