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Jason Akley. We know too little about him. He is the son of a colonel in the United States Air Force, and has traveled extensively across America and Europe following his father's military assignments. He currently resides in Illinois. He started writing stories at the age of eight, and has had his poetry published in two books. He is the author of children's books (Sweet Pea and the Bumble Bee and The Candlestick), `Crossroads form Damascus: Mississippi', `Salted with Salt and The Altar of Silence: Two Novellas, Rick's Place, and The Psalmist. Akley has a BS degree from Tulane University in physics and mathematical economics. But to discover what the man is truly about it is necessary to read his books. He has the gift that imbues Bukowski's writings, the poetic balance of such poets as John Berryman, Allen Ginsberg, and Hart Crane, and the imagination and flights of fantasy that circle reality like few others writing today. Think Foer, Burroughs, etc.
LAZARUS is an undertaking. Over 600 pages long, it has been called `a contemporary version of the Oedipus trilogy, Sophocles' timeless epic about the benighted family of a man who kills his father and marries his mother.' Because of the complexity of the tale it may help incipient readers to know the chronology of the Roman Family, provided as the last pages of the book: 1695 First Chartres settle in North Carolina to escape Huguenot oppression, 1738 Joseph Chartres born on the family's tobacco plantation, 1766 Joseph Chartres moves his family to New Orleans, 1783 Grandson born by daughter, Annabelle, to a negro slave, 1804 Grandson changes his name to Joe Hamilton, leaves New Orleans, and begins trading in the Upper Louisiana Territory near St. Genevieve, MO, 1815 Trading Outpost started on the Osage River, eventually becomes the town of Hamilton, 1828 Joe Hamilton marries Heather Branscomb, 1829 Charles Hamilton born, 1832 Heather runs off. Joe Hamilton shoots himself. Charles Hamilton, and his father's business, is taken into the care of Branscomb, 1843 John Chartres, great-grandson of Joseph Chartres, carries on the family business in New Orleans, with his son as they witness the negroes in Congo Square, 1853 Charles Hamilton takes over his father's business; marries Daphne, 1854 Daughter is born; Daphne dies in labor, 1857 Charles Hamilton frees David from slavery, 1864 David lynched by confederate soldiers; Charles Hamilton never seen in the town again; Branscomb cares for his daughter, 1884 Charles Hamilton dies; leaves everything to relatives in New Orleans; Chartres name Americanized to Charters, 1885 Shanks family moves to St. Louis from North Carolina, 1900 Lucas Roman born, 1907 Lucas Roman's father dies; Lucas sent to an orphanage, 1914 Lucille Roman born, great-granddaughter to Charles Hamilton , 1917Storyville closes; Lucas Roman leaves the orphanage, 1928 Lucas Roman kills a man in a fight, changes his name from Shanks; settles in Hope 1931 H.L. Charters stands on a corner in Chicago, 1933 Lucas Roman marries Lucille, 1936 Ira Roman born, 1937 Billy Roman born, 1938 James Roman born 1940 Elizabeth Roman born, 1945 Frank Roman born; jazz musicians reminisce on the New Year, 1948 Ira goes with Lucille to see Billy, 1952 Ira kills Frank; sent to reform school, 1954 Lucas Roman rapes Elizabeth; she goes to Grand Isle to stay with Lucille's relatives and have the baby; Ira returns from reform school, 1955 Lazarus born at Grand Isle; Tom lynched at English Bend; Ira comes to New Orleans and promises to drown the baby in the river, but doesn't; Ira disappears, 1960 James Roman marries Alice ,1966 Mary born to Elizabeth from her first husband; Jude Roman's sister born to James and Alice, 1975 Jude Roman born; Lazarus comes to Ozark region; Ira returns; Lucas Roman found drowned in his pond, 1976 The road is closed through Hope; Lazarus meets Elizabeth, 1979 Lazarus marries Elizabeth 1980 Judith Roman born, 1982 Luke Roman born, 1984 Lucille Roman dies, 1997 Jude Roman graduates Tulane, 1998 Jude Roman discharged from the military; returns home to Hope; meets Ira on his way home with his father, 2000 James Roman diagnosed with cancer; Jude starts novel about Roman family, 2001 James Roman dies, 2005 Ira returns to Hope and tells Lazarus and Elizabeth their true relationship; Luke Roman is killed in a car accident involving Ira on Rt. J; Lazarus blinds himself; Judith Roman secures her mother and father's letters after Elizabeth kills herself at Grand Isle; Jude Roman marries and buys a house, 2006 Jude Roman's daughter born, 2007 Judith fights Branscomb to close the road through Hamilton; she and Branscomb's son kill themselves, 2008 Jude finishes novel. So much for the web of information that informs the story.
Jason Akley tell fine stories, yes, but it is in the bathing of his literate skills that provides the real pleasure of reading his experimentally designed work that makes him so extraordinary. It is only fitting to share a couple of passages to assist the lure to his opus: `The next morning she and the children walked to church. Lucas Roman didn't attend church. Preacher Everett Field spoke about faith and works and charity. When the preacher made an altar call, Lucille went down, and he laid hands on her. His touch dropped her like a domino, and she lay there on her back, slain in the Spirit. The children grew tired and left their pew to go outside. It was a sunny morning, and they played in the field behind the church. Ira stayed behind, though most everybody had left, including the preacher. It was time to head home for supper. Lucille stayed at the altar. After laying on her back she got up and prayed on her knees. Ira sat in his pew and watched as his mother prayed.' Another passage: I didn't ask to be born. I ripped my mother open coming out. She needed forty stitches. I guess ever since I've been the proverbial black sheep of the family. It sometimes happens when you're the oldest. One must be awfully conceited to talk about oneself without embarrassment. But my intentions are honest. And telling the truth is usually the funniest thing. We come from a void. I was tied to it at my birth. I remember it. And because of it I live a morality of expediency. I've learned the unveiling of one illusion just means replacing it with another. It's inevitable.' Too long a review, perhaps, and a long book, but the magic of Jason Akley deserves all the attention he is receiving. Brilliant. Grady Harp, March 14