Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Book Review: My Year as a Clown by Robert Steven Williams

My Year as a Clown
by Robert Steven Williams
Publisher: Against the Grain Press  (Dec. 26, 2012)
ebook  365p

Robert Steven Williams is the recipient of the Silver Medal for popular fiction in the 2013 Independent Publisher Book Awards for My Year as a Clown.

Reading this novel was a surrealistic experience for me as it was the first novel I read in the weeks after my husband and I pulled our own 34 year marriage out of the nose dive we'd put it in.  I'd just spent several weeks believing it was over and wallowing in the devastation of it so I was easily thrust back into the emotional maelstrom as the protagonist Chuck Morgan's own shock and dismay washed over the pages.  It was sometimes hard to stay with it but I'm glad I did because I believe I gained some invaluable insight into the male psyche that will help as my husband and I continue to practice our new communication skills as our relationship regains a stable flight path.

Though at first this personal connection caused me to picture my husband and my self in the roles of Chuck and his wife, that was a brief artifact that was quickly erased by the author's deft drawing of two distinctly individual personalities.  I both laughed and felt the irritation and sense of abandonment Chuck's wife felt over his always putting football first even to the point of postponing their honeymoon for a major game as memories of my own wedding night in which my husband tuned the TV in our motel room to professional wrestling overlay the page.  But after that, other than the general observations that even a marriage of decades duration can be prey to communication misfires and complacency and that the belief that the other's love is proved by their knowing without words what you want is a dangerous delusion, the story took off on its own trajectory for me and I was able to enjoy it on its own merits.

And merits aplenty it had.  Topping them was the humor sometimes gentle and subtle but that reached ROFL proportions at times.  There were a number of eccentric characters that stay with me months later as memories that get confused with memories of someone I once knew.  Not that I'm confusing the characters with someone I ever knew but that when something triggers a vague memory of them I'm at first searching my memories of real people from my past for them before it dawns on me they were characters in a novel.  Which is high marks for the author.

The journal like format for the story gave it an easy flow and worked well to allow us to follow Chuck through the morass of the first months and the slow slog towards happy that followed.

From the Publishers:

With MY YEAR AS A CLOWN, Robert Steven Williams introduces us to Chuck Morgan, a new kind of male hero-imperfect and uncertain-fumbling his way forward in the aftermath of the abrupt collapse of his 20-year marriage.

Initially, Chuck worries he'll never have a relationship again, that he could stand in the lobby of a brothel with a hundred dollar bill plastered to his forehead and still not get laid. But as the emotionally raw, 365-day odyssey unfolds, Chuck gradually relearns to live on his own, navigating the minefield of issues faced by being suddenly single-new routines, awkward dates, and even more awkward sex.

With My Year As a Clown, Robert Steven Williams will attract fans of the new breed of novelists that includes Nick Hornby, Jonathan Tropper, Lolly Winston, and Tom Perrotta, delivering painfully honest glimpses into the modern male psyche while writing about both sexes with equal ease and grace in a way that's hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time.

What they are saying:

"Robert Steven Williams has written a novel of tremendous honesty, humor, and insight...does for men what Bridget Jones's Diary did for women." - Joy Johannessen, editor, Alice Sebold, Amy Bloom, Michael Cunningham and My Year as a Clown

"Williams' characters give us the real-deal: a gut wrenching and often humorous look, showing us the everyday horrors of what it's like to start all over again as one approaches middle age."- Suzan-Lori Parks, novelist, playwright and screenwriter. Winner, 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Topdog/Underdog

"When we first meet Chuck Morgan, he's broken, twisted and confused. And that's what makes him so interesting. Like other intriguing literary heroes, Chuck is at his best after life has knocked him to the ground, forcing him to find a new way to be strong again; damaged maybe, but more confident this time, with a kinder, more open heart." - Jimmie Dale Gilmore, singer, songwriter, guitarist, member of the Flatlanders

"Painfully honest and very funny.  I loved this book, but it took a few chapters to start feeling that way. What makes it so memorable and touching is the total honesty. The beginning was incredibly painful to read as a long marriage comes to an abrupt end. What follows is the happy discovery that you can start over at 40+ or any age. In the same way that Lena Dunham has been called the voice of her 20-something generation, Robert Steven Williams strikes me as a genuine voice for the 40-something generation."-J. Beardwood, Reviewer

"An honest portrayal of heartbreak and healing. I laughed a lot and at the same time really felt Chuck's pain as he lost control after his wife's betrayal. I felt like it was happening to me and I couldn't put this book down. I enjoyed the journey as Chuck redefined himself and found his footing as a single man in his 40's. The cast of characters, including a pot smoking rabbi, an overprotective mother and a sexy yoga instructor, was engaging. My Year as a Clown is fast-paced and the diary-like structure of tracking the days worked very well. I heartily recommend this book."- Paul Schwrzbaum, Reviewer

"A very compelling read- Funny, sad, and utterly believable. Launched into the world of the newly single, Chuck takes us along for the ride as he makes the painful separation from his wife and finds his feet as a single man. The characters are believable and, at times, infuriating. You root for Chuck to find happiness and also want to give a hug to some of the women in the story who seem to be adrift. I think that Williams' book gives voice to a life experience that is not often portrayed in fiction and does so with a touching mix of humor and compassion."- Liz, Reviewer

"Through humor, humility, and honesty, Williams leads us, layer by layer, into the inner workings of the emotionally bruised male. The doubts, the insecurities, the fears: all revealed. Being allowed into the private thoughts and deeds of Chuck effectively evoked several reactions from me: surprise (Do men really put that much effort into trying to decide on attire for a first date?), amusement (The antics between Chuck and the phone as he receives an unexpected call made me laugh out loud.) and sympathy as Chuck attempts to regain some order and happiness in his life. The conversation among characters is believable and the day-by-day chronicling over the course of a year allows the reader to clearly see the development of Chuck's self-understanding and healing as he stumbles, sometimes falls, and then rights himself to face another day."-Sue T., Reviewer

Robert Steven Williams is an author, singer-songwriter, and musician. His debut novel, My Year as a Clown (Against the Grain Press), was released in January 2013.

As a writer, Williams was a finalist in the Raymond Carver Short Story Contest and was awarded a Squaw Valley Writers Community Thayer Scholarship. He attended Bread Loaf, Sewanee and the Squaw Valley Writers' Conferences, and worked closely with the esteemed fiction writer, Barry Hannah. His short fiction has appeared in Carve Magazine, The Orange Coast Review, and the anthology Tall Tales and Short Stories Volume II. Additionally, he was the executive producer of the critically acclaimed BOOM! Studios CBGB Comic series, nominated in 2011 for a Harvey Award for Best Anthology. Robert's work has also appeared in Poets & Writers Magazine, Billboard, USA Today  and LetterPress, a newsletter for writers. He is also co-author of the best-selling business book, The World's Largest Market.

As a musician, Williams studied songwriting with Rosanne Cash, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and other top country writers. In 2005, he released the critically acclaimed CD "I Am Not My Job," featuring Rachel Z (Peter Gabriel, Wayne Shorter) and Sloan Wainwright.

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1 tell me a story:

Teddy Rose 6/26/2013 4:06 PM  

Thanks for taking part in the tour. I'm glad you loved My Year As a Clown so much! I found it quite moving as well.

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