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Category Archives: The Book of Margery Kempe
To paraphrase Shakespeare: The fault, dear readers, lies not in our characters, but in ourselves…
I finished my first novel, The Book of Margery Kempe, just in time to enter it in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award Contest. I didn’t have time to get it edited, and fretted that my manuscript would be rejected because of typos and omissions, of which there were many.
I was quite pleased when I made it though to the quarter-finals and yesterday, when I heard that Margery had made it to the semi-final round, I was flooded with emotion. Obviously I was pleased for myself, for in some sense it served as validation, but mostly I was pleased for my characters, for Margery, Janie, Arthur, Bill, Margaret, Ambrose, and John. They have let me into their lives, and as for Margery, who was one of the great English mystics and who wrote the first autobiography in the English language, well what can I say? For me she represents all those strong, outstanding women who have shaped my life. She continues to forge her path, and if there are any shortcomings in portraying her, in capturing her voice, the fault lies in my pen, but not in my heart.
I am including below The Publishers Weekly Review.
This first-rate manuscript incorporates contemporary fiction and historical nonfiction to tell a tale of spiritual transformation and the search for self. It utilizes “The Book of Margery Kempe” — the first autobiography written in English, circa 1437, which recounts the life of medieval mystic and pilgrim Margery Kempe — as the catalyst that spurs its modern-day and medieval characters to action. And it switches from narrator to narrator and from 1431 to 2007. The story begins when London publisher Bill Avery acquires the rights to distribute “The Book of Margery Kempe,” and asks Janie Radcliffe, Avery Publishing’s British literature specialist, to write the book’s Introduction. Janie delves into her research and discovers that Margery dictated her story to two scribes — one of whom is Arthur Chartis, a character who speaks eloquently of his consequential encounters with Marjorie and his own desire to confer with the Lord. This intriguing and impressive manuscript names the second scribe early, defying centuries-old assumptions about the scribe’s possible identity. Janie becomes increasingly transfixed by Margery’s mysticism. Could Margery hear God’s voice, as she claimed? Or was she a heretic who flouted ecclesiastical authority? To generate publicity for the book’s release Ambrose Wells, Avery’s advertising guru, devises a marketing stunt: a reenactment of Margery’s pilgrimage from England to Jerusalem with Janie “following in Margery’s footsteps” and contributing missives along her journey to a London newspaper. What begins as a trite tactic to sell books morphs into Janie’s veritable God quest — the outcome of which solidifies Janie’s persona and stupefies Bill, Ambrose, and Janie’s mother. Keen insight, vivid characters, and solid storytelling make this one to watch.
Here are six sentences from The Book of Margery Kempe, a novel due out in January 2011. Thanks for reading, and all comments are appreciated!
As a young girl, adrift in my loneliness, I created a circle of imaginary friends, drawn from the books I’d read. Afternoons, after school, I would stroll along the Thames near my home in Teddington, happily conversing with my favorite heroes and heroines of literature, Moll Flanders, Becky Sharp, Clarissa, Tom Jones, Julian Sorel and numerous others, discoursing and holding forth as I winded my way along the river, bending my ear to their voices, clapping with delight when they hailed me as the Princess of the River, the Mistress of the Tides, and I was happy for a time, until the darkness lowered itself upon the water and my steps turned reluctantly toward home.
I learned early that the river does empty itself of all things, bearing them to the great and unforgiving sea. There in the murk and swirl they are beaten into polished glass, whitened shell, fragmentary things; eventually, they wash up on another shore, different from what they were.
That’s what happened to me. I was emptied of myself…
Like most of you, I am well aware of the fact that a book cover is a critical component in luring a potential reader. I’ve been working with a graphic artist that I know and we finally, through trial and error, hit upon a cover that we both feel good with. Let me know what you think (ignore the black margins). The work is due out in January. Thanks!