April 18: My fourth collection of short stories, The Time Before, is coming in 2018. Here is a sneak peek at the cover.
The proposed contents:
Perpetual Motion, Inc.
A Fresh Beat
Nonfiction: Responsibility in Communication
The Time Before, or the Process of Human Ingenuity
The Death Penalty
Guest Author Claire Peate: iHelp
Nonfiction: Life is Cheap
Four of the stories above are currently unfinished. When I finish them, I will release the collection.
April 4: As of this week, my website will have a new look, but it will still provide the facts and nothing but the facts. The address “robertpeate.com” will redirect to this site soon.
February 21: Since September I have been writing short stories, more than in the previous five years. I have been very excited to release Mister Positive and Other Stories and The War and Other Pieces. I currently have five stories I am working on for yet another collection, entitled Perpetual Motion, Inc. After working on two major novels from 2012 to 2015, it feels great to be writing punchy short fiction again.
December 14: Interview with Andrew Turman went well. Listen here.
Beware this message making the rounds:
Folks in the PORTLAND AREA, heads up: Jay Sizemore is a “writer.” He recently moved to the Portland Metro area. He writes and self-publishes whole books about women poets, my own contemporaries, some my friends, in which he calls those women out by their real names and goes on to describe torturing, raping and killing them and their children. This is only an example. He knows details of their lives and has sent unsolicited mail to women he writes these things about. He IS dangerous, and he IS trying to recruit local male writers to his side (including, apparently, a guy named Robert Peate). Please feel free to share this info widely. Copy & paste, rather than repost, for safety reasons; this post is locked to Friends Only.
I count six separate false allegations in it. Note to the writer of this message: thank you for the publicity!
Oops! Correction: seven.
CENSORED: a Review
Jay Sizemore is a poet who has been through a lot of grief for his poetry. In 2015, he wrote a poem called “Scowl”, riffing off the format but not the substance of Allen Ginsburg’s “Howl”, and some readers objected to his word and persona choices as he critiqued American society, particularly censorship and shaming. Mr. Sizemore suffered so much abuse for this poem that he decided to show his critics both how they had made him feel, turning the tables to illustrate poetically what he felt they had done to him, and how wrong it was to treat anyone in the ways they had treated him—by amplifying his persona into what they had accused him of being, as if to say, “You think I’m a monster? Here is a real monster, and the real monster is you [this is what you did to me].” He then released Misogynist, a collection of poems critiquing the Patriarchy via the persona of a man who hates women. To say this subtlety was misunderstood would be an understatement. Mr. Sizemore, for playing only too well the part his critics had assigned him, was then assumed to be even worse than they had thought and accused of every abuse under the Sun except perhaps murder. His career was adversely affected as well-meaning fools ran to “warn” the poetry community against him, when poets are the ones who need protection from lynch mobs both real and virtual. Not only were they wrong, they raced to behave in exactly the censorious ways Mr. Sizemore had critiqued. Due to the outcry of those who felt “threatened” by his using their names on his poems, he was even forced to change his poetry names by Amazon. His work polarized even as his points were missed, and to comply with Amazon’s request, he re-released Misogynist without the names as CENSORED. This is a brilliant work maligned by those who cannot see the forest for the trees, and its entire message is that of nonviolence. It is amazing how people can understand just enough not to understand something and run with the misunderstanding, but as Jane Austen said, “Vanity working on a weak head produces every sort of mischief.” The vanity in this case was the presumption his critics understood what they did not.
This book is a classic indictment of the Patriarchy employing satire, satire that at times has been misunderstood as serious.
Mr. Sizemore has said, “The point of the poems is although the poems are violent and offensive, and the people who want to see such work censored from the public think they are acts of violence, no actual violence has been committed, and their reactions to the work prove the inanity of their response. And thus the mindset that goes into advocating for censorship.”
From “A Modest Proposal” to All in the Family, satire has always been a risky business, yielding responses from those who took the satire as serious. The risk is compounded when one’s tone is not insouciant but brooding and menacing to add to the performance, to illustrate the wrongs that need to be righted. This is why some thought it a good idea to eat homeless orphans, that Archie Bunker was a hero, or that Jay Sizemore was the monster he depicted, though no one ever accused Stephen King of being “It”. This is why Mr. Sizemore himself, having experienced the initial wave of hatred and angst when Misogynist was misunderstood, saw fit to write in big letters in the front of his revised work, “THIS IS A WORK OF SATIRE. SATIRE!” To be fair, with poetry titles such as “Kill All Women”, it is easy to see why his work of all works would need to come with such a notice.
“Kill All Women”, the first poem in the set, lists the ways in which a world without women would be different. The narrator seems pleased to list reasons why we don’t need women, problems with relationships and responsibility we could do without, and what we do with possessions we no longer need or want. He says the woman of the future will not exist, “having gone the way of the cassette tape/and the fond memory of the brothel/where you once got a blowjob with your cup of coffee.” The patriarch narrator seems at the end to remember at least carnal pleasure if not the satisfactions of romantic love, but the entire poem, from beginning to end, is an indictment of the Patriarchy treating women as commodities. The narrator imagines that women are the problem, but it is clear that his attitude is. This is intentional. Yes, a world without women would feature far fewer of the problems he cites, but the ultimate larger problem of loneliness and alienation, only marginally acknowledged by the narrator, would outweigh all else. His slight nod to the fond memories of the past, the short shrift he gives to any sort of human relationship, however, serves to show there is much more left unsaid. While it is easy to see how a less-than-careful reading of such a poem could yield misunderstanding and outrage, it is easier to see that a careful reading yields a critique of the ownership of women. The actual message of the poem is that to kill all women would be to kill all joy. Without explicitly stating how undesirable a world without women would be, the narrator’s realizations and lack thereof speak for themselves.
In the very next poem, “Not a Metaphor”, the Virgin Mary attacks the narrator as if a vampire. He defends her and himself, saying, “You are not a metaphor for all women, as I am not the tyranny of evil men.” Hearing these words and remembering herself, Mary is then liberated from her god and church, from the Patriarchy, free to be herself, “as we fuck like dogs/who enjoy raping one another/in the most animal sense of the word.” The narrator is liberated too, from the burden of being associated with the Patriarchy that enslaved her and all womankind. This represents a positive triumph over society and tradition, as Mary and the narrator overcome all else for the pleasure of self and the other. “The most animal sense of the word” does not include human concepts of informed consent but implies, rather, the completely carnal instinct that uses the partner as a vehicle of release—without subjugation. Amazingly, some read this poem as advocating rape, when what it does is advocate freedom from the Patrarichy for both men and women. It becomes harder to see how this could be misunderstood. One can only imagine that preconceived notions have a way of becoming self-fulfilling prophecies. We see what we wish to see.
Titles such as, “How to Make People Hate You”, “Hate Me ‘Cause You Ain’t Me”, “How to Gut a Panda”, and even “How to Make Love (by Jack the Ripper)” make it hard to see these poems as anything other than sardonic/sarcastic/facetious witticisms encapsulated in time-release forms, yet some manage to do so.
In “How to Make People Hate You” Mr. Sizemore argues that the way to make people hate you is to tell the truth. Honesty is apparently not always the best policy. When you tell the truth, you bleed from the wounds you suffer, but because you told the truth, you are yourself to blame. “You see, you have been biting your own hand/and then complaining about the pain.” If you are punished for telling the truth, you should not complain. The reception to his poems proves that he knows of what he speaks, and while he does not complain of fair criticism, he certainly criticizes the unfair.
The fact is, there is violence in these poems, but as in Shakespeare, the violence serves the message of peace, and there is much more going on in them than violence. It takes but looking to see what is there.
In some of the poems, the poet adopts a violent persona, in others he defends himself against violence. But each poem represents a battle, a struggle, with a different outcome. To dismiss this collection as trash is to reveal one’s own ignorance and prejudices. It is nothing of the sort. Jay Sizemore is a Rich White American Straight Man employing the powers of his privileges to fight injustice by holding it up to the scorching white light of criticism in the form of satire. Not everyone has the stomach for such challenging art, and Mr. Sizemore’s nouns, verbs, and adjectives are not for the faint of heart, but his work is first rate.
It should be mentioned that in the first version of this book, Misogynist, Mr. Sizemore named some of his poems after his real-life antagonists. Naturally, this did not go over well. Strangely, some of them felt threatened enough to complain to Amazon, which forced Mr. Sizemore to rename his poems and book. Mr. Sizemore explained regarding the poetry-name issue: “The names I used are first names of people who have targeted me and worked to blacklist me from a secret Facebook group. The poems themselves of course have no real connection to anyone, but I used those first names knowing those people would find them and assume they were about them, because of what they accused me of in the past. They used that accusation to ruin my writing career, so I hoped they would believe I wrote about them as a play on their previous accusations. It was a sort of purposeful martyrdom for free speech.” He tricked and taunted them to show what haters they were, and it worked. Unfortunately, this came at the price of suffering fools with pitchforks.
Where I come from, if one person says, “You misunderstood me,” the other person asks how. In this case, we have readers who dare to say, “No, I didn’t.” The author explicitly states his work is misunderstood and explains what it means, yet readers say they know better than the man who wrote it? We are to condemn him as violent, not those who deny the author his agency and right to declare his own meaning and intent? What kind of backward world is this? These same critics claim to oppose the denial of agency while denying Mr. Sizemore his? Oh, the hypocrisy.
We read for knowledge and hope wisdom will come on its own. Books cannot provide it. Writers hope readers will bring wisdom to the table, but they don’t always. Jay Sizemore’s poetry is a bold, provocative statement to a world that is often not ready. Shakespeare advised writing to please the one person of discernment in the back row who knew better than the rabble. That is what Jay Sizemore does. Let us hope it does not get him killed in the end.
The best art challenges us to discuss, understand, and fight evil, often by highlighting abuses. Jay Sizemore’s recent poetry collection CENSORED is in this category. It is strong, not for everyone, but it is not anti-women. It is pro-reconciliation. Or, as another acquaintance said, readers who can’t read worry me.
P. S. For writing this review, I was told I was “trolling the lit community”. For saying I was a member of the global community of writers and artists, I was told, “I get that you write, but that doesn’t make you a ‘member’ of anything but Jay’s fan club.” Such a statement would be laughable if it weren’t a frightening attempt at intellectual tyranny.
December 9: Today a great man passed away: Bob Cone, the inventor of Liquid Light and a friend of mine.
November 30: My story “Perma-Rest” is now available free at Better Than Starbucks! This is the ONLY short story of mine available free online! Thanks to Editor in Chief Anthony Watkins for supporting independent poets and writers!
November 21: Today I learned that the West Linn Library has added to its collection my two new releases, Money’s Men and Mister Positive and Other Stories, bringing the number of my works in its collection to six. I am humbled by this honor and invite anyone within range to read my work for free–it’s about the exchange of ideas, not money.
November 19: note my book in flyer!
November 10: On Sunday, December 3, from noon to four I will be appearing at the Oregon Historical Society with many other Oregon authors to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the OHS. Please join me at 1200 SW Park Ave in downtown Portland for this once-in-a-lifetime event.
October 29: My new story, “Perma-Rest”, will be appearing in the near future exclusively on BetterThanStarbucks.Org. This marks the first time that a story of mine has been chosen to appear in an online literary magazine. I am humbled by the honor, and to return the favor, I am not going to publish it anyplace else for years! Thank you, Anthony Watkins!
October 7: On NOVEMBER 4, from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
October 3: SAVE THE DATE: Saturday, November 4, from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., local author Robert Peate will be appearing at Kaleidoscope Chocolate Shoppe & Wine Bar in West Linn, reading something new and signing copies of his two new works, Money’s Men and Mister Positive and Other Stories, as well as earlier works. For updates:
October 1: Surprise new release! What if the war between the sexes were a real war? My story The War envisions that very scenario. See story page.
September 27: Two new releases are available on paper and Kindle ebook! Money’s Men, my sequel to 2013’s Sisyphus Shrugged, and Mister Positive and Other Stories, my second short-story collection, featuring my short stories from 2012 to 2017–including one written within the past month! For more information, visit their pages on this site.
September 12: I decided this week to make a list of my all-time favorite books.
Art of War, the
Brave New World
Count of Monte Cristo, the
Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus
Hunger Games, the
Iron Heel, the
It Can’t Happen Here
Lord of the Rings, the
Pride & Prejudice
To Kill a Mockingbird
What is to be Done?
September 11: My second short-story collection, five years in the making, is coming soon–the short stories I wrote between 2012 and 2017, six full stories and two shorter pieces.
“The Creeps” is my first serious ghost story.
“Mister Positive”, an indictment of optimism without action, is the story of a man who thinks things will turn out fine no matter what and pays the price.
“The Vegans” explores the morality of eating humans.
“Compromises” is a love story across the boundary of oppression.
“Libertarian Bed & Breakfast” asks, “At what price good service?”
“Solitude” depicts a man learning how terrible it is not to care about others.
*Mister Positive and Other Stories* will also include the short pieces “Roy” (a Blade Runner prequel) and “Three-Paragraph Story”.
August 31: I would like to share with you my admiration for Rachel Dolezal.
From the time she was a small child, Rachel Dolezal identified as African. She has not lied, she has lived her truth, and for this she has faced hatred from “black” and “white”. Has she harmed anyone? No. She has exposed the social construct of race and faced society’s desire to impose its rigid construct. To that Rachel says no. To those faulting her for calling herself transracial and pointing out similarities akin to transgenderism, she says race, as a social construct, is more fluid than gender. Why this should bother anyone remains a mystery to me.
No one finds it hard to understand why an underprivileged person would wish to be seen as privileged, but some ask, “Why would a privileged person wish to be seen as a member of our society’s underprivileged group?” They do not understand that her identity is separate from considerations of social advantage; it is her identity. Gays and others have often had to point out that they would never choose a life of abuse; they are simply who they are. That her journey brought her from the favored class to the less-favored one makes her journey all the more noteworthy, but the abuse she has suffered from both classes shows how unprepared our society is to accept someone who upsets the American racial paradigm.
As a writer I try to provoke thought, which she has certainly done, and I find that thinking is something most people are afraid to do. I can’t thank her enough for the national conversation she has started. Millions of people are locked into their rigid social constructs, but there is much more to the human experience than being pigeonholed by others. That just doesn’t work, and she has exposed that. Worse, a society that condemns racism seems to have no problem telling her who she is and what she should be based on its own casual observations and snap judgements while claiming to oppose doing so.
I find her story and book (not to mention her truly amazing art) moving and beautiful, and I am proud to consider myself a supporter. I will do everything I can, including giving out copies of her memoir, to help my family, friends, and others understand not only her but the complexity of the human experience.
I am grateful for Ms. Dolezal’s book and life. It may take society a while, but she will be remembered. I consider her a pioneer, a cultural/racial ambassador, and a hero for daring to live her own truth in the face of not only respectful disagreement but disrespectful intolerance. I consider her biological parents sabotaging her career an act of cruelty, perhaps the worst blow of all, and the opposite of the love Ms. Dolezal has shown her siblings and children. That they tried to damage her credibility to protect their son from being exposed as a child rapist shows where their priorities lay.
Ms. Dolezal has herself said to me, “Thanks so much for taking the time to read, and for reading to understand, not to judge.”
August 13: At the West Linn Book Festival I met some great writers. One of them is Rosanna Mattingly, a scientist and former beekeeper, who has written the definitive book on bees. If you have even the slightest interest, you will be amazed by Honey-Maker: How the Honey Bee Does Her Work. Today she said of bees, “We will never know all there is to know about them.”
Another great writer I met is Sharon Streeter, currently writing under a pen name I dare not reveal. Here she is looking through Sisyphus Shrugged before buying The Recovery and Mister Negative and Other Stories. I really loved these two sweet ladies.
July 18: I will be appearing at the West Linn Book Festival on August 13 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at 21890 Willamette Drive, West Linn, OR 97068. Come by, see what local authors are writing, and have a great time!
June: I had a great time at the June 3 author fair and even sold some books! Thanks to all who came and supported local authors. A photo of me at the fair is now one of the site backgrounds.
April: APPEARANCE ANNOUNCEMENT: I will be appearing at the Oregon City Public Library’s 2017 Local Author Fair, sitting at a table, selling and signing books! Please join me if you are in the area!
The Fair will take place on June 3, 2017, in the Oregon City Public Library’s Community Room:
Oregon City Public Library
606 John Adams
Oregon City OR 97045
The Fair will begin at 12:00 p.m. and end at 3:00 p.m.
Money’s Men is still under publisher review. I hope for release soon!
December: final edits are being made on Money’s Men, which will be released soon after almost 4 years of work!
September 23: a university professor is considering teaching Sisyphus Shrugged. He may decide against, but it is an honor just to be nominated. It really is!
August 30: Spent the day creating covers for my next two books!
August 22: Learned the West Linn Library now has three of my books on its shelves: The Recovery, Mister Negative and Other Stories, and Sisyphus Shrugged. Two of them on the shelf:
Thanks to librarian and author Cheryl Hill for her support.
August 22: Took character photos of Silke Schäuble for Money’s Men. My favorite result:
June 1: Finished and sent to beta readers with an August 1 deadline. Boy, it feels great after three years! Final edits after they make suggestions.
May 27: Money’s Men editing is up to page 500! Only 10 more pages of the story to go!
May 21: Money’s Men editing is up to page 491.
May 14: Money’s Men editing is up to page 480. Feeling better. Now it’s just the move slowing me down.
May 6: Money’s Men editing is up to page 471. It’s been slow going due to illness and my family moving.
April 24: Money’s Men editing is up to page 467.
April 22: saw Heather Nova at the Hotel Cafe in Los Angeles, California.
April 17: Money’s Men editing is up to page 461.
April 15: saw Heather Nova at the Alberta Rose Theater in Portland, Oregon.
Gave her Mister Negative and Other Stories.
April 6: Money’s Men editing is up to page 442.
March 30: Money’s Men editing is up to page 428.
March 21: Money’s Men editing is up to page 407.
March 13: Money’s Men editing is up to page 373.
March 6: Money’s Men editing is up to page 351.
February 26: Money’s Men editing is up to page 335.
February 22: Money’s Men editing is up to page 316. In the home stretch now!
February 15: Money’s Men editing is up to page 297.
February 7: Money’s Men editing is up to page 285.
January 31: Money’s Men editing is up to page 270.
January 26: Money’s Men editing is up to page 257.
January 24: I wish to announce that I have an official editor, for the first time in my life. Jena Demerly is that rare person who both pays attention and understands my work, catching and pointing out things that even my wonderful wife, Robin, missed when reading it. Jena is spectacular for me, and I am deeply grateful she has agreed to help me help my own work. As an editor myself, I understand the value of editing, and I appreciate finding someone I can trust to do for me what I try to do for others. Thanks, Jena. I hope to work with you for many years.
January 14: last night our eight-year-old daughter appeared for the first time in William Gibson’s The Miracle Worker, as Perkins Girl Sarah, with these five lines: “Don’t go, Annie, away.” “Don’t go, Annie, where the Sun is fierce.” “Don’t go, Annie, to her.” “But then why are you going?” “What?” She did this in front of dozens of adults at the Artists’ Repertory Theater, downtown Portland.
She was wonderful. Pride doesn’t even begin to describe my reaction. I feel lucky to know such an amazing being.
It was the first play to make me cry. The lead actress, the stage manager, the production assistant, and two other actors in the play said Claire was great. I already knew she was, but they were kind to say it. The experience highlighted the powers of writing and performing. What a dream, to have something one creates move others so deeply!
December 27: Money’s Men editing is up to page 222. The finished product will exceed 450 pages, so I’m just about half finished! I am very excited to share this story with the World, after having worked on it for almost three years!
December 26: this week I saw The Force Awakens. I liked it, though it was my least favorite of the Star Wars movies. But there are things to criticize about it. It was mostly action and nostalgia without a compelling new story, and the parts that were compelling (the main characters’ histories) were barely touched on. What we did get was good as far as it went, but I primarily want depth, psychology, and philosophy, not chases, fighting, and explosions. (I know, I’m a weirdo.) Hopefully we’ll get more substance in the next movie.
The lightsaber duel, however, was my favorite in all the Star Wars movies, because it contained both action, emotion, and spontaneity–everything I wanted in one scene.
November 18: as of this week I am on page 170 of editing Money’s Men. I am grateful both for the interest in my sequel to Sisyphus Shrugged and for the patience my readers have shown!
October 9: Apparently at least two different quotation websites are now quoting me. I had nothing to do with this, am surprised by it, and do not mind at all. This is one of the two. Thank you!
August 31: New release! On Writing, which features my first poem, my first story, my two favorite memoir pieces, and my advice for writer’s block. I have set the ebook and paper prices as low as they are allowed to be ($0.99 for ebook and $5.38 for paper). I am very proud of this little release.
However, yesterday I learned that my childhood friend April Doscher, about whom the first of the two memoir pieces was written, passed away earlier this year at the untimely age of 44. I learned this when I tried to contact her to tell her she was in my new book. My joy over my new release was immediately changed to shock and heartbreak. My heart goes out to her loved ones and friends, and now I hope my writing about April will in some way serve as a memorial to her.
July 22: my review of Go Set a Watchman on Amazon.
July 15: released Chapter 1 of Money’s Men, the sequel to Sisyphus Shrugged, on this page: MM Ch. 1
With Bob Cone, inventor of photographic emulsion Liquid Light, used on the World’s largest photograph, who praised Sisyphus Shrugged thus:
“Robert, reading Sisyphus Shrugged and enjoying it greatly, though it scares the hell out of me. Every day, politics gets closer to the reality you project.”
June 9: What is writing? Is it a waste of time? What does it mean to be a writer? What does a writer do?
What is the importance of setting off into the unknown and documenting one’s hesitation, uncertainty, and ignorance? How does this help others? What is aimlessness? Are we doomed to pick directions whether we wish to pick or not?
Do writers deserve any respect whatever? Why would they choose to do this except for some great need? What is that need? Is it universal or individual? Why do I write for readers I will never meet?
Me reading “Neighbors” at Plew’s Brews in North Portland.
Top two photos by Kate Carroll De Gutes.
Bottom photo by Nena Rawdah of St. Johns Booksellers.
“That was demented! I want to get to know some of your other realities.”–Rustin Wright
“Your story was hilarious.”
“You read! Thank you.”
It was a good evening.
“Your reading was funny and creepy at the same time.”–Sylvia Allen
“Your story was funny and timely and creepy, speaking right to some of my greatest frustrations as a parent.”–Nena Rawdah
Two of my books on display at the reading (thanks, Nena!).
May 29: St. Johns Booksellers is a treasure of the Portland independent books and arts community. Sadly the building where the bookstore is housed has suffered some structural damage and the city has closed the store until it is dealt with. Every day that Néna Rawdah is unable to open and sell books is a day the overall life of the store is in jeopardy. Please join us on Friday May 29th at Plew’s Brews (8409 N Lombard St, Portland, OR 97203) for an offbeat evening of experimental music and readings by local authors to support the store.
Evening Performance Schedule:
7-10 PM Readings by Sylvia Allen, Nathan Tompkins, Robert Peate, Martha Shelley, Tommy Gaffney, Julia Laxer, Kate Carroll de Gutes, Josh Lubin, Ross Blanchard, and Brenda Taulbee!
10 PM Reading with Music by the Mighty Jennifer Robin https://myspace.com/writingsofjenniferrobin/music/songs
10:30 PM Dead Air Fresheners https://myspace.com/deadairfresheners/music/songs
11 PM Jeremy C. Long https://jeremylong.bandcamp.com/
11:30 PM Von Helwig https://youtu.be/VPPnystMp8I
Midnight ENJIL https://soundcloud.com/enjil
$5-10 suggested donation, but nobody will be turned away as moral and spiritual support are also gladly accepted. Due to the alcohol for sale at Plew’s, we must require 21+ for attendance.
If you are unable to attend, but would still like to support St. Johns Booksellers, please visit our Go Fund Me campaign: http://www.gofundme.com/stjohnsbooksellers
May 24: I will be reading my short story “Neighbors” at this event on May 29, to benefit St. Johns Booksellers. If you are in Portland, please come to save the best independent bookstore in Portland.
April 12, 2015: I am delighted by this review of my novel Sisyphus Shrugged, posted today by Beverly Garside, author of Randian dystopia I and You:
Wow, what a journey. Many years ago I read Atlas Shrugged and found it fascinating–not because I bought its ideas but simply because I had never been exposed to that point of view before. Some decades later, after suffering the effects of that viewpoint inflicted upon us in reality, I saw all the huge cracks in Rand’s theories. And then comes Sisyphus Shrugged, a sequel to the story written in so much the same style that it seems like it could have been written by Rand herself (if not for the contrary editorial slant).
Sisyphus Shrugged may, according to other criteria, be criticized for its style: a preponderance of philosophy and politics over plot, with shop-keepers and factory workers spouting dissertations on the nature of commerce, freedom, and morality. But this is exactly the style used by Rand in Atlas Shrugged, and as a fan of philosophy, I like it. It’s not only a ‘reality with a grain of salt’ narration that fits perfectly with a near-future dystopia–it’s like its own genre and deserves to be recognized as such.
My favorite discovery with Sisyphus Shrugged is the very philosophy it advocates, a refutation of the rule of free-market capitalism that doesn’t retreat automatically into communism. In my mind, both are just opposite sides of the same evil coin. Peate doesn’t take the easy route of painting the world exclusively in black and white with an either-or choice as to which extremist side is which color. He takes the much more difficult road of sifting through the shades of grey and rainbow colors that make up the real world, and challenges us to assemble our own coin in a way that works best. Not perfectly, but better than the simplistic formulas that characterize so much of the political Right and Left.
Also refreshing is Peate’s nuanced and realistic exploration of the role of force and violence in revolutions and social change. Rather than automatically retreating to the white robe of pacifism, he incorporates the violence that is inevitably committed by the adherents of both sides, and explores the difficult path of situational ethics in the midst of activism. It’s this very lack of self-righteousness and simplistic prescriptions in the story that distinguishes it from Rand’s opus. People run the gamut from heroes to flawed and misguided humans to psychopathic monsters and don’t always stay neatly in a single category. In the personal as well as the political, Peate’s characters’ task is to move from a dystopian status quo without falling into the opposite extreme, to create traction on the slippery slopes and find compromise and middle ground. And while the result is a location definitely left-of-center, it avoids simplistic solutions and paper-doll worlds that too often characterize political fiction.
It is for these reasons that I believe the Left, just as much as the Right, needs to read Sisyphus Shrugged.
December 21, 2014: “North Korea has banned Robert’s books and threatens death to anyone who dares to buy and read them,” reader Larry Parrish jests. “EVERYONE better NOT DARE oppose North Korea’s order!” David Moyer, on the other hand, thinks North Korea likes my “commie tome” and submitted this photograph as evidence:
What about you? Do you think Kim Jong Un would like or dislike my pro-worker story?
December 10: video brainstorming Money’s Men, shot by author Dan Marshall:
I had just remarked that imagination and intelligence could be seen as obstacles to getting through daily life. They are certainly more than is required to work and pay bills. After this lunch meeting, I wrote the scene in Money’s Men in which Preston Pennington and a scientist discuss plans to neutralize independent thought in workers.
November: after six months in Alaska working and researching material for future stories, I have returned to Oregon. It feels good to be back home.
October 16: Gulliver’s Books in Fairbanks, Alaska, put its three copies of Sisyphus Shrugged out on shelves this week! If you’re in Fairbanks, stop into their great book store and tell them I sent you!
July: That moment when, after writing fiction since 1981, you walk into a Barnes & Noble to find your novel on the shelf for sale. Sisyphus Shrugged by Peate is about ten feet away from Atlas Shrugged by Rand. Thank you, Fairbanks B&N!
June 21: as of May 13, I am now living in Alaska, gathering material for as yet undetermined future projects!
April 25: When I write, I write for friends I’ll never meet.
My Writing Process
Sam Snoek-Brown was kind enough to invite me to participate in this “My Writing Process Tour” thing. “It’s a fun project, I think,” Sam said, “because it gives us all a bit of insight into each other’s writing lives, and it helps introduce each other to other writers.” He posted and answered the following questions. Here are my answers, for those who are interested.
What am I working on?
Right now I am writing my first science-fiction novel, entitled The Sun Children. I am also writing my sequel to Sisyphus Shrugged (itself a sequel to Atlas Shrugged), entitled Money’s Men.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
It’s better. Just kidding! Well, my stuff is deep, true, and at times heavy. Recently I read Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card, and what struck me about it was that Card tells the truth. My stuff is like that too. It makes one think.
Why do I write what I do?
I like to pick a societal problem and use it as a prompt, exploring its every facet and handing my work back to society as if to say, “Here. This is what I did to address your problem. I hope it helps.”
How does my writing process work?
I get an inspiration, I write it down, I read it again later and improve it.
April 12: Reading and writing make up one big conversation through human history. We each participate and contribute in our own way.
April 5: My writing is designed to make my reader think. It is not comedy, though there is amusement within. My writing is medicine for Society’s ailments.
Sisyphus Shrugged on the shelf at the Oregon City Public Library this week:
March 19: On a lark, I looked to see if I was in the catalogue yet. I am. One of my books is in a public library in America. I might not be able to find a teaching job, but at least someone thinks I have something of value to contribute to Society. Thank you, Oregon City Public Library.
The book, Gentle Tara and the Butter-Fly Ride, is listed on this page.
February 7: two big items since my last post! I have been picked up by Portland micropublisher Prose City Books! My self-publishing days, as good as they were, are over. My titles will stay available on Amazon until everything is set up there, to make sure there is no interruption in availability. Prose City can offer me more formats, wider distribution, marketing, higher royalties, and even hard covers! It made the most sense for me at this point in my career.
And the Oregon City library said it would like to stock my books on its shelves! This is a dream come true. I let them know the Prose City situation, so once new copies are available, I will deliver those to the library. Amazing.
December 24: It’s been too long since I’ve updated this page! For the past few months I’ve been working on an anti-theocracy dystopian science-fiction novel entitled The Sun Children. It has its own site, here. I am very excited about this project. Give it a look! I hope for a spring 2014 release.
July 21: I don’t have any other readings scheduled and, truth be told, I am not sure I feel like scheduling any more immediately. Friday night’s reading was great, but I feel like pondering everything that has already happened for a while, to consider my next move carefully. I don’t want to rush headlong into another bookstore. I want to research bookstores carefully. Happily, there are a couple websites listing bookstores that host readings. Wish me luck!
In the mean time, there are still two days left to enter to win a free copy of Sisyphus Shrugged, here.
July 20: Attended Heather Arndt Anderson’s reading for Breakfast: a History. My review of her work on Amazon says it all:
“Ms. Anderson presents a history of ‘the most important meal of the day’ from antiquity to the present, highlighting the interesting stories behind what we do and what we no longer do. Did you know the ancient Greeks ate donuts? Do you know what they dipped them in? It wasn’t coffee or tea. Ms. Anderson seasons her history with the perfect mixture of facts, quotations, and witticisms designed to keep the reader both educated and entertained. I cannot imagine a better book on the topic. Foodies will rejoice to devour this delectable discovery!”
Her food blog, featuring creative recipes and articles, is at VoodooandSauce.com.
July 19: Tonight’s reading went well. We had five strangers and sold four books. The best surprise of the night was Cynthia L. Moyer attending with her daughters! The Q&A after the reading was as great as the reading itself.
July 16: Article by Raymond Rendleman!
July 13: Here is the flyer for my 7/19 reading at St. Johns Booksellers, in PDF form (will open in new window): sisyphus
July 9: Tonight my friend Dan Marshall will be giving his first reading from The Lightcap, his first novel. As his friend, I will be there. As his editor, I would like to invite you to come to hear excerpts of this magnificent science-fiction work if you are in town and if you like science fiction.
That’s the Record Room, 8 NE Killingsworth, Portland, OR 97211 tonight at 7:00 p.m.
July 3: This morning Lisa Loving of KBOO-FM was kind enough to interview me about my latest novel.
The full audio is here, and I am very pleased with how it went. Thanks, Lisa!
July 2: My radio appearance on 90.7 KBOO-FM Portland has been rescheduled to TOMORROW!
From 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. PST!
Please listen in if you can!
Podcast file to follow.
June 30: Tonight Robin and I went to see the Portland Actors Ensemble production of The Merchant of Venice in plaza downtown Portland.
The Merchant of Venice is Shakespeare’s indictment of the anti-Semitism rampant in his day. From before the play opens, the Jews are persecuted and oppressed. Shylock recounts this. Antonio represents the establishment. He persecutes Shylock until, in his need but also with his privilege, he thinks he can use Shylock. Shylock notes the irony and injustice of this. Antonio also thinks he can easily win forgiveness of his loan with an appeal to the mercy he never showed a minority.
“I will have my bond!” Shylock repeats pathetically, clinging to all he has left after suffering torment after torment. Shylock is abused from all quarters, including from within his own home, when his daughter betrays him and steals his dead wife’s ring. Shakespeare does these things to engender sympathy for Shylock; that companies did not depict him sympathetically for almost three hundred years after the play was written is testament both to the anti-Semitism and the ignorance the play depicts. In the play, the entire society is anti-Semitic. That Antonio, victorious, does not give Shylock back the money he won shows Antonio’s monstrous sense of entitlement. That Shylock is ordered to convert to Christianity is the worst evil in the play. Shakespeare indicts the anti-Semitism by depicting it in its total tyranny.
Everyone in tonight’s production did a great job. We left heartbroken and reeling with the shock of the horror depicted. That the play continued beyond the trial to show the uselessness and corruption of the husbands, that Shakespeare’s heroines are feminist milestones (both smarter and more moral than their husbands), seems anticlimactic. To call the play a comedy, as the First Folio did, is to demean its moral lesson. Yes, there is amusement, but it is dystopian social commentary of the highest order.
Bravo, PAE. I congratulate you on your magnificent performance.