Liquid Ink

The official website of Gint Aras, Finalist 2016 CWA Book Award


Reading from Ghetto Blueblood

In January, I had the pleasure of reading at Waterline Writers, among the most welcoming communities for writers. The venue at Water Street Studios is worth visiting on its own.

Fans of The Fugue and Finding the Moon in Sugar might be curious to know what I’m working on now. This reading offers a sneak preview. This excerpt comes from a recently completed manuscript, titled Ghetto Blueblood, which I’m currently shopping.

Yes…my beard was shaved. My kids had lice, so I sliced it all off as a precaution.

Enjoy. If you’re an industry professional who stumbled on this and became interested, please contact me.

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Readers ask: So…what’s a fugue?

Among the challenges I faced trying to sell my novel, which took about a decade, was that my title, The Fugue, refers to something obscure. I actually fought with this title for a long time, and I came up with other ones, some of them embarrassingly bad. Obviously, no alternative title satisfied (for reasons I think most readers will—even without learning what those titles were—understand if they investigate the novel).

Still, I want to say some things about my title. Just the other day, at a library, a woman looked at a Fugue postcard I had given her and asked, “How do you pronounce that?”

This is how: /fjuːɡListen here.

What does the word mean?

One reason I found the title attractive was that the word has multiple meanings, and I explore all of them in the novel. I’ll guess most people will associate the word with music, primarily a polyphonic composition technique. Here’s how a character in the novel—she’s a teenage music student—understands a fugue:

Lita knew what a fugue was, a composition of usually two strands—voices—of music that borrowed short melodies and phrases from each other. It was like a game where melodies played side-by-side and pretended to be each other, or sometimes even became one another. They could weave together like braids or plaits, then split up and come back together again.

There’s also this educational You Tube video called What Is a Fugue? It really explains why these kinds of compositions are fascinating.

One of my favorite musical recordings is this one here, Ashkenazy playing Shostakovich’s Preludes and Fugues. While listening to that music with a friend in my Manhattan apartment back in 2000, I wondered out loud if it could be possible to write a work of literature on the principles of a musical fugue. Soon enough, I tried my hand. Whether or not I succeeded remains to be seen.

Of course, the word has other meanings. It’s a synonym of flight. That’s to say an attempt to escape, to flee a threat.  One fate of those in flight is displacement. The Fugue deals with an entire community of displaced persons and their children.

The last meaning is difficult to discuss without a spoiler, so I’ll say little about it. When I was taking psychology classes in Urbana, Illinois, I learned about conditions known as “transient” or “dissociative” fugues,  or “fugue states”. This National Geographic article tells of a contemporary case, and this book presents fascinating case studies. These days people think of the psychological states as forms of amnesia, but I’ve heard arguments that they are forms of schizophrenia or identity disorders. One thing seems common: in all cases, the person suffering from the condition has endured a horrifying trauma.

The book launches next week. I hope you check it out.

 


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Book launch reading and gathering

I’m happy to announce that my book launch reading will take place at City Lit Books in Logan Square, here in Chicago, on December 17th at 6:30. Come purchase a copy of The Fugue, have it signed, meet me and support an amazing independent bookstore.

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I won’t be giving a traditional reading (the kind where a writer stands in front of people and mumbles), but will instead talk about the process of writing a long book, one that took fifteen years to publish. Interestingly, some of the topics The Fugue deals with are more relevant now than they were when I first started the manuscript: the sociology of refugees, a culture of fear and secrecy, and the search for meaning in a society whose institutions are failing. Of course, I’ll  read short sections.

There will be a brief musical interlude featuring world-class violinist Maria Storm. She’s going to play Bach’s Fugue from the Violin Sonata in G minor.

Afterwards, I hope interested parties will come along for a drink down at The Owl.

Help me figure out how much wine to get by announcing your wish to attend this event. Click here.

 


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What’s my heritage? (Links to essays)

The Summer Literary Seminars are in their fifth day—fourth day of classes and lectures and readings—and the event has been fantastic. It’s a privilege to attend once again (this time with my little girl).

I’ve noticed that a lot of traffic from the SLS website has found its way here to Liquid Ink, and students are perusing my photos and blog entries. Last night I got into conversations with some students who asked about my connection to Lithuania.

Here’s an essay I wrote about my grandparents’ flight from Lithuania in the 40’s. It’s titled Displacing Forces, and was originally published in Dialogo magazine out of DePaul University.

Here’s the blog post that has gotten the most traffic in the history of my blog. It also says something about my heritage. You will not need to remember what happened in the London summer Olympics to catch its drift.

Cheers.

Photo: Twilight in Vilnius

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