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Moronic Ox Literary and Cultural Journal - Escape Media Publishers / Open Books
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Editor's Notebook

Something Old and Something New
by David A. Ross

In 1993, after three trips to Greece, I wrote the rough draft of XENOS while living in Tucson, Arizona. I wrote the entire manuscript (120,00 words before editing) on an ancient Xerox computer that actually had real floppy discs -- the ones about the size of an old 45 rpm record that looked like cellophane and actually folded in half. Each floppy disc had a memory capacity of about 5,000 words, so I ended up with more than twenty of the infernal things!

XENOS was finally published in 1998, six months after my first novel, THE TROUBLE WITH PARADISE, by Escape Media Publishers. The trade paperback edition was pretty successful, quietly selling several thousand copies in bookstores all across America. In fact, I believe a few print copies are still available through remainder booksellers associated with Amazon and Barnes & Noble and Borders, dog-eared and faded though they must certainly be by now.

So that is the story of 'something old'. Now the story of 'something new'.

Open Books has republished all my titles as e-books, XENOS being the final one -- at least for the time being. The book is available as a Kindle Edition at present, but will soon be available in ePub format too, so all e-readers will be covered.

The story revealed in XENOS is of a youngish, middle-aged man who has lost faith in himself amidst what many might call the pinnacle of success. He has lost real contact with his family, he has lost love, and worst of all, he has lost his own integrity.

As a disgruntled engineer working for the Department of Defense, Doran Seeger grows increasingly disenchanted as he sees the results of his talent and his labor used without mercy in the destruction of Iraq during the 1991 Desert Storm invasion.

And when his father suddenly dies (leaving Doran with a final utterance: "Move quickly, before it's too late"), and when his girlfriend Xanthe Travers (a somewhat whimsical but brilliant and self-styled scientist first convinces him to hand over government data on rocket propulsion -- and I'm not going to tell you here what she plans to do with such sensitive information -- then leaves him without explanation or even a good-bye), Doran decides a change is definitely in order -- an open-ended sabbatical in Europe, perhaps, just bumming around country to country to see what might happen.

Well, plenty does indeed happen: an unorthodox political awakening in Amsterdam; an unexpected and reticent affair in the Swiss Alps; a brush-by encounter on a train platform in Italy; and the serendipitous discovery of a wadded-up handbill directing him to a land where gleeful absurdity and real civility rules the day: Greece. The land where democracy, modern medicine, mathematics, philosophy and drama were defined in Western terms. Greece: land of myths and monsters, mystery and intrigue (let us not forget the story of the Trojan Horse). But there is much more than mystery and mythology, or mathematics and drama waiting for Doran in beautiful Hellas: love, too, awaits his arrival.

In short, I think this novel invites readers to take a chance and embrace their deepest longings. It invites readers to make their own dreams come true by taking risks and trusting fate.

Now, the second half of this story: A WINTER GARDEN.

Ten years after writing XENOS, and five years after its publication, I began writing the sequel to the story that seemed to end with far too many unanswered questions. (Actually, I planned it that way from the start, knowing somewhere deep inside myself that I would return to Greece -- possibly many times -- and that the entire tale was not yet told, nor was it yet obvious to me. By 2003, I was actually living in Greece, and I began the sequel to XENOS, A WINTER GARDEN.

A WINTER GARDEN commences ten years onward in Doran's life, just as it was ten years since I'd first written XENOS. The characters in XENOS -- three fast friends, one American and two Dutch sisters -- have scattered to the four winds and have lost track of one another. Doran is now living in Prague and working as an underground art dealer importing paintings (with the help of a Columbian woman) from the former Soviet Union into Europe where he and his partner resell the canvases for a handsome (and inflated) price. He is at home in Prague, with many friends and acquaintances, through which he has established a very viable life for himself. Until he receives a letter from Gisela Van Zyle, the sister of his former girl friend in Greece. Now living in Lagos, Portugal, Gisela informs him that their connection has been curiously and fortuitously re-established because her current boyfriend is the son of one of Doran's artists in the Ukraine. Gisela tells him that she will soon arrive in Prague, and the stage is set for their reunion.

Eventually, Gisela does indeed turn up in Prague. Aside from showing her the sights and reminiscing about old times on the Island of Corfu, Doran invites his ex-lover's sister (now all grown up and a woman in her own rite) to accompany him on a buying trip to Kiev, where she can meet (incognito) her ex-boyfriend's father, the painter. After a brutal robbery at gunpoint in Kiev, Gisela convinces Doran to return to Corfu with her, not so much to re-experience the past, but to embrace the future.

And so begins the tale of Doran's real integration in Greece. No longer a tourist but a bona fide resident of Corfu, he experiences not only the wonders but also the foibles of this most curious culture.

And then there is Modestos (also called Takis) who is their friend and benefactor. He is their teacher, their champion, their Zorba!

A WINTER GARDEN resolves the story of a wayward and discontented seeker who is embraced by an age-old culture with winning customs. It is the story of a man searching for a place of comfort within himself and within the greater world. Doran Seeger is the xenos -- the stranger. Greek culture abhors the idea of a solitary existence, and through its insistant practice of philoxenia -- love of strangers -- it patiently draws Doran out of reticence and shows him a new way of living. The itinerant comes home, finally.

So this is one continuous story. It's halves were written ten years apart, and the story itself mirrors that passage of time. Each book can be read and enjoyed separately, though it is best to read them as a whole - first XENOS, then A WINTER GARDEN.

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