I stumbled upon Eleanor Lerman’s work while searching the Empty Sink Publishing Company’s webpage looking for a place to submit one of my short stories. I clicked on ‘Fiction’ just to familiarize myself with what they publish. I randomly chose Lerman’s The Lightship. I was hooked. The writing intrigued me: literary fiction without the enviable prose that describes something so beautifully but really doesn’t have much to carry the story forward. I enjoy this kind of prose. I do. But I found Lerman’s descriptions to be, well, intelligent, for lack of a better word.
From The Lightship: (Ed is a cancer survivor who has just attended a rather boring support group.)
“As Ed ate his lunch, he distanced himself from his reaction to the survivor’s group that morning. The idea of the body’s metamorphosis from the familiar form that encapsulated the self into a kind of ghost-like decay seemed a little less threatening—a little less that had to be dealt with in the immediate present—now that he was out of that depressing basement, relaxing in the sunshine that lit up the world this early afternoon. But thoughts of body and self led him back to his conversation with Mary last night, and her suggestion that the mind—and hence, the self—might not actually be anchored within the body, at least, not in the brain.”
I like this story so much that looked for and found a link to Eleanor Lerman’s webpage and found what I’d hoped to find—a novel. I read an excerpt of Radiomen and immediately downloaded it from Amazon. I knew that I was going to gobble this book up and I did. The only thing I’m going to tell you about it is there are aliens among us. To tell more would ruin the story. I gave it a FIVE star review because everything worked. The book is brilliant and intelligently written and holds conflict and suspense, but it’s genre is not sci-fi. It’s literary fiction that’s not stuffy or fluffy. I highly recommend it!
Joan Baum an NPR Reviewer wrote, “…Raidomen may be science fiction but, hardly, a predictable or typical example of the genre, it may well appeal to those who think they would never read such pop-lit and enjoy it.”
From Radiomen chapter ten, where the protagonist and a friend return to Greenwich Village, a location where both had previously lived.
“From the far west side, near the river, where the Socialist Workers Party had had their headquarters and turned out political tracts on mimeograph machines, to radical book stores and chess clubs and coffee bars, Jack, in particular, seemed to have a geography in his head that had been overlaid by a new grid of streets, new buildings, and a new millennial affluence that had turned old neighborhoods into fashionable quarters, unaffordable to most of their original residents. But he didn’t seem overly nostalgic about any of this, just interested in how time and change fought with memory to establish precedence. Which was more real: the village he remembered—more gay than straight, more hipster-friendly than home to fashionistas, more hole-in-the-wall than penthouse in the sky; or where we often had to make a reservation at some tiny restaurant on Bedford Street, or Jane or Great Jones or Little West Twelfth because the rich and famous (or just plain rich) were edging us out of all the places like Jack and I used to take for granted as being ours?”
Eleanor Lerman is a native New Yorker and unrepentant member of the Woodstock Nation. She has also been a guide in a Chinese museum, the manager of a harpsicord kit workshop, and a comedy writer. Connections between the humor of the human condition and the mysteries of infinity are the hallmark of her nearly forty-year-long writing career, for which she has received numerous awards including a National Book Award nomination, an NEA grant, the 2006 Lenore Marshall Poetry Award from the Academy of American Poets and a 2011 Guggenheim Fellowship. She is the author of six collections of poetry, two collections of short stories and a novel, Jane Planet. Her most recent novel, Radiomen, was published in January 2015.