I recently applied for — and didn’t get — an artists’ fellowship through the New Jersey State Council for the Arts.

As part of the application, I had to submit a sample from one of my novels. I submitted a small chunk of “Gloryville,” which is a sort of tongue-in-cheek homage to certain type of 1960s writer (your Richard Brautigans of the world) as well as a 20th-century “Pilgrim’s Progress” (your John Bunyans of the world), examining the nature of faith and love, and trying to answer this question: Will death will really be as bad as I’m afraid it will be?

Most of the novel is told by a narrator who is dead, looking back at his involvement with a strange and surreal hippie commune in the Berkshires and describing what post-life life is like — he can still think and feel, but he’s a bit less mobile that he used to be.

Obviously, then, “Gloryville” is a parody, a parable, a fantasy — whatever you want to call it.

So here’s what the three judges had to say:
First judge:
A quick-moving plot. We see the story through a dead man’s eyes but with ironic humor.
Second judge:
Interesting format, a bit morbid but creative.

Not exactly the most insightful or in-depth readings, but still not bad, right? You’re almost thinking, “OK, so how much was the fellowship grant he received and what’s he going to do with the money?”

But, wait. We haven’t heard from judge #3, who offers:
Unconvincing authority.
Unconvincing authority! I didn’t convincingly and realistically portray the voice of a dead man who lives on a make-believe commune and is talking to the reader during a series of fantastic and imaginary events that parody tales from great books ranging from Bunyan and the Bible to the Whole Earth Catalog — and then continues his monologue during the course of his own embalming and funeral!

I know the names of the three judges, but I don’t know which one shot down “Gloryville” because the voice was unconvincing, so I’m not going to name names….But I will say this: If that judge happens to stumble upon this Web site, remembers that title “Gloryville,” and wants to get into a little further discussion with the author of “Gloryville” about exactly whose “authority” is “unconvincing,” please contact me and I’ll buy you lunch.

The Artist formerly known as FY09 NJSCA Applicant number 12236/12376


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