When you don’t have any money, the problem is food. When you have money, it’s sex. When you have both, it’s health. If everything is simply jake, then you’re frightened of death. — J.P. Donleavy
There are many reasons why my mind turns to dark subjects. I love the ability shadows have to hide the unknown or the unknowable — to sometimes reveal what should never be revealed also comes in good time — I also love that epiphany moment in books and films. I think about conflict and death when writing, and inevitabilities. Many people do. Mr. Donleavy’s quote above is just one of millions of thoughts on the final inevitability. My mind links to death and darkness ever since I read the disturbing stories beginning with Grimm’s Fairy Tales, the truly monstrous original versions not changed by the PC mob. These tales made me seek out similar material from the very moment a wicked stepmother led Hansel and Gretal into a deep and winding wood.
A little over a month ago the sound of a text awoke me from light sleep. A friend shared the news that The Huffington Post just reviewed my first book, Sandcastle and Other Stories. I couldn’t believe it and tripped down the stairs to ask my mate to look up the review on the site. Sure enough, a review by John Malik was there. I still couldn’t believe it. I wondered how Malik had even found and placed my first self-published book into his probably vast and extensive reviewing queue. After I read the astonishing, deep, focused review, the first thing I did was call my father. He was in an Assisted Living Home in Irvine, California at this time, and in declining health; his 79th birthday on October 6th loomed. He said he was proud of me, something that my parents didn’t always say out loud. A lot of parents who grew up in the first depression kept compliments close. My parents told their friends of their five Bog kids’ accomplishments. Dad Bog passed away on Halloween evening while trick or treaters rang the doorbell of my sister’s home — my father would’ve loved this macabre tilt to his final passing. He’s the one who loved horror novels and films, and shared this love with his brood. In the last year of his life he told me to read a certain zombie book set in Ohio, but couldn’t remember the title (I will just have to google it). In the past four years my dad would more often read history and the new book about The Black Count would’ve been his next book to read. Hospice took great care of him in his final days and he did not suffer. My dad was a great American artist and his paintings are being re-sold at auction — his paintings were shown in art galleries in L.A., New York City, Chicago, Columbus, and many more cities across the country. Here is a painting I never knew existed until I searched my father’s name on google. It is from 1968. I was three and my father was about to take a job in the Art Department at the University in Pullman, Washington:
George Bogdanovitch 1968 Nude Bicyclist
The painting I took the detail from for my book’s cover, On The Beach Of Ashbury, was also recently sold at auction by the original buyers.
Anyway, I hope to write more about being parentless in the distant future. I feel a surreal tug on my system most days. I wanted to take this time to share with you The Huffington Post review. I can see my dad, someone I called Dad Bog with the greatest affection, in a happy and content state.
Here’s what Chef John Malik had to say:
Water. It’s a common thematic element in fiction. It can signify cleansing, innocence, life and death. In Justin Bog’s short story collection, Sandcastle and Other Stories, water flows through his scenes as he gives seemingly innocent water borne pastimes a dark and vulnerable side. Warm beaches, languid cruise ships and inviting swimming pools all become menacing swirls of darkness, dragging down the reader as well as the occasional character.
Mr. Bog’s characters range from contemptible wretches to disinterested observers; satisfied to watch life or death pass in front of them as they chronicle the tedium of life. We all know people like this, these are not the second stringers of life content to ride the bench, they are the third string, wallowing through life’s torrents, drifting along, hoping that their seemingly erratic direction will steer them into safety and comfort. His characters stay close to the water, the beach or the river; looking for redemption, a cleansing or a quick escape. In ‘Typecast,’ we meet a journeyman actor who falls all too easily into his character, a “backwoods drug pusher and thief.” In ‘When the Ship Sinks,’ the central character’s total involvement consists of giving away the ending of a novel. “The mortician did it,” he sulks as an interested party picks up a discarded book then tosses it away. In ‘Sandcastle,’ we listen in from an all too close perspective as an incredibly dark scene unfolds in front of us. It’s the type of story that gives one nightmares; we’re close to the tragedy, we try to scream and warn the victim but in this nightmare we’ve lost our voice so no one hears our scream. The waves crash, the ocean’s warm water rushes over us but our voice is muted.
Mr. Bog’s tales are unsettling and foreboding and will leave you with an uneasy feeling, but that’s what he’s after. This is a writer exploring the darker side of the human condition and he does so impressively. Mr. Bogdanovitch is a riveting story teller. Sandcastle and Other Stories is a wonderful collection of writing, a fluid and clever debut, just the appetizer to warm one up for his upcoming novel, Wake Me Up.
I hope you enjoy the darker psychological tales in Sandcastle and Other Stories. The print edition is still forthcoming from Green Darner Press. Please look for that.
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