Apex Reviews' recent interview with
GARY BOLICK, author of “ANGEL’S ORACLE”...
APEX: What inspired you to craft this riveting, thought-provoking tale of spiritual transformation?
GB: The genesis of any story for me always begins with a single image, as though I were in the middle of a lucid dream, but wide awake. If the image remains and sits on my brain for a while, I know that a story is there, attempting to break out. The idea of a tongue-shaped, smooth marble rock with four slits running through it persisted, so I began to explore why and how it came to bury itself in my subconscious. I’ve read and studied the works of Carl Jung and his theory of the Collective Unconscious and his theories on why myth and religion are important to mankind. I also studied Greek Art and Mythology in college. Anyway, when I began to walk around the idea and image of the oracle, it set flint to tinder.
APEX: What’s the significance of the book’s title?
GB: Again, it’s the importance of myth, symbols, and archetypes – ideas that Jung advanced better than anyone before or since. The title is meant to evoke the Oracle at Delphi, the center of the ancient Western world, a place where the population went for spiritual and moral guidance. As modern as we all fancy ourselves, we still reach out in the dark for a helping hand. Even today, if one is not religious, then science becomes the answer, a sort of ‘secular religion.’ We’d like to believe that we – mankind – have progressed past this need for reassurance, but we haven’t. The title is a reminder that man has always, and perhaps will always continue to cling to beliefs or ideas larger than himself, to prove to himself that he is not alone. Call it hope or a reaction to the existential crisis, but even those concepts don’t fully describe man’s fear of alienation and loneliness. The indifference of nature, man’s lack of a natural place in the universe ... these force him to create witnesses, large ideas, or monuments that connect him back into the natural world and the abstract, highly subjective world of his own personal experience. Through these creations or ideas, hopefully, he can reconnect with the outside or objective world. Music, a soul that lives on past death, voices from the past that instruct us; these all are all very real expressions of wants, needs, and the need and desire for love. I think we’d all love to be able to go to a place, sit down, and let the wind, the air that we breathe, soothe and instruct us.
APEX: Please share for our readers the legend of how the Four Seasons came to be.
GB: I wanted to create a myth of free will that still worked within the guidelines of the Judeo-Christian dogma. Kurt Godel, in his incompleteness theorems, postulated that any ‘perfect’ system would predict its own demise or flaw. Free will, most believe, is granted by virtue of being created by a single god or maker. But even in a supposedly perfect system – Eden, paradise – the very idea of it will create a response contrary to its original intent. When the four angels refuse to aid Lucifer in his rebellion to take over heaven, but also refuse to remain in heaven after the rebellion has been quashed, they become the flaw, or rather the expression of free will, in the perfect system. Even if free will is bestowed, by its very nature it cannot be controlled – fortunately. The flaw it exposes is the idea that a single overruling idea or dogma, even with the best intentions, can be used to rule, control, or guide every individual. The angels creating the four seasons are permanent reminders of this idea of randomness of the individual creating his own response to a single overriding idea or dogma.
APEX: How does that legendary tale play into the central storyline for the book?
GB: It goes to the heart of inequality and how an individual can counter it and survive. When the angels are trapped in the wind, unable to fight back, even passive, non-resistance will not save them. It is only when, out of loneliness – out of love, if you will – they create within their own time and space and purpose, entities who are a part of, but not participants in the ‘paradise’ denied them. By virtue of their own individual free will, they free themselves from the laws and ideas that had imprisoned them. The myth becomes a blueprint for each character of the story to follow or ignore. Virgil Burnett, the protagonist, named after the poet Vergil, who led Dante through the hell, more than anyone in the story is ‘tested’ by this idea. Free will is the most difficult and painful choice of all. To ignore the racist laws, the inequities of class, suffer the loss of a brother just when he deciphers the music of the oracle, the loss of the profoundly innocent Georgia to the corrupt and evil sheriff Billy, to be in love with an African-American woman when he is ‘unnaturally white,’ to have lost his first love to the twists and turns of capitalism, Virgil is literally and figuratively one of the trapped angels. His only hope of surviving becomes exile. To further ground this idea in reality, I included the real-life character of Sidney Betchet, who in fact was for all intents and purposes, exiled from America in Europe; a common dilemma for many black American musicians of that era.
APEX: How is it that Virgil can empathize more with African-Americans than his white ilk?
GB: Virgil is purposely ‘whiter than white’ – that is to say, a quasi-albino. This was done to drive home the point that racism is a product of the individual’s own self-loathing projected onto the easiest target available. Virgil’s ease and connection with Seer Bonham, Jez, and the black workers at the park where he works is meant to demonstrate that anyone outside of the false norm – WASP – is a threat. His extreme whiteness is just as much a burden as being black. That is why I introduced the whole line of thought touched on by Virgil, Stockton, and Sloe of the ‘reverse negative,’ when white becomes black, and black white. At the heart of racism, color becomes irrelevant. It is the ghosts, the secrets, and the self-hatred that each individual carries within himself that is at the heart of racism. Money or the lack of it, one’s particular religion as opposed to another, one’s birthplace or nationality – the list of reasons why people become racists goes on and on. At the heart of it, skin color really becomes simply an easy excuse, one that carries tragic consequences. The simple idea of a reverse negative freeing us from the idea of color will hopefully help drive home this point.
APEX: As your reviewer mentioned, the story features an impressive mix of fantasy and reality. Was it difficult for you to maintain such a well-proportioned balance in the tale?
GB: Not really. Again, I go back to the influences of Carl Jung and, to a certain extent, the French symbolist poet, Stephane Mallarme. Jung, in “Psychology and Alchemy,” spoke of how the alchemists were the last and perhaps only group that attempted to bridge the ideas of science and faith. Their search for the philosophers’ stone, the transmutation of base metal into gold, or the elixir for eternal life, was the practice of science with the spiritual intent of finding a key or an absolute that would inform them metaphysically. They, in fact, probably did not believe that they would ever find eternal life or transmute lead to gold, but went through the process for the sake of the process, if you will. The experiments were like the ‘music of science.’ The process transported and elevated them to another plane, if but for a short while. Mallarme spoke of describing “not the thing, but the effect it creates.” We, all of us, are constantly attempting to comprehend how the world, people, ideas, and beliefs create effects within us. Both the process of bridging two opposing worlds and trying to interpret the effects they create within us is what guided the mix of fantasy and reality throughout the story.
Examples of what I was just describing can be found in the ghosts of poet Charles Baudelaire and capitalist Thomas J. Burley. The poet chronicled in his poem “The Swan,” the mix of fantasy and reality perfectly. Zeus the great swan who had raped Leda and started the Trojan War, now flaps its wings in front of the Louvre, its time of power and rule gone. Thomas J. Burley, the creator and emperor of Angel and Charon, discovers the poet while on a trip in Europe and searches for him, admiring a man of letters who understood the underbelly of mankind so keenly, his book “The Flowers of Evil,” a revelation for the capitalist. Pairing the two as omnipotent judges, acting as harpies on the psyche of Billy Sloane the sheriff, seemed to me a natural mix of fantasy and reality to help reveal the inner workings of Billy’s hatred and self-loathing. Even the deaf-mute Tiff, in discovering Baudelaire’s “Correspondences” and showing it to Virgil, who in turn talks of seeing Baudelaire’s apartment in Paris, is my approach to fitting fantasy and reality together – they are inseparable. Each informs the other, so the trick is in trying to figure out which has the greater effect on the truth.
Still another example is Willie at the oracle. When he deciphers its mystery, he is taken, leaving a lasting impression on Virgil his brother. In a series of dreams and in vigils by the oracle, Willie returns to Virgil, informing him of how and when the oracle will liberate him. Is this really Willie speaking, or is it the effect that Willie had on Virgil reverberating and continuing to transform Virgil? Like the alchemists, it is the process as much as the idea – the effect is the most important thing.
APEX: What kinds of responses have you gotten to your book thus far?
GB: All very positive. People have been very curious as to why and how the book came about. That’s why I am happy and excited to do this interview.
APEX: Is there a central message that you’d like readers to take away from the story?
GB: There are several, but if I had to choose one, it would be from the closing passage of the story, when the father and son discuss anger, “the anger that never seems to change.” I think if everyone would open themselves up to their own voices, memories, emotions, and connections to the past and present, and let these experiences inform them and own them, then maybe we’d all calm down and be a lot more open and understanding of one another.
APEX: How has your publishing experience been thus far with Penumbra Publishing?
GB: Wonderful! I can’t say enough about the great job that Pat and the entire staff have done.
APEX: What are your long-term writing/publishing aspirations?
GB: I’ve just finished another novel. I’ve put it aside and will return to it shortly to see if it in needs more work. I’ll continue to write and hopefully develop an audience. I never really know what to expect, except that I love to write and will continue to write.
APEX: How can our readers learn more about you and your ongoing efforts?
GB: Go to my website: www.bolicknovel.com I have an e-mail address set up with the site:
email@example.com I’ll be happy to answer any and all questions.
APEX: How can they contact you directly?
GB: Again, through the website.
APEX: Any final thoughts you’d like to share?
GB: I really think the exchange of ideas is central to maintaining a civilized world. I wouldn’t ask anyone to sit down and use some of their valuable time if I didn’t really believe in what I was doing. That being said, I think there’s a lot in the story for one to simply enjoy. Sure there’s food for thought, but it’s a hell of a ride, too. Kindest regards.
(For more information or to contact this author, go to his web site at http://www.bolicknovel.com)