The Wanderess of Roman Payne (by Christina Nordstrom)

November 22nd, 2016

She was a wanderess a drop of free water.There is a new novel that is beginning to have a cult-like following among women with wanderlust.  It is “The Wanderess” by novelist, Roman Payne.  In the realm of writing, it is uncommon to find novels with title like this, and even though if a lady comes of age in a novel, she might be a partaker in the novel however not an adventuress. Female initiation stories in novels are substantially more uncommon, and when we do see them, they never get included in travelling alone. Up till now, it is a social taboo for a lady to travel alone. Apart from concerns for safety, the conviction is that ladies don’t simply don’t just have to travel alone. Luckily, times have changed.


“A young lady voyaging alone” is the subject and setting of Roman Payne’s novel “The Wanderess”. Payne coined the word “Wanderess” in 2013 which has not been found in Google or any Dictionary before the novel was released. Presently, a prevalent quote from the novel is found in more than 150,000 pages on google, yahoo, bing e.t.c The quote goes thus “she was free in her wildness. She was a wanderess, a drop of free water. She belonged to no man and to no city.

A wanderess as being defined by urban word dictionary means a female wanderer, a lady or young lady who travels the world or her nation in search of meaning, or else taking part in artistic pursuits. This quotes has surely lead to the awakening of numerous young ladies because of the envy they have towards men who travel alone. This awakening has been seen on numerous social media, blogs today etc. by naming their web journals “The Wanderess” furthermore posting of this quote on WordPress and Tumblr. A dying mother once told her little girl, “I never got the opportunity to be in the driver’s seat of my own life. I always did what another person needed me to do. I’ve always been another person’s girl or mom or spouse. I’ve never been truly me.” Later, in the wake of travelling the world, Hepola composed that it was “the best thing she had ever done.” Aside magazines and artistic cases supporting this sort of way of life, our way of life and society overall has changed in a way that urges ladies to go alone on the road. Sophie Reynolds once said that ladies have never encountered the flexibility they do today.

As marriage and menopause onset traditions have changed, ladies are no longer anticipated that would get hitched and have babies at a youthful age. And because of working environment globalization, workplace have started to put high esteem on world travel in possibility for positions within their organizations.” Women now have more financial freedom than they used to, plane charges are currently less expensive than any time in recent memory, and wellbeing attentiveness toward ladies voyaging alone have loose in light of the fact that there is more “emphasis” now on ladies’ quality of life than some time recently. As Roman Payne contends, “An expansion in safety risk is a small price to pay where it concerns depriving ladies of their entitlement to encounter an existence that is as wonderful and important as the lives we men experience.” Payne’s novel has been completely positive. One Amazon reviewer claimed it is “the best novel ever.”

“The Wanderess likewise contains extraordinary romance. It starts when then existence of the book’s courageous woman, Saskia gets tangled up with the life of a adventurer named Saul, whose quest for pleasure and fortune is relinquished to help Saskis’ quest for her missing companion and her own particular fortune. The two wind up on a picaresque way that leads them through Spain, France, and Italy and beyond; their adventures weaving them deeper and deeper into a web of envious passion, intrigue, selling out and lastly murder.


Some famous quotes from “The Wanderess”:

“Wandress, Wandress, weave us a storey of seduction and ruse, heroic be the wanderess, the world be her muse!”


“She was a free bird one minute: queen of the world and laughing. The next minute she would be in tears like a porcelain angel, about to teeter, fall and break. She never cried because she was afraid that something would happen; she would cry because she feared something that could render the world more beautiful, would not happen” – Roman Payne.


“She called herself an angel, and wandered the world from childhood till death. She lived every kind of life and dreamt every kind of dream. She was wild in her wandering, a drop of free water. She believed only in her life, and only in her dreams. She called herself an angel, and her god was Beauty.” – Roman Payne.


Conclusively, this novel “The Wanderess has been a source of inspirations for many young women, some said they take it along whenever they want to travel and read it over and over again.

 - Christana Nordstrom


Literary Word of the Week: “Wanderess”

November 12th, 2015


n.- A female wanderer.  A woman or girl who travels the world or her country in search of meaning, or else engaging in artistic pursuits. Word first coined by Roman Payne in his 2013 novel, The Wanderess.

Quote from the Book:

“She was free in her wildness. She was a wanderess, a drop of free water. She belonged to no man and to no city.”

-Roman Payne, The Wanderess

More Wanderess Quotes

Click here for Instagram-style quotes from The Wanderess.



Will Facebook Win the Next Nobel Prize for Literature? Will Wine Intoxication Ever Become Mandatory for Shepherds? …An Afternoon with Authors Pietros Maneos and Roman Payne.

March 2nd, 2015

They are both Americans, both highly-literary: Payne is the author of five novels that take place in Europe and follow the lives of itinerant dreamers who wander the world in search of adventure, meaning, and the “poetic life.”  Like his characters, Payne, 38, is an itinerant dreamer who lives in Paris, wanders in Europe, and devotes his time to “living the Homeric life,” and “inventing the next novel.”  Payne and Maneos are both published by Aesthete Press.

Above, Left: Roman Payne (Photo, copyright 2014: Marta Szczesniak, Photography) | Above, Right: Pietros Maneos. NOTE: SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM OF THE ARTICLE FOR FULL-SIZED PHOTOS OF THE AUTHORS.

Maneos, 35, is no less a son of the divine Homer.  He seeks aesthetic perfection in all things: his life, his Ancient Greek body, and his literature, which, like Payne’s, marries Classicism and Romanticism.  Unlike other professional authors who seek the cliché in mid-life of some kind of professorship at a university, or a pay check in exchange for scholary pursuits in a library, Maneos chose a life that few have managed to live since the decline of the Ancient Roman aristocracy: he purchased 40-acres of Eden in North Carolina where he is constructing a vineyard to live his own version of a life like the one lived by one of his heroes: the Roman literary-patron Gaius Maecenas.  “Bramabella” is the name that Maneos chose for his vineyard—a construction of two Italian words that, assembled, mean “yearning for beauty.”

The two authors and the editor Jean Sitori are sitting in the office of the newspaper Literature Monthly in Paris.  Jean is entranced as he watches Maneos stand and demonstrate how to properly hurl the discus. After a moment, Jean turns his attention to Payne…

JEAN SITORI:  Roman, speaking of hurling the discus, you just got back from Greece where you were living for about four months…  Are you happy to be back in France?  Were you writing well in Greece?

PAYNE:  I am always happy to be back in France—that is why I almost never leave France to begin with.  When I get tricked into leaving France, I almost always regret it afterwards.  I initially went to Greece this trip to research my next novel at a place on the beach just outside of Athens.  But the weather got bad, the sea turned cold and violent—fault of Poseidon!  I can deal with nasty weather.  But when the inspiration to write disappears, I lose my mind.  Here I was in Greece: the birthplace of the muses, and they had abandoned me.  I tried all the tricks to get literary inspiration back: yoga, running, hard alcohol, nothing worked.  My thoughts were so black that I became convinced that writing was something that was no longer a part of me at all.  Now, back in France, I suddenly feel like writing again; and my work is going well.

JS:  Are you reading at present?

PAYNE:  No.  When I am writing well, I do not read.  Reading takes valuable time away, and it puts another man’s or woman’s style in your head to mar your own.  What are you reading at present, Jean?

Jean makes a wholehearted laugh at this and says, “Let’s see… what am I reading these days?”  With that, he begins leafing through a copy of the woman’s magazine Grazia, which he said, had “mysteriously” appeared in his briefcase that day.  After scanning a blonde woman smoking a cigar for a moment, his eyes light up.  He’d found an article worth commenting on to his guests. Jean summarized the article…

Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg told Grazia that he made it his 2015 New Year’s resolution to, quote, “read more literature,” and to finish a book every two weeks.  This resolution, he said, inspired him to make reading “chic” (we didn’t know that Zuckerberg had a magic wand for making things chic, but why not?!), so he has created a Facebook page called “A Year of Books.”  It currently has just over 350,000 likes.

JS:  Pietros, what do you think of Zuckerberg’ public display of affection for reading?

MANEOS:  Well, I think that it is noble of Mr. Zuckerberg to do so, especially as the head of a technology company, since society seems to be awhirl over technological platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Vine and others, which has perhaps led to a decline in the written word. Not that there aren’t a plethora of authors flooding the marketplace, but it seems that modern man has lost the ability to sit quietly with a book for an extended period of time without succumbing to the lure of online ephemera’

JS: Some of the books Zuckerberg said he is reading are excellent titles.  Perhaps his publicist thought them up to make the Facebook founder seem complex and interesting, or perhaps he really is interesting.  Anyway, many of the titles delve into the Baroque, others into Romanticism, others into Ornate Gothic Style… since your own books are complex and ornate, and explore Baroque Romanticism, do you foresee that pop-culture is going to lean more in your direction and away from current trends, like Philip Roth ?

MANEOS:  Well, I think popular culture and literary culture are two disparate entities. With regard to popular culture, I think that it is enamored with ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ and other such works, no?

But now transitioning to literary culture, I don’t think that there has been much cultural shift from the irony, cynicism, and anti-aestheticism of the previous epoch. I still think that many writers and artists are busy declaiming ‘Isn’t it pretty to think so?’, while writing in short, spare, suburban sentences. I, of course, have rejected this trend for a Baroque aestheticism that one finds in personages like D’Annunzio and Kazantzakis. I embrace epithet, adjective, apposition and heightened musicality, which are despised by many moderns. So, I certainly consider myself part of a burgeoning counter-culture of To Kalon in modernity along with such movements in the visual arts such as Post-Contemporary.

JS: Pietros, just what is it about “Baroque aestheticism” that you embrace? And can you explain the term a little for our readers who have turned a blind eye to that phrase up until now?

MANEOS:   An example of Baroque aestheticism might be, ‘The light, soft and sensuous, brushed across the crest of the Brushy Mountain,’ where spare, suburban 20th century minimalism would simply say, ‘The light hit the Brushy Mountain.’

The great Matthew Arnold once noted, ”The instinct for beauty is served by Greek literature and art as it is served by no other literature and art,’ and I am striving to continue this Hellenic sensibility in the 21st century.

JS:  Pietros, when one reads your work; or talks to you personally, and listens to your music playlists, one feels that you are more Greek than any full-blood Greek currently alive in Athens, or in Sparta, or Macedonia… How come you didn’t start Bramabella in Greece instead of America? Or at least, why don’t you live six months of the year in North Carolina, and six months of the year in Greece?

MANEOS:   Well, although I am Greek by descent and sensibility as an ardent student of classical antiquity, I do not speak demotic Greek, so that alone would be a challenge. Additionally, Greece is suffering under dire economic conditions, so if I ventured there, I might end up starving to death, ha!

Also, similarly to the orator/philosopher Isocrates, I have always believed that Greece or rather Hellenism is not so much of a language, or a land-mass as it is a world-view, a philosophy, if you will. Figures like Oscar Wilde, John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron, Paul Cartledge, John Boardman and many other Artist/Scholars are as Hellenic as any Greek whose last name happens to end in ‘os’ by happenstance. You too, my friend, are Hellenic even though you were born in America, and have elected to reside abroad.

Though, I must make a final confession to you – Traveling to Greece to raise a classicizing army to battle ISIL in Syria-Iraq does intrigue me, as it is perfumed with both Herakleanism and Byronism.

JS:  Pietros, our poor friend Roman is starting to daydream over there in his chair—one can tell because his eyes look like Lucy in the Heavens with Rhinestones—maybe he is bored because we are so interested in your work right now.   To ask you a question about Roman’s work… His first novel was a Parisian thriller in the Dostoevsky style. His second, Cities and Countries, was a Bildungsroman set in an imaginary world.  His third was a tragic love story.  His fourth was a diary of seducing women in Paris—everyone from impoverished seamstresses without breeding and a ripe age that can be counted on three hands, to blue-blooded countesses cheating on their husbands.  Then his fifth novel, “The Wanderess,” well that is more hard to define.  The question is… you, Pietros, are a literary scholar and, if I may flatter you by saying: a literary visionary.  What do you think Roman’s sixth novel will be about?  What do you think it “should” be about?

MANEOS:  Roman is a great genius, and I think that for Rooftop Soliloquy and The Wanderess he should be considered for the Nobel Prize, but to speak of your question, I think that he should continue in the Heroic and Aesthetic vein. Perhaps, since he is descended from the ‘Chian Nightingale’ – Homer – in such a pronounced way, he could write a Modern Odyssey akin to what Kazantzakis attempted.

JS: You make the distinction between two phrases: ‘The light hit the Brushy Mountain,’ and one that I believe you appreciate more: ‘The light, soft and sensuous, brushed across the crest of the Brushy Mountain.’ …Mark Zuckerberg would probably claim to agree with your tastes. Do you think this is an anomaly—the preference of a well-educated billionaire matching the preference of a Homeric poet who is most likely a descendant of the immortal poet Sappho ? Or do you think that we may be entering a new literary age—a time when people are, frankly, sick and tired of “spare, suburban, 20th Century minimalism?”

MANEOS:  Well, I am not sure about a new literary age, but one can only hope! I think that my kinship with figures like Roman Payne, Tomasz Rut, Michael Newberry, Sabin Howard, Graydon Parrish, Michael Imber and others is indicative of a cultural paradigm shift. I am always hesitant to use the term ‘movement’ – but – there is certainly a shared sense of aesthetic values.  And one of my aims is to have Bramabella stand as an expression of this aesthetic.

JS to PAYNE: Pietros Maneos is a poet, novella scribe, and satirist… he is a writer of many styles, many genres. What is your favorite genre of his at present?

PAYNE:   Maneos has arrived at a sacred mastery of certain literary forms (I am not fond of the word “genre”).  I would say, these “sacred forms” are my favorites of his, since no one does them better than he does.  The forms that come to my mind first is what I would call his “Bramabella Pastorales.”  In these poems, Maneos is able paint a landscape like Renoir or Monet, construct a exquisite virgin like John Williams Waterhouse, sing of the youthful love of a troubadour, or the old man’s lament of a Cavafy poem.  He can prepare the body to fight like a Homeric hero, fall to tears like a Nocturne of Chopin.  They are all that is life: his Bramabella poems are the laments of a poet intoxicated with wine, and the joys of a madman sipping the sweet fumes of the poppy.

JS:  And what is the literary style that you would like to see Maneos work on next?

PAYNE:   I would love to see him write a 200 page “roman d’amour” in the French tradition… an old style novel about a couple’s first love, and their last.

JS:  (To the readers)… This concludes our all-too-short interview, but we at Literature Monthly hope to have Maneos and Payne with us again soon!

Author, Pietros Maneos

Find out more about Pietros Maneos at

Author, Roman Payne (Photo copyright: Marta Szczesniak)


Find out more about Roman Payne at


(Thank you to Literature Monthly for letting us print this interview!)


Books Out-of-the-Mainstream: Ten literary-fiction novels of the 21st century that you may not know, but should.

September 14th, 2010

Now, more than ten years into the 21st century, we’ve seen the world change in the political, scientific, and academic fields in ways that few thought possible. Linguistic and communications advances have led to technological progression and easy international interaction, despite the odd language barriers. Amidst all this lie the books that tell the stories of our lives. Literary novels both deal with the issues of today while taking into account the influence of the past. Fictional works portray characters that echo our own lives. Given the tight relationship of our own life experiences with our understanding of literature, have the standards by which we judge a good book changed along with the times? Is there any validity to the claim that awards and prizes don’t accurately represent the truly good books today? You be the judge: read on for ten literary-fiction novels of the 21st century that you may not know, but should. These books are rated “Top Ten Modern Books Out-of-the-Mainstream” by Literature Monthly and Literature Weekly magazines.

The Thirteenth Tale
We start off our review with what may become one of the most influential books from the beginning of the 21st century. Diane Setterfield’s debut novel, The Thirteenth Tale, is a gothic-style novel reminiscent of the Bronte sisters. The protagonist, Margaret, is the daughter of a bookstore owner. Her hobby is writing biographies of lesser-known writers. She’s also a twin, though her sister died in childbirth.

The story isn’t actually about Margaret, though. It’s actually about Vida Winter, a famous author who commissions Margaret to do her biography. The thing is, everyone who has interviewed Vida Winter in the past got different stories, none of them the same. Is Vida Winter actually telling Margaret the truth? What kind of stories is she hiding?

Like most good books, the story is multi-layered. What began as a story about Margaret and turns into a story about Vida Winter becomes again in the end a story about Margaret as she comes to understand both Vida and herself. But does she understand everything? What, really, is truth? These are the questions that this book grapples with – similar to other literature, yet entirely different. At once a novel of literary fiction yet a readable modern fiction book. Diane Setterfield as both a first-time writer and novelist has won numerous novel awards, including recognition by the Quill Awards and Galaxy British Book Awards. The Thirteenth Tale will soon take its place among the 21st century’s great literary novels.

The Thirteenth Tale on Amazon:




Juliet by Ann Fortier

Ann Fortier walks a well-trod path when she starts yet another rewrite of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.  This time, however, it’s 600 years later. We’re in Siena, Italy with the descendants of the famed Capulets and Montagues. The author was there with her mother, and got her inspiration from the city itself—yet another testament to the poignancy of our sense of place in an increasingly international world. Juliet stars protagonist Julie Jacobs, who inherits a key to a safe deposit box that supposedly holds an ancient family treasure. History sweeps her off as she discovers the depth of a 600-year-old feud. Juliet challenges us to reconsider the way that we view such monumental stories as Romeo and Juliet by leading us to reexamine the impact today of stories told long ago.

Juliet on Amazon:


Their victory against the French in the Battle of Agincourt marked a major turning point for the English in the Hundred-Years War. King Henry himself fought and led his armies. As such, the Battle has long been immortalize in literature – it is featured in Shakespeare’s Henry V, a number of fantasy and science fiction novels, and was even the subject of a mock trial held in Washinton, D.C. With such a background, it takes a brave novelist to again tackle the battle.

Bernard Cornwell is that author.  In the novel Agincourt, he tells the story of a fictional archer in King Henry’s army, Nicholas Hook.  “English longbowmen” were key players in a number of battles of the era, largely because the French had no comparable weapons. We see the battle through Hook’s eyes. Because of Cornwell’s brilliant writing, we not only read about it, but almost actually feel the sweat and blood of this brutal time. When Hook starts hearing voices of long-dead saints, we, too, are entranced by their words. Cornwell is a stickler for historical accuracy, and as a writer prefers the brief and concise.. If you haven’t yet, read this book – not only will you come away with a bit more historical knowledge, but you will feels something akin to kinship as you put the book down and think on the soldiers.

Agincourt on Amazon:


The Hittite
Just out in April of 2010, Ben Bova’s novel The Hittite Makes for another fascinating reading. You may not have heard of this book because Bova’s background as a novelist is different than most in this genre – he is best known for his prolific science-fiction writing. Here, however, he takes on retelling of The Illiad, one of history’s most well-known literary epics.

As a writer, Bova does well in this switch-of-genre. His writing is traditionally clear, yet he isn’t stuck to one particular style. Perhaps slightly overusing the flowery language, Bova depicts the world of Lukka, a Hittite warrior who returns home to find his family gone and his city torn by civil war. He goes searching for them, and arrives at Agamemnon just in time to catch the final portions of the Trojan War. Bove doesn’t pull any sly ones – his characters are true to the time. Women are more property than they are people, and brutality isn’t condemned. As a work of art, a work of history, and a work of literature, this book will continue to be important as part of Homer’s continuing odyssey.

The Hittite on Amazon:


Rooftop Soliloquy

Rooftop Soliloquy by Author Roman Payne

Rooftop Soliloquy by Roman Payne

Voted one of the ten best novels of the 21st century.  Rooftop Soliloquy, the fourth novel by Paris-based author Roman Payne, is a beautifully-written story of love, pleasure and seduction in the city of Paris.  The style reminds one of a great 19th century novel, although the humor, sexuality, and poetic eroticism in its pages make the novel a true, ultra-modern work.

The narration follows the travels and life of an eccentric artist and composer—a character who changes residences as most people change clothes—who drifts around Paris frequenting women’s bedrooms, luxury nightclubs, and jet-set parties.  All the while, he composes his masterpiece: an opera, or “Hero’s Tale,” based on Homer’s Odyssey.  When the pleasures of Parisian life threaten his creative production, the narrator decides to orchestrate an ingenious love-intrigue, for the sake of his art, that results in a murder.  The effect is an extremely creative and complex (though easy to read) literary masterpiece that is worthy of being compared to Dostoevsky.  Roman Payne’s novel could be considered a high-brow, more intelligent and sophisticated version Brett Easton Ellis’ jet-setter novels; or a continuation of American Francophile prose begun by novelists Henry Miller and Ernest Hemingway.  Whatever the comparison, Roman Payne’s Rooftop Soliloquy is great fun to read, a flashback in the past to the “Golden Age of the Novel,” and a flash-forward to the future of high literature.

Rooftop Soliloquy on Amazon:


Blonde Faith

Mystery novels rarely qualify as literary works of art, yet Walter Mosley’s novel Blonde Faith goes beyond the bounds of a run-of-the-mill mystery. His detective Easy Rawlins is a black man who lives in Los Angeles in the 1960s – not an easy place nor time for anyone to make a living, let alone a person of color. But Mosely doesn’t fall into the trap of letting concerns about race overtake his novel. Blonde Faith isn’t about race, though as an honest writer the injustices still figure prominently; the book is about the character. This transcendence allows any reader of his literature to go beyond surface observations to a real look at the life that Rawlins lives. Rawlins himself isn’t perfect, either. He deals with his past mistakes, current pride, and a refusal to get in touch with his almost-wife who he threw out for having an affair. It’s one fear that he can’t overcome.

Mosely as a novelist doesn’t just write works of pulp fiction. He writes books with characters that you can care about, with questions you can think about. This book isn’t just a good read – it’s a book worth sharing.

Blonde Faith on Amazon:



What is a teen novel doing on a list of serious literature? Pick up Neal Shusterman’s Everlost to find out.

Schusterman was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. At age 16, however, his family moved to Mexico City. He went with them. This international experience at a young age significantly influenced the way that he looked at the world – not as a Brooklyn teenager, but as an international citizen. He has been a writer since he was young, at one point as a child he even wrote E.B. White telling her that Charlotte’s Web needed a sequel. She wrote back, and he kept writing. Recently, his books have won the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award and the California Young Reader Medal. His books keep winning their novel awards, and Schusterman the writer keeps writing literature that is important not just to teen readers, but to everyone.

The novel Everlost is a story of the spirits of dead children trapped in this world who don’t know how to “get where they are going.” In simple language, Schusterman the novelist addresses age-old existential questions of life, meaning, and significance.

Everlost on Amazon:


Hidden Talents
Hidden Talents by David Lubar is another work of literary fiction masquerading as a teen novel. This book centers on 13-year-old Martin, who is at the last resort Edgeview Alternative School. Lubar frequently quotes poems and pieces of famous literature, include Emily Dickinson’s Death:

Because I could not stop for death
He kindly stopped for me.

While some might say that this makes the book a bit heavy for literature inteded for young readers, it sheds light on young people’s experience in a more ‘grown-up’ world. Writer David Lubar defly juxtaposes the formal and the informal, the old and the young, the used and the new. The book takes an almost fantasy-like turning as the children discover that they have psychic powers. What is really real? Pick up novelist David Lubar’s book Hidden Talents.

Hidden Talents on Amazon:


The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep And Never Had To
Ironically, the novel: The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep And Never Had To stands to take the place of Catcher in the Rye as the American coming-of-age literary novel, despite mocking it predecessor within its pages. Young novelist D.C. Pierson (who is also a comedian and actor) picks up on the language and attitudes of high schools today, never pulling punches. The creative crowd is outcast, but form their own friendships that carry them to success, despite the disdaining crowds. The book itself can be seen as a metaphor for the interaction of different groups in society today, especially those that challenge the status quo with their unacceptable genius. Do yourself a favor and pick up this book of literature by novelist D.C. Pierson.

The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep And Never Had To on Amazon:


The Darling

Russell Banks - The Darling

Russell Banks' The Darling

Russell Banks wrote another book in 2004 worth looking at: The Darling. Inside you’ll find a story about an empty girl – one who doesn’t act for herself, but is led around by whatever man she happens to be attached to at the time. Eventually heading to Liberia, she gets involved with government officials and shady deals, eventually ending up in a laboratory doing experiments with chimpanzees. An authentic look at African and immigrant life, novelist Russell Banks lives up to his reputation as a writer and delivers literature this will be important not just now, but in the future as well.

The Darling on Amazon:

M.J. Engh’s novel Arslan may not technically be a book of the 21st century. It was first published in 1976, went out of print, was republished in 1987, went out of print again, and was republished yet again in 2001 – making it a newly-published book in the 21st century.

Why would a book go into and out of print so many times? Engh herself states that the book is “about fathers and sons, about power, about a genuinely ruthless (but not unfeeling) mind in pursuit of a practical solution to the world’s problems.” As such, the writer begins the book with the rape of two children, then ends it on a comparably brutal and gruesome note. As a work of literature, Arslan stands at the top. It is not necessarily, however, a pleasant read. It is a fascinating examination of power in the modern world, of family interactions, and of the psychology of a Genghis Khan-like mind in a small town in America. Not any novelist can write a book such as this, but Engh carries the burden proudly.

Arslan on Amazon:


Picking-up any one of these books for a read will lead you to contemplate your own place in our 21st century world. Interestingly, many of these novels are set in the past. What does our frequent contemplation of the past in literature mean for our understanding of the world today? As we constantly gather and process the stories of our lives, sometimes we need to look outside of the popular and common to find the stories that help us understand our own unique experience.


Manon Lescaut : an old French novel that deserves international modern praise.

September 10th, 2010
Manon Lescaut

L'Histoire du chevalier Des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut

Manon Lescaut is a novel where the hero is a scoundrel, and the heroine is a whore. But this realization comes slowly.  And it is a difficult realization for the reader, like when we begin a relationship with someone we greatly respect, only to discover their bad qualities later.  The disappointment that comes from losing respect for them is much like the disappointment the reader feels for the characters of this 18th century novel by Antoine François Prévost (or Abbé Prevost); although  our discovery only makes the characters more multi-dimensional and compelling.  While we first meet the teenage Manon as the “innocent,” “angelic” and “most beautiful of all the world’s creatures” who is awaiting her entrance into a nunnery, we slowly find out through the account narrated to us by her boyfriend, Le Chevalier Des Grieux, that she is little more than an angel-faced harlot who cannot restrain herself from sleeping with older men for the money, gifts and affection they provide.  The couple’s adventures take a  picaresque ride from Paris to the provinces, to colonial New Orleans as the couple lies, cheats and steals their way to fortune, to poverty, back to fortune, back to poverty, to prison, as so forth…

Des Grieux begins the story in seminary school, and leaves the holy life to become a cheat and a gambler, in hopes of earning the fortune that his expensive girlfriend would require to be faithful.  The fatal flaw of Manon that leads to tragedy is this: she loves pleasure, and if her young boyfriend doesn’t obtain it for her, she will find a sponsor who will.  The fatal flaw of Des Grieux is that he loves Manon and will do anything to keep her faithful.  The events in the novel resemble the scandalous adventures of their author.

Abbé Prevost lived a life of travel.  He was religious novice who abandoned the church several times, for one reason or another (to become a professional soldier, to work in publishing, to get thrown in jail, etc.).  He had a relationship with a courtesan in Holland, which may have been the model for this story.  He wrote this book called “L’Histoire du chevalier Des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut” and tried to smuggle copies into France, but it was caught at customs and refused entry.  The book has since had an enormous influence on French literature, and the literature of the Western world.

Most critics put forth that Manon doesn’t want to cheat, but that her love of pleasure forces her to, when  her young boyfriend cannot afford to give her what she desires.  I would put forth that Manon actually wants to cheat on Des Grieux, or at least, she has opposing wills within herself. First of all, she never asked for the relationship with Des Grieux.  He came to her rescue when she was waiting to be condemned to a nunnery and he literally saved her.  Then he astounded her with his perfect, unconditional, Christ-like love.  Women, however, often fall for the bad boy, leaving the meek nice-guy behind.  What Manon is uniting with in her affairs with wealthy, lecherous older men, is the corrupt masculine figure—while she leaves her weaker caregiver at home.  The relationship is doomed from the beginning as Manon’s nature doesn’t correspond to her lover’s vision of her. Des Grieux believes the face of an angel must possess the soul of an angel.  We are reminded of Myshkin and Nastasia Fillipovna in Dostoevsky’s The Idiot. Alexander Dumas Fils works Manon Lescaut into the plot his novel La Dame aux Camelias, which tells the story of another innocent-looking courtesan.

The ending is powerful, so I won’t give it away, and reading the book, you will form your own idea of how much Manon loves Des Grieux.  If you like Manon Lescaut, you will probably also be interested in Atala, by Chateaubriand; Paul et Virginie, by Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, and Carmen, by Prosper Mérimée.

- Julie Sevigny



Modern Novel Awards : Top 10 Releases : Rooftop Soliloquy by Roman Payne

September 8th, 2010

Literature Monthly Magazine recently chose their list of “Top 10 Modern Novels Out-of-the-Mainstream.” chose to feature the winners and include them in our canon of “great novels in world literature, past and present.”  Winners will be reviewed in separate articles.  In this issue, we discuss “Rooftop Soliloquy” by Paris-based author Roman Payne.

Cover of Payne's Rooftop Soliloquy

“One of the best literary-fiction releases of the last few years” according to Literature Monthly Magazine, and a “truly whimsical and poignant book.” Rooftop Soliloquy by Roman Payne is a fascinating read, very  light and lyrical, very poetic, one can read it in a couple of days.  It is more similar to Knut Hamsun’s Hunger than it is to the heavy Moby Dick, although like both these tales it plunges into the subconscious of the human mind.  As readers, we travel with the eccentric narrator; at the end, we have the feeling we have spent ten years wandering around Paris trying to make sense of life in the French capital and in the universe.

The narration of Rooftop Soliloquy is modeled on The Odyssey, that epic where we follow the ten year wanderings of Odysseus.  In Rooftop Soliloquy, the narrator, a famous composer, spends several seasons or years drifting around Paris in his artistic pursuit to compose an opera he calls his “Hero’s Tale” (compare this to Odysseus trying to reach Ithaca).  All the while, the hero’s creative output is threatened by the pleasures that the French capital offers—pleasures that come mostly in the form of champagne and beautiful French girls .  Compare this latter element to Odysseus’ homecoming being threatened by seductive females (Circe, Calypso, Nausicaa, etc.)

Like the voyage of that ancient mariner Odysseus whom we see in three places: Calypso’s island, the island of Scheria, and Ithaca (until Odysseus relates his own tale that goes many places including the island of the Cyclops and the land of the Lotus Eaters), our narrator in Rooftop Soliloquy is on a voyage that sees him entirely in Paris, except when he relates his story of being in Italy, or in the Alps, or on a tropical island. Thus the book follows the tradition of urban “Flâneur literature, as begun by Rétif de la Bretonne, Edgar Poe, Baudelaire, et al.  Despite its pastoral reveries, Rooftop Soliloquy is a true “urban novel.”

Like The Decameron or 1001 Nights, Payne’s novel has a “frame story,” or an outer-story and inner-story: the opera that Alexandre (as the narrator is [usually] called in Rooftop Soliloquy) is writing, is a love story, a combination of The Odyssey and Midsummer Night’s Dream. Alexandre works on the opera with fervor, excepting interruptions where he copulates with high-born girls and parties in gardens and at nightclubs.  During this reveling, he realizes he cannot finish his love story when he himself doesn’t know what love is.  Then comes the plot that entwines a young French girl named Penelope.

We will save the rest in hopes that you will want to read this fun and spirited novel.  You can find Roman Payne’s Rooftop Soliloquy in English-language bookstores and on  It’s definitively worth a read—and a re-read!

Julie Sevigny


Author, Roman Payne

Photo of Author Roman Payne, © 2010 Valentina Frugiuele

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