Faculty Author Robert Vivian Pens New Novel
The bones of a dead girl and the reactions they evoke from a hodgepodge of curious characters in the heartland of America form the framework of a new novel by Robert Vivian that is described as a "disturbing, horrifying and beautiful all at once."
The Mover of Bones, the first of a planned trilogy of novels by
the Alma College assistant professor of English, follows the travels of
a janitor who has unearthed the bones of a small girl buried in the
cellar of a Catholic church in Omaha, Nebraska.
"I describe the story as an odyssey across the literal and mythical landscapes of America, in which the janitor, with the dead girl, encounters marginalized people who end up believing in his story for a lot of reasons," said Vivian. "They seem to need this fantastic story in their lives."
Vivian's inspiration for the novel was a musical work by 19th and 20th century Austrian composer Gustav Mahler, "Das Lied von der Erde," which is translated "Songs of the Earth."
"I listened obsessively to Mahler," said Vivian, who teaches English and creative writing. "I eventually, perhaps unconsciously at first, borrowed his theme, the obsession of impending death, and his structure."
Vivian describes the two years he spent working on the novel as "a labor of love, a wonderful experience." He is near completion of the second book of the planned trilogy.
"All three books are centered in the state of Nebraska," he said. "They overlap in tone but not in character."
Reviews have been positive. Author Sven Birkets wrote, "Robert Vivian's
prose is lyrical and harrowing — harrowing in the Biblical sense. It is
as if the killing fields were being irrigated with light. The Mover of Bones is disturbing, a chorus of the damned, but the music can be strangely sweet."
Kirkus Reviews, in a starred review, wrote, "Vivian's ability to fully inhabit his characters, to render their voices, their thoughts, their quirks and fears, is flawless. Indeed, the emotional intensity and unrelenting revelations of the interior life of its most banal people are exhausting. This is a Nebraska that would send Poe running for his life. Like the dead girl at its center, this tale is disturbing, horrifying and beautiful all at once."
Vivian's first book, Cold Snap as Yearning, a collection of meditative essays, was published in 2001. His stories, poems and essays have appeared in numerous publications.
The Mover of Bones is published by University of Nebraska Press.
Posted: Fri, August 11th, 2006 at 12:55PM