“As if wisdom could arrive cleanly as mail, or the newspaper on one’s doorstep. As if wisdom didn’t come from getting dirt under one’s nails.” (Page 11)
“ __ how small she wished she could become. So she could hide from even herself” (page 77)
“If things weren’t hard, something was wrong.” (page189)
“After all, she was the one with the key.” (page226)
FURTHER OUT THAN YOU THOUGHT is a fictional story about a week in 1992 in Los Angeles. After receiving the early uncorrected proof copy from TLC online book tours for review, I immediately read the cover and was thrilled to be reading a work by such an amazing poet and writer – Michaela Carter. Several of her poems have been included in our poetry study group over the years.
The cover said, “Combining poetry and sensuality with an edgy urban sensibility Further Out Than You Thought is a celebration of life and a haunting story of love, friendship, and one woman’s quest for redemption.”
Gwen is a doctoral candidate in poetry, working as a nude dancer in a strip club in L.A. She is our confused and sorting heroine of the story. She also pays the way for the others to live and rationalize their lives. Valiant is an older lounge singer who is suffering in the last days of AIDS, who is smoking himself and possible drinking himself to death while living in Gwen’s apartment building. Len is Gwen’s boyfriend and a musician who attempts to sell his CDs on the street corner dressed in a revolutionary period costume. I would have to say that cockroaches are high up on the character list along with dirty dishes, disorder, and dysfunctional actions. Nothing resolves until the Rodney King Riots began and the whole city was shut down to control looting; the city was permeated with smoke from the burning fires. Everyone was stuck at home, with no view or running out of distractions.
Almost every chapter of FURTHER OUT THAN YOU THOUGHT had a theme song and shared lyrics and poetry. When I had finished the book, I went back and noted the metaphor or concept these words entered into the theme of the story. It was not a very fruitful exercise and I was left with tons of metaphors that seemed to overwhelm the story. Red, red, red, water, water, water, smoke, smoke, smoke, drinking, drinking, drinking, drugs, drugs, drugs, dance, dance, dance, dark, dark, dark; the list is even longer and I personally found it exhausting to read and attempt to figure out. Too much poetry?
The backstories of the three friends were well done and kept the story moving forward for me. I so felt a sense of release when the trio decided to head to Tijuana to escape the riots and curfews and the ocean air allowed for clarity of thought to arise. I was happy dancing when Gwen found the Grandmotherly Mexican Psychic and she believed the reading of the cards. Whew! It was relief for the reader also.
Several days after finishing this book, I went for a walk to think about Robin William’s death and review all that I know about suicide, pain and healing. It struck me that the erotic parts of Further Out Than You Thought are all based on the American addiction to violence and how it permeates our lives and is so common it is out of the awareness. Violence is common as dirt. In this story, it is the riptide and strong undercurrent in the search for meaning and happiness. The strawberries are blood red and release juicy, sweet joy.
“Michaela Carter is an award-winning poet and writer. She studied theater at UCLA and holds a MFA in creative writing, and her poetry has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes, won the Poetry Society of American Los Angeles New Poets Contest, and appeared in numerous journals. Recently she cofounded the Peregrine Book Company, an independent bookstore in Prescott, Arizona, where she works as a book buyer and story-teller. She lives in Prescott with her partner and two inscrutable children and teaches creative writing at Yavapai College. This is her first novel.”