Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Jonathan Bayliss (1926-2009)

(Photograph by Mark Power)

I met Jonathan Bayliss 47 years ago this month. We were invited by Charles Olson to read at Gallery Seven in Magnolia, a contemporary art gallery that sponsored readings by poets and writers. On that unseasonably warm April night, I read first from a novel I’d been working on, set in Italy. John Keyes, a New York poet, then living in Gloucester, read from a long Olson-inspired poem about his hometown of Washington, D.C.

The final reader was a youngish, balding man of thirty-six, wearing a business suit. Olson introduced him as Jonathan Bayliss, a novelist and playwright, who worked as a market analyst at Gorton’s, having moved with his family to Gloucester in 1956. Jonathan had with him the thick manuscript of a novel-in-progress, set in Berkeley and San Francisco; and he proceeded to read from the beginning, titled appropriately “Prologos:”

Michael Chapman had not cherished any of his three sons before they were born nor had he hoped for them before they were conceived. Ruth Chapman the wife and mother agglomerated them licked them into shape and bred them up for his approval. Except when gripped by a universal pathos of babyhood he had been nearly careless of each undifferentiated babe in the cradle. But he found that humankind’s uniqueness entered his history as engagingly as any less casual father’s. In every case the gathering person of a child’s incorporated him against his will as if without warning.

At first I thought, “Well, this is quite old-fashioned,” but as Jonathan read on, I and the rest of the audience became spellbound:

In the years of growth as the new people in the family nourished their possibilities partly on the father’s protein his own possibility continuously diminished. One by one they joined their mother in pruning and oiling the plumage by means of which he personally might have fledged. It was not in themselves that they embarrassed him, not by virtue of existence or intention, but by the statistical fact of their economic connections. Their organic requirement prevented further exfoliation on the father’s part. At the age of thirty-three all he had left to himself was the inner man.

Not only was Jonathan’s prose stately and beautiful in its exquisitely formal cadences, it was humorous, and it was subtle. On the surface it seemed to reflect, even mimic, the prose of certain 18th century British novels—Sterne’s Tristram Shandy came immediately to mind—yet there was something quite modern about it, indeed Modernist, in the sentences’ paucity of punctuation, the irony inherent in their diction, the inflation of the domestic subject into myth. Jonathan continued:

Yet there was nothing unsure about his love for the three who loved each other and both parents. His love was crescent and irreversible, a moon that never waned and always grew, even when obscured by clouds of annoyance or despair—not like the moon of his love for the mother, which in the course of the years waxed only haltingly, with countless fluctuations, magnified chiefly by complexity of perception.

As he entered more deeply into his narrative, a sense of the form of this book in gestation, the trajectory of its narrative, began to take shape. The longer Jonathan read in a quiet, sometimes faintly audible voice, the more I realized that his was not an old-fashioned book at all. In fact, it was revolutionary. I could hardly contain my excitement.

After the reading that night at Gallery Seven, after Olson had introduced Jonathan and me; after Olson had been heard to exclaim that Bayliss’s novel might be one of the most important then being written in America; and after some of us had repaired to Olson’s house at 28 Fort Square for the first of many nights around that kitchen table, which Olson referred to as my “graduate school,” Jonathan and I initiated one of our countless talks that would spread over 47 years and be among the greatest delights of my life.

We felt an immediate affinity, Jonathan and I, not only because we were both engaged in the writing of novels, but because we discovered that we were attracted to many of the same writers—the great British novelists of the 18th century, and some of the more eccentric ones of the 19th and 20th centuries, George Gissing, Ford Madox Ford; not to speak of Europeans like Hermann Broch and Robert Musil, whose novels inspired both the reach and the structure of Jonathan’s. We also had William Butler Yeats in common, on whose plays, in particular, Jonathan had done graduate work at Berkeley. Then would come Melville, Jonathan’s deep study of whose novels and poems benefited me immeasurably in the years to follow.

That first night at Olson’s we agreed to meet and read to each other from our ongoing work. And we did so each Friday night in Jonathan’s study, secluded on the top floor of his house at 165 Washington Street, overlooking Oak Grove cemetery. In that book-lined room, redolent with the smell of his pipe tobacco, where Jonathan wrote at a heavy, dark-stained wooden table on an old manual typewriter, we took turns sharing with each other our latest chapters. As Jonathan expanded his narrative, I began to understand the complexity of its structure and of his own mind, which I could only marvel at. Ultimately, we came to realize that we were, or were going to become, quite different writers. Encouraged by Jonathan, I began to find my voice as a social realist, while Jonathan evolved into one of our great maximalists, his novel exfoliating from a bourgeois family story to the vast Pythagorean structure it became, as it expanded to include the systems of ritual and myth as they mirrored the systems of science, cybernetics and business. But I think we helped each other in those early years before our personal lives diverged. Certainly Jonathan helped me, not only through the education I received listening to his evolving novel, but through our talk about books, politics and philosophy.

Jonathan had—and Olson firmly believed this—one of the finest minds in America. Olson also claimed that Bayliss, as he always referred to him, was “the only person in the country who understands me,” while Jonathan, in his unerring candor, was one of the few who dared stand up to what he sometimes referred to in person and in the margins of Olson’s books as Charles’s “BS.” Compared to Olson’s monumental assaults on knowledge, Jonathan’s scholarship was patient and circumspect, though no less deep and thorough, as befitted the Harvard student, who followed his great teacher, the scholar, critic and biographer Mark Shorer, to Berkeley after the war.

As to Jonathan’s demeanor in those years, he was often quiet, reticent, even shy. Who could be otherwise around Olson and Vincent Ferrini, confronted with the drama of their personal lives, the agony and ecstasy of creation, the endless dialectics that sometimes exhausted the rest of us as we talked and drank far into those starry Gloucester nights?

Let me share one story: We were at Jonathan’s on a stormy early winter night, Vincent, Charles and I, sitting around the dining room table, as we often did, Doris and the children all in bed by then. There was talk of JFK and the recent Cuban Missile Crisis, of the direction of the Democratic Party, Charles having spent years in the thick of Washington politics. The subject turned to Joyce, not a favorite of Jonathan’s or Charles’, veering then to Jonathan’s novel. In a characteristic gesture, Charles stood up, gripped the table and said to Jonathan, “I’ll do whatever I can to see that your book gets published.” Embarrassed, as he often was by compliments, by any attention paid to him, Jonathan demurred in the face of Olson’s mounting enthusiasm. Offended, Olson stopped short in his praise. He slammed his glass down.

“Bayliss, I’m leaving your house,” he said, turning from the table to put on the huge overcoat, which Jonathan would later describe as “the mantle of [Olson’s] respectability.”

“No, Charles,” Vincent and I shouted. “Stay, stay! It’s only a misunderstanding.”
But Olson left in a huff, stomping out into the snow, as we watched his massive form disappear down Washington Street.

“I didn’t mean to hurt his feelings,” Jonathan said, after we resumed our places at the table. Vincent and I quickly jumped in to reassure him that he had done or said nothing wrong. We attempted to return to our conversation, but Olson’s absence created a void that we three could not fill. At once, Ferrini got up. “Let’s go to Charles’,” he suggested. So the three of us traipsed out into what had now become a blizzard. We slogged through the driving snow from Jonathan’s house, across the railroad tracks, down past Washington Square and Gould Court, past Joan of Arc and the Legion Hall, and onto Commercial Street. When we reached Fort Square, the plows had not yet come through and the snow was a couple of feet deep.

Up Olson’s flight of steps we charged, wind and snow lashing our faces. Ferrini knocked on the kitchen door and Charles, wrapped in a big blanket, answered. At first he scowled, and then, warmed by our attempt to succor him, he let us in. The heat from the gas-on-gas stove melted the snow from our coats. We hugged; Jonathan apologized for seeming to reject Charles’ generous offer; Charles forgave him. We sat down at the kitchen table, littered with Olson’s daily mail yet unread. A bottle appeared and the night continued as if there had been no interruption. And all through this, Olson’s wife Betty and their son Charles Peter slept soundly.

Jonathan has been characterized in his obituaries as being as committed as a writer and business executive as he was as a father. To this I can attest, having spent so many hours in his house on Washington Street with his family at impromptu dinners at which the famous “Spaghetti Bayliss” was featured, or on quiet evenings of unmoistened talk. Jonathan read to his three children, Cathie, Vicky and “Geeka,” as I knew them then. He took them to the movies and to concerts and plays. This man, who carried a shirt pocket full of used punch-cards on which to record the rush of his ideas, was ever accessible to his children.

Flaubert, the father of the modern novel, insisted that writers “Be regular and ordinary in your life, like a bourgeois, so that you can be violent and original in your works.” Jonathan was the most gentle and self-effacing of men, polite, deferential, thoughtful and considerate of friends and family. He dressed and lived conservatively, frugally, almost invisibly: the complete bourgeois. He was a lifelong Democrat. He confessed to me that he’d once voted for Henry Wallace and immediately regretted it. He opposed the war in Vietnam, yet he continued to support Lyndon Johnson; and once, when I pressed Herbert Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man on him, he returned the book with a quiet, though dismissive, shake of his head—“He’s a Platonist,” Jonathan said, and that was the most devastating rejection anyone could receive from him.

And yet in the writing Jonathan soared. He grappled with complex ideas, he explored archaic and post-modern structures, and, like Joyce, he pushed the English language to its limits. The diction of his novels is not your demotic American. In Jonathan’s hands our native tongue becomes a richer medium, precise yet imaginative, playful yet knowing, “not by simplifying the complexity of English,” as his narrator in Gloucestertide explains, “but by fixing more dimensions of abstraction.” For Jonathan, the novel was still “our quintessential medium of experience.” In the end, the games of words and identities he posed, the structural puzzles, the myths and counter-myths, systems and meta-systems—indeed, the counter-factuality of reality, as he limned it—were only one level of the play of Jonathan’s remarkable intelligence, an intelligence that had for long been missing from most American fiction. The other level is the writing itself—for Jonathan was a writer above all else—often breathtaking in its lyricism. I will close with one such example from Gloucestertide, one of his evocative descriptions of the city that became his actual and spiritual home and the source of his work:

Between every two beaches here on our stone island, between harbors and coves, wherever the land stops the sea, those tawny anfractuous rocks are a jagged pathway of choices. At chaotic elevations, with footholds on irregular cusps at all angles, no step is predictable until your foot is in the air, no step is determined by habits of graceful continuity. From ledges and pinnacles, on whalebacks and whalejaws, you fling yourself across one crevasse to another in jerky motion, sideways and forward, sometimes switching back to descend a crag or traverse a tidal gorge, sometimes down to a tongue of popples, at the lower tides always keeping above the slippery seaweed. Each imbalance is corrected by the next…It feels as if you’re rapidly covering great distances. Your dazzling way is bleached by salt and sun. It’s impossible to stop and think. Yet all the while you are both spectator and center of attraction for surf below, clouds above, and boats in the offing.

(This eulogy was delivered on April 27, 2009, at a memorial service for Jonathan Bayliss, at St. John's Episcopal Church in Gloucester, Massachusetts.)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Broken Trip: A Review by Richard M. Amero

Broken Trip (Glad Day Books, 2004) by Peter Anastas consists of ten short stories that are tied together because they interact with the professional activities of Tony Russo, a welfare case worker, who provides his clients with shelter, food, medical treatment, and pats of encouragement. Reading the book is something like drinking a martini. At first one feels the astringent taste and then the BANG hits you. Not all the stories have the same punch, but as a group they pack a stunning wallop. There is so much agony, suffering and loss among some of the characters that they remind me of sinners in Dante’s Inferno, whose obsessions were similarly painful and everlasting. Perhaps a saving factor in this collection of down-and-out stories is that they end, as poet George Oppen puts it [in an epigraph] at the beginning of the book, in a place where all human emotions ultimately founder.

While the book has a Gloucester setting and most of the characters are involved with the demise of the fishing industry, there is more to the book than Gloucester, for its basic theme is poverty of body and mind, a poverty that reaches across America and the world. Some of the people depicted are as horrible as human beings can get, short of Buchenwald. While not an intellectual novel on the surface at least (remember the delayed reaction), nurses Amanda and Rochelle, in “The Psyche Unit,” represent opposite points of view regarding the question: Is it mind or is it environment that dictates human behavior? Since so many of the damned are dope addicts, the answer would seem to be environment and the treatment DETOX. Yet, by itself, the treatment doesn’t work, so the force of consciousness can be brought into play. That is why nurse Rochelle grieves over the suicide of Terrence, a junkie, who demonstrated insight but could not control his destructive urges.

The most interesting character in the book for me is Larry, Rochelle’s understanding husband. For all his good will, Tony functions as a device. It is through him that the stories are told in a concise reportorial manner that shifts from inner thoughts and outer taunting dialogue. Tony may understand the world, but Larry sustains his wife Rochelle, who has had to cope with abuse from her dope-afflicted mother and Roy, her mother’s lover, and her murder of Roy. Why does Roy act as he does? Why do most dope addicts act as they do?

The Gloucester emphasis appears most prominently in “Skag,” (heroin). Here the most unlikely of trios go out to sea in a once-in-a-lifetime trip to catch cod on the Stellwagen Bank. The miracle is that they succeed. There is a wisp of Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea in this section, but the wisp soon merges into a story of victory not over the sea but over self. All three men—Shitter, Frankie and Jimmy, but principally last-minute replacement captain Jimmy—achieve a victory that is more substantial than Terrence’s defeatist views of himself. Like the hired man in Frost’s great poem, Jimmy prepares to die with the sense that at sea he has at least conquered—or forgotten—his demons. Perhaps here is the answer to why men, from time immemorial, have gone down to the sea in ships. In doing so, they escape from the exactions and turmoils of land for work that is so bracing, energetic and dangerous that they forget themselves. This is the HIGH addicts don’t have and the reason they go to sea instead of to the lab.

There are many surprises in Anastas’ book. His criticism of the Department of Public Welfare, now changed to Department of Transitional Assistance, is justified at least for people who accept the burden of being their brother’s keeper. It is not Gloucester alone that produces a class of half-civilized or worse people. Anastas doesn’t dwell on the people in the barrooms and on the belt lines in fish factories; but these nameless people are as lonely, bored and unhappy as the principals and spend too much of their time sniping about the actions of their neighbors.

One of the bigger surprises is that the drugs that infest Gloucester and, for that matter, all of the Massachusetts North Shore, do not come from the fishing boats—though some do—but from dealers in Boston. The book does not propose a cure for addiction, unless it be through methadone, therapy and analysis. Except perhaps for Tolstoy, there is no reason why a writer of a naturalistic work of fiction should try to solve all the world’s problems.

Finally, “Has Gloucester changed and not for the better?” The “Broken Trip” is when a boat returns without fish. Anastas does not give alternatives; but certainly the 19th and 20th century fishing town of Gloucester has changed. As counselor Julie in “Getting Straight” says to Jade, who claims she never gave her long live-in companion “Doc” love, “Love is a lot of things.” By the same token, some portion of the degraded, desperate and deranged underclass in Gloucester may, like Rochelle, arise from the wallow, the filth and the stench. As Dante has written, after the Inferno is Purgatory. For most of us Paradise is out of reach.

(Richard M. Amero is a writer and historian, who lives in San Diego. A Gloucester native, Amero attended Black Mountain and Bard colleges. He was a prime mover in the restoration of Balboa Park and has written extensively on the park, on San Diego and California history. His writings, including essays on Melville, Hawthorne, Thoreau, Hart Crane, James Joyce, Dostoevsky and the Gloucester novelist and playwright Jonathan Bayliss, can be found on his website http://www.balboaparkhistory.net)

Salem News, April 8, 2004

'Broken Trip' a compelling,
brutal tale of North Shore

by Rae Franceour

Broken Trip

By Peter Anastas. Glad Day Books, P.O. Box
, Enfield, NH 03748
, 2004. 250 pages. $16.

Will Gloucester survive the slow, torturous
decline of its fishing industry? On the eastern
edge of Boston's North Shore, this rugged,
breathtakingly beautiful city is amassing a body
of its own literature. Gloucester's stories are
notable for their depiction of a heroic culture that
in recent decades battles despair.

Peter Anastas, a Gloucester resident himself, has
brilliantly chronicled the struggle in Broken
Trip, an unusual book that straddles fiction and
nonfiction. For lack of a better name, it is labeled
a novel. And though there is some continuity
provided between chapters, it is really a series of
telling episodes in the life of Gloucester and some
of her people. Love, loyalty and family; drugs
and alcohol; fishing; incest and violence; poverty
and its accompanying depravity are strong
themes in this deceptively easy to read, but hard
to digest book.

As the recently retired director of advocacy and
housing at Action in Gloucester, Anastas is
acutely attuned to the hardships this city endures.
His book's title, Broken Trip, is a localism for a
fishing trip that doesn't meet expectations due to
weather, technical problems, or lack of fish. And
though Anastas wears many hats on the North
- intellectual, frequently published author,
father of the respected young author Benjamin
Anastas, resident expert on poet Charles Olson -
his 30 years working at Action indelibly inscribed
themselves on his writer's soul.

I marveled at the simplicity of Anastas' language
- simple, declarative sentences that gently take
you by the hand with words like "Everybody
knew when the checks came" or "For nearly 10
years, Jimmy Skag had been living at the
homeless shelter" and draw you deep, deep into
the troubled lives of the book's characters.

Tony, a Gloucester caseworker, links stories,
characters and hardships to one another. The
one man with something tangible to offer that
might sustain rather than corrode lives, Tony has
the resources and the mindset to help.
Characters show up at his office, sometimes
simply in need, sometimes overtly hostile but
desperate. He seems to have seen it all. And
since he's one of them, a Gloucester native
without pretense, he's approachable. Anastas
gives Tony his own trials, as well. As a result, the
stable figure amid those in terrible crisis does not
come off as paternalistic - a credit to Anastas,
who must have struggled with this very problem

There are a couple of recurring characters, but
nothing close to what readers would expect in a
traditional novel. In the second chapter, "The
Snow Man," we are introduced to Rochelle,
whose father was gunned down by the police
and whose mother died of an overdose.
Rochelle, a bright and talented young woman, is
left with a baby sister to raise. Tony encourages
her to apply for public assistance to help with
expenses after she drops out of school. At the
end of the book, Rochelle shows up again, years
later, as an inspired psychiatric nurse for whom
Tony serves as both peer and confidante.

At the Cut, Anastas' last published work - a
memoir about growing up in Gloucester in the1940s -
provided clues to what was to come with
Broken Trip. Anastas is unflinching in his
portrayals of incest, violence, sex, drug use and
domestic chaos. Some of his writing about these
matters is utterly poetic, especially when he
describes Skag getting high on heroin or a
mother reminiscing about her own early highs as
she watches her drugged daughter act out on the
street. Other scenes in Broken Trip are brutal.
Be forewarned. And Anastas' way with dialogue
is impressive. Not once does he aim for anything
other than simplicity of language and brevity in
description; yet, by the end of Broken Trip, we
are completely absorbed - or is it ensnared? He
has us by the heart.

When A Perfect Storm was first published,
author Sebastian Junger worried about how
those in Gloucester (a community he loved)
would react. For the most part, people took the
story about the hard-living, ill-fated group of
fishermen in stride. Broken Trip is a much,
much tougher book. In the chapter titled "Psych
Unit," an outsider who chose to live in nearby
Rockport tells Rochelle, "Maybe that's why
Gloucester frightens me so much. It's all too

Anastas doesn't judge. His writing carefully,
dispassionately reveals one aspect of the
Gloucester he has come to know. As Tony takes
his last walk home from his job, which was
terminated due to cuts in funding, he considers
the neighborhoods, the fishing industry's decline,
and the years he'd spent working for its people.
"I guess it's been a broken trip," he concludes,
without regret.

Gloucester Daily Times Tuesday, April 22, 2004

Hard Times in Anastas' Stories: the American dream slides out of reach

By Greg Cook
Staff writer

The title of Peter Anastas' new book, "Broken Trip," comes from local slang for an unprofitable fishing voyage, but in his stories it becomes a metaphor for the devastating effects of poverty in Gloucester

"What I'm trying to do is show what it feels like, what does it really feel like, to have a low-paying job; what does it feel like to live on the edge? When I wrote the book (in the 1990s), the country was in one of its biggest economic booms ... and I was trying to think about the enormous irony of this huge wealth that was being generated in America and people here in Gloucester not participating in it in any significant way," Anastas said.

The 66-year-old Page Street resident reads from his "novel in stories," as he calls it, at The Bookstore on Main Street at 7 p.m. Thursday. The text is augmented by a photo essay by Gloucester documentary photographer Ernest Morin.

In one story, a woman turns to heroin to help ease the pain after her boyfriend is wrongly gunned down by police. Their daughter struggles for a normal life, living with her grandmother, taking care of her baby sister, going to school, but this is threatened after her mother dies and her sister's father steals into their home to claim his daughter and attacks the older sister.

In another tale, a woman falls into trouble when she becomes enamored of a bad boy. In a story inspired by an actual crime, a damaged boy and his friend savagely murder a homeless man at his camp in the woods along the railway tracks.

They are tales, told in a deceptively simple manner, about generations of parents and children struggling to forge relationships amidst ravaged lives. Junkies overdose. The state Department of Social Services removes children from homes. Jobs disappear. People apply for social services, medical care, food stamps, housing subsidies. Anastas takes an unblinking look at drug and sexual abuse, AIDS and teenage pregnancy. This personal devastation is paralleled by larger collapses - the fishing industry sputtering under tighter and tighter government regulations and the social service net shrinking under corporate consolidation and government cutbacks.

If you know Gloucester, you'll recognize the taverns, fish plants and neighborhoods Anastas writes about. The book is populated by the sorts of people and places he's known here.

"It comes out of living here my whole life and knowing there's not just one Gloucester, there are a number of them," Anastas said.

Starting out, he packed fish and reported for the Gloucester Daily Times. He went on to be a social worker with the Gloucester antipoverty agency Action Inc.

"'Broken Trip' is really a book I couldn't have written unless I'd worked at Action for 30 years, because working at Action took me into the heart of the culture of poverty in Gloucester, and few people have had that experience. I felt it was my responsibility as a writer to write about it," Anastas said.

"I wanted to have a certain objectivity in the book so that I could dramatize attitudes that are prevalent in the community," Anastas said. "And really the vehicle for this is fiction because it enables you to use your imagination in dealing with reality. It enables you to expand on reality. You have a broader scope. In a nonfiction book, you're pretty much restricted to what happened and why it happened, just as you are in journalism. In fiction, you can imagine the consequences of actual events or you can imagine alternatives. In nonfiction, you have to stay with the people. In fiction, you can make them up. Every character in this book was made up."

Anastas' last book, "At the Cut," from 2002, was a frank look at his childhood in Gloucester in the 1940s. But this book, like his first, "Glooskap's Children: Encounters with the Penobscot Indians of Maine," looks closely at the effects of poverty.

Anastas began thinking of characters and stories in the late 1980s, but didn't begin writing until about a decade ago. He finished his latest book around 1997, but it took him a while to find a publisher. Finally, Glad Day Books decided to take it on. The Thetford, Vt.-based publisher was formed by novelists (and husband and wife) Grace Paley and Robert Nichols around 1998 to publish fiction, nonfiction and poetry addressing social change.

Speaking of Anastas' book, Paley said, "The stories are about ordinary people and how hard their lives are. This is kind of an essential fact that needs to be seen in the literary world."

Anastas explained, "I wanted to write about Gloucester and people living on the edge, as a way of writing about America. ... People need to know the America behind the myth of America. This illusion that everybody has an equal opportunity, that everybody can work, that everybody can consume. People need to know that it's a struggle for a lot of people. There are people who don't have educations. There are people who for one reason or another dropped out of high school. There are people who come out of situations of family violence. There are people who have been traumatized living in poverty. It's not fun being poor, and it's hard to get out of poverty if you don't have an education. I wanted to show that there's great humanity in poor people. The society tends to marginalize poor people - they're crooks, they're drug addicts. I wanted to put a human face on poverty."

There are glimmers of hope in Anastas' stories as people begin to turn their lives around, but the overall mood is bleak.

"One agent I sent this book to said to me, 'I like the writing, but there's no redemption.' My answer is, I don't believe in redemption. I'm an existentialist and I have an essentially tragic view of life. For me, life has no inherent meaning. The only meaning is what we give it by our acts. It's as simple as that," Anastas said.

Counselors, social service providers, medical workers and police officers, as Anastas put it, "populate the book in a quiet way." One recurring character is the welfare case worker, Tony, the son of an Italian fishing captain who serves as Anastas' alter-ego.

"What I wanted to show, not just in Gloucester, but in society at large, people tend to look down on the helping professions. They tend to look down on teachers, social workers, nurses. I wanted to show that in many ways these people are the heroes of our society. They make very little money and yet they're on the firing line. When someone is in trouble, the human service profession is there. ... These are all people who do society's dirty work. And I wanted to show, through their presence in the novel, how they help people change their lives," Anastas said.

"...Without the helping professions, many people would live less happy lives and less productive ones. I wanted to show Tony as a person who had the gift of education, unlike so many people we grew up with, and he didn't use that to enrich himself. He used that to help other people, to give to other people, and that's what life is all about. That's basically been the whole tenor of my life."