Tag Archives: Existentialism

Lon K. Montag Says: An Update, Plus Something for the Artist to Remember Now and Forever

I recently had occasion to re-read parts of John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction, and it reminded me that though the world moves ever onward, some things don’t change.  That’s especially so for the artist.  And that’s something to keep in mind as time continues its inexorable march forward.

John Gardner“To write with taste, in the highest sense, is to write with the assumption that one out of a hundred people who read one’s work may be dying, or have some loved one dying; to write so that no one commits suicide, no one despairs…so that people understand, sympathize, see the universality of pain, and feel strengthened, if not directly encouraged to live on…every writer should be aware that he might be read by the desperate, by the people who might be persuaded toward life or death…

“It does not mean…that writers should lie.  It means only that they should think, always, of what harm they might inadvertently do and not do it.  If there is good to be said, the writer should remember to say it.  If there is bad to be said, he should say it in a way that reflects the truth that, though we see the evil, we choose to continue among the living…The true artist chooses never to be a bad physician.  He gets his sense of worth and honor from his conviction that art is powerful–even bad art.”

John Gardner, The Art of Fiction

Though we lost Gardner before my time, his words ring through my mind with every word I write. (I’ve had occasion to write about Gardner’s fiction before–I’m hoping, this year, to write more on his philosophy of art, possibly as a sequel to a prior article I wrote a while back.)

And on that note, it’s time to reveal some details about my book McDougal; here’s the blurb:

McDougal CoverAlec,

My son.  Forgive me.

I wanted those to be the first words exchanged between us.  I have so much to be sorry for …I wanted to protect everything I held dear.  I tried lying.  I tried killing.  But I should have tried trusting.  I should have trusted you.  I should have trusted your mother.

There’s magic in this world, Alec.  And I’m not talking about some metaphorical garbage.  Leave the metaphors to the poets, Alec.  You and me, we’re not poets.  We’re fighters…

I’m trusting you now.  It’s the only way I can save you.  I’m saving you now by trusting you, by giving you the tools you need to save yourself.  To save this world. To avenge the lives the old man has stolen or ruined otherwise…

I’m defeated.  But you shall be my redemption.

Trust me.  And forgive me.

Forever your father, whose love for you is everlasting,

Alexander McDougal

Winter 2014

Stay tuned for more details about McDougal.  And Happy New Year.


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“The Will to Truth”

The Will to TruthMy name is Manny Kant.  I understand you have a job for me.  But before we get to that, there are a few things we’re going to need to be in agreement about.

You probably want my job.  You imagine it’s exciting.  And a little dangerous.  And you think you can handle it…I’ll tell you right now, you’ve got it wrong.  And that’s something we need to get out of the way up front.  Because if this is going to work, I’ve got to have not just your trust, and not just your money—though I will be needing both of those—but, most importantly, I’m going to need your respect…

If you’re going to do what I do, you’re going to need something that you can’t learn…You might not even know you have it until you’re put to the test…And in the end, you’re either battered but still standing and coming back for more, or you’re crawling away crying.  There’s no alternative.  And there’s no middle ground.  That’s the will to truth.

Let me tell you about the time I found out I had it.






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Filed under Fiction, News and Updates, Short Stories

A Conversation with Paige Ambroziak

Paige Ambroziak, a doctoral candidate in Comparative Literature, is author of A Perpetual Mimicry.  Ambroziak’s novella follows a fallen fire angel who, with the aid of another exile, seeks to gain his wings back and end his banishment.  Along the way, he experiences the fundamentals of human experience, including love, death, art, and salvation, one of which might be just the key he needs to unlock the mystery of his expulsion from the stars…

Paige also maintains the website Fields of Twisting Phlox where she reviews self-published books.

Montag had the opportunity to ask Paige some questions about her art and her studies.  She also shared some thoughts regarding the future of self-publishing.


A Perpetual MimicryI want to begin by complimenting your prose and your imagination.  There was a real intensity to all of “Ani’s” emotions, particularly his longing, and this all really shone through in the language.  I thought you also made use of some very vivid and visual language – most of it having to do with fire and light.  For example, the novella begins with the following: “When I opened my eyes I recalled the bursts of light in the endless black above.  They were the genesis, the candelabrum lighting the chaos that engulfed this world.”  This is incredibly potent, primordial imagery which draws to mind, for me, the book of Genesis and the Gospel of John.  Later, toward the end, Ani receives some sort of spiritual communication and it’s described as an “exotic butterfly” whose color was electric.  The narration continues:  “The tips of its insect legs touched my hand twice before flitting away into the trees.  But I saw a great light come down through the leaves, sharpening to a point and into a little ball that traipsed upon the air like the will-o’-the wisp.  Hovering several feet from where I was standing, the light grew to a shape that mirrored my own.”  This is beautifully rendered.

There are several classes of spiritual beings in your story, including humans, seraphim, fire angels—and there’s some interbreeding going on between the humans and seraphim and their offspring and the fire angels.  Can you explain a little bit further the distinctions between the celestial beings (e.g. the seraphim and fire angels)?  And where did you draw your inspiration from, in deciding which creatures to include in your world?

I wanted to create a being that was neither human nor heavenly but rather an ulterior entity. The Fire Angel is an invention of a psyche or a soul that exists outside of the heavenly sphere. It is a being that is forged in the gaseous atmosphere of a fixed star, and is bound to that star. The Fire Angel has wings, as angels in Heaven do, but its plumage is the core of its identity, which is why Ani and Simon ache without them. My inspiration for these beings is Lucifer, the light bearer. I always wondered if he had his wings plucked when he was tossed to earth… Continue reading

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“Prayers for Rain”

Prayers for Rain

Far from home and aching for a girl he let slip through his fingers, Vince hasn’t been getting much sleep lately. And now he’s seeing things. Strange things. Bewildering things. Probably impossible things. And he can’t decide if what he’s seeing is real, or if he’s just losing his grip on reality.

Desperate for solace, he makes a late-night phone call to an old confidant. But instead of providing comfort, the conversation kicks off a series of exchanges that force Vince to confront mortality, and, in the process, to re-examine his life, his sanity, and his control – or lack thereof – over his own destiny.






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Lon K. Montag Asks: “Who am I?”

Most of us are probably aware now of the shooting that took place at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises.  Twelve dead.  Fifty-eight injured.

Three men lost their lives last week as they shielded others from the gunfire coming their way.  The selflessness of these young men is getting some good traction in the media and I’m glad to see it, because as terrible as this event is, and as much as it reveals the destructive capacities inhering in man (as I discussed a few weeks back; see “What Horrifies You?”), it also reveals the courage and compassion man is capable of.

I wonder sometimes how I would stack up if subject suddenly to such a violent test.  And that’s no easy question, because, to answer it, I have to try to step back and make an honest assessment of myself; I have to ask myself, “Who am I?”  And would the person I am be courageous enough to do what’s necessary when the time comes?  How can I know? Continue reading

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