AUTUMN GARDEN by Les Brady Autumn Garden is a novel using a semi-omniscient third-person narrator who conveys the perspectives of ten-year-old Nick Lucera, his mother, Mary, and father, Tony. The story challenges conventional beliefs of mortality as Nick confronts the greatest loss of his young life, his mother's impending death. The novel is set in 1970's coastal California. Two characters influence how Nick processes events in his life: seventeen-year-old neighbor, Brian, an evangelical
... n evangelical Christian, and Sal Amato, an acquaintance of Nick's parents, whose insights range from the curious to the fantastic. Brian's friendship is a refuge for Nick, who suffers regularly from the bullying inflicted upon him by schoolmates. While finding sanctuary in his relationship with Brian, Nick also feels fear at the apocalyptical beliefs that Brian espouses. The story is a work of realism in the tradition of Chekhov, with a subtle element of fantasy, drawing on such works as Toni Morrison's Beloved. The character Sal appears to possess abilities that defy conventional understanding as perceived by the other characters. Sal seems to influence those around him nonverbally, and he displays this ability by compelling all three main characters in ways that change their views of reality. v In his The Art of Fiction John Gardner asserts, "All great writing is in a sense imitation of great writing." (Gardner 11) Autumn Garden is a coming-of-age story based on a Central California coastal family and the events that shape their lives over the course of one year. The novel is a work of realism that incorporates elements of the fantastic into its narrative. In this light I will preface how Autumn Garden garners influence both from authors of realistic, character-driven fiction as well as those adept at the weaving of fantastic elements into otherwise realistic narratives. For this discussion we will define "fantastic" as not only a conscious authorial break from reality, but "the logical extension of reality;" simply put, when we take away all boundaries of reason, all frameworks of constraint, what might occur that would not otherwise with those boundaries in place, and what end would such occurrence elucidate? Nikolai Gogol employs elements of the fantastic in his work for very specific aesthetic purposes. In Gogol's "The Nose" we see elements of the fantastic used to comment on both the absurdity of society as a whole and how the individual struggles against this absurdity to create meaning in a life that could be spent in utter obscurity. Gogol's "The Nose" employs elements of the fantastic to expose the ridiculously stratified society that renders the individual unable to cope. Major Kovalyov awakes to discover a flat place in the middle of his face where his nose once protruded. We soon learn that Kovalyov is somewhat of a second-class collegiate assessor, not one who vii attained office through education, but who is merely appointed, implying a lesser level of acumen. Kovalyov soon witnesses his nose not only bounding out of a breaking carriage but clad in the uniform of a state counselor, three ranks higher than Kovalyov himself. The nose appears not only rushed, but with purpose, to which Kovalyov assumes is the precursor to an important rendezvous. The major is correct, and over the course of most of the remainder of the story he supplicates himself to his own outranking nose, attempts in vain to gain assistance in recouping it. It is worthwhile now to ask, for the purposes of substantiating our definition of "fantastic" as well as why such detail is employed, the simple question, "Why a nose?" The nose is perhaps our most prominent, visible feature, thus a clear metaphor for individuality. Having to bow down to one's own nose is mocking of the system that causes any one individual to need bow down to another.