Sunday, August 10, 2008

N.S. Koenings takes the reader across continents from her home in Union Square….

N.S. Koenings takes the reader across continents from her home in Union Square…

Recently I was on a literary panel on the Somerville Community Access TV show “Art Matters.” One of the writers on the panel was N.S. Koenings. Koenings who lives in the Union Square section of the city, teaches at Hampshire College in Western, Mass, and is originally from East Africa. She told me that she has lived on three continents, traveled extensively, so her fiction is not situated in one particular place. This is a frightening prospect for a Somerville provincial such as myself.

Koenings said she makes her long, once-a-week trip to Hampshire College to teach writing. She chooses to live in Somerville because of its vibrant arts community. In the ‘ville she has enough distance from her job that she can let her hair down, and drop the professorial persona for a bit.

Koenings the author of “Blue Taxi,” has a new collection of short stories out “Theft.” (Little Brown and Company). Like the author, who has a decided case of wanderlust, it takes place across continents and is full of vivid detail. Koenings deals with love and loss in Belgium, in Africa, and other non-Somerville site-specific locales around the world.

In the story “ Pearls to Swine” Koenings deals with a long-married, routine- stifled, couple living on a beautiful estate nestled in the hills outside a rural Belgium village. A couple of young female visitors interrupt their routine, and place a mirror to the wife’s blindness around the limits of her life and fuel a smoldering anger in her seemingly dormant husband.

If the devil is in the detail, then Koenings has flushed the bugger out. The author does paint a lovely picture. Here are the early morning hours as described by the wife: I wish I had this arrangement at my corner in the Sherman café:

“ You know I am always up at five to make the bread. For those first three days I made cramique, with raisins and lump sugar…and I’d set the table with clothes we got in Egypt. And arrange the fruit jars in the center of the table: gooseberry, blackberry, and my favorite, a clever marmalade I do with winter oranges from Spain. Then I’d pull the heavy curtains so I could feel the light change. I love this place best at dawn, when the sky gets keen with that strange blue that comes between the sunset and the night.”

The title story “Theft” tells a tale of a young East African bus tout, and a young woman tourist from Philadelphia. Both are very lost in their own ways. This story takes us on a cross-cultural existential journey in a heady exotic locale.

Koenings tells me she is thrilled getting this book published, and is also looking forward to be more involved with the writing community in Somerville. All I can say is: “Welcome Aboard!”

Doug Holder/Ibbetson Update

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