A novel of New Orleans...
"The prose style has a jaggedly defined quality, a clipped lyricism, a stripped lucidity, which perfectly serves its subject matter...capturing an unfakeable emotional honesty." Full review here
"this is writing that manages to be both earthy and transcendent." Full review here.
Hell is the place between words and the world...
A modern romance for a fractured age, Richard Katrovas's first novel is a multi-layered mini epic that wholeheartedly lays its love on the line in the face of an abeyance of hope. Love for New Orleans; her secrets, her dark corners, her food. Love for life; its heroes, its villains, its also-rans. But above all, a love for Passion; its purity, its beauty, its inevitable consequences.
Consequences felt by both twelve-year-old Willie Singer, growing up, and middle-aged Nathan Moore, growing older. Two inhabitants of the Crescent City whose paths collide and ricochet through the dying of a local poet and the ramifications of his death-bed opus - an epic poem, The Mystic Pig. For better and worse, their lives are forever altered.
Mystic Pig beguiles. Written in evocative and poetic prose it effortlessly wraps the reader in the sensual, vibrant atmosphere of the French Quarter and delivers them right into the complex lives of its characters - warts and all. It's a novel about life and love, death and despair, acceptance, denial, murder, sex - and fine cuisine. Not necessarily in that order.
"From page one, this is a novel you want to take your time with."
"Richard Katrovas's first novel, Mystic Pig, is as wild, dangerous and spicy as the city it celebrates."
-- Valerie Martin
Beautifully written, strong characters and a powerful story
The first half of Mystic Pig is rather contemplative, the themes of evil and violence are considered by the main characters each in their own way; the holocaust and racism are major motifs throughout. That is not to say that the first half is at all dry - we are introduced to a world of interesting characters living in New Orleans. Nat is the verging-on alcoholic restaurateur with a secret life, his restaurant is peopled with eccentrics - the Old Queens and Jack/Nick, a man who gets taken over by his own penis, add a dark humour to the novel. Willie, a black child prodigy uses his superior intellect to try and understand the senselessness of the hatred he sees around him every day, while being paid, like a prostitute, to listen to a dying poet's final epic. The philosophical musings in the first half are not at all heavy-handed, rather they are engaging and thought-provoking and a perfect introduction for what is to come.
The reader reaches the half way point in the book, with a vaguely ominous feeling that something bad will happen to one of the main characters. But when the bombshell is dropped, as gently as Katrovas can drop it, it is completely unexpected. The relationship between truth and reality slips, for us as much as for the characters, the reader is forced to re-evaluate the whole book. The Mystic Pig engages with the reader and forces them to ask the very questions that the characters have been grappling with, reminding us all of the frailty of happiness.
This is a really enjoyable, though-provoking book with strong, entertaining characters that definitely deserves a second read. Thoroughly recommended.
Great tale in a great city, get the look&feel of NOLA here
This is a special read that you won't want to put down 'til the end, wish that it would go on, and will want to take with you on your next visit to NOLA...
My first visit to NOLA. Stopped at Faulkner House, a bookstore in the French Quarter and asked for a fiction book that takes place in NOLA. I bought Mystic Pig on their recommendation and I am delighted. The story is told by two narratives, a 40-something FQ restaurateur and a 12-year-old boy who is very bright. The two narratives happen at the same time but only cross paths at two points. Yet both narrators are on paths of self-discovery, deeply affected by the death of a poet, known to each, who becomes the catalyst for both. Along the way, the city and some of its recipes moves the tale forward. The cooking was a delight. The descriptions of how NOLA works knitted together the atmosphere of NOLA that I experienced when I was there. ENJOY!
A simply spectacular first novel
This is one of the best novels I've read in quite a long time. I could go on here for paragraphs and still not convey why. In short, though, the writing itself is stark, simple masculine poetry. The characters, to a one, are richly yet economically defined. More compelling to me, though, are two particularly elements. First, the thread of secret lives that runs through the book, which is covered in several ways (some spectacularly inventive). The compartmentalized life of the lead character (Nat) speaks to me as a reader. The other element that particularly stands out is an email dialogue between two characters which rings truer that any electronic dialogue I've seen in fiction anywhere. As one who's conducted life on line for nearly two decades, this alone won me completely over. Yet there's so much more in this fairly short novel. It was so rich that I had to consume it in small bites, lest it end too quickly. As a reader, and a writer, I urge you, go buy this book. And Mister Katrovas, I user *you*, please, continue writing.
I was initially enthralled with Katrovas' style of writing and before I knew it, I was enthralled with the story itself. As Nat's secret life unfolded painfully and deliciously bit-by-bit, I was lost to the prose and to the story and to the city and to the recipes. As the story progressed, it became a page turner, a pathetic and beautiful mystery that I had to see to fruition before I slept. Finish I did and fell asleep thinking of the many different levels on which this book worked on me. And shortly thereafter, I was dreaming of gushes of water and huge crawfish coming out of my vaccum cleaner hose and I know there is a connection but I don't know what. I will discover what next time I read "the Mystic Pig", for I shall reread it. There is more to discover in this book than can be discovered in one reading, I think. Mr. Katrovas, as far as I am concerned, you are a welcome new voice to fiction.
Kim W Sumrall
Quite simply, one of the best books you'll read. A siren-call to compassion.
There are a lot of good and great reads out there but there a few that stop you in your tracks. This is a book that makes you reevaluate, and then reaffirm, your belief in people, friendship and love. New Orleans may be the location but the novel takes place in your heart. And although it's a story that deals with death and its immediate and long-term ramifications, it has a delightful vein of noir humour running through it. It's thought-provoking, immediately engaging and quietly affirmative in bridging the self-destructive barriers we create for ourselves. Really it's about acceptance, humanity and above all, passion. Written lyrically and simply in Katrovas's masculinely-poetic style that clarifies emotions and embeds empathy simply and cleanly, this is a city-break that you won't want to end.
The author of eleven books, Richard Katrovas taught for twenty years at the University of New Orleans, having earlier spent several years as a waiter in four of the city's premier restaurants. He has been a professor of English at Western Michigan University since 2003 and is the founding director of the Prague Summer Program since the early 90s. Katrovas's poems, stories and essays have appeared in many leading literary journals and anthologies in America. A Fulbright fellow, he has been the recipient of numerous other grants and awards. He is the father of three glorious Czech-American daughters, Ema, Anna, and Ella.
Mystic Pig was originally published by a small American company which shortly thereafter went bust leaving the book a little high and dry. Oleander believes the novel to be a literary triumph and one that deserves to be available and enjoyed. Therefore we've republished it in a gorgeously-designed new large format paperback . Read the blog about the Pig that's become a phoenix!