Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Book Review: 'From Afar' by Frank Scozzari

Glance through California author Frank Scozzari's biographical data and the seeds of his fertile mind and imagination and poetic inclinations are evident. Born in New York, Frank soon after birth moved to California, graduated form Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and spent his young years on a trek through the world, gathering information and experiences across America, twice trekked the John Muir Trail, backpacked through Europe, camel-backed the ruins of Giza, jeep-trailed the length of the Baja peninsula three times, globe-trotted from China to the Pyrenees to the White Nights of northern Russia, and once climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro - the highest point in Africa - for his many writings. He has been a four-time Pushcart Prize nominee, and his award-winning short stories have appeared in numerous literary magazines including The Emerson Review, Berkeley Fiction Review, Tampa Review, War Literature & the Arts (U.S. Air Force Academy), Pacific Review, Eleven Eleven, The Bitter Oleander, South Dakota Review, Minetta Review (NYU), Hawaii Pacific Review, Ellipsis Magazine, The Nassau Review, The MacGuffin, Reed Magazine, The Broken Plate, Roanoke Review, and Short Story America, and have been featured in literary theater. Impressive, yes, but all that is simply background white noise when compared to the experience of reading Frank's work - this particular novel FROM AFAR being a prime example.

The novel is a memoir of a hopeless romantic's search for love in Russia. From the first few paragraphs we are offered a solid feeling of Frank's style: `The two skeletons lay face to face, their arms and legs intertwined. The bones, half exposed, had been carefully brushed clean, the lower portion of which remained embedded in the earth. The diggings had been roped-off and were framed in a rectangular trench meant to keep rainwater from draining into it. The caption read: `Eternal Love,' an archeological find in Italy believed to be 10,000 years old. It was a perfect encapsulation of love, I thought as I stared at the image on my computer screen. Love everlasting the way it was meant to be, although I couldn't help but let out a sarcastic chuckle in the same breath. It's a rare occurrence when two people love for an entire lifetime. Even rarer when they end up petrified together in an eternal love embrace. It seems to me the majority of relationships end up in failure. Of all the thousands of skeletons found in all the thousands of archeological digs, how many have they really found like this? Not too many. Still, the imagery was artistic and romantic, and it made me want to try again. I pulled the keyboard close to my chest. The huge task ahead was a bit daunting. Truth is, the number of dating sites out there is a bit mind boggling. There's eHarmony, for those who want to be matched by common personality traits; Match.com, for those who want the largest selection; Click & Flirt, for those who just want to play around; Plenty of Fish, for those who don't give a damn; and Under Thirty, Over Thirty, etcetera, etcetera. They even have one called Farmers Only. That one really got me. I guess coming from a city, I need not apply.'

There is the style, and the author offers his synopsis: `For centuries, poets have argued that unrequited love is love in its strongest form. FROM AFAR is a timeless tale of Morgan Stanfield's search for love in the far northern city of Saint Petersburg, Russia. Leaving the warm climate of Santa Barbara, he embarks on a four-day odyssey where he encounters a Russian beauty, a prostitute, a wise old babushka, an American chauvinist, intellectuals, the Russian mafia, and the `face' of love, and comes to know how love from a distance can be more captivating than love close on hand.'

Prediction: with this novel Frank Scozzari will become planted in the field of important American authors of the day. He writes with infectious energy, humor, angst, and sensitivity and teaches us more about love than most authors attempt in a lifetime. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, July 15

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.