We first met the Southern writer Michael Malone at a conference in
Foolscap: Or, The Stages of Love is not the comic romp of Handling Sin. It is a story of Theo Ryan, an English professor who has not quite found his place in the world. When the novel parodies the self-importance of academic communities and publishers, we wonder how close it comes to the author's own lived experience--Malone, who certainly knows the world of publishing, is married to a professor of English at a southern university. If you are reading Foolscap, be sure and stay with it. You might not know where it is going, but toward the end Malone brings it together with a fabulous image that is inspiring, refreshing, and well worth the trip.
As Christmas approaches, you might also try Malone's The Last Noel. This is a beautiful, bittersweet story that traces the relationship between two friends over the course of a lifetime. We see Kaye and Noni in a series of Christmas encounters, each separated by several years. Best buddies as children, they grow to love each other dearly. Sadly, they never quite admit it--not to each other, anyway, or not in time, or maybe not until the end. Pack some tissue for this one, but be ready, too, to enjoy the present with the people you love. As you read, look for Malone's subtle allusions to the twelve days of Christmas in his twelve chapters.