You asked for it – Women and Wild Savages, the print version, hot off the presses! Hold it in your hands. Feel the sleek, smooth surface of real paper. Revel in the smell of fresh ink. Dog ear it. Marginalia it. Mark it with an R for Reader and Me.
Romance, love, betrayal, poetry, friendship, horse-drawn carriages, coffeehouses, wineries, death, tragedy and hope – all wrapped up in the story of a young, aspiring actress and her marriage to the world-famous architect and designer, Adolf Loos. Because you deserve to spend some quiet hours in Vienna’s coffeehouses.
Women and Wild Savages is the first book in the Vienna Muses series
Women and Wild Savages is the first book in the Vienna Muses series and currently available on amazon.com as ebook
No woman knows, or ever has known, or ever will know, what she does when she enters into association with a man.
Women and Wild Savages is out! Very excited to share some big news for me personally – a book I have been working on for several years was released this past week on amazon.com. The print version will follow soon and all versions will be available at other outlets by February. The book is the first in a series entitled “The Vienna Muses” which takes place in Vienna at the beginning of the 1900s.
Writing has always been a part of me and with the publication of this book, a lifelong dream has come true. I am grateful to a great many people – obvious and not so apparent – who have supported this dream and this particular project along the way.
I have spent so many years with the characters in this book that they have – in a strange way – become a part of my life. I have held their postcards in the Vienna City archives, their letters of desperation — perhaps their very last letters – in the Austrian National Archives. I have studied their poetry, their books, the book of those they loved and those that loved them and tried my best, over 100 years after the events, to recreate a story that conveys not only the characters, and the city, but an entire Zeitgeist. I can only humbly hope that those who read Women and Wild Savages will hear the clings of silver spoons on porcelain and smell the tantalizing scent of freshly roasted coffee beans while they delve into the private salons, grand cathedrals, buzzing coffeehouses and cobble-stoned lanes of Vienna of the early 1900s.
Two not-so-obvious supporters of my writing
Research and writing can be frustrating at times, but every now and then fate seems to throw you a bone. While working on the book, through some miracle of miracles after hours of google procrastination, at about 2 am one morning, I came across a 1904 newspaper clipping from a New Zealand online archive with a copy of a tragic last letter from one of the characters to another. What are the chances?
After years of work on the manuscript, I had finished nearly everything, had spent days painstakingly going through all the final edits from my copy editor and just as the finish line appeared upon the horizon, I found myself faced with evil incarnate. I logged into my computer to find all my files locked. A window popped up demanding that I pay an ungodly amount in Bitcoins or I’d never see my files again. Do hackers from the darkside have any idea what writers earn? Back your character up against a wall and see how they react – a demand of writers to up the tension in their books. Was someone in the book of life playing a bad joke and testing me?
A friend once wrote when his book was published that he had expected the joy that would come on release day but not the sorrow. After spending so many years alone together with these characters, I can definitely relate to this. Publication feels like a time to say good-bye and I nervously stand by the door as I release my version of my characters, my words, my work into the world.
As I watch Lina Loos, Adolf Loos, Peter Altenberg, Karl Kraus, Marie Lang and all the others waltz from my safe-keeping to yours, I can only hope that I have been true to them, to Vienna, the Zeitgeist, and that you, dear readers, will find as much pleasure in your time together with them as I have over the years.
It’s madness, says reason, It is what it is, says Love (Es ist Unsinn, sagt die Vernunft, Es ist was es ist, sagt die Liebe) – Erich Fried, Was es ist
A drastic decrease in heart-shaped Milka boxes at Merkur combined with a sharp increase in the amount of debonair gentlemen bearing bouquets of fresh flowers throughout Vienna’s streets on the 14th of February can only mean one thing. After years of stead-fast resistance, the Austrians have finally caved in to cupid.
Ahh yes, opened up their hearts to let the sunshine in.
“It is what it is” poem from Erich Fried dedicated to a loved one on a rose bush in Vienna’s Volksgarten
And nothings says Ich liebe dich, like reciting a few of Vienna-born, Erich Fried’s poems over the candlelight dinner for two. Not a German native speaker? No worries, you can apparently get them in English (more info at the end of post).
But I know you. You’re a risk taker. And nothing says manly man like reading a love poem to your Herzilein in the original language. As my Australian friend would say – Well, good on ya! But you are still a bit worried about the accent? Don’t. Short, simple with a goo-goo eye (and hopefully ear) guarantee. She’ll be so smitten, she won’t notice your over-pronounced r’s and mix up of the i and the e. And if all else fails, remember, the more she drinks, the better you’ll sound.
But which poem, you ask. No worries. With Fried, you just can’t go wrong.
And as a Valentine’s present from KC to you, beloved reader, I have translated one of the poems from his book entitled, Es ist, was es ist to help you get started:
An Attempt I tried to try
while I had to work
to think of my work
and not of you
and I am happy
that the attempt
did not succeed
Translation: KC Blau
Ein Versuch Ich habe versucht zu versuchen
während ich arbeiten muß
an meine Arbeit zu denken
und nicht an dich
Und ich bin glücklich
daß der Versuch
nicht geglückt ist
Who was Erich Fried?
Sadly, Erich Fried’s Vienna years ended quite suddenly and tragically. Born on May 6, 1921, Fried lived at Alserstrasse 11 in the 9th district of Vienna as a child. When he was 16 and a student at a Gymnasium in the Wasagasse, German troops occupied Austria and arrested his parents for transferring money abroad. The Nazis closed his school and separated the Jewish children. Shortly after Erich Fried’s 17th birthday, his father was released from prison but died the next day from the injuries the Gestapo inflicted on him during captivity. Two months later, in July, Fried’s family was evicted from their apartment and in August, they fled to England where they lived in exile and Erich Fried eventually adopted British citizenship.
“But my final thoughts are tactile: the underside of my forearm lying above the swell of her breasts. Her lips under mine, soft and full. And the one detail I can neither fathom or shake, the one that haunts me into sleep: the feel of her fingertips tracing the outline of my face.”
– Sara Gruen, Water for Elephants (page 156)
Water for Elephants: A Novel is an example of a successful novel with great writing and a plot that challenges the norms of a romantic tale.
First published to unexpected but wide acclaim in 2006, Water for Elephants spent twelve weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list and ranked first on the Barnes & Nobles Paperback Fiction Bestseller List. Popularity of the book spread beyond the US with translations of the novel into over 44 languages. In 2011, the movie Water for Elephants was released and grossed over 113 million USD in ticket sales.
But once you read the book, Ms. Gruen’s success is not so surprising.
Sara Gruen masterfully sets pace by combining scenes and times so seamlessly her words communicate both at the same time. For example, she writes, “The gravy on the meat loaf has already formed a skin.” (Gruen 8). The image does more than indicate a few minutes have passed, it shows a specific picture, that all of the readers will relate to and find disheartening. Who likes gravy with skin? We not only see the clock ticking, we see the retirement home, the thick gravy, the skin, the blandness, and the monotony. Not only is time indicated but a mood is set and the environment is described, all in one sentence.
Subtlety makes Sara Gruen’s writing poignant. While rambling about the downsides of age, the 90 something year old Jacob predictably reflects on aching limbs and muddled minds. At the end of his list, however, he states that age silently spreads cancer throughout your spouse. (Gruen 12). The personal fact is unexpected and catches the reader off guard. Sure age is a terrible thief but the riveting detail shared in the passage is how much Jacob feels cheated that his wife has been taken away from him. Up to that point, the reader isn’t aware he has a wife. In one line, we know he has a wife, she has died of cancer and he is always thinking about her. His love and her omnipresence stabs a knife through the reader’s heart more sharply than an entire paragraph singing her praises.
Gruen further heightens the intensity of her character’s pain by first painting the canvas of the world as it should be, only in the next paragraph to dash the sanctity of this world into a thousand pieces with unexpected news of what the world has become. When Jacob is fetched from a lecture by school administrators, he thinks, “If I get expelled now, my father will kill me. No question about it. Never mind what it will do to my mother. Okay, so maybe I drank a little whiskey, but it’s not like I had anything to do with the fiasco in the cattle—.” In Jacob’s world, this is the worst that can happen and he does not suspect that something far worse lurks ahead.
A few pages later, Jacob draws these two worlds together in two lines, “This morning, I had parents. This morning, they ate breakfast.” A tragic death and departure each cause the characters great pain. This pain can be amplified by accentuating their innocent unexpectedness of events about to occur.
Last but not least, Gruen creates characters who are realistic because they are contradictory. She gets away with this by openly acknowledging the inconsistency:
It’s hard to reconcile this August with the other one, and to be honest, I don’t try very hard. I’ve seen flashes of this August before – this brightness, this conviviality, this generosity of spirit – but I know what he’s capable of, and I won’t forget it. The others can believe what they like, but I don’t believe for a second that this is the real August and the other an aberration. And yet I can see how they might be fooled. (Gruen 229).
Along these lines, Water for Elephants may represent the advent of the modern-day romantic tale. In this new version, the heroine finds herself caught up in a love triangle and discovers true love in the other man. And as if that isn’t change enough, the other man enters the scene not subsequent to her marriage but rather during it.
Water for Elephants combines historical facts with fiction as the backdrop to a tale of romance. Regis’ basic definition of a romance novel is, “…prose fiction that tells the story of courtship and betrothal of one of more heroines” (Regis 14). The novel even fulfills Regis’ eight narrative elements of romance novels. Of course, the lack of a happy-end along the lines of ‘boy-and-girl marry, and live happily ever after, ’ will no doubt prompt many rule-abiding romance readers to picket in protest. But personally, I enjoy the English Patients, Bridges Over Madison Counties and Out of Africas that tell tales of romance that are anything but simple. Life is not simple. And how many times can Nicholas Sparks be considered a writer of “love” stories rather than romances before someone takes a serious look at how have “agreed” to define the romance genre? But I am getting ahead of myself.
Rich, Motoko. “Water for Elephants – Sara Gruen – Books – New York Times.” The New York Times – Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. 5 Nov. 2011. Web. 5 Nov. 2011. <http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/11/books/11elep.html>.
KC Blau is originally a steel city girl who has resided amongst the cobble-stoned lanes of Vienna, Austria for over 15 years. She is a German-English translator who loves to relate the tales of a bygone era of the fascinating women who lived, loved and struggled (not necessarily in that order) in turn-of-century Vienna.