"Drinking with Ptolemy" (literary)

Sample Pitches from prior New York Pitch Conference--various genres.
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Paula Closson Buck
Posts: 1
Joined: 04 May 2007, 20:10

"Drinking with Ptolemy" (literary)

#1 Post by Paula Closson Buck » 12 Aug 2007, 01:02

NAME Paula Closson Buck

TITLE "Drinking with Ptolemy"

GENRE Literary Fiction

COMPS Eat, Pray, Love meets The Kite Runner

CREDS I am an associate professor of English (creative writing) at Bucknell University, where I also edit the nationally circulated literary magazine West Branch. I've published one book of poems with LSU Press and have another forthcoming from LSU in spring 2008. Living in West Berlin in 1998, I met the East German poet Sascha Anderson, whose later exposure as a former Stasi informant set my story in motion.

PITCH PROPER_The summer that Eastern Europe begins to dismantle its Iron Curtain, American Lyddie Whalen is asked to investigate the Nazi affiliations of a well-known Bauhaus architect. Leaving her husband behind, she travels to divided Berlin, where she becomes involved with two figures from the city’s vibrant counter-culture: one Western, one Eastern. Sabina Kraemer is Lyddie’s translator and guide to bohemian West Berlin. A single mother caught in a web of deceits over her daughter’s paternity, Sabina is semi-reliable at best. And when Lyddie’s own life intersects with that of Axel Herzog, a poet forced out of the East for reasons no one fully understands, the rift in Lyddie’s marriage widens. Axel’s intensity, his stories of the fifth-century Greek mystics, and even his scorn for conventional romance prove as irresistible to Lyddie as they are forbidding.

But chilling glimpses into Axel’s past compel Lyddie to take refuge with Sabina on a Greek island associated with Axel’s Desert Fathers. In Greece, jealousies erupt between the two women, who find that they both love Axel. And the island’s wild interior shelters not ancient ascetics but a band of newly washed-up Kurdish refugees, whom Lyddie stumbles upon and is asked to help. When Axel turns up on the island for reasons of his own, he and Lyddie and Sabina circle one another warily amid the stark beauty of the Cycladic landscape, each unsure how much the others know. And the fate of the Kurds will depend on whether any trust remains unviolated.


1 • LYDDIE •

Past the village where white houses levitated above the road, the lapis dome of a church rose on a sky of a more reticent blue. The convulsed geometry of the mountains had been softened little by thousands of years of wind and weather. Only in the village were there trees—eucalyptus and tamarisk. Lyddie thought they had arrived. But the driver motioned further on up the road—a gash disappearing around the side of the mountain. The truck bumped along for another half hour until the mountains emptied out onto a plain where late-season fields lay golden and dry. In the near distance, the turquoise sea completed a trinity of blues. The driver pulled off the road and looked at Lyddie, drawing his mouth into a shrug that suggested he had lived up to his part of the bargain.

“Artemóna?” she asked.

The man nodded and she stepped out.

Where she had expected loud Greek festivity—women dancing to the music of a fiddle, rakí tipped to the great mustaches of the men—there was nothing. The driver of the pickup pulled away, leaving her in a cloud of dust.

The profound silence around her could be perceived only as space—an immense volume of blue sky and of field. Coaxed by a light wind, a few aluminum cans and paper napkins skittered along.

She squinted into the sun. There was no church, no village of white houses. In the dry field next to a building like a taverna closed for the season, a donkey pressed close to the shade of a ragged juniper. Peering through the doorway, she saw nothing at first and then, as her eyes adjusted to the dim interior, two shallow marble sinks. Beside them, stacks of dirty porcelain plates and bowls towered precariously, monuments to the day’s indulgence. Garbage containers were heaped with bread and bones. Lyddie paid homage to an old sensation: that life had happened in a room just beyond the one she had entered, a room caught in another time. It had felt that way since she’d left Buffalo for Berlin, going where her work with the museum took her, and then Berlin for the island, leaving the work behind. Though she had intended to return to Phelps, the husband who waited for her back home, she kept moving further out.

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