Journey into the mind and writings of U. R. Bowie, Ph.D., accomplished author and retired professor. His latest book covers are below. Scroll down for several book synopses. GOGOL’S HEAD now available. See Blogs about GOGOL’S HEAD on My Blog page. Description of forthcoming book ONE TON is on the Future Works Page.
Books available now on Amazon:
Robert Bowie, (pen name U.R. Bowie), was raised in Central Florida and graduated from the University of Florida in 1962. He studied Russian in the U.S. Army (nine-month intensive at the Defense Language Institute) and then earned an M.A. at Tulane University and a PhD at Vanderbilt University. For thirty years (1970-2000) he taught Russian language, literature and culture at Miami University, of Oxford, Ohio. He has had an extensive career in Russia, spent a year teaching in Russia on a Fulbright Scholar Grant and has worked as a consultant for American business on Russian mentalities. Among his courses at Miami University was one on folklore and mythology, which included discussion of the hero’s journey and Siberian shamanism.
Book synopses and additional information:
HARD MOTHER (A Novel in Lectures and Dreams)
The year is 2021. The world is slowly recovering from the Great Catastrophe of 1996. You say there was no worldwide catastrophe in 1996. This is a work of fiction, and in this work there was. A middle-aged woman, Rebecca A. Breeze, professor of Russian literature at Oogleyville State College (Mass.), in the midst of a breakdown, has been forced by her superiors to consult a therapist. She refuses treatment by modern methods of drug and machine therapy, but agrees to describe her violent dreams. “The dreams…Russian literature sends them to me. Jesus Christ has a lot to do with it as well, but mainly it’s Russian literature.”
The dreams of Prof. Breeze constitute an extensive manuscript, the tale of the crazed Ultimian writer Eugene Ispovednikov (“The Shriver”) and his return to his native Ultimia—an imaginary country resembling Russia—where he foments a revolution and is crowned king in 1992. Disillusioned by the Catastrophe—a pandemic of bubonic plague that has left the whole world in chaos—he sets out on a pilgrimage eastward in 1999, seeking what he terms “The Unbearable Whiteness of Being.” The Shriver is accompanied by Maggie the Queen, Ivanushka the Dolt and his American compatriot Dezra MacKenzie, the Swedish mercenary Boe and his troops, the vile Bomelius (apothecary and physician to the king) and a convert from the Urinator faith, Foka Yankov.
A year later, at the turn of the Millennium, after numerous tribulations—encounters with violent sectarians of every stripe: including the Anti-Prepucors, who abhor foreskins, and the dread Castrates, who introduce our heroes to the “baptism in fire”—what remains of the Shriver’s party reaches the summit of the Magic Mountain of Dura, where the Whiteness is.
Rebecca Breeze narrates her part of the story from the year 2021, but none of the action takes place in that future time. The chapters set in Ultimia (1992-2000) alternate with chapters describing the adventures of an American professor in the Soviet Union of 1983. John J. Botkins, Jr., the prototype of Ivanushka the court fool in the Ultimia chapters and the central protagonist of the book, runs amuck in Communist Russia. He violates Soviet laws with impunity, steals Lev Tolstoy’s bicycle from the Tolstoy Museum in Moscow, sneaks into the Spartakiada rowing competitions disguised as an Estonian athlete, urinates against the Kremlin Wall—all the while propagating the joys of homosexuality, the efficacy of laughter, and the glory of possessing a foreskin.
The Botkins chapters complement the picaresque in the chapters set in Ultimia. Pale refractions of the modern-day characters show up in future time, and the same themes are recurrent: the myth of eternal return, the meaning of laughter, the human obsession with violence, sex and scatology, the Russian soul, fathers and sons and daughters and mothers (including the Earth Mother), the yearning to perpetuate the species—while yearning simultaneously to smash all of life to smithereens—the significance of Jesus Christ in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
As the novel progresses, the role of Rebecca Breeze becomes more and more central. She is the medium through which both the Botkins story and the Ultimian picaresque—the tale of the Shriver—pass. Towards the end of the book she abandons her therapy and makes plans to go out into the very world of violence that dominates her dreams. Like Botkins, MacKenzie and the Shriver, she is seeking her own “Unbearable Whiteness of Being,” and at the book’s conclusion she is on the verge of finding it.
Hard Mother is a highly ambitious comic novel. Like any comedy in the genre of literary fiction it is undergirded with high seriousness. A book with lots of action and even more food for thought, Hard Mother is influenced, most prominently, by the works of Gogol, Bulgakov, Marquez, Nabokov, Flannery O’Connor and Philip Roth. The reader should not approach this novel with an apple in one hand and a scotch in the other. The reader should be prepared to have his/her settled notions shaken up in interaction with this book, to fight and scratch and be offended. Any literary art is, of necessity, offensive, but is also, one hopes, efficacious and good for the soul.
GOOGLEGOGOL: Stories from the Data Base of Russian Literature, Inc.
Bowie writes in the grand tradition of Russian literature. “Googlegogol” consists of thirteen short stories, based (thematically, biographically, or stylistically) on Bulgakov, Bunin, Chekhov, Gogol, Dostoevsky, Nabokov, Tolstoy, and others. The entire production is refracted through the consciousness of that quintessential deranged master of Russian prose: Nikolai Gogol.
Some of the stories are set in Russia, others in the U.S. Some are written in purely realistic style, but the collection as a whole owes much to Russian modernism. An example of the realism is “The Death of Ivan Lvovich,” which tells the tale of the brief life of Tolstoy’s last and most beloved son, Ivan, as narrated by Ivan Bunin—winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1933. Bunin, who is eking out a poverty-stricken life in the south of France, while Hitler’s forces are invading Russia, looks back on the year 1895—when, as a young writer, he visited Lev Tolstoy in Moscow and found him grieving over his dead son. “Running Thoughts” is a stream-of-consciousness tale that takes the reader into the mind of Tolstoy, on the evening in 1910 when he made his decision to flee his Yasnaja Polyana estate and his intolerable life—and ended up running into the arms of Death.
Several stories describe events in the life of Fyodor Dostoevsky. “Man Beating Man Beating Horse” relates an episode that occurred in 1837, when Dostoevsky, his father and brother were on their way to St. Petersburg, where he would enroll in the Academy for Military Engineers. “Something in the Way of a Parricide” tries to get a handle on the story of the “murder” of Dostoevsky’s father in 1839, while “Executed (Almost)” relates how Dostoevsky was put through the ordeal of a fake execution in St. Petersburg (1849).
Other stories range far from the style of traditional Russian realism. Owing much in its themes and style to Gogol and Bulgakov, “Shoes Run Amuck” describes the misadventures of a man who—much to his subsequent chagrin—robbed the grave of Nikolai Gogol in 1931, on the day when Gogol’s body was disinterred for reburial at Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow. “Hobnob” uses Nabokovian tropes to recreate a pale version of the great Nabacocoa and describe his proctoring of an exam in Ohio, 1952— and his interactions with the mind of one of the students taking that exam.
Several stories are written in a Chekhovian vein. “The Lady from Berdichev” is the tale of an old lady living out her life in Brighton Beach, while ever yearning back toward her birthplace of Berdichev, as Chekhov’s three sisters yearn for Moscow. In “Divertimento for Strings and Structure,” a story into which Raymond Carver pokes his nose briefly, Chekhov makes a personal appearance in the flesh (or at least in the mind of the hapless protagonist).
Other stories feature highly unusual characters or narrators. “Anteayer” is a modern tale of schizophrenia, a story of a young woman who leaves Russia for the American Dream, only to find that the only dreams she knows how to dream are Russian dreams. The lead story, “Recruiting,” describes obliquely how Russian Literature goes about gathering its personages and images, while its companion story, “Chimeras,”—the last in the collection—is a tale of Russian nesting dolls; open one up, and whoops, there’s a new narrator or author inside, and then open that one up and whoops, there’s still someone else. “The Riddle of the Duck” is, primarily, about Russian mentalities, the way Russians can hold simultaneous contradictory notions in their minds. It features a man who may or may not be Lee Harvey Oswald, still alive on the fiftieth anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination.
A brief word about the cover art. The front cover depicts a scene from the famous fabulist Ivan Krylov, his tale (“Quartet”) of how a nasty and uppity monkey decided to organize a string quartet. The monkey recruited an ass, a goat and a bear, and they all set about sawing away on their instruments; only to discover that none of them had ever learned to play an instrument. The back cover shows three of Russia’s finest writers—Lermontov, Pushkin, and Gogol—mulling over life in general, while cogitating over the back cover copy beneath them and the way Russian literature is presented in Googlegogol.
THE TALE OF THE BASTARD FEVERFEW
FROM THE BACK COVER:
Correctional officer J.D. Hemsler thought he had the routine down. In the morning you go into the belly of the beast; in the afternoon you come back out. Something like the way a Siberian shaman goes on a healing quest into another realm, where he is taken apart, put back together, but always returns with the magic boon. Then came the day when Hemsler was trapped in the belly of the beast. Taken apart but not put back together. The Tale of the Bastard Feverfew is the story of a prison riot in Ohio and the struggle of one hostage guard to survive. The book is structured on the pattern of the hero’s journey in folklore and mythology (Departure—Initiation—Return).
Yea, lo, behold the mystery of dismemberment, which is life in time.
The fog had lifted. In the sunny skies above the guard towers and razor wire redwing blackbirds swirled around, reveling in their own harsh calls, in the carnal reality of their existence. It was 2:20 p.m. Correctional officers Josiah D. Hemsler and Datrolt Correll were in the L-5 locked-off stairwell, the so-called “safe haven,” listening to the inmates pound on the reinforced concrete wall with universal weight bars. When he saw the concrete start to give Hemsler knew he was dead. He even said as much to his fellow officer, in a voice so calm he surprised himself. He said, “Datrolt, get ready to die.”
The sad and like-wike weepy tale of wittle Elkie Selph
Bowie’s novella OWN is a cautionary tale exhibiting strong creative writing skills with a dramatic and provocative story about a mass shooting.
FROM THE BACK COVER:
My name’s Elkin (Own)Selph, from Tocotano, GA. I love ole Georgie-what’s not to love? Not nobody caint not love the good ole sod-off Blue Ridge Mountains of NE Georgie.
Thang is, doe, I ain’t but wah-plach fifteen, and I got me like-wike real horrorshow woman problems, Now why did a ding-blinn Glock handgun get into the dits-blitz picture?
So here sets ole Own, all on his ownsome-lonesome, in a dark school cafeteria. Surrounded by scads of like-wike blinn-dead classmates. BAM BAM BAM BAM.
Quid nunc? NOW WHAT?
U. R. Bowie’s OWN is a fascinating story in the genre of literary fiction that can promote essays and discussions about contemporary and serious youth issues. Please see the OWN NOVEL page and consider the OWN Mission to help spur discussions on gun education, legislation, safety and the challenges of youth. You will also find extensive notes on the OWN MISSION and an OWN Lesson Plan for teachers.
Listen to Own himself read on the AUDIO PAGE.
OWN can be purchased at Amazon:
For an extensive look at Bowie’s accomplishments, travels is Russia, photos and variety of writings see his full resume on the ABOUT PAGE.
Information and Press Releases are on the NEWS PAGE.
Lectures and Book Signings will be posted here and on the EVENTS PAGE.
Some of the reviews from Amazon are on the REVIEWS PAGE.
The INTERVIEWS page has an article interview with Bowie as well as two insightful interviews Bowie does with himself: THE INTERVIEW and INTERVIEW ON WRITING. They are also included as blogs.
Bowie blogs about a variety of topics – another way to explore the mind and works of a literary fiction author that often uses uniquely interesting Russian references.
Books, products, and a link to Amazon are on the BOOKS/PRODUCTS PAGE.