Anthony Squiers to read from first novel Nov. 11Published 8:51am Thursday, October 29, 2009
By JOHN EBY
Dowagiac Daily News
As the Dogwood Fine Arts Festival enters its second generation, it is beginning to reap what it has sown.
Raised in an environment marinated in the arts, Anthony Squiers has published an “edgy and provocative” debut novel inspired by his experiences studying in Manchester, England, home to notable rock groups from the Hollies to Morrissey and The Smiths and Oasis.
“It’s the Detroit of Britain,” he said. “Lots of rockers,” including the Brothers Gibb (Bee Gees) when they emigrated from Australia.
Squiers, a 1997 Union High School graduate who lives in Portage while studying for his doctorate in political philosophy (Bertolt Brecht, the German playwright, poet and theater director who died at 58 Aug. 14, 1956) at Western Michigan University, will be reading from “Madness and Insanity” and perhaps some poetry Wednesday, Nov. 11, at Round Oak Restaurant, 137 S. Front St., at 6:30 p.m.
Books will be on sale at the reception. They are also available through Amazon.com and Olympia Books down the street at 208 S. Front St.
Squiers said in a phone interview Wednesday evening that he began writing the book seven years ago in 2002- the year he and his twin brother, Aaron, carried the Olympic torch for the Salt Lake City winter games.
He watched the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington unfold from Manchester, where he was working on a master’s degree in international relations.
Tony recalled in a December 2001 interview with the Daily News, “Before Sept. 11, I never considered myself that patriotic, but just to be away from home when something like that happened, the first thing I did was look for other Americans.
“It was very strange because for about a month after it happened, people came up to me on a daily basis and gave me sympathy. These are like British citizens and people from all over the world I went to school with. It was really hard to be away from home when something like that happened. And then to have the Olympics in the U.S. and be able to showcase our country and say, ‘Look, we’re still standing. We’re not backing down.’ That’s really special.”
“Older generations know exactly where they were when they found out Kennedy was assassinated. I think this is something I’ll never forget. We had a reception for American students scheduled at the University of Manchester. I had taken a nap right before that. I woke up and rushed over to make this meeting. I walked in rubbing my eyes and I was disoriented from just waking up. One of the hosts came up to me at the door and said, ‘Are you okay?’ I said, ‘I just woke up. I’m a little bit tired.’ They said, ‘I mean, are you okay with what happened?’
“I had been sleeping the whole day. They told me and the whole reception was in shock. I didn’t find out until about 6 o’clock my time, which would be about 1 o’clock this time. The first thing I tried to do was make a phone call to the States. I tried for three hours and couldn’t get a line. It was pretty weird to be away from home when something like that happens,” Squiers said.
Then 23, Tony and Aaron were torch bearers for two-tenths of a mile on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2002, in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Squiers dedicated his book to DUHS English teachers Rich and Teri Frantz, who have been instrumental in bringing visiting authors to Dowagiac as well as its first residing author, Michael Collins.
Collins moved here from Washington state to teach at Southwestern Michigan College.
Squiers was a student of Mrs. Frantz sophomore year and Mr. Frantz senior year. Through them, he met Collins.
Collins, whose numerous novels include the acclaimed Death of a Writer, calls Anthony’s effort “honest, brilliant and readable. Squiers in Madness and Insanity achieves a singular genius reminiscent of some American greats who have that unique ability to be candid, glib, funny and insightful all within the same breath.”
“When I was in high school is about when the Dogwood Festival was taking off,” Squiers said.
The Frantzes “really got me interested in literature.”
While the title seems to suggest what Squiers admits is a “dark story,” there are “some humorous happenings, some surprisingly humorous, farcical elements.”
A reception with hors d’oeuvres and music follows his reading.
Madness and Insanity is the story of David, a recent high school graduate and embarrassment to his father.
After an untimely arrest he is exiled to college in Manchester, England, a place notorious for its culture of drunken fornication and music.
There, David is assimilated into an eccentric group of international students and swept into a farcical lifestyle of drugs, casual sex and indifference.
He searches for meaning through an escalating use of drugs, alcohol and self-deprivation that nearly kills him.
He ends up however, discovering something quite unexpected.
“Sprinkle some Jake Barnes into a liberal helping of Keith Richards, add LSD and whatever else you can get your hands on, and you have David Keller, an unforgettable character journeying into Madness and Insanity in Pamplona, the Greek Islands and other exotic destinations, but always coming back to the greater journey: the one that ends with self,” says Michael Loyd Gray, author of Well Deserved.
“An emotional and disturbing novel that follows the harrowing antics of a post-grad student in his quest to understand madness and insanity,” says Norm Goldman, bookpleasures.com.
Daily News readers are more familiar with the work of Aaron, who wrote about serving in Iraq and a memorial tribute to teachers Russ Bergemann and Ken Dockerty, DUHS principal. Anthony said his brother is now back stateside.