Excerpt from Bookmarked: How the Great Books of Western Literature F*cked Up My Life by Mark Scarbrough

A poignant, funny, and timely memoir that marries the intimacy and the sexual identity themes of Boy Erased with My Life in Middlemarch’s interest in the way literature shapes and influences our lives, written in the authentic Southern voice, deeply incisive wit, and with quirky but erudite observations evocative of John Jeremiah Sullivan’s Pulphead.

Mark Scarbrough has been searching for something his entire life. Whether it’s his birth mother, true love, his purpose, or his sexual identity, Mark has been on a constant quest to find out who he really is, with the great Western texts as his steadfast companions. As a boy with his head constantly in a book, desperate to discover new worlds, he can hardly distinguish between their plots and his own reality. The child of strict Texan Evangelicals, Mark is taught by the Bible to fervently believe in the rapture and second coming and is thus moved to spend his teen years as a youth preacher in cowboy boots. At college, he discovers William Blake, who teaches him to fall in love with poems, lyrics…and his roommate Alex. Raised to believe that to be gay was to be a sinner, Mark is driven to the brink of madness and attempts suicide. Hoping to avoid books once and for all, Mark joins the seminary, where he meets his wife, Miranda. Neither the seminary nor the marriage stick, and Mark once again finds himself turning to his books for the sense of belonging he continues to seek….

In the tradition of beloved titles like The End of Your Life Book ClubReading Lolita in Tehran, and The Year of Reading DangerouslyBookmarked tells a deeply personal story through the lens of literature. An examination of one man’s complicated, near-obsessive relationship with books, and how they shaped, molded, ruined, and saved him, Bookmarked is about how we listeners stash our secrets between jacket covers and how those secrets ultimately get told in the ways that the books themselves demand. 

Excerpt

Caution: A Preface

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: “I found myself in Middlemarch!” Or “Shakespeare saved my life!”

I call bullshit. Shakespeare never saved anyone. Least of all, me. Although I sure wanted him to. Ached for him to, somewhere in the marrow middle of my bones. And not only him but all the other literary lions, like William Blake, Charlotte Brontë, and Henry James, now dead and mounted on the wall of Western culture.

I got sucked in by their promises, the best things. A once upon a time that leads logically to the end. Characters who remain true to themselves, despite what the plot throws at them. And desires that can be—ta-da!—fulfilled. Or at least understood.

And something more tangible, too. Down in my soul’s basement, where the lights are dim and my hopes are laid away in boxes, I dreamed up a mad quest through the great books to find a home. To hear the crackle in a fireplace. To feel the weight of the covers at night. To breathe in and out all that’s human and loved.

Maybe I should have lowered my sights. Maybe only the main character gets home. Problem is, I’ve always felt like a minor one: the sidekick in a baggy sweater, the wiseacre two desks down. The guy who steps into a story, pushes it along in some vague way, and gets a one-liner as his reward: Years later, I heard he died in a car crash.

Or maybe I asked so much from the great books because of my upbringing. When I was ten, my parents left the Southern Baptist church. “It is too liberal,” they said, seemingly in unison, a plainsong truth-telling that led us to the upland pastures of American fundamentalism. Letters were sent. Ministers were challenged. Friends were lost.

Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t latch onto the great books because they were forbidden. I never once read under the sheets with a flashlight. Oh, sure, I had to skip the sex scenes and turn a blind eye to the notion that a liberal could be the good guy. Authors! What can you do?

But nothing could befoul us. We were the true believers. We interpreted the Vietnam War, Nixon, and everything else as a story, a plot, rushing toward the apocalypse. The world sinned, it burned up, and we got out alive. Time was a straight line.

Once I started reading, I discovered that novels, stories, plays, and even poems were alternate timelines, descending and ascending like a grid. They even got to the same places we believed in: just deserts or happily ever after. For a long time, I wanted to homestead on that scaffolding, even though it kept coming apart and slamming to the ground. I just wasn’t myself without a book in my hand.

Then I wasn’t myself with one. Over time, books stopped being words outside my skin and became shadowy bits inside my brain, alternate versions of me, telling their own stories. I morphed into a bizarre body of shredded volumes, stalking the far country of my imagination. That’s how I saw a long-dead poet manifest in front of me one night. How I got a job fishing monks out of gay bars. And ultimately why I tossed the person I loved over the cliff of insanity in a hail Mary! attempt to save my own brain from dissolving like a cheap paperback in a deluge.

All of which is to say, be careful what you read. It can fuck you up, too.

But don’t worry. There’s a truth beyond the great works of Western literature. Life may seem linear, forceps to tombstone. Instead, the cosmos is round and elastic, spiraled and helixed. Atoms, galaxies, your DNA—they spin and come back around. I got out from under literature’s curse. You can, too.

So this story is a comedy, like Dante’s, if not so divine. But there’s no good news without the bad, which is part and parcel of it. In books, in life, even in the old poet’s journey across the universe, the way up starts with the way down.

Copyright 2021 by Mark Scarbrough. Propertius Press All rights reserved.

About the Author

I’m half of the NYTimes bestselling cookbook writing team behind over thirty cookbooks, including THE INSTANT POT BIBLE, THE ULTIMATE COOKBOOK, and THE ESSENTIAL AIR FRYER COOKBOOK. I’m (recently!) a memoirist, too, with BOOKMARKED: HOW THE GREAT WORKS OF WESTERN LITERATURE F*CKED UP MY LIFE. I host two literary podcasts: WALKING WITH DANTE, the only slow-walk through Dante’s masterwork COMEDY; and LYRIC LIFE, a podcast about lyric poetry. I also co-host COOKING WITH BRUCE AND MARK, a podcast and YouTube channel with his husband, Bruce Weinstein. A former academic, I now teach eight-week literary seminars across my part of of the world on Virginia Woolf, William Faulkner, Emily Dickinson, and more; and I lead two book discussion group, one online with multiple sessions and an international membership. I find my peace with two collies on acres in very rural New England. 

Website http://www.markscarbrough.com
Twitter https://twitter.com/markscarbrough

New Release: Mercy Hospital

Auto accidents. Mysterious fires. Cultists. Mythological figures. Poisoned lands. Is danger spreading from sinister Dubbs House? These bloody events come alive under the watchful eye of Doctor Kathryn Cross, a former victim of the town, now turned survivor. Her skepticism is the only thing keeping her sane as she unravels a potential conspiracy seeded within the town. Follow the doctor, the townspeople of Silver Hollow, and all who pass through it as they journey into the depths of the town and its evil infestation. Can they unravel its secrets before the manifestation spreads?

Previously published under Anne Hogue-Boucher, ASIN: 1653728450

About the Author:

Lucienne LeBeau is the author of the Silver Hollow trilogy as well as short stories and weird fiction. Her background in mental health counselling has allowed her to experience life from both sides of the couch. She specializes in cosmic horror and bent realities.  Her other books include “The Walking Doctor”, “Dubbs House”, “Now Entering Silver Hollow”, and “Exit 1042”.

Book Reviews:

Rattling reader

5.0 out of 5 stars  Addictive chills and fabulous surprises

Verified Purchase

“MERCY HOSPITAL is a fine horror novel that I read in one sitting although it did mean going to bed late and in a nervous state. I needed to know what happened next. The tale is told through different narrators and with alternative narrative techniques. There are also time shifts that complement the originality. But what makes MERCY HOSPITAL succeed is a solid story rooted in a singular vision. MERCY HOSPITAL has an omnipotent mythic threat, real characters, tantalising mystery and connected events that hold it all together. The details that suggest an authenticity are an added bonus. For once the medics are more important investigators than the cops. MERCY HOSPITAL is a great read.”

Mark Bushey

5.0 out of 5 stars  Read this book. Read it. Read it now!

Verified Purchase

“Another great read by [Lucienne LeBeau]! This sequel to You Are Now Entering Silver Hollow is told from a physician’s point of view in the nearby town whose Emergency Department is regularly visited by victims of strange “accidents” involving massive blood loss. The doctor struggles to remain rationally detached, but finds it difficult when she views the circumstances through her own experiences in Silver Hollow.
A truly great read with good pacing; you will not be disappointed.”

 

“Mercy Hospital” by Lucienne LeBeau is available in hardback from Amazon at:

You can also purchase the paperback version from Amazon at:

 

Press/Media Contact Details:

Darin Jewell (literary agent & publicist for Lucienne LeBeau)
E-mail: darin@theinspiragroup.com

New Release: Wrapper the Rabbit: Adventures of Autumn by Matthew G. Huggins

Nestled deep in the heart of the countryside lies the beautiful valley of Scotney Castle. This peaceful place is home to all manner of wildlife, but perhaps most notably of all, is a young rabbit named Wrapper, with a heart full of excitement and an unquenchable thirst for adventure.

As the season of Autumn falls across the picturesque woods and hillsides he calls home, we follow Wrapper and his companions as they explore the natural world around them. Making new friends as they go and getting into all manner of situations, Wrapper learns about life, the world in which he lives and even a little about himself along the way.

“Change is the only thing that will always be the same. We just have to appreciate it as it comes.”

This collection of five short stories holds closely to themes of adventure, friendship and nature throughout. You may just find yourself happily lost in a world where the grass is green and the air is fresh, with just a sprinkling of magic.

Excerpt from the book:

“Wrapper the Rabbit:  Adventures of Autumn” by Matthew G. Huggins is available in paperback at:https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wrapper-Rabbit-Adventures-Matthew-Huggins/dp/180031020X

Press/Media Contact Details:

New Generation Publishing
Tel. 01234 711 956
E-mail: info@newgeneration-publishing.com

New Release: Endless Obsession by Dai Henley

A woman approaches private investigator, Andy Flood, claiming that her controlling husband tried to drown her in the Gulf of Mexico while on holiday in Florida. Miraculously, she finds her way back to the UK, determined to exact revenge.

Flood turns down the case, doubting her fanciful story but when something shocking happens to her, he feels compelled to investigate.

Meanwhile, Flood’s daughter is arrested on suspicion of murder, claiming self-defence. When similarities begin to appear in their stories, he faces a dilemma: having doubted the woman’s claim, should he believe his daughter?

***

“Excellent characterisation and superb plot with an ending that took my breath away” – The Bookbag

“A compelling thriller packed full of twists and a host of captivating characters” – The Wishing Shelf

About the Author:

Dai Henley‘s crime novels cover the themes of obsession, revenge and justice. As part of his research, he has attended over 100 murder trials at the Old Bailey, London’s Central Criminal Court. It never ceases to amaze him how ordinary people react when faced with an extraordinary issue which they believe requires a life-changing solution.

He has received wonderful reviews and won awards for his previous novels, ‘Blazing Obsession’ and ‘Reckless Obsession’.

Endless Obsession” by Dai Henley is available in paperback at:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Endless-Obsession-Dai-Henley/dp/1803699795

You can also download the e-book version of this thriller at:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Endless-Obsession-Dai-Henley-ebook/dp/B09HTWX47X

“Endless Obsession” is available through all good booksellers including Amazon, Waterstones and Barnes & Noble. 

Review copies available on request.

Press/Media Contact Details:

For interview, comment and information from New Generation Publishing, e-mail: info@newgeneration-publishing.com
or call 01234 711 956

New Release: A Room Without Windows by Rosie Brown

When a wife loses her husband, that can be too much to bear: but when a mother then loses her only son, that is just one loss too far.

Mary Tegg doesn’t know which way to turn, and her young daughter is suffering because her mother is finding it impossible to sort their lives out. Mary desperately needs someone to blame for the death of her son, and it has to be someone other than herself. Steve Jackson seems to be the obvious suspect, and so the watching begins. But Steve Jackson has a guilty secret, and he’d rather die than tell the truth about what really happened that night. Mary’s hate-filled, angry eyes are beginning to get the better of him, and his behaviour is disrupting his family. His father tells him that it’s better to ignore her and not let it get to him so much, but he’s afraid of what she might know.

When she finally knocks on the Jacksons’ door and accuses Steve of murdering her son, all hell is let loose in the Jackson house. But then Malcolm Tegg unexpectedly arrives back in town, and what he learns by accident makes him determined to get to the truth. As life becomes too complicated for Steve Jackson, will he finally reveal the truth about that night, or will he continue his painful struggle to look for an easier way out of his agony? A way that would be a more certain release from something from which he is desperate to break free.

About the Author:

Rosie Brown has always enjoyed writing – both stories and poetry. At Grammar School, she was encouraged by her English teacher, who would read her stories, written for homework, to the rest of the class.  Rosie’s greatest achievement at that time was when her last piece of homework was printed in the school magazine. After leaving school, she would make up poems during her long walk to work. From her mid-30s, she has continued to write a lot of poetry, and a book on spirituality. Some of her poems have been published in anthologies. Eventually, in her 60s, she started to write this novel, and hopes to publish more of her work in future.

A Room Without Windows” by Rosie Brown is available in hardback at:

Paperback copies are available to purchase from:

You can also download the e-book version at:

Press/Media Contact Details:

New Generation Publishing
Tel. 01234 711 956
E-mail: info@newgeneration-publishing.com