As some of you know, Langdon Street Press just released my new novel, The Beauty of the Fall. One of the subplots in the book is domestic violence. I spent the last year on the board of the Bridges Center for Sexual and Domestic Violence Support, and one of the main characters in the novel, Willow, is professionally based on Dawn Reams who runs the Bridges Center in Nashua, New Hampshire. She helped me a great deal as I was shaping the novel, and in particular, she focused on the DV passages in the book to ensure they were authentic and unflinching. That’s why I am going to give Bridges 25K in profits from the TBOTF and my other two novels, The Big Wide Calm and The Color of Home.
My three novels are about different kinds of love. Romantic. Platonic. Love in an extended community. Because of the topic matter, I believe the books make great stocking stuffers or gifts for your employees and customers. If you would like to help Bridges out this holiday season, please consider buying as many copies of my books as possible. You can purchase them from this link:
One final thing. If you could forward this note to all of your friends, it would be greatly appreciated. Our fundraising is off to a good start, but we still have work to do. Thank you so much for your consideration.
Newly-released by Langdon Street Press, Rich Marcello’s new novel will take you take you on a life-changing spiritual journey. The Beauty of the Fall tackles emotionally transformative topics, explores father-son relationships, and working through grief. It explores social issues such as climate change, domestic violence, equality for women, and examines the internal struggle of corporate and political America against the people. The Beauty of the Fall suggests that in order to progress, we must communicate with each other and look at technology based solutions to many of our current social problems.
As anyone who has read Rich’s work can tell you, his books deal with life’s big questions including love. The Beauty of the Fall is the third of three novels Rich has written about different kinds of love.
[“Writing and creating art is about connection, about making a difference to a least one other person in the world.” – Rich Marcello.]
“The first novel, The Color of Home, published in 2013, is about romantic love. It follows the lives of a man and woman over six years as they figure out what it means to be in a generative, loving relationship,” Rich tells Breakaway Daily. “The second one, The Big Wide Calm, published in 2014, is about a young woman, Paige Plant, who is mentored on her way to making her first album. That one’s about platonic love. The Beauty of the Fall is about love in a wider sense, about love in community. But it’s also about fathers and sons, overcoming grief, social issues, and how folks might connect with each other with kindness and compassion in a difficult world,” Rich explains. “All of these topics were of great interest to me when I started the book three years ago, and they are even more relevant today.”
[Rich’s novels are rich with characters and ideas, crafted by a natural storyteller, with the eye and the ear of a poet.]
The Beauty of the Fall follows Dan Underlight, a divorced, workaholic technology executive, who suffers lingering grief over the death of his ten-year-old son, Zack. When Dan’s longtime friend and boss fires Dan from RadioRadio, the company that he helped create, he crashes and isolates himself. From the beginning of The Beauty of the Fall, it’s clear that Dan Underlight is in a downward spiral. Dan’s “fall” is something that he doesn’t seem to mind very much, however, because it is able to gain him insight. The book suggests that for some people falling is about getting back up, and for others, it’s completely breaking that allows them to be the person they want to become. Willow, a poet and domestic violence survivor and advocate, helps Dan regain his footing. With her support, Dan ventures on a pilgrimage of sorts, visiting Fortune 500 companies to flesh out a software start-up idea. When Dan returns home with a fully formed vision, he recruits the help of three former RadioRadio colleagues and starts Conversationworks, a company he believes will be at the vanguard of social change. Guided by Dan’s generative leadership, Conversationworks enjoys some early successes, but its existence is soon threatened on multiple fronts. Will Dan survive the ensuing corporate battles and realize the potential of his company? Or will he be defeated by his enemies and consumed by his grief?
[Rich Marcello is a poet, musician, a creative writing teacher, and the author of three novels.]
Breakaway Daily in-depth interview with author Rich Marcello.
BREAKAWAY DAILY: It’s a pleasure to speak with you again Rich. We last got to have a conversation back in 2014 about your novel The Big Wide Calm, about a girl trying to make it in the music business. This time around your novel focuses on technology instead of music. Yet it still contains themes of love and loss. What was one of your main goals while writing The Beauty of the Fall?
RICH: In The Beauty of the Fall (TBOTF), I set out to write about what it means to love in a wider sense of the word, to love in in community, and to do so even when the main character, Dan Underlight, has a lot of loss in his personal life. I was also interested in showing technology in a positive light, in this case as a way to bring people together to work on big problems. So much of what happens these days results in polarization between folks with good intentions. In TBOTF, I was interested in developing characters who strived to reduce polarization by valuing diversity and finding common ground.
BREAKAWAY DAILY: What was one of your main goals when you wrote The Big Wide Calm?
RICH: With The Big Wide Calm, one of the things I set out to do was write a female protagonist well. With Paige Plant, TBWC’s protagonist, I was able to give her a unique voice that carried through the story, and I love the way she turned out. I’m a firm believer that if you are going to be a writer that you need to write men and women equally as well, regardless of your gender, so I’m thankful Paige came to me when she did. In TBWC, I also wanted to show a deep, intimate, and loving relationship that was platonic instead of romantic, and I think by casting Paige alongside John Bustin, I achieved that goal as well.
BREAKAWAY DAILY:When people are looking for a new author to read in this genre, they want to connect with someone who has been through the ringer and made a rebound. The way you talk about loss in The Beauty of the Fall, it feels like it comes from a very personal place. Fiction writers tend to draw on personal experience to write their characters, and you write it too well to not have life experience in it. Can you share a little bit about that, and tell us about how you’ve grown in some way like your main character, Dan Underlight?
RICH: One of the main themes of the book is dealing with grief. As you point out, Dan goes through three losses early in the story, and, in a way, the whole story is about overcoming the loss of his son. By serving a broader goal––the formation and growth of his company, Conversationworks––he takes a few difficult steps toward healing. But he also takes a few steps backward. I guess it’s fair to say Dan learns how to generate love in a broad community even though he’s not sure he deserves love himself.
So I would say to your readers, the best way to manage grief is to go through it, and the best way to go through it is to serve a higher goal. And, I would also say, the hardest part of going through a great loss is to accept that you deserve to love again. While Dan and I are different in many ways, I have had a lot of loss in my life, and over a long period of time, I’ve fully grieved and learned what it means to surrender to life instead of constantly resisting it. When I finally did surrender, I was able to move on and fully love again.
BREAKAWAY DAILY: While The Beauty of the Fall is certainly Dan’s story, I could argue that Willow is as central to the story as Dan is. In a way, it’s also her story. What can you tell us about Willow?
RICH: Dan really loves Willow, and I think without her influence throughout the story, and her passion for helping women, Converstationworks wouldn’t have been the company it turned out to be.
I spent the last year on the board of the Bridges Center for sexual and domestic violence, and Willow is professionally based on Dawn Reams who runs the Bridges Center. Dawn helped me a great deal as I was shaping the novel, and in particular, she focused on the domestic violence passages in the book to ensure they were authentic and unflinching. That’s why I am going to give Bridges 25K in profits from the book.
[If you are interesting in helping raise 25K to support Bridges: Domestic & Sexual Violence Support, please click here.]
BREAKAWAY DAILY:Chakra mists and Buddha boards are often mentioned in The Beauty of the Fall. In the acknowledgments, you thank someone for their help with these that were therapy techniques you discussed in the book during Dan’s therapy sessions. What are your thoughts on the chakra mists and Buddha boards? What is your experience with those?
RICH: One of the things I wanted to do with TBOTF was to write authentic and colorful therapy sessions because therapy is one of the most generative ways to go through grief. One of my colleagues is an incredibly talented therapist, and she was kind enough to consult on TBOTF. All of the therapy sessions, including the ones with chakra mists and Buddha boards, are things we talked about or things I experienced first hand in working with her. I’m really proud of those scenes because I truly do believe they are authentic and colorful. With that said, much of the credit goes to Amy.
BREAKAWAY DAILY: “What would the world be like if connections to something larger, something meaningful, happened all of the time?” This is the question Dan thinks in the book, and is the central question of the entire novel. I now want to propose this question to you Rich.
RICH: I think the world has largely lost its way and we are no longer collectively working to solve our most difficult problems. This is, in part, because we’ve splintered into intransigent factions who not only refuse to see larger meaning but often actively work to subvert it. If you look at the examples presented in the book––climate change, domestic violence, and equality for women––it’s clear we have a lot of work to do.
So, in a Conversationsworks based world, folks would connect to anything larger that they felt passionate about and that needed to fundamentally change. Imagine people working every day on millions of different problems, all for the common good. If we ever achieved such a lofty goal, we would have a true democracy for the people.
[Poetry by Rich Marcello.]
BREAKAWAY DAILY: I want to discuss one of your characters, Jack the millennial. You talk about what he’d do as king for a day (main character’s concept question). He says he’d set up free healthcare, let everyone work doing what they love, etc. Then at around page 140, he jacks (pun intended) the main character for his car, cash, and phone. I could smell the metaphor. Would I be correct in that assumption? Is Jack meant to be a metaphor for the realities of today’s millennial?
RICH: I think it’s fair to say that I wrote Jack as a character who is similar to many other folks his age, both in terms of his idealism and his inability to find his footing in traditional ways. Most millennials would not make the explicit choice he made in the book, but I thought it would be interesting to show his idealism and his cynicism in the same scene, and you are correct, my hope was that it would resonate with millennials.
BREAKAWAY DAILY: Although the tone for the majority of the book is non-political, the book reflects the political climate and is rife with political burnout. Can you speak a bit about that, and the Detroit water crisis that is also mentioned.
RICH: You are right, the tone of the book is largely non-political. With that said, given the magnitude of what Dan was trying to accomplish with Conversationworks, I thought I needed to show a couple of difficult use cases, and the cases I chose are political. As I mentioned earlier, the main examples in the book are climate change, domestic violence, and equality for women, but I did include a bit on Detriot’s water crisis. When I first heard the water story, I couldn’t believe it was true. How could Americans deny their citizens water? But it turned out to be completely true, and it also turned out to fit well into Dan’s search for meaning at the start of the book. That’s why I decided to include it.
[Front and back cover of The Beauty of the Fall.]
BREAKAWAY DAILY: What are your thoughts on the recent election and its outcome?
RICH: On the election, I’ve been mostly thinking about it from the perspective of kindness and compassion. What’s the kindest and most compassionate way of understanding what happened? I’m not sure I’ve figured it all out yet, but I have settled on a few points.
First, if Conversationsworks existed for this election, I’m not sure if it would have changed the result. Maybe. I am sure it would have positively changed the way citizens interacted and would have provided a place where those citizens could respectfully come together and discuss issues without fear of fake news or fake information. That’s one of the central tenets of Conversationsworks ––accurate and honest information is used in conversation to help folks who are on the opposite ends of the spectrum on an issue take a step closer.
Second, the election did surface a group of Americans who didn’t feel seen or heard. Anytime a society stops seeing a whole group of its people, it’s a major failure of that society. America failed to see many of its people these last thirty years as globalization, population growth, and mechanization (think robots) eliminated many good paying jobs in this country. With that said, unfortunately, the surfacing was accomplished through divisive, hateful, racist, misogynist, and xenophobic rhetoric which has now, rightfully, alienated over fifty percent of the American population. Worse, it’s made many of those same folks fear for their rights. It’s the first time in the modern history of America that hate has won out in a major election. Others like Barry Goldwater and Geroge Wallace ran on hate, but thankfully they lost. And so America has taken a giant step backward in terms of kindness and compassion, at least for now. That’s incredibly sad, but also an opportunity to learn and grow, if we collectively flip it around.
Third, and this is an issue much wider than America, and one that I spent some time on in The Beauty of the Fall. Many scientists, poets, novelists, and philosophers believe, as I do, that we are at a very dangerous point in history. Some of these folks think we have one hundred years left until billions of people die from climate change. The time to act is now, and the Paris Climate Accord was just a starting point. Unfortunately, with this election, America seems to be moving away from what 97% of the world’s scientists believe, namely that climate change is an existential threat. This simple fact should be enough to mobilize folks around America and the world to pressure the US into accepting the mainstream scientific view.
I’ll say one more thing about the election. I always wanted to live in the sixties, and I believe, as a result of the election, we’ve entered a phase of activism and protest that will dwarf the work done in that decade. Sometimes the world needs an event like the recent election to wake up a sleeping giant. I am hopeful, despite all of our problems, that we will come together in the coming years. I’m also hopeful that someday someone will build something like Conversationworks, and when they do, it will change the world for the better.
BREAKAWAY DAILY: What are you working on next?
RICH: I’m working on my fourth novel, The Latecomers, which is about aging in a world that in many ways devalues age. It’s about how a few folks try to build a community that values age and wisdom. I’m one-hundred-and-forty pages into that novel and hope to have it out in a couple of years.
The Beauty of the Fall is packed with so much more to discover. Read and savor The Beauty of the Fall. It will change you life. Available from Amazon & Barnes and Noble.
For more information on Rich Marcello visit his official website at RichMarcello.com
It is impressive, nay amazing, what the human soul can withstand. The Beauty of the Fall by Rich Marcello chronicles one such journey. Our protagonist is Dan Underlight, a man approaching the end of his prime who is getting laid off from the company he helped found. Dan has always been involved with hi-technology and the story opens with his seemingly unjust dismissal from a company he has birthed and nurtured much like a child. As Dan leaves RadioRadio Software after being pushed out by his founding partner, Olivia, we are privy to the sensational emotional and physical journey he undergoes. We learn that a few years ago Dan lost his only child, ten-year-old Zack, and that he dropped into a deep depression. We learn that Dan is divorced and that there is nothing in his life that brings him joy as much as working for RadioRadio had. When we begin our story, we meet a battered man who has nothing left. Then he begins a journey, and takes us with him.
Marcello is a master with language. The story flows in such a natural way it is easy to get sucked into what you’re reading and lose track of time. There are no unnecessary words. In a tragically beautiful tale like this it is easy to drown your story in frivolous language. Marcello keeps the dialogue short and only uses it when absolutely necessary. We journey through this story from Dan’s perspective as it is told in the first person. Marcello weaves effortlessly between Dan’s thoughts and the words he and those he meets say. Poetry peppers the text due to the creative Willow who will become both a source of strength and sorrow for Dan. He is a man who is grieving: grieving the loss of his child and the loss of his reason for existence. We go with Dan through therapy, we journey with him on his pilgrimage and we arrive at his revival as he creates a company even better than the one he had before. It’s not all roses and sunshine for Dan, however, and we also continue with him through his intense sorrow and his drunken attempts at coping. Marcello’s portrayal of the human condition is fantastic and readers will not be disappointed.
The story is broken down into parts and time flows effortlessly. In some novels time skips are awkward and unnecessary. Even the short six month time skips are effortless and useful. When we meet Dan, he is broken and wounded. He rebuilds, even better than before, but suffers two detrimental losses that may have readers concerned about his recovery. After all, he is only human and the soul can only withstand so much pain. Marcello doesn’t disappoint and the resolution of The Beauty of the Fall is realistic and will leave readers feeling confident in Dan’s choices for the rest of his life.
If you’re looking for a masterful tale that will have you laughing, crying and questioning how you view yourself in the universe, you will not be disappointed with Rich Marcello’s wonderful portrayal of the human condition in The Beauty of the Fall.
Ten-year-old Zackery Underlight is dead. His father Dan, however, is just learning to live again.
There is a certain haunting lyricism to this remarkable book about a father coming to grips with the death of his only son — a death he feels he caused. There’s also a tortured search for self-renewal and forgiveness that extends far beyond the natural grieving of a parent for his child.
Other recent losses for Dan include a failed marriage and the sudden evaporation of his high-powered, high-tech job — the one that consumed so much of the time he now feels he should have spent with Zack.
On the one hand, he feels keenly the unfocused anger and seeming senselessness of his situation. But, on the other, he feels the need to harness and channel his rage and guilt into something constructive and therapeutic.
So, improbably, he begins an offbeat pilgrimage across America, covering twelve thousand miles, thirty-two states — and 234 Fortune 500 companies. His goal: to construct a Lilliputian pyramid of small stones on the campus of every corporate giant across the nation.
If this sounds strange, it somehow makes perfect sense in the context of this masterfully written book. Dan is searching for something intangible as he pursues his odd quest. At one point prior to beginning, he ponders to himself:
“How can I extract meaning from the universe when loss and betrayal have corroded and burnt my cherished memories? How can I reconstitute after being charred and dissolved?”
It’s a fair question about the vagaries of the cosmos, and, as he brings his odyssey to an abrupt halt just off I-5 in California — the result of being robbed by a hitchhiker — he decides to turn his energy in a new direction: the startup of his own tiny technology firm.
ConversationWorks, or “CW,” takes off like a bullet shot into cyberspace. It’s a brand-new social media app that places far-flung parties in a series of virtual conference rooms to find solutions to weighty problems facing the world.
At least that’s the idealistic objective. Here’s Dan’s overarching vision of the singular, groundbreaking concept:
“ConversationWorks is a local problem-solving network with global scale. It’s software that allows small group conversation to scale all the way from coffeehouses, to towns, to cities, to the world, with the primary goal of collectively working on problems that matter to its users.”
It is, effectively, a technology platform where “conversations are active and focused on solving problems instead of socializing.”
So, imagine Twitter without the interaction-limiting, forced brevity; Facebook without the memes and cute kittens. Instead, there is substantive dialogue and meaningful social change through consensus and aggregated resolve.
The software and revolutionary VR hardware that make it work, however, are quickly subverted by early adopters to far less noble notions — such as ordinary business teleconferencing, family-to-family interactions, virtual blind dates, and even pornography (which the team quickly bans).
And through it all — the eager market acceptance, the explosive worldwide growth — Dan is still filled with relational angst.
He parts ways with gentle Willow, his first companion since he and his wife split up. He clings desperately to his core development team at CW. And he increasingly has extended conversations with his dead son — full-blown, holographic encounters in which a now-teen-aged Zack gives his father sage advice on his day-to-day decisions.
And there are other, darker rituals into which Dan drifts, seeking solace in a self-imposed purgatory amidst universal acclaim for his world-changing creation.
These carefully paced reveals of a deeply conflicted character — coupled with a fascinating glimpse into how high-tech start-ups are born — make this one of the year’s best works of literary fiction.
Its rich depth, satisfying substance, and willingness to examine key social issues such as global warming and battered women, force the reader to confront the truly inconvenient truths all around us while remaining invested in the story’s key players.
Indeed, the book strikes a beautiful balance between detailed, fact-filled exposition and the need to drive the central storyline forward — often with compellingly evocative prose and poetry:
“Against my cheek, her shawl smells like freshly woven wool on a cold fall day and feels like a refuge after too many unkind nights.”
And, this, upon hearing of Zack’s death:
“Ghosts pass through me like dry ice, drain whatever life energy exists.”
And, finally, this, after a boardroom showdown with Dan’s former boss:
“Olivia smiles as if the blood is already on her teeth.”
So much good imagery en route to a satisfying conclusion.
This is a rare read, and one to be savored, especially now, when seeking respite from the current worries of an uncertain national — and international — future. It’s good tonic for the soul; a restorative tale of perseverance against tall odds.
Five-plus stars to Beauty of the Fall. From start to finish, it never disappoints.
Ever since college, Leonard Cohen has been my favorite singer/songwriter/poet. In almost every aspect of my life – writing, music, poetry, spirituality – he has been one of my teachers, and I’m thankful for what I’ve learned from him. He passed away last night at 82. Here’s his final interview.