Richard G Sharp, click here
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||February 16, 2012
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A humorous, but audacious and thought provoking tale of the "silent generation."
Compressed between America’s Greatest Generation and the Baby Boom were the men and women of the so-called Silent Generation. They were born too late to share in the triumph of the great victory, too early to know only the privilege of the American empire and in too few numbers to assure themselves a proper identity and enduring legacy. The Duke Don’t Dance, drawing its title from a line of graffiti encapsulating the equivocality of flawed male and female protagonists from this transitional generation, traces their loves, animosities, triumphs and tribulations with irreverent humor, insight and a critical eye.
The Duke Don’t Dance is an irreverent and audacious journey through minefields of love, sex, race and social and political change with seven resolute but fallible protagonists of the Silent Generation. It portrays their successes, disappointments and foibles from the era of postwar social upheaval they encounter as young adults in the 1960s to the present day. In these present times, they observe defiantly and with certain knowledge, youth had best not seek wisdom from elders such as them, but from themselves.
The room creaked with the stress of anticipation of Beth’s response, when suddenly, like a microburst on a clear day, or perhaps more like a splat of bird poop in the middle of a picnic blanket, Sam turned to Lillian from his folding chair in the corner. “Does Frank still have the hole in his dick?”
The room tried to decipher what must have been some kind of bizarre mondegreen. Hearing wasn’t what it used to be. Something about holistic? …p. 16
She explored all of these dark corners of her mind, her soul, her heart, only to find that the corners didn’t really exist, but only led into a labyrinth of tunnels, each turn darker than those before, each deeper, each narrower, but with too many choices, vessels becoming smaller arteries then capillaries, so narrow that only the most basic instincts could pass through, breaking down the rationality she cherished into fragments of thought that would emerge, reconstituted into distorted forms of her former convictions… p. 50
The afternoon slid into evening, and the evening into midnight and then the wee hours, the tables merging and dividing like cell cultures in a petri dish, with the conversations ranging from Frank’s war stories, to the powers of the various amulets worn by members of Sam’s team, to flirtations in a smattering of languages and dialects, to attempts to identify fermented, fiery or occasionally edible food products arriving in identical bowls, to serious talk of insurgency, poverty and corruption and the stupidity of the American or Thai or Lao politicians or military officers or police or spooks, to fleeting efforts at cultural understanding, to excuses to go pee or barf in the laterite streets, in other words, the normal range of conversation in the proximity of war, the edge of the universe and the middle of nowhere….86
He put his arm around her shoulder, comforting her and bracing himself for what surely must be a confession of what had happened with her family when she was in high school. He was prepared for anything. “Sam? Sam? I…I…I killed a man in New Haven.”
Well, almost anything…. P128
They entered the lobby of their building, passed the carryout recently cited for thirty-nine violations of the city’s “truth in menu” ordinance and later closed for something described as “domestic activity in kitchen,” then up the elevator to the seventh floor, which was shared by the law firm and Barrington. Beth went directly to her office and the men headed, quite naturally, for the men’s’ room. And there it was.
There, written above the center of three urinals, were four simple words: “The Duke Don’t Dance.” …p 183
ForeWord Clarion Review
"Five Stars (out of Five)"
"When Paul Simon wrote, “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls,” he undoubtedly had not met Richard Sharp, whose “prophets” find other means—and places—to impart their messages.
"The Duke Don’t Dance, Sharp’s new novel, refers to an enigmatic message found on a men’s room wall. Whether the words are truly prophetic or simply unfathomable hardly matters; for Sharp, they represent a generation stuck between America’s so-called “Greatest Generation” of the World War II era and the explosion of “baby boomers,” whose own introduction to and influence on society would soon follow. Some may think of this middle group as “early boomers,” but Sharp makes a clear distinction and argues for them as a generation apart.
"This is not a book to be skimmed or read lightly. It is dense, in the way the best homemade bread or cake may be dense: it is hearty and earthy, with little air or fluff. Miss a paragraph, and the next one simply won’t make sense. The story will appeal to those of the earliest demographic who were drafted into the Vietnam War; those for whom The Doors were a new, sincere inspiration; those who today may be retired but are still wondering exactly how that came to pass. At the same time, “boomers” of slightly later birth will be enthralled with this text. They, too, will recognize the real history outlined here, even if at the time of the events they were too young to fully recognize the implications.
“'There is nothing more maddening than being accepted for who you are by someone who really doesn’t have a clue who you are or how you got there,' thinks one of Sharp’s seven main characters. The statement is itself indicative of Sharp’s characterization of a generation. Sharp writes of 'unenlightened' individuals—those of 'superficial understanding,' full of imperfection. His characters live idiosyncratic lives, lives that both collide and intertwine over the course of decades, from the 1960s through the 2010s, but lives that never quite seem to satisfy. These are individuals for whom the price of ambition was too high, requiring too many compromises.' The author’s statements are both controversial and chilling, and are undoubtedly food for thought.
Sharp touches all the bases as he takes his readers through The Duke Don’t Dance. Quite naturally, the Vietnam War figures prominently, as do Laos, Bangkok, the CIA, the DEA, and the Cold War. The author’s familiarity with certain aspects of the Washington, DC, metro area’s subculture rings true, as do his references to the cultural influences—music, films, and the like— of each specific era. Even his modern-day mention of The Rentals cannot go unnoticed. Sharp’s flair for details is exquisite and delightful; it is almost a challenge to catch them all.
The Duke Don’t Dance is beautifully written. The story is heady, and the text is intense. Tongue-in-cheek moments abound for the reader willing to look for them. The tale itself is forthright, yet simultaneously equivocal, much like one particular character’s mental “labyrinth of doubts, fears and incessant quest for answers to the unanswerable.” This is one man’s fictionalized story of a generation, and readers looking for their own answers may not find them here. Nonetheless, Sharp speaks well for a generation whose impact has been substantial, and his message reads loud and clear.""
Cheryl M. Hibbard
Kirkus Star Award for books of remarkable merit
“In this novel, a group of friends gathers to pay respect to a retired Air Force Major following his untimely death in an auto accident.”
“ Sharp’s debut is a frame narrative of impressive scope and quality. Between the visitation and interment of Frank Miller, an omniscient narrator defines the role of seven individuals in Frank’s life. In 22 well-paced, retrospective chapters—beginning in 1960 and continuing at intervals to 2010—readers will come to know and relate to these characters. (The script for The Big Chill was strikingly similar, if not as thematically rich.) Stylistically, the novel unfolds by means of colorful dialogue and pungent observations typical of Henry James. Sharp’s astute commentary guides the reader through motivations not otherwise apparent. Many chapters involve Frank’s second wife, Lillian, and his oldest friend, Sam, who brought the two together. Sam, however, keeps from him the high-school intimacy he shared with Lillian. Defiantly promiscuous and rebellious as a teenager, Lillian remains a seductress and risk-taker in adulthood. This includes a liaison with Ted, another of Frank’s longtime friends, before she marries Frank when they are both firmly rooted in middle age. Business colleagues Ben and Rafi appear at a memorable business lunch in 1980 that provides the title of the novel. As the colleagues argue about the message scrawled above the urinals in the restaurant’s restroom, some readers may find the novel’s irreverence on par with Joseph Heller’s. Beth—one of Frank’s business colleagues—and Sam’s wife, Fran, are also major players, but other spouses, ex-wives, adult children and lovers take on secondary yet intriguing roles. Each of the major characters has something to hide from Frank, primarily of a sexual nature. But Frank has something he hides from them, too, in this sassy and bold look at life well-lived.”
“ A novel too good to be ignored.”
“Used with permission from Kirkus Reviews Online.” per Terms of Service posted at www.kirkusreviews.com
Sharp’s book is fictional but reminded me of my parents and most of their friends for they were part of the Silent Generation. In "The Duke Don’t Dance" we meet a group of seven friends and follow them from young adults through adulthood. We watch as they face the Cold War, the early drug culture, peace rallies and much more. I find it rather amazing that it was the Silent Generation that came up with rock. Perhaps they were not always silent. This is the first time I’ve heard that phrase. I was interested in learning more. The Silent Generation was born between 1925 and 1945, during the Great Depression and World War II. The Silent Generation would encompass most of the soldiers that fought in the Korean War. As I did a little research I was amazed at the famous names that comprised the Silent Generation: Dick Cheney, The Beatles, George Carlin, Clinton Eastwood and Elvis Pressley among others.
One of the best parts of this book is the use of actual events and allowing the characters to react to them. Sharp combines humor, romance and intrigue in his book. I like this book; I was quickly connected to the characters. Like real life at times they were likable and other times they were not. Sharp successfully developed each character breathing life into them. I found it amazing that this is Sharp’s first novel. He writes like a seasoned author. Well done Mr. Sharp, you gave a voice to the Silent Generation.
Reviews for "The Duke Don't Dance"
|Reviewed by Sheri Hoff
|Sharp’s novel, The Duke Don’t Dance, pulled me into the story by page 2 and I immediately wanted to know more. As a daughter of parents from the “Silent Generation”, I could relate to the book through their eyes and I recognized experiences similar to my parents. Sharp writes with direct honesty when painting the portrait of his characters. There is no attempt to romance the reader to want to like the characters. The characters simply are the way they are with flaws. Yet, I found myself deeply interested in them and growing to like them as I continued through the chapters.
Relationships are complex, imperfect, and uncomfortable. Conversations interweave the Vietnam War, “real music” (Elvis and Buddy Holly), and twitter seamlessly, yet demonstrating the vast experiences and contrasts for the Silent Generation. Chapters seem to ping pong between time periods, yet it somehow makes sense. I felt familiarity for the characters like I had met them from somewhere in my life. Then I experienced a jolting realization as moments in history were revealed against the backdrop of every day life. I felt like I gained understanding about how the average American really felt living the history of the past 70 years.
Sharp brilliantly contrasts characters from diverse educational backgrounds; different ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds; the military, unhappy homes; and liberal and conservative backgrounds. The novel is gritty and witty. As I read, I appreciated Sharp’s descriptive style which transports you to the moment and each paragraph is packed with information and insights. This is very entertaining, enlightening, and a great read for people of any generation.
Sheri Kaye Hoff
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