I never know what will show up in our household after a Saturday morning round of yard sales, and Vince Passaro’s novel Violence, Nudity, Adult Content is a perfect example. At least it wasn’t another chair.

OK, it’s a catchy title – one I’m afraid generally oversells the story. While the novel’s excellently written, what really strikes me is the way it’s essentially four related novellas that are woven together. And, yes, it is set in Manhattan.

There’s the big law-office intrigue and infighting. There’s the one rich client’s murder case. There’s another lawsuit resulting from a brutal sexual attack. And there’s the marriage with two young kids that’s coming unraveled. (So far, it’s not that different from the three stories in a single television episode of Love Boat, a formula that quickly spread across programming. Here, though, the braiding feels more integrated into a whole. Well, not everyone was on the boat at the same time, in effect.)

Now, for a little confession. In a more conventionally structured novel, I will often leap ahead somewhere around the middle to the final pages. If what I find there makes perfect sense from what I’ve already learned, I’ll likely drop the book – perhaps picking it up later and skimming for supporting details. Of course, it the plot’s much thicker, I continue on the linear course.

What I found myself doing in this case was jumping from page to page to pick up just one of the threads, all the way to the end, before returning to the point of departure and following another thread the same way. Hey, I was pressed for time! The fact that one of the threads, presented as emails, appeared in a different font made the process that much easier.

So I’m left wondering how the author would feel about readers like me. Or whether an author even cares how a reader moves through a story.

Maybe it just depends on the book. Or an ego.


Anais Nin once contended that each of us has a demon. My response was – and remains – Just one?

Each demon, we should note, is different.

Our struggle is what thickens the plot – or dulls it. It can draw us together in intimacy – or drive us apart.

The eleven prose-poems of Harbor of Grace reflect that energy.

They tell of intense friendship propelled by a shared faith that flames and then explodes. Of the Old Ways bordering Amish and other Plain peoples in addition to urban conflict over the horizon. Of commitment and human shortfalls, too.

Harbor of Grace is the translated name of the town at the mouth of the Susquehanna River where the dedicatee of this collection was born.

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For the chapbook, click here.