In Search of the Magic Theater
wins a CIBA Mark Twain First Prize!
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Interviewed by Christina Consolino
Interviewed by Joy E. Held
Interviewed on Yvonne Battle-Felton's Bookable Space podcast
ADVANCE PRAISE for In Search of the Magic Theater
"Through the voices of two women with overlapping lives but diverging paths, Karla Huebner explores the tension between control and surrender, reason and ecstasy, dreaming and choosing. This engaging, erudite, yet accessible novel takes us on a cultural journey spanning millennia, from Greek mythology to Jimi Hendrix, from Elizabethan lyric poetry to performance art, revealing along the way the joy of self-discovery." -–Julie Wittes Schlack, author of This All-at-Onceness
"Karla Huebner's debut novel offers a sophisticated meditation on the idea of art, mythology, (experimental) theater and music (classical and jazz) as two women, separated by a generation and divided by a cultural shift - from 60s to post-60s - negotiate sexuality, love, regret, grief, and above all forgiveness, all done in a style that's deceptively simple at first but grows on the reader and quietly lures him inside the magic theater only to discover that all lies within - the actors, the script, the theater, the magic. A treat for the denizens of the world of art and intellect." --Moazzam Sheikh, author of Café Le Whore and Other Stories
"Exciting... A sophisticated, queer-friendly, and feminist take on Hesse's Steppenwolf. Although loosely set in the late 1990s, Huebner's meditation on repression, instinct, and the creative drive is fresh and timeless."--Gabriella West, author of Time of Grace and Once You Are Mine
"At some point every life should have a disquieting blast of Kari. She's a down-but-not-out whackadoodle, the perfect foil to serious young Sarah in this page-turner fugue between two women whose views of music, men, and even the meaning of existence couldn't be more out of sync. Karla Huebner's lyrical prose has the ring of a bold new showtune with a message about how to suffer joyfully and artfully. And even if 'you don't always know what you want, and you can't always get what you need,' In Search of the Magic Theater will give you reasons to sing along." -- Jan Alexander, author of Ms. Ming's Guide to Civilization
"Two women, a generation apart though their lives intertwine, tell us in their most intimate voices of their quite different, sometimes comical and mostly but not always disappointing adventures with men. And careers, and cellos, and dope. When the quest for satisfaction of the elder and more pro-active of the two takes the stage, we are treated to a simultaneously comical and erudite 'magic theater' production, in which we see their present dilemmas as repetitions or reflections of the ancient myths of Endymion and the goddesses, with pictorial and poetic references through the ages. In this short tale of two women, in which the men are also treated very sensitively, Karla Huebner calls on her deep knowledge of European classical paintings and verse, and surely her personal knowledge, for a story of desire denied, delayed, and sometimes precariously fulfilled." –-Geoffrey E. Fox, author of Welcome to My Contri, A Gift for the Sultan, and Rabble
"Huebner sets us up for a climax of dazzling theater that combines Keats's romantic poetry, Greek drama, music and dance, a production that leaves the reader excited and fulfilled by the magic one can experience with good art. And, yes, a sense of adventure in our unforeseeable future."—Margaret C. Murray, author of Spiral and Pillow Prayers
• "This is a novel of self-discovery. It's clever, it's layered, it's fun."
• "I enjoyed the author's writing voice a lot, and appreciated the contrast between both women."
• "I especially liked its depiction of creative partnerships, which are a major element of the text."
• "…offers up sharp observations and prolonged meditations on art, sexuality, relationships, and grief. … If you're interested in cogitations on art and culture, as I am, you would love it."
• "One of the most unusual novels I've read in ages! Hard to describe but absolutely engrossing and memorable."
wins the biennial
Czechoslovak Studies Association book prize!
"The Book Prize Committee of the Czechoslovak Studies Association received a large number of interesting and important works for careful consideration.
The Committee is pleased to award the Prize for the Best Book to Karla Huebner for Magnetic Woman: Toyen and the Surrealist Erotic (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2020).
Karla Huebner's Magnetic Woman is a meticulously researched and carefully argued exploration of the leading Czech surrealist artist Marie Čermínová (Toyen). Confronting a subject who is notoriously difficult to investigate, Huebner's work is path-breaking and polished, not only in delving deep into the surrealist worlds of Prague and Paris, but in discussing head-on the still under-researched queer, trans and feminist dimensions of modern Czech history. Magnetic Woman proves to be the best introduction to Czech surrealism in English. It it is also a beautifully crafted book, richly illustrated and revealing admirably the author's own immersion in her subject. While the reader encounters the enigmatic Toyen in her Czech and French artistic milieux as an artist who both reflected and challenged artistic conventions, we also meet an individual who consistently challenged contemporary conventions about sexuality and gender. As such the story and personality of Toyen is still strikingly relevant to our own world. Huebner's book deserves a large audience for it forces us all to think about Czechoslovak history through a new lens."
REVIEWS OF MAGNETIC WOMAN ARE COMING IN!
"This beautifully illustrated volume is a major contribution to our knowledge of Toyen and the Czech Surrealist circle, offering an extensively researched biographical account of Toyen's career and work, notably in terms of her foundational role in the circle in the 1930s and then her career in Paris, where she moved after World War II and became an important Surrealist figure." --Alyce Mahon, CAA Reviews
"It is abundantly illustrated with often hard-to-find images from the publications of the Czech avant-garde; it is written with great care and is a testament to the author's extensive transnational research. ... The book is an exciting read about a fascinating artist and her life." Helena Čapková, Austrian History Yearbook
A Bit About Me
I grew up in the Midwest and in California, with excursions around the rest of the US and, from time to time, Europe– my parents enjoyed travel and my father had made friends in Czechoslovakia when he was stationed there at the end of World War II.
I've always invented stories—first in the course of drawing, and then in words. It's possible that this storytelling impulse is genetic—my Grandpa Huebner told lots of exciting lies, and many of my cousins are good storytellers—or it may be that I just needed to be like Harriet the Spy and for that matter follow in the footsteps of Marguerite Henry (who kindly autographed a pile of books for me) and C.S. Lewis (who died before I could read the Narnia books). So, after receiving a degree in Theatre Arts from the University of California at Santa Cruz, I plunged into life as a fiction writer, living on a boat and working in factories, offices, oil refineries, theaters, publishing, private investigation, and adolescent drug rehab, because it was obvious to me that this was the best path to being a good writer.
Over the years, my short fiction has appeared in such literary and genre venues as Northwest Review, Colorado State Review, Magic Realism, Fantasy Macabre, Ceilidh, Weave, Opossum, and Unlikely Stories. Eventually I began working on novels, but meanwhile I earned an MA at American University and PhD at University of Pittsburgh, both in Art History, which resulted in my first published book, Magnetic Woman: Toyen and the Surrealist Erotic.