In Search of the Magic Theater
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In Search of the Magic Theater, narrated alternately by the twentyish Sarah and the fortyish Kari, begins as something of a female version of Hesse's renowned Steppenwolf. Why, the rather staid young cellist Sarah wonders, should her aunt rent their spare room to the perhaps unstable Kari Zilke? Like the nephew in Steppenwolf, Sarah finds herself taking an unexpected interest in the lodger, but Sarah is unable to stop at providing a mere introduction to Kari's narrative of mid-life crisis and self-discovery, and develops her own more troubled tale of personal angst and growth, entwined with the account Kari herself purportedly left behind.
"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 Cafe Le Whore and Other Stories
"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
"Karla Huebner's new novel, In Search of the Magic Theater, features two cultured, professional women from different generations, Sarah and Kari, who share Sarah's aunt's house, though not much else. Sarah, the younger, and a classical musician, is alone in the world of the 1990s that offers her little joy while Kari leads a hermit-like life after a failed marriage. Sarah doggedly pursues satisfaction via her cello playing and other musical pursuits. Kari, approaching middle age, engages in robust sex with a much younger, nameless man she calls Endymion after the beautiful youth of the Greek myth doomed to perpetual sleep by a goddess determined to enjoy his beauty every night. 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
"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
"The voices of two narrators on overlapping journeys are deftly intertwined in this unusual novel. Plot connections gradually emerge with the skillful pacing of the story. A most enjoyable read." --Carolyn Korsmeyer
"In Search of the Magic Theater offers up sharp observations and prolonged meditations on art, sexuality, relationships, and grief." --Swarup Biswas
"I found myself attached to and involved with both characters as well as being surprised at the ending." --P. Wung
"I recommend this book as an alternative to many novels that constantly rehash the same plots and stereotypical narrators. Definitely an original fresh voice." --Kathleen White
"A sharp and witty intergenerational tale that feels very of the moment. Highly recommend!" --TY
"Karla Huebner takes us on a deep dive into the mystery in each human soul, as uptight Sarah finds herself intrigued, challenged, liberated by the presence of an eccentric lodger in her aunt's home." --Valerie G. Nieman
"This is one of the most unusual novels I've read in ages! Hard to describe but absolutely engrossing and memorable. The main characters are two unique and fascinating women, crashing through their disparate lives full of music, theater, art, lovers in a wild plot of discovery. If you're tired of the same old types and themes in novels, this is the one for you." --K.A.
"A very enjoyable and layered book: I especially liked its depiction of creative partnerships, which are a major element of the text. Their inclusion caused me to reflect on my own creative partnerships, some great, some tragic, some just non-creative. I also appreciated the author's presentation of the Muse in a male persona, rather than the traditional female one. This is original and refreshing." --Cesar Love
"This is a novel of self-discovery. It's clever, it's layered, it's fun. Heubner gives us a real sense of the generational tensions, from Sarah's feeling towards people her own age, to Kari slipping through the gaps of time. The story is drenched in theatre, art and music, and we even get a glimpse into the theatre piece at the end." --Puddles
"Sarah's story really resonated with me, as I was once a young woman who read classic novels (I still do) and played the cello (I only noodle at home now). I didn't have a Kari in my life, but my mother, only twenty years older than I am, has always been freer and bolder than me." --Melissa
"It's an intellectual novel, constantly referencing art, music, literature, mythology and the creative process, and it's an insightful exploration of artistic striving and integrity." --Mandy
"I liked how both female protagonists were on similar journeys to rediscover themselves, though one in midlife and the other as a young 20-something." --Jennifer