Excerpt from a novel in progress called Carmen Now:
Driving back to the condo Julio tells Carey he felt as if he’d been in jail for months. He’s looking forward to taking a shower.
“So many men. Some were drunk. Some were sick on the floor. It smelled—” He pinches his nose.
They had taken his wallet and his belt. “They try to take this.” He pulls something she doesn’t recognize from his front shirt pocket.
She leans toward him and tries to identify what he’s holding in the palm of his hand by the traffic light’s faint glow.
“Your flower,” he says, the one you put in the street.”
“The carnation? But why would you keep—?”
“You touched it. You put it in your mouth. Your lips touched it. I saw. That is the spell you put on me.”
He’s being flattering. She tells him she knows no spells, has never known any.
“You do not know.” He puts the withered flower back in his pocket. “It has perfume still.
I hold it and see your face. There. . .in the jail, you came for me. I will love you always.”
His seriousness is alarming. The next thing she knows he’ll be calling her a bruja. He’s told her some people from villages in the mountains near Oaxaca still believe in witches. While he sits silently beside her, she murmurs, “Julio,” and shakes her head. A dried flower, such a tiny little thing, yet he has this ridiculous faith in it.
Early during World War II Carolyn Osborn began to learn the the meaning of “the duration,” an often used phrase for “nobody knows how long.” Her father, a Lt. Colonel in the Army’s field artillery stationed in California, said it before sending her mother, eight-year-old Carolyn, and her brother Billy, six, home to Tennessee. No one could have known this period would include her mother’s mental illness, a family secret, one hidden from her children. Fear of stigma silenced everyone. Before breaking through that silence, Carolyn was an adult with children of her own. This memoir is a record of that particular duration, of almost four years living with aunts, of attempts to keep the children together in Nashville, of her father’s divorce and remarriage, which brought her a beloved stepmother, and a new home in Texas.
The personal essays following the memoir are reactions to the wider world she eventually knew including growing up in a small Texas town, her father’s long involvement with guns, trips to Egypt soon after the first part of the Arab Spring, then to the Galapagos in search of the blue-footed booby, followed by investigating family ties to Scotland three different times, and finally learning, with the help of her husband, how to run a Texas ranch.
Durations, a memoir and personal essays: The remarkable thing about Osborn’s memoir isn’t the sadness, confusion, or the emotional mistakes made by her elders. Rather Durations is a testament to familial love and caring, to survival, and to the unexpected blooming of a good life. Osborn’s wry essays on her travels and her slow love affair with ranch life round out Durations and make it an engrossing, satisfying , and rewarding book from one of Texas’s best writers.
——Laura Furman author of The Mother Who Stayed
Set in 1953, this is a story of a period of uncertainty for twenty-year-old Celia Henderson while visiting relatives in Galveston, a city built on a barrier island with its own history of instability and survival. In the pre-reform Galveston of the 1950s, during its good-old, bad-old days, Celia faces a series of conflicts: old south vs. old west, typified by a wild cowboy cousin, Emmett Chandler, and fifties’ prejudices, most apparent against homosexuals and Mexican-Americans. The man who exemplifies both is an artist she meets on the island. She must also deal with fifties sexual mores, especially the double standard, inherent in her attraction to an unhappy law student. The innocence of the fifties is interwoven with the problems of that time and the present. Celia gradually learns to accept her own fears, those of others, and life’s continual uncertainty.
Purchase Uncertain Ground at Amazon.
Uncertain Ground: Carolyn Osborn captures beautifully what it would have been like to be young, restless, confused, sunburned, maybe-in love-maybe-not on Galveston Island in the long-ago nineteen-fifties. This is a timeless novel about a timeless place.
——Stephen Harrigan, author of The Gates of the Alamo
Theo, timid and too used to routine, is still grieving over the death of his wife. As he works part time in the Ney Museum, he has before him a wonderful example of a non-conformist. Ney immigrated to Texas from Germany where she’d sculpted European greats ranging from Ludwig II to Garibaldi. She kept her maiden name and built her sculpture studio in Austin while her husband, referred to as her “best friend,” and her child continued to live elsewhere.
Rose Davis, a woman who stubbornly refuses to follow the easiest, most obvious path, has recently moved back to Austin. Divorced from her Texas husband, she has been living in Paris for seventeen years with her lover, Thomas de Buvre.
By finding each other, Theo and Rose discover unknown aspects of themselves. When they do, a larger world opens to them.
Contrary People: is a novel of lyrical stateliness from a master storyteller. Her subject this time is no less than the great human lesson which we all must learn: how to face death while, as the engaging hero, Theo Isaac discovers, still embracing life.
—–Sarah Bird, author of The Gap Year
Where We Are Now: Short Stories
Marianne, the main narrator of these stories about her mother’s family, says, “The truth is sometimes a poor, sad thing—wax fruit melted in an attic, a lone mule wandering on the front lawn, a mute player piano—a few insubstantial fragments. All we could do was grab hold and make something more of them.” In the beginning story, The Greats, her relatives are so distant Marianne can only give brief glimpses of these “eccentric, willful, mysterious Moores.”
Warriors and Maidens
The 12 short stories in this collection are about the adversarial relationships between men and women, although many of the women are not, strictly speaking, maidens. The writer explores one of the the oldest themes in fiction—”Why does A love B who loves C?”—the endless mystery of what goes on between men and women. These fictions, marked by wry humor, draw the reader into different worlds whether they take place in Mexico or France, suburban Austin or a Texas ranch, today’s Santa Fe or an imaginary southern past.