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Formats
Ebook Details
  • 03/2022
  • 979-8-9856515-0-8 B09SKB2WTH
  • 185 pages
  • $0.99
Paperback Details
  • 03/2022
  • 979-8-9856515-1-5 B09SP4JX9Z
  • 210 pages
  • $12.99
Akiva Hersh
Author
The Magus and The Fool
Akiva Hersh, author

Adult; General Fiction (including literary and historical); (Market)

Carry Iverson needs a change of pace from his predictable life in Ohio. He takes a position with a social justice firm in Austin and rents a cottage on Lake Travis. At a bewildering dinner with his cousin, Donovan, his wife, Fallon, and an alluring transgender man, Levi, Carry discovers his neighbor is a wealthy and mysterious man who has everyone talking. Carry’s curiosity turns into attraction after meeting the flirtatious Jacobi at one of his parties. But Jacobi has a secret desire of his own: he is in love with Donovan. Now Carry finds himself caught in the middle of a reckless love triangle with Fallon who is hellbent on destroying Jacobi to keep her wayward husband from straying. Passion and jealousy reach a fever pitch when the carefully designed lives of Carry, Donovan, Fallon, and Levi unravel. This provocative and explosive story is about what happens at the intersection of obsession and tragedy, and explores the frailty of hope and agony over what could have been but never was, two forces that pull us into lives that we were never meant to live.
Reviews
Hersh (Boy in the Hole) spins a queer retelling of The Great Gatsby in this riveting novel. Twenty-four year old Ohioan Carry Iverson moves to Austin, Texas, to work at a watchdog organization. The only person he knows is his cousin, Donovan Macandeior, and his imperious, unfaithful, wealthy wife, Fallon. They introduce Carry to Levi Safran, a trans Krav Maga star, and Carry gets drawn in by the allure of his next door neighbor, Oskar Jacobi, and his extravagant parties. Rumors about Jacobi’s shadowy backstory pile up and he convinces Carry to help him reconnect with Donovan, whom he dated five years prior. When Jacobi demands Donovan choose, jealousy and recklessness have disastrous consequences.

The plot is faithful to Fitzgerald’s original, and the prose, like Fitzgerald’s, is touched with colloquial grace. But the delight comes from contemporary updates and insights but also from the original story’s enduring resonance. Fallon’s white supremacy is now cloaked in references to a “Viking” past. The extravagant shirt scene leads Donovan not to tears but to being “so happy [he] could gag.” Jacobi’s wealth is rumored to be from human trafficking rather than prohibition, though the truth involves an inheritance and a working relationship with organized crime. Each of these changes sounds compelling echoes between the Roaring Twenties and contemporary America.

Relatively minor additions add satisfying complexity. Hersh retains Fitzgerald’s primly formal descriptions while updating the dialogue—Jacobi gets called “a simp” by Carry and “sus” by Levi—and includes some sex scenes, which adds to Carry’s confused feelings about dating a trans man and his own frustrated desire for Jacobi. Donovan’s bisexuality could have been a bit more fully explored, but it does provide a useful contemporary rationale for their failed romance. While Great Gatsby fans will be particularly delighted, any reader fond of complicated queer love stories will enjoy witnessing these messy characters.

Takeaway: This audacious retelling updates a Roaring Twenties classic with aplomb and contemporary resonance.

Great for fans of: Mark Merlis’s An Arrow’s Flight, the anthology His Hideous Heart.

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A-

D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review)

Contemporary readers of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic The Great Gatsby who look for themes of that work in more modern circumstances will relish The Magus and the Fool, a translation of Gatsby's world into a Midwestern milieu where an idealist finds himself mired in a love triangle and tested on many levels.

Carry Iverson's sojourn from his Ohio roots to Texas leads to a fateful dinner with his cousin Donovan, Donovan's wife Fallon, and a neighbor. When he meets Oskar Jacobi at a party, an instant attraction between them turns into a dangerous liaison with love and death. 

Jacobi shakes Carry's foundations and belief systems and, by his actions and presence, changes Carry's view of the world: "He had been gifted with a sensitivity for optimism and passion like no one I had ever encountered, and I never hope to again. With Jacobi, everything turned out just as it should have. But no matter what the blessings were that came with his gift, the curses hung in the air like smoke in the burning aftermath of his dreams. He is the reason why I have no tolerance for the passion and heartbreak of men."

Jacobi is wealthy, dramatic, corny, and just the right man for Carry to fall in love with.

Akiva Hersh populates the story with explicit sex scenes and just as explicit inspections of the facades and perils of a sordid love that ventures into dangerous territory when jealous wife Fallon concocts a murder plan to keep her husband Donovan from falling into Jacobi's alluring trap.

Jacobi loves Donovan. Fallon wants to kill him. Carry is caught in a triangle far beyond not just his experience, but his perception of how love and hate operate in the world.

Hersh's ability to bring all three personalities and the foundations of their belief systems and motivations to life lends to a story that mirrors the life lessons of wealthy socialite Gatsby, who is thwarted in his love for Daisy despite all his charm and money.

From insights on the roots and results of optimism and money to the contrast between gay and straight marriage and love and a woman's struggles to present the straight life as a more alluring option, the confrontations between Fallon and Jacobi are nicely presented: "...it’s pathetic how you’ve maneuvered back into his life, building that garish thing across the river hoping he would want you again. But you’re a liar. Donovan loved me the day we got married, and he would do it all over again.”

Fallon believes she and her husband's bond can never equal what Jacobi is offering. Jacobi maintains that she has "...lost your chance to be better.”

As the story plays out to challenge life perceptions of life, lust, and relationships, readers receive a solidly thought-provoking portrait of gay and straight life that represents a contrast in options and opportunities on more than a sexual playing field.

Those who have read The Great Gatsby, even if some time ago, would do well to pursue The Magus and the Fool in light of a rereading of that classic. It's highly recommended for LBGTQ collections, of course; but beyond that, the story ideally will reach into any literary library strong in tales of love, life challenges, and sexual and social revelations.

David S. Levinson

There are adaptations of great books and then there are great adaptations of great books. Akiva Hersh’s The Magus and the Fool—a queer retelling of The Great Gatsby (yes, it’s fantastic and yes, it’s as fun and flamboyant and full of life as it comes) definitely falls into the latter category.

Carry Iverson, our dispassionate, gay upgrade to Nick Carroway, tells the harrowing story of Oskar Jacobi and his love for a boy just out of reach. Hersh transports us from the Jazz Age on Long Island to the Millennial Age on Lake Travis and does so with the seamless ease of a veteran film scout, so much so that I will never be able to see Austin in the same light again.

I love this book. And so will you.     

Goodreads: Veronica Portnov

I came across this book, and was initially drawn by both the intriguing cover art and description. I can now say that I feel fortunate to have found this novel.

Carry is a fascinating narrator, and it was interesting to see the world and characters through his eyes. The other characters are all very fleshed out as well, and draw attention from their first introduction.

I got invested in the plot very early on, and read everything it one sitting. This was a very captivating novel, and a great experience overall!

Veronica Portnov

James Sutphin

Entering a city to start fresh where family also brings in life changing characters. Getting a glimpse at how the upper class lives and how riches can’t make one feel entirely happy and fulfilled. I could not put down this book as I became driven to see the path each character took through each chapter.

Where love, tragedy, betrayal, and hope all come into play, one sees how far a person is truly willing to go in order to be with the one they love.

As a proud openly gay man I was thrilled to see an LGBTQIA+ take on one of my favorite high school readings. Thank you Akiva for your creativity and admirable writing. I look forward to what your brilliant mind and ideas bring to future novels.

Formats
Ebook Details
  • 03/2022
  • 979-8-9856515-0-8 B09SKB2WTH
  • 185 pages
  • $0.99
Paperback Details
  • 03/2022
  • 979-8-9856515-1-5 B09SP4JX9Z
  • 210 pages
  • $12.99

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