“Pancake Hollow Primer” tells the story of Closky, a drifter burnishing the psychological scars of serving in Iraq, approaching age 40. When his only living relation, great-uncle Funtz, dies of exposure while hunting on his Highland property for a forgotten treasure, Closky inherits seven acres, an 1820s farmhouse, a dilapidated barn “and all the contents within.” A gallon of sulfuric acid, five red flags, two “No Parking” signs, five police nightsticks, five wooden sleds, an 1890s stove: Funtz, a German immigrant and former apple packer, accumulated his possessions over 101 years and never threw anything out.
“There’s two centuries’ worth of things in this house, and Frank hates it. He has never owned anything, and doesn’t want to be possessed. But slowly, a man depleted -- this man who has absolutely nothing -- becomes a man who has everything, who finds peace by establishing roots. He connects to the land, his ancestral home, its contents and the Hudson Valley,” said Carr.
His story is told in several interwoven forms: short story, essay, prose poem, poem and list. Complementing these are the incorporation of historical documents, including deeds, for the 1820s Highland home where Carr lives with his wife, Kay. They purchased the home, outbuildings and an amalgamation of artifacts acquired by its previous owners in 1998. However, the author is not to be mistaken for his protagonist.
“I loved all the stuff: shoes in the walls, an original can of pickup sticks made of wood, feathered birdies for badminton. I was in heaven rummaging through it all, where Frank wants to get rid of it. Our narratives flip-flop. I ultimately got rid of a lot; he becomes like his great-uncle, just accumulating more and more,” said Carr.
Carr hopes that local readers will recognize Frank as a neighbor, cousin, brother, friend -- a man who tools the streets of greater Highland, looking for estate and yard sales.
“Local people who read this book will understand Frank, will understand the people in this book, as their neighbors. The connection to the Hudson Valley is extremely deep with people who have lived here for a long time, and they’ll see a man who’s beginning to sprout roots. There is a force, an energy, surrounding this place that facilitates that connection, and a true understanding of what it is to belong in the place where you live,” said Carr.
“Pancake Hollow Primer” is Carr’s second work of solo fiction. He is the author of “The Wytheport Tales,” editor of “Riverine: An Anthology of Hudson Valley Writers,” and co-editor of “WaterWrites: A Hudson River Anthology,” all through Codhill Press, an independent New Paltz-based publisher. Over 20 of his plays and theatre pieces have been produced, including “Vaudeville,” which opens this month in Los Angeles. With colleague Malin Tybahl, he directs the Strindberg Project, creating new translations of the works of Swedish playwright and novelist August Strindberg. Carr is the director of the Playwrights’ Project and co-founder of the New Paltz New Play Festival at SUNY New Paltz, where he received a “Teacher of the Year” award.
In addition to the evening at Inquiring Minds, Carr will read from his work and sign books at the Highland Public Library on Tuesday, Sept. 20 at 6:30 p.m. ++