The Bar at Twilight

Frederic Tuten. Bellevue Literary Press, $17.99 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-954276-03-1

Novelist and critic Tuten follows up the memoir My Young Life with a heartfelt collection exploring existential quandaries and creative pursuits. “Winter, 1965” depicts a writer whose excitement over an acceptance from a literary journal turns sour after the story isn’t published. The title story depicts a New Yorker down on his spirits who enters a bar only to be swept up in conversation with the bartender about romantic notions of the city, the dangers of love, and death. “In the Borghese Gardens” investigates the last years of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s life from the perspective of a husband who imagines the latter days of writers and artists while anticipating the inevitable end of his marriage. In “The Lives of the Artists,” Tuten probes the frustration and failure of an exhausted artist, depicting a painter so struck with a creative block that she turns to written accounts of other artists’ challenges for help. No matter whether Tuten is chronicling the creative or romantic lives of his characters, he renders their struggles with a sense of hope and yearning, committing to sentiment without getting too overwrought. Tuten has long been viewed as a writer’s writer, and this one offers special resonance for his audience. (May)