Monday, 3 June 2019

Shedding Light on Deeper Truths, Gary Santorella

Sitting round my pool today is Award winning author, Gary Santorella talking about his gritty coming-of-age literary novel, Dyed Souls.

“Superbly written though very disturbing… Being an avid reader it will take a long time to find a book up to the standard of Dyed Souls.”

With this little taster, please help yourself to a glass of bubbly, make yourself comfortable and enjoy meeting my wonderful guest.

Thanks so much for the opportunity to contribute to your blog – you’ve been kind beyond words, and The Chill With a Book Reader’s Award Dyed Souls received means more than you can possibly know.

     In my former life, and for many years, I was a counselor and Social Worker in the settings described in the book. But I didn’t write Dyed Souls as another tome about the tolls of physical and sexual abuse, family secrets or our societal failure to address mental health issues. As novelists, I think it is our job to shed light on deeper truths than the superficial tropes offered up by local newsreaders.

     In the United States, seven hundred children enter the foster care system each day. I’ll pause for a moment to let that number sink in. 700. And many of these kids end up in residential treatment centers (as described in the book), psychiatric hospitals, or the juvenile justice system. We diagnose, drug, and incarcerate children in unprecedented numbers. Most pundits, and “experts” think that increasing expenditures for mental health awareness treatment is the solution, but I don’t think that this is much different than believing that removing access to guns solves senseless violence. This only addresses symptoms, not root causes. Dyed Souls looks at who we are as human animals, and how far removed we have removed ourselves from our evolutionary roots. We evolved as societal animals. And societal animals - whether they are wolves, monkeys, or humans - develop norms and rules that instill in individual members an obligation via emotional bonds that contribute to something bigger than the individual – the survival of the entire troop. In return, the odds of survival for the individual improve. There is a balance between individual and societal needs. But something has been afoot in American society, which I believe, has shattered these bonds and destabilized this balance. Our focus has greatly skewed to the individual – to the exclusion, and often, the detriment of the broader society. We focus myopically on what makes us happy or benefits us in the short run (including feeling no guilt about taking our anger out on others), not on long-term beneficial outcomes toward some greater good that contributes to the benefit of all. Our emphasis isn’t on acquiring wisdom (the dreams of Thoreau and Emerson of an American Enlightenment died a long time ago), but on our own immediate self-gratification. Knowledge is no longer tied to a sense of civic duty or obligation, but simply a means toward getting a higher paid job. It’s all about me. A deep cultural narcissism has set in. This is reflected, not only in our politics, but also in how we are raising our kids. We’re more interested in being our kids pals and keeping them (and ourselves) entertained, or blindly approving of everything that they do, rather than instilling a deep sense of moral obligation in them toward others. (My teacher friends in California don’t bother sending notes home to parents when kids misbehave anymore, due to the negative threats and confrontations they have received from parents.) And this is one of the better case scenarios. The worst case is when we feel no need to put away our childish self-gratifying desires at all. When we throw away our sense of duty and obligation, we create throwaway kids. The children in the book are a full reflection of the latter. Charlie, the central character tries to make sense of all of this. Rather than accepting what is happening all around him, he ponders the deeper whys of how he got to Hawthorne, and what he will need to do to build a meaningful life. But he is hanging by a thread. In this sense, he is a metaphor for what is happening in the US on a larger scale. The life he assumes in the end is both a casualty of evolutionary imbalance, and a hope for creating something better. But it is only when he is able to get outside of himself that he is able to acquire the sense of purpose that he seeks.

     Thanks so much for the opportunity to contribute to your blog. And thanks even more for everything you do to help Indie author’s works see the light of day. I hope, in future, that people will look at Indie books in the same way they do Indie films – as a place of sustenance, where they can find thought provoking ideas and commentary that are often ignored by commercially and fiscally minded mainstream publishers! And, my thanks to the hardworking staff at Matador for helping Dyed Souls to become a reality.

Dyed Souls has received 50 ratings (average of 4.42) and 31 reviews on Thanks to everyone who has generously taken the time to do so!

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