“Holland Kane writes fiction that will make you think.” Billy Squier, American rock musician
The Lithuanian-born writer Gediminas Trimakas is the author of three novels, Deer Creek, Winter Reeds and Morning Light published under the pen name Holland Kane. He has completed a memoir, Car Palace, that will be released under his Lithuanian name in 2017.
Please visit him at his new web site http://trimakasauthor.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/gediminas.trimakas
He spent his childhood in Europe and his teenage years in New York City. He served with distinction in the US Army Signal Corps. Since leaving the service he fled the guilty pleasures and minor sins of corporate life, jousted with journalism, edited a literary magazine, flirted with bankruptcy, and prospered as an entrepreneur. His wife, Donna, his date since she turned 16 years old, says they overcame tribal instincts, struggled over faith, blundered into occasional folly, but for the most part were successful together.
In the forthcoming memoir Car Palace, he describes their adventure this way:
Donna and I set out on our life together as teenagers, married young, and then marched and danced and sang our way along the Yellow Brick Road looking to find the Wizard of Oz. We didn’t have Judy Garland’s Dorothy to guide us, or the Scarecrow, the Tin man, and the Cowardly Lion to keep us company, but we too could have used more brain, more heart, and more courage at different times of our lives.
A dozen Totos accompanied us too—dogs of many friendly and moody varieties—along with a capuchin monkey, cockatoos, cats, and after a time, even our two children. We hopped and skipped where we could and righted ourselves when we tripped. Not so delightfully as Dorothy out of Kansas, but lifted by a whirlwind nonetheless. As immigrants from Lithuania, we landed separately in the USA, myself in Brooklyn and Donna in Philadelphia. Our families escaped Russian invaders, previously called Bolsheviks before they became Soviets, and now once again identified as marauding Russian nationalists under Vladimir Putin.
Our parents lost their country, their professions, fortune, status, and homes, but by immigrating to the USA they gave us America. We started our American journey as refugees, displaced persons, learning stout English words to help us understand the Land of Oz.
Becoming is part of the American creed; change is our foundational text. It’s how we measure handfuls of confusion and shape them into meaning to give us a destination, a purpose, and meaning in life. It strikes me now that Donna and I were always becoming, arriving to rest for a moment at a bend in our ignorance, before resuming our journey as moral beings and determined actors staging the invention of our lives. Throughout all these changes we often took the less traveled road, hoping that it might make all the difference in our life.
Gediminas Trimakas holds an MBA in finance, a Master of Fine Arts in fiction, and lives with Donna in the Pacific Northwest. Visit him online at www.hollandkane.com.
Questions and Answers with Holland Kane:
Was there a particular incident that inspired you to write Winter Reeds?
Nothing singular. I re-write extensively, and the original inspiration might be only a subtext after I’m finished. In Winter Reeds I wanted to explore the dysfunctional dynamic of families. Roughly 40 percent of children are born to unmarried parents, but “legitimacy” still has power. It confers legal recognition and inheritance entitlements, and it is part of the sub-text in Winter Reeds. I was influenced by my daughter’s search for birth parents, something my wife and I always encouraged. She found a birth father who told her he wanted to keep her “illegitimacy” [his word] a secret. I also wanted to explore the urge of government officials and police authorities to abuse their power.
Are you attracted to anarchists?
Not in the slightest. I’m about as traditional as one gets. I like good laws; I stop at red lights; I depend on people to honor their contracts. And I like fair play. In fact, I carry a basketful of happy cultural clichés, but I also admire Euripides; his Medea stuns me, Hippolytus carries a message. And like most Americans I have a soft spot for rebels, mavericks, black swans, and outliers advancing us beyond our habitual complacency.
Is Hallmark House real, or is it based on a real place?
It’s a symbolic place, a house of tradition that’s being subverted into a police stronghold. It’s similar to many old houses, but this one stuck in my mind. I hung out with a screenwriting and drama teacher near Washington D.C. for a while and he owned a house like that, making it his life’s mission to restore it.
What about Morning Light? Where did the passion for this particular story come from?
I wanted to explore obsession, where do fixations come from, why do we suffer or enjoy them? People have many obsessions, dull ones and exciting ones. Some are fixated on sports, or collecting ceramics, shoes. I chose one of the most common, sexual obsession. Before writing Morning Light I was taken by local news stories about an attractive Seattle teacher, Mary Kay Letourneau, a woman who went to a Catholic grade school, Catholic High school, Catholic college (Seattle University, where I picked up an MBA). Mary Kay was the married mother to four children when she had sex with a thirteen-year-old student. After the boy reached eighteen they petitioned the prison board to allow them to marry. As far as I know they are still married. (You can check out Mary Kay Letourneau on her Wikipedia page here.)
Shouldn’t children be protected from premature sexual experiences?
Absolutely, they should be protected completely, totally, and unequivocally. They should also be educated about sex and informed in age-appropriate ways. This novel does not sanction Mary Kay Letourneau’s decisions, but points to possible devastating consequences. What’s more the youth in the novel is already seventeen and looking toward his eighteenth birthday. The woman in the affair is not the knowledgeable Mrs. Robinson seducing Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate, but a passionate and unfortunately imperfect 23 year old.
Emily sleeps with someone who is not only a teenager, but also the son of her best friend. Can you call this love?
Love is perhaps the most glue-like and also the most plastic and disruptive emotional quality we face in our lives. Emily married for practical reasons without fully understanding love or herself – her husband is handsome, dutiful, hard working, competent, and a good provider. She’s a person who had not experienced desire as passion before. She’s attracted to a youth, but the attraction goes awry. We follow her as she journeys toward partial understanding of herself, and the devotional culture that had kept her from gaining this self-knowledge earlier in her life.
What do you mean by devotional culture?
The energizing background event in Morning Light is Emily’s husband’s refusal to use any form of contraception prohibited by Roman Catholic moral precepts, which leads to a mostly asexual marriage. I wanted to explore the anti-female roots of the contemporary male-dominated Roman Catholic Church. My brother, a Roman Catholic priest, offered invaluable guidance in this matter. In a more personal vein, my father, certainly old-school—an accomplished diplomat and political leader—was faithful to my mother and extremely devout to the gender rules Catholic bishops laid down over many centuries. My mother, intelligent, a woman who spoke five languages, worked for Museum of Modern Art, was ten years younger than my father, and she married too young. She was elegant in her role as a diplomat’s wife, but was unable to subordinate herself to my father’s Catholic male-centered view of women. Was this inevitable? I mourned over their painful lives. I wanted to know more, thus, in part, some features of the novel.
What did you discover?
That I’ll never know enough about the key issues that motivate us in our lives.
Issues regarding sex, fertility and surrogacy come up in this novel. Why?
My wife and I had wanted to start a family, and failing an immediate result, we adopted our first child, a daughter at the age of 13 days, after which my wife became pregnant and gave birth to our son. I suppose something in this background motivates the fiction.
Does the character David come from a personal component in your life?
One of the sly pleasures a novelist enjoys is the ability to live lives other than one’s own. I couldn’t match David’s youthful intelligence and chutzpah, or his progressive education at an early age. In configuring his life I was in part thinking about Baruch Spinoza who was expelled from the Amsterdam Jewish community for “abominable heresies and monstrous deeds,” which turned out to be his denunciation of “bondage” to religious zealotry and his rejection of the idea of personal immortality in the hereafter. Spinoza believed that organized religions were organized superstitions, and that the Bible wasn’t the word of God but a “corrupted and mutilated document” passed down from human writings.
Are you opposed to religion?
Not at all. There are many good, charitable, and helpful things churches can perform in the community, and have accomplished in the world. I was a supporter of Liberation Theology, for example. I admired the Catholic Church in Lithuania for helping to defeat communism. But the Catholic Church, as in all bureaucracies, tends to overreach and value the clergy’s autonomy more than the needs the people the Church serves. They demand a too high an individual price to join their community—subservience, vows of ignorance, denial of science and the rejection of our pleasure on earth. And the Catholic hierarchy is strictly male-dominated. Misogyny rears its ugly head, and economic injustice is often left undisturbed. The religious totalitarian mind asks us to surrender our human possibilities, even our intelligence, in order to win eternal life in the mythical hereafter. This unfair trade, reinforced by centuries of illiteracy among believers, is enfranchised by hypocrisy. Years ago, responding to my mother’s request to have my children baptized, I called a local Catholic Bishop to arrange it. He said, “You don’t come to church, why should I baptize your kids?” I said, “The baptism is not for me, it’s for the kids, for their spiritual needs, and you’re supposed to be the shepherd of every Catholic soul, God’s representative in this matter.” No matter. The Bishop—a youngish man, autocratic, obtuse, inflexible, and ambitiously aggressive in his ignorance—refused. Instead, I flew my cousin, a Jesuit priest from Chicago, and he baptized the children. Mom was happy.
It sounds like your family’s religious roots go deep.
My brother was a Roman Catholic missionary priest. My cousin was a Jesuit, and an aunt was the Mother Superior of a nun’s order in Connecticut.
Isn’t there also a subtext of tribal warfare between the haves and have-nots in Morning Light?
Yes. In Sybil (1845), Benjamin Disraeli highlighted the division between rich and poor nations which is applicable to the division between rich and poor generally: “Two nations; between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are ignorant of each other’s habits and thoughts, and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets…and are not governed by the same laws.” Likewise in Morning Light the incompetent but wealthy boss can hire surrogates to cover every shortfall in nature and talent, and write off the cost of his luxurious yacht, Miscellaneous Expense, as a “training” expense, while his employee gets to write-off the cost a BENGAY patch to sooth a sprained ankle.
Morning Light looks at the lives of artists—Danny’s mother is a painter, Emily is a choreographer, Danny the dramatist and playwright. Did any artist influence you directly?
Many have—the infinitely wonderful and late Pina Bausch, Merce Cunnigham, the incomparable Vaslav Nijinsky and Igor Stravinsky, John Cage, Andy Warhol, Balthus, de Chirico, Caravaggio, Thornton Wilder, Arthur Miller, David Mamet, Sam Shepard, Edward Albee, Bob Dylan, my friend the musician Billy Squier, and a dozen other artists and many writers—Lawrence Durrell, Graham Greene, Malcolm Lowry, George Orwell, and dozens of contemporary writers.