Our Napoleon in Rags
Kirby Gann
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Buy *Our Napoleon in Rags* online

Our Napoleon in Rags

Kirby Gann
Ig Publishing
211 pages
April 2005
rated 4 of 5 possible stars
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Author Kirby Gann is a writer with a finely honed appreciation of life's ambiguities, especially in human form. With a keen eye for detail and a well-tuned wit, Gann assembles an eclectic group of misfits who gather nightly to commiserate with each other at the neighborhood watering hole, the Don Quixote.

Haycraft Keebler is always at the center of any drama at the Don Quixote or nearby, a "political philosopher and populist idealist, manic-depressive man-about-town," quietly subversive character. The proprietors of the Don Q are especially protective of Keebler, self-appointed guardians of "Our Napoleon in Rags. Haycraft is ever brewing one scheme or another, small anarchies to challenge neighborhood complacency.

Haycraft has a soft spot for the down-and-out, those kindred souls who need a helping hand or a floor to sleep on, but everyone is concerned when Haycraft shows up with Lambret Dillinger, a fifteen-year-old or so street hustler and graffiti artist with a penchant for sniffing aerosol cans. But Haycraft sees a spark there and nurtures the boy's burgeoning intellect, hoping for the best.

Dickens himself could not have provided as colorful a group of characters, a cast as eccentric as any nineteenth-century denizens of the wrong side of the tracks: Beau and Glenda Stiles, owners of the Don Quixote; Romeo Diaz, who believes that "sex is liberation," hopelessly in love with Anantha Bliss, ex-ballet-dancer-turned-stripper and Internet diva; Chesly Sutherland, a local policeman temporarily off duty for use of excessive force, who watches over the patrons of the bar; and the inimitable Mather Williams, sometimes worker at the Don Q, who occupies Romeo's basement and creates his own unique works of art, a combination of drawings, kitsch and colored markers.

Real problems are handled with a Victorian flare by an author with compassion for the human condition and a penchant for irony. In a complicated web of self-delusion, misplaced affections and the afflictions of poverty, these odd characters act out their small dramas, stumbling over one another in their eagerness to accomplish something, anything meaningful in their disappointing lives. Proving himself master of the soliloquy, Gann does each of his quirky characters proud, as they stumble blindly through the vacuum of fate, with only each other for comfort.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. Luan Gaines, 2005

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