November 12, 2013
When I first met Mike Farfel, I heard a voice in my head telling me to focus, to pay attention, to remain in the moment. I was sporting the glazed look I usually wear to a Dylan show but I knew immediately there were some layers to this Wasatch High School freshman that might elude me if I spaced out in my normal fashion.
Although he didn’t flaunt it at all, you had the sense that there was this intellectuality lounging just out of camera range awaiting its cue. His Dylan-IQ, of course, was off the charts but, no matter what the topic, he appeared to be well ahead of the curve. He was obviously on the lam from the ordinary.
As years passed, we would bump into each other now and then, sharing additional Dylan sightings along the way. Accruing spirituality points from soccer, martial arts, and ecstatic dancing, Michael went on to add degrees in Philosophy and Creative Writing to his ever-evolving life-choice quiver.
So when word filtered down that his first novel was in the works, surprise didn’t have a seat at the table. Anticipation, however, did show up early with a bib tied around its neck and a fork in its fist.
"Tulip" is both the name of Michael Farfel’s first novel and the protagonist therein. Tulip is as endearing a character as you’re likely to come across. If you are of a "kindly" persuasion, that is. If you feed off those you consider to be lower on the food chain than yourself, however, Tulip has difficulty processing your actions in a benevolent fashion.
And that’s not normally a good thing, repercussions being what they are, for either you or Tulip. It’s a jungle out there and life is seldom, if ever, fair. Rewards of the interpersonal variety, however, can be over the top when the chemicals properly bond. But they don’t always, you know — intervening variables being what they are.
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Then there’s that voice in his head that speaks to him more than occasionally. It may or may not be God but it continually assures Tulip that it is. They have issues with each other. God would like Tulip to accept him so, together, they can get on with the business of correcting some of the more obvious flaws in Creation, as it were.
The God-voice has its work cut out for it with Tulip, however. Not only has our hero never come across even the scantest of evidence that would speak to the existence of such an all-powerful entity but rather, to him, all indications point in the opposite direction. Tulip wants a sign from on high! And, to hear him tell it, it had better be of the burning bush variety.
Did I mention the buzz in Tulips head? Making sporadic cameos when Tulip is in a cognizant state, the buzz plays out as an omnipresent static. When he’s in a dream state, the buzz often disappears, to be replaced once again by God’s attempted explanations of such matters.
Then there are Tulip’s parents, who care for him deeply and are privy only to his end of the God conversations — the accumulations of which tend to give them the sense that their son may not be the loftiest wedge in the bag.
And Katrina, a quite pulchritudinous work mate whom Tulip rescues and, for a while anyway, is rescued by. She’s not sure, by any means, where her and Tulip’s "relationship" might be headed but there’s something about this bizarre individual that doesn’t quite scare her enough to totally abandon ship.
There are layers in this work that would speak to most any reader. However, to call it "genre bending" would be an oversimplification. Multiplicity is always in play and the philosophical and psychological nuances employed cavort in the subtlest of fashions just below the surface, which, just happens to be Tulips comfort zone, his prime stompin’ grounds.
This is a "noir" tale of a different hue. Although I’m sure Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Ross McDonald, and even William Gibson, would willingly fall under the spell Michael Farfel has cast in "Tulip," this is a new and distinctive voice, both in vernacular and ambiance.
Tulip’s mean streets are of a vastly dissimilar stripe than those walked by Sam Spade, Phillip Marlow, Lew Archer, or Case in "Neuromancer". Tulip is his own client and the only awareness keen enough to catch and store all the incoming pertinent data.
Not that that is always a good thing. In Tulip’s world, ignorance is indeed bliss. Which is good news for those who are both ignorant and seeking bliss. Others, those looking for significance in their lives, may find it somewhat less rewarding.
Although Tulip may become "exhausted by the struggle for meaning instead of the constant drain of just getting by," it’s only the weariness of the innocent at play – a personal space where alarm clocks fear to tread and voices and buzzes are checked at the door.
For more information, visit oldnewsrecords.bigcartel.com/product/tulip .
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for more than 40 years.