About the arts and ideas - on my novels and literature, music, and art

A new book about Beethoven gathers together (and completely rewrites and supplements) my blog posts on Beethoven into a short introduction to the composer, Ways of Hearing Beethoven, which I hope to see published. My novel The Fall of the Berlin Wall, completed a year ago, is about musicians and particularly the intense, irrepressible daughter of the legendary pianist featured in my previous novel Hungry Generations, now fifteen years after those events. Five years ago, my 2015 novel, The Ash Tree, was published by West of West Books in conjunction with the April 24, 2015 centenary of the Armenian genocide; it's about an Armenian-American family and the sweep of their history in the twentieth century - particularly from the points of view of two women in the family.
There are three other novels of mine, which I would love to see published. One is Pathological States, about a physician's family in L.A. in 1962. Another is Hungry Generations, about a young composer's friendship in L.A. with the family of a virtuoso pianist, published on demand by iUniverse, which I think would be of value to a conventional publisher. A Burnt Offering - a fable (a full rewriting and expansion of my earlier Acts of Terror and Contrition - a nuclear fable) is my political novella about Israel and its reactions to the possibility of a war with Iran (with the fear that it will be a nuclear war).
[My blog posts are, of course, copyrighted.]

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Show of Jeanette Arax Melnick's paintings - a Plain Dealer news article about the Beachwood Library show this month


Here's a link to the YouTube video of Jeanette's show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40YY0m6yyaw .

Beachwood artist explores Armenia, geometry, Sid Vicious and folk art in exhibit

zz art lowres.jpg
Art is always personal. But it goes beyond that in the case of Jeanette Arax Melnick, who will exhibit her works at the Beachwood Branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library. (John Petkovic/The Plain Dealer)
John Petkovic, The Plain DealerBy John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer 
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on December 03, 2015 at 2:15 PM, updated December 03, 2015 at 2:35 PM
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Art is always personal. But it goes beyond that in the case of Jeanette Arax Melnick.
Yes, there is a personal side in works by the Beachwood artist, who will exhibit her paintings at the Beachwood Branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library during the month of December.
(The show opens at 2 p.m. Sunday at the library, 25501 Shaker Blvd, Cleveland. For more info, go to cuyahogalibrary.org/Branches/Beachwood.aspx or call 216-831-6868.)
You can see it in "The Quince Tree," a work that was inspired by a photo of her and her father, taken when she was a little girl, in 1946. The photo is in the work itself, along with photos of her grandchildren, children and husband.
But her relationship with the world is as much spatial one – in which she absorbs aspects of it through the senses or through patterns rather than just the heart or mind.
"Sometimes I just look at the world and see all these geometric shapes and I see aspects of my paintings in them," says Arax Melnick. "Like right now I'm sitting in a room looking at pillows or I could be looking at an oriental carpet and finding interesting patterns."
There is little pattern when it comes to divining the Fresno, Ca. native's style – which shoehorns folk art and "museum type art," as she likes to say.
"Art was always my companion and I never sought out to follow a particular style or painter," she says. "I started to study painting at (University of California, Berkley), but I switched to history because I realized that I wanted to be my own painter."
She delved into medieval history, along with the "flatness" found in its art.  She has created in the shadows of a family history that extends back to the Armenian genocide of 1915 – which led to her family settling in California.
"Armenian history is very complicated, especially with Turkey denying the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians," says Arax Melnick, whose husband Daniel Melnick recently released a novel that honors the memory of the genocide. "And yet that complication has given me a feeling for the suffering of all mankind."
"As a child, I was inspired looking at old Armenian manuscripts and seeing these people with big brown eyes and soulful looks," she adds. "They look like they've suffered and yet survive and go on."
Sid Vicious -- the English punk from a much later time, 1970s London – captivated her in a very different way.
zz art 2 lowres.jpg"Sid Vicious," one of works by Jeanette Arax Melnick that will be on display at the Beachwood Branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library. 
"I never listened to his music, though I know Aaron and Lennie have," says Arax Melnick, referring to her sons, co-founders of legendaryCleveland hardcore band Integrity. "I just loved his face and the zippers."
For years, the painting hung at the old Arabica on Coventry. Arax Melnick received a number of offers for it, but chose to hold onto it.
"It's hard to give up on that Sid Vicious," she says. "I've never looked at the money side of it."
It's all matter of perspective, even when it comes to art.
"I tend to avoid perspective and I think it's given my work a certain character," she says. "I'll have a table that looks like it's floating and could see it as an illusion, but to me it's just how I see it and see the world. So I guess you could say the world is an illusion, too."

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Plain Dealer story and Mirror-Spectator review of The Ash Tree - a novel about the aftermath in America of the Armenian genocide

Here's the link to John Petkovic's fine article about "The Ash Tree" in The Plain Dealer:

In addition, let me place here the also fine review of the novel which appeared on October 10 in the Armenian Mirror-Spectator (the text is reproduced below):
Here is the text:
     Commemorations are a fixture in our public lives.  We mark dates to call to mind a particular event or to teach a new generation the importance of a momentous occurrence. Much was made in the general media in late April of the Armenian Genocide of 1915; however, the public remembrances were fleeting – a quick story in the nightly television or radio broadcast or a newspaper story. Adding to the fragility of the stories is that this is a centenary remembrance; most, if not all, of the eyewitnesses are gone.  Who will re-tell the facts and explore the ramifications of early twentieth century tragedies? Both historians and fiction writers offer different approaches and perspectives.
     One such narrative is Daniel Melnick's THE ASH TREE which strikes a delicate balance between history and fiction. Permeating the book are references to actual events and places. And to sensory memories of “plump oil-cured olives in Constantinople…anchovies, the brine washed off [having] the savor of a kiss…and oranges [tasting] of sunlight and the tree.” The sense of place is strong, whether Turkey, Armenia, or California and Fresno.
     A basic timeline of the book takes one family from 1915 to 1972. The prologue, however, opens in 1972 California with a death in the family of Armen and Artemis Ararat. This violent death ruptures their world.  It will take the rest of the story to explore why this death occurred and to understand the characters who inhabit this world.
    Although both from Armenian families, Armen Ararat and Artemis Haroutian are of different temperaments and outlooks. When we first meet Armen, he witnesses neighbors and teachers being killed in Turkey. Some 10 years later as a student at Berkeley, he remembers his European past and honors his relationship to it. He feels that all the immigrants had been permanently scarred by what they carried with them from Turkey. In contrast, Connecticut-born Artemis Haroutian did not want to marry a man born in the old country and “had always wanted a suitor who was free of the agony of 1915...not weighted down by foreignness and history.” These two positions haunt the characters and the novel. Melnick gives voice to the ambivalence of any group in a diaspora – to hold sacred the memory of the past and to forge a new, more hopeful life.
     The strength of the novel is its careful summoning of a particular world that is the Armenian community centered in Fresno and the universality of the human inter-actions that makes this applicable to all. Early on in the novel, Armen's landlady says that what is important is that the family survives. Armen and Artemis build a life together for their children, Tigran, Garo and Juliet. They give up their early dreams of lives centered on poetry and art and focus on the difficult reality of raising a family.  Although he is a recognized poet, Armen is known more for his business dealings. He struggles with the thought that his mastery of Armenian has no place in American life. Language eludes them both. We see this through Melnick's lens which does use language with sensitivity and clarity.
     As the Ararat children grow, they become part of the wider world, forging relationships outside the Armenian community. Marriage and business dealings extend their boundaries. The novel takes on a more intimate and emotional layer as Juliet marries Sammy Weisberg, a young Jewish man.
It is here that history and narrative fiction most strongly overlap. Juliet and Sammy mirror the author and his wife, Jeanette Arax Melnick whose painting is the cover art of THE ASH TREE.  The Ararat family is based on the Arax family; yet, there is so much more of the interior lives of these characters inhabiting these pages.
     As the novel comes full circle from 1972 back to 1972, we can see that one death can stand for all losses and bereavements. Geography cannot change the fragility of life, but memory helps to offer solace. Daniel Melnick honors both those who know Armenian loss and those who wish to understand such losses in our lives generally.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Video of Eskejian Museum reading from The Ash Tree

Here's a post for my blog of the YouTube link to the presentation of and reading from "The Ash Tree" at L.A.'s Eskejian Museum (thank you Eskejian and Maggie): (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dYB35mGO2lI)

A book reading and conversation with author, Daniel Melnick - a professor emeritus of english at cleaveland state university and moderator Mark Arax

Monday, August 17, 2015

an article about the Beachwood reading for "The Ash Tree" plus two readers' reviews on Amazon

Here is an article from the August issue of the Beachwood, Ohio, city magazine about my reading of The Ash Tree on June 15 at the Beachwood branch of the Cuyahoga County Library. As I wrote before here and on the novel's blog, I was very moved to see so many people there; the librarian said the capacity crowd in the library's reading room was about 100. Here it is:
Also, here are two reviewers' comments on Amazon:

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
“The Ash Tree” is a compelling, beautifully-rendered story of the Ararat family of Fresno. A firm, opinionated woman stands as its matriarch. Artistic sensibilities secure its core.

As a mother and grandmother, Artemis Ararat admits she doesn’t know it all. “Who truly were the people she loved?” she asks. What was her responsibility in understanding them? What was her responsibility to herself?

These questions are pertinent to every family. Not every family is brave enough to ask them.

A family grows strong by maneuvering through its layers: the mechanics of everyday life weighed against an individual’s deepest dreams. Proximity of fate is rarely enough. Personalities must be respected and conflicts negotiated, spirited by an unfailing love.

If a family is fortunate, its vulnerabilities will be tempered by its strengths. “The Ash Tree” shows how parents and children can lean together through triumph and tragedy, hands joined in good faith, to treasure the sum of its parts.
Comment  Was this review helpful to you?  YesNo
Format: Kindle Edition
This remarkable family drama begins 100 years ago in the midst of the Armenian Genocide. We see the evolution of the Ararats as they evolve from Armenian-American newcomers struggling to grab a foothold in the parched California landscape to fully realized Americans, less hyphenated, but still grappling with the kinds of problems that beset families no matter the time or location. We feel the pull of the Old World even as the younger generation strives for the prosperity, success and freedom afforded by America. We witness intense interpersonal conflicts and nuanced devotion between the main characters- conflicts and devotion that are mirrored by the passion of many for Armenia and by others for the promise of a new life in America. And we experience the pain of loss from the shattering tragedy that threatens to destroy all they have worked for. The characters are unforgettable, the language is melodious, the history is compelling.
Comment  Was this review helpful to you?  YesNo

Monday, July 27, 2015

"The Ash Tree" now generally available.

"The Ash Tree" is now available to libraries and independent bookstores through Baker & Taylor, and I hope you'll encourage your local library and indie bookstore to order it!
Here again is a brief summary: "The Ash Tree" (ISBN 9780981854762) tells a timeless story of the romance and marriage between an American Armenian girl and her immigrant husband who survived the 1915 Armenian Genocide in Turkey. 
In the aftermath of the Genocide from the twenties to the early seventies, the couple and their three children become vivid, quintessentially American characters, only for tragedy to find them again, echoing the staggering loss of 1915. 
Its cover painting with its frayed and white-washed frame is by the author’s wife, Jeanette Melnick. Lovingly produced and brilliantly structured to combine history and fictionalized memoir, The Ash Tree is an important, beautifully written novel of survival, new life, and heartbreak.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

a fine notice for The Ash Tree in Armenian Weekly

See the blog site for www.theashtree.net for a fine notice about the novel from the Armenian Weekly and for other updates about The Ash Tree. Also check out the facebook page (and hopfully like it) at www.facebook.com/theashtreeanovel.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

April 24, 1915, Armenian genocide in Turkey -singer in sole surviving edifice


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

"The Ash Tree" - a novel about the aftermath in America of the Armenian Genocide

The Ash Tree by Daniel Melnick is being published around the centennial of the April 24th beginning of the 1915 Armenian Genocide, with its new release date of May 15, 2015. Its cover painting with its frayed and white-washed frame is by the author’s wife, Jeanette Arax Melnick, and the novel is based partly on the lives of the Arax family. Combining history and fictionalized memoir, The Ash Tree is an important, beautifully written novel. Available from Barnes and Noble, Amazon.com, and independent bookstores – or order from connect@westofwestcenter. For further information, see www.theashtree.net.    Price: $25. ISBN: 9780981854762.

The novel tells a timeless story of the romance between an immigrant and a young American woman. They meet and marry and raise their family in the sunbaked Central Valley of California. Armen Ararat is a poet, a farmer, and then a businessman, who escaped from the nightmarish history of Armenians in Turkey early in the twentieth century. From 1930 to the 1970s, Armen and Artemis, his Armenian-American wife born in Connecticut, raise two sons and a daughter. The Ararats grow into vivid, quintessentially American characters in this novel of survival, new life, and heartbreak.

Artemis and her daughter, Juliet, occupy the center of this world otherwise dominated by men. The dynamic, driven mother achieves a force and authority that challenge the limitations of her time and place. The daughter strives to develop into a forceful young woman in her own right, perceptive, artistic, and more at ease within herself than her mother.

Tigran is the older son – cautious, intense, solid – and Garo is the mercurial and risk-taking younger brother, forcing Tigran to try to protect him more than once against his will. Garo is passionate and charismatic. Large in spirit, he fearlessly embraces life, and he struggles against – yet is baffled by – the recoil of cruelty and evil he encounters. The family discovers that America is not the mythologized land of opportunity but is beset by the evils of poverty, war, racism, censorship, drugs, and corruption. The Ararats’ turbulent story reveals universal truths about the struggles of countless families, immigrant and native alike.

All five members of the Ararat family find their voices here and share telling this epic story of their striving to rise from the ashes of the past. The story moves back and forth among them: the immigrant husband and father, the powerful wife, their daughter, and finally the two sons. As the family rebounds in the aftermath of the genocide of Armenians in 1915, they realize themselves in the fertile yet hostile landscape of Central California, only for tragedy to find the Ararats again.