In this third volume, The Absurd Heart, of his short-story quartet entitled In These Times, Robert Michael Congemi has written a collection of stories set in New York City, Brooklyn, Long Island and counties nearby. The Absurd Heart adds to issues, characters, and relationships presented in the first two volumes of the quartet, Dreaming Mother Into Existence and Vagaries of Fate. In these New York stories, Congemi presents further epiphanies and transformations, paradoxes, and tragicomic variations on this principal themes. Stories concern re-evaluations of the past in order to create present meaning, the seductiveness of religious need, and the often mystifying behaviors of loving. Rebellion leads to self-actualization and punishment, pain to wisdom. In this volume, a Columbia University graduate student in philosophy rewrites moments in the Bible to parallel his own ontology, a Westchester County social worker composes haiku to help himself through his personal and professional day, and an indefatigable author seeks validation for earnestness from an old, magus-like scholar.
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Robert Michael Congemi is from Brooklyn, New York, and Long Island. He styles himself an Aristotelian, by which he means that plot -- a universal plot -- is what matters most in the production of serious literature, though of course insight into human feeling and behavior is the handmaiden of plot. He does indeed favor getting the problem on the page, rather than the solution, leaving solutions to such professionals as religious teachers, psychologists, and social scientists. Congemi has taught for many years at SUNY's innovative Empire State College.