What People Are Saying About Summer Capricorn

Guy Hallman

La Crescenta, CA

While Making Plans

Summer Capricorn is a richly textured and vibrant first novel, an engaging tale of life transitions, endings and beginnings. Adam Nicholas, a career classical musician, is preparing, every step carefully orchestrated, for a more secure and predictable future in computer programming. His journey from one career to the next is a summer odyssey, in which he is blown off course by recessions in both the freelance music and Silicon Valley worlds. Adam's unanticipated path lands him temporary work as a live-in apprentice on an organic goat farm and as aide in a locked 99-bed psychiatric facility in the fictitious California coastal town of Goat Harbor. Adam is an active observer, a trainee who in both arenas becomes central to the lives and processes he is experiencing.


Adam's odyssey becomes our odyssey. Row has a gift for detailed but vibrant descriptive writing, like Thomas Mann, providing detailed descriptions of the arrangement, appearance, and texture of space: the farm, the hospital, the geodesic room that is Adam's home for this magical summer, of the colors, vegetation, decorations, contents of shelves, smells. Detailed descriptions of procedures - beekeeping, lettuce or corn planting and harvesting, milking, goat breeding, cheese making, converting huge eucalypts into firewood, talking or taking down a patient, checking for patient contraband, leading patient discussion groups, seeing to patient's physical needs and safety - let the reader intimately share Adam's experience in a You Are There manner.


The title and cover art - a silhouette of a Pan or a satyr playing a syrinx (oboe) - constitute an idée fixe that is seamlessly integrated into the fabric of the work. The Capricorn of the title is the goat/man or faun, an icon of raw rhythms of life, earth, sexuality, and nature red in tooth and claw. Is our faun the farm (earth, land, birth & death), the hospital (humanity reduced to raw fears, desires, aspirations), or is it Adam (whose astrological sign is Capricorn) plunging into an unfamiliar world pulsing with life? The summer of the title is not only the season during which the odyssey takes place, but a reference to necessary cyclic transitions. As the satyr plays the song of the earth, Adam witnesses and/or experiences planting, harvesting, rearing kids and kids, a tyrannical menstrual cycle, obsessive substance use, sex and seduction, excretion, coping, surviving, death and birth, all during the buzzing and fecund heat of summer.


A classical musician practices by repeating the known until facile. The paid work is to do precisely what is already written on the page. A computer programmer practices an established language to solve problems. Both are largely predictable - one knows how the time will be spent doing what. On the goat farm, everything is new and wonderful - what is to be done is dictated by the rhythms of life. In the hospital, psychiatric aides are given a series of procedures giving the appearance of order and control, yet again, the actual activities are completely dictated by the unanticipated inner rhythms and primal drives of the patients. The summer of the goat teaches Adam and the reader that reality, depth, and meaning come when living and being, not when reaching.


Summer Capricorn is a compelling and powerful novel. I highly recommend reading it. Life is what happens.

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