Electric Ferry

Penny and I have just founded a venture called The Electric Ferry Press. Our publishing ambition has so far not extended beyond the publication of Without Direction by my brother, Roy Johannesen, and a collection by me called The Wulfenite Affair & Other Stories. These are described on our website and are available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble and through the distributors Ingram.

Here is the full text of the Afterword to my Wulfenite Affair:

“The stories collected here were written over a period of about twenty years. Most have appeared in whole or in part in literary magazines or in anthologies edited by others. Only one is entirely new. Some are pure fictions. Some scarcely bother to conceal their character as memoir. Yet others are somewhere in between: stories that have a basis in experience but took their own way from the start. Settings and situations of course reflect passages of my history, most of which need no explanation. The strangest of them to many readers will be the world of Norwegian immigrant chapel-folk in New York City, into which I was born. This was the setting of Sister Patsy, my first novel, and of parts of The Yellow Room. The novella that opens this collection, while mostly about something else entirely, is linked to that world in a significant way, and may be regarded as the final part of a Sunset Park trilogy. Many of the stories draw from this same well.

“Two themes or devices recur frequently in these stories. The first, not surprisingly, is the attraction of men and women to one another, in all its urgent, baffling mystery. The other is the disruptive authority of an image: perhaps a photograph, or the involuntary stirring of a memory. If sexual attraction is often the motive force in these tales, it is the resurrection of some frozen particle of time that as often arrests or diverts the course of events—or the attention of the narrator—changing the story itself into something utterly different and strange.

“I was not aware in writing these stories of an intention to set out these themes; I must suppose they stem from a deep personal source. Or perhaps these are the inevitable themes of a certain kind of writing in a certain kind of era. The narrator of the story of the Venus on the Malecón believes that a Time of Terror calls for the most elementary of reconstructions: ‘primitive materials . . . life histories, fictions, collections.'”

To which I might add a few notes:

—A story called “Prodigal Returns” is an out-take from Sister Patsy, an ending that was (rightly) cut from the novel but now discovers an independent life, with some changes of names.

—The final story, “The Walk,” is the only entirely new work in the collection and may or may not signal a new direction.

—In addition to the themes mentioned in the Afterword I notice now something else in these stories, namely a type of recurring hero: an intelligent, proud man whose difficulties arise as much from irresolution and willful blindness as from opposition. Then I realize this also describes Daniel Nordal, the hero of my brother’s novel.