East Fifth Bliss

Overview

There are seven defining moments in a person's life. For Morris Bliss, the difficulty is in knowing which moments are defining. At age thirty-five, Morris Bliss is clamped in the jaws of New York City inertia: he wants to travel but has no money; he needs a job but has no prospects; he still shares a walk-up apartment with his father.

Enter Stefani, an eighteen-year-old girl in a catholic school uniform, and Morris's once static life quickly ...
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Overview

There are seven defining moments in a person's life. For Morris Bliss, the difficulty is in knowing which moments are defining. At age thirty-five, Morris Bliss is clamped in the jaws of New York City inertia: he wants to travel but has no money; he needs a job but has no prospects; he still shares a walk-up apartment with his father.

Enter Stefani, an eighteen-year-old girl in a catholic school uniform, and Morris's once static life quickly unravels. Stefani's father, oblivious to his daughter's doings, calls on Morris to work for him; Morris's best friend, N.J., whose only practice of economy is with the truth, is recruited by the Red Thread, an international cartel that controls global economics and local sex markets; and Morris's father, a taciturn widower, finally reveals the truth surrounding the strange death of Morris's mother.

A body at rest will remain at rest. Unless acted upon. With the agony of his inertia finally broken, Morris Bliss fights to keep his life from careening out of control. East Fifth Bliss follows Morris as he confronts the intricate and often confusing aspects of relationships, family, and identity. He must learn to adapt if he is to survive.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Set on New York's Lower East Side, this first novel by Light (founding editor, Epiphany) introduces Morris Bliss, 35 years old and living with his widowed father. Morris has big dreams of traveling all over the world. Unfortunately, he doesn't have a job or the means to take his aspirations beyond a collection of travel brochures and pushpins in a map on his bedroom wall. This fun read boasts a likable protagonist, other quirky and interesting characters, and vivid and humorous descriptions of New York while also providing some significant social commentary. The scene in which Morris and a former high school classmate (and father of the 18-year-old girl with whom Morris is sleeping) storm a vacant building in the middle of the night to roust out a group of homeless squatters is both funny and disturbing. Recommended for large public libraries with an interest in new and unknown authors.-Karen Traynor, Sullivan Free Lib., Chittenango, NY Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781933016405
  • Publisher: Behler Publications, LLC
  • Publication date: 9/28/2006
  • Pages: 220
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Douglas Light grew up in Indiana. His novel East Fifth Bliss received the 2007 Benjamin Franklin Award for Fiction. His writing has appeared in various publications, including StoryQuarterly, Alaska Quarterly Review, and The Morning News. Named a finalist for the James Jones First Novel Fellowship, his fiction has won an O. Henry Award, and was selected for the Best American Nonrequired Reading 2003 anthology.
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Read an Excerpt

Morris stares at Stefani jumping on his bed, unable to break himself from watching. She's like a movie star or a brutal car wreck or a fireworks display on a clear, dark winter's night, something he can't take his eyes from.

A tepid, damp breeze laps in the apartment's propped window. Early April, and the late afternoon's light is clear and unsettling. It cuts the island and the streets, bright, blemishing, blinding.

New York City. Manhattan. East Village. Fifth Street.

"You know," Stefani says to him, bouncing naked, "I know you." Freshly turned eighteen-years-old-a fact she doesn't tire of stating, repeatedly opening her sentences with "Now that I'm eighteen . . . "-she attends the St. Benedict's Ukrainian Catholic High School on East Seventh Street. She's only a junior, though, held back her fifth grade year.

Thirty-five years old, Morris could be her father, a thought that isn't lost on him. A thought he works to reconcile, or at least suppress. "Yeah, I feel I know you, too," he tells her, the lightness of his three afternoon beers all but over. "Like we're connected," he says, and, feeling he sounds stupid, adds, "Or something." Naked himself and slightly slouched, Morris's body is the body of a swimmer who hasn't swum in years-thin and long limbed, but no longer fit. His looks are the calm, intelligent looks of an elementary school principal on summer break and his fingers the fingers of someone who takes care of what he touches, fingers of a concert pianist or bomb defuser or a painter who executes detailed portraits on grains of rice. They are fingers that poorly serve Morris. They're too precise for him; he's clumsy, often drops things. Yet they'dheld Stefani, run over her skin, touched her.

His best friend N.J. once theorized that there are seven defining moments in a person's life. We're born with them, like a tongue or toes. "Seven, man," N.J. said, holding up an open hand and two fingers.

Morris asked him to identify the seven, to explain what they signified. "For me to tell you that, man," N.J. replied, "would be like explaining a poem by playing the bagpipes. It doesn't work."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Morris asked.

"It means what it means, man." N.J. was fabricating his theory on the spot, Morris was certain. It was something N.J. did, fabricate.

Morris asked, "So what happens after I experience all seven?"

"You won't make the seven, man," N.J. informed him. "Only people like Jesus Christ or Evel Knievel make it to seven. Only people filled with wonder, man."

Initially, Morris felt he'd burnt through two moments this afternoon with Stefani. Now, he can't claim certainty.
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 18, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    A real gem

    I friend of mine recommended this debut novel, saying it was a good read. She was wrong--it was a great read! <BR/>Douglas Light has created a world that is funny, poignant, and thought provoking. Yeah, I know it sounds like a tall order, but he's done it.<BR/>Morris Bliss, the main character, is a sad-sack of a guy living with his father in New York City. It doesn't help matters that Morris is 35 years old, has no job, little to no money, and, at the start of the book, a brand new girlfriend way too young for him. He struggles through a long weekend, hoping to find a balance--and ultimately himself.<BR/>With a cast of vivid and funny character--N.J. I love, as well as Andrea, Morris' downstairs neighbor--this novel is a brisk read that left me exciting to find more of Light's work.

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