Literature and Writing Mentor Robert Congemi Publishes Fifth Book, "Millennium Blues"
By Helen Edelman, manager, Exchange
October 5, 2012
Robert Congemi, at left, a literature and writing mentor at the Northeast Center, has published his fifth book, “Millennium Blues,” the first of three novels together referred to as “The Millennium Trilogy.”
In “Millennium Blues,” Harry Downs, the main character of the novel, styles himself a man of his times in the year 2001—anxiety ridden, misunderstood, searching for meaning. A mysterious heart ailment first noticed after a 5k run by the 60-year-old, book-reading landlord results in a more or less spiritual journey enacted before it is too late to mend his relationships with his ex-wife, children, girlfriends, tenants, etc., according to Congemi.
“The journey is not easy, though he is somewhat guided by his alcoholic, thoroughly disaffected, philosophizing friend Reinhold Dearborne," Congemi says of the plot. "Suddenly earnest in his thoughts and behavior, Harry tries decency, reasonableness, politics, and religion among other adult aspirations, in order to make himself right with his world before a possible killer heart attack resolves his issues for him."
The novel approaches its end as Downs is in sight of his goals.
The novel was preceded by four collections of short stories; a quartet of books, “In These Times: Dreaming Mother Into Existence,” “Vagaries of Fate,” “The Absurd Heart” and “Temple of a Thousand Buddhas.”
Congemi has been with the college full time since 1973 and last year delivered a commencement address. His stories have appeared in All About Mentoring since 2006, when he published "In Manhattan, Protesting," a story concerning the occupation of Iraq by the United States. His stories and novels are set in New York state, primarily in the Manhattan-to-Albany region. His thematic interest involves a mostly absurdist viewpoint hopefully compromised by the struggle of his characters to bring meaning, heroism and beauty to their lives.\
The Brooklyn native was raised there and on Long Island. He says he “has long been attracted to ideas describing life as absurdist and indeterminate,” but holds out for the possibility that these ideas are not necessarily correct. He is interested in the attempts of people to bring meaning and beauty into their lives, as well as resistance to what they feel is an unacceptable fate.