Claudia Moscovici

The Seducer: A Novel

I have just finished my second novel, The Seducer, a psychological thriller about dangerous love and psychopathic seduction. Please find below a more detailed description of The Seducer:

My native country, Romania, is best known for a fictional character, Dracula, which is only loosely based on a historical fact: the infamous legend of Vlad Tepes. Novels that draw upon this legend—ranging from Anne Rice’s genre fiction, to the popular Twilight series, to Elizabeth Kostova’s erudite The Historian–continue to be best sellers. Yet, ultimately, no matter how much they may thrill us, the “undead” vampires we encounter in novels are harmless fictional characters that play upon our fascination with evil. However, real-life vampires, or individuals who relish destroying the lives of others, do exist. We see them constantly featured in the news and, if we don’t know how to recognize them, sometimes we even welcome them into our lives.

What do O. J. Simpson, Scott Peterson, Neil Entwistle and the timeless seducers of literature epitomized by the figures of Don Juan and Casanova have in common? They are charming, charismatic, glib and seductive men who also embody some of the most dangerous human qualities: a breathtaking callousness, shallowness of emotion and the fundamental incapacity to love. To such men, other people, including their own family members, friends and lovers, are mere objects or pawns to be used for their own gratification and sometimes quite literally discarded when no longer useful and exciting. In other words, these men are psychopaths.

My novel, The Seducer, shows both the hypnotic appeal and the deadly danger of psychopathic seduction. It traces the downfall of a married woman, Ana, who, feeling alienated from her husband and trapped in a lackluster marriage, has a torrid affair with Michael, a man who initially seems to be caring, passionate and charismatic; her soul mate and her dream come true. Although initially torn between love for her family and her passion for Michael, Ana eventually gives in to her lover’s pressure and asks her husband for divorce. That’s when Michael’s “mask of sanity” unpeels to reveal the monstrously selfish psychopath underneath, transforming what seemed to be the perfect love story into a psychological nightmare. Ana discovers that whatever seemed good about her lover was only a facade intended to attract her, win her trust and foster her dependency. His love was nothing more than lust for power, fueled by an incurable sex addiction. His declarations of love were nothing but a fraud; a string of empty phrases borrowed from the genuine feelings of others. Fidelity turned out to be a one-way street, as Michael secretly prowled around for innumerable other sexual conquests.

To her dismay, Ana finds that building a romantic relationship with a psychopathic partner is like building a house on a foundation of quicksand. Everything shifts and sinks in a relatively short period of time. Seemingly caring, and often flattering, attention gradually turns into jealousy, domination and control. Enjoying time together becomes isolation from others. Romantic gifts are replaced with requests, then with demands. Apparent selflessness and other-regarding gestures turn into the most brutal selfishness one can possibly imagine. Confidential exchanges and apparent honesty turn out to be filled with lies about everything: the past, the present, as well as the invariably hollow promises for the future. The niceness that initially seemed to be a part of the seducer’s character is exposed as strategic and manipulative, conditional upon acts of submission to his will. Tenderness diminishes and is eventually displaced by perversion that hints at an underlying, and menacing, sadism. Mutuality, equality and respect—everything she thought the relationship was founded upon—become gradually replaced with hierarchies and double standards in his favor. As the relationship with the psychopath unfolds, Dr. Jekyll morphs into Mr. Hyde.

The Seducer relies upon the insights of modern psychology and sensational media stories to demystify the theme of seduction we find in classic literary fiction. In its plot and structure, my novel deliberately echoes elements of the nineteenth-century classic, Anna Karenina. In its style and content, it fits in with contemporary mainstream psychological fiction such as Anna Quindlen’s Black and Blue and Wally Lamb’s I know this much is true. As much a cautionary tale as a story about the value of real caring, forgiveness and redemption, The Seducer shows that true love can be found in our ordinary lives and relationships rather than in flimsy fantasies masquerading as great passions.

You can view The Seducer online on the links below:

Claudia Moscovici, Notablewriters.com

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December 20, 2010 Posted by | bitlit, books, Claudia Moscovici, contemporary fiction, David Israel, David K. Israel, domestic abuse, domestic violence, fiction, literature, literature salon, literaturesalon, love story, Neatorama's Bitlit, new fiction, novel, novels, online fiction publisher, psychological fiction, psychopath, psychopathy, publishing opportunities, salon, seducer, seduction, social predators, sociopath, sociopathy, The Seducer, The Seducer: A Novel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Neatorama’s Bitlit: Putting Writers in the Driver’s Seat

 

Writers have been waiting for this:  a social networking revolution of our own. Facebook revolutionized the way we keep in touch with acquaintances and friends. Linkedin made business networking a lot easier. Dating websites like match.com and eharmony.com have changed the concept of dating and widened the field of possibilities. And readers can share their opinions and tastes about books on websites like librarything.com, shelfari.com and goodreads.com.

It seems like among the major fields only publishing was left somewhat behind the times: with top agents meeting for lunch with the top editors and publishers, to negotiate the best deals for the most promising authors. Since no online networking can possibly eliminate human interaction, things may stay that way for a long time. But a brand new social network for writers is opening up new channels of communication among writers, readers and publishers, to put writers in the driver’s seat.

David K. Israel, a writer for Neatorama, and Alyssa Landau have recently launched a new serial fiction blog, called bitlit.com. They have already published online parts of David Israel‘s exciting second novel, Trivial Pursuits, which is co-authored with Jennifer Byrne, and David Wellington‘s extraordinary werewolf tale, Frostbite, which has drawn the attention of a major trade publishing house. They’re also publishing chapters from my second novel, The Seducer. I’ve recently joined their editorial team, to help give other fiction writers this unique opportunity to showcase their talent.

There are tens of millions of writers in this country and only a few hundred very busy literary agents. These agents usually play it safe and stick to established, “brand name” authors in this tough and very competitive publishing market. You do the math about the chances of any given new novelist of getting a great deal with a major publisher.

Neatorama’s Bitlit will give many more talented writers the opportunity to share their work with readers and perhaps even grab the attention of major publishers. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved: writers, readers and publishers alike. Writers get one extra venue to share and promote their fiction. Readers can sample it for free. And publishers get to see which new novels are popular, to make an informed, less risky, decision about publishing them in print. So please join us and see for yourself, at http://www.neatorama.com/bitlit/.

Claudia Moscovici, literaturesalon

December 13, 2010 Posted by | bitlit, book reviews, books, Claudia Moscovici, contemporary fiction, David K. Israel, David Wellington, fiction, Frostbite, literature, literature salon, literaturesalon, Neatorama's Bitlit, new fiction, novel, novels, online fiction publisher, publishing opportunities, serial novels, Trivial Pursuits, writer's network | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Neatorama’s Bitlit: Putting Writers in the Driver’s Seat

Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom: The WOW! Factor in Contemporary Fiction

You probably already know about him. Time Magazine has recently published his picture on its cover, calling him the “Great American Novelist.” I have just finished reading Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, Freedom, and my visceral reaction was: WOW! Which led me to think about the importance of the WOW! factor: not just in Franzen’s novel, but in contemporary fiction in general.

Let me preface my remarks by stating the obvious: it’s not easy to publish literary fiction in this country. Literary fiction writers like Jonathan Franzen, Wally Lamb, Jeffrey Eugenides and a handful of others have to compete in the publishing world with brand name authors: political personages like Sarah Palin or pop celebrities like Madonna, who generate controversy and attract media coverage, which in turn boosts book sales. They also compete with genre fiction writers, such as Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, who provide entertainment for the general public. But literary fiction also remains, above all, an aesthetic genre. At its best, it delivers strong characterizations, an individual style—as unique as the fingerprints of its authors—psychological depth, cohesive, well-balanced structures and outstanding plots, full of twists and surprises.

Furthermore, literary fiction is not easily digestible: it requires a lot of patience, thought and, since such novels probe into our natures and motivations, a not always pleasurable introspection.  Which is perhaps why –along with poetry and independent films–literary fiction tends to get great critical reviews but doesn’t usually sell well. So when an author manages to write literary fiction that is top-notch quality and appeals to the general public, the only way I can explain this magic is through that je ne sais quoi, the WOW! factor.

Granted, Jonathan Franzen had a lot going for him: Ophrah’s attention (the mere presence in Oprah’s Book  Club makes any book sell well); an outstanding literary agent (Susan Golomb) and the support of a publisher who is known for publishing top literary fiction (Jonathan Galassi, the publisher of Farrar, Straus and Giroux). But talking about all of this “cultural capital” in Franzen’s corner really begs the question. Because his new novel wasn’t chosen at random: it really deserves  the endorsements it gets.

Freedom is, first of all, a family epic. It traces the lives of two generations of Americans: Patty and Walter Berglund and their children, Joey and Jessica. The novel offers a masterful sketch of two eras in American culture, not just the portrait of a family. For additional interest and spice, there’s the drama and tension of a love triangle. Patty becomes infatuated with her husband’s best friend, the renegade musician, Richard Katz. In its vivid portrayals of the love story between Patty and Walter and the affair between Patty and Richard, Freedom shows us the difference between infatuation—with its long-term obsessions and explosive, but short-lived sexual excitement–and love, with its combination of loyalty, disappointment and real-life challenges.

The novel’s tension is maintained not just by the drama of the plot, but also by the depth and balance of its characterizations. The main characters function as each other’s foils: the moral, straight-laced Walter is a foil for Richard, the egotistic musician, whose outlook reminds me of Ivan’s famous saying in The Brothers Karamazov: But it has always happened that the more I hate men individually the more I love humanity.” Similarly, Patty, the competitive housewife prone to depression is counterbalanced by her pragmatic, even-keeled daughter, Jessica. Finally, the doting, self-effacing neighbor’s daughter, Connie, functions as the perfect complement and foil to the outgoing and self-confident Joey. Their youthful love story reveals the symbiotic relationship between idolizer and idol, which could prompt analyses of the workings of narcissism and co-dependency, but which also remains more touching and unique than popular psychology. The characterizations in this novel are so compelling that it’s as if the author immersed himself into mindset of each character, a process reminiscent of Flaubert’s saying, “Madame Bovary, c’est moi!” Which brings me to my initial point: Freedom definitely captures the WOW! factor. For me, the WOW! factor happens when a writer  appeals to  the greatest number of readers without sacrificing anything in quality (characterization, plot, structure or style).

As a novelist and literary critic, I’ve been an avid reader of contemporary fiction for many years. Novels like Franzen’s Freedom, which magically combine mass appeal with aesthetic qualities, remind me of why if you make it as a novelist in the U.S., you make it internationally.  To keep afloat in a very competitive and rapidly changing environment, American publishers demand  mass appeal  from all of their  writers.  Meeting the highest aesthetic standards, as Franzen’s Freedom does, is just an added bonus:  that unforgettable and unmistakable WOW! factor.

Claudia Moscovici, literaturesalon

November 10, 2010 Posted by | book review, book review of Freedom, book review of Jonathan Franzen's Freedom, Claudia Moscovici, Freedom: A Novel, Jonathan Franzen, literary criticism, literary fiction, literature, literature salon, literaturesalon | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom: The WOW! Factor in Contemporary Fiction