“I enjoyed Telémachus thoroughly. The opening chapter is a particular delight, and I read it through several times. It flows smoothly, the characters are well drawn and I hope that it enjoys a wide audience.” –Russell Hill, author of Ghost Trout, The Egret and Lord God Bird (Pleasure Boat Studio)
The novel, Telémachus, is told by the son of a famous contemporary American poet and critic whose reputation is that of a foul-mouthed crank, untrustworthy, and yet approachable. The son, Bobby, remembers the summer when he was thirteen, when his parents allowed him to run wild on his own, to raise himself. His unnamed small town can easily be placed in the Pacific Northwest; it is a seaside town and a tourist mecca. Bobby, who has lived there most of his life, trained as an artist in Paris, where his parents brought him as a little boy. Much of the story takes place in the narrator’s childhood; in certain scenes the quality of memory gives parts of the story an atmosphere of ‘dream time’ or legend, even myth. Bobby, a painter of miniature landscapes, narrates his father’s story as it leads to one night in the summer; he also tells the story of his own life beyond that night. His father had returned to the town after a car accident when his passenger was killed. He’s become even more of an emotional cripple than he was prior to the death he caused. On that memorable night, Bobby, the thirteen-year-old, has a long talk with his father, who later drops acid and is stopped by the police. The story ends at dawn.
Michael Daley is the author of a book of essays, Way Out There (Pleasure Boat Studio, 2007), and several books of poems and translations. His most recent collection of poems is Reinhabited: New & Selected Poems ((Dos Madres, 2022). He is a retired teacher, and the publisher of Empty Bowl.
Books by Michael Daley
Yes, Five Poems
The Corn Maiden
Horace: Eleven Odes
Moonlight in the Redemptive Forest
Alter Mundus by Lucia Gazzino (tr MDaley)
Of a Feather
Reinhabited: New & Selected Poems
MICHELE SHARPE, Foreword Review (March / April 2022) –
In Michael Daley’s novel Telémachus, a painter seeks to learn about Mac, the father who abandoned him.
This update of the tale of Ulysses’s left-behind son includes a flight from accountability, a heroic cycle, and testimonies from a mentor. In it, Bobby hopes to understand his father’s transformation from a famous poet and literary critic into a man who left his son behind. Across five sections, he receives a revelatory series of letters from Mac’s closest friend, after which other friends chime in like a chorus, their voices distinct as they promise to reveal secrets, often talking in circles, even after Bobby asks, “are we there yet?”
The prose is captivating, with powerful descriptive and reflective passages and striking metaphors, as of “the warehouse of my veins,” used to describe Bobby’s obsession with his “one art,” which is embedded in his body. And the cast of characters describes Mac’s “authoritarian views on art and beauty” well, though sometimes these philosophical discussions are forced. Most often, they ably reveal details of how Mac, a “formidable, feared critic,” gave in to his flaws, leading to a terrible event.
With its deep insights into the human condition, the book takes on universal questions of inheritance and the duties of fathers and sons. Bobby wonders if he’s destined to be like his father. At the same time, he wonders how much attention a father owes to his son, and how much forgiveness a son owes to his father. Piecing together information about his father’s secret remorse, Bobby begins to understand how random events can change people forever.
Drawing on classical motifs, the novel Telémachus follows a man’s search for explanations for his father’s abandonment of him.
Mary Morgan, Rainshadow Journal –
Port Townsend readers may find this emotionally gripping novel by former Port Townsend writer, Michael Daley, hauntingly familiar. Telémachus is a timeless dream of a book that takes place in a town where boat builders, artists and writers, waitresses, tavern dwellers and ordinary neighbors mix in unpredictable ways.
Bobby Bacca, age 13, waits on the bench outside The Pocket, a bar reminiscent of Port Townsend’s Town Tavern of the ’70s and’80s, while his father, Mac, drinks and holds forth with the rowdy crowd just inside. Bored, he decides to go upstairs, where a giant swing is hung from the rafters:
“Divots in rotting steps had collected rain, or beer, in small puddles off the boots of those who lived upstairs: the tavern staff, the workers in the woods and on boats, who also paid for room and board… As I leapt up each irregular step, my flight seemed virtually perpendicular.”
By turns, Bobby is a free-wheeling boy cycling through town, an adolescent attempting to make sense of the careless, shifting adult world around him, and a young adult, a painter of miniature landscapes, floundering and trying to make ends meet. Telémachus begins when Bobby learns of his estranged father’s death. The father, a once-renowned poet and literary critic, has finally come to his end on the skids, on a bench in South Boston. And thus begins this young man’s quest to understand his father’s life and his own.
Michael Daley’s east coast roots, his Irish Catholic background, and his own growth as a writer while living in Port Townsend in the 70’s and early 80’s, all play into this compelling novel. Telémachus is a story of human struggle, hubris and humility, deep love and unintentional cruelty, set in a lovely seaside town, in American academia and in urban Boston.
For readers who are given to examining the many threads of human lives, through the eyes of such a boy and young man as Bobby, this book is a delicious read. Bobby’s early abandonment and confusion, and his resulting lonely questioning underlie this story as it winds its way to some semblance of understanding and forgiveness.