1. R.P. Burnham edits The Long Story literary magazine and is a writer. He has published fiction and essays in many literary magazines. He has published six novels, On a Darkling Plain, Envious Shadows, The Many Change and Pass, A Robin Redbreast in a Cage, The Two Paths and Jonathan Willing’s Travels to Pangea, a Swiftian satire about the future where the 1% have gained total power (all with the Wessex Collective). Most of his fiction is set in Maine, where he was born and raised and has deep root; thematically his fiction explores the boundaries of the self and addresses the question of what our duties and responsibilities are to others. The Least Shadow of Public Thought, a book of his essays that introduce each issue of The Long Story, was published in 1996 by Juniper Press as part of its Voyages Series. He was educated at the University of Southern Maine (undergraduate) and The University of Wisconsin–Madison (graduate). He is married to Kathleen A. FitzPatrick, an associate professor of health science at Merrimack College in North Andover.


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A Few Comments


Envious Shadows


R. P. Burnham demonstrates his knack for storytelling in his novel, Envious Shadows. He keeps the reader interested in the plotline while also managing to interweave a penumbra of moral lessons about love, prejudice,and judgment in a modern context. Envious Shadows is filled with a high wit and a talent for creating relatable and realistic characters. For those looking for a strong plot with an accompanying wisdom for modern life, Envious Shadows is a must-read.

–Jesslyn Roebuck in identity theory.com  web blog July 2006


Envious Shadows is a deftly crafted, engrossing contemporary novel, one of those works that is not afraid to face the grim realities of life and the cruelties of society as well as the redeeming power of love... A beautiful work that depicts life in all its grim realities, Envious Shadows is a rewarding read.

    –Mayra Calvani, Bloomsbury Review



Envious Shadows is a marvelous book. It is about a black and white relationship which has strength to resist the intermittent brutality of human nature. With the lightest of hands, the essence of your personality is present on every page, leading the reader forward toward an understanding of human nature as it should be. The book never lags for a instant, and it is full of realistic details on a wide framework of topics  which range from dealing with the psychological integration of half-way house residents into society, the intricacies of the game of softball, the atmosphere of pubs, the challenges facing building contractors, the mindset of the KKK, to the correct planting of roses. There isn’t a pompous moment in it and it is loaded with quiet wit, with seriousness, with irony, and through it all there shines not only a knowledge of literature but a knowledge of life. … I was very taken by your last novel but I truly believe that Envious Shadows is even better, and that is as it should be. From Shelley’s poem on the first page to Millie’s soothing advice at the end, the book is truly a living work which encompasses modern dilemmas.

    –Susan Davey


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On a Darkling Plain

  

    The literary fiction novel opens with a shocking scene: In the small town of Waska, Maine, retired professor Samuel Jellerson, while walking in the woods one day, witnesses an despicable act--a priest sexually abusing a young boy.

    Jellerson thinks he recognizes the priest, but instead of notifying the authorities right away, a heavy cloud of confusion and denial falls over him, preventing him from taking action.

Within that month Jellerson decides to confront the priest and contact the police. Rumors spread quickly in a small town and soon everybody is talking about it. What compels a priest to abuse a boy? What impels a good man to keep silence? How will the boy, a musical genius, cope with such evil atrocity? How does society respond to this--with kindness and understanding, or with even worse cruelty?

    On a Darkling Plain is a serious, carefully crafted, compelling novel about the dark, destructive side of human relationships, especially those between father and son. The novel also offers a tragic, almost comical view of the role of the law in society. The most interesting thing about this novel, however, is the way the author uses the priest/boy conflict to address the "real" conflict in the nove--Jellerson's painful relationship with his son, a son he has never been able to understand nor express his affection to. In this sense, and in spite of what may appear like religious overtones, the priest and boy become a metaphor for what really lies beneath. The story's subtle layers make it ideal for book clubs and group discussions. It is important to note that, in spite of its sensitive topic, there's nothing explicit in the writing that will offend readers.

Burnham's love for writing shows in each sentence. True to his style, he relies mostly on narration, depth of theme and deft characterization to bring his story across.

As in his previous novel, Burnham seems to have an inkling for controversial themes, which he handles excellently well. I highly recommend.

Armchair Interviews says: For the serious reader, On a Darkling Plain is a most rewarding and insightful read.

                                     –Mayra Calvani, Armchair Interviews.com


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ON A DARKLING PLAIN is a dense and absorbing novel. Bravo to you for keeping so many strands of plot and character in hand and the controlling movement on the page. …I liked your variety of characters, each with his particular set of problems and concerns interacting with other characters that could sometimes alleviate woes and in the case of Jason traumatic events in a child’s life. I also liked your even-handed presentation of religion as a force that could both harm as well as help people.…Even with all the dark happenings on this darkling plain, I found the book positive in its outlook because of its holding out the real possibility of redemption and change in human behavior.

                   –Laurel Speer

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The Many Change and Pass


This novel explores the question of our duty to the earth, which entails this further question:  how can we live a decent human life when every individual is part of the many who are transitory and intent upon selfish pursuits that give no thought to what remains after they pass. It begins with the mercury poisoning of a small, impoverished boy and follows Chris Andrews, a ecological activist, Myron Seavey, a progressive librarian, and a dozen other characters as they deal with the implications of this poisoning.  


…the soup kitchen scene is a gem, real literature. The Mayan temple feels right, the poetry that sits in the middle. Ridlon, Nevins…ever notice how Rush Limbaugh, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney and Rumsfeld are enough to send one back  to belief in physiognomy, clones?…Sometimes philosophical and social essay are handled self-consciously in the mouths of  characters, but that energy doesn't really impede what is a strenuous, serious book. Clear characters, up and down the social scale, well differentiated,work in interesting relations. I love the poetry of the Mayan temple, a testimony to the kind of love that might save our species. There is a clear sense of people who can and cannot afford to think much about their lives, so Chris’ demon is always compromised by normal standards... A perfect, quiet ending.

                                                                    –Paul Nelson

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A Robin Redbreast in a Cage


As he does with his earlier novels, Burnham takes his time in skillfully creating his characters so that by the end, the readers know them inside out, down to their raw hearts. Some characters suffer a transformation; others don’t; but each word and action count and stay true to them, making them distinctive. Most fascinating about this story is the mind-splitting moral debate that goes on inside Charlie’s mind at every second as she tries to fight her uncle from totally controlling and brainwashing her like he’s already done to his family. Burnham’s style is heavy on narration, and he likes to explore concepts and ideas, so, at times, the pace drags a little, even when the ideas are part of the dialogue. Charlie’s story, however, pulls the reader in, and this reviewer was anxious to see what was going to happen to her — and whether or not she’d end up having a happy ending like she deserved. Jeremy’s character, while also sympathetic, is somehow less interesting than Charlie, who is obviously the star of the show.

The hypocrisy and evil of religion and conservative governments is a recurrent theme in Burnham’s novels, such as On a Darkling Plain and The Many Change and Pass. Other questions explored in the novel include what it means to be a good Christian and the role of women in Christianity. If you’re interested in fiction dealing with social issues, this is an author whose works you’ll definitely want to read. — Mayra Calvani



What a happy surprise to get A ROBIN REDBREAST IN A CAGE in the mail today. I jumped right into it and found it a very satisfying read. You struck a right note with me in vilifying righteous evangelical Christians. I was so happy when Charlie made the great escape. You do awful people like the uncle and Tom the cad with great brio. They are worthy, strong opponents for the good characters, which creates a lot of dramatic tension. The outcomes are by no means unquestioned. I also like your inclusionof current political issues and the possibility of overcoming alcoholism and the importance of education. But overriding all is the triumph of love, just as it should for a novel with a happy ending from before Shakespeare to the present. Love may not conquer all, but it makes for a terrific plot and characters. —Laurel Speer


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The Two Paths


For you who have read R. P. Burnham’s The Many Change and Pass, or any other of his engaging works of fiction, the publication of his new novel, The Two Paths, is indeed good news. Burnham has an uncanny ability to bring to life the characters he creates. The range of these characters is Dickens-like. This vividly realized but widely differing catalogue of persona compels the reader both to sympathize and make judgments. Played out in upper New England near the sea, the setting of the novel is as convincing as are the characters. The novel opens with a bang, a “gangbang,” out of which the conflict inevitably grows: raw sex vs. true love. The first path causes us to echo, “the pity of it all.” The second makes us shout to ourselves, “yes, yes, yes!” Yet the path that is studded with dark depths of doubt, despair, and self-defeat has a seemingly stronger hold on humanity than does the path of illumination, self-understanding, and reconciliation. Which path it will be is convincingly rendered in Burnham’s lucid and fluent prose. —John Wheatcroft


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Jonathan Willing’s Travels to Pangea is set in the indeterminate future where our eponymous hero is first seen as an able and conscientious worker on his family’s farm but also as a dreamer who loves poetry and old tales of heroic knights. He lives in Tlllerland, a Quaker, Amish place with a close-knit society where the people still thee and thou each other and act as one big family. When, however, young Jonathan’s sweetheart breaks up with him, he decides to take a one year Rumschpringa to Pangea to heal his broken heart. Thus it is through his alien eyes in the book that we see Pangea (which, except for the agricultural preserves like Tillerland, is the rest of the world). Almost immediately upon his arrival in Econopolis, the principal city of the empire, Jonathan starts seeing a society almost the exact opposite from the loving and supportive  Tillerland. Right off he sees strange billboards: CHERISH THE RICH; LOWPAY EQUALS PROSPERITY; SELF-INTEREST LEADS TO PERFECTION. Modest and naive, he is shocked at how frankly people speak about sex and their private parts; at the same time he is confused by everyone being ashamed and/or afraid to show any signs of pity and compassion. In seeking to buy a Dickens novel, he learns that it is  forbidden. Only books that bear the imprimatur, ARSFPET (The Ayn Rand Society for the Propagation of Economic Truth) can be published, and books such as Dickens novels with their sympathy for the poor and oppressed are only available in underground black market emporiums such as the one, run by Sylvester Oliphant Bumwad, where Jonathan buys the Dickens and gets a tour of the other services offered where one can get a good cry to release any bottled-up pity. He finds day-labor work demolishing a burnt out building and from his co-workers starts to understand how Pangean society works. Banksters, oligarchs and the media control thought itself as well as the government. Only 15% of the people can vote. Tight social control keeps the common people in line. One can go to jail for criticizing the rich. Neighborhood watches carefully monitor any aberrant behavior for dangerous signs of empathy and solidarity. Education and media all reinforce the idea that this is the best world possible. Then through a lucky accident some months into his visit Jonathan becomes a hero (as was his dream) and gets to live with the 15%, even meeting the emperor of Pangea himself. At one point he is contacted by people from the underground and gets a chance to be a different kind of hero.

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