SATISFACTION: A novel (2016) by Lane Jennings

Seated at the piano, while the crowbars and claw hammers 

slowly tore the room apart around him, young Allan Ross 

looked more than twice his age.  Later they would party

in the rec room under Baxter Hall; and this night, Allan promised himself,

for once he was going to get completely drunk  [….]


Early autumn, 1964; and for Allan Ross, his final year at quietly prestigious Williams College seems pretty sure to stay predictable and dull—until he meets Ann Ash, the fascinating daughter of a powerful, and widely feared, professor.

Suddenly, all bets are off, and Allan quickly learns that life holds infinitely more than good grades, campus savoir faire, and the joys of jamming to progressive jazz.

As winter grips the Purple Valley, Allan’s neatly ordered world explodes in a storm of passion, doubt, and self-discovery. Love, real love, leads to marriage, right? So why delay?  Why hide?  What is there to be frightened of?

The return of spring provides unlooked-for—and not always welcome—answers that leave Allan doubting every certainty his life seemed built on. Stumbling through this underworld, he finds, as others did before him, that the dead have much to teach us; that what has been once may be again; and that unwelcome obstacles may also offer opportunities.

Summer brings an end to everything, and what comes after must remain a mystery—but one that holds a chance for perfect satisfaction!

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Yet another college novel??

Yes! Because some stories never die—and what appears to be the past may reveal the future.

For example, check the Prologue.  Are these really the 1960’s you remember, or were told about?  What’s going on?

The Williams College in these pages is as much a waking dream as it is an evocation. Rather than trying to bring history to life, this novel, Satisfaction, seeks instead to spin a web of possibilities—the same that re-emerge in every generation, and have done since troubled love began!

[See below for Author Interview with Lane Jennings]

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781514489406
Xlibris Corporation
Publication date: 05/17/2016
Pages: 340

Price:  Trade Paperback $19.99;  e-book $3.99 

Order from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Xlibris, etc.


                                       AUTHOR INTERVIEW (22 May 2016)  with Lane Jennings

INTERVIEWER:  We’re talking today with Lane Jennings, writer and editor for the World Future Society here in Bethesda, where, for the past five years, he has edited the journal World Future Review.  Lane is also a poet and translator, whose work has appeared in magazines both locally and coast to coast as well as in anthologies such as Free State (2000) and A Flash of Bright Air (2001). Now it turns out that Lane is also a novelist.  SATISFACTION, his first book-length work of fiction, is now available in both print and e-book formats.  Tell us, Lane, does the title “Satisfaction,” have a special significance?

LJ: Yes it does.  For one thing “satisfaction” is the outcome in life that everybody really wants.  We may all want it in different forms—money, power, freedom, even love—but we each know a feeling of success and contentment that only comes when we get what truly matters to us. Until it does, nothing we have or do is ever good enough or sure enough.  Sadly, you can live a whole lifetime and it never comes.  But “satisfaction” is still the goal we all strive for.  That’s one reason I chose this title.  Another is that the classic hit song by the Rolling Stones plays an important role at several key points in the story.

INTERVIEWER: And what IS that story exactly?

LJ: Aha!  Well, to sum up 300 pages in a single sentence, I’d say it’s a college love story, set in a real place but at a fictional time, built around music, that retells an ancient myth for modern-day readers.

INTERVIEWER: Do you mean by that an audience of young adults—college students?

LJ:  Not necessarily.  The action takes place in the 1960s, and so much has changed since those years it may be that today’s college students would no longer identify with my characters and the situations they find themselves in.  Feelings and emotions haven’t changed much, but people’s personal freedom to express and deal with those feelings sure has.  So much was different then—technologies, social norms, what people expected from life—parents, teachers, students themselves—all very different.  The readers I’m hoping to reach are what I call “Adults with young ideas.”  Luckily, you can find examples of these in every age group—from 9 to 90-plus!

INTERVIEWER: But why set your story back in the 1960s?  Why not in the present?

LJ:  A couple reasons.  The ’60s were years of rapid change—rock music was replacing jazz and Broadway tunes at the top of the pop charts; the traditional roles of men and women were being seriously questioned; college life itself was changing as people from all different backgrounds began to attend top schools.  And the traditions that were breaking down weren’t being replaced, by new norms, but by free choices.  In a nutshell, old certainties were disappearing without a trace, while new opportunities were constantly appearing.  Today’s “young adults” are a lot freer to live the lives they prefer and not worry so much about what their parents or professors expect or want them to do.  It’s that moment of multiple conflicts between tradition and innovation—living to please others vs. living to please yourself—that I wanted to explore.  I guess you might set a story like this in the 1920s too, but F. Scott Fitzgerald got there first; and competing on his turf seemed about as rash as trying to outdo Leo Tolstoy by writing about Napoleon in Russia.

INTERVIEWER:  Okay, but the 1960s in your book don’t exactly match the history that’s come down to us.  Why is that?

LJ:  Yes, well the events described in this book are so locally-focused that the outside world has very little impact on my characters.  That’s not unusual for fiction as opposed to real life; but it becomes easier to accept when you’ve read the book’s prologue and understand that these 1960s included no Viet Nam War, no JFK assassination, no major Cold War threats, and the racial tensions that existed were being effectively resolved—at least at the national level. Remember, I’m a futurist by profession, and I’m comfortable exploring different alternative directions for tomorrow’s society. So it didn’t trouble me a bit to set my story in an “alternative past.”

INTERVIEWER: Music plays a big role in your story, too.  Why is that?

LJ:  First of all, I love it.  I find music often expresses emotions better than words can; so I have my lead character, Allan Ross, express himself in music, or think in terms of music, as easily as I myself—being a writer—first try to settle problems through using words.  The conflict between classical and popular music was important too, because the particular pieces Allan likes and dislikes from both these genres tell us a lot about his character.  Finally, the competition between types of popular music in this book—rock and roll vs. jazz—really did take place then and helps  underline the shift from comfortable tradition to exciting but unpredictable free expression that ebbs and flows throughout the book.

INTERVIEWER:  Yes, but doesn’t this limit your audience to those who already know the music you refer to? You cover a lot of ground after all, from Ravel, to Carl Orff, and from “Shep Fields and his rippling rhythm,” to the Rolling Stones; not to mention the jazz….

LJ: You’re right.  That’s why I included a section of notes and discography at the end—to help those who don’t know a certain work locate it, listen, and judge for themselves if they care to.  You know it’s important not to trust other people’s judgements too far—especially where art and/or values are concerned.  When you read this novel you should never automatically believe the speaker—whether it’s Allan Ross, or Tom Petard, or Lane Jennings—when it comes to the truth of a situation or the quality of a piece of music.  Experience it for yourself; then decide if you agree.  I’m a great believer in the value—and the sheer fun—of an untrustworthy narrator.

INTERVIEWER:   So tell me, Lane, how long did it take you to write Satisfaction?

LJ:  A lot longer than it should have, I’m afraid.  I wrote most of it in spurts between about 1976 and 1989, with a few final tweaks here and there after that.

INTERVIEWER: And it’s only just now being published?

LJ: What can I say?  I’m a slow learner—or else maybe very good at procrastinating.

INTERVIEWER:  So what’s next? Are you working on something new?

LJ: I am.  For a while now I’ve been fascinated by the place that used to be “East Germany” and all the mischief certain governments and individuals got up to there before and just after the Berlin Wall came down.  I actually worked in East Berlin for some months doing research for my PhD, and both the place and the people I met there left a deep impression on me.  I want to show what it’s like to grow up in a country that supposedly embodies a dream you share, but is actually controlled by a government you don’t respect or trust but can’t escape from; and then explore how an idealistic patriot might react when this country, that he both loves and hates, simply vanishes practically overnight. It’s one thing to seek justice for the death of a person you love; but how do you set about avenging an entire country?

INTERVIEWER:  That’s an intriguing question.

LJ: Well, I’m hoping so.  It’s still very much a work in progress, but I’ll keep you posted.

INTERVIEWER:  Please do.  We’ve been talking today with Lane Jennings, whose novel Satisfaction is currently available in stores and for download as an e-book.   Thanks for stopping by Lane, and good luck!

LJ: Thank you!

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