I met Doris about 45 years ago, at a fiction workshop I was teaching. We became friends and literary peers. She then became part of small women’s writing group of which I was a member, and we met regularly for a number of years, hearing and responding to each other’s work. We were always struck by Doris’s sensitive, evocative and psychologically acute fiction.
Then for many decades, we lost touch. In the interim, I continued to write and publish novels, essays, short stories and reviews, while teaching at University of Maryland as Professor of Literature and Creative Writing. Since moving to Australia, I continue to write, teach private workshops and mentor writers at all levels of their development. www.joycekornblatt.com I’ve read and edited thousands of manuscripts, amd I’m as careful with my praise as with my reservations and suggestions.
Joyfully, I recently made contact with Doris again, via email and a phone conversation. I learned she too has never stopped writing. She is nearing 90, blind and with a hearing loss. Her spirit, in the notes to herself I read in the draft manuscript, is strong and cogent. Her wish to have a book published in her lifetime is also strong. Reading transcribed tapes of IOWA BYZANTIUM, and then a revised final manuscript, my response to her work remains the same: Doris Beverlin is a writer with a truly great gift.
Let me say a bit about what I admire about this book. She has taken an archetypal situation and given it the power of particularlity—a young troubled man returns to his boyhood home, reunites with an uncle / mentor, begins the process of recalling /clarifying / making peace with tragic events of the past. In Doris’s compassionate imagination, Byron and Uncle Pretty emerge as living presences on the page, and less major characters also gather dimension and distinctiveness.
Place is beautifully rendered, and becomes a kind of character itself. Here I am reminded of Eudora Welty, Willa Cather, Wallace Stegner. I don’t know if any of these writers inform Doris’s work, but that their books come to mind says something of the power and precise observations of her work.
I found myself compelled by Byron’s brave reconstruction of his traumatic past, and how his humanity shines through the most raw memories. How all the characters emerge as flawed and lovable people. This is a book of mature compassion, hard-won forgiveness, the capacity to see beyond the most serious afflictions to what remains indestructible.
I hope my words here move many to read this beautiful novel by Doris Beverlin, a truly inspiring woman and writer.
March 3, 2022