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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Just Visiting: Former UMB Professor and Award Winning Novelist Chet Frederick

UMB has had more than its fair share of successful writers. Whether it’s Creative Writing Program Director Askold Melnyczuk’s well-received contributions to current fiction or Lloyd Schwartz’s weekly articles in The Boston Phoenix and his own forays into poetry, the pool of talent has seen fit to produce another in former member of the faculty and successful author K.C. Frederick.

Former English professor “Chet” Frederick returned to UMass Boston on April 16 to preview his third novel. Both a poet and a novelist, he has also published two previous books, Country of Memory, and The Fourteenth Day. Frederick has received numerous awards, one of which being a 1993 fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. He has contributed short stories to publications such as Epoch, Shenandoah, Kansas Quarterly, Ascent, and Ohio Review.

In Accomplices, we return to the same Eastern European landscape that we saw in Frederick’s first novel, Country of Memory. Set in the cynicism of post-Cold War backdrop of former bloc countries struggling to get back on their feet, we meet Stephen, a man for whom life has moved on without his involvement.

From the reading of passages out of Accomplices and Frederick’s own synopsis, we learn that after following his lover, Zoria, he meets with disaster and wakes up from a coma alone, confused, and a recluse. Stephen, a member of the former regime, seems to be out of place in a world that wants to forget half of a century of socialism; a glittery, impoverished country that has no place for its once-powerful leaders.

Stephen ends up doing translations in a dingy, cramped apartment, fearing to go outside, and marveling at the hermit he has become. He sees himself as a relic that the nation would rather relegate to a dusty corner of a tenement now that it has wholeheartedly embraced the capitalist ethic. Overweight and tired, he is nearly drunk with his own self-pity.

It begins with a cup of hot chocolate. Or at least a craving for one. The cold wintry days seem to stimulate his appetite. The only problem is Stephen has no milk and must venture to the corner store to get it. With a burst of enthusiasm, he decides that he will change his life and begin a new program of activity that includes exercising and socializing. His adventure begins once he leaves the house.

As he is walking, he passes a crowd and, his curiosity piqued, he decides to see what’s going on. It turns out to be a group of followers of the new renegade preacher. Although we don’t get much of a description of just what the thrust of his tenets are, Frederick gives us a taste via Stephen’s rational inner dialogue, and it only evokes a negative response.

Stephen sneaks away from the crowd, only to realize he is being followed. He reconsiders buying milk and starts to run back when he is accosted by a man who recognizes him but whom he does not remember. Stephen is literally backed into a tree when we catch our first glimpse of the assertive, angry personality simmering beneath layers of self-doubt, leftover from a time when he was more than what he is now. He manages to frighten off his assailant before running back to the huddled confines of his apartment, shaking with fear and paranoia.

When authors read their own works, it can be a hit-or-miss phenomenon. Some could have been reading the ingredients from a cereal box and others are downright ridiculous in their gymnastic gesticulations. Frederick’s was thoroughly enjoyable to hear, allowing the distinctive personalities of each character to come through.

What happens next? You’ll just have to read the book. Accomplices is due out in August of 2003 by Permanent Press (224 pg. Hardcover; $26).

About the Contributor
MiMi Yeh served as arts editor for The Mass Media the following years: 2001-2002; *2002-2003; 2003-2004 *Evan Sicuranza served as arts editor for Fall 2002 Disclaimer: Years served is based on online database and may not detail entire service.