Meet M.J. Joseph
M. J. Joseph was born in Pensacola, Florida, and, like six previous generations of his family, spent the best days of his youth along the shores of its bay, bayous and the Gulf of Mexico. Joseph’s family forced him to learn to play various brass musical instruments and attend school, where, at the age of twelve, he first heard Schubert lieder sung by his seventh-grade music teacher, one of the very few things he appreciates about the entire twelve-year exercise. After completing high school, Joseph’s family sent him away to the University of South Florida to study whatever would hold his interest for as long as possible to secure for themselves some extended peace and quiet. He studied with some wonderful scholars, only one of whom dismissed him from a class, and earned a degree in Philosophy and English in the requisite period of time. In due course Joseph was allowed to enter his family’s business, where he eventually became CEO and later oversaw its merger with a European company. Over the years he has traveled extensively, maintained personal links to Europe, membership in the English Goethe Society, The Siegfried Sassoon Fellowship, The William Faulkner Society and other literary organizations. He actively supports Lincoln Cathedral and the English football club, Arsenal. Joseph has been woodshedding fiction for many years and, until the publication of his novel, The Lübecker, he contumaciously ignored any suggestions that he share his work with anyone, especially relatives. Joseph and his wife have two children and reside in Pensacola.
writing THE LÜbecker
A story from the author
“The Lübecker was written primarily on a breezy, inset porch of a large, lap-sided, 1912 house overlooking Pensacola Bay, so architecturally typical, but now, so frequently disappearing, before gentrification along the coastal South. While this setting recalled childhood memories that influenced the novel, I began constructing character apologues that ultimately inspired the development of The Lübecker after a conversation I had with a friend two years before in England, while sitting on a weathered bench located on the apex of the Lincoln Edge, overlooking a long abandoned Roman well. Our chat concerned, amongst other things, the life of his German grandmother, the effect that the sight of film actress Gina Lollobrigida’s bosom had on us as adolescents, Lawrence Durrell’s autographical book, Bitter Lemons and the life, work and milieu of Lou Andreas-Salomé. And, of course, the Roman well.
As I wrote during the months subsequent to this conversation, I found myself remembering other stories, as told to me by other European friends, of their relations and acquaintances who wandered about their continent seeking adventure, or employment, or love, or the fulfillment of some spiritual or intellectual cacoethes, which had further effect by recalling the restless history of Andreas-Salomé.
After constructing several character sketches, the structure of another work by Lawrence Durrell, his most famous, The Alexandria Quartet, began haunting my attempts to build a narrative to capture the characters developing rapidly in my imagination. I decided that parallel narratives, spun on their own as farraginous tales using the influence of place, which figures so importantly in The Alexandria Quartet, the old, reliable Bildungsroman and a few shared philosophical challenges, would allow the characters growth, with the presentation of the historical dynamics, chosen to anchor the book, pushing them toward a final, convincing resolution. I also fancied them as the children of Lou Andreas-Salomé, who bore no children, but I wanted my revelation of Lou, experienced over forty years, to arouse a familial sense among the disparate, primary characters
Finally, the realization that all of the principle characters were proving to be restive and impatient for progression as I excogitated them, led me to bow to the inevitable commitment to give the most singular among them a book of their own, further imitating Durrell, allowing them their own unique voices to expand the world of The Lübecker.”