These two novels, The Wisdom of Ashes, and its sequel, Standing at the Gate. present two webs of tiny stories weaving light and dark, memory and forgetting, madness and war, with the smell of jasmine and the sound of cicadas in the New Orleans of the 1980s. The Wisdom of Ashes connects two poets, a nun, a black and white dog, and a huge red balloon, to a heroin addict, the devil, the dead, and a mousy little man who lives in the cemetery. They return to touch edges with a cross-dressing assassin, a fictional detective, a psych ward janitor, and a naked woman with a broken bike, in Standing at the Gate.
The author describes his book as ‘a short novel in tiny stories.’ That they create their own space is one of Wisdom and the Gate’s many charms, with vivid characters and multiple plots, hard-boiled and lyrical at the same time. The locale is mostly the city of New Orleans; readers will know in a visceral way what it’s like to be of and from this very peculiar city, with its rotting vegetation and broken concrete, emblematic of neglect that extends from the landscape through dwellings, places of commerce and worship, to the state of mind of all who come to life herein. And it is the characters, sketched deftly in their own words and the skillful simplicity of their actions and interactions, that drive this tale, taking us to worlds we may never have imagined, even though they are right under our noses. The richness of the humanity portrayed in these intertwining stories, following a twisted through-line, is what a reader will recall, embrace, remember long after closing the book. —Ralph Adamo, author of Ever and All the Good Hiding Places
Jonathan Kline is the New Orleans literary scene’s best kept secret. Kline is a master storyteller; the way he mixes prose with poetry is a joy to take in, a banquet for the heart and soul. There is a dark and ever-present magic hovering above the gritty realities of Kline’s world. This work is Kerouac’s “Rules of Spontaneous Prose” incarnate. —Louis Maistros, author of The Sound of Building Coffins
Jonathan Kline, the consummate story-teller, delivers a diorama of New Orleans that shows the universality of our pain and guilt. Here is an artist lending us his eyes and heart in a hauntingly beautiful prayer to the human abyss.
—Christian Champagne, author of The Yat Dictionary
Jonathan Kline’s The Wisdom of Ashes is lagniappe for readers who know New Orleans intimately and for those who hunger for its carnivalesque secrets. This novel echoes the realism of Honoré de Balzac, Mark Twain and Flannery O’Connor; its texture is blessed by Saint Dymphna. Kline portrays his visions of the city’s time, characters, climates, and rhythms with remarkable distinction. —Jerry W. Ward, Jr., author of The Katrina Papers