DiscoverMagical Realism

Prospero's Staff

By

Loved it! 😍

A prop in a Shakespearean play inserts itself into the reality of a struggling author. This story is worth the read.

Synopsis

Whatever became of Prospero’s enchanted staff after he snapped it in two and buried it ‘certain fathoms in the earth’ in Shakespeare’s play The Tempest?

It was only a prop in a play, after all, so why was the staff now appearing to Martin Ropers? Martin had returned to a Greek island, trying to rekindle the spark that led to his highly successful first novel written in the ‘70s, but shortly into his trip he’d discovered the ancient staff and immediately lapsed into a coma. He would soon awaken to the persistent image in only one eye of a desolate island–where he grasps the staff.

Back home in Montana, Martin’s situation takes a Shakespearean turn when he’s stranded in his house with neighbors seeking shelter from a mysterious wildfire that has erupted on the ridge just above them. His troubles deepen when he must contend with a painful, life-threatening condition within his brain and, to make matters worse, his literary agent and close friend has announced that she’s cutting her ties with him. Martin needs just one more successful book to turn his life around, but his damaged brain–and the staff–seem to have other plans.

After a bit of a rough start, author David Ackley hits his stride, creating a story that is creative in its examination of a man who inhabits two realities.


Martin Ropers is in Greece when an earthquake occurs; he just happens to stumble down to the area's ancient ruins and just happens to find a big stick deep inside a cracked ancient pillar - and then he happens to find the other half of said stick. And then he happens to stick the two pieces together - and there you have it; Prospero's Staff has been retrieved. So, that was the rough start. For the first few chapters (don't worry, not a huge part of the book) the dialogue is sometimes awkward and the premise of the story seems facile. This turns out to be not such a big deal though, since the means of attaining the Staff becomes less important as the story unfolds.


As I continued to read - which was never a problem; even in its early rough spots this book is quite pleasantly readable - I was impressed by the author's unique depiction of Ropers' experience of living in two worlds simultaneously. The author's writing shines through the voice of Martin's doctor when explaining the medical implications of Martin's experience and the voice of Martin's agent when detailing the woes of a literary agent's conundrums.


The creative expression of Martin Ropers' experience in two worlds, as well as the innate pull of the story itself, would rate five stars if the quality of that writing had been present in the first few chapters. There are some italicized excerpts of Martin Ropers' first novel that strike me as unnecessary and jarring; because I have a feeling that there is meaning in these excerpts that I am just missing, I consider my dislike of the excerpts a matter of personal taste.


A plus: Mr. Ackley provides a plot summary of The Tempest at the end of the book. If you are not familiar with the play, I recommend you read the summary before reading the book. It will enrich your experience of Prospero's Staff.

Reviewed by

I am a reader with ten years of bookselling experience who is passionate about sharing my love of books with others. My goal is to be direct and relatable, with hopefully a little humor thrown in.

Synopsis

Whatever became of Prospero’s enchanted staff after he snapped it in two and buried it ‘certain fathoms in the earth’ in Shakespeare’s play The Tempest?

It was only a prop in a play, after all, so why was the staff now appearing to Martin Ropers? Martin had returned to a Greek island, trying to rekindle the spark that led to his highly successful first novel written in the ‘70s, but shortly into his trip he’d discovered the ancient staff and immediately lapsed into a coma. He would soon awaken to the persistent image in only one eye of a desolate island–where he grasps the staff.

Back home in Montana, Martin’s situation takes a Shakespearean turn when he’s stranded in his house with neighbors seeking shelter from a mysterious wildfire that has erupted on the ridge just above them. His troubles deepen when he must contend with a painful, life-threatening condition within his brain and, to make matters worse, his literary agent and close friend has announced that she’s cutting her ties with him. Martin needs just one more successful book to turn his life around, but his damaged brain–and the staff–seem to have other plans.

Chapter 1.


 

But this rough magic I here abjure;

And, when I have required some heavenly music,

-which even now I do,-

To work mine end upon their senses,

That this airy charm is for,

I’ll break my staff,

Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,

And deeper than did ever plummet sound

I’ll drown my book.

 

Prospero, Act V, Scene I,

 The Tempest by William Shakespeare[1]

 

I’m going to miss my flight, thought Martin with a frustrated sigh, sinking back in his seat and drumming lightly on the steering wheel in time with Fleetwood Mac’s Gypsy playing softly in the background. A pilot truck, with flashing yellow lights mounted above the cab, appeared from the thick smoke ahead, leading a long, slow line of cars and pickups past him in the opposite direction. The traffic moving in his lane had been halted for a full half-hour previously as emergency vehicles made their way to the blaze, and now he was stopped again. He’d just crossed the border into Idaho near Lookout Pass, and the forest fire was being battled on the steep slopes somewhere below the highway up ahead. Lightning strikes, maybe once, maybe twice, sang Stevie Nicks, and Martin became mesmerized as vehicles emerged from the dense bluish smoke about three or four car-lengths ahead, the motion and music taking his mind off his pounding headache.

He began dreaming of warm Mediterranean beaches and foreign food, and calculated that he was getting out of Montana at just the right time of year. They were entering the cold, wet autumn which should make this eruption one of the last major forest fires of the season. From now on, only rain, snow, and soggy ground lay ahead for those who chose to weather it out - and for once he didn’t want to be among them. He needed a fresh start and was looking forward to this trip as a welcome break from the coming winter gloom.

Suddenly the car ahead of him was moving forward and disappeared into the dusky curtain before them, so he put his car in gear, finding and then following the dim brake-lights down the road. They moved over into the single, open passing lane, past a row of personnel and tanker trucks parked on the right side, and Martin could make out the orange glow of a fire below him. After five minutes, the once-trapped cars were free to gain speed through refreshingly clear air in the descent to Wallace at the base of the Coeur d’Alene Mountains and to race on to the west.

The delays had cost him at least an hour, and a six-hour drive at the minimum still lay before him. Martin now realized that if he was going to catch his flight to Greece, his best remaining option was to abandon the idea of driving all the way to the SeaTac airport, and instead to catch one of the hourly flights from Spokane to Seattle. Feeling woefully technologically challenged to book a flight from his car, he speed-dialed his daughter with a single tap on his cell phone but there was no answer. He next fumbled at the menu and tried his friend Frank.

“Martin, what’s up?” asked Frank. “You can’t be there already, can you?”

“Not hardly, Frank.” said Martin. “This trip isn’t getting off to the best start. Thanks to your send-off, I have a massive hangover, and to make matters worse, I’ve been held up by a forest fire that flared up just west of Lookout Pass. Now I don’t think I can make Seattle in time for my flight out of there.”

“Why don’t you just fly from Spokane, since it’s on the way?” asked Frank sagely.

“Well, that’s why I called,” said Martin. “I was thinking the same thing, but I don’t know how to make a reservation or look up the number on this phone - especially while I’m driving. Can you do me a favor and make a reservation for me? I should make it to Spokane in an hour and a half, so how about the next available flight in two and a half hours or so?”

“Wellll,” said Frank drawing out his answer as long as possible. “I suppose so, but it’ll cost you a beer.”

Martin could imagine him grinning on the other end of the connection. “OK,” said Martin with feigned reluctance, “put it on my tab.”

“Will do!” said Frank. “I’ll ring you back if there’s a problem, but have a good trip if I don’t.”

“Thanks a lot, Frank, I owe you one. See you when I get back.”

Feeling much more relaxed, Martin settled into the remainder of his drive as he hit the flat expanse between the mountains and Spokane with an increased speed limit to look forward to.


 


[1] Author’s Note: A synopsis of The Tempest is provided at the end of the novel.

About the author

David Ackley grew up in Alaska and had a career in fisheries with state and federal governments. David is now retired and living in northern Idaho, where he also builds instruments. Please visit the Rain and Breeze Books website, www.rainandbreeze.com, for more information about David and his books. view profile

Published on March 06, 2020

Published by

80000 words

Contains explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Magical Realism

Reviewed by

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