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BAGLADY

Nine Ages of Woman

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by Christina Manolescu

Short-listed for the Eastside Stories Competition, sponsored by News International, London, UK, 1998. Illustrated novel. ISBN: 1-894967-31-3


The Baglady Syndrome

In our society of precarious affluence…what is one of woman’s GREATEST FEARS? The ‘Empty Nest’? Loss of a Life-Partner? Loss of Health? Loss of Youth? Loss of Beauty? The passing of Time?

In the novel ‘BAGLADY,’ the author trains a dark comedic spyglass on what some perceive to be THE archetypal feminine fear. Witness the many homeless, those who are 'sans abri,' trudging our city streets in manifestation of our dread. ‘BAGLADY’ is the hilarious, yet somber process of warding off the ‘Devil,’ exorcising the ‘Dread,’ perhaps not voiced yet deeply and universally felt.

During the fictive winter season, when the plight of ‘the homeless’ truly looms into view, BAGLADY’s dubious heroine, Ashley Grimes, re-enacts her own role in this quirky modern-day ‘morality play.’

Ashley’s loves, losses, triumphs, adventures and misadventures remind us that ‘homelessness’ can indeed ‘befall’ anyone. A rocky start in life, significant adversity, a trail of ill luck, longstanding illness of mind or body—singly or in unison—can set the stage for the ultimate fall…from grace.


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Image Short-listed for the Eastside Stories Competition, sponsored by News International, London, UK, 1998. Illustrated novel. ISBN: 1-894967-31-3

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By Author, Christina Manolescu and Illustrator, Mary Fitzpatrick
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Introducing Ashley Grimes...

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A modern-day ‘Cendrillon,’ whose adventures and misadventures we pursue, at a relatively safe distance and from the comfort of our padded armchair.

Her fledgling ‘dropflight’ from the family nest, her adoption by a saintly missionary, her macabre marriage, scattered motherhood, romantic scribblings and ill-starred business ventures, her peace & love adventures, brief stints in the military and other hazards wherein we witness her valiant rise and fall — rise and fall — in a dizzying descent as a baglady.

A retrospective romp through the hazardous sixties, austere seventies, bleak eighties, and leaner meaner nineties. Ashley confronts her ‘Snakes & Ladders’ existence with dark humour and ironic detachment. It's a down-at-heel memoir imbued with the desolate ghost-beauty of the city, both ruin — and renaissance-in-waiting.

Short-listed for the East London, UK, Stories Competition, sponsored by News International, 1998. Illustrated novel. ISBN: 1-894967-31-3


BAGLADY, the Novel
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Chapter One
Ashley's Copebook for Stepchildren
Chapter Two
My Room-mate Sleeps with the Angels
Chapter Three
The Company of Men
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Chapter Four
The Second State of Single Blessedness

Chapter Five
Fantasia
Chapter Six
Peace & Love, Revisited
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Chapter Seven
Rise & Shine, Boys,
This Morning
we Speak-e de English
Chapter Eight
A Tale of Two Houses
Chapter Nine
In the Shade of the Hemlock Tree
Author
Christina Manolescu
Artist,
Mary Fitzpatrick


Table of Contents

The Nine Ages of Woman...Downwardly Mobile...My Career as a Baglady

Chapter One: Ashley’s COPEBOOK for Stepchildren
Teenager Ashley, about to graduate from high school, finds herself embroiled in her stepmother’s fascination with the occult.
Chapter Two: My Room-mate sleeps with the Angels
Homeless Ashley takes refuge with a saintly missionary, fervently intent on saving souls.
Chapter Three: The Company of Men
Ashley falls in love and marries her own Prince Charming, gives birth to a priggish intellectual genius, and narrowly escapes disaster at the hands of a diabolical pair of medical researchers.
Chapter Four: The Second State of Single Blessedness
After a few disastrous attempts at second-chance romance, Ashley slides into solitary middle age.
Chapter Five: Fantasia
Ashley indulges her passion for romance writing and unwittingly becomes a partner in a shady literary agency.
Chapter Six: Peace and Love, Inc., Revisited
Ashley turns nuclear peace crusader and meets Peace-Warrior Shayne, who wears the Doomsday Clock on his wrist.
Chapter Seven: Rise and Shine, Boys, This Morning We Speak-e de English
Ashley gets transferred to a remote military base, joins a labour dispute, and unwittingly gets involved in a military ‘putsch.’
Chapter Eight: A Tale of Two Houses
Ashley buys a crumbling Victorian ‘castle’ and finds herself in a fierce dispute with her obnoxious tenants.
Chapter Nine: In the Shade of the Hemlock Tree
Homeless and jobless, Ashley finds refuge in a decaying synagogue inhabited by the illegally squatting members of the Hemlock Club. Eloquent Socrates, their spiritual leader, tries to persuade them into ‘the ultimate escape’ from their misery.



READ INSIDE THIS BOOK


Chapter One: Ashley’s COPE BOOK for Stepchildren
A glance backward at the not-so-swinging Sixties

I should have known it would be a bad day. A thick-larded fog smothered the road to the airport. Then, of course, the car heater wasn’t working and to keep warm, Father and I laid newspapers, rolled around steaming portions of fish and chips, on our laps. Droplets of oil oozed from his lower lip as steadily he chewed his way through our communal feast. His fleshy fingers, bedecked in New Age crystals, gripped the steering wheel; with the piercing gleam of a would-be visionary, his eyes strained to divine the inscrutable road ahead.

“Damn!” he muttered. Irritable, as always. He, of course, had known that her plane would be late. This was another of his gratuitous predictions that I usually ignored. Occupational hazard, it must have been. Unavoidable. As traveling salesman for ZODIAC PRODUCTIONS, he sometimes dragged home whole boxes of chipped crystal balls, cracked ouija boards, dog-eared Tarot Cards, or remaindered books entitled Baleful Influence of the Stars.

Over the years, Father had struggled to master the mathematics of Foresight and eventually sketched his own celestial blueprint on discarded sheets of office stationery. It was not an edifying sight. I couldn’t make sense of the squiggly Suns and Moons and Venuses littering his life’s Occult Plan. It seemed to depress him an awful lot though until, with the help of some creative accounting and thoughtful number jigging, he custom-designed his horoscope to suit himself. But there was no sense in finagling the positions of today’s planets in the Ephemeris. What else could you expect on a night when Saturn was in square formation to the Moon? Nostradamus, roll over—Stepmother’s plane was going to be late.

And, of course, it was late. At first they postponed it for an hour, and then two; so Father and I whittled away the time drinking coffee in the tearoom, laughing greenly about the good old days when I was a pert and sassy young miss who had sabotaged the very short-lived relationship with his last live-in girlfriend. He went on to warn me, with a ferocious smile, to be nicer to ‘this one.’ This was my very last chance, or else he would ship me straight home to Mother.

How did Father get custody of me? Well, he kidnapped me one day, guessing that Mother wouldn’t notice my departure for several days. When she did she wept copiously, cried foul, and tried to engage a lawyer. But she soon ran short of energy and funds and eventually was obliged to give me up for lost. The normal day’s work was exhausting at the best of times. Just opening her eyelids each morning required a heroic effort. It was an Olympian feat—a repeated miracle. And when she was up and about, for the first few hours she shambled around in her mind like a swollen gourd, swilling down oceans of tea.

There was one sacred rule in our house—bring your ragged, bony body home alive before midnight. Mother hardly ever knew where I was, or what I was up to. She spent a lot of time drooling over the otherworldly colours of a sunset or the seductive sheen of a Spanish onion.

“Darling—” I shall always remember her calling, whenever she heard me slam the front door and run upstairs to forage into our near-empty larder,“—do mummy a big favour and make a pot of tea.”

Father had had a succession of disappointments in his search for a life partner. As he approached his mature, not to say declining years, he decided to go the fool-proof route. His new mail-order bride hailed from some mountainous hamlet in eastern Europe, neither of whose unpronounceable names (bride or hamlet) he could remember. But what did that matter? Zsuzsa’s black-and-white snapshot and her ‘curriculum vitae’ charmed him into a state of expectant bliss. She had all the necessary virtues he required. She was young, thin, beautiful and fully domesticated. She scarcely spoke a word of English, into the bargain. Father seemed to consider this not a handicap of any kind, but rather an unexpected stroke of luck. Of course, being a salesman wine-aged in duplicity himself, he had cautiously pored over the contract-to-purchase before signing below the prominent block letters which promised: 100% SATISFACTION—OR REPLACEMENT. RETURN POSTAGE GUARANTEED.

At 9.45pm I wandered into the airport rest room and scrutinized my pale larval features in the depressingly truthful looking glass. Would Zsuzsa like me, I wondered, or would she reluctantly take me in, a grimy stray, at the tips of her fastidious fingers? To my dismay, I had stumbled into the butt end of a fairy tale. Perhaps you’ve heard of the swan who turned into an ugly duckling? It is I. The most pampered and adored of children, with gold-leaf skin and cornsilk hair, had been transformed, seemingly overnight, into a malcoordinated giant that thumped and bumped into the protuberances of tables, chairs and staircases. And had my very life depended upon it, I could not manage to keep my muddy thatch of hair out of my squinting eyes.

Mother said I was at the awkward age, a fuzzy caterpillar suffering the longest winter of its discontent. Perhaps that’s why my features were still indistinct, a half-finished bust of clay some artist was puzzling over with muddy hands. My starry eyes had lost their lustre, hidden behind the ugly spectacles I’d acquired last year. And my once-satin skin was now coarse and oily and pocked with stubborn blackheads that spread like a rash over my developing Pinocchio nose. Sad to say, I was no longer the little darling I once had been.

When I got back to the lounge Father had, at last, located his Beloved-to-be. She had wandered into the airport terminal with a home-made name tag around her neck, trailing behind her the scent of fresh marigolds and looking desperately lost. Her hair, even her skin was rough and exotic—like cinnamon bark. Her dark, angst-ridden eyes scanned the crowd, and she glanced at me with a vaguely hostile air, as though I represented the competition; no doubt because I clung as possessively as she did to Father’s other arm. At first glance, I didn’t like her either. No doubt, the feeling was mutual. I wonder if Father dared hazard a prediction on that?

Published by PRINCE CHAMELEON PRESS
http://www.princechameleon.com




Review of Baglady

by NAT Grant, Author of the Race Series

Baglady: Black Humour and Style


Baglady, published by author Christina Manolescu’s own imprint, Prince Chameleon Press, is her first novel. The between-the-lines message of each witty, story-like chapter echoes the unspoken fear of many women—that of becoming destitute. Manolescu exemplifies this silent dread through the life of Ashley Grimes, a downwardly mobile Cendrillion.

Baglady is a strange composition of life experience portrayed through the use of farcical, sometimes perverse humour and a magnificent compilation of the English language. It is a precise and thoughtful circus of events that makes one burst out laughing at the imagery. Whimsical poetry introduces each chapter along with haunting, black-and-white illustrations that foreshadow the step-by-step demise of poor Ashley. From childhood to nunnery, from marriage and motherhood to romance, on to ill-fated business ventures, faint-hearted activist follies followed by a stint in the military, all are a spellbinding romp finished off by the horrors of owning a home.

Ashley Grimes’s character beguilingly captures many elements of the middle-class female condition. She is a sincere, well-meaning soul whose views on life are clouded by a ‘new-age’ spiritual interpretation. Her choices, both humorous and twisted, lead the heroine down the alleyways to insolvency. Jane Austin wrote ‘single women have a dreadful propensity for being poor, which is one very strong argument in favour of marriage.’ Manolescu tears any ideal of marriage apart, hysterically describing a travesty of love, motherhood and attempted murder.


Throughout the novel, supporting roles are divine caricatures taken from daily life (mindful of Dickens) that make you want to pause and take a good look around at how eccentric many of us have become in this technologically fraught Millennium. The Montreal setting makes the story even more fun for the locals. Manolescu’s use of language some might describe as overpowering, but her style is a grand slam success.

Each chapter is a gem worthy of being transformed into a BBC sit-com. Manolescu, previously the author of children's fairy tales and educational workbooks published in the UK, has obviously been influenced by her British roots. Thumbs up for Baglady!

NAT Grant is the Montreal author of the RACE SERIES.

REVIEWS

  • Looks like another lively ride, Iain Sinclair, British novelist, Author of ‘Downriver’

  • Very appealing, it's a memoir that bites back at its own history with every carefully crafted word. It deserves to be read, carefully and thoughtfully. This is literature. It will stand the test of time. Trevor Lockwood, Publisher, U.K.

  • Truthful, witty, her style is impeccable, Raquel Rivera, Author, Reviewer

  • What a wonderful book...Wickedly funny from beginning to end, a hugely astonishing yet believable cast of characters, chock full of devastating psychological insights and many scenes verging on the downright brilliant! Wow! I love it! Angela Leuck, Poet, Publisher

  • I just couldn’t put it down, Judy Isherwood, Publisher, Shorelines, Canada

  • This darkly comic saga of loves and losses, adventures and mishaps chronicles anti-heroine Ashley Grimes’s gradual arrival into a ‘career’ of homelessness and vagrancy. A memoir of disenfranchisement and defiance. Baglady is populated by a wild and eccentric cast of characters spanning the last decades of the 20th century, Concordia University Magazine, Fall 2006

  • What a tough, but varied, life Ashley leads! The detailed "word drawings" of characters and situations are quite remarkable and the poems...provide a stimulating beginning to each chapter. A very well-presented volume...I look forward to your next, Joan Plunkett, Teacher, Actress, U.K.

  • It has tremendous energy, Cecile Ghosh, Reference Librarian, Roxoro and Beaconsfield Libraries, Quebec, Canada.

  • Bravo for your wonderful book, Manon Morin, Producer, Dialectes Program, McGill Radio CKUT, Montreal, Canada.

  • It is so witty, so captivating, yet seemingly effortless, full of humor and a way with words. I enjoyed the unexpected turns in the story, such a wonderful unique style. The artist truly captured the essence of the book, a prize-winning cover it is! Leila Peltosaari, Publisher, Tikka Books

  • I haven't stopped chuckling, I couldn't put it down; it's a gem, top class satire, and good to the last drop, a joy to read, Jeannette Moscovitch, Culturama

  • Loved it! Jack Locke, Writer, Poet, Radio Host, CKUT Dialectes Program

  • I'm loving your Baglady novel, a very enjoyable read! Ingrid Style, Artist

  • It reads beautifully, and so funny! Cristina Perissinotto, PhD, Italian Studies, University of Ottawa.

  • It takes me to new worlds, Leslie Lutsky, Interviewer, Radio Centreville, Montreal, Qc.

  • Baglady's...cast of characters are still popping in and out of my imagination. Those people, who you so cleverly "flesh out", are great reminders of persons we have met or of others whom we can be grateful that we never met! An enjoyable, well-written story. Congratulations! Maddy Cranley, Publisher

  • A blackly comic novel..Grimes's saving grace is her wry sense of humour...which provides the novel with a disarming thread. Mary Fitzpatrick's soft, romantic illustrations add considerable charm, Montreal Review of Books, Spring, 2006.

  • I really really enjoyed...Baglady. You are a very gifted (and funny) writer…the imagery is so textured and wonderful, Gabrielle Maes, actress, singer, playwright, Montreal, Qc.

  • Certainly Ashley Grimes bears no resemblance to the perfectly appointed heroines of most modern writing but she touched my senses more nearly. She reminded me of a little girl whistling bravely as she passed so many graveyards in her inevitable march to the street. So many incidents made me laugh out loud but sometimes I felt the tears not far away…Original, fascinating…Surely a sequel is already in the works. Christina Lundrigan, NFLD.

  • What a romp! Len Richman, Author, Teacher, Scholar, TMI Institute, Mtl.

  • I absolutely enjoyed the book. The perils of Ashley Grimes are related with wide eyed, tongue in cheek wonder and make you laugh and cry at the follies of life. There, but for the grace...go I. F. Tobin, BC

  • The main character has tremendous insights…how she fares in another world would be interesting. Richard Tardif, Editor-in-Chief, Montreal Hype Magazine. Montreal, Qc.

  • It was a real joy to read. Truly appreciated. Suzanne Charland, Programming Coordinator, Radio Centreville, Montreal.

  • A hilarious, finely written and ultimately disturbing tale of downward mobility in the late twentieth century. Heroine Ashley Grimes has everything going for her, you would think: she's smart, sensitive, honest, hardworking, creative...and everything she touches turns to rust. It almost seems some malignant force is at work, ensuring that people like Ashley end up in the trash heap of life... Strongly recommended for all ageing flower children who began their lives listening to the Beatles and believing they could change the world with a song... Ann Diamond, Author of My Cold War

  • I have been enjoying your book-it is very creative and engaging! Andrea Paré, Writer, Journalist, Toronto.

  • The…writing style is…full of perceptive, clever and oh so witty metaphors, Alexandra Delgado, Singer-songwriter, (Alexandra and the Herrings) Montreal, Canada

  • Throughout the novel, supporting roles are divine caricatures taken from daily life (mindful of Dickens) that make you want to pause and take a good look around at how eccentric many of us have become in this technologically fraught Millennium. The Montreal setting makes the story even more fun for the locals...thumbs up for Bag Lady...her style is a grand slam success, NAT Grant, Author of the Race Series


Acknowledgments

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Excerpted from Trevor Lockwood's Blog

Friday, February 17, 2006


Christina Manolescu now lives in Montreal. She once lived in London. She is superb writing talent, one that deserves wide recognition. Some years ago she started writing a novel, called Baglady. At that time she was in London, and I was lucky enough to spend some time with her. We were both helping other writers, she was secretary of the Small Press Group and I had founded (with others) Author Publisher Network, and ran author.co.uk. We talked about Baglady, which the flyleaf of the book describes as a 'a dark-humoured romp through the hazardous sixties', which many people now say they missed, but clearly Christina saw enough to make notes. It moves on through the 'austere seventies', and that must mean the latter part when Thatcher's shadow fell across our minds as it leads to the 'bleak eighties' and then the 'leaner meaner nineties.' It's a memoir that bites back at its own history with every carefully crafted word. It deserves to be read, carefully and thoughtfully. This is literature. It will stand the test of time.

Posted by Trevor Lockwood

About the Author
Christina Manolescu is a teacher, writer and founder of Prince Chameleon Press and the Invisible Cities Network, based in Montreal, Canada. Her published work includes children’s fiction, poetry, journalism, technical writing and translation. An excerpt from the novel ‘Baglady’ was short-listed for the East London, UK, Stories Competition, sponsored by News International, in 1998.

About the Artist
Artist and painter since 1970, Mary Fitzpatrick, BFA, has also embraced technology and works as a digital illustrator. Her most recent public exhibitions were at the Symposium des Arts, Brossard, Quebec, Canada. View her hauntingly magical imagery at: http://www.invisiblecitiesnetwork.org/tiki-browse_gallery.php?galleryId=2



BAGLADY

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Novel by Christina Manolescu, Illustrated by Mary Fitzpatrick. 280 pages, 6" by 9" paperback, 10 black & white illustrations, ISBN: 1-894967-31-3. List Price: $25.00 Canadian. $25.00 US. £15.00 Sterling UK. FREE SHIPPING. Published by Prince Chameleon Press. The novel ‘BAGLADY’ can also be obtained via Invisible Cities Network

For more information, or to arrange an interview with the author/illustrator please telephone: 514-807-4171



Ashley's darkly hilarious adventures continue from BAGLADY to BAGLADY-in-WAITING to BAGLADY-at-LARGE