University of Wisconsin Press, Cloth, 2016, 200 pp
The Phantom of Thomas Hardy, Floyd's 5th novel, was published by the University of Wisconsin Press in Fall 2016.
From the Publisher:
A literary romp through Dorsetshire and Hardy’s tangled love life.
On a street in Dorchester, England, there is a gateway between real and imagined lives. A plaque on a Barclays Bank identifies the building as “lived in by the Mayor of Casterbridge in Thomas Hardy’s story of that name written in 1885.” Floyd, an American writer, and his wife, Beverly, are pondering the enigma of a fictional character living in a factual building when Floyd is approached by Hardy himself—despite his death in 1928.
This phantom—or is he just a figment of Floyd’s oddly damaged brain?—tasks Floyd with finding out what Hardy missed in love. Floyd and Beverly set out to discover what they can, visiting Hardy’s birthplace, home, and grave, exploring the Dorset landscape and the famous novels with their themes of tormented love, and meeting characters deeply invested in Hardy’s life and reputation. Peering into the Victorian past, they slowly fold back the clutter of screens that Hardy placed around his private life to uncover long-hidden truths about his romantic attachments and creative work. At the same time, Floyd and Beverly’s own love story unfolds, filled with healing and hope.
Click here to read the Literary Ashland interview about The Phantom of Thomas Hardy.
Quotes from reviews of the book:
"In versatile Skloot's latest original, playfully mysterious, and introspective novel, Floyd, an American writer, is obsessed with the English author Thomas Hardy, whose life and work have long 'haunted' him. Floyd has read eight Hardy biographies, written his college thesis on Hardy's novels, and now, 44 years later, after enduring a harrowing neurological illness and the death of his literary mentor, he journeys with his wife, Beverly, to Dorset, England, the setting of Hardy's novels of 'tormented love.' Shortly after their arrival, Floyd experiences one of the 'Visitations' his brain malady generates, but this time it takes the form of Hardy himself as a phantom who seems to be asking Floyd to find out what he 'missed' in love. Floyd and Beverly visit the familiar Hardy sites, tracking the source of the rumors of Hardy's incestuous relationship with his cousin, Tryphena, and the subsequent cover-up of their secret love child. When the couple returns home, Floyd begins writing this highly knowledgeable, inventive, thought-provoking, thoroughly entertaining mix of fiction, memoir, ghost story, and literary homage." —Deborah Donovan, Booklist
"American memoirist, novelist, and poet Floyd Skloot nimbly crosses the gorge between fact and fiction in his uniquely inventive The Phantom of Thomas Hardy. Part travelogue, part memoir, part novel, this semi-autobiographical and semibiographical endeavor is multifaceted and blends the various categories so thoroughly that the result is comparable to a rich, smooth-textured cocktail with a
faintly peculiar flavor." —Nicholas Litchfield, Colorado Review
"The Phantom of Thomas Hardy appeals on many levels. It is a soft mystery that wanders into the realms of philosophy, science and the occult. It has the detailed feel of a travelogue. And it is a must for literary junkies. Most important of all, though, it adds depth and texture to the evolving field of disabilities studies. Like most well written books, upon finishing it, the reader will put it down, reflect for a while, then want to begin over." —Michael Northen, Wordgathering: A Journal of Disability Poetry and Literature
"Only the inventive Floyd Skloot could come up with--and gorgeously pull off--an experiment like The Phantom of Thomas Hardy. With the intensity of a fevered dream, he seeks his own self-integration after brain trauma while digging around, assembling, and imagining the history of the elusive Hardy. Blending memoir, reportage, literary analysis and historical fiction (who does that?) Skloot dazzles with the depth of his research, and enchants with his signature vivid, precise, and thoroughly delicious prose." —Jeanne Marie Laskas, New York Times best selling author of Concussion
"This strikingly original book crosses the boundaries of genre in daring ways, as we observe a fictional self in pursuit of a phantom, another self, the soul of a great author. This is a work of memoir, fantasy, literary biography, spiritual questing - and more. As ever, Skloot draws on deep reserves of intellectual and emotional energy. A remarkable achievement." —Jay Parini, author of The Last Station
"A rare book--entertaining and erudite, emotionally resonant, and enviably learned. Skloot writes with a deep compassion and curiosity about the private and public personas of Thomas Hardy in what is both a work of fiction and an unconventional memoir." —Christine Sneed, author of Paris, He Said