A Comic Journey Toward Self-Recognition

Larry Lockridge Author Interview

Out of Wedlock takes readers on an unexpected, decades-spanning journey of self-discovery, tangled relationships, and the quest for authenticity amidst reinvention. What inspired you to create the character of Jess Freeman and his intriguing journey of self-discovery?

There’s been so much chatter about “self-reinvention” that I thought an exploratory satire would prove timely.  I was galvanized by a eureka moment when I saw that a facial plastic surgeon would be an ideal protagonist.  How many of these professionals take center-stage in novels today?  Jess Freeman helps shape and reshape the overt identities of others, but ironically knows little of his own identity. Out of Wedlock is a comic journey toward self-recognition but also toward the limits of self-reinvention.

How did you develop the intricate relationships between the six main characters, and what challenges did you face in weaving their individual storylines together?

I thought of my small cast of characters as engaged in an intense erotic dance staged in two acts, the second echoing the first in its central predicament but with a new and restorative outcome.  Part One finds Jess in romantic relationships with two women–Natalia, a renowned Polish food critic, and Gilah, a severely injured patient whom Jess transforms into a rare beauty.  The two women rediscover one another in a renewed Sapphic embrace–excluding Jess, if not without conscience.  Resuming seven years later, Part Two finds Jess once again in romantic relationships with two women, Amanda, a young, adventurous author of how-to books, and Sinead, a celebrated sculptor  But this time an unknown preexistent link between Jess and Sinead leads not to their disabling but to an empowering mutual commitment.   All cast members reconvene at a Greenwich Village restaurant, Cafe Loup, where they take stock of the lives they’ve always had at hand but are now grateful for them.

Can you share any personal experiences that contributed to the rich cultural backdrops of Santa Fe and Greenwich Village in the novel?

I’ve spent decades living close to Washington Square Park, where my novel begins.  Many years ago I served as a stagehand at the Santa Fe Opera, the setting for revelatory convergences as the narrative wraps around itself while moving toward its denouement.  As a novelist I find that I can suspend my own disbelief if my characters are anchored in the bedrock of my own experience.

What do you hope readers take away from the themes of identity, nature vs. nurture, and authenticity presented in Out of Wedlock?

Out of Wedlock eventually sides with Nature in the nature/nurture debate. Yes, novelists can set up their own ethical laboratories, the conditions of proof built into their self-created premises. Surely not a universal experience, I’ve found that total transformations of people I’ve known for a long time are rare.  In a sense we become what we essentially were from the beginning, in potentia. The problematic concept of self-realization (a term coined by Coleridge) can impose imaginary and ideal imperatives that exhaust and deplete us.  Bertrand Russell in his nineties said that he still finds in himself that little boy who asked questions.  My character Jess Freeman still finds the little boy who made human figures in the sand near Santa Fe.

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In OUT OF WEDLOCK, Jess Freeman, a facial plastic surgeon who refashions the identities of others, knows little of his own identity. Who are his biological parents and could they be the source of his sudden trances, when he drifts off into visionary worlds, by turns radiant and nightmarish? Reality checks—quick bops on the head—are administered by his nurse during delicate surgeries. But fumbling Jess pulls off a superb makeover of a severely injured patient, with a stunning sequel.

Set in Greenwich Village and Santa Fe from 1989 to 2008, Jess’s romantic misadventures echo perils of the heart endured in the days of Edna St. Vincent Millay and D. H. Lawrence, the sexual revolution of the sixties and seventies, and today’s hookup culture. But Jess and his close companions more than endure; whatever their fates, they are sustained by a group loyalty anchored in pluck, buoyancy, and affection. This is a novel of charmed human acts—from feasting and parading to sailing and dancing to yearning and loving to seeking roots and chasing jackrabbits. All these are brought within a brisk narrative of startling recognitions that prove transformative for Jess Freeman and his intimates.

Posted on May 16, 2023, in Interviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.


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