The Bar at Twilight by Frederic Tuten

bar
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By Lynette G. Esposito
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The Bar at Twilight by Frederic Tuten published by Bellevue Literary Press, New York in May, 2022 is a selection of seventeen short stories that cover the gamut of universal themes including love, loss, and grief.
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In the title story, The Bar at Twilight, beginning on page seventy-nine, Tuten opens with:
He walked into the bar, twilight at his heels, and without thinking ordered a scotch neat. 
The scene is set. Tuten explores the character’s conversations for a while as if this were a normal bar throwing in hints of the importance that it is twilight and the bar has a ghostly history.   As the reader approaches the end of the story, he carefully leads the reader through the snow to a boat that takes the bar’s occupants out to the open sea. Tuten has explored the themes of love, loss, reconciliation, hope, despair and much more in this short piece of fiction.
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The language is both common and sophisticated as the participants in the bar reveal themselves and each character becomes an individual with a history as they get to know each other. The pace is well controlled and focused bordering on mythology and reality as the occupants ingest their liquor.
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In The Phantom Tower beginning on page one hundred eighty-five, Tuten explores the relationship of a boy to his father and how the world is understood.  The boy asked his father What is the world made of?  His father answers Made of nothing and is nothing.  Tuten uses a dream sequence to show the boy who has become a man climbing a phantom tower while his wife calls to him to come down. When the father buys the boy books and tells him he has reached the age of reason, the reader is alerted that this is a story about finding one’s self in the world and climbing the phantom tower in a dream leads to discovery.  The subtlety of this story telling is wonderful.
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On page two hundred and fifty-six, the story Coda, Some Episodes in the History of My Reading, is divided into mini chapters like those in a book: Bed, The Seduction, The Poisonous Book, Another Book, Another Folly and A New Love.  For those who love to read books, this story details how it begins, how it continues and the reasons one appreciates reading.
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Tuten is a skillful story teller. I particularly like the titles Tuten has chosen for his stories.  They are clean, neat and focused.  Winter, 1965 suggests time and place. The Safe, the Sea, Deauville, 1966 also suggests time and place but hints at a relationship amongst the three. The Restaurant, The Concert, The Bat, The Bed, Le Petit Dejeuner appears to be a layered title that focuses on particulars within the story.  Tuten chooses the titles for his stories so that they enrich the fiction.
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The tome is composed of two hundred and seven-three pages of short reads good for a cold winter in front of a warm fire or on a work break.  Well worth the time to explore.
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 Lynette G. Esposito has been an Adjunct Professor at Rowan University, Burlington County and Camden County Colleges. She has taught creative writing and conducted workshops in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Mrs. Esposito holds a BA in English from the University of Illinois and an MA in Creative Writing and English Literature from Rutgers University.
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