The Republic

J.B. Powell


What is justice, what is virtue, asked Plato in his Republic.

The characters in J. B. Powell’s novel ask the same thing in their quarter of Berkeley. The sculptor Aidan, aka George Bush, faces not only municipal charges from the city for refusing to buy a permit to park on his own street, but federal charges for impersonating a government official. Annie, a runaway mother from Montana, searches for a father for her child, but gets side-tracked by crack cocaine. Liam, he has misplaced himself in Bogart’s role in Casablanca, looking for an outmoded (perhaps sadly so) ethic. Raja, father of eleven—or is it twelve?—children, pack-rats the city’s streets to eke out a living and fight the racism he and his children face, while his daughter Bianca gets shuffled to a foster home. Sonny wants to be a chef, but can’t shake the vision of a slain Mexican donut maker, nor the vision of Annie’s smile. . . . So, does Cold Water, a killer loan shark, represent the only justice we’re likely to find? Or will Matthew’s gamble pay off—does that compose the only true justice, true virtue? The medieval wheel of fortune? Descend into Powell’s modern Berkeley cum Piraeus

ISBN 0-942979-95-8, trade paper, $14.95              Sale $7.50

ISBN 0-942979-94-X, library binding, $26.00          Sale $13.00

224 Pages

About the Author: 

JB Powell grew up in San Diego, California before moving to Berkeley to attend college.  Since graduation, he has worked in a number of fields while practicing his writing.  Some of them include:  flower deliveryman, landscaper, merchant seaman, parking lot attendant, dishwasher, waiter, cook, office gopher, stained glass installer, and carpenter.  While writing The Republic in New York City, he honed his skills as a cabinetmaker and now works as little as possible in a small cabinet shop in San Francisco.  His fiction has appeared in Artisan and Elysian Fields Quarterly.  His poetry has shown in Poetalk and Byzantium.  This is his first novel. 

 Excerpt From the Book:

     Ms Nelson takes up the whole couch, so we on the carpet in front a the TV. But I ain’t really watching. Missy wet herself and she’s kind a crying, but not too loud. Louise is sleeping next to her and Tina been asleep in the bedroom already. Mr Underwood’s asleep in his chair with his hat in his lap, but he keeps snorting real loud, waking himself up. He got a glass eye.
    When I first seen Ms Nelson, I got an idea that she was going to eat us. I thought, what if this house ain’t really a house but a oven? I put my face in Mama’s leg cause tears was coming into my eyes. Mama said, “This is Ms Nelson. She’s going to take care of you and Tina and Louise and Missy for a little while.” I wanted to ask her “Why?” but instead, I said, “How long?” I said it into her leg, so only she could hear. Mama bent down and said, “Not too long.” But it’s been three days since the judge told Mama to give us to Ms Nelson and Mr Underwood, and Romeo and Lucas and Sammy and Elden to them other people.
    Missy keeps on fussing, so Ms Nelson tries to get up off the couch. But it don’t work. She goes up a little and her big purple dress flops down, but then she falls back and the whole couch shakes. She breathes heavy, like, “Heeeh” and it sounds to me like when you first turn on a hose, the water rushing out. Then she tries pushing herself up but one a her arms just sinks down into the pillows and the other arm jiggles on the side a the couch. She stays like that for a while and it starts to look like a cartoon. But then she rocks back and pushes and stands up. Her breath is real loud now. It comes out a her mouth all, “Heh, Heh, Heh.”
    “What’s wrong with your sister?” she asks me.
    “I think she wet herself.”
    “Oh now, poor dear.”
    I smell Ms Nelson when she picks Missy up, like soap and cigarettes and maybe cottage cheese. She feels Missy’s bottom. Missy starts to cry for real and Louise raises up her head.
    “Yes, Lord,” Ms Nelson says. “She wet herself again.”