From the publisher: Duet, Kitty Burns Florey's acclaimed fifth novel, is set during the Vietnam years and provides a panoramic view of the 1960s. It’s the story of an aspiring singer named Anna Nolan, and the lonely misfit who's the love of her life, Will Westenberg. The novel follows Anna from her adolescence in a Catholic school in the early 1960s, when the death of a friend brings her and Will together, through her career as a cabaret singer in Boston, and finally her marriage to an idealistic lawyer in New Haven. Layered between the two parts of Anna's story is Will's, as he struggles with a haunting secret from his past, endures a loveless marriage, and desperately tries to gain custody of his son. As the years go by, Anna and Will encounter each other for brief, overwhelming episodes, each obsessed and preoccupied by the other in different ways, until the book's shattering ending. The novel is about the music, the politics, and the texture of life in the '60s, but mostly it's about the power of love to disrupt and redeem.
I had a huge contract for this book, which is a bit of a pot-boiler, but the deal fell through, and Five Questions sank into a hole. It was hauled out and published as an ebook in 2001, and is now available (cheap!) as either a Kindle edition or as a POD paperback. Here's the publisher's blurb: "Wynn Tynan, a young woman growing up in rural Maine, has been raised by her parents to be an artist. When Wynn's idyllic life takes a brief wrong turn--she becomes pregnant as a teenager--her loving but dominating mother is determined that her goals remain intact, and with reluctance, Wynn gives the baby up for adoption. At art school in Boston, she meets Patrick Foss, a sculptor single-mindedly devoted to his work, and knows she has found the love of her life. But fate intervenes with a tragedy from her past, and Wynn's life descends into nightmare."
Script and Scribble: The Rise and Fall of Handwriting
"What in God's name has happened to penmanship? What used to be a craft at which everyone was proficient has degenerated to a little-used arsenal of nearly illegible scrawls and chicken-scratches. It's easy to blame the computer, but, as Kitty Burns Florey demonstrates in her thoughtful, witty and sensible book, the story goes far deeper than that. It touches on the way we think, the way we write, and the way we lead our lives. Read Script & Scribble and be enlightened."
-- Ben Yagoda, author of If You Catch an Adjective, Kill It!
Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog: The Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences
This "charming little book" (Chicago Tribune) now comes with a new Afterword about Sister B. herself, complete with photographs. "A pleasantly discursive and affectionate tribute to an antiquated art." -- Wall Street Journal
The Sleep Specialist
The Sleep Specialist is loosely -- very -- based on my mother's stories about life in Depression-era Los Angeles, where she and my father eloped in 1933 in the rumble seat of a friend's car.
I've moved the setting to New York City in 1934. Robert and May Sinclair arrive in town with two suitcases, Robert’s portable typewriter, and May’s three-way mirror. He’s an aspiring playwright, she’s an actress, and they’re desperately poor. But Robert is hired as the superintendent of a building – twelve dollars a week and a free apartment – and it looks as if the two of them just might survive.
Robert is an insomniac: by day he works frantically on his first play, by night he walks the dark and dangerous streets of the city. He finds himself drawn into the life of a mysterious man named Orson Price – and into an unlikely friendship with Mrs. Amalfi, the Sleep Specialist, who attempts to help Robert overcome his insomnia. Robert’s encounter with the city takes him from an exotic apartment house in Gramercy Park to a seedy hotel in Hell’s Kitchen, from the wards at Bellevue to the literary world of Greenwich Village. As he struggles with emotions that terrify him, Robert is plunged into depths that nearly do him in. But he finishes his play. And, many years later, when he looks back on what happened to him during that desperate time, Robert sees how crucial it was to his development as an artist – and to his pursuit of the life he was meant to live.
Vigil for a Stranger (1994)