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Eric Aerts

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    I am a writer of literary fiction and a graduate of Columbia and Stanford Universities. Also a musician and an inventor, I was contracted by the U.S. Department of Commerce to teach my system for innovation, research & development, and marketing to more than 200 American manufacturing companies.  I enjoy incorporating into my writing, characters that overcome adversity through inventive problem solving.

    I have lived, studied, and worked in Japan, where I met my wife of 24 years, Emiko. Together, we live in New Jersey, where we have raised our 2 children.

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  1. FIRST ASSIGNMENT: Finding himself caught in a cycle of reincarnation – taking the form various wild animals while retaining his human mind – a man struggles for survival without the benefit of instinct. As flashbacks of his past return, he tries to decipher the higher purpose behind his bizarre predicament. SECOND ASSIGNMENT: With several different (temporal geographic, and circumstantial) storylines, which eventually converge, this tale features more than one antagonist. In some, the protagonist’s main adversarial challenge is simply survival in unfamiliar situations. These occur in wilderness settings and, while some of the conflicts are actual individuals and pose real danger, these are generally in the form of animal threats and therefore, the antagonist (if you will) is not always complex in character, or motive. The more engaging antagonistic forces are the fear, anxiety, uncertainty, confusion, and loneliness experienced by the main character during these portions of his journey. From the sections that do not occur in the wild, there is also more than one antagonist – a childhood bully from the streets of Bayonne, during the years of the Great Depression, an ex-employee who conspires to steal a family business, built and nurtured over many years, as well as inanimate antagonistic forces, such as post-war trauma and tragic illness. THIRD ASSIGNMENT: Traversing the Circle Spell Within the Circle Views from the Circle FOURTH ASSIGNMENT: The book’s genre: Magical Realism (Literary Fiction) 1) As with “Life of Pi” (Yann Martel), Traversing the Circle is the thought-provoking journey of a stranded character’s struggles with himself and a variety of external adversities. There are numerous non-human characters – endearing, troubling, fearful, but always recognizable. Facing unfathomable challenges, the main characters of both novels demand the reader’s empathy and support. Reflecting on events from the past, the meaning for their odyssey is incrementally revealed. 2) Readers of Mitch Albom’s “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” will doubtless enjoy another entertaining vision of afterlife engagements and lessons. This too is a multi-textured tale that continues to intrigue and hint at purpose, as it builds to its thoughtful conclusions. 3) Another story of a protagonist stranded in an unfamiliar setting is Andy Weir’s The Martian. In both works, it is the main character’s ongoing attention and ingenuity that allows them to prevail. FIFTH ASSIGNMENT: Traversing the Circle by Eric Aerts · Inexplicably caught in a cycle of reincarnation, an unprecedented vision of life is afforded a man returning in animal form. Struggling to survive and recall his human past, the profound meaning for his strange journey is revealed. SIXTH ASSIGNMENT: While embodying the form of various animals, the protagonist is well aware of the fact that his mind is that of a human being – possessing all the knowledge of an adult man, less the memories of his own human existence. Though survival in the wild is a constant struggle – as he discovers the absence of instinct is an enormous disadvantage – it is the lack of memory and the gnawing sense that there is an important meaning to his struggles that both haunt him and prevent him from giving up. Flashbacks of his former, human life begin to return, but more in the form of visions, than as personal memories. Discovering he was once an engineer and inventor; he starts to understand his own fascination and appreciation for the genius and ingenuity he sees in the natural world. This only serves to strengthen his suspicion that there is deeper truth to be uncovered. The/a secondary conflict – which has served to be entertaining as well as useful in building tension, are the main character’s attempts (with greater and lesser success) to understand and blend in with his various animal family/troupe members. For example, as the young offspring of a solitary margay (an arboreal wild cat from Central and South America), our hero is frustratingly inept – and an obvious disappointment to his feline mother – in his initial lessons in stalking and catching prey. As a Japanese macaque (old world monkey that lives in troupes) he must partake in the most prevalent communal activity – grooming. However, disgusted by the consuming of removed insects and parasites, the main character discreetly flicks these away when he feels no one is watching. There are many such hurdles and tribulations he faces throughout. FINAL ASSIGNMENT: Amongst the decidedly crowded field of fiction choices, readers generally seek one of two directions: 1) those that focus on the familiar – often to reinforce already held beliefs (such as social commentary), and 2) those that are unfamiliar (to varying degrees) and aim towards imparting/inspiring reflection and/or revelation. Traversing the Circle falls soundly in the latter of these two categories and – in an age of reality overdose – it is a timely and refreshing escape to a vantage that is both entirely new and still accessible. There are three main settings for this story, each a driving force for different aspects of the plot – two of these with various sub-settings. As well, the contrasts between these locales/situations have been helpful in highlighting the specific flavor of each. In brief, these setting are: 1) The various wilderness locations inhabited while the protagonist is occupying animal forms. These include Antarctica and the adjacent Ross Sea, the jungles of Central America, and the mountains of northwest Japan. Each of these (and the behaviors/habits of the specific wildlife) were extensively researched for accuracy and allowed for lush descriptions, as well as unique exchanges for a human made privy to a genuinely novel perspective. Certainly, there is no shortage of fiction that imports humans into wildlife settings, or close relationships with wild animals. Many of these tend towards fantasy and the fantastical and are targeted at a youth/young adult audience (Jungle Book, The Chronicles of Narnia, etc.). Generally, they attribute human characteristics and language to the animal characters for ease of interaction with the human characters. Conversely, once taking the initial leap of faith – that the mind of a human being can be reincarnated into the form of another creature – this tale becomes a very realistic and adult story of discovery, adventure, adversity, curiosity, and unique relationships which unfold on Nature’s terms. This perspective offered so many quirky, fun, and often exciting scenes/situations, that would never have been possible without the novelty of this foundational premise. An admittedly different, but worthwhile comparison (although a film, not a novel) would be Castaway (starring Tom Hanks), in that the main character finds himself stranded in a wilderness setting and having to rely on his ingenuity to resolve numerous completely unfamiliar challenges (some life-threatening). Similarly, our character must face these while also struggling (at times) with crushing loneliness. 2) The flashbacks to the main character’s human life occur at different, crucial moments and at various locations – not always in chronological order. Among these are France (during and immediately after the second world war, where he is stationed as an infantry soldier), New Jersey (where he grew up in Bayonne during the depression, and then at the Jersey shore, where he builds a business, raises a family, and retires in the late 20th century), as well as the deserts of New Mexico (after the war, he flees to the desert and lives as a hobo/drifter to avoid family and to deal with battle-related emotional scars. He eventually winds up near the Zuni Indian Nation, where he meets – and works for – his future wife). Offset by the wilderness chapters, these are brief episodes that incrementally give the reader insight to the life events and relationships that form and define protagonist’s character. Throughout these more familiar (to us) portions of the book, there are a variety of struggles and relationships that provide a view into the protagonist’s personality and drives the reader to empathize with his strange afterlife predicament(s). 3) The Waiting Room. Between animal reincarnations, the main character finds himself – or at least his mind – transported to what he dubs “the waiting room.” This is a space where he is alone and without physical form, but in which his senses are still receiving some manner of gentle, shifting, but generally unfamiliar (scents, tastes, etc.) feedback. It is a quiet space of comfort that he finds inspires, almost demands, reflection. His episodes in this space are not very lengthy, but are productive in his gradual comprehension of the events that take place in the other key settings. One last point regarding the settings: numbers 1 and 3 (reincarnations and waiting room) are written in present tense, while number 2 (flashbacks) are the only chapters in past tense. I wanted to add an element of having the reader share many of the experiences, discoveries, and conclusions with the main character in real time, and found this a useful vehicle to accomplish that.
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