In Search of the Magic Theater

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Why, the rather staid young cellist Sarah wonders, should her aunt rent their spare room to the perhaps unstable Kari Zilke? Like the nephew in Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf, Sarah finds herself taking an unexpected interest in the lodger, but she is unable to stop at providing a mere introduction to Kari’s narrative of mid-life crisis and self-discovery, and develops her own more troubled tale of personal angst and growth, entwined with the account Kari herself purportedly left behind. Generational tensions, artistic collaborations, and even a romance steeped in Greek myth follow as Kari and Sarah pursue their very different creative paths in theater and music. And while Kari seems to blossom post-divorce, Sarah must grapple with the question of what the role of mothers, fathers, aunts, mentors, and male collaborators should be in her life as a young musician.

Praise for In Search of the Magic Theater

Karla Huebner’s debut novel offers a sophisticated meditation on the idea of art, mythology, theater and music (classical and jazz) as two women, separated by a generation and divided by a cultural shift – from 60s to post-60s – negotiate sexuality, love, regret, grief, and above all forgiveness… A treat for the denizens of the world of art and intellect.

—Moazzam Sheikh, author of Cafe Le Whore and Other Stories

In this tale of two women, in which the men are also treated very sensitively, Karla Huebner calls on her deep knowledge of European classical paintings and verse, and surely her personal knowledge, for a story of desire denied, delayed, and sometimes precariously fulfilled.

—Geoffrey Fox, author of Welcome to My Contri, A Gift for the Sultan, and Rabble

Huebner sets us up for a climax of dazzling theater that combines Keats’s romantic poetry, Greek drama, music and dance, a production that leaves the reader excited and fulfilled by the magic one can experience with good art. And, yes, a sense of adventure in our unforeseeable future.

—Margaret C. Murray, author of Spiral and Pillow Prayers

A sophisticated, queer-friendly, and feminist take on Hesse’s Steppenwolf. Although loosely set in the late 1990s, Huebner’s meditation on repression, instinct, and the creative drive is fresh and timeless.

—Gabriella West, author of Time of Grace and Once You Are Mine

Through the voices of two women with overlapping lives but diverging paths, Karla Huebner explores the tension between control and surrender, reason and ecstasy, dreaming and choosing. This engaging, erudite, yet accessible novel takes us on a cultural journey spanning millennia, from Greek mythology to Jimi Hendrix, from Elizabethan lyric poetry to performance art, revealing along the way the joy of self-discovery.

—Julie Wittes Schlack, author of This All-at-Oneness