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Able Was I by Drew Banks

Able Was I

by Drew Banks

288 pages
In 1985, 24-year-old Grey Tigrett happens upon the island of Elba where he recedes into an emotional exile. Fourteen years later, three pivotal events shatter his asylum, revealing to him whether Elba was his downfall or will be his savior.

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About the Book

In reality Napoleon Bonaparte never said, "Able was I ere I saw Elba," but the famous palindrome persists and indeed, evokes myriad imaginings of his 1814 exile to the tiny island.

Grey Tigrett discovers Elba under different circumstances and in another century. It's 1985: he's on a college graduation trip, a vacation on which he hopes to transfer his sexual desire from Pete, his best friend, to Miriam, his girlfriend. Nothing goes as planned. A mishap sidetracks them to Elba where Grey's sexual desire is indeed transferred - not to Miriam but to Antonio, a married Italian man who opens his home to the threesome when they can't find a hotel room. To avoid facing the implication of his actions, Grey retreats to the exile of his dreamy, analytic mind.

Fifteen years later Grey is a successful computer sales executive with a longtime boyfriend, living in New York's trendy meatpacking district. On paper he has it all, but in truth he is more disabled than ever. Grey and Scott have constructed a fabulous life that is totally alien to Grey, and to escape it he withdraws further into himself. In his rationalized world he is emotionally impotent, yet he becomes intrigued with a few people outside his social circle - a teenager who walks his dog, an addict who frequents his stoop, and his Gen-Y temp secretary who refuses a permanent position - and fantasizes them safe role models of an engaged, vicarious life.

During an annual sales conference cruise, the Mediterranean reawakens Grey. He disrupts the comforting predictability of his business life by challenging his boss and opening up to a colleague, something he hasn't done since college. When a storm redirects the ship to Elba, a second unexpected adventure on the island requires that Grey retrace his steps and consider the repercussions of fifteen years prior.

After his return to New York, three pivotal events transform the lives of his vicarious trio and destroy Grey's psychological safety net. Rather than meeting Scott for their millennium vacation, Grey disappears to Elba. While on this third visit, Grey gets the opportunity to recast his life. On the island he forges new relationships with ties to the past that only he can understand. The compelling resolution of his journey is as unpredictable as it is inspiring.

In the end - like Napoleon before him - Grey is forced to examine the depths of his exile. For both men, Elba marks a critical turning point from which they either exhaust or draw their power. Full of beautiful imagery, interesting characters, cultural references, and smart funny dialogue, Able Was I is more than a symbolic turn of phrase; it is a satisfying read.



About the Author
Drew Banks Drew Banks is a businessman and author who studies human interaction. While his business books, Beyond Spin and Customer.Community, examine organizational implications of various social psychologies, he is drawn to fiction as a more intimate medium for delving beneath the surface of the individual. He lives in San Francisco.



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