Members of the younger crowd were clamoring to get their chance to “fence” with author Joseph Lunievicz during his appearance at the Voracious Reader in Larchmont on Friday night. Lunievicz—there to discuss his debut young adult novel Open Wounds—demonstrated the ins-and-outs of stage fencing, a theme that figures prominently in his new book.
In Open Wounds, the protagonist, 13-year-old Cedric “Cid” Wymann deals with the pain and trauma of being placed in an orphanage after his father vanishes and his grandmother commits suicide. Growing up in 1930’s New York City, Wymann is adopted by a distant relative, who, along with a friend, teaches him the sport of fencing, or “combat with a sword,” while filling the role of father figure to the orphaned boy.
Many who attended the book signing were families with preteen kids. Merle Obot of New Rochelle came with her 13-year-old grandson who likes fencing.
“Fencing teaches life skills that he can use in the world. It teaches you discipline like martial arts, yet is fast enough to get some exercise,” Obot said, explaining the benefits of the sport.
One room was designated for a fencing match with tables and chairs cleared to make room for the competitors, with fencing equipment—including foils, gloves, masks and protective jackets—in its place. Three children at a time were invited to place headgear, jackets and gloves on, and to try out the ancient sport.
“He had seven minutes of fencing, and no eyes were poked,” said relieved Larchmont resident Lisa Chase, of her son, Davey Kaplan, 7. “He never volunteers for anything, and yet he did for this with his best friend. [It is] great.”
Fencing is one of the oldest games in existence, dating back as far as the 13th century, when the Treatise on Arms by Diego de Valera was published. Three schools of fencing developed, originating out of France, Spain and Italy.
Attendee Nicole Spano of Mamaroneck told Nicholas Costello of Hartsdale about the event. He had fenced in high school.
“I thought it might be a good demonstration, and that he would get a kick out of it,” Spano said.
Costello was impressed with how the author was able to explain the process of going from sport fencing—modern Olympian style based upon the movements of the small sword of the early 1800’s—to stage fencing, a style choreographed for dramatic effect that incorporates both historical and modern forms.
Indeed, Lunievicz discussed how when moving from sport fencing, whereby one uses a foil—a light thrusting weapon that only touches the opponent with the tip—to stage fencing, whereby one uses a hand and a half sword, it is important to fight safely.
“Stay at a distance when stage fighting,” he cautioned. “Everything is choreographed. It is a physical dialogue.”
Open Wounds is published by WestSide Books.
The book can be purchased online at IndieBound, GoodReads, Powells and Amazon. Visit the Open Wounds website for links to these sites.