The Book of Laney by Myfanwy Collins – Review

LaneyLast night I finished my second read of Myfanwy Collins’ second novel, The Book of Laney. It is both a daring work and an extraordinary achievement.

Daring, because it takes on one of the most heartbreaking and difficult to comprehend topics imaginable, that of mass killings on school property by students. The novel covers at the outset, unflinchingly, such a scene. Two students board a school bus bound for a sporting event and kill, according to a carefully laid out plan. Daring, because the scene is written as a vision, visited upon the sister of one of the killers. She sees and feels everything her brother felt, describing the event in detail and from his point of view.

“My story starts with a vision.”

Daring, because the author chose to explore the aftermath, not for the families of the victims, but for the family of the perpetrator. I’m not sure this has even been done before. I know a little bit about the genesis of this novel and can only say that it speaks volumes about Myfanwy Collins as a person that this is the direction she chose in telling this story.

And so begins the story of Laney Kates. It begins with horrific violence. Collins doesn’t shrink from this violence, nor does she exploit it. It is simply the story. Laney, newly orphaned and traumatized, is soon shuttled off to live with her grandmother, a woman she barely remembers, who lives rather off the grid in the Adirondacks.

Anyone familiar with Collins’ prose, whether from her previous novel, Echolocation (Engine Books, 2012), or her collection of short stories, I Am Holding Your Hand  (PANK Books, 2013), or from her numerous online and print publications, will know that she possesses her own inimitable style. Keenly focused on the senses and the natural world, Collins’ prose has a natural, unfussy, yet poetic flow. She is that rare writer, gifted both at the sentence level and the larger story level. And this is where the book becomes an extraordinary achievement, because the beautiful prose enhances the story, rather than takes away from it. And the story, so unique and compelling, enhances the prose.

On the very first page, we get:

“The light smearing through the windows is a dull toothache of yellow, I rub a hand over my eyes to clear them.”

A signature of Collins writing is the music of her prose. Often she uses repetition (beginning three or more sentences with the same words) in a hypnotic, musical way in the most emotional passages:

“I would keep reading and learn about this other way of seeing. I would become the animal. I would become the woods.”

Laney is a very clearly wrought character. Self-aware, thoughtful, sensitive, sometimes wise beyond her years. I say sometimes, because Collins is careful to give us a true human being, a true teenager, with faults and vulnerabilities we can relate to. Certainly and importantly, she is a character that teenagers, the target readers for this young adult novel, will be able to relate to. She and her brother, West, have been shuttled from place to place by their widowed mother, Alice, and have never had a chance to make solid friendships. They both present as outsiders. But while Laney takes her pain inward, West is befriended by another troubled boy, and his fate is seemingly sealed. And here, there are parallels to the Columbine shooters, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.

Another finely drawn character is Laney’s grandmother, Meme, who lives by her own code, resisting technology, resisting comforts such as central heat, a shower, even a telephone. She is a curious, compelling character with pains and secrets of her own. At first she seems to treat Laney cooly, laying down her ground rules, a sort of no-nonsense type. The manner in which Collins unfolds the relationship between she and Laney shows great control and a great sense of storytelling. The reader knows there’s a great deal under the surface, knows Meme must be driven and motivated by something we’re not immediately privy to.

One could read this book just for it’s breathtaking descriptions of nature. The setting itself is such a powerful aspect of this novel: the bluff, the moonscapes, snow and freezing rain, a frozen, then thawing, lake, the Northern Lights. Nature asserts itself over and over again, and Laney’s eyes are searching and perceptive and keen. So many times in reading, I simply paused and lingered. Powerful descriptions echo powerful emotions in Collins’ writing:

“The moon, cottoned over by clouds, shone like a thumprint that night when all those people were in the school auditorium, mourning the dead, praying for retribution…If I could, I would push the moon away from myself forever. I do not deserve the moon.”

“I felt the walls pushing up against me, like I was inside someone’s sooty lungs.”

In a deft couple of sentences, here, Collins plays with image to great and darkly humorous effect:

“She spewed small talk as we walked down the path, saying it would be the best place for me and how I would have stability…I slipped a bit and caught myself on a branch limb.”

Laney encounters many challenges in her new life in the Adirondacks. The visions come unbidden and with increasing frequency. Through them, she gradually gains more understanding of the lives of her parents and of her brother, West. She even gets a glimpse of her friend, Marshall’s life, a boy she’s attracted to. She also reads from her brother’s journal, The Book of West, and gets insight into his life and mind leading up to the attack on the school bus.

Meme teaches Laney how to survive. How to track animals. How to read a compass and her surroundings to always find her way back home.

Laney comes to love her new home and to feel she has a place there, but just as she begins to feel as though she belongs, however, the secrets from her family’s past and of her own past, threaten to rip it all away from her. Through her visions, she learns the secret of her father’s demise. She comes to understand the choices her mother made as well. Armed with the gift of her visions, Laney must decide how to go forward and break the cycle of emotional harm, to reverse patterns and create a new path.

A beautifully written, compassionate, and important novel, Myfanwy Collins’ The Book of Laney is a must read. I can’t recommend it highly enough for both young adult and adult readers. The book may be ordered through its publisher, Lacewing Books (an imprint of EngineBooks) or from Amazon .

 

A Thousand Perfect Strangers

It’s here and it’s beautiful. Smokelong Quarterly’s brand new website. I really love it. It’s suitably minimalist without being stark. The artwork accompanying the stories, which has always been great, is amazing. Kudos to Tara Laskowski and all the Smokelong staff. Issue 47 is dedicated to Roxane Gay, for making it possible for Smokelong to pay the contributors of this issue. Anyway, go and check it out! There’s great flash fiction along with author interviews and Tara has written lovely editor’s comments.

As part of the Smokelong campaign to raise funds, one of the perks offered was that a donor would get to be in a story written by me. That lucky donor was longtime friend and master flash writer, Randall Brown. I really struggled with this “assignment!” I wanted Randall to like whatever I wrote for him. He assures me he likes it very much. This is my first science fiction story ever. It was fun to write. You can read it here: A Thousand Perfect Strangers. Randall also interviewed me and you can find that on the site as well. Hope you enjoy!

FullSizeRender (4)In other news, I was asked to take part in the beautiful series my friend Myfanwy Collins curated at the Pank blog, called “Pieces of Me.” The idea was that each writer would post an old photograph and write something based on it and Myf left that wide open. The stories are so strong and gorgeous. My piece is dedicated to my brother, Tom, who recently passed away and you can find it here “For Tom”. That’s him, in the photo, holding me on his lap. Tom was my hero and protector growing up in that houseful of boys. There was no one like him and I will miss him very much.

Also, I have two new flashes and a postcard upcoming in one of my all-time favorite flash fiction zines, Wigleaf, edited by Scott Garson. I’ll let you know when that’s available to read!

My Writing Process – Blog Tour

Many thanks to my friend and amazing author, Myfanwy Collins, for inviting me to participate in this Writing Process Blog Tour. (If you haven’t see it, here is her terrific post.)

1) What are you working on?

Two things: I’m pulling together a new collection which may turn out to be a novella of connected flash-length stories. It is moving in that direction and I’m excited about it.

I’ll be a little coy about the second project and just say it involves an invitation to teach flash fiction and I’m extremely excited for the opportunity.

2) How does your work differ from others of its genre?

I’m not sure my work fits into any specific genre. I do write a lot of literary flash fiction, as well as prose poetry and regular length short stories. Sometimes I go a little experimental with my writing. I’m not really sure what distinguishes my work from other literary writing beyond my own style, which of course is unique to everyone.

3) Why do you write what you do?

I was recently asked this question for Flash Fiction Chronicles. And while I write things other than flash, much of the answer pertains to all of my writing so I’ll just link my answer here: “Why I Write Flash Fiction.”

4) How does your writing process work?

I’m constantly going over the same material. Most things I publish now I can trace back to some embryonic scribbles in a notebook from months, if not years, ago. That’s why I always describe myself as a slow writer. There is some feeling that there’s something there in a line or an image that keeps drawing me back to it.

Another part of my process is a tendency to weirdify my past (which is weird enough already). I like to look for the strangest aspect and just run with it. And I love to write down weird bits of overheard dialogue. I love to listen to strangers’ conversations. I love to watch people in airports. All pretty typical writer stuff.

I have asked the following terrific writers to go next. Look for their responses July 24th (James Tate Hill is going to honor me by posting his response here on my blog):

Berit Ellingsen is a Korean-Norwegian writer whose stories have
appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, Unstuck, Birkensnake, and other
places. Her short story collection, Beneath the Liquid Skin, was
published by firthFORTH Books in 2012, and her novel, Une Ville Vide,
by PublieMonde in 2013. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart
Prize, the British Science Fiction Award, and included in the Wigleaf
top 50 longlist. Find out more at http://beritellingsen.com.

Rebecca Meacham is the author the flash fiction collection Morbid Curiosities, which won the 2013 New Delta Review chapbook contest. Her story collection, Let’s Do, won University of North Texas Press’s 2004 Katherine Anne Porter Prize, and was a Barnes & Noble “Discover Great New Writers” selection. Read more at: http://rebeccameachamwriter.com

James Tate Hill’s fiction has appeared in Story Quarterly, Sonora
Review, The South Carolina Review, and other outlets. He has been a
finalist for the St. Lawrence Book Award and the Hudson Prize, and in
2012 he was a semifinalist for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.
His book reviews and interviews can be found at Bookslut, and he
serves as Reviews Editor for Monkeybicycle. A native of Charleston,
West Virginia, he teaches writing at North Carolina A & T State
University.

Reading & Books I'm Looking Forward To Reading

Doll PalaceSomehow I’ve been given the tremendous honor of reading an advance copy of Sara Lippmann’s forthcoming collection from Dock Street Press, DOLL PALACE. I’ve only just started, but, people, all I can say is…oh man. And here is just a sampling from the story, “The Last Resort”:

That was all it took. Phil rose up from the heat and left the water and ran for his son. His soles slapped the concrete. His body shook in the wintry air. He did not notice the cold. He ran. He drew in his elbows. He bowed his head. Like this, he ran, far away from the young one who touched the edge of his lip, the girl in the whirlpool making waves, the sweet flesh of a child whom he could almost hear whisper I love you.

I hope to write a full review when I’m finished. Releasing in September, the collection may be pre-ordered now from Dock Street Press.

if i would leave myself behindOh, Lauren Becker’s novella & story collection, IF I WOULD LEAVE MYSELF BEHIND, has just released from Chicago publisher, Curbside Splendor. I’m a fan of her writing and this book is right at the top of my ridiculously bloated to-read list.

Ethel Rohan has a short memoir out from e-book publisher Shebooks, OUT OF DUBLIN, that I’m eager to read. I’ve always admired Ethel’s fierce, brave, honest work.out of dublin

the book of laneyFurther out, I am so excited that my talented friend, Myfanwy Collins, has a new novel forthcoming in March, 2015, THE BOOK OF LANEY, from YA publisher, Lacewing Books–an imprint of Engine Books which published Myfanwy’s novel, ECHOLOCATION. This one promises to be just as stunning. UPDATE: THE BOOK OF LANEY IS NOW AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER FROM LACEWING BOOKS!!!

And Lindsay Hunter’s book, UGLY GIRLS, is forthcoming from Farrar, Straus, & Giroux. Lindsay Hunter is that combination of brilliant and prolific that astounds me. And I’ve read her story “Summer Massacre” in the latest Denver Quarterly about a hundred times (okay, three times) and it’s beautiful and I’ll stop now before I start speaking in tongues.

And wow, aren’t all these covers gorgeous?

Segmented Structure in Flash Fiction: Rodney & Chelsea

I wrote several versions of this story, but this version, told in seven subtitled micros, is my favorite. Published years ago in Mississippi Review online, the story now appears in Together We Can Bury It. I’ve talked about segmented structure before, how the story and characterization are advanced and built-upon in short, sharp bursts and how well-suited this form is to flash fiction (see my posts about Jeff Landon’s and Myfanwy Collins’ beautiful segmented stories).

Rodney and Chelsea

1. Tangerines

Rodney and Chelsea have decided this is the day. They are sixteen years old and they are in love. Neither of them has ever done it, though Rodney has come close with a girl he worked with at Dairy Queen who smelled like French fries and who had perfect, melon-sized breasts. Chelsea’s breasts are more the size of tangerines, but he likes them. He likes that she smells like Fruit Loops and that her front teeth overlap slightly. Her mouth is glossed. He slips his tongue inside.

2. Bear Spirit

“Rodney’s an old man’s name,” Chelsea’s mom says and calls him Rascal instead. It makes Rodney feel like a Labrador.

Chelsea’s mom believes that life is a celebration and that people should live in the Now. Chelsea has an older brother named Royal. Nobody knows where the hell he is. He ran away from the halfway house downtown, the place Chelsea’s mom said was his best chance and hope. He has a behavior disorder which involves beating people up. He doesn’t know his own strength is what Chelsea’s mom says. He has a bear spirit. He is un-ruinable.

The last guy he beat up now walks with a cane.

3. The Bunnies

Chelsea’s father left when Royal was ten and Chelsea was a newborn. Every Easter, he sends Chelsea a six-foot Easter bunny and now she has sixteen huge Easter bunnies and there are no more places to sit in Chelsea’s house. Sometimes people sit on the bunnies’ laps or sometimes they just stand, looking around or sometimes they sit on the floor.

4. A Small Complication

Their first date, Rodney plucked a daffodil from Chelsea’s garden and presented it to her at the door. And Chelsea’s mom gave them Boone’s Farm, mixed with a splash of 7Up. All three of them got a little drunk, sitting on the porch watching the sun go down and a full moon rise. Chelsea’s mom insisted on driving Rodney home. Before he got out of the car, she pulled his face to hers and kissed him, hard.

5. About Rodney’s Parents . . .

Rodney doesn’t have any siblings. He feels lucky, given the circumstances. His mother died of cancer when he was five. He remembers standing on tiptoe to reach a cookie off a plate on the counter and her hand slapping his away. He tries to really see that hand, to see something about it that is especially hers, but it always ends up being just a hand.

Rodney’s father is a podiatrist who is working on his overall fitness. Every day at dawn, he walks the perimeter of the cul-de-sac, gripping fifty-pound dumbbells in each hand. In warm weather he goes without a shirt, his burgeoning muscles gleaming. He makes three trips around, bobs his chin to Chelsea’s mom who watches from her kitchen window, and lays the dumbbells on the porch in the special box. He consumes nothing but protein: lamb chops, sausages, steaks as thick as two hands clamped together. He will never love another woman, he promises Rodney, who really doesn’t care if he does or not. Rodney only wants his father to be happy, which his father assures him he is.

6. Clinical

Two bunnies sit in opposite corners of Chelsea’s bedroom. One is missing an eye and one’s polka-dotted ear is nearly torn off. Rodney and Chelsea undress in a clinical manner and fold their clothes as if, together, they have decided to join the Army. Rodney has seen parts of Chelsea but never the whole and now he stands before her and reaches out to touch one tangerine breast. Unsure of what to do with her own hands, Chelsea simply places them on Rodney’s shoulders.

She’s afraid to get closer because his thing is standing up. She digs her toes into the pink shag rug and closes her eyes. The breeze through the window is making the shutters flap against the window frame and Rodney’s breath smells like oatmeal and grape jelly.

7. The Now

At this moment Chelsea’s dad is getting fired from his job selling tires in Terre Haute and her mom is hunched over a patient, scraping plaque in an office downtown, thinking of that kiss and Royal’s getting the shit kicked out of him in a bar in Tucson. At this moment, Rodney’s dad’s outside on the curb, sweating, coughing, turning blue, as Rodney kisses Chelsea. Like howling into her mouth.

Some very kind reviews for Together We Can Bury It…

my copies of TWCBI

I’m very grateful for the kind reviews I’ve received so far for my recently re-issued flash/short story collection on Goodreads, NANOfiction, Fictionaut, and elsewhere. Here is a sampling:

“Most of what I know about flash fiction I learned from reading Kathy Fish’s work. She’s a consummate master of the short form, and I’m so glad Lit Pub ran a second printing of this collection. These are the sort of stories that deepen and intensify with each rereading. Keep them close at hand.” Ravi Mangla, author of Understudies Goodreads

“This book is a Bible of the short form, meant to be savored then reread again and again. No one does compressed fiction like Kathy Fish. Her precision is unparalleled. Every detail, every line, every word does double, triple duty. Every beat is flawless. The stories in this stunning collection brim with such fullness and depth, they will break you up and cut you down – and leave you utterly mystified, wondering about the lives of these characters long after you finish reading. How does she accomplish all this in so few words? There lies the astounding genius of Kathy Fish.” Sara Lippmann, author of Doll Palace 

“So much attention is paid to the lyricism in each of the stories that a reader can’t help but find the beauty in each scene and through each character’s perspective no matter how familiar or mundane it may at first seem. There are so many examples of this lyricism at play in the collection but the language in “Rodney and Chelsea” stood out to me the most. In this story, the two titular characters, teen neighbors, are about to engage in their first sexual experience together. It’s a moment of great anticipation and anxiety, yet the narrative sweeps around them meticulously, not only registering their expressions and subtle movements, but their life histories, the space they share living next door to each other, and essential connections they share with family, friends, and neighbors. The entire moment is exquisitely rendered in just four pages, and it’s such a virtuoso accomplishment of prosody that I had to reread it twice more just before I could move on.” Peter Fontaine, NANOfiction NANOfiction

“If I were teaching a course in the form of very short fiction (not all of these stories are very short), I would certainly put Kathy Fish’s collection on my syllabus. In fact, I might just teach a course because I’ve read her collection. In sudden fiction, the writer/reader has no space for meandering or groping through the narrative for a story. Each move must stick, and in Fish’s stories every move does. Each beginning draws the reader in, and every ending satisfies. The middle is bursting with realism that does not seem constructed to be realism; it feels real and, yes, meaty.” Christopher Allen, author of Conversations with S. Teri O’Type (A Satire) Books at Fictionaut

“Fish’s writing is like a light gleaming up from the bottom of the lake, distorting itself as refracted waves curl or undulate. Her characters ring true yet they keep an appropriate aloofness. We both feel as if we know these people, as if they are friends or acquaintances in our own lives, yet it is often like we are watching these friends behave badly on screen so that we’re powerless to intervene.” Len Kuntz, author of The Dark Sunshine and forthcoming, I’m Not Supposed to Be Here and Neither Are You People You Know By Heart

“Read this on a train back to Baltimore. On the train were people in McDonalds uniforms making loud and beautiful jokes because they’d stolen a bunch of mayonnaise. If inside a jar of stolen mayonnaise you found a tiny Nina Simone singing her cover of “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues,” and you get to the part where she goes “Well that’s it folks, that’s it,” you would actually be getting to the sad and wan stories in this collection. And then this book sneaks the mayo back to where it stole it from, but it listens to Nina Simone on its off-brand MP3 player while drinking ginger ale at the mall, just wandering and wandering and remembering and trying not to regret anything.” Mike Young, author of Look! Look! Feathers! and Who Can Make It Big Noö Journal

“The worlds in this collection are often a little lopsided, a little worn, sometimes dark and piercing, yet always beautiful in one way or another. They never tip over into sentimentalism or conceit and give the feeling that anything can happen, good and bad. But whatever does happen, you know it will be brave and honest, in the most human sense of the word.” Berit Ellingsen, author of Beneath the Liquid Skin Berit Ellingsen’s blog

“A sweepingly excellent collection of 40 stories, a sort of retrospecticus of Kathy Fish’s writing career so far. Everything about this book is well-done…The stories themselves: amazing. There’s no filler: every story is aching and gorgeous.” Kevin Fanning, author of Jennifer Love Hewitt Times Infinity Goodreads

“These stories possess a clear and believable voice that is at home in the company of Lydia Davis, Russell Edson, Kim Chinquee. Fish breathes life to the page, so much so, the characters and actions stay with the reader long after the book is closed…The book is filled with so many strange and amazing moments the reader cannot avoid becoming a part of the lives and choices and passions discovered in it. This can only happen when the writing is of the highest quality and a true pleasure to read. “Highest quality” is the perfect descriptive for Together We Can Bury It – a collection that should not be missed.” Sam Rasnake, author of Cinéma Vérité and Inside a Broken Clock Used Furniture Review

“Kathy Fish’s Together We Can Bury It is so creative and beautifully written, it’s hard not to marvel at the richness in each of the pieces.” Peter Tieryas, author of Bald New World and Watering Heaven The Whimsy of Creation

“Within, you will find stories that will touch you, leave you breathless, make you laugh, make your heart ache. You will run the gamut of emotions–I promise you that–and you will find yourself living in the moment of these stories as filled with despair and hope as many of the characters are, waiting for change that may never come, but always waiting, never giving up.” Myfanwy Collins, author of Echolocation and I Am Holding Your Hand and forthcoming, The Book of Laney Myfanwy Collins’ blog

“There’s a movie’s worth of character and plot and insight in every blooming one of these short fictions. I finished this book feeling stuffed, dazed, and amazed by how much Kathy Fish gets done in such tight spaces. It’s a thrill to be privy to what she thinks about, the wonder she carries inside.” Pia Ehrhardt, author of Famous Fathers Goodreads

“Some authors have a way of mak
ing a reader forget the world, forget that she’s reading, allowing pure enjoyment of the art of story. This is especially difficult to pull off with reading author/teachers. We feel the pull to be critical, cautious, and read with our defenses up, ready to find something that jostles us from the narrative. Very few authors have the ability to make such a reader forget, and even fewer flash fiction and short fiction writers have this ability because the form means creating numerous worlds and engaging the reader wholly again with each new story. Some authors can do it, though. Kathy Fish is one. This book is a gift for a reader like me.” Jen Knox, author of Musical Chairs and To Begin Again Goodreads

“Beautiful collection by a master of the flash fiction form. These stories pack more loneliness, heartbreak, and despair into smaller spaces than ought to be possible, given the laws of narrative physics. But as one of Kathy Fish’s characters tells us: “this is an infinite universe and in an infinite universe all things are mathematically possible.” And yet, I still don’t know how she does it.” Mary Lynn Reed Goodreads

“1. I LOVE these stories. “Skinny Lullaby at the Lizard Lounge: Schenectady” where she writes: “The lady on the stage is skinny-singing something Joni Mitchell. We drink fuzzy navels. Get sleepy. Slide into each other like river otters.” I really LOVE “Snow” and “Wake Up” and “Be My Be My Baby” and “This is Dwight” and “Lens” and “Orlando” and “Tenderoni.” What I’m trying to say is that I love them all.
2. I love how Kathy Fish writes about: men & women, snow, food, cocktails, homes and music.
3. I love how Kathy Fish describes colors.
4. My husband is a VERY persnickety reader. I read a lot of these little stories aloud to him and he loved them as much as I do.
5. And I don’t feel this way about all stories/books I read but Kathy’s stories make me want to WRITE. And that’s probably my favorite thing about all of them.” Leesa Cross-Smith, author of Every Kiss a War Goodreads

My review of Claudia Smith's QUARRY LIGHT at The Lit Pub

quarrylight_coverClaudia Smith’s debut short story collection is out now from Magic Helicopter Press and it’s a beauty.

From my review: “The stories in Quarry Light display Smith’s lovely prose and use of specific detail as well as her gift for keenly portraying the lives of young girls and women. Particularly in her evocation of childhood, one feels as if these memories and details remain as clear and tangible and compelling to Smith as the present day. This serves the stories and the reader both.”

You can read the full review here at The Lit Pub and also find my recommendations for similar great reads by the likes of Ethel Rohan, Myfanwy Collins, and Dylan Landis.

This book may be ordered direct from Magic Helicopter Press or from Amazon.

2013: Beautiful Books by People I Know

I’ve been bad about writing reviews in 2013. I’ve read so many good books and most were by writers I’m lucky enough to know, either well or fleetingly on social media. Anyway, I do HIGHLY recommend these books and the work of all of these writers and their disparate and necessary voices (I’ve also read & blurbed a number of incredible books forthcoming in 2014, but I’ll write about them later):

“The Merrill Diaries” (a flash novel) by Susan Tepper

“The Tide King” (novel) by Jen Michalski

“Cinéma Vérité” (poetry collection) by Sam Rasnake

“All The Roads That Lead From Home” (collection) by Anne Leigh Parrish

“Beyond Blue” (collection) by Meg Tuite

“Microtones” (collection) by Robert Vaughan

“The Virgins” (novel) by Pamela Erens

“Whatever Don’t Drown Will Always Rise” (collection) by Justin Daugherty

“Musical Chairs” (memoir) by Jen Knox

“Watering Heaven” (collection) by Peter Tieryas

“Is That You, John Wayne?” (collection) by Scott Garson

“Conversations with S. Teri O’Type” (collection) by Christopher Allen

“May We Shed These Human Bodies” (collection) by Amber Sparks

“Magical Neon Sexuality” (collection) by Kevin Fanning

“Thank You for Your Sperm” (collection) by Marcus Speh

“The Whack-Job Girls” (collection) by Bonnie ZoBell

Also, read late 2012, but I wanted to mention again: “Beneath the Liquid Skin” by Berit Ellingsen. Another book I read and blurbed in August, 2012 but that was actually published in 2013 was Myfanwy Collins’ short story collection, “I Am Holding Your Hand.” These are both great collections I recommend highly as well!

Myfanwy Collins' ECHOLOCATION

I read my friend, Myfanwy Collins’, debut novel, ECHOLOCATION the moment I got my hands on it. We’ve been friends for many years and I’ve come to love and respect her and her writing enormously. And I’d seen a few excerpts of her novel when she was writing it and was hungry to see the finished product.

What I’ve always, always admired about Myfanwy’s writing is her singular ability to write gorgeous, lyrical prose even in the midst of telling a gritty, honest, story. You get that with ECHOLOCATION, but you also get the benefit of her masterful plot direction, her ability to set several subplots in motion while conveying a number of distinct characters and points of view. That takes incredible skill. The story has been synopsized in other reviews, so I won’t go into that here. But I will say that this is that rare and beautiful thing: the literary page-turner. The story holds you captive from page one. The writing is amazing and cinematic. I could see and feel everything going on at the funeral for the lost limb at the book’s beginning. And well, any story that involves a funeral for a lost limb pretty much has my unqualified endorsement.

Also, if you can get your hands on the audio book, you must listen to it. Heidi Faith does a stunning job of bringing the voices of the characters and the story of ECHOLOCATION to life. I listened to it a few weeks after reading the book and loved it.

Strange, sad, compelling, gritty, dead-honest and beautifully wrought. If you have not already read this impressive debut novel, I urge you to do so.

Two New Reviews of Together We Can Bury It, by Kathy Fish

A lovely, kind review of my new collection from Myfanwy Collins:

Together We Can Bury It, by Kathy Fish.

Also, a terrific review by Kevin Fanning on Goodreads.

Thanks so much, both of you!

I can't keep up….

…with all the books I want to read. I feel I’m always falling behind. But lists. Lists are good. And I know I’ll buy new books and chapbooks at AWP. So here’s my list. I’ll read all of these and then I’ll make a new list and then it will feel less daunting.

1. Shut Up/Look Pretty –Lauren Becker, Erin Fitzgerald, Kirsty Logan, Michelle Reale and Amber Sparks

2. The Last Repatriate –Matthew Salesses

3. Wild –Cheryl Strayed

4. Birds of a Lesser Paradise –Megan Mayhew Bergman

5. Treasure Island!!! — Sara Levine

6. Betty Superman –Tiff Holland

7. Threats: A Novel –Amelia Gray

8. Bluets –Maggie Nelson

9. Girlchild — Tupelo Hassman

And all The Lit Pub titles. I mean, all of them.

Recently I read Richard Thomas’s Transubstantiate, my first ever neo-noir post-apocalyptic novel and it’s great and something I don’t have the skills for at all, so, admiration for that one. I also read Myfanwy Collins’ debut novel, Echolocation and it’s absolutely wonderful. I’ll say more about it, here, soon. I read Susan Tepper’s From the Uberplatzen: A Love Story, a tiny novel told in flashes and I’ll be interviewing her soon for Fictionaut, about one of the stories in the book.

What else? I’m currently reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. I love it. It’s making me understand my quiet self so much more. There are apparently true benefits to the introverted style of being and this book feels important to me.

I’m also reading Snow Child, a debut novel by Eowyn Ivey and oh, I’m loving it. I seem particularly drawn to stories of people living in log cabins (i.e. Little House on the Prairie). The writing is beautiful and the story, sad and strange. Also, there’s lots of snow. (love the cover!)

Into and Out of the Wild–My final post at Necessary Fiction

Necessary Fiction.