The Desert Places
by Amber Sparks and Robert Kloss, illustrated by Matt Kish
Curbside Splendor Publishing, 2013
84 pages / $10.60 buy from Amazon
Evil is ubiquitous. It’s in the best literature and (as I present it to my students) it is the reason why humanity needs literature: as relief from evil and as elucidation for evil. The Desert Places, the new hybrid text by Amber Sparks and Robert Kloss, with illustrations by Matt Kish, depicts the history of malevolence from primordial Earth all the way into a nightmarish technological future. Plenty of other narratives have depicted the fall and subsequent struggle of Lucifer, Chamcha, Grendel, et al., but what sets Sparks’s and Kloss’s narrative apart is its broad scope within such a slim package. READ MORE >
October 17th, 2013 / 6:06 pm
“I get so very tired of having to talk about literature. I didn’t begin writing because I wanted to sit in a room and discuss the subjectivity in Wordsworth and Ashbery; I began writing because I had made friends with the dead: they had written to me, in their books, about life on earth and I wanted to write back and say yes, house, bridge, river, hair, no, maybe, never, forever.” — Mary Ruefle (via Amber Sparks)
Hey, have y’all seen and heard this Story Tapes project that Eliza Smith and Faith Gardner have put together? They have a sweet logo, and they post interviews/audio/video of writers reading their own stories, or swapping and reading another writer’s stories, and it’s all really nicely produced and soundtracked.
Stories by people like Scott McClanahan, xTx, Delaney Nolan, Dylan Nice, Alissa Nutting, Mary Miller, Sarah Rose Etter, Amber Sparks, Matt Rowan, Lauren Becker, Casey Hannan, Tania Hershman, and some cool new-to-me people like Alicia Mountain, Sean Schlemmer, Josh Denslow, Owen Poindexter, Molly Laich, Megan Kruse, Berit Ellingsen, and more.
More people should do stuff like this. Is this a thing? Are lots of people doing well-designed and steady video/audio reading series things like Story Tapes? Can you post some links in the comments?
1. Most of the stories in Amber Sparks’ collection, May We Shed These Human Bodies, contain elements of fantasy. This surprised me, because the only other story of hers that I’ve read was straight-up realistic fiction. In fact, pretty much everything I read is straight-up realistic fiction. In the case of Amber Sparks, I humbly make an exception.
2. Sparks does a good job of mixing fantasy and realistic details in the same stories, so they seem to take place in some dream-like space where everything is fucked up and beautiful.
3. One story has a hero who goes on a quest with wizards and swordplay, but during his downtime he smokes cigarettes and daydreams about sports cars. In another story, Peter Pan’s Lost Boys play videogames. And there’s a story about a grim reaper character who wears button-down shirts and chinos.
4. In the Death story, I like how he’s made to seem like an old guy who’s tired of his job, just some loser shuffling around in his bathrobe. And I like how all the humans are unimpressed with him, or by being dead. They call him “The Hall Monitor.” They think the afterlife is “lame.” They are irritated because there are no books.
5. A blurb on the back of the book calls these stories “fables,” but they are not actually talking-animal stories with easily identifiable morals. More often, they are portraits of people in great pain.
6. There is a story about a girl whose boyfriend dies. The story includes these sentences: “… pain is not you, but it is yours, and you cannot return it ever. … it will be with you like an old war wound or scarred-over burn, even when you’ve forgotten what it means or where it came from or who drilled it into your skin, when the first nerve ache began.”
7. There’s a story about Paul Bunyan, and how he’s so big that he accidentally kills people. And he’s gotten old and has arthritis in his wrists and a cramping back. And Babe the Blue Ox has died, so Paul Bunyan is lonely, and he’s been a lumberjack all his life but at last knows the time has come to retire.
8. An aging Third World dictator stays up late at night drinking whiskey and watching Westerns on DVD. Americans sometimes come to visit, but they won’t drink whiskey with him. “The dictator understands that American men no longer have any balls, like when they used to herd cattle and hang men from trees. Now they drink like little girls, with tiny sips, nervousness written all over their milky faces.”
9. Robert Gorham Davis wrote that a story must ask–and answer–a single question: “What is it like to be that kind of person going through that kind of experience?” I think every story in Spark’s collection fits this bill. Every one except “All the Imaginary People are Better at Life.” That one’s just crazy.
10. Just kidding. It’s actually a really cool story. It’s about a girl who cracks up and destroys her relationship with her boyfriend. She speaks to imaginary friends via “space wires.” She tells her imaginary friends her fantasies about running away to Maine and living off of lobsters, but her imaginary friends think she’s crazy. Her imaginary friends are sensible. They offer practical advice. READ MORE >
March 5th, 2013 / 4:45 pm
Open letter from Kenneth Goldsmith on UbuWeb about UbuWeb and why the wrong way is the right way to run a file archive of unprofitable products.
Fall is because Spring is colder than winter.
Forgot to say something about Thirty days as a Cuban in Harper’s. In to it. If you’re not a subscriber, go to the library or steal it from your doctor’s office. If they ask you why you’re hanging around the lobby, tell them you’re just making sure they’re here for you.
Taking submissions for hahaclever, including and especially ebooks ~10,000 words (like the highlander, there can be only one, what I’m saying is please try to be the highlander). Rebuilding the website, new comics editor coming on board, maybe a text editor, might have a board to come on, shit like that going on. If you’ve sent something in the past and haven’t heard from me, we’re sorry. They will get back to you soon.
The Cardini Brothers’ Catch-Up has a new website for to look at with your eyes and a new print issue for to buy with your fingertips. The print issue is slick. It’s all comics and poems done in fun and done in love with making and thinking on the future and being ready for it to be happening or to be made to happen. This is a thing they did to promote the last, first issue. READ MORE >