“I felt … drawn to the desert where fire blossomed in silence,
sprouting from a great, featureless plain that
could have been the end of the world or the beginning.”
Emily Strasser’s Half-Life of a Secret is ostensibly about unraveling the mystery of her grandfather George, who was a scientist at Oak Ridge. In George’s time, Oak Ridge was a secret city, lesser-known than its sister Los Alamos, but built to do the same work—the construction of nuclear arms. George is, in turn, a man of secrets, one who was an intelligent, high-ranking official but also suffered from mental illness. Strasser attempts to uncover his history in order to better understand him as the patriarch of her family as well as a person who participated in the construction of the bomb that killed upwards of 135,000 people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
This week brings with it the paperback release of one of my favorite novels of 2022: Benjamin Myers’s The Perfect Golden Circle. Set in 1989, the novel follows two men, Calvert and Redbone, as they embark on a Quixotic quest to create a series of detailed patterns across rural landscapes in England. Over the course of their novel, their efforts invoke an array of grand ideas, from the bond between two disparate people to the changing sociopolitical landscape around the duo. Plus: crop circles. I spoke with Myers about the origins of this novel, its relationship to the rest of his bibliography, and the role of music in his books.
I’ve long followed the work of both Joe Meno and Dan Sinker — the former via his numerous books, the latter via his work as a writer and editor. So when an email showed up in my inbox with the news that Meno and Sinker were collaborating on a new project, Question Mark, Ohio, I was intrigued. The project, a serialized narrative about an Ohio town where objects are mysteriously disappearing, kicks off today on Instagram, with further updates taking place beginning on April 25 on the town’s website. I spoke with Meno and Sinker about the project’s genesis, their collaboration, and the art of the narrative.
In a 2022 interview with Cemetary Dance, Eric LaRocca discussed their approach to writing — and, more specifically, writing horror. “That would be a failure for me as an artist, if I left you feeling indifferent to whatever you just read,” LaRocca said. “I had failed in my capacity to tell a story that shook you and made you think and maybe disgusted you, maybe just made you feel something. That’s what I try to do with any of my work.”
Some cities are surrounded by history, rumor, and mythology to the point where they practically feel like the stuff of fiction. Other cities and spaces have evaporated into memory, leaving little trace behind of the tactile details that made them famous. Others still may have been enhanced or distorted by legends and fiction, rendered unrecognizable in the popular imagination.
Today, we’re pleased to present an excerpt from Karin Cecile Davidson’s new book The Geography of First Kisses, winner of the 2022 Acacia Fiction Prize. Davidson’s fiction abounds with a sense of place, whether it’s Oklahoma or New Orleans, and the stories contained within this book trace haunted lives grappling with alienation. Reif Larsen called this book “a dreamy map of love, longing, and lust.” For a glimpse inside, read on…