We can only hope that it is a posture of frustration and new growth into so many other areas that led Scottish writer of science fiction and horror, Chris Kelso, to utter such a fatalist statement in the title at the age of thirty-two years old. Kelso is also a filmmaker, illustrator, and musician and by day a [*gasp*] high school English teacher. Since publishing his first short story at twenty-two in Evergreen Review, Kelso has been responsible for twenty-five books (nineteen books of his own—fifteen novels, three story collections, one non-fiction work—and six anthologies he edited or co-edited). He’s been nominated for a British Fantasy Award and some of his work has been translated into Spanish, French, and Sweden. The books cover a wild, weird range of topics, styles, and even quality, but the world would certainly suffer to be deprived of more Kelso works of fiction. Luckily, we have three recent volumes of his fiction to enjoy—his best works, he claims—before his first foray into non-fiction is published next year. This forthcoming book brings together two topics very close to Kelso’s heart, the writer William S. Burroughs and Kelso’s home, Scotland. The book involves Burroughs’ time in Scotland, mostly in pursuit of his Scientology fix, and is simply titled Burroughs and Scotland, but with the subtitle: Dethroning the Ancients: the commitment of exile (Beatdom Books, 2021). In the Appendix, Kelso provides his first published short story, “Naked Punch (redux),” which illustrates his debt to Burroughs.
I first met Maryse Meijer on a book tour where she was kind enough to read with Tobias Caroll and myself at the very fine Volumes Bookstore in Chicago, Illinois. We exchanged copies of our books and I quickly devoured Heartbreaker, all too happy to add it the following semester to my students’ reading lists. Her prose is sharp, focused, sometimes musical and possesses an undeniable kinetic energy. Her characters, filled with the burning embers of desire, are often longing for things that will tear the asunder, lead them into situations that give the reader pause, that ask us to consider the power of desire, that fill us, in the safety of our reading chairs, with a sense of danger. Bleak and uncomfortable but never disappointing, her stories unearth the best and worst in human nature. Her latest, The Seventh Mansion, centers on a disenfranchised young man, Xie, who discovers love in the bones of a saint, and through this love finds power to stand in the face of extraordinary odds and fight for what he believes in. A novel that is as much a love story as it is a literary call to arms, Maryse manages to create a book that I wish I’d read my entire life and only now have had the pleasure. When FSG Originals announced the release of The Seventh Mansion, I contacted Maryse for this interview. Always gracious, Maryse agreed and the follow conversation was conducted via email over several weeks this autumn.
Loving Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn because the Nolan family was Irish? That was a reason I could talk about—because, when I was a girl, being Irish was no longer a shameful thing. But poverty was shameful, and there I was, growing up in a single-parent household dependent on Mother’s Allowance payments. So when I talked about reading the book, I talked about the more acceptable parts of the story, but it was the Nolan family’s struggle to make ends meet—coupled with the related family tensions and the father’s frequent absences—that secured this novel as a true favourite.
Claudia, the protagonist of Kristen Millares Young‘s debut novel Subduction, is in a complicated place when the book opens. Her marriage has fallen apart, and she’s en route to conduct ethically fraught anthropological work in the Makah Nation. What follows is a haunting work about intimacy, tradition, and trust — and a thoroughly lived-in portrait of a place and a community. I talked with Young about the novel’s origin, its evolution, and how her own work echoed that of her protagonist.
All across America, Adam Gnade knows the blue highways and the sad honky-tonks and the names of towns that time will one day forget. He’s traveled this country enough by car, bus, train, and plane to make anyone want to stay home for a while. His home is the rural Great Plains of eastern Kansas, where when he’s not on the road performing talking songs and giving readings he’s taking care of a mini Noah’s Ark of rescue animals. This is where he does his real work of figuring out what he wants from this brief time we have.
A work of art that takes as its titular subject the premise that the ability of humans to observe the universe is inherent in the universe’s being at all would seem either to be completely theoretical as a fiction or a work so mind-bogglingly dense and self-reflexive it would preclude access to all but an elite few. Luckily, Anthropica by David Hollander rids itself of this problem by embracing paradox to astounding effect.
“…I was writing and all the time I was also watching myself writing…” This passionate meta-short novel by Australian Jen Craig reckons with a world (the real world) where everyone thinks they can be a writer. The main character (Jen Craig), her father, and her long estranged dead friend from childhood all have intimations, but none can deliver passable prose, though Jen’s reading of a friend’s failed work triggers a “breakthrough” for her own writing—the words of the author Jen Craig detailing this experience of her speaker.
Our November book preview includes California travelogues, a thriller that hearkens back to the 1990s, folk horror, and a reconsideration of “Dawson’s Creek.”