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Thanks to Gemma Alexander and CultureMob for this super-smart review! If I tweeted, I would totally tweet this.

An Appraisal of Kelcey Parker’s ‘For Sale By Owner’

  • by Gemma Alexander | 03/28/12 | Published at CultureMob

It’s easy to think of short story collections as appetizers or bonbons – an assortment of tasty, bite-sized treats that wouldn’t make a meal. If you tend to consider short stories to be literary snacks, then the stories in Kelcey Parker’s book, For Sale By Owner, published by Kore Press, are more like tapas. They may look like hors d’oeuvres from the world of stay-at-home moms and their domestic difficulties, but when you bite into them you discover rich, savory morsels that stay with you long after you’ve moved on to the next bar.

These are not light stories. Parker manages in only a few pages to achieve an emotional weight that many novels lack. I laughed out loud reading the beginning of “Domestic Air Quality,” a stay-at-home mom’s air quality journal for a consumer products survey. Although it’s obvious from the first page that the story won’t really be about air quality, I still cried when I got to the real issue. Later, I walked around with Maugham, the disaffected mom of teens, stuck in my head for days before I could move on to the next story.

[Read the rest here.]

A review!

A gloriously long and detailed review of my book For Sale By Owner and Laynie Browne’s The Desires of Letters (Counterpath) was just posted at the awesome site/resource/lit journal, Literary Mama. Here’s an excerpt:

Thus, while the stories are in fact disturbing at times, these disturbances create layers of interest and intrigue. Parker causes the reader to reconsider the things she takes for granted (healthy children, mental well being, family connections) and asks that she appreciate these things a little more, hold them a little closer to her chest.

…Parker’s collection is at once practical and poetic, somber and funny, abstract and exact.

A question!

At the AWP Kore Press 20 Year Anniversary Poetry Reading, an audience member asked, “How can the average reader support independent publishing and women writers?”

The panelists and moderator addressed the importance of buying books, especially from the publisher, and making donations. I was just another audience member, but I chimed in with my own response: Talk about indie books, tell your friends about them, teach them in your classes, write about them on your blogs, interview the authors, link to them on Facebook. If you tweet, tweet about them.

So, in the spirit of buying and talking about books published by indie publishers…

a bag of books!

…here are the books and lit journals that I picked up at AWP:

Irlanda, Espido Freire, trans. by Toshiya Kamei (Fairy Tale Review Press)
— ooh la la, this is pretty, and the opening pages irresistible. Rilke epigraph: “How would I begin to recall you, dead as you are, you willingly, passionately dead? Was it as soothing as you imagined, or was not being alive still far from being dead?” First line: “Sagrario died in May, after much suffering.”

The Louisiana Purchase, Jim Goar (Rose Metal Press)
–stunning cover; tells how we got the moon: “President Jefferson walks off the mound. The Cardinals take the field. Ozzie Smith falls over dead. The crowd falls silent. Phil Niekro throws a ball at the sky. The ball does not return. We call it the moon. It becomes a crescent. When Jefferson holds up two fingers, the moon breaks into the dirt.”

It Was Like My Trying to Have a Tender-Hearted Nature, Diane Williams (FC2)
–i bought this because of the novella-in-flash, and the flash stories with titles like, “Well, Well, Well, Well, Well,” and because it’s Diane Williams

Kino, Jurgen Fauth (Atticus Books, ARC)
— kinda got this as a sneak peek; it looks full of hip german madness

The Book of Portraiture, Steve Tomasula (FC2)
— steve runs the show at notre dame and lives in town; he’s not only brilliant, he’s super kind and welcoming to us iusb folks who always come to his amazing parties

Lizard Man, David James Poissant (Ropewalk Press)
— jamie is one of those people who i hope will remember me when he’s rich and famous

Three Ways of the Saw, Matt Mullins (Atticus Books)
— i interviewed matt here; his book has a beautiful design and i’m excited to read it

When She Named Fire: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry by American Women, ed. by Andrea Hollander Budy (Autumn House)
–i wasn’t exactly planning to buy a poetry anthology, but this one looks great. i love that there are bios and photos of each poet followed by a cluster of poems (not just one), that the poets are all women, and awesome: Lia Purpura, Kim Addonizio, Sheryl St. Germain, Aimee Nezuhukuatathil, Julia Kasdorf, Juliana Baggott, Camille Dungy, Mary Ruefle…

The Desires of Letters, Laynie Browne (Counterpath)
— reviewed this week with my book at Literary Mama (link above)

Love and the Eye, Laura Newbern (Kore)
–i saw her read at the kore anniversary reading and really loved her poems; it was one of the few kore books i didn’t already have


Absinthe: New European Writing
Midwestern Gothic
The Common
Exit 7 (first issue!)

For  me, Aimee Bender‘s fiction works a little something like this:

Salginatobel Bridge, Robert Maillart 1930

Her sentences are pristine and precise, graceful, unadorned, and apparently effortless, but they straddle expanses and hold impossible weights.

Like the Salginatobel Bridge above, which Alain de Botton describes thus: “Maillart’s bridge resembles a lithe athlete who leaps without ceremony and bows demurely to his audience before leaving the stage . . . making its achievement look effortless.” (The Architecture of Happiness, 206)

De Botton contrasts the Salginatobel bridge with a bulkier suspension bridge, which, he says, is more like “a stocky middle-aged man who hoists up his trousers . . . before making a jump between two points” (205-6):

Clifton Suspension Bridge, Isambard Brunel 1864

(Yeah, so I’ve been reading architecture books along with fiction over the break.)

Usually the contrast between the two bridges is illustrative of Aimee Bender’s prose compared with, say, Henry James’s. But when I compare Bender’s new novel, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, to her last story collection, Willful Creatures, it is her novel that begins to look like the suspension bridge, and the delicate, sad-burdened stories that, with fewer materials, span the wider gulf.

I don’t necessarily blame this on Bender, whose premise and sentences are just as fabulist and fabulous as always, I blame it on the novel – a bulkier, trouser-hoisting form. And I blame it on a publishing culture that celebrates novels more than stories. I am shocked (sort of) to discover, upon creating links to Bender’s two books that I just mentioned, that Lemon Cake has 196 customer reviews while Willful Creatures has only 14. I’ll have to post a review and make it a full 15.

But for now, I have to catch the opening episode of The Bachelor!