'Thaddeus Lowe was a 19th century inventor, a pioneering balloonist and, according to novelist Shane Jones, “the most shot at man during the Civil War.” In Jones’s otherworldly debut novel, Light Boxes, of which Lowe is the protagonist, balloons—filled with flame, floating like yellow silk in the corners of a room, or painted on the bottoms of tea cups—play a central role.
'At the heart of Light Boxes is a war by a utopian community—against February. February, in the strange world of Jones’s story, is not only a month but also a superhuman entity that alters moods and kidnaps children, a man who lives in a room seen through holes in the sky, and an unshaven post-grad who lives in his parents’ basement. He has declared the end of flight, his faithful priests posting scrolls of parchment to declare that all things capable of flight had been ruined. Birds fall from the sky, balloons are doused with holy water, burned, and buried.' -- Rozalia Jovanovic, The Rumpus
* Shane Jones recounts his troubles getting 'Light Boxes' published
* Excerpt from Shane Jones' forthcoming novel 'The Failure Six'
* 'Light Boxes': The Official Website
* Ken Baumann on 'Light Boxes' @ HTMLGIANT
* Publishing Genius Press
Audio: Shane Jones reads from 'Light Boxes'
Their balloon diminished to burning ribbons that snaked across the dirt, Thaddeus, Bianca, and Selah, ran inside their home and painted balloons everywhere possible. Holding a tray of colored paints, they pulled up the floorboards and painted rows of balloons onto the dusty oak. Bianca painted even smaller balloons on the bottoms of the tea cups. Behind the bathroom mirror, under the kitchen table, and on the inside cabinet doors, balloons were painted. And then Selah began painting a permanent and intricate intertwining of kites on Bianca’s hands and wrists, the tails extending up her forearms and ending just below her tiny shoulders.
—How long will February last, asked Bianca extending her arms out for her mother.
—Not as long as last time, said Thaddeus who was watching out the window at the falling snow. A hundred days at the most. I said not to worry.
—All done, said her mother. It will dry shortly and you will always have to wear long sleeves from now on. But you’ll never forget flight for as long as you live. You can wear beautiful dresses, that’s what you can wear.
Bianca studied her arms. The kites were yellow and orange with black tails. She waited and let the color settle into her skin.
'Taking its lack of compromise from the world of personal journals and oral folklore, Stories places a hyper-focus on the fundamental delivery and purpose of a story, exchanging linguistic flair for simple, campfire-styled narrative, and swapping convoluted plot for a poetic sense of ultimate justification. Sentiment and emotion are conveyed beautifully by way of just enough style guidelines to keep the pages from drifting away entirely into the oral traditions from which this collection takes its influence. It takes a brave author to willingly risk a dull-witted perception for the sake of conscientious style. As McClanahan has said “the worst thing a storyteller can do is start thinking like an intellectual.” But the best thing a storyteller can do is to allow his intellect to organically permeate his words, which is just what Stories accomplishes.' -- Outsider Writers Collective
* HTMLGIANT on Scott McClanahan's 'Stories'
* The Myth of Scott McClanahan
* Six Gallery Press
* Scott McClanahan Interview @ Dogplotz
I went through this weird period about ten years ago where every time I went outside, I saw somebody get hit by a car. Now I know the first time it ever happened I was just sitting around my apartment and listening to the drunks shouting from the bar next door. It was Labor Day weekend and I was sitting on the couch watching television. And I was just about ready to go to bed when all the sudden—BAM—I heard this big thud outside. So I looked out the window and opened the door, but I didn’t see anything. There were just the cars in the bar parking lot and this flashing light.
But then my girlfriend Kim woke up and walked into the room and said, “What the hell was that?”
“I don’t know,” I said.
So she pushed me out the door and said all disgusted, “Well go outside and see.”
So I did.
I went outside to see, and as soon as I did, I realized it was a mistake.
There was this white van in the middle of the road with its blinkers on and there was a guy sitting on his knees over in the grass. He was dressed in painter pants and he was crying. So I walked slow out into the street and saw this dead looking girl just sprawled there in the middle of the street.
Her mouth was open and her eyes were too.
She didn’t even look like she was breathing and there was this dead look on her face.
And the guy who hit her was sitting there, looking up at me and crying like, “What are you going to do?”
So I looked down at the girl and guess what? She still looked dead to me. Her mouth was still open and there was blood coming out of the corner of her mouth.
And since I’d never taken a CPR class before, I just looked down at her and thought to myself, “What the hell am I going to do?”
So I just started backing up, real slow like, so I wouldn’t have to help her.
Back. Back. Back.
And then I turned around and started walking away even faster like I didn’t even know who she was.
'Jonathon Bender had something to say to the world, but the world wouldn’t listen. However, he left behind unsent letters addressed to relatives, friends, teachers, classmates, professors, roommates, employers, former girlfriends, his ex-wife, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, the state of Michigan, and a weather satellite, among many others. These form the narrative of a remarkable life.
Dear Everybody maintains a tone of finely judged tension between laughter and tears in an involving and sympathetically written work of fiction.' -- Alma Books
* Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard)
* Michael Kimball Website
* 'Dear Everybody' @ Alma Books
* Interview with Michael Kimball @ dogmatika
Everything in Pieces
I never liked my brother much growing up, but I didn’t know him well before he died. He moved out of the house when I was still in high school and I never saw him much after that. And it wasn’t long after that that our parents separated and then divorced. Our family moved away from each other in different directions and in different ways. I didn’t even go to Jonathon’s wedding and never met his wife Sara until his funeral, by which time she was his ex-wife. We grew up as brothers in the same family, but we had different childhoods. I didn’t recognize my mother and father when I read Jonathon’s letters. Jonathon’s version may have been true for him, but I was the favorite and I don’t remember it like that. I don’t remember any of the things that Jonathon says our father did to him. I never saw those things happen and it never happened to me. I just thought that Jonathon and our father didn’t like each other.
---Being Jonathon’s younger brother was never easy for me. Jonathon sometimes behaved strangely and he never had a lot of friends. He didn’t do well in school or at home. There was trouble in both places for him. He would get detention and get suspended for fighting and skipping classes. Often, Jonathon and our father would get into their own fights after this. I knew that he stopped going to school for a while, but I didn’t know that he saw a therapist or that he had to take medication. I just remember that Jonathon was sad and that I didn’t want to be around him or admit to my friends that he was my brother.
---I don’t think that Jonathon would have told me about any of it, though. We didn’t talk much when we were kids, and we almost never talked after we became adults. He never told me, for instance, that he and Sara had divorced. I don’t know why, but somehow I thought that he had become happy after leaving home.
---It was our mother who called me to say that Jonathon had died, and I thought that he must have been struck by lightning when he was chasing a thunderstorm or that maybe he got too close to a tornado. Jonathon was obsessed by the weather when we were kids, and he once told me that the clouds were his friends and that they had formed to protect him from the sun, which he thought was trying to cook him for dinner. He often talked about the weather trying to kill him, but I never thought it would lead to Jonathon killing himself.
---My father wouldn’t go to Jonathon’s funeral, and I didn’t want to go either, but I drove my mother down to Missouri for it. After we buried him, we stayed to sort through his belongings. We gave some of his furniture away to Goodwill and then we rented a dumpster to throw almost everything else of his away. His house was filled with so many things that nobody else would want. But I saved all of the short letters that Jonathon had written in the last days of his life. I also saved a box filled with things that Jonathon had saved from his own life – old family photographs, crayon drawings, yellowed newspaper clippings, pages that were torn out of an encyclopedia, report cards, notes that his teachers sent home, a story he wrote about a summer vacation that our family never took, X-rays from his dentist, his birth certificate, his marriage certificate, his divorce papers – nearly any written document.