Now playing on Otherppla conversation with Laura Bogart. Her debut novel, Don’t You Know I Love You, is available from Dzanc Books.

Bogart is also a non-fiction writer who focuses on personal essays, pop culture, film and TV, feminism, body image and sizeism, and politics (among other topics). She is a featured contributor to The Week and DAME magazine; her work has also appeared in The Atlantic, The Guardian, SPIN,The AV Club, Vulture, and Indiewire (among other publications). She lives in Baltimore.

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“What a smart, elegant, emotionally honest way to tell the story of a life – by giving us the stories that spiral from one tragic death. Lord the One You Love is Sick is entirely unafraid in its depiction of our most difficult and profound hurdles. A gripping and gorgeous exploration not only of small town connections, but the kind of loss whose wake refuses to subside.”―Nina de Gramont, author, The Last September

A Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2020 Book Preview selection by The Millions

In the contemporary vein of writers like Emily Ruskovich and Stephen Markley, Lord the One You Love is Sick is an explosive debut collection that reveals the tragedies and unspeakable secrets hidden behind a veneer of normalcy in a small North Carolina town.

Gentry’s death from a heroin overdose sends shock waves through his hometown, affecting everyone in different ways. It triggers a mental breakdown in his best friend, Dale, a police officer, as his wife grapples with the burden of her vows in the face of her husband’s disturbing behavior. Meanwhile, Gentry’s bitter mother discovers an unexpected friendship as she struggles to place blame surrounding the death of her oldest son, while her younger son lives in agoraphobic solitude, cut off from the rest of the world. On the outskirts of town, an eight-year old girl and her older sister cope with horrific abuse from their well-respected father. All the while, the patriarchs of the community sit together gossiping at the local diner, certain that the Lord will heal everyone’s sins.

A novel in stories, Lord the One You Love is Sick is a gorgeously written and heartrending work of fiction from an important new voice in the literature of the American South.

 

Hello. My name is Joseph Grantham. I edit this website. I’m also an artist (see above). I asked some writers and friends to recommend some short stories to you, the readers of this website. All I asked was that they do this in 3-5 sentences. Other than that, there were no guidelines. I’ll start.

 

“Victor Blue” by Ann Beattie

 

This story is from Beattie’s first collection, Distortions, and it is written in the form of journal entries, composed by an elderly man who spends his days taking care of his ill wife (“Mrs. Edway,” as he refers to her). He cooks for her, takes care of her violets (one of them is named “Victor Blue”), reads novels to her, and whenever he and his wife have to make an important, or not so important, decision, they vote on it, each writing down their answer on a piece of paper and then holding it up for the other to see. Do they want a kitten or a puppy, do they want to hang up the embroidered Eiffel Tower picture which was a gift from Mrs. Edway’s cousin, should Mrs. Edway kill herself or continue living in pain? Beattie wrote this story when she was in her mid-twenties and you’d never know it.

 

Okay. Now, on to the main event.

 

 

“Good Old Neon” by David Foster Wallace

 

“Good Old Neon” is about a man who killed himself in 1991, told from the perspective of his post-death existence outside of time, written by a man who killed himself in 2008, published in 2004. It feels impossible to distill a ~40 page story that works on so many levels of thought and heart into 3-5 sentences, which is basically the premise of the story itself: that linear time and language are inherently limiting modes of describing the dimensionless flashes of perception that color each person’s interiority with significance, but until we die, we can only use one word after another to relate ourselves. Since his first successful lie at age 4, or arguably birth, the protagonist placed himself at the center of a “fraudulence paradox,” which meant that the more he tried to be something he wasn’t, the less he felt like the ideal image he performed, and “…the more of a fraud [he] felt like, the harder [he] tried to convey an impressive or likable image of [him]self so that other people wouldn’t find out what a hollow, fraudulent person [he] really [was].” What hits me so hard about “Good Old Neon” is the vagueness about its audience: the post-death protagonist addresses himself the moment before his death in a car, but he also makes lovingly dry meta-asides to another reader (from who, at least in the confines of a reader-author relationship, David Foster Wallace didn’t view himself as so apart), and I can’t help but feel witness to some similar shade of dialogue Wallace could’ve worked out with himself before his own death. The message of the story, to me, is not to succumb to our self-imposed limits; the message is in the beauty of trying, at least for a moment, to describe what it was like to be human. 

 

– recommended by Megan Boyle, author of Liveblog

 

 

“A Man Came to Visit Us” by Brandon Hobson

 

Your question is so difficult to answer.  I read and reread and am taken up by so many stories all of the time — both ancient and modern.  But the story foremost in my mind is always the most recent one I have accepted for NOON.  And at this minute, it is the unearthly stunner by Brandon Hobson — that is jammed with mystery and passion –“A Man Came to Visit Us” (due out March 2021).  

 

– recommended by Diane Williams, founder of NOON and author of The Collected Stories of Diane Williams

 

 

“Recitatif” by Toni Morrison

 

I assign this every semester to my English 102 students, out of The Norton Introduction to Literature. Despite the fact that I read this twice a year, it gets me every time. This story is a good example of why fiction is a superior art form; it says more about big broad important topics, like race and class and friendship and memory, than any piece of nonfiction ever could. This statement will probably offend a nonfiction purist if they happen to read this, whoopsie.

 

– recommended by Juliet Escoria, author of Juliet the Maniac

 

 

Simp for God

crow from the loquat tree
what’s your place
in the human centipede

 

 

Grandpa Indian Killer

“Whoops!” our white ancestors said
learn more by clicking here

 

 

Man has an ass

like lumped charcoal, bro
please don’t break heat,
don’t break steam,
for minutes, hours— Be still, bro
be smooth, the margarita in the machine
bro— Let’s piss a hole forever

 

 

Now playing on Otherppla conversation with Dean Koontz. His new novel, Elsewhere, is available from Thomas & Mercer.

 

Koontz is the author of fourteen number one New York Times bestsellers, including One Door Away from Heaven, From the Corner of His Eye, Midnight, Cold Fire, The Bad Place, Hideaway, Dragon Tears, Intensity, Sole Survivor, The Husband, Odd Hours, Relentless, What the Night Knows, and 77 Shadow Street. He’s been hailed by Rolling Stone as “America’s most popular suspense novelist,” and his books have been published in thirty-eight languages and have sold over five hundred million copies worldwide.

Born and raised in Pennsylvania, he now lives in Southern California with his wife, Gerda, their golden retriever, Elsa, and the enduring spirits of their goldens Trixie and Anna.

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Below are three poems from Willis Plummer’s forthcoming chapbook Mons Pubis, published in the U.S. by Stupendous Books.


 

 

Andrew mists a block of sod
Obligatorily the artist is present
Everyone sweats windowless
The factory is windowless
I don’t sweat in open-toed shoes
My cat vomits on the towel
That stands in for a bath mat
Five AM again in Eco-mode
The AC in Eco-mode
Shifts in and out of gear
Alcohol will do that at Six AM
Alarm clock type beat
Dry soles suddenly in focus
With a pause I’m thinking
About my dry feet
Enamel recedes daily
With lack of intention
These teeth get coarser
These teeth get
Increasingly coarse

Swimming Down

By Holly Sinclair

Poem

An armored shark in lava, I move on all fours across the rug
While your daughters leap over me, shrieking.
With an unblinking eye, I feel the heat of the earth rise—
Its erupting egg, yolk-rug and the shore of the bed, as we play.

That night you wake up to tell me you were sinking.
Half-asleep, I say, water in dreams always means emotion.
I think I feel a pair of cool hands pressing on my temples,
A vial of cooking oil in my pocket. 

Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Lynn Steger Strong. Her new novel, Want, is available from Henry Holt.

Strong was born and raised in South Florida. Her first novel, Hold Still, was released by Liveright/WW Norton in 2016. Her nonfiction has been published by GuernicaLos Angeles Review of Books, Elle.com, Catapult, Lit Hub, and others. She teaches both fiction and non-fiction writing at Columbia University, Fairfield University, and the Pratt Institute.

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