Temporium by Kelly Cherry

A Review by New Pop Lit

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“First on the agenda today is the topic of mystery.”

This is how award-winning writer Kelly Cherry opens her collection of Fictions, Temporium: Before the Beginning to After the End.

The theme of the book is the mystery of time. Cherry takes on a subject more appropriate for a physicist or philosopher than a literary writer, but it works. She makes real to our imagination a philosopher’s questions and wonders. They’re parables, of a kind.

An early piece, “Eternity Dies,” ponders the loneliness of God, and posits the notion that God created the universe to end his loneliness.

“His thinking that thought was the First Cause. Thus even the First Cause was caused, but it was also uncaused, because it was not caused by anything that existed. It was caused before existence existed, by his thinking of his loneliness.”

This is written with a sense of humor. Kelly Cherry is playing with physics and philosophy, with God, and with us.

In “A Maiden and Her Swain” a young couple lives in the Dark Ages as if there were no time, yet time moves forward and they find they’ve aged. The tale is a reflection on the swiftness of aging– of ourselves and our civilization– but it’s also a dream. It carries the timelessness of a dream.

These are all dreams– the kind of afternoon nap dream one has beyond plot and time; a temporary plunge into eternity. You awake with a sense of melancholy, of existential loneliness. Panic. The realization that our lives are impossibly brief– we’d like to live forever in this world but forever can happen only in our dreams. Or beyond this world of matter and onrushing time. A feeling of monumental sadness. This is the feeling Kelly Cherry captures in these fictions; these stories.

Though Kelly Cherry writes in no way like Ernest Hemingway, the book is structured like his early collection, In Our Time, with short interpolations between the longer pieces.

“SIX WORDS
Dead husband taught wife to shoot.”

Wry inserts like that one.

None of the few-score pieces is longer than a few pages. Nearly all are thought-provoking or amusing. A few stand above the rest.

“Aegea,” about a space ark; “Murray the Short Order Cook”; “He Wasn’t There Again Today”; and “Reunion” are my favorites.

One striking thing about the stories is the more surreal they are, the more real they seem. They’re speculations– amid them is an awful lot of truth and life.

They’re experimental pieces, experimental not just in style, but in ideas and theme. Part essay, part poetry, part story. Or: no review can adequately capture the feeling and meaning conveyed by this book. Plunge into it yourself and read it.

****
Temporium is available at Press 53.

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(Photo of Kelly Cherry.)

Bright, Precious Days by Jay McInerney

A Review by New Pop Lit

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Dinosaurs! All dinosaurs.

In style, the well-hyped “big” lit novels from Big Publishing in New York are dinosaurs. Just as surely as were the long, tank-like automobiles of the 1950’s. Cruising leisurely along with giant fins gleaming. A display of waste and ornament.

BRIGHT, PRECIOUS DAYS by Jay McInerney is the dinosaur novel in question. Not a bad novel, if you can stick with it. Tale of a publishing Insider caught in domestic crises involving bimbos and billionaires. Overpriced wine, food, and drugs. Hard-cover version sold last year for $27.95. Lavish coverage by New York print media. Swanky release party in the Hamptons. Not a ripple in the greater culture. In 1959 when big dinosaur novels were the thing, it would’ve been a best seller.

Much of McInerney’s writing style– the standard literary style for decades– is ornament. Long paragraphs of useless description or rumination. Waste. In his long and successful career Jay Mac never realized the more description he gives of a room, the less clearly the reader sees it. T.M.I. You could cut out half the verbiage. It’d be a better read and sell for half the price.

THE INCREDIBLY SHRINKING LITERARY WORLD

Jay McInerney writes for an audience which no longer exists. Today, even the leisure class has no leisure time. In reality, he writes for book reviewers at newspapers– entities which are themselves vanishing.

Obsolescence– provided by the bloated bureaucracies of the New York book conglomerates.

Even the book’s concept is from another era. McInerney’s long-ago first novel had a style which grabbed the reader’s attention. He’s forgotten why that hit novel was a hit. In the 1980’s Jay McInerney was the literary future. Today he, his book, its artistic premises– the conglomerate agent editors entire edifice which produced it– are the quickly vanishing past.

***

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(Photo of Jay McInerney.)

Lone Crusader by Samuel Stevens

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A Review by New Pop Lit

A young American writer of the 1930’s, like many of his compatriots, enlists to fight in the Spanish Civil War– for the other side!

Far Left and Far Right duke it out for truth and justice, hypocrisy or evil, with layers of ideological choices between them. Is Stevens writing about events in 1937– or 2017? His novel is aggressively timely.

LONE CRUSADER tells the story of Adam Wolfe, an idealistic Roman Catholic college student who travels to Spain to do good– or to find himself. Along the way he discovers romance and adventure. A lot of it– Lone Crusader is action-packed, with clear style and relentless pace.

Halfway through, new FBI man Mike Barnes is sent to find Adam. Does he? For the results, you’ll have to read the book.

Pulp noir with ideas. Samuel Stevens is part of a wave of new writers publishing across a variety of lit sites which present alternatives to predictable status quo writing and thinking. Stevens will only get better. Read him early.

***

Lone Crusader is available HERE.

Sam Stevens for Interview

(Photo of Samuel Stevens.)