EXCERPT: I’m usually nervous in cars. Whether I’m driving or riding, I can’t seem to forget that I’m in a little shell,hurtling along. I want a death that comes from the inside, something I won’t have to watch as it’s happening – a clot turned loose in my brain, a glossy organ seizing up and shuddering in secret. Car wrecks are shattered windshields and jutting bones, the listless highway patrol scooping bits of you and not-you off the asphalt, zipping the whole mess into a bag. But when Bo is driving – even though she’s always looking at herself in the rearview or swerving around road trash in case it’s a bag of kittens – my anxiety, usually a thrum as steady and constant as my heartbeat, is something I can smother, tamp down, and forget about for a while.
ABOUT THIS BOOK: With raw, poetic ferocity, Kimberly King Parsons exposes desire’s darkest hollows—those hidden places where most of us are afraid to look. In this debut collection of enormously perceptive and brutally unsentimental short stories, Parsons illuminates the ache of first love, the banality of self-loathing, the scourge of addiction, the myth of marriage, and the magic and inevitable disillusionment of childhood.
Taking us from hot Texas highways to cold family kitchens, from the freedom of pay-by-the-hour motels to the claustrophobia of private school dorms, these stories erupt off the page with a primal howl—sharp-voiced, bitter, and wise. Black Light contains the type of storytelling that resonates somewhere deep, in the well of memory that repudiates nostalgia.
MY THOUGHTS: There are a lot of everyday materials that fluoresce or glow when placed under a black light. A black light gives off highly energetic ultraviolet light. Just as these energetic stories fluoresce and glow as they are being read. And just as a black light shows up things not normally visible to the human eye, these are the things that are focused upon in this collection of short stories.
Don’t expect anything cute or heartwarming. The author focuses on the seamier side of life, the bits that happen, but nobody talks about, the bits that are swept under the carpet and glossed over. It is our fears and disappointments that she focuses on, not our dreams, aspirations and achievements.
Some of the stories border on the bizarre, all are slightly strange, but very, very real. This was an interesting read, one that deserves not to be hurried. These stories bear a closer inspection and I will be giving them a second read.
My two favourites in this collection are Fiddlebacks, and Starlite.
THE AUTHOR: Kimberly King Parsons is the author of the short story collection Black Light, forthcoming from Vintage August 13, 2019, and the novel The Boiling River, forthcoming from Knopf in 2020ish. Her fiction has been published or is forthcoming in The Paris Review, Best Small Fictions 2017, New South, Black Warrior Review, No Tokens, Joyland, Ninth Letter, Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. Her book reviews and interviews have appeared in Bookforum, Fanzine, Time Out New York, The Millions, and elsewhere. She lives with her partner and sons in Portland, OR, where she is completing a novel about Texas, motherhood, and LSD.
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Vintage, via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Black Light by Kimberly King Parsons for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
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