'Fake Fruit Factory' Reviewed by NPR Books

I'm pleased to report that Fake Fruit Factory, a novel by Patrick Wensink, just published by Curbside Splendor, received a glowing review from NPR Books today. They called calling its "kinetic narrative" both "tightly plotted and beautifully contained" and compared it to "Twin Peaks meets Scooby-Doo." I can't think of a better compliment!

I edited Fake Fruit Factory earlier this year, working with Pat to wrangle his weird, wonderful cast of characters. Pat has a bizarre, darkly comic vision which perfectly fit my perverse sensibilities. I'm so happy for Pat and this much-deserved positive press!

Book Review: How a Mother Weaned Her Girl from Fairy Tales by Kate Bernheimer

Book Review: How a Mother Weaned Her Girl from Fairy Tales by Kate Bernheimer

The cover of Kate Bernheimer’s story collection How a Mother Weaned Her Girl from Fairy Tales, with its golden tones and its pastel lettering, is deceptively placid. Are we sailing through a field, or squirming nose-deep through shag carpeting? As it turns out, either would be appropriate. Inside, Bernheimer leads us through worlds both wild and domestic – from outer space to the cruelest of classrooms, from the dinosaur age to modern suburban sprawl. Bernheimer’s goal seems to be to take the classic fairy tale as we know it and turn it inside out, exposing its guts in all their beautiful, brutal, pitch-black glory. Rather than simply reiterating this form of storytelling, she is reinventing it. The results are multi-layered and wholly satisfying.

Story in PANK

Today is the official release of the August 2014 issue of PANK, which features my short story “Tony’s Hat Lies Disused and Vulnerable.” PANK is one of my favorite literary journals. The content is always fresh and unexpected, from writers who span the range of novice to professional. The design of both the website and the print journal is subdued and striking. I am honored to be amongst such talented company.

“Tony’s Hat” began as a class writing exercise for which I had no ideas. I had a piece of paper on my desk with a list of vague one-phrase story ideas, some of them inspired by real life events, from which I occasionally pilfered whenever I hit a blank mental wall. I remembered being six years old, living in a trailer park in Indiana, and observing all the bizarre people who circulated its horseshoe shape. There was a little kid, malnourished and dirty, who always clamored for attention, and he bugged the hell out of me. I was not a bully or a selfish kid by any means, but this kid grated my nerves. One day, I snapped and threw his hat down the hill in the back of our yard. His temper tantrum and the controversy that ensued has always stuck out in my mind. It was only later, upon reflection, that I realized that I had treated him poorly and had not given him the compassion he deserved. I took this memory, dramatized it, veered wildly from the writing exercise, and created “Tony’s Hat.”

What is Your Writing Soundtrack?

When I was in college I used to be able to listen to all kinds of music while I studied, read, and wrote. Dance, alternative, vocals, instrumentals, whatever. I would sing along loudly and off-key while I composed a term paper into the raw hours of morning.

Now I cannot listen to any words other than those in my own head while I write. I can’t even hear noise or talking or laughing or coughing or anyone else existing! That’s why I pipe a constant stream of instrumental music into my headphones as I write. I try to match the music with the mood of what I am writing, but sometimes it just comes down to listening to what I am not yet sick of hearing. I’ve been collecting as much instrumental music as I can but I often run out of appropriate stuff.

The novel I’m currently writing involves the discovery of a fantasy world beyond the walls of an old house which at first seems fun, innocent, and full of wonder, but turns dark and sinister as the characters venture further into it. My most recent musical discovery that fits the mood of this story is Tomorrow’s Harvest, the newest album from Boards of Canada. (View a clip from the album below)

Possibly the most perfect soundtrack to my novel, however, is the 1970 album Lord of the Rings by Bo Hansson. It is a prog rock concept album inspired by Tolkien’s novels. My novel isn’t exactly high fantasy in the Tolkien tradition, but the music evokes the dark fantasy atmosphere I am trying to capture. It triggers something in the depths of my brain that allows me to pull out a detailed colorful picture of this world, and I find myself listening to it on repeat (admittedly, it would be the perfect album to listen to while getting high).

The website Largehearted Boy has an interesting recurring feature called “Book Notes” in which authors will discuss the musical playlists they listened to while writing their novels. Two of my favorites are Swamplandia! by Karen Russell, and Arcadia by Lauren Groff.

When I get desperate for new stuff, I turn to Spotify (one can debate the merits or drawbacks of that particular service in a different space). Jason Boog of Galleycat has compiled a “Best Writing Music of 2013 So Far” Spotify list that has actually introduced me to some wonderful new sounds.

So what is the soundtrack to your writing?