BP books wouldn’t be as pretty without Lesley Silvia. Check out her original papercut (prior to framing, etc) that ended up on the cover of our latest short story collection, due out tomorrow! burrowpress.com/songs
An Interview With Kyle Minor
In Praying Drunk, Kyle Minor delivers again and again. Not only is each individual story in his second collection filled with wit, intelligence, and strong emotion, but every story in the book also connects somehow to every other, repeating and recasting not just ideas and themes but also events and characters and especially locales, the settings that host Kyle Minor’s obsessions: Florida, Ohio, Kentucky, Haiti. Throughout, Minor reveals himself to be an unwavering, undaunted seeker of the root truths that lie behind the stories we tell ourselves to live, dredging through the cause and effect of American history, religious life, and family tragedy for answers—and if there are no easy answers, then what is there to do but to ask better questions, to look again, to look deeper? He asks again and again: What wrong stories did we tell ourselves, in order to end up here, amid the unfolding tragedy? And also: When we stop being willing to believe and participate in these failed stories, what other stories can we possibly tell next, if we’re determined to build something better and more true?
I’ve been friends with Kyle Minor since 2007 or 2008, when I met him after a reading at Eastern Michigan University. Afterward, we joined some mutual friends for a drink at a local bar, where at some point Minor got up from the table to play the bar’s piano. I wish I could remember what song he played. If his book wasn’t so interesting to talk about, I might have asked him that below.
I. “IN THIS BOOK, FORM IS EVERYTHING”
MATT BELL: Let’s start with the note to the reader at the beginning of the book, the first of its kind I’ve seen in a story collection. It reads:
"These stories are meant to be read in order.
This is a book, not just a collection.
DON’T SKIP AROUND.”
What made you decide to include this note? What are readers losing by not reading the stories in Praying Drunk in the order they were intended?
KYLE MINOR: The book has a design, and the stories mean differently when they’re read outside the design. I hoped to announce the book’s preoccupation with design in the first story, which is titled “The Question of Where We Begin,” which turns out not just to be a formal question but also a question central to the attempt these stories are to make sense of things about which it is very difficult to make any sense—illness, death, despair, suicides, cruelty, the various troubles love can provoke, our inability to really know one another when we our inner selves are walled off by our bodies.
The book rises from a period of the teller’s life in which it seems like the onslaught of blow after blow will never cease. In the midst of all of that, where do we begin? Which blow? And, even if we’ve chosen one trouble for the beginning—the suicide of the troubled uncle—where does that story begin? If you start parsing the cause-and-effect chain backward through time, eventually you land in cosmology—does the story begin with the Big Bang or the out-of-nothing creation of the world by the word of a Southern Baptist god? And that question, for the speaker, is even more fraught than any of the others. The stakes couldn’t be any higher, because not it’s not just a question of life and death, but also a question of life after death or eternal torture after death. And that question raises another, which hangs implicitly over the rest of the book: What kind of god would allow such a thing? And also: If that creator is so wretched, does that mean this creator— the teller of the tale—must be likewise wretched?
Late November in North Texas. Tecumseh High School. 9-0. It’s frosty in the air and on the ground, a dry frost that crackles and crunches under the feet and feels like the breaking of a stale communion wafer…
After Florencia’s funeral I walked down Avenida Mérida to Paco’s Cantina to toast the passing of the whore who took my virginity more than forty years before.
Did you miss our last Function? Well, that’s why we record these things:
Dorothy, A Publishing Project
ANA PATOVA CROSSED A BRIDGE by Renee Gladman
THE COMPLETE TALES OF MERRY GOLD by Kate Bernheimer
THE VIRGINS by Pamela Erens
SPECTACLE by Susan Steinberg
Two Dollar Radio
HOW TO GET INTO THE TWIN PALMS by Karolina Waclawiak