Meet The Malverns #12

It’s time to meet another valued member of the Malvern mob, and today we’re saying a cheery gidday to Layne Ransom. As well as performing assorted Malvern duties, Layne is a poetry MFA candidate in the New Writers Project at UT Austin. And today she’d like to introduce y’all to a rather brilliant collection…

Unclean JobsThe experience of being a girl or woman is splayed open, truthful and messy innards on display, in Alissa Nutting’s short story collection Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls. The book slips in and out of varying degrees of realism—the narrator of one story makes dinner for a date doomed to a sad uneasy end, while another is literally stuffed with spices and boiling in a cauldron—but possesses a consistently magical undercurrent that allows for the physics of Nutting’s worlds to bend at any given time, should she choose. These are fairytales (the undiluted, bloody kind) and ghost stories for adults that magnify the hilarity and horror of existing as a female human being in many contexts.

In “Model’s Assistant,” the narrator is tossed a bejeweled phone and by default becomes the shadow of an impossibly beautiful model named Garla who, when asked where she’s from, simply replies “Vodka.” Although Garla’s unreliability, the language barrier between her and the narrator, and the ultimately impassable distance between their lives (the narrator refers to Garla’s relentlessly glamorous existence as “model-land”) frustrate the narrator, Garla is the planet around which her satellite cannot help but orbit: “And—how can I deny this—I want more of Garla. She is a rare substance, if only because of the role and power she has in our society and not anything else she holds innately. Rare substances make people feel selfish and greedy, and Garla is no exception. Neither am I.” Crystallized in their relationship is the complex relationship with beauty so many women experience: the awareness our perception and desire of it is inky and troubled, but we still want it–and if we can’t have beauty, we at least want to be valued by someone or something beautiful.

The narrator of “Gardener,” wife of a husband indifferent to their sexless marriage, accidentally catches two of their lawn gnomes having sex and gradually becomes a participant in the escapades of the yard’s creatures and ornaments. Eventually her husband’s rebuffs lose their sting in the pleasure she gets from her bewitched trysts, especially from watching a male gnome with various gnome women: “How he watched me when he was with them, and how I watched him. At first I only watched; I felt like such a simple old woman. But after a while, I began to touch myself while they played, and I watched them watch me. Often I’d cry because their miniature world was just so beautiful. I felt like my love was a giant blanket, the top of a tent, and each night they all came inside of it to move around and make me warm.” The casting off of shame and resignation spun into such an enchanted, earnest narrative makes this a standout of the collection, one of the most straightforward but emotionally affecting stories in Unclean Jobs.

I want to note that in earlier prints of the book, the last story of the collection is narrated by a transgender woman and titled with a transmisogynistic slur. After much criticism, Nutting apologized here for the title and stereotypes the story employs and announced a contest to find the story’s replacement for future prints. (Current prints now omit the story entirely.) Although it is of course troubling this lapse in judgment occurred at all, Nutting’s apology and efforts to make up for her mistake I think serve as an admirable example of how to respond to legitimate criticism and grow as an author and person after falling into error.

The dark sprawl of humor and humanity in Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls is well worth curling up with; it exists somewhere bewitching between page-turner and words to linger over. Anyone who craves stories that exist on other planets, in parallel universes, or in this universe seen through an oddly-colored lens should give it a chance to cast its spell.

Meet The Malverns #11

A new year, a new Malvernite to meet! Say hello to Annar, an aspiring writer who is currently finishing up her degree at St. Edward’s University. We’re delighted to introduce her to you, and she, in turn, is delighted to introduce you to Roses by Rainer Maria Rilke…

RosesAs someone with a profound respect for the modernist era, it is absolutely thrilling to see Rilke’s final batch of poems flawlessly translated and accompanied by such beautiful art and design. This bilingual collection was published posthumously, and it is rare in that it was originally written in French (telling for the Austrian writer). Roses also poses as a great contrast to the dramatic and serious collection Duino Elegies. The poems in Roses are fluid, tinged with love, warmth, wonder, and extraordinary depth. Translator David Need goes above and beyond, providing phenomenal insight and commentary throughout the second half of the book—bringing us closer and closer to mapping the mind of Rainer Maria Rilke.

Rose, oh pure difference, joy
to be No-One’s sleep under so many
lids.

With that quote, I leave you with one final, haunting statement: the story goes, Rilke died from an infection due to a prick from gathering roses for one last amoureuse. Perfect, right?

Meet The Malverns #10

It’s been a while since we introduced you to a new member of the Malvern team—so say hello to the charming and cheerful Mr. F, who worked as a barista for years before we had the good sense to steal him away from the world of beans. He’s an extraordinarily talented writer and the author of one of our bestselling titles (nope, that’s not him in the bunny suit). F. recommends you stop by the bookstore and pick up a copy of Snowman Snowman: Fables and Fantasies, by one of our favorite writers, the legendary Janet Frame. Here’s what he has to say…

SnowmanThe texture of Janet Frame’s writing, often reminiscent of Joyce and the South American Clarice Lispector, can at times be a little thick, let’s face it, but the poetry in her language is always intact. This book compiles what are considered to be Frame’s ‘stories of the fantastic,’ in the faerie tale tradition of the dark and the morbid.

The first half of the book is the novella length title story, “Snowman Snowman,” in which our narrator is (did you guess?) a snowman! For a ‘serious reader’ this sounds like pish-posh cheap trickery, but what happens here is a moving portrait both about a family and mortality.

Outside a home in New Zealand, the only child of the Dincer family, Rosemary, makes a snowman the beginning of one winter. At first confused about his existence, the snowman, through the progression of the story, learns more about not only himself, but also of humans and life on earth. His guide immediately becomes the Perpetual Snowflake, which hangs on the windowsill of the Dincer house. This is no joke, and it’s actually quite serious. The Perpetual Snowflake contains the wisdom of the cosmos and the ages. Simply put, the Perpetual Snowflake is the Jiminy Cricket character of the story. Through the Perpetual Snowflake, the snowman and the reader are both in for quite an existential ride.

The latter half of the book is made up mostly of short-short stories, some of them a page long. They contain sheep on their way to the slaughter-house, bees that warn the changes of time, Dust and Daylight taking a holiday together.

Frame’s imagination and poetry here are in top form. A great read for the winter, or any season.

Meet The Malverns #9

June is International Crime Month, and what better way to kick off a celebration of literary lawlessness than with the introduction of a noir-savvy Malvernite? Please make the acquaintance of Becky Garcia, our store manager, staff sorter-outer, and sterling supervisor of all things Malvern. Becky would like to take y’all on a journey down the murky and mysterious streets of hard-boiled Dublin…

Becky

This isn’t Frommer’s Dublin. And I doubt the Irish Tourism Board would recommend trying to reconstruct a walking tour of Dublin Noir’s story locations. But if you like your fiction short with a touch of dark humor and an often brutal twist at the end, these stories are for you. It’s hard to decide who to root for when the protagonist goes bad (as they usually do); so you end up just being along for the wild ride through the darker side of Ireland. Watch it! Don’t let that blood get on your shoe…



Dublin Noir is one of an award-winning series of original noir anthologies from Akashic Books carried at Malvern Books.

Meet The Malverns #8

Today I’d like to introduce you to Malvern’s resident computer boffin and expert on all things automotive, William Earl Taylor. And Will, in turn, would very much like to introduce you to one of his favorite novels, Termite Parade by San Francisco writer Joshua Mohr (and Will’s not alone in his appreciation of Mr. Mohr’s wry tale; Termite Parade was also selected as an Editors’ Choice by the New York Times Book Review).

Will and Termite Parade

Termites are eating away at young Derek’s brain, influencing him to drop his sweet Mired down a flight of stairs. This story tells a tale of an abusive relationship gone totally wrong and right at the same time. Throw in some armed robbery and bad coffee, and this is a must read!

Meet The Malverns #7

Today we’re delighted to introduce you to another member of the Malvern Books team, Schandra, who in turn would like to introduce you to a very necessary poetry collection. (And if you’re contemplating picking up your own copy of Here, Bullet, do remember that our very generous poetry offer ends on April 30th!)

Schandra

When I saw Brian Turner read at an ACC Veterans Day Reading in November 2012, he took a moment during a heavy pause between poems to ask if anyone in the audience knew how to say ‘hello’ in Arabic. Only one hand in the large auditorium was raised. He then inquired if anyone knew the word for ‘love’. When there was no reply, Turner wondered aloud how is it we can go to war against nations we don’t even know how to say hello to.

Here, Bullet, Turner’s debut collection, details his experiences as a soldier in the Iraq War. Turner’s unfiltered language holds nothing back, scrutinizing with the sight of a sniper all the players in the theater of war, from power-drunk Officers to Iraqi child soldiers to indifferent American civilians removed from the violence by thousands of miles yet still no less a part of the act. He maintains almost a military strictness in the balance between the beauty of his words and the brutality of his subject. His attention to Islamic cultural heritage and to the too often neglected issue of Military Sexual Trauma lends Here, Bullet unique importance. This is a collection that is necessary to our understanding of the consequences of war and the part we all play in perpetuating it.

Turner’s second poetry collection Phantom Noise is also available at Malvern Books.