2. Newgent says I'm the Dean Young to his Tony Hoagland. That makes me blush and smile and giggle a little bit, but please don't tell him that. Here is my favorite Dean Young poem. Here is my favorite Tony Hoagland poem.
3. Newgent is the closest friend I've ever had to have a chapbook published. There is something important in that fact.
4. These stories fit well with my poems because where I'm flailing and fearful, Newgent remains sturdy and a little scary. My poems are the trying to stay together but falling apart inevitably. Newgent's stories are about falling apart, but they are tight as shit.
5. These stories work well alongside Oliu's essays because they both come tossing images like starter sticks and the bang is the jolt sustained or not of humanity, interaction, inevitable collisions.
6. My favorite story in this collection is "Joe." I know it is pretty autobiographical. I want someone to punch me in the face because I've been that idiot. The speaker tells us of a coworker who tried to console him after his mom died by talking about how he felt when his beloved dog died. Then it ends:
I told him the day my mother died I went looking for my buddy Joe. Joe could throw a punch. his dad taught him how to throw a punch, and he taught him right. His dad taught him the way to throw a punch is to only throw a punch when there's nothing else handy, when there's nothing else left. Save your fists, his dad taught him. Better a broken stool or pool cue than a broken fist. I wanted Joe to break his fists against me.
I asked him if that's how he felt when his dog died. If he went looking for his buddy Joe.
7. Newgent reading some of the stories.
8. One time, we went to Akron together. It was nice.
9. One time, our super friend Ashley took this picture of us with the book. HOW CUTE
10. There is a lot of fire in these stories. Also, bones.
11. I kept thinking about how these stories stick with me because they combine the two elements that seem most sincere in storytelling: affecting images and unapologetic emotions. No, they are not emotional stories or asshole stories or photographs. The emotion is the base that feels hot and rough on your feet so you start hopping but you don't really move anywhere, just up and down on the hot rough ground. The images (a pregnant woman gnawing on fossils, "The pattering of snow piling on more snow, the small feet of little prayers" to end an abortion story, a nurse replacing geraniums each night to keep an elderly patient from knowing her husband is dead) are the voices at the end of the line whose whole phone call is to say WAKE UP IDIOT.
12. I published "In the Nursing Home" in Stoked. This story is about a speaker who tells the bits of nursing home life, both strange and sad: a birthday pinata made of cancer bones, the speaker's children leaving her to get the hang of shuffleboard, and the men shredding all the old files. This makes me angry, not sad, how most of the stories initially do, at how dumb life is for sucking the life of most slowly. I'm like STOP BEING A WUSS BAG and wallop me upside the head, one good death blow already!
13. The end of "In The Nursing Home" is incredible. "We wither. We wail. We wait for what comes for us." It is on my list of possible tattoos.
14. I might've lied earlier. SORRY. "Joe" has big hands that tug at the head and won't let your eyelids drop and won't let you plug those nice ears of yours. But "Yellow Geraniums" is one of those stories that you wake up and suddenly want to remember every word. Or you are trying to sleep and you realize how lonely this queen size bed is, but shut up man you're 23 and remember mostly everything. It is the story told by a nurse who replaces the yellow geraniums of a patient who has Alzheimer's and forgets her husband has died. The nurse, despite the other nurses' advice and the considerable work, replaces the flowers, tries to "move how an old man might move towards his wife lying in bed," and the story closes with the nurse letting the lady rest her head on his chest "till she can sleep again." Shit.
15. "Pregnant On The El" does this natural back and forth where the speaker talks of the woman then about the self. A smart move, yes yes, smart move I say, allowing the brevity (the story fits on a single tiny hardcore page) not to shrink the scope of the story but let the moment ride and shift and explode into the dream ending. Here is the opening and ending paragraphs:
When you got on at Pulaski, I stood and offered you my seat. I didn't even hesitate. You looked tired, slack-shouldered and cradling your belly
In a dream last night, I saw you in your driveway on hands and knees, shoveling scoop by scoop into your mouth. I wanted to go to you, offer you a glass of milk, but you had swallowed up all the earth between us. In the canyon below a museum of fossils, and you gnawing and gnawing.
16. I'm a Vouched Books-er and Christopher started Vouched Books. VB has that Single-Sentence Review thing in its pocket. I'm gonna let this one out for this chapbook: If you like short stories about people in all their bare burning flesh, vulnerable crouches, heart-wrenching and meaty points of existence, and you don't want to read these stories, WHY ARE YOU DENYING YOURSELF SUCH FULLNESS WHILE YOU STILL HAVE A CHANCE?
17. Christopher's tour bio says he probably doesn't want to fight you, but these stories say he's already started. Maybe, that's another SS Review. Who knows!
18. Death is such a strangedifficultoldhathuge thing to write about and I'm impressed that not once in all the dying, the aftermath, the turmoil of it, do I question it, yawn, hate the writer, etc. It's the constant focus on the people, the goodness existing through it all, the human of death, that is sustainingly sincere for me. It's never about death in a trenchcoat.
19. The Opening Sentences In Order:
"When he fell to the ground clutching his wallowing chest, she almost told him he wasn't funny."
"When I returned to work, a coworker attempted empathy by telling me how he felt when his dog died."
"Not until the fireman presented the charred remains of the lasagna to Michael did he remember the oven."
"I came home drunk and we lit ourselves on fire."
"When you got on at Pulaski, I stood and offered you my seat."
"He takes pen and paper from his pocket, writes, Talk to me, and slides it across the table to the woman who is not his wife."
"Habit being so strong, Mary simply began putting them away."
(Skipping "The River" since it is only one sentence, a powerful sentence, that you should read on the page.)
"Jim says I've too much of a conscious. I think he means conscience." (duh these two together)
"For my birthday, they have fashioned a pinata made of cancer-bones; the men in my family all die of cancer-bones; the forgetfulness takes care of the women."
"She's bald, but this isn't a cancer story."
"'Charles, is that you?' Her voice is creaky and tired."
20. The Last Sentences In Reverse Order
"I lay there till she can sleep again."
"That's what I say." (ooooooooooooo mystery)
"We wither. We wail. We wait for what comes for us."
"'I screamed for her, for all of us'"
(THE RIVER IS SKIPPED OVER AGAIN I DIDNT GET WET A BIT)
"She snatched the receiver from the cradle, 'Hello,' she said, but there was nothing more than that low, hollow moan on the other end."
"The pattering of snow piling on more snow, the small feet of little prayers."
"In the canyon below a museum of fossils, and you gnawing and gnawing."
"Especially winters here when I scratch at my elbows and they flake into ash."
"Michael watched as the paper made its way across the table toward him."
"I asked him if that's how he felt when his dog died. If he went looking for his buddy Joe."
"She stared, this metal slowly turning to oxygen, the coffee steaming on the tile, these things turning into air."
(I guess I already quoted a lot of these. I bet that tells you something.)
21. It isn't intentional I'm sure, but the way the title of "The Fire Scene" pops up as the first words on the second page of the three page story is perfect.
22. Roxane emailed us and said she wanted to use "The Fullness of Everything" as the title of the book as a whole as well. Brian and I were both stoked about it. Newgent seemed both humbled and shaky. I think it matches, no no holds, these three chapbooks together so well. Newgent's for obvious, hopefully by now, reasons. Oliu's essays are each about a different place in New Jersey, and each one, though lyric though short, packs "everything" tight and swirls it around in total awesomeness, not holes or fluff. I had hoped that my poems were a little more socially aware and meaningful as compared to my two other chapbooks which were way more self-centered and involved lots of internal wandering. So for me, maybe, The Fullness of Everything is more of a reminder than a title.
23. Lots of names in this story. Speak up, Christopher Newgent, how do you choose names for your stories?!
24. THE FULLNESS OF EVERYTHING IN THAT COVER
25. I don't think I've ever told him this, but I've never really been able to read "The Last Time" all the way through without pausing, quitting, sighing for ten minutes. It is a story about a man and his partner setting themselves on fire and her leaving and him trying to stay solid and this, "The cops encouraged you to stay the night with a friend. It was all they could do with no burn marks to show. I never touched you when we were on fire, a promise I hope you noticed." I'd get to that part which is like a third into the story and I'd wilt in shame, in guilt, in sadness, reminded of my idiocy and my ex-wife and the goodness she had. I haven't talked to her in a couple months and I hear she is doing really well and I just read the story all the way through and I'm feeling alright. That is what a real story does, man.
26. Did you watch that video of Newgent reading some of these stories? Seriously. That was at a reading with Matt Hart and we had an interesting discussion about readings afterwards and the reading being a totally unique experience in comparison to reading that story on the page and that is exactly what Newgent does: that pacing of the voice, the way he holds his body up, the banter. I can't do that here.
27. Everytime I hear this song, I think of these stories. I'm not sure why, but okay.
28. Newgent's birthday is March 31st and he will be 29. I'm gonna leave that number for one of the raddest dudes I know.
29. Christopher Newgent everyone.