Thursday, December 2, 2010

Music Made New: A Review of Cover Stories: A Euphictional Anthology (2010, coverstoriesbook.com)

A couple of quick bits of business, and we’re off.

1. Euphiction is a new genre wherein authors create “literary covers” of songs. Although many writers have probably been doing this very thing for years, it is formalized by name in this anthology for the first time.
2. I edited the stories by N. Pendleton that appear in this collection. I can take no credit for the success of the stories, or the immense talent of their author. I merely cleaned up the edges… he did all the work.

This excellent collection¬—“100 stories, 10 authors, 1 new genre” (plus an intro by Mike Dawson and an Afterword by Sean P. Murray¬) hints at the future of the short story. Longer, but just as visually rich, as flash fiction, these euphicational stories seek to reproduce the compressed narrative structure of the songs on which they were based.

They read quickly and make a wide arc from ‘80s genre homage and fun-poking to deep, dark, and seedy. Most of the authors offer a microcosm of the larger variety, showing off their dexterity and range, as a good band will in a 10-cut album. Others know their strengths and stick to their time signature and key throughout their 10 tales. Either way, the variety of Voices and Perspectives across the 100 stories is impressive.

Each author is provided a space for “Liner Notes,” revealing the source material (in most cases; some authors were denied copyright for titles or other use, which is unfortunate), their relationship to it, and their reasons for undertaking the project. To their credit, all of the authors bring a humor and lightness to their Liner Notes; if this is the face of the new generation of short story writers, the field is in capable, humble hands.

Some of my favorite stories were Simon Neil’s “A Present,” about a train of Muslims heading from India to Pakistan; Derrek Carriveau’s “Papillon,” concerning a teenage wedding; Christian A. Dumais’ “You Know I’d Never Leave You” about a man who births a baby and “A Hundred Fireflies Outside,” which de- and reconstructs teen slasher/romance flicks (an important piece due to its representing the partial face of post-postmodern literature); “Killing the Past,” “Let Your Mouth Tell the Story,” and “Quarters,” all by A. C. Noia; “Infinity,” “Beauty,” “Wildness” and “Home,” all by Derek Handley; “Listen, It Won’t Rain When I Die,” by Matt Gamble; and N. Pendleton’s “Untitled Track 006—Genre Unknown” and “Untitled Track 009—Genre Unknown,” the latter of which is a reworked excerpt from a (hopefully) forthcoming novel that will set new parameters for what fiction can and should be in the twenty-first century [and just because I’m editing said novel doesn’t make this statement any less true].

As I mentioned in the opening, the creation of Art from other Art is not a new endeavor—in my writing classes I use visual art and film soundtracks as prompts, and poets often pay homage to other poets and poems in their work. I also collaborated recently with a visual artist, writing a series of poems based on her highly symbolic and abstract paintings—some of which were originally inspired by pieces of music or poems (which may also have been inspired by works other works of art), so we have a continuum here that opens up endless possibilities and exciting new realms grounded in older traditions.

At least one author in Cover Stories, Derrek Carriveau, mentions a similar situation. Jack London’s short story “Martin Eden” provides the title to a Twilight Singers song on Blackberry Belle, which in turn influenced the author to write some stories. Other writers also mention writing to music in the past, and Matt Gamble confesses to scrapping his original artist/album when the stories were finished and seeking out a better “fit” for them.

Keeping in mind this situating of the writer in a much larger continuum of Art, Cover Stories provides several things: a new genre; a fertile field of inspiration from which other artists—painters, musicians, other writers—can draw inspiration; and several hours of excellent reading.

How many books can say as much?

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