Huge thanks to Barry Simms who not only drove out to see Roy Kesey read when he was at Malaprop's in Asheville, NC, but he also remembered (something I know I didn't do at the three readings I attended) a camera! Below you'll find a photo of Roy at his signing table, and another of Roy and Barry together.
You can also hear the interview Roy did with Ed Champion for the Bat Segundo Podcast - it's a great 39 plus minutes of Ed asking great questions and Roy giving really thoughtful answers.
L.A. Times Books Editor, David L. Ulin, looks favorably upon Roy Kesey's All Over in the Sunday Books Review page! Read it all here, and in the meantime, the beginning from Mr. Ulin:
"Roy Kesey writes with the soul of a ventriloquist. In the 19 stories that make up his second book, "All Over" (Dzanc Books: 146 pp., $13.95 paper), I hear echoes of J.G. Ballard, César Aira, Jim Crace, George Saunders -- perhaps not intentional echoes but echoes anyway.
I'm not suggesting that Kesey doesn't have his own voice, just that he's operating out of a tradition: Let's call it "post-postmodernism," writing that is ironic and apocalyptic and aware of itself as a construction all at once. This is not naturalism, in other words, but something more elusive, fiction in which language carries the force of metaphor.
That's an ambitious mandate for a slender volume of short stories, but for the most part, Kesey pulls it off."
We've seen three full reviews to date and they're all great. We've already posted a bit about Matt Bell's great review at his blog. Since then, David Abrams reviewed the collection at January Magazine (and re-posted at places like Library Thing and ePinions), and the new The Believer has Justin Taylor's review of the collection which you can read in full at their website.
Some bits and pieces:
"Roy Kesey is a fiction powerhouse, a writer whose talents cross great divides of subject matter, style, and tone. All Over puts aside Kesey's most traditional stories in favor of his more experimental ones, a choice which further accentuates how far Kesey is advancing the art of fiction when he's at his very best. "
"All Over is exactly what a short story debut should be: daring, powerful, funny, packed with stories that showcase a wide range of the writer's talent.. Roy Kesey's stories are full of strange events and characters that have the potential to both frighten and amaze, and his prose is so tight that it grips the reader firmly in its promise of not a single wasted word, not a single extraneous moment. Once landed in Kesey's world, it is easy to lose yourself in these stories, to forget how unusual it is for a writer to be able to write well using this many styles, to believe that short fiction is always this good."
"They couldn't have picked a better winner than All Over for their first horse out of the starting gate. In these 19 stories, Kesey takes the reader on a tour of post-modern fiction that is at once bizarre and completely familiar."
"Many of the stories in All Over are, in fact, no bigger than a teaspoon. Kesey knows how to get in and out of a story quickly, leaving us standing by the side of the road, gasping, and wondering just what the hell just barreled past us."
"Line by line, this book ranks among the best post-postmodern fiction that I’ve read in years."
Roy arrived in Detroit on Monday the 22nd and I picked him up and took him to the house of an old friend of his. The next morning I picked him up and drove him to the campus of the University of Michigan where he participated in a roundtable with about a dozen students in the MFA program there, along with Program Director, Eileen Pollack. It was a very interesting hour or so - great questions from Eileen and the students and it became even more apparent to me, sitting in the background and listening, just how much time and effort Roy has put into his own writing over the years.
Later in the afternoon, I introduced Roy to my Dzanc partner, Steve Gillis, and his family, and then Steve, Roy and I headed back towards campus. We met with future Dzanc author, Michael Czyzniejewski (who drove up from Bowling Green, OH), for dinner and great conversation. As the clock moved towards 7 p.m., we wandered across the street to Shaman Drum Bookstore where All Over would be officially launched. We wandered into a fantastic crowd of about 50 people or so. I apologize in advance to any names I miss but I remember seeing/talking to Eileen Pollack, Keith Taylor, Ray McDaniel, Matt Bell and his wife, Jessica, Dwayne Hayes, Jessica Bomarito, Aaron Burch, Pasha Malla, Keith Hood, Potter, Sarah Sala, Elizabeth Dougherty, Natasha Stagg and her friend, Don, Randy Devita (meaning along with Roy and Eileen, Shaman Drum had three authors from Best American Short Stories 2007 within five feet of each other) and Tamara Christie-Glynn, plus many faces I didn't recognize. Not to mention the fantastic Kyle Minor and his wife and two children, including budding young writer Ian, who I had the pleasure of buying a short book from. All they did was drive up from Ohio to support Roy and Dzanc.
Ray gave his usual fantastic introduction, and Roy read both "Interview" and "Hat" and to our excitement, is a truly great reader. Even though Shaman Drum was one of the heaviest purchasers of Roy's titles, they sold out of All Over that night! Many of the aforementioned then headed over to a party thrown by Elizabeth Ellen and Aaron Burch at their home, and a few who couldn't make the reading showed up there - Stefan and Sanaz Kiesbye, and Barry Graham and his wife as well. It was a great night.
Fairly early the next morning (though not as early as the rest of the mornings for Roy on this tour), Roy and I met back up at the Detroit airport and hopped on a plane headed for New York (well, actually Washington D.C. for a connector, but NYC was the ultimate destination). As Roy is only in country for two and a half weeks, he's barely been alotted 24 hours per location on this trip, so it was really convenient that everything we had to do in New York was within five short blocks of each other.
We took a cab to our hotel, The Windsor Hotel, and cleaned up and organized a little bit. We then walked over to McNally Robinson where the lovely Jessica Stockton Bagnulo is the Events Coordinator and she introduced us to Stuart, one of the booksellers there and had Roy sign the two copies of All Over they had in stock. What a fantastic looking store - a front table with many independent press titles on it such as a stack of signed Garth Risk Hallberg novellas, and titles from Milkweed and Coffee House Press and McSweeney's. It was great to see. They also had a wonderful selection of literary journals, which is where we bumped into/introduced ourselves to store owner Sarah McNally.
From there Roy and I walked to 88 Orchard, a great little cafe/diner where we had a quick bite to eat (great sandwiches by the way) before Ed Champion showed up. We headed downstairs where Ed set up his elaborate taping machinery and did his usual fantastic job of interviewing. It was interesting seeing some of the same questions pop up as they had during the roundtable, and watching Roy thinking while replying, yet giving nearly verbatim responses as he had done the day before. It was obvious they weren't simply canned answers by how he was thinking and pausing while replying. Ed also found many questions to ask that weren't anywhere near the minds of those at the roundtable, as he always does, and it was a fun conversation to watch, and even be pulled into a little bit at the end.
We headed back to the hotel for another bit of re-organizing and then walked around the corner (maybe 30 feet) to the Happy Ending Reading Series bar. This series, run by Amanda Stern, has to be one of the best run, most interesting, and entertaining literary reading series in the country. It was packed, but why wouldn't it be? The writers there besides Roy, who some were definitely there to see, were Benjamin Percy (currently featured in Poets & Writers) and bestseller, Min Jin Lee. Any one of this trio would have been worthy of a great crowd, but all three? As per the rules, each author must perform a public risk, something they've not done before - Ben bench pressed Amanda, Roy sang "America the Beautiful" while having the lower half of his right leg waxed, and Min told a dirty joke while balancing a spoon from her nose (much better descriptions of these, with photos, can be found at Susan Henderson's LitPark).
Afterwards, a group of us went out looking for food, only needing to go to three restaurants to find one with the kitchen still open!
The next day started out bright and early as Roy and I cabbed to JFK around 6:30 a.m. or so to catch a flight to Chicago (well, Detroit actually, but final destination, Detroit). We arrived in Chicago and cabbed to Gail Siegel's place of employment to drop our bags off (just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how nice Gail was this particular day). We then took Gail out to lunch to the Rosebud Steakhouse for a lunch of ridiculously good cheeseburgers and returned to her office where she even outdid the earlier effort of allowing us luggage storage - she found computers for Roy and I to use and catch up on things (only 286 emails in the ol' inbox).
We then headed to the Fixx Coffee Bar for the reading, hosted wonderfully by Amy Guth (who, like Amanda Stern, you can just tell is an awesome reader of her own work). Besides Roy, Elizabeth Crane read a great story about a woman who turned into a zombie after being bitten by one (while shopping at JoAnne Fabrics no less!), including wonderful zombie speak, and Jonathan Messinger, who read the story "Bicycle Kick" from his collection, Hiding Out. This was attended by other literati like the aforementioned Gail Siegel, Hobart's Aaron Burch and Pasha Malla, who drove in together from the Ann Arbor reading Tuesday, along with Pasha friend Nicole, and Doug Wilson. Again, those who I had the opportunity and pleasure to speak to and have forgotten to include you, just chastise away in the comments section.
Then, I bailed on Roy. Since then he's read at Burke's Books in Memphis with Corey Mesler and signed books at Malaprop's in Asheville, and dined with CAAF of Tingle Alley, along with Mr. Tingle and the great Dzanc publicist, Lauren Snyder, and her fiance Seth. He's done a signing and reading at Turnrow Books in Greenwood, MS, and then read at Octavia Books with Pia Z. Ehrhardt in New Orleans. He's currently at the NOW: Non-Fiction Conference at the University of Iowa and goes to UIUC after that before heading out to California for a visit with his folks and a couple more readings before heading back to Beijing.
The following is from our Press Release, issued today. June looks to be a busy month for Dzanc - expect at least three more announcements about titles that will be coming before the end of 2009!
"June 11, 2007
Dzanc Books is extremely proud to announce we will be publishing more works by Roy Kesey. Following up on the publishing of Roy’s extraordinary debut short story collection, All Over (Dzanc Books, October 2007), Dzanc has signed Roy to a 2-book deal, as well as a contract to re-issue Roy’s novella, Nothing in the World.
In the spring of 2009, Dzanc will publish Roy’s debut novel, tentatively titled Pacazo, and follow up the following spring with his second short story collection, Bloodwood.
Dzanc Books is excited to be signing Roy long-term, and following in an exciting lineage of the publishing industry – that of the ongoing editor/author relationship. We love the idea that four years after opening our doors, one will be able to find four titles by a single author published with Dzanc Books on the spines.
To do so with Roy Kesey is simply frosting on that cake. George Saunders referred to Kesey’s writing as “beautiful and powerful … mythic, vivid, heart-rending.” Lee K. Abbott said “For those keen to know the next generation of the American short story, consider All Over…” With short stories in over 50 different journals, including the likes of Other Voices, Alaska Quarterly Review and The Georgia Review, not to mention his story “Wait,” originally published in The Kenyon Review, and soon to be included in Best American Short Stories 2007, Roy has established himself firmly in the minds of the reading public.
Currently living in Beijing, Roy writes two regular columns – “Dispatches From Roy Kesey, an American Guy Married to a Peruvian Diplomat Living in China,” for the McSweeney’s website, and “Little-Known Corners,” which appears monthly in That’s Beijing.
Dzanc Books is delighted to be able to continue to expose Roy’s writing to a continuously growing audience with these new titles."