Monday, November 26, 2012

Waiting for life in Tucson, Arizona. Part 2

The State of Kansas by Julianna Spallholz, a review

The slim volume came to me by mail. All the way from Vermont too. The State of Kansas ISBN: 978-0-9823594-4-0 available through GenPop Books ( for $16. It's well worth the money, the book is beautifully laid out, the pages and the font are pleasing and comfortable to read. I know to some, a beautifully bound book or a first edition is of paramount importance. GenPop Books have taken extra care in the treatment of their books and have manufactured a handsome volume.

I suspect that short (and very short) fictions of The State of Kansas would be every bit as effective if printed on the inside of gum wrappers or scribbled with dark lipstick on kitchen cabinets. Julianna Spallholz has treated presumably ubiquitous things with such subtle force you must wonder if the bricks that surround us, or the pinstripes a man wears, or say, an ironic mustache might really be involved with the greater depths of daily life. Within the pages of The State of Kansas Spallholz weaves 43 tales, some like “Room” which are just a few sentences long. She has a mastery of story too despite the brevity. As an example “Adult Matters”:

I know that I started it by stomping on your foot but you should not have chased after me with that bright red chair. It was frightening for all the little children who do not understand such adult matters.

This is, as the description of the book implies (very short fictions). We see character, conflict, and a certain level of plot, although much of the beginning and end are implied. As far as description goes, the word generous does not really apply, but consider this: bright and red describing chair and little with children and such for adult matters.

Leaving the very short fictions aside a few larger works round out the book. The title story, “The State of Kansas” can be a nearly textbook definition on how dialogue works in fiction. The entire story is the conversation between a mother and daughter about their ability to name and the placement of states. Longer works like “Billy Glock,” “Thanksgiving” and “A Brief Introduction to Downtown Tucson, Arizona” certainly do showcase Spallholz's prowess as a crafter of fiction. She conjures the mood of Geleano, the compactness of Colette and channels a bit of Cortazar.

The State of Kansas is a must read; it's like sipping cheap beer with an audience of iridescent green bugs. 

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