There is a message from the author at the beginning of Kyle Minor’s new book, “Praying Drunk” (Sarabande Books, 192 pages, $15.95): “Note to the reader: These stories are meant to be read in order. This is a book, not just a collection. Don’t skip around.” Those final three words are rendered in all capital letters and bold print.
The note surprised me because I had already read one of the stories, “Glossolalia,” in another publication, and it had held up just fine on its own. But as one proceeds through “Praying Drunk,” one discovers that these stories are, indeed, deeply interconnected, often in unexpected, powerful ways. At their heart is a shocking tragedy as well as the trauma of Minor’s own childhood and his quest for meaning in his life.
A clue to what Minor, a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and winner of the 2012 Iowa Review Prize among other honors, might be up to can be found in the first of two sections entitled “Q&A.” One assumes Minor (or his fictional persona) is providing the answers:
“Q: On the cover of this book, it says ‘Fiction.’
A: That’s what people write when they want to get away with telling the truth. When they want to convince you of a lie, they dress up some facts and call it ‘Nonfiction.’ Either way, people from the past send angry emails.
Q: Did the things in this book actually happen in the unvirtual world, what the kids call meat space?”
A: It’s like Kazuo Ishiguro (author of “Remains of the Day”) said: ‘I’m more interested in what people tell themselves happened rather than what actually happened.’
Q: Don’t hide behind Kazuo Ishiguro.”
Throughout the book, events recur and are investigated from different angles. The result is as deeply resonant as it is dark. These are stories in which hope is long for, but seldom materializes or is sustained. Stories are often unusually structured — in my favorite, “In a Distant Country,” the primary character’s story is told through a series of letters but her own voice is never heard — but they fit together beautifully. “Praying Drunk” is a book that will linger in readers’ minds.
Rob Cline is a writer and published author, marketing director for University of Iowa’s Hancher and director of literary events for New Bo Books, a division of Prairie Lights.
44: l What: Kyle Minor reads from “Praying Drunk” as part of Mission Creek Festival
FYI body with bullets_44: l Where: Prairie Lights Books, 15 S. Dubuque St., Iowa City
FYI body with bullets_44: l When: 6 p.m. April 3FYI body with bullets_44: l Cost: Free