Although I repeatedly forget names and faces, I remember in crazed detail the interiors of houses I entered before losing my baby teeth. The slant of light, natural or artificial. The furniture. The furniture arrangements. Whether or not one couch cushion (more compressed than the others) showed evidence of a favored seat. Lamp globes and ashtrays, chipped or whole. Framed or unframed wall prints. Scatter rugs perfectly or imperfectly aligned with doorsills. Floorboard patinas. Even now, I’m a more reliable reporter of, say, the direction a chair faced in a room than the conversation that took place in and around that chair.
Given all that, I probably shouldn’t be surprised that what I remember most about my novels after they’re done are my characters’ homes or temporary lodgings—what’s in them as well as what’s not. Kitty Duncan’s breadcrumb-y bedroom in The Invented Life of Kitty Duncan, for instance. Thomas Senestre’s light-starved apartment in Senestre on Vacation, for another.
But there’s been a bit of an expansion in my “dwellings fixation” with regard to my most recent novel, In This Season of Rage and Melancholy Such Irrevocable Acts as These. This go-around I seem to have fixated on three:
1) The dilapidated “Cracker” house of Mickey Waterman’s childhood that he visits daily for incentive.
2) The Scaff farmhouse that George Scaff loves and his wife, Leeta, loathes.
3) The trailer in the middle of a cornfield that Beth Anderson initially associates with the joys of motherhood but that becomes, after her miscarriage, a reminder of failure and the setting for visits from an accusatory, tuxedo-wearing god.
In proofing the novel for publication, I returned to the manuscript some months after my last revision. Theoretically (at least), the break might have changed my perspective, diminished the importance of those two houses and house trailer. Didn’t happen. Instead those dwellings took on even more importance, so dominating the text they almost, almost assumed the status of characters.
Or so it seemed to me.
My interpretation only?
Would any other reader feel the same?
I do know that I was never unaware of those three residences and the interlock of their compass points during the writing. Even when Mickey and George and Leeta and Beth were physically elsewhere—playing softball in another county, drag racing, earning a living at their various job sites—the contents and spatial set-ups of their lairs felt omnipresent to me, narratively insistent. I also dreamed incessantly about those spaces—my nighttime working out, I suppose, of what should/shouldn’t happen in or around those homes to satisfy plot. The book is finished, out in the world, published in August by Oklahoma’s Mongrel Empire Press. And yet I still dream about Mickey’s “Cracker” house, the Scaff farmhouse and Beth’s cornfield trailer.
Kat Meads’ new novel, In This Season of Rage and Melancholy Such Irrevocable Acts as These is now available from Mongrel Empire Press.
Built on the premise that the ugly can break one’s heart more profoundly than the pretty, In This Season of Rage and Melancholy Such Irrevocable Acts as These portrays the changing South of the 1970s in a narrative that encompasses deceit, revenge, Pentecostal religion, coastal development and the disappearance of family farms.
Kat Meads is the author of 16 books and chapbooks of prose and poetry, including: 2:12 a.m. – Essays; Not Waving; For You, Madam Lenin; Little Pockets of Alarm; The Invented Life of Kitty Duncan; Sleep; and a mystery novel written under the pseudonym Z.K. Burrus. She has received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a California Artist Fellowship, two Silicon Valley artist grants and artist residencies at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Yaddo, Millay Colony, Dorland, and the Montalvo Center for the Arts. Her short plays have been produced in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and elsewhere. She is a three-time ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year finalist, and four of her essays have been selected as Notables in Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Best American Essays series. Her novel For You, Madam Lenin received an IPPY (Independent Publisher Award) Silver Medal and was shortlisted for the Montaigne Medal for thought-provoking literature. Her essay collection 2:12 a.m. received an IPPY Gold Medal. A native of North Carolina, she currently lives in California and teaches in Oklahoma City University’s low-residency MFA program.
In 2008, in Issue 2, Superstition Review published Kat Meads’ essay “Relativism: The Size of the Tsar in Vegas.” We were honored for her contribution, and we are now very happy to share the news of her recently released novel.
When anyone asks if Southern Literature has a future in our internet, iPhone, jet-lagged, speed-of-light world, I point them to Kat Meads. Her fiction is Southern through and through even as it embraces the dilemmas and contradictions of 21st century life. Simply put, you must read Kat Meads.
—Jason Sanford, Founding Editor, storySouth
Kat Meads’ writing is keen and precise; her stories, populous and lively. In when the dust finally settles, she employs a staccato, rhythmic prose in the service of a narrative both beautifully imagined and wildly exotic. when the dust finally settles will keep you up nights reading its propulsive story, but will also reward the reader who loves finely crafted sentences and pitch-perfect dialogue.
—Corey Mesler, author of Following Richard Brautigan
In The Invented Life of Kitty Duncan, Kat Meads created a 1950’s-era Scarlett O’Hara in eastern North Carolina. Now, in when the dust finally settles, she speaks through Faulknerian voices as white and black members of her small eastern North Carolina community desegregate the schools in the 1960’s. Meads’ Clarence Carter, speaking from the dead, provides a surprisingly upbeat (and humorous) perspective on the events unfolding in the community he has not yet quite left. The other voices, young and old, share Clarence’s openness to change—a refreshingly different Southern story.
—Dr. Margaret D. Bauer, Rives Chair of Southern Literature, East Carolina University;
Editor, North Carolina Literary Review
The Reading Period at Superstition Review has opened. Please send us your submissions of art, poetry, fiction, and nonfiction between now and October 31st.