Kelly’s stories are tough, real, honest, and always true. Unadorned by gimmick or artifice, the pieces in this collection—all framed between the imagined voices of that most primal couple, Adam and Eve—carry us deep into the heart of a wild American world that in many ways (and most definitely for a lot of younger people) sadly no longer exists. The human settings of these stories—bars, strip clubs, dingy apartments, goldmines, ranches, logging crews, homesteads, highways—are rich with details and textures that linger long after the closing sentences. Beyond those, however, there’s always a sense of something even larger and older surrounding the often small, sometimes strange, yet always compelling events his narrators are recounting. Sometimes this larger thing is the natural world—the oceans and forests, the plants and animals—always placing the events into their proper context. At other times, it’s the human interactions themselves that somehow seem to take on this greater, at times even mythic, weight and power. Reading these pieces, we recognize how the hungers and desires, the fears and hopes, the regrets and epiphanies of his people have all somehow entered our cultural DNA, and how—like them–it’s up to each of us to come to terms with all the beauty and terror that comes with being alive.
After 30+ years of teaching in colleges, universities, military bases, and prisons from Alaska to Louisiana, Dave Sims retired to the mountains of central Pennsylvania where he now dwells and creates. His most recent comix appear in The Nashville Review, Talking Writing, and Freeze Ray, and panels from his digital painting sequence “Somewhere Around the Edges,” appear on the cover and in the Winter 2019 issue of The Raw Art Review.
What Oregon authors say about this book:
“This book is good company. And I appreciate the opportunity to associate with intriguing folks out there where I rarely venture.”
Lawson Fusao Inada, emeritus professor of English at Southern Oregon University, Oregon Poet Laureate, and author of Before the War: Poems as They Happened, and Legends from Camp, which won an American Book Award in 1994.
“The remarkable thing about this collection—how often it touched my heart. These stories have a soul.”
Robert Leo Heilman, author Children of Death, and Overstory Zero: Real Life in Timber Country (Winner of the Andres Berger Award for Pacific Northwest Nonfiction 1996).
Erasmus or one of those guys once said something like: When I have money, I buy books; if there’s any money left over, I buy food. Well, here’s biblio proof, in the shape of James Ross Kelly’s latest and loveliest collection of short stories AND THE FIRES WE TALKED ABOUT (title taken from a beautiful David Whited poem, the relevant passage from which is quoted on X. of the intro pages), that when I have money I buy books; if there’s any money left over, I buy a new sweater. This is some hot reading, kids. Buy a copy: it’ll keep you warm on those dreary chilly fall evenings when there are no ongoing debates to heat you up.
Willie Smith Poet, Novelist–Pacific Northwest raconteur
In March, 1964 the Anchorage Earthquake sent a Tsunami down the Pacific Coast from Alaska to hit Crescent City, California causing major damage and 10 fatalities. Several of the fatalities happened to men sitting in a bar who thought it would be a good idea to get some six packs to go– and watch the Tidal Wave come in down at the Crescent City pier.
A DOZEN OR MORE three-hundred-year-old black oaks spread over the top of the south side hill of our farm with a two-acre pasture on top and our house sat on the edge and overlooked a small twenty-acre valley bottom with Reese Creek and across it at the far side and then there was a similar hill of Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir to complete the farms north edge as a cross section of a small valley running from our house south to north.
HE HANDED IT TO ME THEN, I DUNNO, how I did it—knew I shouldn’t, but I just sliced me a slice of fruit with the ol’ barlow knife while I was looking at a coiled up snake, who’d been talking to my woman.
Yes, damnit, I know I should have been suspect of a talking snake. Howsoever, first thing I know, I was making moonshine, skip and go naked foolin’ round til waay after midnight, every-night, everything seemed clear for a while, but trouble was I ended up havin’ to get-a-job, plus plow the farm and then the woman left, and I had to take care of the kids too, and keepin’ the house from fall’n apart.. No more huntn’ and fishin’ just makin’ mortgage payments for a farm I had been given free and clear long ago. Before the bank was even a notion, and it seems like there was a time when there was just plants and animals and clear blue sky, white clouds and the low and high blue flint hills and the woman had really just been a part of me that couldn’t no more leave than I could say anything bad about anything and having kids didn’t involve them growing up and killing each other. Back then I don’t ever remember screaming in the middle of the night either.
If you walked through the front door
with the thumb latch key &
Took a right you’d walk into the living room
& continue on &
With a left turn before the bedroom
There were worn wooden stairs
& upstairs were rooms of equal size
Sparely furnished &
On a hanger in the east room
My father’s uniform hung festooned as
Staff Sergeant, Eisenhower jacket
& campaign ribbons on the front
A hall a door closed on the attic
That ran half the length of the upstairs,
& if you opened the attic
Door a window from the south kept it pretty hot
I would play in the attic when it was cool
I remember finding Indian head pennies under loose
Floorboards, other than books
I can’t remember any of the contents of The attic, boxes, I suppose, it was not empty…