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.
From page X. of the intro to And the Fires We Talked About by James Ross Kelly
This book is dedicated to the memory of my good friend, the poet David Lloyd Whited (1950-2015), who, not finding me home left this poem on my Smith-Corona in 1993.
Even the fish stories were out today And the lies we told were truth one time Before they cut the hills and butchered out the Trout pond, all of us good looking clear-eyed boys All of us searching for the right ax And wondering if the bait that we had was the bait Which they were biting on. Times like these I’m just too busy to get to work Times like these that the friends and the neighbors Which we grew up with are telling us the Summertime, in the wintertime, in the falling rain Good stories and good kids, each of them good And the fires we talked about Are probably still burning up there on That damn hillside.
“I enjoyed And The Fires We Talked About; it contains many glimpses into worlds and ways of life that are rapidly disappearing. Written in a forthright, unﬂinching style, Mr. Kelly’s characters live and breathe and rise solidly from the pages. And The Fires We Talked About is an impressive anthology from the pen of a talented author — I do not hesitate to recommend it.” Charles Remington for Readers’ Favorite
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).
I hadn’t been home long enough to take a shower when there came a pounding on the door. I knew only too well who it was:he was the last person in the world I wanted to see. I answered the door.
“Ah, Heartache, my old friend,” I said, “come in, you son of a bitch, come on in and make yourself at home. You know your way around. There’s beer in the refrigerator. I got to grab a shower.”
He didn’t say a word, but he headed for the Hotpoint refrigerator next to the Frigidaire gas stove. I got in the shower and washed off the grime from the roofing job I’d hated for the last month. (continued)