Arrived at my parents’ house for the Christmas holiday; there’s nothing to do here except eat, which might be good for the blog. I brought an iPad full of ebooks, and two physical books, both short story collections: The Jack Daniels Sessions, by Elwin Cotman, and Ghosts of Yesterday, by Jack Cady.
I mentioned Ghosts of Yesterday before; I picked it up around Thanksgiving, and I’ve been sort of sipping at it on and off since then. I picked up The Jack Daniels Sessions a while back on a recommendation by Jesus Angel Garcia, the author of badbadbad. I started Jack Daniels Sessions yesterday. If you read like I do, multiple short story collections simultaneously, Cotman and Cady make a good pairing.
I wonder if Elwin Cotman is a fan of Jack Cady’s. The ghosts in his stories are present in a sort of matter-of-fact manner, part of the natural landscape, in a way that reminds me of Cady. I don’t want to call it magical realism, because the kind of stories that I consider magical realism (Cortázar, Borges and Alfau come immediately to mind) tend to be more, well, realistic. Mysterious, unexplained things happen in magical realist stories, but as far as I can remember, you don’t get ghosts, or anything supernatural, really.
I suppose I would call what Cotman and Cady write something more like “magical naturalism”. Most people just call it fantasy.
— Elwin Cotman, “How Brother Roy Lost his Dog Twice.”
To Cady, ghosts are a force from the past, a combination of the history of the place they haunt, and the history of the people who perceive them. Cotman’s ghost are maybe a more traditional type, but if you encounter them, it’s often because you need to.
— “Dead Teenagers”
Cady’s stories are set in the Pacific Southwest, or on the trucking routes of the South and Midwest — reflections of his life experiences. Cotman’s stories are set in the rural black South, or in the black or mixed urban communities of the Midwest and Northeast. I haven’t gotten to it yet, but flipping through Jack Daniels Sessions I spotted a retelling of the myth of Jason and the Minotaur, in a Southern folklore style. Gives me a nice little tie-in to Acid Free Pulp’s recent post on mythical allusions in fiction. I also really like “Assistant”, a longer piece that ties racial tensions in 1920’s Mississippi to a little African-American boy’s ancestral shamanic heritage.
I recommended Cady before. I definitely recommend Cotman, as well.