Pushcart 2015: Bennett Sims, “Fables” from Conjunctions, #61

Art by James Jean

Art by James Jean

The boy begs his mother to buy him a balloon. As they leave the grocery store and cross the parking lot, he holds the balloon by a string in his hand. It is round and red, and it bobs a few feet bove him. Suddenly his mother looks down and orders him not to release the balloon. Her voice is stern. She says that if he loses it, she will not buy him another. The boy tightens his grip on the string. He had no intention of releasing the balloon. But the mother’s prohibition disquiets him, for it seems to be addressed at a specific desire. Her voice implies that she has seen inside him: that deep down – in a place hidden from himself, yet visible to her – he really does want to release the balloon.

I’m not always sure what Bennett Sims is doing, but I always enjoy trying to figure it out. I’ve encountered him twice before, once in a Tin House short story and once in his fascinating philosophical zombie novel A Questionable Shape.

Here, he’s presented a group of five short fables (an audio recording of him reading four of them is available online, thank you, Conjunctions) describing a boy’s discovery of various aspects of the human psyche through contacts with animals and inanimate objects. And inanimate animals.

I’m fond of checking the precise definitions of words whose meanings seem obvious, and my superficial trip into the internet in search of the meaning of “fable” shows why. For example, Rev. Gregory Carlson (no relation), Professor of Literature at Creighton University, distinguishes between parable and fable beyond the talking-animal feature of the latter: “Parables invite reconsideration of our values. Fables usually stop short of challenging our values. They lure us rather into playing our way into understanding; they invite us to expect that snakes will be snakes and foxes foxes; they urge us to be ourselves, to be savvy and perceptive.” I’m not sure it’s possible to see yourself in a mirror without smoothing your hair or adjusting your tie, but what if you don’t realize it is yourself you see, and think instead the fable applies to all those other people?

One distinction between classic fable and these stories is that the animals and inanimate objects that illustrate the morals of the stories are not the explainers of those morals. In all five of Sims’ stories, a generic character, “the boy,” is both the experiencer of the events, and the interpreter. The animals and things that he encounters do not interact with him; there is no anthropomorphization, and they are not subjects. The boy is the subject, and only through his assignment of motives, patterns, and overall truths to the objects in each story does a moral emerge. In that, perhaps it’s more of a psychological study of a boy, who is, of course, created by a writer, serving as a sample of humankind.

Sims has already performed a self-analysis on these stories, particularly the first one, in an interview with Amy Scharmann of Subtropics, so I feel a little silly writing about what I saw in the pieces. However, I still think meaning is a cooperative act between writer and reader, so I’ll offer a few thoughts, held before I found out what the fables really meant.

I felt a strong connection between the balloon story and Eden, the fall, hamartiology, and theodicy, with the mother as God and the balloon as the tree of knowledge of good and evil. It’s not an exact fit, but close enough. Does sin – or evil, if you prefer – exist in a vacuum, or does something need to precipitate it? Does the existence of good itself force evil into existence as a negation of good? Or are we born just aching to sin, to let go of the balloon, just for the power of it? And of course there’s the whole “why did God put the Tree in Eden anyway, only to forbid it?” Having just read through Dante, I’m familiar with the approach used to explain this, but the question remains: was Creation a rigged game from the start?

Sims’ second story spoke to me of power and the desire to control, to manipulate. The boy wants the crow to caw, not because the caw is a beautiful thing to hear, but simply because he wants that damn crow to do his bidding:

The crow is unfazed. It retracts its head on its neck slightly but it doesn’t caw, and it is careful neither to open nor close its beak. It really is as if there is something in its mouth, something that it is determined not to drop. But its mouth is empty, and so the boy imagines that it is this very emptiness that it is bringing back to its nest, that it is building a nest of absences, gaps. The way it jealously hoards this absence between its mandibles, like a marble. Its beak must be broken, the boy decides, broken open. Or else, no: The bird is simply stubborn. It could caw if it wanted to. It is resisting only to spite him.

For a while, I wondered if the boy was a psychopath, but no: don’t we all have it in us to be jealous of nothing, simply because someone else has it? Poverty is the ultimate equal opportunity gig, and there are many who seem to be jealous of how easy life is for the poor. Can we covet another’s lack? Or is it simply an excuse for exerting power over the powerless, because it feels good?

A dead chipmunk leads to a take on Appointment in Samarra, the connection made crystal clear by the last line. Yet there’s something else going on here, a matter of perception, of projection. A dog enclosed by an invisible fence likewise poses a threat that must be countered. I’ve often marvelled at the invisible fences we all obey: domesticated animals that don’t tear us to pieces but instead purr on our laps and walk beside us on leashes, for example. But human behavior as well. Civilization itself might be defined as the near-universal obedience to invisible fences; having just re-read Freud’s Civilization and its Discontents for a mooc, I recognize the cost of this obedience, but also of the absolute necessity for it, as preferable to Hobbes’ “nasty, brutish, short” natural life. And yet, we sometimes flirt with our invisible fences. I fear that’s happening right now in politics, and I have a rather pessimistic view of the outcome – much as the melting ice cube is purported to have in the final story. Doom is the inevitable end of life, but do we have to chase it so gleefully?

I think there’s a larger theme at work here, something covering all five stories: a kind of projection of will, of malicious intent, onto others, be they the mother who forces the situation with the balloon, the stubborn crow, the frightened chipmunk and the obedient dog who are only seconds away from violence, or the melting ice cube rushing to meet its death. The preemptive strike is necessary. Kill or be killed. The law of tooth and claw. Not out of necessity – there is no reason for the greed, we have enough for all – but out of some primitive instinct poking its way through our neocortex. And all the malevolence takes place between the ears of a child.

That is the paradox the ice has been presented with: this light at its core, the light that is killing it, is what enables it to escape. It has to glide along a film of its own dying. The faster that it moves, the more of itself that it melts, and so it is alive with its own limit, animated by this horizon inscribed in its being. There is a lesson to be learned in this, the boy thinks.

Maybe we’ll learn that lesson just in time. If not: melting ice is the perfect fade.

Bennett Sims: A Questionable Shape (Two Dollar Radio, 2013)

Image by WORD Bookstore, Brooklyn/Two Dollar Radio

Image by WORD Bookstore, Brooklyn/Two Dollar Radio

What we know about the undead so far is this: they return to the familiar. They’ll wander to nostalgically charged sites from their former lives, and you can somewhat reliably find an undead in the same places you might have found it beforehand. Its house, its office, the bikeways circling the lake, the bar. ‘Haunts.’ …*Could it be that each time a place leaves a powerful impression on us, it deposits into our unconscious these mineral flecks of nostalgic energy?

How the hell am I supposed to intelligently write about a zombie novel that references Wittgenstein, Kobayashi Issa, Thomas Hardy, Hans Holbein the Younger, and Alfred Hitchcock (not to mention Hamlet via the title)? A book that’s dedicated to David Foster Wallace and borrows from Nicholas Baker? That sees analogues to the undead in, among other things, chess, art, footnotes, and the green power light on a speaker? That wrings more out of the flashing “Walk/Don’t Walk” street signs than some books get out of a multigenerational war saga? A zombie novel where subjects like memory, perception, reality, being, and knowing are far more prevalent than actual zombies?

Screw “intelligently;” I’ll have to settle for “enthusiastically.” An analogue to the undead, perhaps? It’s infected my brain, and now I want to infect yours?

Since the outbreak, I have often reflected that the footnote is the typographic mark most emblematic of undeath. By opening up a sub adjacent space on the page, the footnote digs a grave in the text, an underworld in the text. The words that are banished there are like thoughts that the text has repressed, pushed down into its unconscious. But they go on disturbing it from beneath, such that if the text were ever infected, they are the words that would guide it. Footnotes are a text’s phantom feet. [Page 16, in a footnote, for god’s sake]

I didn’t expect to read this book. I loved Sims’ “House-Sitting” from the Summer 2012 issue of Tin House – “seriously fine, seriously literary, psychological horror,” I called it – and I knew back then he had a book coming out, but it isn’t the kind of book that’s likely to wind up in the Maine library system (though it should, but small presses get short shrift when funds are scarce), and given the cutbacks to my own book budget, I wasn’t willing to take the risk for a zombie novel, no matter how great the first story or how promising the reviews.

Then two things happened. First, I read the Manuel Gonzales collection The Tiny Wife, and discovered the immense possibilities of zombie stories – and werewolf stories, and unicorn stories – in the hands of a certain kind of writer. Then, in a stroke of luck, I noticed a tweet about Roxane Gay giving away books (thank you, Roxane) early enough to get in on it. This was one of the books offered, and I jumped. I wasn’t disappointed.

I seem to be using phrases like “the plot is simple” over and over again lately. Maybe that’s something to tuck away in a back pocket: a complex book doesn’t need a complex plot. And this is a complex book, it’s just that it’s ideas-complex, not story-complex. Each day makes up a section, comprised of unnumbered chapters. It’s all very linear, with the exception of a couple of seriously high-voltage flashbacks. And: there are very few zombies. In fact, technically there are none: Michael makes a distinction between the undead he is dealing with (officially known as “the infected” in a stroke of civic political correctness) and zombies, “those hypothetical thought-experimental monsters from the mind-body philosophy.”

Michael Vermaelen, the first-person protagonist, and his friend Matt Mazoch spend a week looking for Matt’s father, who went missing a few weeks ago; he’s presumed caught in the months-old undead epidemic. While there was panic and chaos at first, life has settled into a remarkably calm “new normal” now that the epidemic has been bureaucratized. There’s nothing like a government agency to make even zombies seem routine.

The undead return to places with some emotional content, leading to interesting speculation about the nature of memory and the possibilities that occur when we try to figure each other out. Consider your closest loved one: spouse, parent, child, friend, sibling. Now consider: what place is most emotionally significant to him or her? How would you feel if you discovered, upon her death, that it was a place, a memory, that did not include you?

Michael was a philosophy major, his girlfriend Rachel studied art history, and Matt’s from the literature department, so between those three threads, plus a smattering of anthropology and science, we get a full workout as Michael takes a tour of the human soul. And if you really want zombies, insist on zombies in your zombie novel, Michael’s recollection of his first view of an undead is astonishing. It features the winds and leaves and shadows more than rotting flesh, though:

Above me a breeze passed through the oak trees’ leaves, and I watched as a current of rustle traveled up the block, live oak by live oak, in a line of thrashing branches. Eventually they reached the infected’s far white figure, overtaking him. As the branches between us swayed, their shadows swished atop the intervening concrete, and I could see that all of the street leading up to the infected was shaded: the pavement roiled with movement – with black turmoil – as if being buckled by an earthquake of shadows. Down at my feet some of its tremors swished over my shoes. And raising my eyes from my feet, moving my eyes slowly along the length of the street, one patch of thrashing shadow as a time, I could almost believe that I was following just a single tremor in motion, one black seism traveling up the block. This shockwave, beginning at my shoes, seemed to ripple outward, breaking over itself in crests and troughs until it broke over the feet of the infected. Is quite shape stayed in place, being lapped at by the blackness. I lifted my arm at him, as if in a wave, and actually waved both arms. He didn’t respond, and I let my arms drop to my sides. The tree shadows continued cascading toward him, in flurries of movement that threw his motionlessness into relief.

I’m a big fan of interiority; it’s a good thing, because Michael lives in his head, constantly questioning. Matt, in contrast, lives in his body and in action; he knows exactly what the undead think and feel (nothing) and wants to exterminate them, and Rachel, heart-focused, reacts to them compassionately as victims of an illness. It’s vaguely Freudian, with Matt as the id, Rachel the superego, and Michael as the ego trying to keep everyone happy, while figuring out the nature of undeath.

Or rather, a range of metaphors. I started writing “AGAIN!” in the margins as I encountered instance after instance of his discovery that “oh, yes, undeath is really like correlative conjunctions,” followed a few pages later by “it’s also like Vertigo” only to continue into “and it’s like the letters spelling out ‘Baton Rouge’ on the levee, too”:

Every time that a storm’s white spume gushes from the letters’ downspouts, it looks as if the words are hemorrhaging meaning… For isn’t this the effect that the infection has on language? Whenever the undead bite people, their victim’s speech is soon reduced to moaning….it’s even almost tempting to think of the epidemic, of the undead in general, as having been sent to serve just that purpose, like some tidal wave of aphasia returning speechlessness to the earth: first to puncture words, installing sluiceways in the language, then to wash through them with the white spume of that moaning, rinsing the alluvia from their letters.

There’s some seriously fine, seriously literary satiric humor as well, particularly via an infection-control pamphlet issued by the Louisiana CDC titled “FIGHT THE BITE” that includes advice on what to do if confronted (“A Knock to the Head Will Stop ‘Em Dead”). Michael ponders the very illustrations thereof, the emotional blankness: “Like the passengers in aircraft manuals, who seem to suffer plane crashes apathetically, reaching for oxygen masks as calmly as for a ceiling light’s dangle-chain, the characters in FIGHT THE BITE are curiously underwhelmed by the epidemic….. portraying a world in which the imperiled meet death like stolid pod people.” The drawings of the undead are distinguished by the absence of pupils. This kind of detail doesn’t grow on trees; it takes serious work to come up with this stuff. I wonder if Sims has a mock-up of the pamphlet sitting around somewhere.

Then there are the defamiliarization exercises: Husbands practice not recognizing wives, mothers their children, “the better to damp down recognition when they see each other undead.…” The idea is to practice seeing your loved ones as undead, as infected, as sources of contagion; as threats. That way, if they should be infected, “A Knock to the Head Will Stop ‘Em Dead” – though it’s illegal to “kill” an undead except in “close-quartered combat.” I mildly regret this isn’t explored more: either Sims’ Louisiana has no “Stand Your Ground” law, as the real Louisiana does, or it was suspended for the undead, who “have the same citizen status and legal rights as, say, coma patients or the mentally ill.”

Michael spends a good part of Wednesday trying to convince Rachel to practice these defamiliarization techniques – to get used to being strangers at will. Deliberate estrangement. She’s reluctant. “It’s hateful,” she says. She doesn’t know the half of it; Michael has already considered his options:

‘What would I have to do,’ I would ask myself, ‘if this creature, asleep on my chest, woke and was monstrous?’ There was never really any question: I would have to throw the comforter, verdant and spring-patterned, over her head, not only to keep her from biting me but also to keep me from seeing her face; then I would have to beat her to death with the baseball bat that we stow under the bed. The trick, I thought, was to be beating on a mound beneath the covers. To be beating some soft writhing green thing, rather than Rachel, nude and recognizable. And to drag her body, still bundled in its blankets, out to the street without ever once actually looking at her face, which would have to be as forbidden to me as Eurydice’s, or Medusa’s. I didn’t like to think about it.

How do you think that might affect your marriage? Michael meditates at length on the effect this has on his relationship with Rachel. Early in the epidemic, when he was at his most paranoid, he had some trouble hugging a woman who sometimes felt like a rabid dog. But he’s better now.

I lost a little steam around Thursday (the chapter, not the day), but the first three chapters more than made up for it and gave enough momentum to keep the book engaging until the end, where Michael faces a decision. All in all, it’s a pretty anticlimactic ending, but the read was so good, I didn’t care.

The description of going with Rachel to check her father’s grave – early in the epidemic, when no one knew exactly what was happening, she was afraid he might have reanimated in his coffin – has a heartfelt gentle intimacy about it despite the hyperanalysis. Their day at Tunica likewise has an emotional fervor to it, though Michael’s account of it uses little in the way of emotive language. It’s a neat trick. I suppose I could be bringing the emotional content in myself, but I think instead it’s just a very talented writer evoking emotion in a different way.

Take the story of her father’s death. When she narrates this to me in bed at night, what she’s doing is putting it into play in our relationship… The reason she’s even sharing that memory to begin with is that she wants me, as her lover, to know that about her. It’s a biographical experience she considers so fundamental to her sense of self that I couldn’t properly love her – couldn’t know her as my beloved – without first having incorporated it into my own personal sense of who she is. The subtext of any memory that the lover shares is, ‘I want you, my lover, to know this about me, because this is the facet of myself I want you to love. When you say, “I love you,” mean by “you” the subject of this memory.’

In various interviews (and I was relieved to find them; when I read “House-Sitting,” I couldn’t find anything about him online other than the briefest bios), Sims names his influences. In his interview with Shane Jones of HTMLGiant he explains the footnotes that provide so much of the novel are not an homage to David Foster Wallace as I’d assumed (Sims studied with him; he tells Two Dollar Radio it’s hard to talk about) but to Nicholas Baker’s The Mezzanine (Late addendum: I wonder if he’s read the Millions article Aphrodisiacal Footnotes…; I myself feel the need to correct Dr. McWilliams’ opening sentence, as Bennett Sims also writes footnotes very much worth reading). He wrote his college thesis on zombies, including the aspect of “social death” which he talks about at some length with Gameological. This is why it’s more than a horror novel; there’s serious thought in this.

If I could ask Bennett Sims some questions (besides if he has a draft of FIGHT THE BITE on his computer; someone’s got to design one), I’d ask the silly stuff that isn’t included in those (excellent and highly recommended) interviews. I’d want to know about the way practical information is, or isn’t, revealed. We don’t know Michael’s name, for instance, until well into the book; for a while I thought he’d go unnamed throughout. Am I the only one who wants to know a narrator’s name? There’s no lack of clarity, since there are only three characters to keep track of (four, if you count the omnipresent idea of the missing Mr. Mazoch). But once Rachel calls him “Michael,” it’s as if the floodgates open; his name is mentioned over and over, and we eventually even get a last name. Why the delay? Is it related to Rachel noticing he only uses her name when he’s angry? Is it coincidence, or a deliberate choice, to tease the reader a little with the same unknowing state Michael’s in vis a vis the undead?

I’d also want to know if there are deliberate nods to the early days of AIDS, the ground covered by Shilts’ And the Band Played On (I remember the jokes, the nasty comments… and more than anything else, the paranoia) in some sections, and to Katrina in others. The hurricane is mentioned (and mass escapes of the undead from quarantines are called “spills” for another eerie evocation of reality), and the upcoming hurricane season is a source of tension throughout the book, but it strikes me that the confusion, incompetence, the bad information, the hysterical atmosphere dying down to a new normal that’s anything but normal, mirrors history, if 2005 can be called history.

If things were going well and I wasn’t wearing on his patience, I might get into silly stuff like whether these people had jobs. Obviously with a zombie apocalypse going on, most businesses are closed (though Michael goes out for milk and he and Matt stop for lunch at a diner, and public safety is in full swing), but if there’s a reference to the jobs they held before this started, I missed it. Even if they’re on the university on summer hiatus, I’d think they’d mention co-workers, bosses, or at least money, in passing. I suppose in a zombie novel that should be the least of my worries, but other than the undead, it’s quite realistic, right down to the configuration of the barges on the Mississippi acting as temporary quarantine overflows.

Mazoch likes to appose Robert Hass’s version of the famous Issa haiku (‘In this world/we walk on the roof of hell/gazing at flowers’) to something that we heard a preacher say on talk radio one morning (‘When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth’): the dead and the living are sharing roofspace now, and it’s nothing like so simple as it once was to take a walk.

I’m amazed at how much a couple hundred pages can contain, the places it can take me – and the things I can learn (I’m now obsessed with anamorphic art – I knew about it beforehand, I just never knew what it was called and often mistakenly referred to it as trompe l’oeil; I stand corrected).

Sims joins Seth Fried and Manuel Gonzales on my “magnificently weird” list. It’s a great list, getting better all the time.

Bennett Sims: “House-Sitting” from Tin House, Summer 2012

Within moments of arriving at the cabin, you begin to suspect that the owner is a madman.

Now this is some seriously fine, seriously literary, psychological horror.

There’s something about the label “horror” that makes the seriously literary (and those of us not so serious literarily) cringe. It’s a spectrum, after all; most of the stuff of good fiction – broken hearts, betrayals, war, violence, madness, depravity, death – is to a large degree degree horrific, or it wouldn’t be interesting enough for a story. It’s kind of arbitrary, at what point a story becomes “horror” when the supernatural isn’t involved. So if it bothers you, just ignore that word. Because this story has chops, and it shouldn’t be lumped in with the lesser stuff.

The opening sentence is enough to discourage a lot of people: oh, no, second person again?!?! as if “you” is some kind of pungent green vegetable one encounters at the dinner table or the company cafeteria from time to time. But don’t be afraid, it’s got a delicious hollandaise sauce – the whole thing just glides down – and seldom has “you” been more essential in a story. The talking-to-himself vibe, fading into the unreality-vibe of the subjunctive. Very nice. I’m putting this in the Second Person Study.

The progression is the star here. The narrator – “you” – has answered an ad for a summer house-sitter, sight and site unseen. He’s a bit surprised to find the house is a run-down cabin in the middle of a field of overgrown weeds. “If the property is disheveled, then it must mirror the dishevelment of his mind.” No personal items exist, no clothing, books, knickknacks, just the minimal furnishings. And dreamcatchers. Everywhere, dreamcatchers.

The sheer excess: no glass in the cabin is unprotected by these webs. By these prophylaxes against nightmare.
Now here, you think, is a man absolutely terrified of nightmares.

Right of the bat, from the second paragraph, that the narrator is projecting motives and personality onto his unseen employer (and, by the way – there’s really no reason the narrator has to be male, I don’t think. So here I am projecting onto the narrator. Put that into your gender study and smoke it).

There’s a gradual slide into madness, of course. And eventually into subjunctive mood (“Of course, if you were the owner, you might find ways of believing otherwise”), which is where the serious literary chops come from. It’s subtle, and feels entirely natural. And even when read on a sunny afternoon in a clean, modern house with other people ten feet away, there’s a sense of increasing darkness and isolation that makes for damn creepy reading.

Double meanings abound:

Yes, you think, he has done what it took to protect himself from these nightmares of his and neglected everything else. While in the meantime, what really encroaches on the cabin is wilderness.…That is what the cabin reminds you of, in the end: a nail. Five rooms and a roof hammered into the heart of the forest, where they wait, with the patience of a nail, to become ingrown.

Not only is the cabin a nail (later the cabin is the hammer, insanity the nail), but “nail” has two meanings, which of course it does. All this nail business brings to mind the adage, “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” And while the narrator is bemoaning the owner’s tendency to neglect everything but the nightmares, he himself is doing the same thing.

But he doesn’t have nightmares. He’s expecting them, but no. After a week, he has what he considers a “waking nightmare” while looking in the bathroom mirror through a web of streaks and grime; a spider comes crawling out from behind the mirror: “The fact that the spider lives behind the mirror strikes you as unnatural and unnerving. It lives behind the mirror the way monsters live beneath beds.” The feeling passes, and he’s fine again.

A month goes by without incident (a great example of pacing). Then he discovers a clearing in the overgrown grass, and within the clearing, six silhouettes painted in black on the grass:

The six shapes look like crows perched along a power line, or like the chalked outlines of murdered men….what they most resemble are scarecrows. Would the owner have thought they could ward off flocks of nightmares, established in the yard like this? You would not put it past him.

And again, while speculating about just how crazy the owner is, the narrator has no idea he’s sounding a little crazy himself. And of course he gets crazier, deciding he’s snared by parallel thought structures linked to the house itself (“It is almost as if you have been hired not to house-sit the physical cabin, but to house–sit its parallel thought structure). Where does the owner, the house, end, and the narrator begin?

A game of anagrams yields a momentous discovery: HOUSE-SITTING is an anagram of I UNGHOST SITE. The narrator gets more and more into the owner’s imagined state of mind, what he is supposed to do.

The mountain contains the forest; the forest contains the weed field; the weed field contains the enclosure, which contains the shadows, and it also contains the cabin, which is coextensive with the thought structure.; the cabin and the thought structure both contain the dining room, whose walls contain the table at which you are sitting. Each container smaller than the last, and embedded inside it, like a series of nested parentheses. And at the center of this series is you. Every layer presses inward to where you sit. The mechanism is trying to crush your mind from all sides. But you are not worried, because you will never be driven mad. You sit calmly in the smallest chamber of all, your skull, impervious to the currents rippling against you: wall, wall, shadow, field. You are the one sane sentence at the heart of the parenthetical. You cannot be erased.

It all comes down to a showdown with a lawnmower. And a lady-or-the-tiger ending. As a general rule, I’m not a fan of that technique (it usually feels like a cop-out) but I’ll keep an open mind on this one.

Since he doesn’t have a website and he’s new on the scene, I can’t find out much about Bennett Sims. Bios list him as originally from Baton Rouge, with a newly-minted Iowa MFA and stories in Zoetrope: All-Story (and I’m seriously considering ordering that issue, though I have a policy to resist these impulses; the excerpt is, however, delicious), A Public Space, and now, Tin House. I’d love to find out if there’s any relation between him, the now-deceased liberal activist Episcopal bishop of Atlanta, and the screenwriter of Homebodies (1974). But mostly I just want to read more of his work. [Addendum: In June 2013 I read his first novel, A Questionable Shapecomments here – and I’m now officially a huge fan]

I’m guessing we’ll be seeing a lot of it.