Gerbil Probe: The Media Empire of Michael Allen Rose

(The following is a transcript from the second Party Wolf Book Club meetup at the home of Michael Allen Rose in Chicago, IL - Saturday January 28th.)

Michael: Welcome back, gang. This week, we're discussing S.D. Foster's book A Hollow Cube is a Lonely Space. Since this one is a collection, I thought maybe we could start by talking about our favorite stories. Does that sound... Smitty...? What are you eating?

Smitty: It's a sandwich.

Michael: What's... in it?

Cooter: Man, he's got cheese in there, some sausages, a cantaloupe... smells like a pig hoof or two... maybe some coffee grounds?

Michael: Oh, I get it! Like in S. D. Foster's story Matilda Goes Shopping, right? It's an homage.

Smitty: Matilda goes what?

Cooter: I remember that one, that was a great story. It made my fur stand on end. And I guess it made Smitty hungry.

Sophie: It took a sort of typical domestic story and twisted it into something horrific and amazing. Incest, gluttony, violence, but all with a strong literary voice keeping it all in line. That's something I noticed about all these stories. S. D. Foster has a razor-sharp literary wit and his imagination is boundless. He'll take a typical story structure and dismantle it, deconstruct it, until it goes up in smoke.

Herb "The Herb": Smoke. (Giggles)

Michael: Rex? You seem quiet today. You okay?

Sophie: He's kind of sad. I don't think he expected such moving stories from a new bizarro author.

Rex: I'm not sad, okay? I'm mad! Only with crying instead of rage. I could still eat a baby. You want to see me do it? Someone get me a baby! I'll do it right now!

Sophie: Some of these stories really affected him. It was sweet, you guys should have seen it. He got all cuddly. Unbreakable, for example. It was so beautifully sad and played with warmth of spirit for awhile before dropping some very cold prose.


Michael: I noticed that S. D. Foster has a really unique gift for taking very dark and serious themes and talking about them from a completely new perspective. Unbreakable is like the bizarro universe A Toy Story in flash fiction form. And what about The Lingering Death of Christmas? A winter themed story that really tears down your walls of protection as a reader. He writes you back to childhood and then burns you. Foster's prose is so juicy and such a joy to read that you can't put his book down even when it's tearing your heart out.

Sophie: Speaking of toys and poignancy, I thought the most touchingly painful one was The Trials of Ted.


Herb "The Herb": Made me feel bad for my discarded bongs. Party.

Sophie: Foster's descriptions of things are so vivid, and his prose reads like the best poetry, with alliteration and clever wordplay, and then he just stabs you right in the heart with--


(Rex sobs uncontrollably, punching the couch over and over again. After a few moments of this, Rex, realizing the rest of us are staring at him, goes wide-eyed, stops crying and punches Smitty for no good reason. Rex then knocks over my coffee table and sulks.)

Cooter: Rex?

Rex: Just saying I liked it is all.

Cooter: I really felt a cosmic connection with A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Chimp. Didn't you guys?

Sophie: Of course. The whole theme of animals trying to fit into a human world really resonated with me.

Herb "The Herb": Resin. Nated. (Takes an enormous bong hit) Ha.

Cooter: I used to read a lot of James Joyce when I was into the psychedelics and I thought it was some pretty sweet satire too. Like, Foster aped Joyce but like, smashed it together with Lancelot Link: Secret Chimp.

Smitty: I liked Mr. Rat. Like, a lot. First of all, 'cause it reminded me of how everyone's always like "You should get a job, Smitty, and like, do stuff." Screw that. Also, his favorite snack, "aborted baby spread thick with bacon grease" is freaking delicious. That rat has good taste. And I thought most of S. D.'s stories were really funny. But like, in the way that my showing my junk to cars on the highway is funny?

Sophie: Dark humor, Smitty.

Smitty: Yeah, that.

Herb "The Herb": So many of Fosters stories resonate so strongly because at their core, they are about fitting in, and the alienation that comes from the condition of being labelled as other. His characters find themselves unable to integrate into society. Even in ostensibly lighthearted fare like the lead story The Course of Clementine, Foster reveals a fruit who has all the qualities we most fear in ourselves: The ambiguous search for purpose and meaning, the fear of being unsatisfactory, the terror of becoming useless. The pain that these stories evokes is expertly shaped and wielded like a weapon by Foster, fueled by the turmoil that we have all felt at one time or another - the sadness of disconnectedness from our fellow travelers.

(There is general silence for a moment)

Michael: It's still eerie as hell when he does that. Okay, final thoughts?

Smitty: The (Not Quite) Corpse and the Stork also made me hungry! For human brains! This book is awesome!

Cooter: Really solid writing and a super fun book.

Herb "The Herb": Party party party.

Michael: What the hell...?

Sophie: A Hollow Cube is a Lonely Space is full of gems. This is an easy recommendation for anyone who loves short stories, and I can't wait to read more of Foster's work. This guy is amazing.


(Smitty begins laughing loudly at Rex. Rex notices, and still sobbing uncontrollably, starts to beat the hell out of Smitty, who scurries to the bathroom and locks the door.)

Michael: Okay, well, with that. This was an absolutely fantastic collection! I think we all agree that you definitely won't be disappointed with any of these stories, as there's not a weak link in the whole bunch. An excellent book and one hell of a debut. Check out S. D. Foster's A Hollow Cube is a Lonely Space and see what a great wordsmith can do with a short story! Another book from the New Bizarro Author Series next weekend, so stay tuned!

(The Party Wolves Book Club meets once a week or so to discuss books in Eraserhead Press New Bizarro Author Series. The Party Wolves are featured in the book Party Wolves in My Skull by Michael Allen Rose)

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