Happy New Year dear friends of the unreal —
Late last fall, my friend Mark Givens told me about a publishing venture he was working on with his friend Dennis. Mark and I ended up agreeing that this new publisher — Bamboo Dart Press — would launch a story of mine that was too long to be a short story, and too short to be a novella. It ended up being something called a novelette. Which was the perfect size for Bamboo Dart, which makes these beautiful square books that are about 45 pages long. Gorgeously produced. Chapbook sized. But meaty.
I was excited about this cooperative, but also curious. See — I knew Mark of course, as well as 2 of the 3 authors who were going to be published in the first few months of the venture. Meg Pokrass is a flash fiction maestra whose work I know and whose teaching I admire; she launched her Bamboo Dart Press book, The Loss Detector this past October. John Brantingham is my very dear friend and an incredibly gifted poet and novelist. His book Life, Orange to Pear, came out in November.
But I didn’t know the third author. That third person turned out to be Mark’s friend, Dennis. His book is coming out soon – January 15th.
Dennis Callaci was a mystery to me. He was the one person in this whole cooperative, whom I didn’t know at all. I had never even met him. But I have just read his forthcoming book for Bamboo Dart Press, 5 ghost stories.
I’m going to circle back and talk about John’s and Meg’s books in future posts, but for now, I just want to focus on Dennis’ book.
My gosh it’s good.
I don’t know about you but, when I hear the words “ghost story” I think of Edgar Allen Poe, Henry James, Charles Dickens and the rattling chains of Christmas Past. Ghosts in January? Please. It’s time for resolutions and inaugurations and hopes for a vaccine.
But these ghost stories are different.
Ranging in point of view from the stance of a very young protagonist to a very old one, these stories tell tiny but complex miniature epics of encounters, sightings, construction projects, defense manoeuvers, and – of course – disease. We travel from supermarkets, to living rooms, to embattled township perimeters and laboratories, to highways, to the street outside a strip joint. All in the space of about 45 pages. It’s quite a ride. But the writing is always lyrical, often self-deprecating, and alternatingly fierce and tender.
And on this magical mystery tour, we are asked to consider the myriad ways in which we are haunted by people, objects, animals, places, and possibilities. Have we ever been haunted by the cruelty inherent in a grocery store meat department? Or been so in love with a parent that we hated anyone who got between us and them? To what extent are we haunted by images of our former selves? And what’s worse: not living long enough or living too long to be of use to anyone? Is being a good Samaritan really the thing to do at a roadside? But how will you feel if you don’t stop to help?
5 ghost stories is a beautiful book. It’s also got a beautiful cover.
The picture is by Dennis. And guess what? He made the pictures on the covers for all our books.
And don’t forget to allow the spirits of your own past to inspire you.