Other Electricities: Stories


“Like Franklin’s discovery of the electricity we do know, Monson’s luminous, galvanized book represents a paradigm shift. The frequencies of the novel have been scrambled and redefined by this elegant experiment. Other Electricities is a new physics of prose, a lyric string theory of charged and sparkling sentences. What a kite! What a key!”—Michael Martone

“Monson is tuned in to our crackling, chaotic, juiced-up times like no other young ...

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“Like Franklin’s discovery of the electricity we do know, Monson’s luminous, galvanized book represents a paradigm shift. The frequencies of the novel have been scrambled and redefined by this elegant experiment. Other Electricities is a new physics of prose, a lyric string theory of charged and sparkling sentences. What a kite! What a key!”—Michael Martone

“Monson is tuned in to our crackling, chaotic, juiced-up times like no other young writer I know. Other Electricities is necessary reading.”—Robert Olen Butler

Meet “Yr Protagonist”: radio amateur, sometime vandal and “at times, perhaps the author” of Monson’s category-defying collection:

I know about phones. While our dad was upstairs broadcasting something to the world, and we were listening in, or trying to find his frequency and listen to his voice . . . we would give up and go out in the snow with a phone rigged with alligator clips so we could listen in on others’ conversations. There’s something nearly sexual about this, hearing what other people are saying to their lovers, children, cousins, psychics, pastors. . . .

The cumulative effect of this stunningly original collection seems to work on the reader in the same way—we follow glimpses of dispossessed lives in the snow-buried reaches of Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula, where nearly everyone seems to be slipping away under the ice to disappear forever. Through an unsettling, almost crazed gestalt of sketches, short stories, lists, indices and radio schematics, Monson presents a world where weather, landscape, radio waves and electricity are characters in themselves, affecting a community held together by the memories of those they have lost.

Ander Monson is the editor of DIAGRAM and the New Michigan Press. He teaches at Grand Valley State University and lives in Michigan. Tupelo Press recently published his poetry collection, Elegies for Descent and Dreams of Weather.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Monson's inventive collection illuminates the barren landscape of Michigan's snowbound Upper Peninsula with a glittering mosaic of short stories, lists, instructions, poetic obituaries and illustrations of radio schematics. His interconnected vignettes flash across a region that is "now in some ways a place only for ghosts and tourists," revealing a smalltown cast of characters defined by shared loss. The ice-frosting the roads, crusting Lake Superior-exerts an inexorable pull on these people, spinning their minivans, swallowing their snowmobiles, claiming young and old and drunk and sober. While they mourn the disappeared and deceased, their self-destructive impulses battle deeply rooted survival instincts that flourish despite impoverished and circumscribed lives. Artful metaphors resonate throughout: snow is sustenance and death. Radio waves displace language and imply an unbridgeable gap between people. Liz, a drowned high school student, embodies needlessly lost youth. Monson alternates more narrative pieces with second-person instructive messages, such as "Instructions for Divers: On Retrieval," about extracting wrecks from the lake, that evoke with immediacy a harsh existence. In "The Big 32," a catalogue of descending temperatures and their corresponding events, Monson writes that at -11 degrees, "tears freeze complete, nosehairs froze twenty degrees ago; so crying will get you nowhere." Monson's is an original new voice, and this poignant, lyrical collection conjures a powerful sense of place. (May) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Monson's debut collection is being published at the same time as his first poetry book, Vacationland (Tupelo). Readers will note its intriguing features: a table of contents identifying the main characters and thematic keywords for each chapter/story, a detailed guide to and chart of the characters and their relationships, interspersed electrical diagrams, and a keyword index. This complex structure is just the icing on these heartbreakingly poignant interconnected stories set in upper Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula, where ice and snow are characters in themselves. The unnamed protagonist has suffered his mother's death, the loss of his father to ham radio obsession, the rape and murder of a friend, and his girlfriend Liz's accidental death. His thread is interwoven with tales of several unsympathetic jerks whose perfidy ranges from hogging all the candy from a pi ata to dropping bowling balls on the freeway. Thankfully, the protagonist, his armless brother, and Liz-three of the few sympathetic characters-resurface to heighten their tragedies. This vibrant, poetic, brilliantly original fiction is highly recommended for all public and academic libraries.-Jim Dwyer, California State Univ. Lib., Chico Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Debut story collection set in Michigan's Upper Peninsula ditches clarity, accessibility and character development in favor of a pastiche of fragments. It is obvious the reader is in for a rough time when Monson opens with a diagram of "Characters and Their Relationships Therein," followed by "A Helpful Guide to the Characters and their Relationship to Danger, and an Explanation of Some Symbols Commonly Found Therein." The latter includes such entries as "RADIO: means love & loss & pine-away & frequency." In addition, "A Table of Contents Provided for Your Convenience" includes "Brief Keyword Index and Identification of Speakers/Main Characters, As Appropriate." Only then does the actual reading begin. The core trauma of the volume is described in the first offering, "Death Messages: Instructions for the Officer," a brief second-person sketch describing the snowy night on which a police officer delivers to parents the bad news that their daughter Elizabeth has gone through the ice and drowned. In the title story, we learn that the protagonist's father has stopped working, moved into the attic and become obsessed with being a Radio Amateur. The protagonist learns about radio himself, takes his younger brother in search of the mysterious Paulding Light and wonders how anything holds together. Radio schematics pop up throughout; midway through, they gather captions that appear to be from the protagonist's mother, who has gone away. The protagonist finally begins to peek through all the artifice in the last two tales, "I Am Getting Comfortable With My Grief" and "The Sudden Possibility of Nakedness." His school has been destroyed, his friends are getting married, and his psychologist suggeststhat he go to the wedding and begin to talk about his mother. But just as he begins to seem interesting, it's over. Too filled with static to come in clearly, too scrambled to be compelling. Author tour
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781932511154
  • Publisher: Sarabande Books
  • Publication date: 5/1/2005
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Ander Monson is the author of three published books (Neck Deep and Other Predicaments, Other Electricities, Vacationland), and one forthcoming (Vanishing Point, Graywolf, 2010). He is the editor DIAGRAM Magazine and the New Michigan Press. Though he lives in Tucson where he teaches at the University of Arizona, his heart still resides thirty hours northeast by car.

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Table of Contents

Death messages : instructions for the officer 3
Other electricities 7
Intermittence 21
Stethoscope 25
Get started 27
Instructions for divers : on retrieval 37
Subtraction is the only worthwhile operation 39
Dream obits for Carrie H. 41
We are going to see the oracle of Apollo in Tapiola, Michigan 45
To reduce your likelihood of murder 53
Freda thinks spring 55
Big 32 59
Dream obits for Liz 69
A huge, old radio 73
Isle Royale 77
Residue 83
The organization and formation of blizzards as seen by satellites : A-M 95
Elsie and Henry 97
Commercial systems 101
The organization and formation of blizzards as seen by satellites : N-Z 103
Forecast 105
Bowling balls sent down through windows from overpasses that stretch like spiderwebs above 113
Pinata 117
Dream obits for my mother 121
Teeth 125
Consideration of the force required to break an arm 129
Stop your crying 133
Constellations 135
I am getting comfortable with my grief 145
The sudden possibility of nakedness 147
An index to the text and a record and concordance of obsessions 155
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