Sea Monkeys: A Memory Book

Overview


Bowling lessons with a hunchback. A bizarre first-grade teacher who hallucinates in class. A tragically innocent family blind-sided by flower power, and the salvation of soul music at a radio station straight out of a Quentin Tarantino version of The Twilight Zone. These are just a few of the luminous characters and conjurings Kris Saknussemm delivers in his kaleidoscopic Sea Monkeys—the story of his growing up in the counterculture San Francisco Bay Area and central California...
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Sea Monkeys: A Memory Book

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Overview


Bowling lessons with a hunchback. A bizarre first-grade teacher who hallucinates in class. A tragically innocent family blind-sided by flower power, and the salvation of soul music at a radio station straight out of a Quentin Tarantino version of The Twilight Zone. These are just a few of the luminous characters and conjurings Kris Saknussemm delivers in his kaleidoscopic Sea Monkeys—the story of his growing up in the counterculture San Francisco Bay Area and central California in the 1960s.

Known for his genre-bending works Zanesville and Private Midnight, Saknussemm now gives us a highly original take on the nonfiction memoir, in which he shatters the stained glass windows of his father's church and mixes the pieces with ghost cartoons, the Cronkite contradictions of Civil Rights demonstrations, and ads for laxatives during a strange hiatus in American sanity when Sly Stone and Perry Como could both be in the Top 10. Honest, funny, and at times heartbreaking, Sea Monkeys is the no-holds-barred tale of one of our most exciting contemporary authors’ own coming of age, and the perfect follow-up to Saknussemm’s Zanesville, which Booklist hailed as “one of the most creative, edgy, and entertaining novels spawned in a decade.”

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This memoir by novelist Saknussemm (Zanesville) of life in late 1960s California—much of which has already appeared in more than a dozen literary journals—is for the most part surprisingly pedestrian, enlivened only by certain chapters that are crafted like great short stories. While Zanesville was a hologram-filled black comedy, the author’s memoir is a fairly straightforward look back at points in his life—including schools, teachers, friends, and early loves. While his social observations are often banal (“The Cold War and the Dick Clark disease of television go claw in glove”), his psychological insights are sharp, especially in a short account of his being raped at age nine. And a much longer piece, “Mr. Very Late Night,” about being the only white D.J working the graveyard shift at a black radio station, is a superb piece of writing about how he turned his music program into a call-in show that touched “a congregation of strangers,” putting his finger “straight on a vibrating harmonic nerve of the red taillight central coast California vampire redemption hour.” (Nov.)
From the Publisher

Praise for Sea Monkeys

"It's immediately evident that we’re dealing with a poet who’s operating in a sublimely blurred space between poetry and prose…The autobiographical sketches that cover the author’s early adult years are full of the sort of boozing, drugging and sexcapades one would naturally expect from an alcoholic preacher’s son. Highlights from these years include the author’s stint as a soul radio DJ (“Mr. Very Late Night”) and a Henry Miller–esque romp through Saknussemm’s many sexual conquests as a randy college professor. A wonderfully warped grab bag of memories from a wilder and weirder time." —Kirkus

"[H]is psychological insights are sharp...And a much longer piece, “Mr. Very Late Night,” about being the only white D.J working the graveyard shift at a black radio station, is a superb piece of writing..."—Publishers Weekly

"Kris Saknussemm's sincerity, wisdom and writing talent make Sea Monkeys something which is half way between a memoir and a Molotov cocktail." -Etgar Keret

"We get old but we stay young. We're all of our selves we've ever been. Kris Saknussemm knows this. After this book, you will too."—Stephen Graham Jones, author of Growing up Dead in Texas

"'No one could dream a place like California,' Jay Farrar sings, but in Sea Monkeys, Kris Saknussemm dreams growing up on the wild coast in prose with bite, immediacy and pungency commensurate with his capacity for wonder. Sea Monkeys delivers less the specifics of a sentimental education and more intensely the shining contours of a famously diverse ecology that includes father as alcoholic preacher, a flawed loving family shattered by child rape, the hijinks and shenanigans of children whose imaginations yet live, the homemade toys of childhood which refuse to die, the neighborhood kids and gangs of friends waking to marvels, terrors and sadness usually unmentioned by adults. Saknussemm’s prose crackles and rings with tones and registers out of the range of the average and the ordinary, but out of the wreckage of those, he recalls the wild and dew-breathed dreams of childhood gone indelible through the quality of recall." —Sesshu Foster, author of Atomik Aztex and World Ball Notebook

Kirkus Reviews
Noted cult writer Saknussemm's (Reverend America, 2012, etc.) darkly funny, offbeat memoir of growing up around San Francisco in the 1960s. It's immediately evident that we're dealing with a poet who's operating in a sublimely blurred space between poetry and prose. The opening sentences of many of these fractured vignettes are some of the most strangely evocative lead-ins out there: "I turned ten inside a giant tire, honoring the engineers and earthmoving machines of the Oroville Land Dam, and a memorial to a mummified Indian chief who disintegrated into dust the moment he was exposed." So goes the amusingly confounding opening of the short piece "Fire and Forget," in which the author recalls his life at 10, when he was apprehensive of both the future and the past, just wanting to hide away until everything made sense again. Much of Saknussemm's early childhood, as captured in short sketches and longer, more essayistic remembrances, often seems little more than common childhood horseplay, but filtered through the author's undeniably funhouse-mirror sensibilities. Nevertheless, there are some truly singular incidents that almost read like a West Coast take on Southern Gothic fiction (especially the scene involving the author as a young kid finding the bloody severed limb of an amputee friend). The autobiographical sketches that cover the author's early adult years are full of the sort of boozing, drugging and sexcapades one would naturally expect from an alcoholic preacher's son. Highlights from these years include the author's stint as a soul radio DJ ("Mr. Very Late Night") and a Henry Miller–esque romp through Saknussemm's many sexual conquests as a randy college professor. A wonderfully warped grab bag of memories from a wilder and weirder time.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781593764487
  • Publisher: Soft Skull Press, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/13/2012
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 1,416,861
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author


Kris Saknussemm’s books include the poetry collection In the Name of the Father, the novels Enigmatic Pilot, Zanesville, and Private Midnight, and a portfolio book of his paintings titled The Colors of Compulsion.
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