Empty Quarter : Stories

Empty Quarter : Stories

by Sharon Mesmer


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Fiction. Sharon Mesmer's first fiction collection follows the 1998 publication of her first book of poems, Half Angel, Half Lunch, which Allan Ginsberg called beautifully bold and vivaciously modern. Her work has appeared in such publications as New American Writing, Lingo, The World and Poets & Writers. Sharon's poems sweep the reader up in suppositions of identity and purpose. Who are we and what's going on here, and couldn't we and it be more luxuriant, astute and sexy than anyone could possibly imagine. The poet is vulnerable (but definitely not wimpy) as she flexes her mind and body in words over (and through) matter to produce multiple revelations over and over again. -- Ed Friedman

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781882413669
Publisher: Hanging Loose Press
Publication date: 01/01/2000
Pages: 73
Product dimensions: 55.00(w) x 82.50(h) x 2.50(d)

About the Author

Sharon Mesmer is the author of Annoying Diabetic Bitch (Combo Books, 2008), The Virgin Formica (Hanging Loose, 2008), Vertigo Seeks Affinities (Belladonna Books, 2006), Half Angel, Half Lunch (Hard Press, 1998) and Crossing Second Avenue (ABJ Books, Japan, 1997). Her prose collections are Ma Vie ... Yonago (Hachette Litt‚ratures, France, in French translation, 2005) and In Ordinary Time and The Empty Quarter (Hanging Loose Press, 2005 and 2000). Lonely Tylenol, an art book in collaboration with the painter David Humphrey, was published in 2003 by Flying Horse Editions/University of Central Florida. She is a two-time New York Foundation for the Arts fellow in poetry.

Read an Excerpt

The Empty Quarter

By Sharon Mesmer

Hanging Loose Press

Copyright ©1999 Sharon Mesmer
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1882413660

Chapter One


"Those women are monsters! They'll eat you alive!"

Silver tore off the sequined dress.

"Those big blondes with their big tits and teeth!"

She stamped and kicked the dress away, then ran out of the room naked. The models looked down, shook their high heads and laughed.

I laughed the loudest. I was glad Silver felt bad. I was secretly in love with her and maybe she knew it, because she took every opportunity to humiliate me. Like the time she invited me to a restaurant: it's inexpensive, she said, don't dress up. But it was expensive, everyone was dressed up, and she whispered things about me to some guy she was with.

After the fashion show I masturbated while looking at a blonde on all fours in a men's magazine, wondering what Silver's retribution for my laughing would be.

But I beat her to it: I wrote her a letter, ending our friendship. I put in a line by Bob Dylan from "Just Like A Woman."

When I saw her again she smelled like a church and her eyes were wet. She said to forgive her, tear up the letter and then we'll have dinner.

I forgave her, tore up the letter. She reminded me of the sister I'd lost in the sewer.

I Married a Bay City Roller

You never dreamed I'd marry a Bay City Roller, did you, Marianne?

Remember when we went to the premiere of the documentary about them and that guy spilled coffee in your cuffs and you went to the bathroom to clean up and when you came back I wasn't in my seat and we never saw each other again? Well, would you believe that while you were in the bathroom I asked the guy sitting next to me to watch our seats while I went for popcorn and it turned out to be Alan, the bass player, the one we both liked because he looked like Eddie the stock boy from Goldblatt's? How did I know it was him? Well, who else who looked like Eddie, with a thick Scottish accent like that, would be sitting in a theatre on the bad side of Kankakee watching a Bay City Rollers documentary? Why was he even there? Do you think I thought to ask, after what he said to me first:

"Didja hear about the girl who married a mole?"

At least that's what I thought he said, so isn't it easy to see how I ended up making out with him behind the discount suede place two hours later? And can you believe the next day I was backstage at one of their concerts in Scotland, sitting there with fifteen life-size teddy bears with Bay City Roller faces and mountains of plaid M&Ms? Every night there were parties with different celebrities, and I met — are you sitting down, Marianne? — George and Alana Hamilton, Helen Reddy, Tony Orlando, Howard Cosell, the guy who played Gopher on "The Love Boat," Toni Tenille, Jimmy "J.J." Walker — need I say more? And if you're thinking all that was pretty incredible, Alan insisted I move to Glasgow and live with them in the big apartment they all shared — can't you just see me, the only girl, living with ALL the Bay City Rollers in Glasgow? Is it any wonder I disappeared for five years? Well, it wasn't really an apartment but one floor of an abandoned orphanage from the 1940's with no furniture and fluorescent department store lights that flickered all the time and gave some people seizures, and since there was no heat we used a toilet rigged up like a fireplace to burn wood, and plus this weird gas always leaked from the mattresses, and since we couldn't really do laundry (we had to go across the street to the gas station to get water) the pillows always had ear wax all over them — Scottish people have ear wax problems — but that was because their manager used up all their rent and food money on male prostitutes and ornamental goldfish — he was president of the International Live Breeders Club: how weird is that? And I bet you thought they were all clean and wholesome, right? Well, can you believe they were all heroin addicts, even Alan? I didn't care — that kind of thing always makes a rock star more appealing, right? But all of them together weren't as bad as that asshole Andy Gibb, who got them all started on drugs, but think about it, Marianne: wouldn't you choose mattress gas, pillow pizza and Andy Gibb's heroin over Aunt Ma and Uncle Pa in two rooms over the plastic plate factory on the bad side of Kankakee?

Are you mad that you never got a wedding invitation? Don't you think I'm mad because there weren't any? That there wasn't even a real wedding? Their manager messed it all up, and would you believe on our wedding day we ended up on a dock in the Firth of Forth with Alan getting his skull cracked open by drunken steeplejacks? Is it any wonder he had all those mental problems? Plus, if you thought our childhoods were bad, would you believe his parents (they were disabled circus acrobats waiting for liver transplants) tried to make him spontaneously combust by feeding him haggis laced with gunpowder and forcing hint to sleep in the stove? Can you really blame him for getting his father drunk and stuffing him in a gunny sack and running over him in a lorry? Doesn't that make the whole "Aunt Ma and Uncle Pa" thing tame by comparison? You're probably thinking I deserved all I got for marrying him, but don't you think if I knew all this stuff I wouldn't have married him in the first place? But I mean, you see a guy in a photo with Britt Eklund and you think you're going to have a certain kind of life, right?

Did you read in the paper about when he was forced to leave the group? Their manager had the bright idea that Alan was too old — he was only 25; can you believe that? And seeing as how the group was his and his brother Derek's idea in the first place, way back in 1971, how cruel is that? It really messed Alan up because he didn't want to live in the abandoned orphanage with the other Rollers anymore, so he just hung out down at the pub and got beaten up all the time — guys used to want to fight him because he was a famous teen idol, and if you were a forty-five year old alcoholic one-eyed unemployed stevedore supporting eleven demented kids and a mean wife by fixing radiators in the summer, wouldn't you hate a teen idol? When he started coming home and taking it out on me I figured it was time for a change so I got a job giving out sausage samples at the Safeway and with the money I made I found us our own apartment, and at the same time suggested Alan get interested in a hobby because he was getting jealous of the freedom my sausage sample job gave me, but the only thing he wanted to take up was fencing, and would you trust someone like Alan with a sword? Finally, I signed us up for a weekly program at the rectory:

Aesthetic Camp:
Tea and Shortbread and Intellectual Discussion
Of Topical Topics!
Saturday's Topic: Virginia Woolf on War!

The shortbread was really the big draw for us, but we soon discovered we were supposed to bring the shortbread ourselves — it was a brown bag sort of deal — and can't you just imagine how pissed Alan was when the shortbread didn't show? Can't you just picture the looks on the faces of the ladies from the Lovers of Lap Animals Club when Alan started yelling "Don't you stupid eat masturbators know who I am? I started the Bay City Rollers, goddammit — do you think I need your fuckin' shortbread?"

At least that's what I thought he said, but do I need to tell you that was the end of Aesthetic Camp?

Oh Marianne, where did it all go wrong? Was it the manager? The heroin? The brain damage? Do you think I should leave him? I'm only twenty years old — don't I deserve my piece of the American dream? Don't I deserve to have a job down at City Hall and order from Avon? To eat pizza in bed while watching "Star Wars" on tv?


Excerpted from The Empty Quarter by Sharon Mesmer Copyright ©1999 by Sharon Mesmer. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Empty Quarter : Stories 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Highly recommended and not to be missed, Sharon Mesmer's debut fiction collection is a brilliantly innovative tour-de-force. The author displays considerable comedic and satirical gifts (I laughed out loud on several occasions), but is equally adept at evoking the poignant or profound moment. Common to this astonishing variety of prose pieces, is an often excruciating eroticism. The stories are beautifully crafted, but - as is the case with all good writing - the art is concealed, and the prose appears fresh on the page like a first utterance. The pun has been made before, but is worth repeating because of its aptness - Sharon Mesmer's work is utterly mesmerizing! Allen Ginsberg had said of her first book of poems, that it was 'bold and vivaciously modern.' The boldness remains, but a youthful vivaciousness has given way to a determined introspection. We venture far and wide in this comparatively slim volume. From a seedy bar on the outskirts of Kankakee County; to Paris, where in the afternoons our protagonist goes 'to the Montparnasse cemetery to write letters.' From Tokyo, where she participates in 'an old Shinto fertility festival'; to 'a lodge on a hill' in Darjeeling, with its 'view of the clouds lifting over the Himalayas every morning.' Yet ultimately all such peregrinations, however exotic, lead back to an examination of Self, to the ineluctable need to confront the face in the mirror. The artist realizes that she must find her center, and assimilate it. Only then can there be renewal. In the remarkable odyssey which is described in the book's title story, the author/heroine seems to have done just that. And in courageously and intriguingly blurring the conventional line between Life and Literature, Mesmer has afforded us a rare glimpse both into the creative process of fiction writing, and into the life of a unique writer. One senses that THE EMPTY QUARTER represents what the poet and critic Jane Hirshfield calls a 'threshold work', and that Sharon Mesmer, as an important and exciting new voice on the contemporary scene, has only just begun to flex her literary muscles! I, for one, eagerly await her next offering.