In 1803, the guillotine was a common children's toy. Children also had toy cannons that fired real gunpowder, and puzzles depicting the great battles of England. They went around chanting, "Victory or death!" Do childhood games influence character? We have to assume that they do, but let's set aside such heartbreaking speculations for a moment. War—it's not even a proper game±leaves influenza in its wake, and cadavers. Do
These aren't academic, insidery essays. They speak to the fervency of youth and being moved by particular pieces of writing. Ryan recalls the "engine of desire" in Volcano and being "blinded by the heat of what I was internalizing." The reader gets a sense not only of the dreamy-nightmare quality of the book, but also a thoughtful look at the madness of stage life and being on tour. "You find yourself lost in the middle
"I was in Australia, reading an old, yellowed paperback copy of Malcolm Lowry's involution of hell, Under the Volcano, while all around massive forest fires were burning out of control. New South Wales, Australia's Easternmost state, was in the midst of the 1994 Eastern Seaboard Bushfires. I was touring in a band called the Lemonheads. I had been touring, by then, for several years.
HE NO LONGER WONDERED WHERE TO LAY DOWN BLAME or whose was the responsibility or what the responsibility was. Her body, finished with its rage, had settled in the cancer the way one slips into a tub in a dark bathroom, into hot water, and soon the skin is no longer a barrier, an integrity and definition; one becomes part of the water, the cancer. The skin goes in the way the breath does, out like a ripple of the
...appears in New World Writing:
You worry about the eye, the microphone in it that gathers and transmits daughter sounds. Her infant coos, the soft rustle, cry, unrecoverable gasp—the dread deep stillness. Every day with her in your new life is a scratch of light in some future impenetrable darkness. You and this little plastic receiver downstairs, the monitor the size and shape of a bar of soap, navigating invisible extremes, soaking up the impulses of her room. As if
.... [David Ryan] is a top-tier writer of short stories, and he's spent the last twenty years wrestling with questions of intention and form. Ryan's fiction borders on experimental; however, unlike so many who play with form, he's not wacky, being absurd for the sake of absurdity, or using his ventures as an excuse to avoid psychological depth. Ryan is more in the lineage of Barry Hannah, or Denis Johnson:
"....I know it can be a bit trite to call a piece of writing “dreamlike.” The word’s often used as an ingratiating stand-in for “weird” or “confusing.” But Animals in Motion mines the unconscious. The inner and outer world of his characters bleed together, like a watercolor landscape. His stories aren’t so much about anything, the same way dreams aren’t about anything, exactly. They are things themselves, mysterious even to the dreamer.
"...The carp floated docile and monstrous and common, and if they'd been capable of rage, they might have pushed the tank over by force, tumbling out in a riot of murk and day-glo baubles—the deep sea divers and livid corals, the sunken ships and treasure chests, all the smaller fish twitching their lurid rainbow over the dirty burgundy carpet. But every time I looked into the aquarium, these carp only
Kirkus (starred): A debut collection of stories—one of the best in recent memory—that finds psychological acuity within characters who are unreflective or even impenetrable.
Ryan (Writing/Sarah Lawrence) has plainly been honing his craft, because the 13 tales here are the work of a writer who knows exactly what he’s doing—and challenges the reader to figure out how he’s doing it. Not that the stories are difficult or experimental, but they often seem to begin at a point where nothing
Booklist on Animals in Motion: "... Ryan’s prose is precise, often blunt, and always evocative. The conceits for his stories are very original and never predictable. Some of the stories border on being dreamlike, while others are purely realistic, but always any definitive conclusions hover just out of reach, close enough to savor through multiple reads. This book is a great choice for any lover of well-written stories."
I'll be reading this Wednesday night at the Center for Fiction in mid-town Manhattan at 7pm, after which Rick Moody and I will hang out and talk. I'll be signing books when the talk is talked, and there will be wine. I'm also bringing a special ink pad and rubber stamp of the deer from the cover, so the signed books will be a little bit different.
"There is not a word wasted in this powerful debut collection. I think that David Ryan has set a course that will influence many other writers, anyone who values language that is taut and precise, characters whose response to their ruin is, in effect, 'Bring it on,' and important concerns that claim a reader's attention in the most persuasive ways possible."
"From the first page of ANIMALS IN MOTION one is immersed in the precisionist’s world, filled with
Great news: Esquire's digital edition has just published "Security," one of the stories from my new collection, Animals in Motion, this week. It's behind a paywall but it's available to subscribers through Esquire Weekly.
He was in his twenties and his hands were slick with blood. Then a nurse was wiping them with a cloth and they became a faded pinking, stuck in the air, his arms bent at the elbow for no reason, flapping a little. For no reason. Not flapping. Turning at the wrist, like a sock-puppet show stripped naked and scalded, doing a little dumb show over the prone body on the table. He was a body on a table. Weight
Four frogs lived in a barn. A wall came and said, "I don't want to get eating." The frogs' names were Ham, Snam, Slam, and Pam. And then Tammo--a horse--came. He said: "I want beans!" And the frogs said, "We don't have any! We don't have any! We don't have any!"
A merry go round put a flower on her dress. It's a beautiful day out there so we might want to go for a walk, Daddy.
Through Tuesday, 11 A.M., the shops are locked.
You try the meat store. Only the muffled buzz
of a fly inside. You rattle the glass
of the drugstore, yelling "I have a prescription."
A 40-watt bulb burns over the soda fountain.
You think, when you find no one around, if really
the town is empty, wind should be blowing.
Sun presses the buildings down. Birds
on the street seem to be resting enroute.
You break into a dress shop and
A medical assistantship consists of more than spectating at complicated bowel operations, cutting open stomach linings, bracketing off lungs, and sawing off feet; and it doesn't just consist of thumbing closed the eyes of the dead, and hauling babies out into the world either. An assistantship is not just tossing limbs and parts of limbs over your shoulder into an enamel bucket. Nor does it just consist of trotting along behind the registrar and the assistant and the assistant's assistant,
The terrible secret about short stories is that they are made of language. Entirely. Nothing else goes into them. They might be plausible or implausible, but they are always invented actions created for our interior. Yet we are still more comfortable discussing a story's imagery. Discussions of language can render us mute. Stories are language-made hallucinations, fabrications that persuade us to believe in them for their duration. They happen on the inside and we can keep them secret. But
God bless Henry. He lived like a rat,
with a thatch of hair on his head
in the beginning.
Henry was not a coward. Much.
He never deserted anything; instead
he stuck, when things like pity were thinning.
So may be Henry was a human being.
Let's investigate that.
. . . We did; okay.
He is a human American man.
That's true. My lass is braking.
My brass is aching. Corne & diminish me, & map my way.
The obsession with transition negates a basic truth about writing, A magical truth. you can get anywhere from anywhere, Always and almost instantly. The gap between sentences is sometimes a pause for breath And sometimes an echoing void. And if you can get anywhere from anywhere, You can start anywhere And end anywhere. There is no single necessary order.
They'd left a slice of bread on the stone.
The bird stood there; he pecked at it. The crone came back:
"I didn't leave that for you," she told the bird. She took the bread,
crumbled it up finely, scattered the crumbs for the bird.
The bird looked at her square in the eyes; he didn't eat.
Half a glass of water on the table. All around him,
gathered up silently, melancholy things:
Trees at night are like an army marching. I came across the car on its side across the road. It stretched from bank to bank like the stump of a tree uprooted.
I had been coming down the road with my torch making a circle on the gravel. The underneath of the car was towards me mottled with drops of earth like rain. I climbed on the side of the car. My torch reappeared beneath me like a clock with
Lily stood in hat and coat by kitchen window quickly cutting stairs of bread. When she had a stack of these by her she reached to tin of beef that was by the loaf and in stretching she raised head and saw man in garden next theirs digging in his garden. Behind him was line of chimney pots, for next street to theirs in that direction was beneath, hidden by swell of gardens back of their street. This man, then,
There were two voices that were louder than the others. At night when the red light was out in the hall and there was someone sitting in a chair in front of the door clearing her throat at intervals there would be the voices far down the hall mingling with sobs and shouts and the drones of those who were beginning to sleep. It was cold and she shivered under the blankets. She cried out that she was cold and
Aquarius is poor. Sagittarius is poor. Virgo is a Barren Sign, it will produce no growth. The first day the Moon is in a Sign is better than the second and the second better than the third. Seed planted when the Earth is in Leo, which is a Barren, Fiery Sign, will die, as it is favorable only to the destruction of noxious growth. Trim no trees or vines when the Moon or Earth is in Leo. For