Troy James Weaver writes like the Angel of Death is holding a Smith & Wesson to his head. Marigold is a hundred haikus of loneliness, pages torn from Baudelaire’s dream journal, the suicide note as high art


Troy James Weaver, Marigold, Kingshot Press, 2016.

A thirty-something floral salesman searches for reasons to keep living.

“Troy James Weaver writes like the Angel of Death is holding a Smith & Wesson to his head. Marigold is a hundred haikus of loneliness, pages torn from Baudelaire’s dream journal, the suicide note as high art. Forget your dime-a-dozen writers on the New York Times bestseller list; here is an authentic voice crying out from the American darkness.” Kevin Maloney

Marigold is a no-bullshit portrait of 21st century American loneliness. It's a small epic on the mysteries of alienation and self-doubt. Weaver is the poet-laureate of Midwestern absurdity with a heart a mile wide. He is a writer with great powers of empathy and devastating sadness. . . a refreshingly honest revelation for these idiotic times we live in.” Michael Bible

Warning: this book is basically a series of sad, heart-clutching, suicidal vignettes. I wanted so badly to reach inside the pages and give the narrator a hug. Or maybe a smack across the face. And then a hug. Painfully beautiful. Perfectly neurotic. -

Marigolds bloom from September to the first frost. Then they die and return to the soil, where they wait for the next September sun. 
79% of the suicides in the United States in 2014 were committed by men. It adds up to roughly 33,000 deaths. I don't have the numbers for other years, but I'm sure they're similar. There are easy explanations for these statistics: men like to remain in control of their fate, they're less afraid of death. These are just the things we like to tell ourselves when clutching a shotgun and a magnum of Jack Daniel's. Choosing death is a more complicated and intimate decision. It is often the result of severe mental illness. It is my sincere belief that fiction exists to discuss problems that don't have any answer and Troy James Weaver's newest book Marigold goes down the dark and winding road of depression and death. 
The narrator of Marigold is at the crossroads. He wants to find the will to live or the courage to die. He's earning a living selling flowers to people having either the best or the worst day of their lives. He seldom ponders about the things that brought him pain before, but he's retracted inside himself so long also, nothing really gets to him anymore. Not angry clients. Not even his wife, who might as well be living behind a wall. Marigold is the story of his quiet struggle to stay alive, feel alive when everything around him is dimming. It's a sober, impressionistic and damn accurate portrait of depression.
Marigold wasn't what I thought it would be. If you'll allow me a military metaphor, it's about occupation more than it is about invasion. The narrator isn't overrun with the futility of existence over the course of the book, he affirms his desire to die on page one. So it doesn't take the obvious sexy existential angle, but deals with the raw and ugly reality of depression and the empty, nihilistic nature of adulthood instead. It has to be one of the most brutal and terrifying books that doesn't feature any violence or murders whatsoever. 
Part of that I believe is the byzantine yet efficient structure that makes the reader feel like he's trapped in the narrator's mind. Troy James Weaver doesn't write chapters in Marigold. He writes paragraphs, sometimes sentences or words. Jumps from a subject to another. Subjects the reader to the violence of the narrator's depression. Writing such a vibrant and honest book about depression could've went sideways lots of time, but the shapeless and suffocating form made Marigold an unrelenting and memorable read. 
I'm surprised to have found so much to say about Marigold, to be honest. Troy James Weaver has this talent for knocking the eloquence out of me. I finished the book in two frenzied sittings, curled up in a ball, trying to shield off a tidal wave of bad memories. That doesn't seem pleasant, doesn't it? I assure you that it was. Not all books are meant to be escapism. If the highest calling of literature is to connect human beings together, Marigold lives up to its highest standard. It definitely made me feel less alone.  -

Troy James Weaver, Visions, Broken River Books, 2015.

A hypnotic descent from childhood to adulthood. A boy sees angels, finds love, loses it, and becomes heartbreakingly aware of the world around him. Using a dreamy prose that calls to mind the films of Harmony Korine, Weaver crafts a deft and disturbing portrait of the young life of a David Koresh-like cult figure.

“Troy James Weaver’s novel unravels the typical coming-of-age story. It erases the distinction between finding and losing your voice, becoming enlightened by a vision and swallowed by darkness. The plot moves at a breathless pace and the unsettling details linger, hovering at the edge of what can be fully understood.” —Jeff Jackson

“A noir fueled as much by the dread of what might happen as what actually occurs, with a narrator teetering on the edge of something very dark indeed. Beautifully sparse and precise, like someone tapping softly on your skull with a ball-peen hammer trying to feel out the perfect place to crack it open.” —Brian Evenson 

“Visions moves at a manic pace reminiscent of Hannah’s Ray. The story breathes, bleeds, pulses. It’s fragmented yet fluid, bleak but not without hope. Don’t be fooled by the thin spine - you may blaze through this book in an afternoon but it will burn a hole in your head. Weaver speaks the truth and I hope to hell everybody is listening.” —Nat Baldwin

“Untimely death, Richard Ramirez, child abuse, violence, poverty, loneliness… somehow Troy James Weaver is able to take all these ugly facets of humanity and combine them into something so beautiful that it feels almost holy.” —Juliet Escoria

“Visions is a coming-of-age, Harmony Korine-style, This Boy’s Life-meets-Wise Blood fever dream that Troy James Weaver carved into some Ouija board he later used to summon the spirits of David Koresh, Jesus Christ, and Richard Ramirez. I can’t even begin to tell you how insane and beautiful this book is.” —Brian Alan Ellis

“Troy James Weaver’s Visions is a smart and disturbing book, told in a voice as haunting as the cultish world it portrays. All those strange voices and visions packed into this slim novella, rendered with an honest complexity make this a remarkable achievement. I’m glad to have read it.” —Brandon Hobson

Religion, sex, death, love, pain, abuse, and something akin to illuminated insanity coalesce in Troy James Weaver’s Visions, a novel that exemplifies how rich, deep narratives can benefit from both unadorned honesty and extreme economy of language. Using short chapters and a few fragments pulled from a notebook kept by the main character, Visions offers a look at a large portion of a young man’s life and the dreamlike visions and voices that take him to the edge of becoming a cult leader.
Visions kicks off with a young man remembering how he told his mother about hearing voices when he was 12 years old. From there, his life moves forward, slowly spiraling into a mixture of loss and mayhem in which the only constants are the voices that speak to him and the visions that tell him about what the future will bring. He loses his best friend, finds a strange kind of love, reads the bible, deals with his mother’s death and its aftermath, and eventually ends up on the road to a place where he’ll meet a woman who will believe in his gift, and who will plant the seed of preaching in him.
Sex and religion are two of the main cohesive elements in Weaver’s narrative, and while neither is new, he manages to make them fresh and interesting. The protagonist is the kind of obsessed individual who masturbates and then reads the Bible immediately after. While the combination is bizarre, the two things are so inextricably related in his mind and discourse that it ends up making sense and feeling natural.
A voice commands me still. I look straight above me. On the ceiling there’s a mirror duct-taped against the popcorn-white. The voice, it’s soft and high-pitched at the same time. It tells me to look at the mirror until I come to know myself. It tells me to practice with my thing in my hand. It tells me I’m dirty and alone and never going to be anything beyond the face in the mirror, the kid with the little bike and the hidden secrets. It says I need to learn to love the face in the mirror, even if the face in the mirror is unlovable. I tug on myself and smile into the mirror of myself, mouth the words “thank you” so many times my mouth starts to fill with blood.
The world in which Visions takes place is emotionally and physically gritty and the young protagonist repeatedly encounters death and suffers a long history of sexual abuse that starts at the hands of his best friend. Throughout it all, however, he retains an uncanny sense of calm that comes from the fact that he can see the big picture and his visions have taught him about the inevitability of things. While there are five characters playing important roles here, the voices quickly become as important as the main character, and the messages they bring are enough to keep readers glued to the narrative.
While the story of a up-and-coming David Koresh-like figure is enough to make this a very enjoyable novel that explores the roots of insanity and the effects of our surroundings on a developing mind, the true beauty of Visions, the element that pushes it above and beyond most other gritty contemporary narratives, is Weaver’s voice. Reading this novel made me think of entering a building I’d never been in before but finding that many rooms, colors, and angles were either familiar or contained echoes of something I knew very well. As the narrative progressed, I realized that Weaver possesses a unique voice, but one that inhabits the interstitial space between the ethereal/God-centric power of Cormac McCarthy’s Child of God and the earthy and nonchalantly philosophical prose of Brian Allen Carr’s work:
God speaks through me, I said. For a while now, I’ve been given visions and voices. Some are things that really end up happening, too. Other times they are just voices, commands. I always obey the voices. Everything has happened exactly how it has happened because I obey the voices. I’m supposed to be here. You are supposed to be with me. We are supposed to be here, together, right up until the end.
Visions is a powerful narrative that rushes forward at breakneck speed and then lingers like the blinding memory of an apparition burned into your corneas. Troy James Weaver is part of a group of new voices that are creating exciting fiction that feels simultaneously new and rooted in great classics, and this novel should help him claim that spot while landing him on the list of young authors everyone should be excited about. -

I tug on myself and smile into the mirror of myself, mouth the words "thank you" so many time my mouth starts to fill with blood.
It's human nature to be longing for what you can't have. A common principle of several religion is that you'll be rewarded in another life for how you behave in this one, so it feeds right into that human need. Religion is spiritual wealth, not unlike money during a speculation bubble. It exists. first and foremost, through a common agreement that certain immaterial things are real. Author Troy James Weaver examined the process of belief in America, in his debut novel VISIONS, the hypnotic coming-of-age story of a self-appointed messianic figure. It's a short, but solid piece of fiction about the engineering of saviors in our day and age.
A young boy is staggering through the early years of teenagehood, looking for meaning in his life and an answer to the mysterious visions that've been haunting him. He meets a gullible young woman looking for guidance in her life, which he offers her through his special gift, but meeting her alters the course of his spiritual development and she becomes a part of a greater picture he hadn't completely foreseen. The divine hand that touched the young boy needs human interaction in order to reveal itself, and human interaction is a chaotic thing when you're growing up on your own in the American wasteland.
The first thing about
VISIONS that you'll immediately notice is the clever, vignette-like structure that's both reader-friendly and reminiscent of diary entries. It makes such an abstract, shapeless story much easier to follow. There are also excerpts from notebooks scattered through, where the boy narrates his mysterious visions, which foreshadow the tone VISIONS is about to take. The original structure makes it both fun to read and deceptively cerebral, since the boy's vision and life intertwine in order to enrich both one another. The boy wouldn't become without the visions and the visions would be meaningless if the boy didn't act on them.
The beginning of
VISIONS reminded me of Blake Butler's 300,000,000 (one of my favourite reads of 2014). Of course, both novels go to radically different places, but they are both a testament to the power of ideas. Troy James Weaver understands how ideas are an integral part of reality and the process to turn them into tangible things. The comparisons to the work of Harmony Korine also made a lot of sense, although they are more rooted in the aesthetic approach. Weaver's narrative accuracy in describing the erratic behavior of a directionless kid dealing with religious visions. I can't say I had a transcendent emotional moment while reading VISIONS, but it kept me reading with the same fascination I would read a Chuck Klosterman essay with.
A couple weeks ago, I had no idea who
Troy James Weaver was. This is why Broken River Books are important. They give a solid platform to the absolute best, most original authors out there. I'm pretty sure that if they hadn't rolled the dice on him, I wouldn't have heard about him and it would've been my loss. VISIONS is a mature, controlled first effort that might not reach emotional high points, but it understands what it is and always keeps it under control. It's a bleak, cerebral and contemplative short novel that'll get your gears spinning in the best, most rewarding possible way. If you're as fascinated with the human/divine duality as I am, you'll love VISIONS. -

Troy James Weaver, Witchita Stories, Future Tense Books, 2015.

The short vignette-style tales in Troy James Weaver’s literary debut, Witchita Stories, combine to make an evocative brew of small town melancholy, working class gloom, and coming of age charm. Told through the eyes of a young man who yearns to find excitement, truth, and a deeper family bond in his life, Weaver’s approachable and revealing stories, lists, fragments, and memories delve into the weird, funny, and sometimes unsettling world of a midwest kid finding his own path.

“Thank god you can come across a writer like Troy James Weaver. In the future people will just say these stories are like Troy James Weaver stories and you’ll know exactly what they mean.” —Scott McClanahan

“There are moments, reading Witchita Stories, where everything dropped away, and I was speechless, or at least whatever the equivalent of speechless is when you’re not talking in the first place. There is a deep sadness to these stories, and humor, but most importantly, honesty. This feels real and heavy and it’s just about the best thing I’ve read in a long time.” —J. David Osborne

Troy James Weaver begins his collection of flash fiction/memoirs Witchita Stories with the dedication “for my brother.” But it could just as easily have been these lines from late in the book: “I/Love/You,/You/Fucker.” Over the next hundred-and-eighty pages Weaver goes skipping through his own childhood in Wichita, Kansas, tracing the shadowy presence of his brother self-destructing across the decades of his childhood, trying to find the line that separates them and yet still binds them together.
Weaver exists along the same axis as Ben Lerner or Sheila Heti, with a first person narrator who bears his own name and functionally identical experiences growing up. Weaver himself calls it fiction, but the truth is it doesn’t matter whether the collection is fiction or non. The essence of the collection is how it mimics memory, which is not the most reliable of witnesses. A little over half-way through the book Weaver even offers some quick revisions, admitting the mistakes in his own recollections but preserving the initial memory as being just as important as the facts of reality. Meanwhile the pieces skip around, dipping into this or that moment for only a page or two before jumping on to the next, driven by the hidden logic of Weaver’s subconscious as he chases the trail of his brother.
The longest of the pieces clocks in at four pages, most are under two. It’s a clever way to capture the fleeting sense of childhood memory, how we only remember the event and maybe a detail or two; the rest is our imagination filling in the rest of the descriptions, so that the picture feels full when it is anything but. And throughout are littered the ephemera of childhood: lists of Tori Amos songs, dumb jokes, noteworthy books, and photographs of Wichita. The photographs in particular are interesting, as they capture the in between places of the city, its underpasses and backyards and drainage pipes. These are locations that appeal to children precisely because they are unimportant and, therefore, unwatched. It is the tableaux of a hundred million childhoods.
Weaver writes like a friend telling you a story from his life over coffee, quickly and plainly. The emphasis is on the cumulative effect of all these micrometer slices of a life adding up over the two hundred pages. An obvious reference point is Boyhood, not just for the time-lapse effect but also for the interest in the quiet moments. These are the memories and stories that are important to Weaver not because of any obvious high drama but because they capture the feeling of what it was like to be alive in that moment.
Many of the stories are about the narrator turning away from the elements of his brother’s life – saying no to sexual offers from his brother’s friends, or not partaking in the various drugs his brother explores and generously offers. It creates a negative space in the text where most would be about how crazy those first time experiences are. Weaver’s interest is in finding the boundary between himself and his brother, and how those small choices led him to a place where he is married and a writer while his brother has been through multiple prison stays. How can they both have grown up in the same house and made mistakes and yet arrive at such different lives his book asks, and sees the answers in the slightest of moments.
The rest of it, his brother’s arrests and thieving from his own family, his father’s addictions and family’s Mormonism, in other words the focus of a different memoir, are all alluded to without intruding on the page, because these are not the ways that Weaver defines his brother. What matters is the complicated love of family, how Weaver can simultaneously look to up his brother and acknowledge that he’s incapable of making a good decision. “I/Love/You,/You/Fucker” indeed. When Weaver finally admits to his brother that he’s writing a book about him, he fears his brother will hate him. “Hate?” his brother says, “That’s not even possible. I’m proud of you.” And you are there with Weaver, so glad and grateful to have this self-destructive giant back in his life, for however long it might be.
The few moments of truly salacious stories don’t come from the partying and drinking and drugs, but those small mistakes that linger for years after. His shame is contagious in these moments, replacing the usual schadenfreude with an uncomfortable echo of your own failings. He confesses to setting traps in the woods and accidentally injuring his brother’s friend, or breaking into his best friend’s house and rifling through his parents’ things, and worst of all never admitting to them in the moment. You can sense how they have weighed heavy on Weaver in the years since, despite the others involved most likely not even remembering.
Most upsetting of all, he revisits a time when he crashed after a house party on the couch and then woke, in the middle of the night, to the sound of his friend raping a girl from the party. He is paralyzed, uncertain of what to do, and through his inaction allows it to continue. At the end of the story he offers apologies, but it feels like far too little. And how can it be any other way? He acknowledges that there is nothing he can do to fix it now, and “hopes this ’friend’ feels all the pain, and all the shame, that he’s created,” but it rings hollow on the page. He seems to assume we’ll grant him bravery for admitting to his wrongs on the page and then forgive him, which automatically strips the bravery away from the action.
Then that label of fiction comes along and blurs all the lines again. Only those three who were there know the facts of what happened. But whether or not that party and that rape did occur, the truth of it remains. Weaver wishes to apologize, if not for this failing then for some similar one, and we should let him, whether or not we accept it. The truth of these stories is what’s important, and it is plain in the text. A young man, blundering along during his own path from childhood to adulthood, looks up to his brother, and continues to love him even as the brother tears himself apart. All the rest are the details, and who can ever be sure of those? - Fred Pelzer 
A friend from Kansas told us a story of going into an open field with his brother and, on a dare, touching an electric fence, just to see if he could do it. The feeling, he said, was like a workboot kicking him square in the chest. The impact sent him flying. “I am lucky to be alive,” he told us.
Kansas is for survivors, a home truth that lives supreme in Troy James Weaver’s Witchita Stories (Future Tense Press, April 2015), a linked story collection teeming with those enduring the peril of their own lives. Attempting to lay definition to an entire city with one body of stories is tricky work, but Weaver does it well by framing it within the context of family in this mosaic of snapshots – brief, heart-stopping chapters often only a page in length.
Witchita details the narrator’s homelife through adolescence and beyond: his tough yet fragile father, a chain-smoking Vietnam vet who drank “cough syrup like it was going out of style…doing that shit way before Lil Wayne even materialized as a sperm,” and his older sister, who, he tells himself, “until further notice…loves you the best she knows how.” Chief focus, however, is placed on the narrator’s beloved older brother, a budding addict who becomes “lost somewhere” between the narrator and their sister as he descends into illness.
With compelling clarity of vision, the narrator records family drama as only the youngest can, knowing, as most youngest family members do, that his own story will forever be tertiary to that of his older siblings. He becomes the reporter supreme, documenting hurts, debts, and legends for the final record. Witchita benefits from the grace and confidence of the narrator’s voice as he catalogues his sister’s shady boyfriends, redneck neighbors, casual high school cruelty, and a path to manhood punctuated with a growing awareness that “Impermanence is a fact. Nothing lasts forever exactly as it is.” The collection transitions effortlessly from heartbreaking darkness – the suicides of peers, the stark realities of depression – to humor (I refuse to spoil the “Poop Boots” incident for you; rest assured, it is reason enough to pick up the book).
Most striking is the narrator’s willingness to portray honest, unrestrained ambivalence about his family when it would be far easier to resort either to sentimentality or outright condemnation. Being a part of a troubled family is, like being part of any family, a varied experience. The narrator recounts life with his brother in tones light and dark; he suffers, in hideous detail, every frame of his brother’s decline into drug use, finding himself unable to recount childish incidents of theft and wayward play without the knowledge of future events – jail time, HIV scares, meth- casting a long shadow.
Yet his anger is cut with a love unafraid to show its teeth: “I remember putting a fishhook through his thumb when we were little kids,” he recounts, “before all that ink and bars came between us, and feeling so bad I kissed it: the hole, the blood – and I’d do it again. In a heartbeat, just give me that goddamn thumb and I’ll know and you’ll know how much it is I really love him. What’s that boo-boo lip out for? Suck it up, I’d tell him. Be a man.” The narrator reports from a place where disappointment and hope become one writhing, vibrant animal: “Even when I feel like I feel all this hate in me,” he confirms, “I realize it’s just my love with nowhere to go.”
The narrator’s self-discovery finds an excellent setting in working-class Wichita, described as a singular universe teetering on the edge of development and wilderness, a metropolis in the midst of the dark, tangled rural. For a boy, it is a world equal parts frog hunting and Sega, safety and peril: in this Wichita, a dead fisherman sits on a boat mid-lake, the heft of fish on the line bending his pole. The memory of the BTK Killer haunts the generations, a subject around which parents skirt. There are date nights at Bingo Palace and afternoons lost in the time-honored ritual of snorting crushed pills in someone’s basement while listening to Joy Division: “Things went fuzzy, chaotic, and I stood there, the loner, watching the sweat drip from their earlobes, wondering whose heart would be the first to collapse beneath the weight of the god-awful boredom of this place.” A neighboring car pulls a gun on the narrator at a quiet 1:00 AM intersection, yet he walks away, alive, marveling, “The world is full of possibilities.”
A product of Portland’s Future Tense Books, those who like to nerd out on presentation will be pleased with the book’s make – a truly badass cover featuring the signage of Kansas’s foremost abandoned amusement park, Joyland, and chapters peppered with landscape shots that anyone who has spent time on a city’s fringes will recognize with a pang: drainpipes, quarries, the ragged, wooded edges of subdivisions. While the images are presumably of Wichita, they could be the veins and gristle of any city, both the lightness and darkness of the heart. In this, the design serves its excellent content well. - Kayla Rae Whitaker

Previous general portrayal of the Midwest has been decidedly not-my-Midwest: Garrison Keillor’s rosy-cheeked shitheads and the good-guys-win-bad-guys-lose world of John Hughes. My Midwest is boredom and its trappings—drugs and sex and Tori Amos tapes—and as those ideas run through Troy James Weaver’s Witchita Stories, it does to Wichita, Kansas what Gummo did to sub-rural Ohio or what Alice Munro did to small town Canada. It shows how those not on the map survive without the map.
Opening jam “Summer” is the best of them all. It doesn’t go far, because nothing in town goes far. “My sister is sixteen and she’s already at that stage in life where she’s bringing over guys that look like Fonzie or Vanilla Ice.” That’s the first sentence, and I wish I had written it. I wish I had written the next part, too, about these guys and their bad music, their misappropriated styles. How the sister is distracted to a point of neglect and how hot it is outside and how you just won’t die one way or the other, won’t melt away in the heat and won’t freeze to death in counteracting it.
And that’s it. 329 words and maybe ten steps off the front porch, a walk into the kitchen to eat what your sister didn’t make you.
Weaver does the best thing a person can do when they won’t go anywhere else: he opens up his arms, pulls inward, and looks hard at what he’s grasped. This book is an arrangement of vignettes, the things that have stuck to his palms. Some are longer than “Summer” and some are shorter, but not by much on either side. In “Water Slides,” Weaver and his friend help fix up a buddy of theirs who had slit his wrists, thinking the whole time about the water park they get to go to the next day. How would the suicide attempt have been handled if they didn’t have the water park to look forward to? Would the story have been worth telling at all? It’s just a minor pause in the malaise, just like everything else, somehow.
There’s a small tribute of sorts to the BTK Killer, an undeniably exciting part of Wichita culture, and it’s around this point in the book where the length of the stories become part of the between-the-lines narrative of the book itself. Weaver spends just as much time talking about the BTK Killer as he does talking about this time some girl wanted to fuck him. That’s half as long as he spends on a girl whose pubic hair looked like Hitler’s mustache, twice as long as he spends on a former friend of his brother’s moving in with them and later on murdering someone. Convention, importance, influence. They all mean a different thing in this world.
If there’s a problem to be had with the book, it’s the perhaps-too-accurate feeling of the Midwest. I’ve spent most of my life living in towns of 2000 people. I know the feeling when Weaver’s stories come off as anecdotal, when the punch line and the setup to a joke are the same thing, when something promising cuts off abruptly. There’s a constant feeling of Well, I guess I’ll just go back to being alive, I guess.
Parts of Witchita Stories drag and some fall flat. Some hit the exposition too hard and there’s no real structure. It has other problems that those of us who have read a lot of books will find in almost any book that isn’t one of our sacred favorites. I could see how hearing this could deter you, but I say this for the same reason that Weaver put it all in there in the first place. It’s honest and it’s honorable. There are many great pieces to this book, and in telling the whole truth, they get that much greater.
In “Tennis Balls,” an old friend of Weaver’s dad gives Weaver a tennis ball. This old friend used to be a great jazz musician until he ended up drunk and homeless. Weaver kept the tennis ball a long time until it fell into a gutter. And that’s the whole story. There’s no fancy writer-tricks or English lessons. The tennis ball isn’t a metaphor and the homeless jazz musician is just that.
When they’re next to each other, we see my Midwest and possibly yours, too. How sometimes we fall apart and sometimes things fall apart for us. And how sometimes, nothing much happens at all.-
Ryan Werner

Troy James Weaver’s career is just starting, but he has already mastered a peculiar style of storytelling in which economy of language is in direct negative correlation with depth of emotion. Weaver prefers short, sharp lines and the kind of stories that can be told in less than two pages, but the amount of feelings and memories he’s able to cram into each literary morsel puts to shame much larger works. In Witchita Stories, pain, childhood, familial strife, drugs, and sex collide in a narrative that dances between being a somewhat cinematic trip to the wrong side of the tracks and a thinly veiled autobiography.
Witchita Stories is a collection of vignette-style tales that follow the early years in the life of a regular, working class kid from the Midwest. The short stories are about growing up and learning what life, love, loss, and pain are all about. From fights and first kisses to learning about death and familial horrors, the stories presented are very relatable, and the author’s knack for straightforward prose full of meaning allow each fragment to hold an incredible wealth in terms of melancholy. Told in a variety of formats that include microfiction, short stories, and even lists, this collection shifts between hilarity and sadness with the same ease that real life does, and that makes it special.
The beauty of Witchita Stories is that suffering is presented nonchalantly and without the interference of grandiloquent literary snobbishness. The writing here is as close to truth as fiction gets. Weaver’s honest, direct approach bring his writing to that strange level in which the words on page cause the reader to nod in recognition because what is being told is something they have gone through or at least know someone who has:
“Then puberty came on like a plague. I started taking Prozac and listening to music that reflected my feelings through its feedback. I hid further inside myself, deeper into my guts, because I knew it would be nearly impossible for anybody to find me there. I felt comfortable in this sadness, alone, deep down in the void of myself, laid out on top of pitiful pillows in a dirty bedroom, where I never found any kind of useful sleep or even rest from the misery of being me.”
Drugs and music are just two of the cohesive elements that make this collection of short stories read more like a novella. While those external, nonhuman elements would have been enough to make Witchita Stories a strong, satisfying read, the characters that populate it are just as crucial in achieving that. A the veteran father moping around the house while submerged in his questionable sanity, strange friends and acquaintances who leave an indelible mark and then fade as quickly as a bruise never to be seen again, and an older brother who is a powerful, shaping presence that constantly struggles with a throng of inner demons are all denizens of the too-real world Weaver has created, and they all serve as vehicles for memories and lessons.
From the bizarre to the gloomy, Weaver is not afraid to explore/expose anything, and the result is a book that makes the reader feel like he or she is sitting at the table with a friend full of stories and confessions. There are crushing, emotionally gritty passages, plenty of violence, and some humor, but there’s also an uncanny kind of poetry that places Weaver at the head of the new batch of authors to watch:
You ever smoke coke-dusted weed? Shit, the guy didn’t even tell me what it was until after we smoked it. Luckily I didn’t freak out like I thought I would. It was just like there were these tiny angels climbing up and down a million microscopic structures crosshatched in my veins.”
Witchita Stories is a life presented in words. It’s a collection that is read quickly and sticks around because it’s packed with an array of emotional punches that leave the reader stunned. Weaver is fast becoming one of the most remarkable voices standing at the crossroads of literary fiction, noir, and the kind of writing that defies categorization. If you like stories wrenched from reality and presented without filters, this one is not to be missed. - Gabino Iglesias

We Are All We’ve Done by Troy James Weaver