Thursday, October 8, 2009

John Dermot Woods on MLKNG SCKLS

From John's blog:

Had the pleasure of reading this vowellessly titled book a couple times on the train this week. And had the pleasure of meeting Justin Sirois last weekend when we read together at the Baltimore Book Festival. I was really inspired by two things. ONE, the fact that he gave out handmade books to the whole audience who was good enough to brave the rain to watch us read (of course, I left mine in my hotel room), and, TWO, the voice that he is making available to American readers in his book MLKNG SCKLS and the longer, as yet unpublished, novel Falcons on the Floor. Justin also credits his work to Haneen Alshujairy, who he explained is a woman that he knows and regularly corresponds with who fled from Iraq to Egypt. Justin’s simple but properly indulgent words create stories that offer Alshujairy’s experiences to an audience (English-speaking Americans) who are usually prevented from seeing this side of Iraq (his book profiles two young men fleeing Fallujah). There is a lack of exoticism and a dull, familiar desperation that is rarely achieved by those portraying war and foreign lands.

A few moments in this book really stick with me. One is a haunting scene in which Salim, the book’s first person narrator, sets his laptop’s webcam to film to him taking a piss in the river at night, and he imagines an internet audience watching this moment, without explanation, on YouTube (or some other site). It’s an incredibly vulnerable moment for character and reader. Later, Justin writes an exceptional scene in which Salim “uncooks” a curry to show his girlfriend how much he loves her. Justin is good enough not to define this anomalous moment as a memory or a delusion or a dream – it is real to Salim and the reader. And as he goes through the painstaking process of “uncooking” we watch them flinch and cringe at the sound of a door knock, a far more threatening sound in their environment than the not-so-far-off screams of pain they’ve grown accustomed to.

MLKNG SCKLS sections are ancillary scenes to a larger novel, Falcons on the Floor, which Justin has written, and we can only hope will be made available to us soon.


John Dermot Woods is the author of the novel The Complete Collection of people, places & things. He writes stories and draws comics in Brooklyn, NY. He edits the arts quarterly Action,Yes and organizes the online reading series Apostrophe Cast. He is a professor in the English Department at Nassau Community College on Long Island.

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