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Megan-Milks-Kill-Marguerite-author-pic-web“Milks.” That’s a funny name. Are you a funny person?

Nope. Not even going to deliver an anti-joke here. But I’m interested in comedy, for sure, especially the comedic grotesque and “stupid” writing. My fiction definitely has a sly side. Lots of deadpan humor, the occasional very bad pun. Plus talking insects, acts of gods, and winkingly insincere morals.

For Jamie Moore

I have to believe even your death was graceful.
That you lifted yourself into the backseat
effortlessly as your feet in first position raised onto pointe,
toes careful not to disturb the gear set in park.
That you crawled over the empty prescription bottles
to enter the trunk through the rear, folded yourself there,
wrapped your body around the blackness like a partner
who made you weightless in that perfect last ascent
before the stage went dark, before the curtain dropped.

Kill-Marguerite-Megan-Milks-webLevel One: The Rope Swing

BEGIN>> So they are at the rope swing, swinging. The rope swing is this dinky little wooden seat knotted onto a long rope that hangs from a sturdy big tree branch and it swoops back and forth over Swift Creek Reservoir, and you can stand on the seat or sit or whatever. Some of the boys even climb up the rope while it’s swinging because they’re showoffs like that. And there is Caty in her jean shorts and old New Kids on the Block t-shirt getting Hot and Heavy with Alex on the rope swing, at least she guesses that this is what that means.

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My mother is adamant that I was distraught the evening my father committed suicide. I have no recollection of that. She insists I continued to be very upset the next day. I have no recollection of that either.  In my mind I was stoic, calm, in control, but the events during that time don’t exist in my memory on any type of continuum or even as full scenes. Rather they are present as moments that stand out against a blurry backdrop, so it is possible she is right. I begin to lose details just seconds after my sister finished saying the three words she had called to relay: “Dad shot himself.”

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So how long have you been writing?

Since kindergarten. isn’t that when everyone learns how to write?

 

No, I’m sorry, I meant….you know, creative writing. Like what’s in your new book.

How do you know about my book?

 

My friend Rich told me about it. Is it any good?

That’s a strange question. Like if I told you I saw a car accident on my way here today, and then you asked me: was it any good? I wouldn’t know what you meant, you know?

9780374182212The cover of Jonathan Franzen’s strange, wonderful, and occasionally frustrating latest work, The Kraus Project, is immediately striking. Its peach smoke and antiquated type make for a different and mysterious feel. The typical Franzen cover is big, abrasive, traditionally American and in some cases, tactile or reflective. Into the world came The Kraus Project and it was greeted with a small well-mannered hooray and scarcely a glimmer of anticipation, like someone whom nobody was excited to see arriving late to a dinner party. The usual Franzenian hallmarks were strangely absent—there was no cannonade of tweets, motions for canonization or general controversy.

NYWe pile into grungy lofts along lower Broadway, far off on Avenue B, over by the West Side Highway, where our calloused feet turn black from the dust and grime caked on the wooden floors, where we steam up the tall windows with the ecstatic force of our efforts. We are all bargaining for space in these crowded dance classes—an opening in which to toss out a leg, an arm, always negotiating for that extra yard of floor. There is never enough of it, all of us hungry for more emptiness, more attention, more air in which to stretch out our limbs and spines and hearts, to rip through space.

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The Library of Congress breaks down your book into these categories: Children of drug addicts—Massachusetts—biography—drug addicts. What genre would you put your book into?

I really dislike reducing any work of art to a DSM-IV listing. My mother was more than her addictions and mental illness. And I am more than her daughter.

Kim ChurchHas anyone told you that you misspelled the title of your novel?

My family, when we were together over Christmas. I reminded them it’s only my first book; what did they expect?

 

If you could read your book to anyone in the world, who would it be?

My grandmother, if she were still living. We would sit at her kitchen table and I’d read to her, short bits, just as she used to dictate to me. For years, I was her scrivener. One afternoon every week, I wrote letters for her. She had terrible arthritis and it pained her to write.

RUTA_WithWithoutYou_trP R O L O G U E

Glass

My mother grabbed the iron poker from the fireplace and said, “Get in the car.”

I pulled on my sneakers and followed her outside. She had that look on her face, distracted and mean, as though she’d just been dragged out of a deep sleep full of dreams. She was mad, I could tell right away, but not at me, not this time.

Her car was a lime-green hatchback with blotches and stripes of putty smeared over the dents. The Shitbox, she called it. We called it, actually. My mother hated the thing so much she didn’t mind if I swore at it. “What a piece of shit,” I’d grumble whenever it stalled on us, which we could gamble on happening at least once a day, more if it was snowing. Far and away the most unreliable car we ever had in our life together, it was a machine that ran on prayer.

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She is engrossed in some sort of looming or woodworking that requires her to wear a bib.

He, in overalls with only one strap fastened, is hammering out a poem. Stuck, he can’t find something pleasing that rhymes with “endeavor.”

She suggests “forever.”

He whispers something under his breath, then raises it an octave and yelps.

ByrdUp on the Roof

Roland is making a picnic. He has never made a picnic for anyone. It’s not even a word he uses: picnic.

On his counter, blueberry smoothies and crinkle-cut fries from his favorite stand on the beach, plus everything from his kitchen: a can of peaches, half a bottle of white Zinfandel, and two hard-boiled eggs, which he peels and mashes into a bowl with salt and pepper. Then there’s the barbecue Addie brought with her from North Carolina: hickory-smoked shoulder meat sliced thin, packed on dry ice in her little travel cooler. Slaw, too, and sauce, the thin red tomatoey kind they grew up on. You can’t get sauce like this in California.

In the eyes of the corpses
bitten by crows.
In the smiles of generals
sending flowers
sending flowers….
on the butcher’s apron,
where the blood makes patterns
like beautiful constellations.

&c.

By Thea Goodrich

Poem

is what I would ink on my wrist
if I had the nerve for etching
(or more precisely, permanently,
no nerves in me at all).

my left wrist, probably, and askew,
the notch between bowl and stem
of and per se and as the arrowhead
at the delta of a ghost-blue thread.

MannequinGirl_2-021-198x300In July she becomes an anomaly, a glitch in a plan, a malfunction in an otherwise perfect mechanism. There is no pain, no warning signs, and no heredity issues, contrary to what the doctors imply. Her mother says Kat’s diagnosis is a slap in the face and a curse and the blackest day of their lives. “You should’ve seen us,” she says. “We were black when we came from the doctors.” Her mother’s face is white, her hair short and dark. She resembles the champion figure skater Irina Rodnina, and everyone knows she is prone to verbal extravagance.