It is sometimes offered as a tenet of fiction that you can get away with absurdity if you do it emphatically enough, and early enough in the story. If you can seduce us into suspending our disbelief at the beginning, we’re yours for the whole ride. Kelcey Parker executes this strategy admirably in her short stories. Their premises read a bit like tabloid headlines, and tend to feature solid, middle-class people doing unexpectedly flighty things: A trained squirrel becomes an influential family member. A woman gives up her family for Lent. Parker’s command of scene and dialogue and her polished, lively voice are such that we’re willing to buy it. But her stories are never gimmicky: what is most surprising is not where they start, but where they go next. Rather than milking what is strange for laughs, she makes stories that are dead serious, psychologically delicate, and true, despite their strange origins. Her instincts lead her to draw out the tragedy within the absurd. Throughout her fiction, Parker displays an exquisite sensitivity to the states of the human soul, revealing aspects of both its illnesses and its resiliency that we hadn’t known. We never regret having given in to her.
As I wait (patiently, patiently) for my first book to be published next year, I am enjoying work in several new writing ventures. One is a novella set at Fallingwater, the famous house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for E.J. and Liliane Kaufmann. In Liliane’s Balcony I reveal stories about Liliane Kaufmann that Fallingwater’s tour guides don’t want you to know—her affairs, her husband’s public infidelities, her overdose at Fallingwater. I am writing not to expose Mrs. Kaufmann, but to give her a more complete story, to literally move her from the footnotes to the main text. I intersperse Mrs. Kaufmann’s narrative with a collage of moments in the lives of a few modern-day tourists, whose personal crises culminate on Liliane’s famously over-sized, under-supported balcony.
I have also managed to trick myself into writing nonfiction. My autobiography would bore even me, so I’ve conceived the idea of auto-ethnography. Instead of telling my life story, I’m focusing on stories about the people and places that have shaped me: the dozens of Norwegian relatives I met last summer in my grandfather’s village, my Slovakian second cousin, sports teammates, nuns, dead students, and the nineteenth-century Czech writer (and ethnographer), Božena Němcová. Even in my own circles, I can feel like an outsider, an observer. Too old, I suppose, to call myself a spy, I fancy myself an ethnographer jotting secret field notes.
I was born in mythical Ithaca (upstate New York) and grew up in various suburbs of New Jersey, Connecticut, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Cincinnati again. As a teenager I played soccer on what was, officially, the third best team in the country. I was the lonely goalie writing stories in my head. Now I’m a soccer mom writing stories on my Mac and sometimes on my vintage typewriter.
My first book is For Sale By Owner, a collection of short stories forthcoming from Kore Press in 2010. My fiction has appeared in Indiana Review, Bellingham Review, Santa Monica Review, Western Humanities Review, Redivider, Portland Review, Sycamore Review, and in the anthology, Not Safe, But Good, Vol. 2, edited by Bret Lott. I have a Ph.D. from the University of Cincinnati, and these days, home base is Northern Indiana, where I teach writing and literature at Indiana University South Bend.
For more information, please visit my website: www.kelceyparker.com