Claire Rudy Foster in conversation with Richard Chiem at Elliott Bay Book Company, Nov. 21, 2019
A book tour is like all the best parts of going to your own funeral. Following the publication of my short story collection Shine of the Ever (Interlude Press), I set out to visit indie bookstores in six cities to read, share the collection, and meet the readers who have been so supportive of my writing. It was a joy. This November, I read in Olympia, Portland, Bend, Philadelphia, New York City, and Seattle. (I’ll hit the road again in January.)
Is it silly to say that love still overwhelms me? Writing a book is a lonely, difficult endeavor. On the first leg of my book tour, I was moved by the enthusiasm and kindness of the people who came to see me. Listening to them praise my work, and hearing that Shine of the Ever made them feel seen — for the first time — meant the world. My book is finding its readers, and for that I am deeply grateful.
On my last stop at Elliott Bay Book Company, I had the privilege of speaking with Richard Chiem, the author of King of Joy (Soft Skull Press) and You Private Person (Scrambler Books). I first encountered Richard’s writing when I reviewed King of Joy for Foreword Reviews earlier this year. I was astounded and moved by its razor-delicate depiction of trauma. I identified strongly with the main character Corvus, a survivor who is limp and poisonous as a human cigarette.
King of Joy is a delicious, demonic novel that fades through adjacent, looping worlds in the magical early 2000s. In it, Richard evokes a lost decade and suggests the shape of the monsters that churned beneath its surface. I’ve championed this book as a top pick for 2019, and I was epically thrilled to talk to Richard about Shine of the Ever.
What I wasn’t expecting was Richard’s introduction for the event, which I would like read as my eulogy, if possible. With Richard’s permission, I’m sharing this introduction below. This has been one of the happiest weeks of my life. I feel so seen, so held, and so loved. Thank you to everyone who has made this possible, and I look forward to seeing you again in January.
I am so thrilled and honored to be here with you today to celebrate the Seattle launch of Shine of the Ever by Claire Rudy Foster.
First off, I want to say there is nothing I can say right now that will do this book proper justice. Line by line, story by story, this book has staggered me deeply and its poetry made me kin. Each story felt vulnerable, whole, raw, and like a perfect pop song, or like a bell that can’t be unrung, they give us a reason to surrender slow down and listen.
A short story collection can be a special thing, like how a mix tape can be a special, sacred thing. It can be a thing that breaks you open again and again, quite secretly and seamlessly. Claire Rudy Foster has crafted something of a masterpiece with Shine of the Ever, something that vibrates in the body long after you reach the back cover. There is an energy in this collection that feels like an unembarrassed, incandescent, and never ending pulse, and as the characters got braver, or sadder, or more lost, or more real, or more self-destructive, the reader pivots too. The pages never stopped feeling real, and the reader becomes everyone in this book. Our chests cave and cave in, and our secret hearts and lizard brains sing. Queer and trans folks navigating the day-by-day in cold Portland. The nuance and heartbreak of polyamory. Unrequited, complicated love. Folks in recovery. Existential crisis and sweet longing. Betrayal, poverty, miscommunications, and repressed sexuality, and then authentic emotional release, in so many forms. The emotions here are a knife, not a flower, and this book will keep you forever.
I am a fanboy for life.
Please join me to celebrate Claire Rudy Foster.