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Robert Vaughan

Robert Vaughan lives in Milwaukee where he leads writing roundtables at Redbird-Redoak Writing. He is a fiction editor at JMWW magazine and Thunderclap! Press, and he co-hosts Flash Fiction Fridays for WUWM’s Lake Effect.

Blurbs

"Vaughan compresses human love and behavior with great precision, evoking people and places with language and images full of wonderment and heartbreak. This book is a marvel, with lines so sharp you will find yourself wanting to return to them often."

– Brandon Hobson, author of Deep Ellum

"With singular vision and the perfect, skewed geometry of his prose, Robert Vaughan gifts his readers with fiction that reads like the best possible mash-up of David Lynch and Wes Anderson. A smart, profound, risk-taker of a collection not to be missed."

– Kathy Fish, author of Wild Life

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Diptychs + Triptychs + Lipsticks + Dipshits

A delectably linguistic read, for poetry and prose readers alike.

04/27/14

In his famous essay “The Sentence is a Lonely Place,”Gary Lutz writes that the books he fell in love with were the ones “in which virtually every sentence had the force and feel of a climax, in which almost every sentence was a vivid extremity of language, an abruption, a definitive inquietude.”

Robert Vaughan’s newest book, Diptychs + Triptychs + Lipsticks + Dipshits, which manages to pack thirty pieces in fifty-five pages, is a beautiful example of the kind of attention to detail that Gary Lutz admires.  Some stories are stronger than others, certainly, but the language jumps out on almost every page. Take, for example, the following sentences from “Lawyers, Guns & Money”:

He bust a button on his blazer. The testimony reeled in his head, churned, too many cracks.

Say that out loud. They’re sentences you can taste, clicking through your lips and teeth and tongue. Throughout the book the language rarely feels heavy-handed, but rather miraculously obvious, as if these words were always meant to go together, pairs and triplets of words working to create a phrase that feels just right, as in “influx of dwellers” and “sucker lists.”

Although he calls them stories, Vaughan’s work reads more like poetry. Perhaps the pieces are somewhere between, a kind of prose poetry that has found room to stretch out and get comfortable without the need for straight narratives. Most of all, Vaughan succeeds in conveying a mood in each vignette, aided by the titles and categorizing system he uses to arrange most of them. For example, the story “Hexagon of Life” is divided into six single paragraphs that are each headed by a number from one to six. “The Three Stooges” is divided into the sub-titles “Shoebox (Larry),” “Steps (Moe),” and Sidebar (Curly).”

The tone as a whole is deeply personal, and whether you imagine yourself, the author or an anonymous narrator within the stories, you are sure to be moved. The characters tend to be unnamed, lending them an everyman feeling, so that the described occurrences feel painfully familiar, as in “Modern Day Symphony”:

The lingering questions came in the form of water, piss, trees, green, trade. Everyone said live for the moment, but have you ever tried to do that? Forget about the past, no such thing. Holidays? None. No religion either, except in some climactic nightmares.

Some stories are definitely weaker or less satisfying, but it is unsurprising that within a collection of so many short pieces some would stand out more than others. On the whole, however, Vaughan’s book is a delectably linguistic read, for poetry and prose readers alike.

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