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Corey Mesler

Corey Mesler is the author of Talk: A Novel in Dialogue, We Are Billion-Year-Old Carbon, The Ballad of the Two Tom Mores, Following Richard Brautigan, and Listen: 29 Short Conversations. With his wife, he runs Burke’s Book Store, one of the country’s oldest (1875) independent bookstores.


"Corey Mesler's characters glimpse a mysterious and terrible beauty in the world, and reading these stories I glimpsed it, too."

– Leah Stewart, author of The Myth of You and Me and Husband and Wife

"A remarkably unique collection that both invokes and takes you away from everyday life―part Raymond Carver, part Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Spare, rich, real, surprising, and absolutely wonderful."

– Jennifer Paddock, author of A Secret Word and Point Clear

"Very, very readable. James Thurber meets Jorge Borges."

– Gordon Osing, author of Slaughtering the Buddha

“By turns piercingly funny and sneakily heartrending, Notes Toward the Story & Other Stories touches the real corners of life while also showing, with great tenderness, the way we seek to elevate ourselves, our condition, the everydayness of our everyday lives, to a level of epic grandeur."

– Megan Abbott, author of Bury Me Deep and The End of Everything


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Notes Toward the Story & Other Stories

A Few Words on Corey Mesler’s Notes Toward the Story & Other Stories


Appreciation for the female form, in many manifestations. Appreciation for language. A cunning wit and endearing style. Boundless creativity. The presence of a well-read author who makes an original contribution. That about sums it up.

Don’t ask me why Mesler, who has both novels and poetry collections published in addition to story collections, has not gained larger distribution in terms of a big agent and a major book deal with wide distribution, but yet again I find myself grateful for the risks independent and academic publishers are willing to take.

What we have with Mesler’s new collection is exactly the kind of gathered stories I like to read — varied in style, theme, and content. Elegant and guttural. Full of the flavor of life and the lyrical beauty of literary work. More sensuous but similarly ironic to Vonnegut. More accessible than Roland Barthes for those who like story more than essay, but also as comfortingly aching in elegant prose as a latter-day Nabokov — with the same sort of flair for unexpected language combinations and a symphonic melody of sounds rendered together like a culminating force. Mesler’s work has been compared to Brautigan, but I sense metafictional traces of John Barth, too — as well as what I’ve always found to be the enjoyably surreal facets of many excellent early T.C. Boyle stories.

Coincidentally, this is also exactly the kind of story collection I like to read from a male writer, if we let gender play a role in this discussion. The men in these stories enjoy women. Frankly, I like that.

Not to be sexist, but when I read a book with powerful sexy female characters and that book has been written by a man, I am almost tempted to check his pants to verify gender. To gilt-edged frame him. To send him up with a parade. Were he not married, I’d likely ask for a phone number or a sample life-primer to allow distribution to less fortunate men in airports. Certainly, Mesler excels with longing — in many of Mesler’s stories, specifically, female longing plays a part — but what I enjoy is that he explores not just the act of wanting — but also the fulfillment of feminine desires. Three cheers for that!

The story that opens this collection entitled “Monster,” for example, discusses a woman with a cheating husband who decides to stop her pattern of sadness and violation via having her own affair; before she can consummate this however, her husband comes home, discovers her intent, and treats her violently until she is rescued (and later sexually satisfied) by the “Monster” in the story, who is an unusually large, well-endowed, yet ugly man. There are so many things I love about this story — the breaking of patterns. The story beyond the story. The idea of an ugly man as a monster who is large yet possesses such tenderness that he allows the smaller woman all sexual power in the story.

I really enjoyed the collection’s experimental title piece as well, “Notes Toward the Story,” since it is a wonderfully escalating narrative that moves skillfully between the author composing notes for a desired fiction and the undesired but progressive authorial reality entering relentlessly through these notes. Mesler applies his humor and savvy here too.

If I had all day, we could talk about the themes this collection houses, the sweet piece about two twin sisters who dye their shadows because it’s sexy (and communicate with a strange sort of ESP), or the meaning of the minimalist near flash “Strangers In Love,” where Mesler applies a more distant style yet still makes relationship commentary.  We could talk about these or any of the stories in this collection. That’s why it is so good.  It really doesn’t matter where you open this book; all of it is smart, funny, appealing, well-written — the kind of book you keep hoping to buy and sometimes feel disappointed to realize you are not holding. This is why reading people, thinking people, should buy this book — because that sort of disappointment is terrible and recurrent in a lot of collections out there, but not part of Mesler’s gathered offerings.

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