Tom Noyes' most recent fiction collection, Spooky Action at a Distance and Other Stories, appeared in 2008. Behold Faith and Other Stories, his first book, appeared in 2003. He currently lives in Erie, PA, where he teaches creative writing at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College.
"Noyes's fiction is wonderfully wry and compassionate, and, yes, spooky."
"[Spooky Action] conjures absurdity and pathos [and] offers a large and irresistible vision, its great empathy shot through with comic insight, its voices keen and energetic."
"Characters as real as your neighbors, situations as dire as those between your ears."
In his wonderful second story collection, Spooky Action at a Distance, Tom Noyes continues to explore the mysteries that surround us that we so often take for granted: faith, grace, and the irresistible urge to do things we know are not good for us.
In the brief but affecting “The Daredevil’s Wife,” the protagonist decides to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel. It’s a stunt he comes to almost haphazardly, ultimately choosing the barrel over crossing the Falls via tightrope because the former requires no skill: “This is the physics of the barrel: curl into a ball and hope. This is the geometry of Niagara: down.” His wife, anxious and afraid, asks him why: “Asks him over and over. But the daredevil has no answer.” He simply knows he has to, which strikes me as such a perfectly sad and human urge. The desire to do things that may hurt the oneswe love, and in the end leave us or them alone in the end. But we do them anyway.
In an interview with Scott Phillips, Dan Chaon (another author whose work I love) claims he himself is “not too interested in the idea of Truth, or even of ‘epiphany’ in fiction,” but rather “things that are unanswerable . . . those moments that are unpackagable.”
What could be more unanswerable than the kind of self-sabotage we catch ourselves practicing, the kind that injures those we care about the most, lying or hiding or putting our hearts’ deepest longings before theirs?
As he floats toward the roar of the Falls, the daredevil hears his wife singing and for the first time doubt consumes him, not at the choice he’s made but at what her singing might indicate. It’s a brilliant ending to a beautiful story in a book that’s full of them.