Scott Dominic Carpenter's work has appeared in in venues like Chamber Four, Ducts, Midwestern Gothic, The MacGuffin, Prime Number and Spilling Ink. His debut collection is This Jealous Earth, and his debut novel is Theory of Remainders. Find him online at http://www.sdcarpenter.com.
"The pleasantly sarcastic tone of the narrator further aids the reader in picturing this intelligent, insecure yet awkwardly cocky, and slightly, *cleverly* caricatured, hipster of a college student."
"This Jealous Earth examines the nuanced turns and shifts of human events and feelings that imbue the ordinary with the extraordinary."
Let me start out by saying this isn’t your typical review. The book I’m talking about, This Jealous Earth: Stories, by Scott Dominic Carpenter, is one I’m publishing through my own press. So rather than a review, consider this a discussion of said press (MG Press), our mission and how I ended up where I am, and, specifically, why we’ve chosen Scott’s book as our debut publication.
And it all starts with a single fact: I hated Michigan growing up. I hated the seasonal changes (damn you, allergies!), I hated the food, and, most of all, I hated how flat everything was. Oh, how I dreamt of mountains! Of adventures! But like many youths disaffected with their birthplace, sometimes a wider lens is all that is needed, and this hate grew to a begrudging respect once I moved away to Los Angeles, and eventually, upon my return home, that begrudging respect became unadulterated love for the place I had been so quick to abandon. I couldn’t, for the life of me, get over how beautiful everything was, like it was the first time I had ever seen it, and the uniqueness of the region, the very same things I had looked down on before, were now the very same reasons keeping me there. And thus, this fire for the Midwest, specifically, promoting authors and poets from here, was born.
And boy, does it blaze hot today.
I co-founded Midwestern Gothic in late 2010 with one of my best friends, Jeff Pfaller, as a way to harness our collective passion for the region — and, truly, to try to help turn around what we saw as a gross underestimation of the literary talent present here. Sure, there have been nationally renowned authors from the Midwest that have reached super-stardom (Jonathan Franzen, Jeffrey Eugenides, Bonnie Joe Campbell, Chuck Klosterman, to name a few), but what we set out to do was to try to change people’s collective perspective of the region: rather than see a single Midwest author who’s “made it,” crawled out of the despair here (as is so often depicted in media) to success, we wanted to show everyone that this is a true hotbed of talent ripe for the picking. That while there are the big name people you may have heard of, there are loads of other fantastic authors and poets and journals and presses equally as worthy of admiration you may not know. And, perhaps most importantly: that our unique circumstances here have bred into us a literary fierceness unlike anywhere else in the country.
Here’s what I mean, and I’ll be frank: The Midwest is dirty (in parts), dingy, full of hardworking folks — blue-collared, if you will — and I think the history here, the historical devotion to farms and factories, the nitty gritty, our mostly-congenial attitude (with a slight bit of snark), has produced very distinct literature . . . literature that, I believe more than any other region, holds a mirror up to us. Shows us the darker sides of life, of ourselves, the parts we may want to gloss over and not think about. But it’s not just about being dark, it’s about growing out of this darkness to find the light. And you can’t very well do that if you don’t embrace it.
And that was why we were so thrilled when we received Scott Dominic Carpenter’s manuscript for This Jealous Earth, a collection of shorts that take the reader on various journeys, all intimate in their own way, filled with characters that might, at first glance, be labeled as irritating or unwelcome, but eventually grow on you, sneak up in your subconscious until you can’t stop thinking about them. These are people faced with decisions that may not seem tremendously big, but will alter their lives one way or the other. And these are the sorts of things we experience every day, right? What is life if not for a series of decisions, of various tensions affecting us, day in and day out. And it’s through these collective experiences — wrought with humor, I might add, another great facet of the Midwest psyche — that you fully grasp what he’s done: held that mirror up to us. Shown us the good, bad and ugly of ourselves. Shown us what we like to pretend may not be a part of us, but is buried somewhere. And this makes the stories that much more enjoyable, even easier to glob onto, because what’s in these pages is you. And maybe the collection doesn’t ask and answer big questions about life, solve any major dilemmas or, even, get any national dialogs going. But it doesn’t need to. It’s an intimate experience Scott’s created here — no matter where the story is set, no matter who these people are, you are there with them.
This Jealous Earth is the first publication of Midwestern Gothic’s newest endeavor, the micro-press MG Press. Our goal runs parallel to that of the journal — highlight Midwestern authors — but differs only in the focus: in this case, book-length fiction with a singular point of view that really worms and worries around the foundation of all things Midwestern. Sure, it may seem nepotistic for me to recommend a book I’m publishing, that I have a stake in, but truly, it is one of the best short story collections I have ever read, one that made me appreciate my home even further and come to terms with the grimy side of my being in one fell swoop — recognizing in that darkness something a bit familiar.
And then, a surprise: a speck of light. Hope.