Sparkman in the Sky & Other Stories
publication date: 1997/10/01
trim: 9 x 6
price (cloth): $21.95
price (paper): $13.95
ISBN 13 (cloth): 978-1-889330-05-1
ISBN 13 (paper): 978-1-889330-06-8
Sparkman in the Sky and Other Stories introduces the strikingly original work of Brian Griffin—a Southern writer with a voice both down-to-earth and poised for flight. His stories bear out Gertrude Stein's statement, What good are roots if you can't take them with you? Griffin is a writer who yanks his roots from their native Southern soil to survey the entire planet.
In story after story, Griffin's narrators attempt to sort out the confusing early sixties in rural Tennessee. Nascent men look to Hank Aaron and Rico Carty, Tarzan, Superman, and Captain Marvel, as well as to their fathers, older boys, coaches, and preachers for a model of manhood.
Meanwhile, some romanticized version of the Vietnam War rages in the backs of their minds. In "Goats: The Courtship of Dixie Pepper," Hal's marriage crumbles, leaving him to ponder: "'Why does anybody need marriage?' I said to Marty as a summing up kind of thing. 'I mean what good is marriage when you can join the army and blow things up?'"
Griffin's characters surpass the limits of their lives with fantasy—whether it's dreams of hang gliding, blowing things up, or voyaging into space. Their very real struggles "to escape back home" demonstrate our need for imaginative transcendence and for the perimeters of our own backyards: "That's how it always is: when you come at something from a slightly different angle you might not recognize it—even if it's the place where you grew up and know like the back of your hand."
Excerpt from "Big Ash"
Karlen, he got to bragging to the whole bar about how he was specially exempt from things that would put most folks under the table, and how poison ain't always poison and sickness ain't always sickness, how it's all attitude. Attitude and Maggie's potions, he'd say, Maggie's rabbit-tooth and spring-water potions, they'll ward off anything. He told how one time he got bit by a rattlesnake but it was no big deal, he bit it back, and it was like biting into a marshmallow that had sat out all night. That snake cried "Uncle" and Karlen said "Suck!" and it started sucking out that poison and Karlen was okay. Karlen was always bragging like that and everybody thought it was all right because it was a big joke the way he said it.
Winner of the 1996 Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction
"The stories in Brian Griffin's Sparkman in the Sky spring to life. The main characters are full of natural energy, their voices are full of natural charm, and they're at points in their lives where they're bound to cause trouble. The stories are sometimes funny, sometimes dark, but they're always good.
"The Griffin stories are remarkable. Without the hectoring and false tones you might find in yet another chronicle of cozy or lunatic Dixiana, Griffin offers a natural persuasion about these citizens in Tennessee. Mostly the voice comes to him as easily as a walk through the park, it seems, and I find this an imperative in writers of the first order. . . . I think the stories are good because Griffin has listened to them before he began writing them. . . . Most of all, Griffin's stories are great deep fun."
—from the Foreword by Barry Hannah
"Barry Hannah is right on the money in his Foreword to Sparkman in the Sky. I wish to add my own enthusiastic hurrah (hooray as we say it down-home), and my deep pleasure in finding characters who matter and can be remembered. This fugue of many voices is perfectly realized, exactly on key, in tune. I recommend Sparkman in the Sky to readers looking for, hoping for the real thing. Brian Griffin is first-rate."