When Steven Dunn reads excerpts from POTTED MEAT(Taurpaulin Sky 2016) at events, it’s easy to forget that you’re listening to pieces of a novel. Each of his selections manages to stand on its own as a powerful moment taking place in an established, well developed universe. In fact, when he’s reading, it’s hard to imagine the text being a part of a larger body of work. It’s hard to imagine that he’s left anything out: they’re just so fucking solid. Like, this is it. This is the art.
But, POTTED MEAT is a novel.. in pieces. And, while, yes, each piece is excellent- they have more power as chapters. The psuedo-episodic quality of each chapter propels the reader through a maze of love, growth, struggle, abuse, and discovery with an unrivaled energy that builds throughout the novel. Dunn doesn’t waste any time. Every scene advances the reader’s understanding of the narrator and the world he is growing up in. Instead of taking the time to describe the passage of time between chapters, Dunn throws us into new situations and lets us try to get our bearings as his characters attempt to do the same. Childhood, or at least the way we experience childhood, isn’t linear. Growing up is all about trying to make sense of the world and our place in it without much context and with a rapidly changing understanding of self. POTTED MEAT’s fractured pace is a perfect articulation of that experience.
We first meet the narrator on his grandparents’ porch eating fried green tomatoes and learning to draw from his cousin. From here, we move to a classroom and then to the mother’s house. What follows is ostensibly a tour of West Virginia through the eyes of childhood and adolescence. We’re given glimpses of libraries and graveyards. Mountains and schools.We meet kids, teachers, parents, uncles, coaches, and even a ‘ninja’.
When I think about this book I want to run up to people on the street, grab them by the shoulders, shake them, and shout “You need POTTED MEAT in your life!!”
There’s a scene I keep going back to. Actually, there are a lot of scenes I keep going back to. But, there’s a passage where the narrator has an art exhibit and his younger sister comes to see him and his drawings even though he’s already shown them to her. And, it’s this beautiful, sweet moment between siblings…
Or the part where he finds a Gil Scott Heron record…
Or when he gets his first job…
When I think about this book I want to run up to people on the street, grab them by the shoulders, shake them, and shout “You need POTTED MEAT in your life!!” I realize that accosting random strangers and shouting at them isn’t the best way to start conversations or promote books, but I might do it anyway. Because honestly, i don’t know anyone who wouldn’t find some value and beauty in this book.
So, there you go. I think you(whoever you are) should read POTTED MEAT.
If you follow this link, you can order your copy today.
If you can, head to Counterpath(7935 E 14th Ave, Denver) on Saturday the 16th at 6 for the Taurpaulin Sky book Launch with Steven Dunn and Kim Parko.
Steven will also be hosting the F-bomb flash fiction reading at the Mercury Cafe in Denver on the 19th and reading at Still Cellars Distillery in Longmont on the 23rd.