Corey Mesler you know as the owner of Memphis’ longest-running book store: Burke’s, now in Cooper-Young. You also know him as the novelist who wrote Talk. He’s a poet too, as Grit, his collection earlier this year, showed. In the short-story department, go to Mesler’s “Shadow Work.” It appears in the spring issue of the U of M’s literary journal, The Pinch. And as a book reviewer, see his contributions to the Flyer’s semiannual look at the latest in books.
How, though, to describe Mesler’s new book, Listen (Brown Paper Publishing), which he’ll be signing at Burke’s on Thursday, May 7th? Let the author, in his subtitle, answer that: He calls it “Twenty-nine Short Conversations” – “short” meaning each piece runs a few pages; “conversations” meaning just that: narrative told totally in dialogue.
“How did I arrive at dialogue narrative?” Mesler asked himself after the Flyer put the same question to him.
“What I always said about Talk was that I had these voices in my head, and I realized I should write some of them down. Doing that was like opening the floodgates. Soon the voices were nearly constant. It took about a year of ‘listening’ to shape a narrative out of them.”
Narrative delivered through dialogue alone wasn’t unique to Talk and it isn’t unique to Listen. Playwrights do it. And, as Mesler pointed out, so have novelists Henry Green, William Gaddis, and Donald Barthelme.
What won’t you find in Green, Gaddis, and Barthelme? How about “My Continued Conversation with the Ghost of John Lennon”? Or “My Continued Conversation with Insomnia (and TV, a slight return …)”? Or “My Continued Conversation with the Ghost of My Father”? They’re all and more in Listen. They’re all unique to Corey Mesler.