Thursday, April 19, 2012

TCR Story of the Month for April: "King of the Apes" by Benjamin Reed

Benjamin Reed
The Committee Room is proud to present "King of the Apes" by Benjamin Reed as the TCR Story of the Month for April.

With insight, humor, and imagination, the story uses the relationship of Tarzan with his creator Edgar Rice Burroughs as a means of exploring relationships of all kinds -- creative, familial, professional, romantic, platonic. When do relationships begin, when do they end, how important are they, what obligations do they entail, what claims on identity do they make, and who has the upper hand?

Benjamin Reed’s fiction has appeared in West BranchBlue Mesa Review, Sou’wester, and other small magazines. In 2010 he won Avery Anthology’s Second Annual Small Spaces Prize. Currently he’s pursuing his MFA at Texas State in San Marcos, where he’s at work on a novel. He lives in Austin.

"King of the Apes" was published by Arcadia Magazine.

To read "King of the Apes" click here

TCR Story of the Month highlights an outstanding work of short fiction published online within the preceding twelve months.

TCR Chats with Benjamin Reed

Q: How long have you been writing?
A: I think I’m pretty typical. I started taking my writing seriously in high school, but I didn’t start sending out my stuff until 2000, my last summer in college. But I started writing things here and there when I was a kid, sometimes on this old Royal typewriter that had been my grandfather’s. He was an immigrant, and that fact always felt magical to me. He and his family emigrated from Austria-Hungary, from a small village in what would become Czechoslovakia...This immigrant identity, though vicarious, has remained a part of my work. And it’s not just the association of my grandfather with my first typewriter. Franz Kafka was the very first “grownup” writer I read at ten or eleven, because I heard he was Czech, like my grandfather. In a little while I’d come to learn that Kafka was a Jew and my grandfather was technically Moravian, but that information was too late, and as trivial then as it remains now. The seed had been sown. Kafka completed the circuit between myself, my grandfather, my love of typewriters, and my sincere (if inauthentic) immigrant identification...Most of my work involves some aspect of what I imagine to be the immigrant experience, or focuses on a theme of a lost person, or a lost thing. I think this wistful incompleteness is part of that experience and identity.

Q: Where did you get the idea for "King of the Apes?"
A: It’s pretty simple, really. “King of the Apes” is a vaudevillian, almost slapstick approach to an everyday tragedy: a relationship is over, but one person realizes this long before the other does. It comes from personal experience, of course, though almost no biographical details made it onto the page. But I think the tremendous response I’ve received in regard to this story owes to the presence of certain staple character structures. Good stories often show relationships in transition. They often revolve around some kind of power imbalance. They travel, in some way, from ignorance to recognition. They have characters who are sympathetic and recognizable, and complex, but not too good or too beautiful to fracture our empathy.

Q: Who are some of your favorite classic authors?
A: Chekhov, Melville, Bruno Schulz. Kafka, as I mentioned. John Cheever and Raymond Carver, of course. Virginia Woolf. Also I think Colum McCann’s evangelism for Ben Kiely is starting to have an effect, if he’s not too recently deceased to be considered “classic.” If so, he can be a bridge to my favorite contemporaries.

Q: Who are some of your favorite contemporary authors?
A: Percival Everett, Tim O’Brien, Don DeLillo, Paul Auster, Etgar KeretAlice Munro and Helen Oyeyemi. I can’t wait to read Mark Leyner’s new book, as well as Murakami’s 1Q84. I occasionally find Kevin Brockmeier to be infuriatingly adept at writing things I wish I'd written.