A brief and highly imaginative story that is widely open to interpretation, "I spent the summer gazing at the clouds (the bubble)," begins with a young man contentedly lying on a hillside watching the clouds drift by. His peace is disturbed by the arrival of a bubble floating down from the sky and bearing what seems to be a middle aged accountant.
"If William Burroughs and Garrison Keillor had a love child in a parallel universe, it would have to be Tony Rauch," wrote author Jonis Agee.
Rauch, who lives in Minneapolis, has three books of short stories published – I’m right here (Spout Press), laredo (Eraserhead Press), and eyeballs growing all over me . . . again (Eraserhead Press). His new story collection, as I floated in the jar, which includes a slightly altered version of "I spent the summer gazing at the clouds," is forthcoming in 2012.
Rauch describes his work as dealing with fragility, uncertainty, impermanence, irresponsible behavior, the mysteries hidden in everyday life, a sense of discovery, escape, concealment, ennui, regret, loneliness, technology run amok, eerie vibes, confusion, absurd situations, surrealism, and modern fairy tales.
"I spent the summer gazing at the clouds (the bubble)" was published by decomP (May 2012).
To read "I spent the summer gazing at the clouds (the bubble)" click here
TCR Story of the Month highlights an outstanding work of fiction published online within the preceding twelve months.
TCR Chats with Tony Rauch
A: Since grade school. My friends and I wrote stories, skits, and drew drawings which were basically stories in pictographic form. It was more for art or writing classes, more about assignments, but we also did it as a social, fun thing too. That gave me a good start – that fun aspect and started building my conceptual, investigation, and curiosity skills. In college I took courses in creative writing for elective credits and enjoyed them. I was published in the school literary journal several years in a row, then some friends started their own lit journal, which continued to publish my stories, then a few years later they contacted me about doing a collection of my work, which became my first book, I’m right here (Spout Press).
Eraserhead Press saw that first book and liked it and asked me to submit to see if I had anything they liked. This lead to my last few published books. But without that first journal I wonder if I’d still be writing today. It’s nice to have a forum and see your work being made available to a wider community. Though I guess now I could just post on my website, like showing a painting at the corner coffee house. But when I started there was no internet.
Q: Where did you get the idea for “I spent the summer gazing at the clouds (the bubble)”?
A: I can’t remember. I used to remember the reasons for all my stories, but in the last few years I’ve been writing so much that whatever jumpstarted most ideas has become lost. Barry Yourgrau has a story called “Soap Bubble” in his collection Wearing Dad’s Head which I think is spectacular, though way too short. So I used that trope or paradigm as a starting point and underlying frame for this story, hoping to promote that idea as an established trope – that of large bubbles you could ride in. Also to use flight as a metaphor for freedom or escape (I also like Jekyll and Hyde and Kafka-like transformations as it relates to the notion of identity). Most of my stories that deal with individual flight have a mechanical or paranormal basis for flight, so I needed another reason for flight – one that is more organic and natural. The ending is more about belief, faith, the reasons for things, mystery, unresolved things. The protagonist is left to wonder if the bubble was sent from the circus, or a naturally occurring phenomena. So as a story starter, the story then becomes your story – what do you think happened? The other theme is that of discovery and adventure - how anything can happen at any moment.
Q: Who are some of your favorite classic authors?
A: Anyone interesting, imaginative, and concise. Anyone that makes you think. Mostly I like strange or absurd adventures that are well crafted and have a meaning to them, and sci fi as it offers ideas – Donald Barthelme, J.D. Salinger, Richard Brautigan, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Charles Bukowski, Franz Kafka, Mark Twain, James Thurber, Leonard Michaels, Jayne Anne Phillips, Robert Coover, Samuel Beckett, Antoine de Saint Exupery, Dr. Seuss (cool illustrations), Roald Dahl, Jim Heynen, cigars in his cap), Don Delillo, Rod Serling, L. Sprague De Camp, Ray Bradbury, Phillip K. Dick, Isaac Asimov, Charles Beaumont. Though technically I’m not sure if they would be designated as “classic authors” in terms of Homer’s Odyssey being a classic. Though I too like to write adventures that challenge a protagonist and reader to think about things. These are more recent older books that I like, but that I can also relate to. Really old books are harder to relate to.
Q: Who are some of your favorite contemporary authors?
A: Barry Yourgrau, Mark Leyner, Adrienne Clasky, Lydia Davis, Etgar Keret, Stacey Richter, George Singleton, James Tate, Thom Jones, Italo Calvino, Stephen-Paul Martin, Will Self, Denis Johnson, David Gilbert, David Sedaris, Steve Martin, W.P. Kinsella, Paul Di Filippo, D. Harlan Wilson, Andersen Prunty, Douglas Adams. Mostly short story writers as they get to the point quickly. So some serious stuff, some experimental, some adventures, some absurd and silly, some sci fi. I like evocative music. For some reason I gain a lot of inspiration from music and art though I don't know why or what they have to do with story craft. I guess the imagery gets me thinking. I gain just as much inspiration from biographies as from fiction, as bios too can be great, sweeping epics. The bio of Wyatt Earp for example. Fiction is harder to write than a bio though as you have to create an entirely new set of circumstances, some of which has never existed before.
I’ve also probably been influenced by television and movies - absurd satire and recent sci-fi - more than I realize – everything from Saturday Night Live, Benny Hill, and Monty Python to The X-Files.