The epigraph for Eric Shonkwiler's recently released Moon Up, Past Full is as follows:
"What lasts is what you start with." -Charles Wright
Though there is so much material to consider in Shonkwiler's collection, including two novellas and an array of brilliant short stories, in many ways this quotation sums up Shonkwiler and his prose for me. He is the real deal, a masterful storyteller of the hardscrabble life and its hauntingly beautiful edges, and he has little time for superficiality or artifice. In short, Shonkwiler is genuine and his work is timeless.
I first became acquainted with Eric Shonkwiler in reading his debut novel Above All Men. From the very first page, I knew that I had stumbled upon a writer with guts. One who was pushing hard and searching deep and who wasn't afraid to take stylistic risks for the sake of authenticity. I was certain that I had only seen just the beginning from Shonkwiler and Moon Up, Past Full has proven me right.
Although Moon Up, Past Full is a collection of novellas and short stories, Shonkwiler in no way appears constrained by the genre. Indeed, it is in his shortest works that Shonkwiler has room to breath. In the smallest spaces, in the most intimate moments, Shonkwiler's concise prose shines bright and allows readers to become fully immersed in the gritty, eclectic characters that roam like restless ghosts across the Midwest landscape.
Yet while Moon Up, Past Full was all that I expected it would be, I was still startled, and taken in, by the nostalgia that inhabits these pages. Above All Men contained faint echoes of the past as the characters came to grips with navigating a devastating, near post-apocalyptic present and future, but Moon Up, Past Full is brushed through with hints of a more personal longing for the innocence of days forever gone. One of my favorite images comes from the opening story, "Gripping Heel:"
"They were finishing work on the new school just inside the village limits, and dust blew up from the site and faded off across the last acres of wood.
Kids played baseball at the bottom of the park;
on the hill above, one boy chased another.
He thought of how grass felt as a kid. Falling into it, getting stains on his knees.
To roll down a hill,
to have a child's inertia."
It is quiet, simple moments like these that make Shonkwiler's stories for me. His premises are dark, his characters tragic, but the subtle poignancy that sweeps through his work keeps his tales from being too shocking and therefore glossed over or rushed through. There is no way to read Moon Up, Past Full and not find yourself slipping beneath the surface and into the deeper depths.
Moon Up, Past Full is available now and I highly recommend getting the jump on this one. You can order it via Amazon and Barnes and Noble, of course, but also through Alternating Current's website, where you can pick up a signed copy or deluxe package containing some ridiculously cool swag.
And don't forget to catch the rest of the book tour for Moon Up, Past Full!