THE CLAY EATERS (Big Pasture Chaps, 2016)
TORTURE TREE (Queen’s Ferry Press, 2014)
If a life is made of moments, it is the tiny tragedies that memorialize. History is likewise marked by flares of consequence. In Bayard Godsave’s pair of novellas, these fleeting instances perpetuate American ideology in far-flung places and distant points in time. For the inhabiting characters of “Torture Tree” and “White Man in Hammersmith”—the Revolutionary War soldier immortalized through his gruesome death; the earnest medical volunteer kidnapped in Iraq; and the unwitting expat-backer of a violent island coup—the political is personal. In this riveting follow-up to Lesser Apocalypses, bursts of violence seize onto and cleave their legacy into moments that might otherwise have been lost to a gloriously inconsequential past.
“Torture Tree is an illuminating and ambitious book that brings together two stories about what it means to be the sons and daughters—the citizens—of a dubious empire. In particular, the novella “White Man in Hammersmith” gets inside the cloud of American exceptionalism in such a fresh and interesting way as to be utterly astonishing. At one point near the end, thinking about the story’s narrator, I had to admit it to myself: not only do I know that guy, I am that guy.”
“Bayard Godsave offers a complex and engaging literary experience in this fascinating and ambitious duo of novellas. Touching on the relationship between the past, the stories we tell of the past, and the contemporary world, Torture Tree exposes the historical trauma underpinning our everyday existence. The lives of Roman Mencoweicz and his family are irrevocably split into ‘before’ and ‘after’ the mysterious disappearance of the prodigal daughter, and they must each reckon with forces far larger than themselves. It is Roman’s virtuosic voice—resonating with national history and personal history—that marches readers into the territory of the terrible sublime.”
LESSER APOCALYPSES (Queen’s Ferry Press, 2012)
Like “snow in the tropics,” this collection is a revelation. Clustered as shell-shocked survivors, Bayard Godsave’s Lesser Apocalypses occupy the edge of ruin. Though bleak, the stories contained here are enlivened, emboldened, by disaster. A man emotionally undone by his time inside a missile silo, by the turn of his key; a gas mask that reflects a marriage’s murkiness; a domestic bomber whose conscience ignites every fuse; a post-nuclear war refugee facing concurrent adolescence, motherhood, and middle age; and two former cosmonauts disengaged from everything but each other are all vivid against a tenebrous backdrop.
“Early on in this absorbing collection, Godsave writes that in ‘the morning the sun rose like a shock’—but so too does the author, and his book is the bigger jolt: inventive, absorbing, and altogether spellbinding, Lesser Apocalypses is definitely one of the year’s greater debuts.”
-LIAM CALLANAN, author of The Cloud Atlas and All Saints
“Like the Cold War strategy of deterrence that pervades the stories in Lesser Apocalypses, the strength in Bayard Godsave’s tense, sinewy prose lies in what he chooses to conceal—the terror is out there, indescribable, hovering at the periphery of his characters’ lives, a specter that haunts them from an impossible distance.”
-MATTHEW DERBY, author of Super Flat Times
“Haunted by apocalypse, damaged by fear, Bayard Godsave’s bright, driven characters struggle to utter their painful secrets, all constructing and living by private codes, all engaged in the art of consolation in a fallen world. The insides of these stories feel old and new at once, sepia-toned and dystopic, recalling Jim Thompson and Aleksandar Hemon. There’s world making going on in these gritty, provocative stories, and turns of phrase so gorgeous you want to hold them up and look at them under the light for awhile.”
-CONSTANCE SQUIRES, author of Along the Watchtower