Kimberly King Parsons exposes desire’s darkest hollows—those hidden places where most of us are afraid to look. In this debut collection of short stories, Parsons illuminates the ache of first love, the banality of self-loathing, the scourge of addiction, the myth of marriage, and the magic and inevitable disillusionment of childhood.
Parsons’ is an exhilarating, enchanting, charming and irresistible new voice. Imagine the punk rock stylings of the criminally underappreciated Jeff Parker. Add the full-throated roar of weird Karen Russell, plus the deft sparkle of Denis Johnson and all of the gesturing and spooky direction of Carmen Maria Machado. This is real-deal fiction. You’ll want more ... Parsons is...a wiz at structure...with stories that go long and deep, narratives braided, balanced by a few pieces that are only a few paragraphs of tightly coiled howl. But, oh, her characters.They ache. They love. They suffer ... Somehow, no matter how unhinged everyone gets, they’re still appealing ... Occasionally a debut collection lands with such a wet, happy thud that you immediately start imagining the rest of the writer’s long career. It’s good luck that in this case Parsons is slated for at least one novel, with another one after that. Her characters are, after all, so real you’ll want them to escape, to get out of the arid wasteland of Texas. But maybe that’s not the point. Maybe the very idea of escape, our yearning, is exactly what these characters want us to realize they don’t need and in any case won’t get. This is a book for the lonely, for the losers poised for more — it’s a celebration of and a deeply felt meditation on the injustice, cruelty and a million private horrors endured by the weak and the unloved. It’s not just that Parsons’ people are doomed. Even as they squirm and melt and seize, you love them, and root for them. How hard has Parsons herself lived? It doesn’t really matter, but from whatever good guts, she’s conjured up a sweet séance.
Sheila, the narrator of Kimberly King Parson's story 'Guts,' can't run away from bodies: not her own, not others' ... Parsons brings heartbreaking details to 'Guts' ... It's a beautiful and uncomfortable story, just like all the others in Black Light, Parsons' wild and compassionate debut collection ... Black Light isn't at all suffocating, and Parsons doesn't wallow in gloom. She writes with the unpredictable power of a firecracker, bringing flashes of illumination to people who struggle with disappointment, both in themselves and others. Every story in this collection is beyond remarkable, and Parsons proves herself to be a gutsy country-punk poet with a keen eye and a stubbornly unique sensibility.
Like many of the characters within them, these stories are constantly in flux, revealing new facets while refusing to conform to any preset template ... 'Guts' treads the border of the fantastical, while later stories like 'The Animal Part' and 'Foxes' blend horror imagery with an unnerving ambiguity. Parsons’ forays into the uncanny are more hallucinatory than anything else, a heightening of the characters’ reality rather than a revelation that that reality is beyond what they’d imagined ... A sense of yearning and loss connects the stories, though their tones and subjects vary wildly ... What characterizes many of these stories and helps them stand out is Parsons’ unpredictable yet effective way of parceling out information ... Parsons also deftly navigates questions of class, establishing the economic disparity between several sets of characters in passing without ever feeling heavy-handed or dogmatic. This ultimately leaves Black Light as a collection that, at various moments, recalls the work of Katherine Dunn, Alice Munro, and Denis Johnson. But Parsons also charts her own territory with stories that offer the promise of transcendence and desire while simultaneously threatening the pain of regret and loss. Most hauntingly, Black Light reminds readers that these sets are not mutually exclusive, nor are they anything close to predictable.