I don’t write fan letters and I don’t read stories that sometimes fall across the border into grotesque, but then Nathan Ballingrud’s North American Lake Monsters came along. Immediately after I finished the collection, before I even knew I was going to record this podcast, I had messaged Nathan directly to tell how how I felt. The thing is—I don’t do things like that.
Even as I type this blog entry, I am holding back my over-eager fangirl. Ballingrud’s stories are that good. They are dark and unique and beautifully written. The prose is Ballingrud’s alone, but it reminds me of Raymond Carver after Gordon Lish had cleaned up his work. (Here’s a link for those of you who don’t know that particular story. It is a psychological horror story all its own.)
Ballingrud’s stories blur that artificial line between psychological, supernatural, and physical horror. But they do more than that. These are stories about people who make hard and, often morally uncomfortable choices, and yet remain emphatically human. We may not approve of what they do, but we damn well understand it. In the end, after traveling through Ballingrud’s world, I didn’t feel anxious or scared, I felt lighter, as though his stories had carried off some darkness within myself. Best of all, I felt entertained.
Episode 19: In which Julie C. Day reads Nathan Ballingrud’s “You Go Where It Takes You” from North American Lake Monsters.
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