Every Tuesday, get to know a bit about the stories behind the books you love, and discover your next favourite novel.
Sabitha: We’re joined by Dale Stromberg, here to tell us about his collection of strange and mesmerizing microstories, Melancholic Parables. Dale, best of luck explaining this fascinating book to us.
Dale: Melancholic Parables is a collection of microstories that mix whimsey and dolor, irony and absurdity. With a frequently appearing protagonist who is not always the same person, they are not linked and not unlinked. Sometimes they horrify; sometimes they are almost dad-jokes.
Sabitha: This is not a typical book. What inspired you to write it?
Dale: While a musician in Tokyo, I decided to blog daily for a year to connect to fans. The blog was bilingual. I soon strayed from writing about music to writing about anything, including tiny stories. I was in a psychologically troublous period, so these fragments had a consistently melancholy tint, though I often took refuge in humour. I’d come home with a couple bottles of cheap wine and start writing. By the time the wine was done, I was done (e.g. unconscious)—which was one reason to keep it brief. Another was the fact that working in two languages required me to write everything twice. After a year, I had about 300 fragments, and I thought of collecting those I liked best into a book.
Sabitha: We have a lot of writers in our community. What’s your writing process?
Dale: Think about it. Draft it. Manicure it. If it’s not working, rewrite from scratch. Produce more than I can use, then select the good bits.
Sabitha: How did you choose the title?
Dale: Fiction writers often hope readers will “willingly suspend disbelief,” but I wondered, do I hope this? A teller of parables doesn’t necessarily have the same expectation: it is not at cross-purposes for a reader to simultaneously believe the “story” and also disbelieve and consciously examine it. I came to see my stories as parables instead—not lessons (nobody should take lessons from me) but pieces which were about something other than what they were about.
Sabitha: What book do you tell all your friends to read? Besides yours of course!
Dale: Recent good reads: Edie Richter is Not Alone (Rebecca Handler), Ghosts of You (Cathy Ulrich), An Inventory of Losses (Judith Schalansky), Knickpoint (MBF Wedge), Lilith’s Brood (Octavia Butler), The Ministry of Utmost Happiness (Arundhati Roy), Most Famous Short Film of All Time (Tucker Lieberman), Though I Get Home (YZ Chin), Warm Worlds and Otherwise (James Tiptree Jr.), The Word for World is Forest (Ursula K Le Guin), Something Like Hope (Hengtee Lim).
Sabitha: When you picture your ideal reader, what are they like?
Dale: When I first heard Sonic Youth, I thought they were doing it all wrong; when I first heard Sigur Rós, I found them boring; both ended up favourite bands of mine. I had to be in the right time of life before their music fit. Instead of an ideal reader, maybe I imagine the reader being in an ideal place—similar to where I was when I was writing. I was shut up in myself, seeing everything in dim grey colours, aware I was an ill fit, aware it was all in my head, but unable to get out of my head. I don’t wish for anyone else to end up like that, which implies that I hope not to have ideal readers. I guess that’s weird.
Sabitha: Not as weird as you think. Thanks for sharing your story and how it came to be. We’re looking forward to reading—look out for a Book Report from Zilla! In the meantime, where can the Night Beats community find you and your book?
Dale: You can mute me on Twitter or chuckle at my clumsy web design here. Preorder Melancholic Parables ahead of 29 November 2022 at Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Apple Books, or Smashwords; if you prefer paperback, a print version will go live on Amazon in late November. A lovely way to support any indie author is to leave an honest review on Goodreads or wherever you leave your reviews.