Of the 25 short stories in his book, A Camouflaged Fragrance of Decency (Inkwater Press, 2007), author Tim Josephs jokes, 19 are “actually pretty good.” (Worth noting: locally-based Josephs is the brother of Asheville’s Radix of the band The South French Broads.)
In fact, the entire read is a platform for Josephs’ offbeat and sometimes dark humor. His writing style isn’t quite slapstick, but the avant-garde punch lines come on fast and furious. Stories should not be plumbed for depth or meaning, but taken on their quirky face value. All of which is to say that Decency is weird—but also funny.
“And her hair! Oh her hair!” Josephs waxes in “The One That Got Away.” “It was an amazing frizzy yellow with an amalgam of brown, green, and black at the roots. Jenny often said she had to look downstairs to remember what the original color was. How he had laughed the first time she said that! Unfortunately the rest of his family at Thanksgiving dinner hadn’t been as amused.”
This is pretty much how each story goes. There’s a kernel of the mundane: Holidays at the kids’ table, a bride and groom-to-be in a New Jersey pizza parlor, a guy attending his 20-year high school reunion. What Josephs does is he adds a bizarre twist to the every day story line, and then uses the remainder of the tale (usually a story runs just a few pages) in one-upping his own over-the-top details and observations.
Like in “Nixon,” a story about a kid who’s been getting years of milage from a plastic Richard Nixon Halloween mask: “I hope Mom hasn’t thrown out Nixon yet, I thought as I approached the house. And if I can just get Meg to let me borrow that tutu, I think I might be on to something.”
At times typos and layout errors—the scourges of self-publishing and small presses—give Decency and amateurish air. But Josephs writes with such consistency, his brand of funny both unique and fully realized—that the author ultimately reveals himself as a talented writer and humorist.
Tim Josephs reads at Malaprops on Saturday, May 23. The 7 p.m. event is free. Info: 254-6734.
Other literary events:
• Author Elizabeth Cunningham (previously interviewed by Xpress for her book The Passion of Mary Magdalen) returns to Asheville with Bright Dark Madonna (the continuation of the Maeve Chronicals). Cunningham reads at Malaprops on Friday, June 5, 7 p.m.
• Bands tend to tour where their fan bases are located. So why shouldn’t authors do the same? Hawaii-based author Todd Shimoda (according to his press agent) scheduled a “stop in Asheville purely in response to a personal request by a local fan of Todd’s that he make a stop there, describing it as a ‘great book town.’” Shimoda visits Malaprops on Monday, June 8 at 7pm to showcase his newest novel, Oh! A mystery of mono no aware.
• David Eberhoff‘s New York Times bestselling novel The 19th Wife is now out in paperback. It’s the titillating story of Latter Day Saints leader Brigham Young who expelled his 19th wife—Ann Eliza Young—from the newly formed Mormon Church. Ebershoff Malaprops on Wednesday, June 10.
• Looking for a beach read? Cathy Holton‘s Beach Trip is the obvious pick. Four friends “all in their forties, converge on Lola’s idyllic North Carolina beach house in an attempt to relive the carefree days of their college years,” reveals press for the novel. “But as the week wears on, and each woman’s hidden story is gradually revealed, they find they must inevitably confront their shared past; a failed love affair, a discarded suitor, a betrayal, and a secret that threatens to change their bond, and their lives, forever.” Holton reads at Malaprops on Thursday, June 11 at 7 p.m.
• Storyteller and naturalist Doug Elliot (seen on the PBS show Farmer’s Almanac) comes to Malaprops for a Friday, June 12 reading of his recently published book, Swarm Tree: Of Honeybees, Honeymoons and the Tree of Life. The event begins at 7 p.m.
• The Sun, a literary magazine based in Chapel Hill, is known for its insightful essays. The magazine compiled some of its best pieces in the anthology, The Mysterious Life of the Heart: Writing from The Sun about Passion, Longing, and Love. (Asheville-based author Robert McGeeis included.) McGee, along with fellow writers Krista Bremer and Doug Crandell will read their work at Malaprops on Saturday, June 13, 7 p.m.
• Local author Eric S. Brown recently rewrote the H.G. Wells classic War Of The Worlds for super hero publisher Coscom Entertainment. Only with blood, guts and zombies. Check out the finished product here.
—Alli Marshall, A&E reporter