Local writer, Corey Mesler, releases two new books
[singlepic id=172 w=320 h=240 mode=web20 float=left]By Kristan Huntley
Many may know Corey Mesler as one of the owners of the wonderfully inviting and cozy Burke’s Book Store on Cooper, but others know him as a very prolific fiction novelist and poet. In March, Corey released two new books, The Ballad of the Two Tom Mores and Following Richard Brautigan, from two different presses. Yes, you did read that correctly—two books from two different presses—which is something almost unheard of in the literary community.
Corey’s childhood in the Memphis area coincided with the tumultuous changes and protests present in the 1960’s. As Corey grew older, he fell more and more in love with the city and its culture, especially the music and its collection of eclectic but humble artists. Despite its struggles and detractors that would label Memphis an unfortunate city, Corey feels that the city is no worse than anywhere else, and, in fact, because of the people, the artists and the culture is in many ways a better place than other cities.
When he was a teenager, Corey began to write poetry, often at the wee hours of the night after experiencing girl or life issues common to most of us at that age. He was able to channel these experiences into words and found a love of writing. He continued to write poetry for a long time, unsure if he wanted to try other forms of writing, until he read the works of Raymond Carver. After reading Carver’s works, Corey was inspired and believed that although he might not be able to complete a novel-sized work at that time, he might be able to write short stories of three to five pages in length. He submitted one of his earliest short stories to The Spirit that Moves Us Press, and it was accepted, another unheard of feat in the literary world. With that encouragement, Corey kept writing.
While still writing and working on being published, Corey began to work at Burke’s Book Store. In what could be considered a bookworm’s fairy tale, Corey met his wife, Cheryl, while they were both working at the bookstore. In 2000, the same year that Corey began to write his book Talk: A Novel in Dialogue, Corey and Cheryl bought Burke’s Book Store.
Since mid-life, Corey has been affected by a condition known as agoraphobia, or the fear of public or open spaces. He is quite comfortable at home or in the bookstore, and although agoraphobia has limited his hours of working, it has also allowed for a measure of creative concentration. Up by 5 am, Corey sits down at his computer to write every morning. Inspired by Anne Lamott’s book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions of Writing and Life, he has conditioned his mind to be creative and ready to write at that time every morning, and so even when he wonders if he has anything to write, the words just flow when he places his hands on the keyboard. Having this time early in the morning, as well as Fridays away from the bookstore, has allowed him to focus on writing his two latest novels, both released this March.
The first novel, The Ballad of the Two Tom Mores, was originally planned for release last year, but the micropress experienced some delays, and it was thus scheduled to be released this year. The Ballad of the Two Tom Mores is set in the fictional rural town of Queneau, Arkansas. Tom More is a restaurant reviewer who has lived in this small town his whole life and is set in his ways. He is comfortable in the fact that he doesn’t have to put forth much effort in life until this ease is unsettled by another man of the same name that moves into the town. This second Tom More brings the allure of “magic from the big city” in the form of VHS tapes to rent. At the same time, something much threatening and ominous is occurring: someone is killing all the male inhabitants of the town! The Ballad of the Two Tom Mores is a dark comedy, described by Corey as a blend of Erskine Caldwell and The Simpsons. Although some readers may feel that the book is too racy, since there are frequent explorations of casual sex in the novel, he feels that it is one of his funniest books to date. In fact, he likes to inject a little bit of humor into all the books he writes. Corey laughs that he would much rather hear that his book was funny than being told that his book was very Kafkaesque (though he is a big fan of Kafka!). He hopes that people will take away some good belly laughs and a feel for a really surrealistic, strange small southern town from The Ballad of the Two Tom Mores.
Following Richard Brautigan is about a young, disenchanted writer by the name of Jack in the 1980’s. He is visited by the ghost of the late author Richard Brautigan, an author that the young writer reveres, after being jilted by a lover in San Francisco. The pair takes a road trip back to San Francisco, the scene of the love affair for Jack as well as the city in which Richard Brautigan called home for much of his life. Corey hopes that the novel is a mix of a little bit of Richard Brautigan himself as well as a bit of his whimsy, but he notes that he did not do in-depth research on the author. Instead, he has relied upon what he has read and has been inspired by in Brautigan’s works, which he read during his late teens. In the book, he sees the ghost as a late-career Brautigan, who is known as a writer of his generation in the 60’s, but his popularity is starting to wane and so he is saddened as well as a little befuddled as to why he is sent back to Earth to help Jack. If the reader is not familiar with Brautigan, they should not be hesitant to pick up the novel as it is told from Jack’s viewpoint, not the ghost’s, and the reader should still understand and enjoy the story.
For more information on Corey, or to purchase his works, you may visit his website at coreymesler.com or drop by Burke’s Book Store or its website at burkesbooks.com.
Many thanks to Mr. Mesler for sharing his time and talents with us in the Cooper Young community. We are lucky to have him call our neighborhood home. Please enjoy this interview that was recorded of him, as well as a brief reading from his two books released in March.