Evelyn Hampton’s stories are marvels, spells cast by a magical hand. Here objects are ensouled; cats vanish by the hundreds; children shrink; mother-remnants persist. The exotic and the toxic intermingle, the has-been and the husband. I hear Pliny, Beckett, Lewis Carroll — echoes of other beguiling and clamorously spooky worlds. Hampton makes anything possible.
Famous Children and Famished Adults
Winner of FC2’s Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Prize
Stories that remap the world to reveal hidden places we have always suspected of existing and scenarios that show us glimpses of ourselves.
In these stories, readers encounter a wizened, silent child; a documentary filmmaker lost in the Amazon; a writer physically overwhelmed by the amount of content she has generated; the disappearance of the world’s cats; and an enormous houseplant that has become quietly malevolent. Through these encounters, which are presented with insightful, intricate, and often very funny writing, readers come to know the scintillating zone where fiction and reality become indistinguishable.
Working in the tradition of voice impressionists like Maria Bamford, Hampton draws on a wide range of styles and voices to tell stories that seem at once familiar and strange, spoofed and invented. Readers who have enjoyed the work of Shirley Jackson, George Saunders, Lydia Davis, or Robert Walser will be at home in these pages, but so too will readers who have given up on fiction. These stories show us that insouciance can be beautiful, confusion can be intricate and ordered, and rule-breaking can be a discipline all its own.
Evelyn Hampton’s stories are terrific, unexpected word events: some built from subverted and perverted romcom premises; some lucid dreamt metaphors extended past absurdity to return to wisdom; some pre-splintered into archaeological shards but with the knowledge of our ruins vibrating within. Or, as Hampton writes, these are “another encounter with Madam.” Elsewhere, the derangements of childhood find home in voices skillfully projected into non-orphans writhing with unsatisfied wants, panting and parentless beside their American moms and dads. In Hampton’s work, there is a writing of emptiness that I love. You should re-pot that plant, you should pulverize the deluging content into mist, you should enter the center of the wasp — and you should read Evelyn Hampton.
Evelyn Hampton’s prose can be measured in breaths, like poetry, and in gasps, like philosophy. The beauty on the line level will stop your heart. These are vicious stories, aching stories, stories that bleed and stories that can staunch the bleeding of loneliness, hubris, and desire. They are also, as the best darkest things are, extremely funny. A gorgeous, riveting collection.
What is Evelyn Hampton up to? “I have been looking through the lens,” we read in “Every Day, An Epic,” a story in her collection Famous Children, “and I have been looking out around its edges and it is there, where no lens extends, that I see: and I enter into it.” To look “where no lens extends” and to “enter into it” is an apt description of Hampton’s authorial technique. It is to be where the seeing and the seen are not separable, where becoming meets unbecoming, where the infinite narrative potential of storytelling itself is the strangest event, a vortex, the aporia immanent to language. Her work is absurdist, contemplative, reflexive, philosophical, and inventive. It is sharp, wise, comedic, mournful, wry, and brilliantly surprising. The stories in Famous Children offer these and other pleasures, individually, and differently. Taken all together, the collection comprises a reckoning with “the opening at the end of reason.