Oak Ridge is the third chapbook from Turtleneck Press, a tiny indie publisher that I was admittedly unfamiliar with until they released this title by Adam Moorad, but now they are on my radar, and I will read more from them soon. But in the meantime, we get the pleasure of asking Adam Moorad a few questions about his seedy little Oak Ridge, a vignette structured story of brutal trailer living and the mess that some of us make of ourselves, a chapbook that delightfully disgusted me.
MB: I say that Oak Ridge disgusted me, but what I really mean is that the narrative itself is so painful to bear at times, with your characters sleeping in trash, ailing and without support, sort of torturing themselves by how they live. Where do these characters come from? And do they want to live this way, are they content in this life?
AM: These characters are primitives. They don’t know their lives are disgusting. The trash, the illness, these things are acceptable in their eyes for no explicable reason. They are satisfied with being unsatisfied. Perhaps this is the story’s most disgusting element. How could anyone willing submit to this life? It’s horrible and ugly and painful and these characters find it attractive and comforting. We can’t understand it. They’re content and it horrifies us.
MB: Another reason that Oak Ridge moved me so much was the way in which you constantly infuse serene and often beautiful scenes of nature with the vicious narrative:
The child wanders through the woods at night, setting booby traps. A mall of trees stretches upward, branches bending like the ribs of a carcass. The child crawls into a bed of leaves. Makes a muted moan. Wets itself for warmth. Palate cleft. Hands like Michigan.
How much crafting and editing did it take to so constantly and consisting mesh nature with this suffering and elements of revulsion?
AM: I wanted to experience how these people might view their world. This world happens to be a revulsive one, but one where they find beauty and comfort. A sick child finds itself in the hollow of a ribcage and it’s happy to suffer in the serenity it provides. Nothing more. These images were realized over several months. Oak Ridge was many things before it was anything though it was always about this family.
MB: There is also a seemingly conscious effort to make each sentence direct, definitive:
He is drunk with his hands on a lure. The pole springs forward and a line flies into the stream. The bloodhound watches him waiting. The butterscotch current takes the bobber away, film spiraling around it like acrylic paint.
Is this typical of your style, or is this an approach honed specifically for Oak Ridge?
AM: I feel like writing is a constant process of becoming less and less uptight. You get better at it as you get older. The desire grows to better evoke some kind of a reaction in someone else, physical or otherwise. Style is a byproduct. When you deal with this sort of subject matter, the language should work like a blunt object. Yeah – it’s fucked up stuff. Feel it. Bleed with these people. It will feel good.
MB: As we mentioned in the opening to this interview, Turtleneck Press is a publisher we just recently discovered. How did your manuscript end up in their hands, and what was the editorial and production process like for Oak Ridge?
AM: I like new projects. If I see someone trying to do something that I like and think is important I want to be a part of it. Presses come and go. Some construct pretty websites but never publish anything. By the time I came across Turtleneck Press, they had already released a few chapbooks in what seemed like no time at all. This drive immediately made me want to work with them. Fortunately the manuscript developed a structure that I felt lent itself to the chapbook form so submitted it. The editorial process was nothing more than Brian Warfield emailing me to clarify and rectify my typos (of which there were plenty) in the politest way possible while he quietly when about promoting this book. For that I am grateful.
MB: Oak Ridge also makes me want to read more of your work. Are there any plans to extend this chapbook into a full-length manuscript? Or do you have other book projects you are already in the midst of?
AM: Oak Ridge is one story from a collection I’ve been working on for a year or so. They’re unrelated tales all told in the same strange vein. Some are already published. Some aren’t. Some are still evolving and some might not even exist yet. I’d like to give this collection to the world someday. It’ll happen if it happens.
No joke, when I turned the last page of Oak Ridge, I immediately went back to the beginning and started again. This is how much I enjoyed Adam Moorad’s chapbook, and how quickly I wanted to take his language back in. Do the same, order up, and see what it is that invigorates me in such a fierce way. Buy a copy of Oak Ridge here, & read more from / about Adam Moorad here.