Do not misread my smiling photo above and conclude I write stories with violins playing in the background.
Substantive fiction writers flee Hallmark sugar like a plague. In my work you'll find fresh, highly digestible
prose, compellingly original characters, and off the path plots. There are romantic themes in many of the stories, but no soap; no violins.
Sometimes I wander the dark areas - a WWII battle scene in which a soldier becomes convinced he has found a magic potion that will protect him from harm. There is a destructive infatuation with a young look-alike Ava Gardner. And the death on and off the board of a world chess champion by a drunk who lives in a trashy mobile home . My stories occasionally lower the lights, and bring a rush of cold air down the chimney, but I also give you warmth, humor, adventure...and far away, the deep sound of cathedral bells.
A thought on the art of writing: Artists who have never wept or burst into laughter at their keyboards are not truly writing. Writing requires giving up other interests, regular meals and big chunks of sleep. Ideas drag us down the stairs at four AM., and shackle us to our keyboards whole days and nights, and we become socially stupid and miss appointments and social events and the paying of bills until our spouses become strangers and threaten divorce, and friends give up on us, and die off...one by one.
Such results are unpleasant, and can overwhelm us, but hell, we have no choice. The stories pry themselves loose from our keyboards, and seek the pages, screens, cardboard boxes and trashcans of the world; we can't contain them if we wanted to. And here is the grand, existential truth: to give birth to the writing is the greatest payoff of all. No writer can be denied that many-splendored thing. It is worth the rejection, the sacrifices...the pain. If the work finds publication, and makes a writer rich and renown, that is frosting.
Below, I've included a couple of my cartoons that center on writing, and ran in The New Yorker. When Bob Mankoff replaced Lee Lorenz as art editor, I was unceremoniously pushed over the cliff with a number of other long-time writer/artists, so Bob could bring in his own friends and discoveries. Despite this, I look back with pride for having published over sixty cartoons with that celebrated magazine, and my work is still available on their cartoon web site (www.condenaststore.com/cartoonbank).
Cloud froth feeds
the maw of a carousel of the gods, its mad wrenching power frozen from such a distance. The thing hangs there, a cyclopean eye studying us. Our small boat sits becalmed, fixed to glass; we eat
sandwiches, talk of living abroad someday, watch it approach.
"Caribbean Sail" from CITY HEAT
STORIES AND POEMS THAT SMOKE WITH THE
A privately published ('05) and circulated collection of stories and poems, originally done for family and friends. Now I'm ready to include more recent stories, scotch the poems and drawings for another project, and find a publisher who is interested in bringing out a new, larger collection of my short stories.
On a dark river, a boy is taught to kill by his older brother. Several people in a becalmed sailboat helplessly watch a hurricane approach. A soldier in World War II discovers a magic potion that keeps him alive. A woman tries to escape a life of sexual bondage in Marseilles. In the '20s, a young doctor and his wife are stranded in a flooded swamp on the way to Florida. A jazz musician spills fabulous, unrecorded, unremembered music out a slum window. Albrecht Duer's brutal angels and devils invade the tranquility of a Sunday afternoon on the Cote D'Azur.
I find short stories a cathartic experience. It is pure pleasure to escape into them when I am too angry with the inexhaustable idiocies of modern life. Beyond City Heat, I have a large number of new tales, over a dozen of which ran on an early blog of The New Yorker.
COMMENTS ON CITY HEAT:
"Will Park writes with the earthy power of Raymond Carver and the searing wit of Kurt Vonnegut."
- Peter Baird, author of Beyond Peleliu
"Reflective, poignant, and deeply felt."
- Lee Lorenz, Former Cartoon Editor of The New Yorker
"W. B. Park's fictions are a deep, often frightening, always ironic look at the
human condition...vividly Kafkaesque."
- Stuart E. Omans, Prof. Emeritus and former Chair, English, University of Central Florida
"Stories, reflections, poetry with evocative art...should be read and reread."
- Wash Phillips, Screenwriter
"Will Park brings to storytelling insight and humanity. Most special is his distinctly
quirky sense of humor - sweet, subversive, self-deprecating.
It raises hackles as well as chuckles. Each line is spare but essential,
his outrage tempered by his sense of decency and fairness." - Jean Patteson, Orlando Sentinel Feature Writer
"A writer and poet with a wry wit. The marvelous thing about this spare, sharp volume
is that it reveals this author/artist in so many ways."
- Stephen Wilkinson, author of The Gold-Plated Porsche
A young artist several years into NYC, Shelton Lane's life is a bouillabaise of love, lonliness, and sex, sex and art, art and personal philosophy, poverty and art, more love, more art, more sex, a haunting of childhood religiosity, and life on a knifeblade in the early 1960s. The story ranges from memories of sun-bleached Florida beaches aglow with songs of Nat King Cole, to entry-level-income survival in haunted, unfathomable, fabulous Manhattan.
Shelton meets Ashley when he saves her from a serious fall off a runaway horse in Central Park. She is grateful, finds him fun, and as a gifted connoisseur of art, is impressed by his work. In the beginning of their relationship, she doesn't mention she is engaged to a French business associate of her wealthy father. Shel is overwhelmed by her. They are drawn together by their mutual interest in art. Soon, he is emotionally in over his head. Shel's fantasy is torn apart when Ash marries her betrothed, and moves to France.
In counterpoint is Shel's former friend and poet, Allie, who has returned ill from Italy. Shel feels obliged to take her in. She has brought a child, Nasha, Allie kidnapped from the girl's father, a jazz musician in Harlem. Allie becomes sicker, and dies on Christmas day. Shelton comes to love the young Nasha, and is distraught when her father takes her back. He confronts the father, and is nearly killed. His life is coming apart. He no longer sees any point to it, quits his job and goes to the top of the old McGraw-Hill building where he is employed. There is a lovely fantasy of him floating out into the cold blue sky of Manhattan. It tempts him, but he decides not to jump. He is last seen on a train to Montreal (hence the title) to begin again.
Montreal looks forward to the sterling touch of a good editor; It needs that to bring it to full fruition; what literary work worth a damn doesn't?
A warm, easy Saturday in Central Park. Shelton is half asleep. He is sitting under a canopy of
trees sketching when the pounding of hooves on the riding trail tenses him. He looks up: A big bay is galloping wild-eyed toward him. He sees the saddle cinch has loosened, and the rider is swaying
over, about to take a fall. She is holding the reins tightly, fighting to maintain control. He runs down the hill and dives for the halter, slamming into the flank of the horse, then down onto the
trail. The saddle rolls and the girl gives a yelp and pitches down on him. Face-to-face, Shelton and the girl sprawl on the hard-packed earth trail, her hair spilling into both their
The horse bucks and breaks into a harder gallop, the girl’s riding helmet bouncing a few yards down the trail after it. Stunned, they just lie there looking at each other. She is breathing hard from struggling to hold back the horse. Shelton has never seen eyes that green before.