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A Common Pornography: A Memoir (P.S.)by Kevin Sampsell
Composed of brief, chronological accounts, A Common Pornography is Kevin Sampsell's unabashedly frank memoir. Recounting the formative incidents of his youth, Sampsell writes with great courage about family drama, sexual exploration, and the inevitable uncertainties of adolescence. Written without pathos, sentimentalism, or apology, Sampsell never resorts to the banal, woe-is-me affectations that have come to mark so many autobiographical works of late. Funny, tragic, touching, and often unbelievable, A Common Pornography is the true tale of one man's precarious and often arduous journey into adulthood.
Synopses & Reviews
In 2008, Kevin Sampsell's estranged father died of an aneurysm. When he returned home to Kennewick, Washington, for the funeral, Kevin's mother revealed to him disturbing threads in their family history — stories of incest, madness, betrayal, and death. In A Common Pornography, he tells his family's unforgettable story — from his mother's first tumultuous marriages and his father's physical, pyschological, and sexual abuse of his half-sister to his own tales of first jobs, first bands, and first loves in the Pacific Northwest in the '70s and '80s.
One of Sampsell's previous books was written as a kind of "memory experiment," in which he recollected luminous details from his childhood in independently amusing chapters. Employing the same form of memoir in A Common Pornography, he intertwines the tragic with the everyday, the dysfunctional with the fun, lending the book its undeniable, unsensationalized reality. He captures the many shades and the whole of the Sampsell family — both its tragedy and its resiliency.
"Kevin Sampsell likes to experiment, and I like the way he experiments — with humor, with the grim, half-lost hours up till dawn, with the harsh wonders of sex. Here is a fresh and crafty voice, announcing its world to your reading pleasure." Barry Yourgrau, author of Haunted Traveller
"Kevin Sampsell's arousing, confrontational stories are a welcome addition to the new wave of American fiction." Ben Neihart, author of Burning Girl
"Kevin Sampsell's stories are brief incantations, uppercuts to the gut, prose poems given over to the bloodiest realms of the self. It's all here: the emotional squalor, the sweet bite of loneliness. Make no mistake: Sampsell can write like hell." Steve Almond, author of My Life in Heavy Metal
"Make no mistake: Sampsell can write like hell." Steve Almond
A searing memoir told in vignettes that captures the history of an American family, intertwining recollections of small-town youth with darker threads of family history and revealing how incest, madness, betrayal, and death can seem positively normal, from writer and publisher Kevin Sampsell.
Kevin Sampsell always thought he was part of a normal family growing up in the Pacific Northwest. He never wondered why his older siblings had different last names or why one of them was black. But when his estranged father passed away in 2008, his mother revealed to him some of the family's mysterious and unsettling history. A history of betrayal, madness, and incest.
A Common Pornography is a uniquely crafted, two-pronged memory experiment: a collection of sweet and funny snapshots from his childhood, and an unsensational portrait of a family in crisis. Sampsell blends the catastrophic with the mundane and the humorous with the horrific. From his mother's first tumultuous marriages and his father's shocking abuse of his half sister to Kevin's own memories of first jobs, first bands, and first loves, here is a searing, intensely honest memoir that exposes the many haunting shades of a family — both its tragedy and its resiliency.
In 2003 Kevin Sampsell authored a chapbook memoir of the same title. It was written as a kind of "memory experiment," in which he recollected luminous details from his childhood in independently amusing chapters. It functioned as an experiential catalogue of American youth in the 70s and 80s.
In 2008 Kevin′s estranged father died of an aneurysm. When he returned home to Kennewick, Washington for the funeral, Kevin′s mother revealed to him disturbing threads in their family history — stories of incest, madness, betrayal, and death — which retroactively colored Kevin′s memories of his upbringing and youth. He learned of his mother′s first two husbands, the fathers of his three older, mythologized half-siblings, and the havoc they wreaked on his mother. He learned of his own father′s seething resentment of his step-children, which was expressed in physical, pyschological, and sexual abuse. And he learned more about his oldest step-sister, Elinda, who, as a young girl, was labeled "feebleminded" by a teacher. When she became a teenager, she was sent to a psychiatric hospital. She entered the clinic at 98 pounds. She left two years later 200 pounds, diabetic, having endured numerous shock treatments. Then, after finally returning home, she was made pregnant by Kevin′s father. Only at the end of the book do we learn what chance in life a person like this has.
While his family′s story provides the framework of the book, what′s left in between is Kevin′s story of growing up in the Pacific Northwest. He tells of his first jobs, first bands, first loves, and one worn, teal blue suitcase filled with the choicest porn in all of Kennewick, Washington.
Employing the same form of memoir as he did in his previous book, Kevin intertwines the tragic with the everyday, the dysfunctional with the fun, lending A COMMON PORNOGRAPHY its undeniable, unsensationalized reality. The elastic conceit of his "memory experiment" captures the many shades and the whole of the Sampsell family — both its tragedy and its resiliency. Kevin relates this history in a charming, honest, insightful, and funny voice.
About the Author
Kevin Sampsell is the author of several small books, including Etiquette for Evil, Haiku You, Invisible Radios: Re-mixes, Statistics, Jokes, etc., and How to Lose Your Mind With the Lights On. His writing has appeared in The Stranger, Web Del Sol, 3rd Bed, Bridge Magazine, Little Engines, Rain Taxi, 2 girls review, and elsewhere. His father has retired from working for the Washington State Transportation Department and his mother no longer works at a fabric store. His brother Matt is a sportscaster. His childhood friend Darren now lives in Korea, where he is happily married.
Mike Daily is the author of Valley, available on Bend Press. He makes the zines SPUN and Tilted and is currently working on his second novel. Daily lives in Portland, Oregon, on a diet consisting largely of french bread, Boca Burgers (hint of garlic), baked potatoes, and Chicken Voila!
Melody Owen is a visual artist who has shown in several cities and towns. She travels often and spends many hours underwater, listening for the sound of birds knocking together.
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