Synopses & Reviews
She admits she is pleased when the new placard is raised, "Madame Tussaud's House of Wax." She stands in the crowd with François at her side. He leans close enough to touch her ear with the fringe of his mustache and whispers, "What part of the museum would the famous Madame Tussaud like to survey on her inaugural visit?"
"The Chamber of Horrors, I think," she says softly.
"Really, my dear? All that grim fantasy and blood?"
"There is no fantasy about it, François. It is an embryo, a showing of what is to come."
Blending historical fiction with fantasy and the macabre, Adam McOmber's debut short story collection brings the influence of Angela Carter, Isak Dinesen, and Edgar Allan Poe to the next generation. In "The Automatic Garden," a solitary architect from the court at Versailles builds a water-powered pleasure garden; in "There Are No Bodies Such as This," we read a haunted and romantic fiction about the creation of Madame Tussaud's wax museum; in "Fall, Orpheum," a small town movie palace becomes the temple for an entire town's devotion and sacrifice. McOmber seamlessly blends history, artifice, and desire to create a dream of the past that intertwines with our own notions of modern life.
Adam McOmber's stories appear in Conjunctions, StoryQuarterly, Third Coast, The Greensboro Review, Arts and Letters, and Quarterly West. He is assistant director of creative nonfiction at Columbia College Chicago and associate editor of the literary magazine Hotel Amerika.
"A sinuous, antiquated style proves marvelously effective in these dark and imaginative tales by author McOmber. The title story, set in medieval Europe during the plague, finds an otherworldly 10-year-old girl taking up with a mysterious traveler when her father goes in search of grave-digging work. It is slowly revealed that the traveler is using her as a prop so that he can move freely from town to town ('men with daughters in tow are a more sympathetic lot'). Inevitably he falls ill, leaving her with the prospect of abandonment once more, but by then it's clear that this resilient girl can survive on her own. Other tales are similarly enchanting, allusive, and intriguing. 'There Are No Bodies Such as This' recreates the early career of Madame Tussaud as she learns the wax-making trade, fashions figures of the royal family at Versailles, and flees Paris during the Reign of Terror. In 'Fall, Orpheum' a teenage girl slips through a door on the stage of a legendary movie theater and vanishes into a jumble of ageless stories. Writing with a sure hand and an impressive imagination, McOmber depicts that seamless scrim between the real and imagined. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"A sinuous, antiquated style proves marvelously effective in these dark and imaginative tales by author McOmber."
"A journey through this collection feels like an afternoon peering over the dustiest shelves of a museum of curiosities. I felt studious, peculiar, and intrigued."
A CAPPELLA ZOO
"The ten stories in [McOmber's] debut collection This New and Poisonous Air are remarkable not only for their aesthetic (a thoroughly new combination of the dark and the weird) but also for the consistent quality of their writing, which allows McOmber to credibly transport his readers across both time and lines of belief."
McOmber does an excellent job of creating multilayer characters, all somehow ill-at-ease in the situations in which they find themselves thrust
The stories themselves arent as dark or grim as I would have thought, given the comparisons to Poe, but beneath each runs a subtext that a darkness resides in us all.”Historical Novel Society
Written in the New Wave Fabulist tradition, these historically-grounded stories blend the fantastic and the macabre in astonishing, unforgettable ways.
About the Author
Adam McOmber: Adam McOmber is the assistant director of Creative Nonfiction at Columbia College Chicago where he teaches both nonfiction and literature with a focus on mythology. He is the associate editor of the literary magazine Hotel Amerika. His work has recently been published in Conjunctions, StoryQuarterly, Third Coast, The Greensboro Review, Arts and Letters, Ascent, Web Conjunctions and Quarterly West. In 2012, This New and Poisonous Air
was chosen as one of NewCity Lit's "Lit 50" in Chicago. McOmber holds an MFA in Fiction Writing from Indiana University. This New and Poisonous Air
is his first book.