29. MONEY UNDER THE TABLE. San Francisco, CA: Trip Street Press, 1997. 5½x8½" 126 pages. (F)
Offset, perfect-bound paperback. Cover photographs by Howard Gelman, designed by Clare Rhinelander. Author photo by Marie Warsh. Blurb by Harry Mathews.
“I started writing stories in the early-nineties. It wasn’t something I had done before. I didn’t particularly like reading stories. I had a long attention span in those days. Stories were too short. The nineties, looking back, is not my favorite decade, and all these stories have an edge—I figured out a way to tap into my darker side, though that part of me had also been very present when I was writing A Free Man. I was trying to exorcise some demons in these works. The first story I wrote was “The Merit System” —I just wrote it out by hand in a few hours one morning. I wasn’t quite sure where that ‘voice’ was coming from but I felt like I’d discovered something new that I could do. It seemed possible to plug into that voice at any moment and write something down. Start anywhere and see what happens. There are a lot of troubled characters in these stories—there’s a lot of confusion. The book was published by Karl Roeseler, a person I didn’t know at the time. He was living in San Francisco, so we did everything long distance. I had given a copy of the manuscript to Gary Sullivan and he passed it on to Karl. The book is dedicated to George and Chris Tysh.”
Lewis Warsh’s stories are devastatingly good. Fragments of plain unlikely lives are enacted in expertly simple, sinuous prose. Characters evolve in a bewitching and scary realm somewhere between event and insight, at the unnerving center of what we take to be reality. These people are all too convincing—we wouldn’t want to be them, but we probably are. —Harry Mathews