We should probably get this out of the way immediately: Kevin Sampsell is not only my friend, but also my publisher. Last year his Future Tense Books published my second book. But if my choosing to feature Kevin Sampsell here at Atticus Review bothers you, I would be very surprised. That’s because I think that Atticus Review readers are smart, literary, and realistic. It always bothers me when someone complains about perceived nepotism among published authors. To use an analogy: it’s like being surprised that two chefs who work at different restaurants likewise know each other. They cook different foods, use different techniques, but they are part of the same community, the same craft guild. God forbid, those two chefs might even talk to each other about dishes they’re planning to prepare, or share recipes, or even help one another to succeed in their field. To be surprised about such industry practice would seem naïve at best. To be angry about it seems to be misdirected fury. I mean, we’re talking about recipes here, for land’s sake! What any good foodie—chef, server, restauranteur, or restaurant-goer—knows is that what matters is what shows up on the plate, and how good it is going down, and with Kevin Sampsell you can rest assured that your experience will far exceed any Zagat rating.
Kevin Sampsell is foremost a writer. He is the author of many books, including A Common Pornography (Harper Perennial, 2010), Creamy Bullets (Chiasmus Press, 2008), and Beautiful Blemish (Word Riot, 2005). As an anthology editor he compiled Portland Noir (Akashic Books, 2009), and The Insomniac Reader (Manic D Press, 2005). Kevin Sampsell is also an editor/publisher with his own indie press, Future Tense Books. Among the many writers Sampsell has championed are Chelsea Martin, Claudia Smith, Chloe Caldwell, Zachary Schomburg, Gary Lutz, and Elizabeth Ellen. And Kevin Sampsell fulfills duties as a husband and father, and he works at Powell’s flagship store in downtown Portland, Oregon, where he lives. Sampsell got involved in independent publishing before most people knew to associate those two words as a single demonym. Future Tense Books has been publishing since 1990. But I tend to think of Kevin Sampsell as someone who writes sentences, because his sentences are beautiful. Ah, the humble sentence; that which few readers take as singular meaning-making artworks that function independent of other lovely structures floating around them. The foundation of works in prose. The art of written discourse. Yes, of this, of all things, has Kevin Sampsell made himself a master. A few gems: “The boss eventually called me to the back and hinted that I was going too far, and without giving me a second chance, they fired me. When I got home that night, I tried to feel good about not having a job but I ended up on Mom’s lap, embarrassed and crying.” Or try these: “I had cat hair all over my black pants when I left your place tonight. Your white Siamese longhair getting his revenge on me for fucking you on his side of the bed.” These are simple, grammatically elegant sentences. Their rhythms are enchanting and the information conveyed wry but personable. Above all, perhaps, Kevin Sampsell’s sincerity shines through in his writing, and in real life Kevin Sampsell is, sincerely, one of the nicest people I know.
In the interview linked below I talk with Kevin about all aspects of his working life and about the lit scene in Portland, which sounds so enviable I’m now on the job market, with a target drawn on the Pacific Northwest. And, of course, enjoy this brief insight into Kevin Sampsell’s novel-in-progress, This Is Between Us, as well as a story he found tucked away somewhere in the recesses of the Sampsell oeuvre: “Fire Sale.” With even this short introduction to Kevin Sampsell’s writing (should you have been unfortunate enough to not as of yet experienced it) I feel confident that afterwards you’ll be inspired to run out to your local independent bookseller in search of more that Kevin has to offer. You’ll want to be a part of the thriving, living literature of which Kevin Sampsell is a force.
Photo Source: LitPark
© 2012 Jamie Iredell. All rights reserved.