Promotional Material

[Author Photo], high-resolution (300 dpi)

[Press Release from Graywolf announcing the winner of the 2006 Nonfiction Prize]


Like Franklin's discovery of the electricity we do know, Ander Monson's luminous, galvanized book represents a paradigm shift. The frequencies of the Novel have been scrambled and redefined by this elegant experiment. Other Electricities is a new physics of prose, a lyric string theory of charged and sparkling sentences. What a kite! What a key! —Michael Martone

Ander Monson is tuned in to our crackling, juiced-up times like no other young writer I know. Other Electricities is necessary reading. —Robert Olen Butler


Other Electricities and Vacationland make NPR's Morning Edition Recommended Summer Reading List; see link for excerpts and reviews: [link] [link to archived mp3; rt click to download]


[Mark Schone, New York Times Book Review, 06/26/05]

Monson opens with a chart, closes with an index and pocks the intervening text with radio wiring diagrams as he merges metaliterary form with a grim subject (kids falling to their deaths through the ice of a frozen lake) in a poetic, startling, even funny collection of linked stories. As bored locals run laps inside the wintry cage of Upper Michigan and his occasional narrator mourns an ex-flame who went into the water on prom night, Monson turns this lost corner of America into the setting for a unique brand of mudroom Gothic. There's a diver reciting the procedures for recovering the dead, a cop reminding himself of the right way to notify the next of kin, and a catalog of the temperatures at which different items freeze. The funniest list identifies the things a woman must do to lessen her chances of being murdered: ''Do not go on dates with men. Do not go on dates with men who drive. . . . Do not spend time with any kind of men at all.'' The drumbeat of particular words -- snowmobile, sauna, Superior, meth -- roots the reader in a very specific place, and Monson is its loving curator. Sometimes glimpses of a whole new world break through the ice, making you wish for a longer, linear, uninterrupted visit.


[Lucia Silva, bookseller, First Cut Books, on NPR, 07/06/05]

There is a radio station that plays out into the ether, a station that streams static and snow, a place where there are no days and only memories of days, where unreceived sound waves sent out to the dead unfold from their concentric circles and lap against snow-packed, icy shores, it's playing Ander Monson's stories and poems every day at 3 a.m.
      You could either think of Other Electricities as interconnected stories, or a novel made up of stories, and then Vacationland as their footnotes. Or appendix. Or some other vital organ belonging to the same whole. Really, the collections work very much as an album of requiem and elegy, parcels of obsession and sorrow, slices of regret and forewarning, where snow and electricity and radio waves store the bits and make them beautiful, like the way slow dust gets stuck in the light of warmer climates, swimming delicately in a haze just outside of everything else. The weather of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in Monson's stories is less a setting than it is a factor by which everything is multiplied, or a looming and obvious unknown for which we are always solving. The ones who are gone left through the ice on prom night with the radio on, or have misjudged the freeze of the ice or the intent of their boyfriends, they are cancerous from the mines, they are disappeared in the way one imagines disappearing through the water, mysterious and mythical, always floating somewhere on the edges, the tragedy embroidered by the stories told about it afterwards.
Accompanied by diagrams of electrical circuits with love notes attached, the stories and poems are marked by language that drives on hard and fast to the last lines, like car wheels over the rhythmic bumps on the highway they push on, the lyricism and force made all the more swift by the clean-swept writing, by the thru-line that draws like a fine-point arc that connects through the center of each piece.
      I should like to never, ever be done reading either one of these books.


[Publisher's Weekly: Starred Review, April 2005]

Monson's inventive collection illuminates the barren landscape of Michigan's snowbound Upper Peninsula with a glittering mosaic of short stories, lists, instructions, poetic obituaries and illustrations of radio schematics. His interconnected vignettes flash across a region that is "now in some ways a place only for ghosts and tourists," revealing a small town cast of characters defined by shared loss. The ice—frosting the roads, crusting Lake Superior—exerts an inexorable pull on these people, spinning their minivans, swallowing their snowmobiles, claiming young and old and drunk and sober. While they mourn the disappeared and deceased, their self-destructive impulses battle deeply rooted survival instincts that flourish despite impoverished and circumscribed lives. Artful metaphors resonate throughout: snow is sustenance and death. Radio waves displace language and imply an unbridgeable gap between people. Liz, a drowned high school student, embodies needlessly lost youth. Monson alternates more narrative pieces with second-person instructive messages, such as "Instructions for Divers: On Retrieval," about extracting wrecks from the lake, that evoke with immediacy a harsh existence. In "Big 32," a catalogue of descending temperatures and their corresponding events, Monson writes that at –11 degrees, "tears freeze complete, nosehairs froze twenty degrees ago; so crying will get you nowhere." Monson's is an original new voice, and this poignant, lyrical collection conjures a powerful sense of place.


[Booklist: May 1, 2005]

In an exceptionally poetic fiction debut, Monson charts the losses and grief of a small Upper Michigan Peninsula community, an icily beautiful and pitiless place where boredom is as fatal as the blizzards. The death of high-school senior Elizabeth, who drowns when she drives out onto the ice on prom night, causes much soul-searching on the part of her fellow students, the vice principal, and a chemistry teacher who collects vintage cleaning products. Monson gauges their sorrow and quests for order and solace in an assemblage of haunting short stories, wry litanies, imaginary obits, and prose poems. This cathartic scrapbook ultimately records a constellation of deaths, including a murder, all linked by the tender musings of Monson's melancholy and thoughtful central narrator, a young man whose mother has died, whose brother is disabled, and whose father has withdrawn into the attic with his ham radio, summoning voices from the ether. By finding poetry in electricity, radio waves, and weather, Monson illuminates the power that drives people to acts both deadly and life affirming. --Donna Seaman


[Martha Kinney in the April/May 2005 Bookforum]

Show me your environment and I will tell you who you are. —Boris Pasternak

A raw, incantatory whirlwind, Ander Monson's Other Electricities depicts a remote northern Michigan town that is pelted by ice, frozen, and illuminated by the Paulding Light—a local phenomenon wherein shifting points of light appear on the horizon with no apparent source. This is pre-mall sprawl; it is a place where nature is still big and men struggle to overcome the isolation of winter nights. In a series of interrelated vignettes, prefaced by a character flowchard, Monson combines basic science with elements of legend, story, and a sense of place. Radio schematics punctuate the chapters, accompanied by stranded lines of poetry that linger like random transmissions, meditations on distance. The result is a wonderful tension—"the weather [as] a system of surprise."
     This town is a skeleton, a former mining community depleted of its minerals and drained by the resultant loss of jobs. Lacking direction and worn down by the brutal weather, characters drift along in their circular thoughts. Some are maimed (an armless aphasic boy, a one-armed shop teacher); others are haunted by memories of those who have died (a murdered girl, cancer victims, and teens who had nothing better to do than drive their cars onto the ice and sink). In Michigan, Monson writes, " due to saws or mines or bombs or Vietnam." Even the land itself is damaged: "The hills surrounding the town are riddled with shafts like holes in the body."
     Monson's boook is an elegy for a stranded generation often lost to fantasy. In the title story, a recent widower, obsessed with pirate radio, holes up in his attic whispering codes to strangers in the storm. Hovering outside, his two sons plus into the phone line with alligator clips and listen in. They desire to understand not only the physical but the emotional weather of the town, as if both were decipherable through invisible airwaves.
     In spite of this desolate landscape, Monson's stories possess a spectral beauty. His lyric prose exists in the energized synapse between fiction and poetry and inhabits a place not yet defined, between the overcrowded modern world and the small town. Electrified and awkward, often incandescent, "It's a perfect kind of silence. So much snow coming down."

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