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"Intricate, Beautiful and Horrifying": Adam McOmber's Historical Twists in This New and Poisonous Air

Adam McOmber, the author of BOA's This New and Poisonous Air, had a recent discussion with Time Out Chicago's Jonathan Messinger about the historical elements in his new book. Though all of the tales in his debut collection of short stories are steeped in the uncanny and the macabre, McOmber says that he is "really interested in using elements of the fantastic in a serious way, not the whimsical elements of the fantastic you see in some short stories." His draw to history is apparent as well, as in his stories "The Automatic Garden," and "There Are No Bodies Such as This," both of which take actual figures from history as their principal characters. In speaking of the historical figures he adopts as characters, McOmber also speaks of his love of history and attention to detail, which combines in his work with his incredible imagination to produce something altogether otherworldly. "I am interested in history, but a lot of my fiction has to do with escaping and the imagination... I do a lot of research so there are authentic details, but that allows for even more escape, even for me as a writer. I don't have to think about my current surroundings. I have to think of something outside myself." In speaking of the life of Madame Tussaud, the celebrated creator of the now-famous wax figures which bear her name and the main character of "There Are No Bodies Such as These," McOmber says "I would say I manipulated Madame Tussaud's history somewhat, but the interesting thing is that she manipulated her own history... Certainly I did research, but getting inside the dream life was fun for me." And everywhere in the tale is found as well McOmber's "intricate, beautiful and horrifying" prose, a "density of language" which he describes as "difficult to get into [...], but once you get into it, [you] you get swept up in the poetry of it." Says Messinger, "The story uses carefully gilded elements of psychological horror to explore the depths of the characters' emotions... [M]any of McOmber's stories [prove] to be a numinous place, an impassable puzzle box with its own idiosyncratic key. " You can read the full article here. This New And Poisonous Air is available for purchase here.
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