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This is Not the Way We Came In – Daryl Scroggins

The first mention of Daryl Scroggins — at least for the literary Lish world — was in a profile of Lish in GQ, 1988 or 89, we believe, having seen it, a small profile, with a photo of Lish at a desk, a dozen copies of Leon Rooke’s Shakespeare’s Dog on a shelf…when asked who was the hot writer on Lish’s mind, Lish said (and we paraphrase from memory): “Daryl Scroggins…he sent me a story, a woinderful story, and I’ve asked him to send everything he has.” (The exact quote and issue of GQ would be appreciated, please leave in comment box.)

His first contribution to The 1/4ly was “The Hounding” in #12, “Oracle” in #14, and “A Few Small Adjustments” in #20.

Scroggins did not have a Knopf book like we had hoped.  he published a few short books of prose, Oracle and Winter Investments, now hard to find; poetry collections The Entropy of Hunters and The Game of Kings; the latest being this This is Not the Way We Came In, from Ravenna Press (2008), edited by Cooper Renner, containing 29 “flash” fictions and one “flash novel” in the form of 20 small sections — a format similar to Diane Williams’ The Stupefication.

Only one, “Oracle,” is from The 1/4ly, others originally appeared is a variety of journals, from Carolina Quarterly to Pearl and Salt Hill.

See a poem here. Did we say “see”? Yes, you gaze, but with the gaze you also read.

Of particular interest is the flash novel, “Prairie Shapes.”  Unknown characters, a boy, woman, a man, live small time life, on a farm, and dream of mythology and journeys beyond their simple lives. Indeed, the piece reads like an allegory. It won an award and was published originally in Quarter After Eight.

We present “Oracle” from The 1/4erly #14 so you can see what a fine author Scroggins is:


“You don’t have to sing to know what birds are for.” That’s what Mama said, but she’s dead now.
I’ve got others:

“Dark thoughts live in the fire.”

“All that’s comely might have wently.”

That last one was from when she had already gone to live in the home.

She told me once, “Doug, you need to tie a string to what you’re about to forget and reel it back in.” I wish it was that easy–especially since I’m not young anymore myself. I remember our old address, and it’s been torn down. There’s no reeling that one back in. It had wood floors and high ceilings. I was about three once and sick in bed. I looked up at a window–a square of blue sky–and when I went to sleep, I dreamed only about that blue square. Some things stay with you.

My wife, Joyce, says that a woman at her work’s husband drove home from work and kept driving until he ran out of gas and had to call somebody to come get him. He didn’t even know where he was. They tried to say it was some kind of brain problem, but we all knew it was nerves–I mean, my God, the man teaches at a public school.

Now Joyce has started looking at me funny, just because I’ve taken to writing a diary. She said she never heard of anybody starting a diary by going back fifty years and trying to catch up. But I just think things ought to be complete, and I have a system. I have a notebook for each year, and when I remember something, I simply find the right notebook and write it down. Now, what’s strange about that?

I do have two problems, though. I realized the other day that, long before I get all these other notebooks filled, I will have started recording good finds from the past in this year’s diary. And since I’ll have to say something now about what I remember from then, I’ll start to have two entries for everything. This is just asking for confusion.

My other problem has to do with something almost philosophical. I was flipping through one of the notebooks I’d just made an entry in the other day–just fanning the pages real fast without reading anything–and I noticed that a bunch of white pages would flip by, and then a short group of darker pages with writing, then more white, and long or short dark, and more white, and so on and so forth. Now, I wonder: Could this be some kind of bar code? A bar code of life? I scanned through all the notebooks, and it sure looks like one. But I’m still waiting for what it all means to rise up in my mind.

I really don’t have anybody to talk to about this. Every time I present an idea of this magnitude to Joyce, she starts to giggle. Now, Mama would have had something insightful to add.

I just know I’m on to something big.


2 responses »

  1. Found on Web del Sol:

    Lisa Grunwald interviewing Gordon Lish in Esquire magazine:

    What’s the Fantasy?
    GL: “Daryl Scroggins from Dallas, Texas. Never heard of this fellow. No letter. No nothing. With a name like that would suggest anything but the kind of text that was on the page, which was a joy to receive. I got a letter off to him straightaway saying ‘Send me everything you’ve ever written, I simply adore you, I adore you.’ That’s the ideal. Ideally he’ll have twenty stories of that kind, and I’ll publish a collection. And then what? Then, you would say, I’ll wear him out, wear him out, so that Daryl Scroggins ends up being published by some other house? Is that the ideal case? Yes, maybe. But I hope not. I would clearly hope that Daryl Scroggins would reach down, pick the carpet up, put it in his pocket, and walk away with the whole thing.”


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