Confessions to Scare… By Munly J Munly 32nd, 195 pgs.

Mar 15, 2022

Singer-songwriter-banjo player Munly Munly (Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, Denver Broncos UK, Munly & The Lupercalians) is a mainstay in the Denver music scene, particularly that part of the scene responsible for the “Denver sound,” typically and most efficiently summarized as Gothic Americana. He’s written a book of flash fiction—“Written & published during the pandemic of 2020-2021,” the copyright page tells us.

Munly & The Lupercalians have released one album, 2010’s Petr & the Wulf (Alternative Tentacles, Virus 421). Confessions to Scare… is set in the same world that the album is. Before I continue, I should emphasize that a reader coming to these dozens of usually satisfying stories without having read any of the following information A) will be as adequately prepared as someone who has, and B) should imagine a writer in the Southern grotesque tradition writing about the world of Nick Cave’s album Henry’s Dream, but weirder.

From the album’s liner essay, “A Pre-History of Lupercalia”:

…You might be familiar with the history of Lupercalia, the land, impenetrable mountains in the west, the Black Wulf Forest in the north and east…. The two major clans—Buell, Toombs—the InDePenDents, and the minor clans.

There are also Lupercalians, who are separate from the clan members—my take on them is that they’re hooded creatures who are sort of like a quieter Taliban, whose occasional presence gets residents to uphold ancient traditions of Lupercalia—your take may be completely different.

The Lupercalians don’t influence that much, though. The prime movers in these stories—these confessions—are misfortune and wretchedness.

There are no paragraph breaks in the stories, giving them an appealing scriptural look, but adding to the demands for the reader—rare was the story I didn’t have to read twice.

From the beginning of a Buell confession:

~ Clough ~

They used to put brands on anyone’s hands who did something unlawful. Eventually most everyone had a brand and it appeared to be an honor badge, so the practice was quit. Now, I believe I am the only person remaining who employs a brand. But, I keep mine hidden on the palm of my right hand. My younger… I will never again say little, my younger sister Gert was put under my maturing guidance for an evening.…

Who is Scare, the book’s confessor? I decided he’s like if Godot was a person that everyone knew well enough to confide in. (On Petr & the Wulf, there’s a character called Scarewulf.)

At the end of the book are Scare’s notes—each note serves as a story’s summary (a summary of a piece of flash fiction). Reading them while reading the stories sort of feels like cheating, but sometimes they’re definitely useful: you’re reading a story, and you can’t for the life of you figure out what “it” refers to, so you look it up—oh, “it” is a tapeworm, that makes sense. –Jim Woster (Devil’s Jump Press, devilsjump.com)

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