A young boy internalizes the burden of responsibility for his best friend’s unstoppable death. A sister molds herself into a living memorial to her brother, becoming both mystic and pragmatist, ascetic and sensualist. A mother, through rituals both musical and spiritual, counterpoints herself between feeling too at home in her grief and wishing her son’s ghost will finally leave her alone. And at the center: Joshua Sams, alive and then dead in the fall of 1982, linchpinning together the lives of those who loved him most as they struggle through the visceral permutations of regret, denial, and resignation, the desperate reach toward spiritual rebirth and the failure to be reborn.
There are coastal mountains plunging headlong into the sea. There are towering trees and hills teeming with life. Birds in the sky and fish in the rivers. Everywhere all at once. Yet there’s also this: an dead expanse of nothing at the center of the world. Every inch identical to the inch before and after… Where is there any evidence to prove that God did not simply give up?
In Pushcart Prize-winner Douglas W. Milliken’s latest collection of eerie and unsettling short stories from Tailwinds Press, ordinary people alternately seek and flee grace as they run against the unfathomable mysteries of sexuality and loss: a dementia-ridden mother expounds on quantum physics to someone she is unconvinced is her son, a young man repeatedly tries and fails to end his own life, and the owner of a horse farm communes with the ghost of the woman he loves “because memory is a debt with its own black interest, proving all distances are finite yet impossible to span.” Yet Blue of the World is also a devastating portrait of humanity’s complex relationship with a brutally beautiful landscape—a world where apple trees grow in salted sand, people seek oblivion “by smashing a hole through a river’s ice and climbing under the crystalline sheet,” and arboreal death by chainsaw seemingly lurks behind any workday misstep.
Read the excerpted story “Hyacinth & Waxwing” through the Stoneslide Corrective.
Read an interview of the author with Danilo Thomas of Baobab Press.
Watch a narrative video of the excerpted stories “Skidder & Draw” and “Pillars.”
In the Mines
In their first-ever unified narrative effort, longtime friends and collaborators Scott Sell and Douglas W. Milliken combine their stock of down-and-out and sometimes lucky characters into a coalescent shape. Eleven songs. Eleven stories. One singular world of yearning, fear, and the perdurable ache of loving right and loving wrong and, worse yet, not loving at all no matter the effort, will, and cost. Where eagles mate in mid-air. Where the cows have annexed the living room. Where the farthest ferry runs and all roads at long last mercifully end. This first edition of 100 handmade books comes packaged with a CD, digital downloaded included. Artworks by artist Richard Iammarino reproduced throughout counterpose the worlds imagined by these stories and songs.
Available August 19th, 2018 through Pilot Editions (Publication Studio Hudson).
The Opposite of Prayer
In seven interconnected stories of power, entitlement, and privilege set throughout the northern subtropics, The Opposite of Prayer examines the pinprick where control intersects gender, language, and money, where one’s body becomes a weapon and devotion becomes a crutch.
One Thousand Owls Behind Your Chest
A trans youth seeking mythic answers from a corpse. An autistic boy combing a collective farm for his sister. A homeless man yearning for anyone to protect. From a normalized dystopian future to the ever-impossible now, Pushcart Prize-winning author Douglas W. Milliken’s One Thousand Owls Behind Your Chest searches the borderland where the terror of human confusion confronts the babbling chaos of the Nature Without, where alienation fingers the braille surface of connection, where violence digs its nails into compassion.
Available December 15th, 2016 through Beyond Repair / Wooden Leg Print & Press.
Eight stories about getting everydamnthing wrong. Proudly wearing your self-infliction for anyone to see. Defaulting to the lazy way out of even the easiest situation. Staring your last chance straight in the eyes and blowing it nevertheless. This pocket-sized edition of pratfalls and delusions—ranging in landscapes from rural Italy to downtown Boston—includes a digital download of Cream River‘s musical twin, the four-song EP by Blind Pelican, Whiskey Dick. Like the two halves of a black and white cookie, the book and record are a unified work, a single vision interpreted through two distinct media by two confused personae.
First edition available October 30th, 2015 through Publication Studio / Downeaster Editions (now out of print).
Second edition available April 15th, 2016 through Publication Studio / Pilot Editions.
Ritualized basketball mishaps, complicated sex-acts, and improvised means of getting high define the lives of the young men in Douglas W. Milliken’s Brand New Moon. Set in the remote farmlands of northern Maine and told through the boisterously comic voice of Coleman, these three stories—much in the spirit of Jerry Moriarty’s Jack Survives—document the hooligans’ headlong drift through tragedy without a self-preserving flinch or wince, gleefully oblivious and giddy in the face of personal loss, maybe only fleetingly suspecting how deep their abounding trouble might run.
Available September, 2014 from Pilot Editions / PS Hudson.
A shadowy organization dispatches narcoleptic photographer Ben Nigra west to conduct an obscure research assignment. There, in the streets and casinos of Reno and the abandoned ghost towns of the surrounding Nevada Desert, reality begins to blur. Ben finds illicit romance with his cousin El and friendship with a host of prostitutes and homeless men while trying to keep his tenuous hold on waking consciousness. A botched errand, haunting childhood memories, relentless bodily hazard, and an arcane African mask ritual take shape in Douglas W. Milliken’s sensuous prose. To Sleep as Animals is an existential detective novel charting the slow belly-crawl towards personal oblivion.
Available May, 2014 from Publication Studio/PS Hudson.
White Horses (Out of Print)
A dogwood. A kestrel. A tax collector fingering the slobber from his mouth. Italian prostitutes and pirate-eyed men. Overweight Americans trapped on the fire escape, tapping at your window. A husband who cannot tell his dreams from his waking life. A wife who cannot find her husband in the arms of any lover. No actual horses. A walk by the ocean. A walk though a blizzard, freezing and lost. A house full of emperor moths and a house slipping into the sea. A hole at the base of a skull and a hole in your neighbor’s backyard. Another walk by the ocean. Another solo moth. A bird that refuses to migrate in winter and a father who dies before an argument can be won. The son whose argument will never be heard. The long road that never leads you home. One hundred percent disapproval. WHITE HORSES.
Released in May, 2010 by the now-defunct NaDA Publishing.