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Black Light

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  469 ratings  ·  118 reviews
Longlisted for the 2019 National Book Award for Fiction

“The stories in Black Light are grimy and weird, surprising, utterly lush. . . . I loved every moment of this book.” —Carmen Maria Machado, author of Her Body and Other Parties

With raw, poetic ferocity, Kimberly King Parsons exposes desire’s darkest hollows—those hidden places where most of us are afraid to look. In
Paperback, 224 pages
Published August 13th 2019 by Vintage
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Chad Miller The collection is tagged LGBT because a few of the stories deal with lesbian and bisexual relationships and longing. Check out Glow Hunter, Black…moreThe collection is tagged LGBT because a few of the stories deal with lesbian and bisexual relationships and longing. Check out Glow Hunter, Black Light, and We Don't Come Natural to It in particular.(less)

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Richard Derus
Aug 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: returned, borrowed
***NOVEMBER 2019 UPDATE*** This delightful book has unseated the presumptive champion to become my annual six-stars-of-five bestestest read of the year!
AND it was a 2019 NBA longlister...AND it's in the 2020 Tournament of Books!

Don't start this read if you're not ready to go there. You know the "there" I mean, that there that Gertrude Stein railed against not being there in Oakland, California, circa 1920. Or today, for all I know or care. The there you're going with Author Parsons is the there
Sandy *The world could end while I was reading and I would never notice*
EXCERPT: I'm usually nervous in cars. Whether I'm driving or riding, I can't seem to forget that I'm in a little shell,hurtling along. I want a death that comes from the inside, something I won't have to watch as it's happening - a clot turned loose in my brain, a glossy organ seizing up and shuddering in secret. Car wrecks are shattered windshields and jutting bones, the listless highway patrol scooping bits of you and not-you off the asphalt, zipping the whole mess into a bag. But when Bo is ...more
Aug 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
I read this book for Lambda Literary, where my full review can be found.

Caustic and biting, Kimberly King Parsons’ debut collection Black Light takes an unflinching look at the manifold ways girls and young women adroitly navigate a culture determined to demean them. Across twelve succinct stories the collection fully renders the sardonic voices of teens and twentysomethings fed up with stultifying suburbs and patronizing men. The heroines frenetically veer between bravado and insecurity; they
Nov 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
National Book Award Longlist 2019. A black light makes visible that which is invisible in natural light. What is more, it causes facial features to look ugly—even grotesque. Parsons focuses her black light on the poor and marginalized in these dozen short stories. Their lives are messy. They may be addicted. They may lie and cheat. There is a loneliness and emptiness in these teenage/twenty-something characters that matches the semi-rural Texas where these stories take place.

Parsons' raw, fierce
Tyler Goodson
Jan 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arcs
Is Friday Night Lights meets Ottessa Moshfegh a thing? Because this collection is kind of like that: unafraid of being dark or weird or gross, and set within the wandering, vacant emptiness of Texas, or anyplace far enough away for you to feel like there's no one else around. These are my favorite kinds of stories, with sharp, surprising sentences and characters full of wanting and loneliness, resourcefulness and humor.
Paquita Maria Sanchez
Like if a sucker punch were a pleasant surprise somehow. "Foxes" was particularly vicious (guitar shred), but I didn't want any of these stories to end, which is quite a thing to say about a debut collection. Or any collection.
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
This short story collection was an interesting mix of the dark and gritty with the mundane. These stories center around the lives of the poor and the marginalized. The collection overall was a bit uneven with some stories not as strong as the others. 3.5 ...more
Aug 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: southern-lit
A debut that entertains, stuns, and dazzles at every risk-taking turn. This is short story as art and it's mind-boggling that the two best stories, Glow Hunter (a sensory trip) and Starlite (a seedy hotel masterpiece), were not published before this book's release, making your purchase of this collection mandatory. Parsons is a force and her perfect blend of humor, longing, propulsive style, and humid southern atmospherics makes Black Light one of the best books of the year. I mean, holy shit, ...more
T Madden
Jan 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is the best. A fever dream with grip. No one writes a sentence like Kimberly King Parsons.
Darryl Suite
Oct 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Weird. Unsettling. Brutal. Blunt. Savage. Off-kilter. Dreamy. Luminous. Vivid. Odd. Effing glorious. I'm obsessed with it. And I found a new favorite author.

(Review to come, I think)
Aug 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
In Black Light, Parsons mines the dingy side of life: the messy, the worn, the dirty. These stories are populated with the poor, the addicted, the liars, the wounded, the cheaters. Parsons deftly strings together this handful of compelling stories out of that muck of darkness. I blasted through this book in an evening, mesmerized by her stark stories, her hapless characters, the muddied insight into pallid lives, the feeble hope for redemption. Through all the darkness, there is clarity here: a ...more
Leah Dieterich
May 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This collection doesn't shy away from the grotesque and beautiful. Parsons' characters are entirely relatable. Sad, bored, difficult, destructive, endearing and often hilarious. These stories have some of the best opening and closing sentences I've ever read (and everything in between is pretty damn good, too).
Alison Hardtmann
Nov 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: my-library
This is a collection of short stories primarily set in a semi-rural working class Texas, where there are quantities of both insects and grime. The characters in these stories are primarily children and young women negotiating lives that are marked by insecurity, whether emotional, parental or financial. Despite this common thread, the stories are varied and very interesting. While I liked Parsons's stories set in this world, the two stories that had the most impact were the two that step outside ...more
Sep 23, 2019 rated it did not like it
Oct 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars.

I first had a black light in high school, when my fandom of Pink Floyd reached peak, near-obsessive levels. It seemed as though it were part of the wannabe stoner starter kit, replete with incense, UV-activated posters, and a copy of Dark Side of the Moon. And while I was immediately fascinated by ultraviolet radiation, it wasn’t so much because of its fluorescence – though those posters I bought at my local headshop did look pretty fucking rad – than its ability to make the invisible
I’ll start with the obvious: I *loved* this book. It does a service to the short story form. The characters in these stories are so weird and so full of flaws and so human; they are like thick oil paintings with too much color, saturated and alive. It’s really incredible to be able to pull this off, it’s like the trick of the short story that’s so hard to figure out, and Parsons does it beautifully. A lot of the characters and the plots are difficult, sometimes downright unlikeable, but the ...more
Chad Miller
Jul 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Don’t miss Kimberly King Parson's BLACK LIGHT out in August. Queer Texas stories. From the “gimcrack ache” of unrequited love to the glow of a second night together, Parsons transcribes what’s irreducible in all of us.
Sep 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
this book was so gd good. ugh. will i ever get over it?

there were a couple stories that didn't captivate me as hard but for the most part i loved every single one from start to finish. the way parsons describes things is incredible. the details and the dialogues are touching and real as hell and she honestly writes like exactly how i want to write but way better than i could ever write. there were a few times where i'd finish up a story and have to sit there for a solid 10-15 minutes like 'wow
Aug 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Every story here is on the cusp--the language, the settings, the lives of longing and daring, the awkward and raw relationships. I love the title: think about what shines under weird and dark light. Parsons explores the Texas backdrop with her foot on the gas. Great collection!
Cassie (book__gal)
One of the best short story collections I’ve ever read. I devoured the first 100 pages in one sitting, then the last 100 pages in another sitting. I couldn’t put it down either time. This is a book of stories about ordinary people - ordinary people in various states of deprivation, despondency, raw longing, chaos, love.

We visit grimy motel rooms, the stuffy dorms of an all-girls school, the mushroom-laden grass off the side of a Texas highway, the stale reception area of a realtor’s office.
Well it finally happened!! I finally found a book of short stories that I not only liked, I LOVED! I knew if I kept trying it would happen. I saw this book mentioned in the long list for the National Book Award and once I read the blurb I was hooked. I was mesmerized by Parsons’ writing. I don’t even know if I could pick a favorite story because they all spoke to me. What a wonderful talent, can’t wait to read more!
Jessica T.
Apr 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Unfortunately, no matter how much you love an author a short story collection will be uneven. As readers we all know the score. Black Light is the debut story collection by Kimberly King Parsons. When I started this collection, I was unfamiliar with the author. These stories explore the human condition in all of it’s ugliness. I would be lying if I said I loved every story but Ms Parsons voice and skill as a writer made each story a compulsive read. The soft no and we don’t come natural to it ...more
Mar 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Black light is a collection of short stories that expose the dark places within us that most people are afraid to look. It examines and highlights childhood, addiction, marriage, love, self loathing and other topics. My thanks to Netgalley, the publisher and the author for an advance copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Sep 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Burned through this one. I know so many of the images will stick with me for a long time and the language was really special. I also fully loved the gay shit because THAT'S WHO I AM--but really, it was thoughtful and heartbreaking and beautiful.
Susan DeFreitas
Aug 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If you're a fan of short stories, chances are, you remember when you first read Denis Johnson's Jesus's Son. I still remember the shock this collection hit me with, circa 1995--the sense that I'd never read such absolutely top-shelf that was so transgressive. That's how I felt after reading Black Light, which begs a question: How exactly, in 2019, does this collection manage to feel transgressive? Like Johnson, Parsons writes about drugs, but her characters' drug use isn't what defines them; ...more
Melissa Duclos
May 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book changed what I thought a short story collection could do with character development. King Parsons sees people and the world in a way few other writers do. She holds her deeply flawed, messy characters up to the Texas light, allowing them their full humanity. The result is a collection full of people who are sometimes awkward, maddening, or disgusting, but always beautiful. This is in no small part thanks to King Parson's deftness with language. Her sentences, like her characters, will ...more
James Beggarly
Mar 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A very fun book of short stories that mainly focuses on women on the margins of life that have bold spirits and a strong sense of humor. It was great see the world through these eyes. Can’t wait until this author has her first novel.
Jason Allen
Apr 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book! Kimberly King parsons is a hugely talented author, and I can't wait to read what she comes up with next.
Sep 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Fan-freaking-tastic. That is all.
I'm not sure what it is with contemporary short story collections from the North American Anglosphere, but I often feel deflated/bored. This has received critical acclaim and good reviews and is now on the Tournament of Books longlist. There's no denying that King Parsons can write a perfect sentence. However, despite the raw, gritty atmosphere and focus on people on the margins, it still came off like a cool, nonchalant, workshopped-to-death collection that left me feeling empty.
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Prize Readers: 2019 NBA Fiction Longlist: Black Light 3 10 Sep 30, 2019 01:31PM  
Black Light Book Tour 1 9 Jul 11, 2019 09:29AM  

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Kimberly King Parsons is the author of the short story collection Black Light, forthcoming from Vintage August 13, 2019, and the novel The Boiling River, forthcoming from Knopf in 2020ish. Her fiction has been published or is forthcoming in The Paris Review, Best Small Fictions 2017, New South, Black Warrior Review, No Tokens, Joyland, Ninth Letter, Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. Her book reviews ...more
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