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ESSAY 2:12 A.M. by Kat Meads



Fjords Review, ESSAY 2:12 A.M. by Kat Meads

2:12 A.M.
by Kat Meads

Stephen F. Austin University Press. 2013
170 pages
ISBN 978-1-6228-8039-3


Review by Winnie Khaw

About Lisa Winnie Khaw

Winnie Khaw is an English graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.


Rita, window greeter and cashier for Las Vegas wedding ceremonies held at the Little White Chapel, calls to visitors, “Darlings! This is a drive-through, not a drive-by event. Turn off the car engine (77).”

Saccharine emphases aside and taken completely out of context, Rita makes a good point. I can’t skim through Kat Mead’s sleepless stories with bleary eyes at, say, 2:12 a.m. and hope to fully appreciate the skill that went into crafting what can be described as creative investigative journalism, accentuated with lyrical musings on life in addition to varied biographies of familiar figures, famous (Patty Hearst) or not (Glenn Brinkley), and insightful autobiography.

“Why amuse/torment the self with retrospective tabulations of progress or lack thereof (32)?” This question applies to The Rise and Fall of Sheriff Glenn Brinkley, but is equally, I think, applicable to the stories overall. Why, indeed, should the past tales of a chronic insomniac, ranging from Southern funerals to nuclear testing grounds in Nevada to the Insomnia Drawings by Louise Bourgeois, be of interest to those fortunate people who find sleep easy?

The answer to the first part, perhaps, is that Meads is an excellent writer, challenging and empathetic, drawing her readers along with her in a broadly-based adventure that is unabashedly fun and simultaneously thoughtful and witty. Meads’ writing style is difficult to categorize, flattening in places with transcripts, bristly as she brushes by the ridiculous with a sardonic comment, pinprick stark as she observes the interesting makeup of nighttime travails and journeys.

The answer to the second is a little tricky, depending on reader expectation and perspective. Is there progress, or rather a lack thereof? Putting linear narrative aside, where does Meads end up after all her travels? What is the reader left with, once the road trip is over? I could say, for the average sleeper, a fenestella (oval or circular opening; to allow light into a dome or vault) into the otherwise obscured craziness and diversions allowed to an insomniac.

A possible caveat, after all this praise, is the deviating (inherent?) nature of these pieces, though I certainly appreciate that Meads does not allow the reader to fall asleep by means of spelling out the lesson of the day. Meads often succeeds in bringing back the story to an overarching theme, but (here I’m likely missing an important connection) how is an essay on Patty Hearst in any way can find a link to an essay on the Salton Sea?

Nevertheless, Meads’ consistently well-written and poignant collection of prize-winning essays, which includes Best American Essays notables and Pushcart Prize nominees as well as the Drunken Boat’s Editor’s Choice nonfiction award, will poke you insistently awake.


And Then by Donald Breckenridge

Dear Everyone by Matt Shears

Magic City Gospel by Ashley M. Jones

Intimacy by Stanley Crawford

Lunch Poems by Deborah Kuan

The Best American Poetry 2016

Crosstalk by Connie Willis

The King of White Collar Boxing by David Lawrence

They Were Coming for Him by Berta Vias-Mahou

Verse for the Averse: a Review of Ben Lerner’s The Hatred of Poetry

That Other Me by Maha Gargash

Simone by Eduardo Lalo

Swimming by Karl Luntt

Ghost/ Landscape by Kristina Marie Darling and John Gallaher

Enchantment Lake by Margi Preus

Bad Light by Carlos Castán

Diaboliques by Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly

Staying Alive by Laura Sims

Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo

Fireflies by John Leland

Maze of Blood by Marly Youmans

Tender the Maker by Christina Hutchkins

Little Anodynes by Jon Pineda

Conjuror by Holly Sullivan McClure

Someone's Trying To Find You by Marc Augé

The Four Corners of Palermo by Giuseppe Di Piazza

Now You Have Many Legs to Stand On by Ashley-Elizabeth Best

The Knowledge by Robert Peake

The Darling by Lorraine M. López

How To Be Drawn by Terrance Hayes

Watershed Days: Adventures (A Little Thorny and Familiar) in the Home Range by Thorpe Moeckel

[INSERT] BOY by Danez Smith

Demigods on Speedway by Aurelie Sheehan

Find Me by Laura Van Den Berg

Singing Bones by Kate Schmitt

Knuckleball by Tom Pitts

Wandering Time by Luis Alberto Urrea

Teaching a Man to Unstick His Tail by Ralph Hamilton

Domenica Martinello: The Abject in the Interzones

Control Bird Alt Delete by Alexandria Peary

Twelve Clocks by Julie Sophia Paegle

Love You To a Pulp by C.S. DeWildt

Even Though I Don’t Miss You by Chelsea Martin

Women by Chloe Caldwell

Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis

Revising The Storm by Geffrey Davis

Quality Snacks by Andy Mozina

Midnight in Siberia by David Greene

Strings Attached by Diane Decillis

Down from the Mountaintop: From Belief to Belonging by Joshua Dolezal

The New Testament by Jericho Brown

You Don't Know Me by James Nolan

American Neolithic by Terence Hawkins

Phoning Home: Essays by Jacob M. Appel

Words We Might One Day Say by Holly Karapetkova

Murder by Danielle Collobert

Sorrow by Catherine Gammon

The Americans by David Roderick

Put Your Hands In by Chris Hosea

I Think I Am in Friends-Love With You by Yumi Sakugawa

Third Wife by Jiri Klobouk

box of blue horses by Lisa Graley

Review of Hilary Plum’s They Dragged Them Through the Streets

The Sleep of Reason by Morri Creech

The Hush before the Animals Attack by Carol Matos

Regina Derieva, In Memoriam by Frederick Smock

Review of The House Began to Pitch by Kelly Whiddon

Hill William by Scott McClanahan

Seamus Heaney Aloft

The Bounteous World by Frederick Smock

Review of The Tide King by Jen Michalski

Going Down by Chris Campanioni

Review of Empire in the Shade of a Grass Blade by Rob Cook

Review of The Day Judge Spencer Learned the Power of Metaphor

Review of The Figure of a Man Being Swallowed by a Fish

Review of Life Cycle Poems by Dena Rash Guzman

Review of Saint X by Kirk Nesset

Review of Jessica Treadway's Please Come Back to Me

Eve Asks by Christine Redman-Waldeyer