the brain harvest

short fiction, by Ken Nash

ISBN 978-0-9571213-1-7. Paperback. 159pp. Publication date: April 2012. Equus Press: London.

Order from Bookshop.org, from Barnes and Noble, or via Print-on-Demand (paperback only); or try the Kindle edition.

“Nash is a storyteller in the most prime of forms, and years from now, with this collection far, far away, I won’t need the characters and their situations as much as I’ll need what I’ll actually have, which is the residuals. They are this: open wide and seek the impossible, for we are all incredible.” Ryan Werner, Necessary Fiction

The Brain Harvest is an eclectic, deceptively witty collection of short fiction that represents the crystallization of one of Prague’s most resourceful and imaginative English-language writers.” Prague Post

“The shortest fiction–and we can include Ken Nash’s stories in this–functions like a joke. It’s compressed to its absolute minimum form, impossible to gloss or explicate. It does things to you physically, pulls half-voiced inadvertent sounds from your body, little snorts. And when it ends, but refuses to close, it leaves you in a sort of breathless shock, waiting to see what will happen.” Prague Art Review

“The stories in Ken Nash’s brilliant collection The Brain Harvest lay bare the sparks and idiosyncrasies of an exceptional mind. Each new story is distinct and memorable in its jewel-like compactness, and the characters we meet are unique and endearing. In subject matter, the stories weave and delve into continuously unexpected territory; from the alien adventures of Emily Dickinson, to the intricacies of bespoke basket-making, time travel, orchestral garden plots, and the great green sea lizards that haunt our parents’ dreams. Nash’s playful and quick-witted style bears echoes of maverick American greats like George Saunders and Donald Barthelme, and recalls the quirkiness of Miranda July. Taut, intelligent, eccentric, and wholly engaging, The Brain Harvest is a wonderful debut for a very talented new writer.” (Clare Wigfall, author of The Loudest Sound and Nothing and winner of the 2008 BBC National Short Story Award)


One day everyone became famous. Suddenly, the entire planet was raised from obscurity, from the left handed bass player of a Rhode Island heavy metal trio who bussed tables by day to the Tibetan commode cleaner in a budget hotel ten kilometers southeast of Beijing. Everyone became known by all. Or nearly all. They had admirers. They had fans. Their pictures were taped on the insides of gym lockers or framed and hung on office cubicle partitions for inspiration. Everyone did this. I did this. And everyone knew that their admiration was reciprocated in one form or another, by one person or another. They knew their image was being placed, poster size, upon hundreds of bedroom walls; licked and adhered to thousands of letters and postcards; detailed upon the hoods of automobiles and the side doors of vans. It was a mad frenzy of fame that swept the entire globe, crossing cultural barriers and national boarders.

For a while, I was quite in awe of Inga, a German waitress from the Black Forest region. I wrote her fan letters. Dear Inga, If only I were a stein in your hands! I downloaded pictures of Inga from the internet. Inga at work. Inga at play. Inga, coquettish, stepping out of the shower. Inga peeling potatoes in her kitchen sink. Inga repairing a flat on the vintage R23 BMW motorbike she, by herself, had completely restored. I was obsessed with Inga, but I was equally obsessed with Manuel, the eighteen-year-old Guatemalan boy who repaired and polished shoes on the streets of Guatemala City. Manuel was not the hardest worker, but he knew the lyrics of every U2 song ever recorded. I read all about Manuel in a fanzine devoted entirely to him. There were dozens of others I was extremely devoted to at one time or another. Carlos, an Argentinean truck driver. Yo-Yo, a Japanese art student studying ceramics. Lek, a Thai travel agent. Ilsa, a Latvian policewoman. Those are the ones that first come to mind, but I could list dozens and dozens of others if you want, later. I don’t mind. I can talk about each one of them for hours.

It’s not known exactly why, suddenly, everyone became so famous. Some considered it an unexpected side benefit of the host-parasite and disease-vector relationships changes brought on by global warming. Some credited the democratizing force of the Internet and the increase in personal leisure. Those who’d already been famous thought it was a mass delusion, like UFO, Virgin Mary and Kevin Costner sightings. Academics and liberals considered it a spontaneous cultural rebellion against corporate manufactured celebrityhood. Some said simply that everyone just started to seem a lot more interesting, more interesting than they had ever previously dreamed imaginable.


Ken Nash is the founder of the Alchemy reading & performance series in Prague. His short fiction has appeared in The Prague Revue, Bordercrossing-Berlin and X-24.








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May 2022
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