Introduction by Virginia Bellis Brandabur
Leach Botanical Garden
February 17, 2019
As teacher, editor, and writer, Stevan Allred has long been a cherished part of our Portland literary community. Stevan is the author of A Simplified Map of the Real World, a collection of linked short stories set in the imaginary town of Renata; a place, his character says, “small enough that I can keep track of everything that matters and big enough to hold everything I need.” While Renata sounds like the perfect place to settle down, one might not say the same of Stevan’s new novel, The Alehouse at the End of the World.
The prologue to Alehouse begins, “This is an old story, a story of a tyrant and a rebellion, of monsters and humans, of love and death.” So you might think it’s a serious read. Yet it has been described as “a raucous romp through the afterlife,” “sparked with risqué humor,” and mixing “excessive weirdness of myth with the bawdy flair of Shakespeare’s comedies.” This novel is, in fact, both deadly serious and beautifully comic, an exploration of the Janus-faced nature of our desires.
Most of Alehouse transpires on the Isle of the Dead, and if that weren’t bad enough, the whole place has been swallowed by the Kiamah beast, a voracious monster birthed from the “bloodlust of warriors.” We are, quite literally, inside the belly of insatiate desire, where Crow is the self-proclaimed King of the Dead. Crow’s rule is obscene, marked by torture, grief, and terror. Our hero, Fisherman, along with his reincarnated beloved and various shape-shifting demigod friends, tries to make the best of a bad situation. They soon realize, however, they can’t just sit around drinking ale, throwing parties for the newly dead, and getting naked; they have to take action if they want things to change. What ensues is an epic battle: salvific desire faces off against demonic desire for control over the fate of the material world.
While this all ought to read as quite otherworldly, these days it actually ends up feeling pretty close to home. As Stevan says, “This is a story about a small band of heroes who stand up and stand together for the best in humanity, instead of succumbing to those who pander to the worst.”
Please welcome Stevan Allred.