The Desert Nights, Rising Stars
Writers Conference

Picture of Roy Kesey

Roy Kesey

Desert Nights Rising Stars Writers Conference Faculty, 2018

Roy Kesey was born and raised in northern California, and currently lives in Maryland.

His latest book is a short story collection called Any Deadly Thing. He’s also the author of a novel called Pacazo (the January 2011 selection for The Rumpus Book Club), a collection of short stories called All Over (a finalist for the Foreword Magazine Book of the Year Award, and one of The L Magazine's Best Books of the Decade), a novella called Nothing in the World (winner of the Bullfight Media Little Book Award), and a historical guide to the city of Nanjing, China.

His work has appeared in several anthologies including Best American Short Stories, New Sudden Fiction, The Robert Olen Butler Prize Anthology and The Future Dictionary of America, and in more than eighty magazines including McSweeney's, Subtropics, The Georgia Review, American Short Fiction, The Iowa Review and Ninth Letter.

His translation of Pola Oloixarac's magnificent debut novel Las teorías salvages was published by Soho Press as Savage Theories in 2017. Other translations of his from Spanish and French into English include work on behalf of Turner Books, the Ministry of Education of Spain, PromPerú, Ferrovial Agromán, and the City of Santander.

Selected Media

"A Particular Flavor of Weird Genius: An Interview with Roy Kesey (Argentina)." SFWP (Oct 1, 2016).

"When I moved back to Peru after six years away, I started catching up on some of their recent projects, one of which—it would have been 2010 at this point—was a Peruvian edition of Savage Theories, [Pola] Oloixarac’s first novel, which originally came out with the Argentinian publisher Entropía.

The book just wiped me out—a novel shaped like a satire that wears its (black) heart on its sleeve, a novel of sex and messy history and great big ideas. Not the kind of thing you see very often, not the kind of book I could ever write, but wholly engaging at every level—and looking back over that half-sentence, it seems like a pretty good list of the kinds of things that will always interest me as a translator, and as a reader.

The critical reception to Savage Theories was overwhelmingly positive, but you could see the reviewers straining for comparisons to other authors (Argentinian and otherwise), which heightened my interest even more—Oloixarac really was doing something strikingly original. So she was on my radar from then on, and the pings only got louder a few months later when Granta published their list of best young Spanish-language novelists and she was on it."

"Savage Theories by Pola Oloixarac." David Varno, Words Without Borders (Jan 2017).

"The perversions of language is one of Oloixarac’s central themes, and this, along with the nuanced references to Argentina’s Dirty War and the country’s political history following Peronism, plus the characters’ tenuous interpretations of various philosophers expressed in murky academic syntax, must have made the book particularly challenging to translate. Roy Kesey succeeded in creating a text that is immersive, multilayered, sensual, and cerebral, and it captures Oloixarac’s wicked brand of humor, which often triggers bark-like laughs followed by pangs of guilt."

"Excerpt from Savage Theories." Pola Oloixarac trans. Roy Kesey, Penguin Random House Canada.

"In the rite of passage practiced by the Orokaiva communities of New Guinea, the young boys and girls are first tormented by adults who crouch hidden in the foliage. Pretending to be spirits, the adults pursue the children, shouting, “You are mine, mine, mine!” They drive the initiates onto a platform similar to those used for the slaughter of swine; there, hoods are drawn over the heads of the terrified children, leaving them blind. They are led to an isolated hut deep in the forest, where they are made witness to the torturous rituals and ordeals in which the history of the tribe is encoded. Anthropologists have confirmed that it is not uncommon for children to die in the course of these ceremonies."

"Flies." Roy Kesey, Hobart (Apr 1, 2008).

"A friend once told me a story about a kid he'd known who played right field and caught flies. Not fly balls – this kid hated Little League, hated his father for making him play, was afraid of the ball, and of the other kids on his team – but actual flies, houseflies, or whatever kind of flies were out there in right field."

"Dispatches from Roy Kesey, an American Guy Married to a Peruvian Diplomat Living in China." Roy Kesey, McSweeney's (2003 - 2008)

"Having spent the previous eight years living in Peru, where he married a beautiful diplomat (Lu) and sired two children (Chloe and Thomas), Roy Kesey (a writer with short stories in McSweeney’s Issues 6, 9, and_15_) has moved to China, where his wife will begin her first foreign assignment at the Peruvian embassy in Beijing."