Where the Clouds Begin
Where the Clouds Begin is a powerfully written series of short stories which plunge readers in
the emotional, funny, complex and sometimes dark sides of family and small-town life. Loomis
masterfully captures the sometimes triumphant and sometimes aching emotions of a young
man growing up in the Sierra Nevada foothills in a tumultuous family. The town is full of
colorful and unforgettable characters.
Each story is distinct in this dynamic anthology. Loomis etches every character with care and
the narratives draw you in thoroughly. You feel as though you were there, experiencing what
he did, growing up like Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird. Many of the events will leave you
laughing, but some of the tales are deeply thought-provoking. These tales provide a deeply
emotional and satisfying ride into the past.
This is a Chair
“Hala isn’t a bad student. Just ask the person she pays to write her papers for her.”
This is a Chair is a delightful, entertaining and burst-out-laughing book that has an unforgettable kick at the end. It’s a story of a quirky American academy of learning in the heart of Arabia. The main character is an administrator and instructor, busy trying to balance the fractious needs of the other teachers and the often-clever schemes of the students.
Each of the many characters – teachers and students alike – are etched in unforgettable, realistic and hilarious detail. Loomis is a master of the English language and sometimes he makes up his own words, but they all work and seem perfect in their descriptions.
While he deftly and swiftly describes the intimate dramas that unfold inside the school, he also shadows something darker happening outside the school – something that moves ever closer as the pages turn.
The ending will surprise you, but it is the adventures and plots hatched by the colorful characters that carry this book to its rightful place next to the works of Carl Hiaasen, Maddie Dawson, Doug Adams, with maybe a touch of Mark Twain tossed in. Loomis promises that unlike Hala, he wrote this book himself.
For the last seventeen years Craig Loomis has been teaching English at the American University of Kuwait in Kuwait City. Over the years, he has taught in Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and the US.
He has had his fiction published in such literary journals as The Iowa Review, The Colorado Review, The Prague Revue, Sukoon Magazine, The Maryland Review, The Louisville Review, Bazaar, The Rambler, The Los Angeles Review, The Prairie Schooner, Yalobusha Review, The Critical Pass Review, The Owen Wister Review, Juxtaprose Literary Magazine, Cumberland River Review, REVUE, Consequence Magazine, and others.
In 1995 his short story collection, A Softer Violence: Tales of Orient. London: Minerva Press was published; and, spring 2013 Syracuse University Press published another collection of his short stories entitled The Salmiya Collection: Stories of the Life and Times of Modern Day Kuwait. He is currently at work on other writing projects.
Publication History of Stories in Collection
"Those September Radios," The Iowa Review, 19:3 (Fall, 1989): 31-36.
"Miss Thurston," The Glass Review, 9 (Fall, 1991): 4-6.
"Africa in July," New Mexico Humanities Review, 36 (Fall, 1992): 43-47.
“The Shovel,” The Prairie Schooner, Summer, 2013: 147-154.
"The Ballad of the Malaysian Ceiling Fan," Oregon East, 20 (Fall, 1989): 28-38.
"The Pliers," 1990 Quarterly, 2:1 (Summer, 1991): 4-12.
“The Bank Teller’s Tale,” Bazaar, Mar. 2006.
"Tony and the Translator Woman," The Pikestaff Forum, 13 (Fall, 1996): 31-33.
“The Waiter,” Riversedge 12:2 (Spring, 1998): 45-48.
“The Ballad of Sheriff Baxter Dunn,” The Los Angeles Review: 11 (Feb. 2012): 216-223.
"Joseph Reconsidered," The Glass Review, 3 (Fall, 1989): 1-3.
"Strangers," Evansville Review, Vol. VII (1997): 32-36.
“Goat Time,” JuxtaProse Magazine, 12 Summer 2017.
“The Night of Grandpa’s Chest,” The Critical Pass Review, Spring 2014: 21-30.
“The Date,” Barcelona Review,90. Fall 2017,
“The Ballad of Daryl Germany,” El Portal, Winter 2015: 60-66.
Outline/Synopsis of This is a Chair:
This is a Chair chronicles the life and times of an English professor teaching/living in the Middle East, on the Gulf, during what can only be described as a typical semester at an unnamed university.
Our hero, Dr. Martin Martin, is in fact the English Department Chair and readers are made privy to his daily dealings with an assortment of disgruntled students, wayward faculty and invisible yet insistent administrators, as he navigates his way from day to day, from class to class.
The manuscript’s structure is multi-layered, or I use the term ‘marbled’. For example, there is a core layer of, as already mentioned, of our narrator’s daily English Department workings with the many issues and concerns that he encounters as Chair and as a stranger to a strange land (the Middle East). His cast of colleagues is, not surprisingly, a provocative mix of academics. For instance, there is Sarah, a Jane Eyre specialist (if there is such a thing) whose me-against-the-man-world attitude permeates any and all of her comments and discussions. Marshall, the Rhetorician guy, is a bit of a rebel, who, with forearms fully tattooed, is constantly warring against all notions of authority. Ahmad Ahmed, the Jordanian professor, is, as a rule, the last to arrive at every meeting, and the first to leave. Dr. Ahmed’s wardrobe seems limited to bowties and pink shirts. And then there is John, the Medievalist, who spends much of the story obsessed with a grade appeal that a student has filed against him. Peter is a professor whose Milton book has finally found a publisher, which, we will come to discover, is both a good and a bad thing. As chair of the department, we follow Dr. Martin from episode to episode as he attempts to do his duty while at the same time coming to the realization that even an English department chair can only endure so much; as a result, he finds ways to hide from any and all who come seeking his advice, who wish to lodge a complaint, who are adamant that his signature is needed ‘here.’
Another layer of the storyline introduces readers to Dr. Martin’s dealings with one of the classes he is teaching that semester; we get to know something about these students, their personas and special needs and wants, along with Martin’s teaching methodology, or lack thereof.
A third layer touches on our hero’s life away from the university and English Department chairness, and how he deals with family as well as the bigger issue of Middle Eastern society, with all its many traditions, customs and habits.
Again, I have attempted to weave all these various layers into the storyline. How Martin’s chairing will fair over the long run, or at least until the end of the semester, remains to be seen. However, there is a hint of departmental conspiracy, even mutiny, in the air, and Dr. Martin Martin must make some important decisions if he is to survive.
Readers interested in such a book:
I suggest that a work of this nature would be of interest to those who might be at all curious about higher education outside the Western world. I see the audience being high schoolers, on up. It helps if readers have a desire to learn more about the Middle East, but, in a more general sense, if they wish to visit the world of academe from an English Department Chair’s point of view, that, I think, could be an education in itself.
I would like to think that a work like this could be extremely attractive to the expat community around the globe, but particular to expats (many who are professional educators) living and working in the Middle East.
John Williams’ book Stoner (1965) and Richard Russo’s Straight Man (1997) are both novels that deal with English department chairs and, among other things, the politics they must endure, although I must say their fictional institutions of higher learning reside in the USA and not in the Middle East. All of this suggests that although some departmental issues and concerns may be universal, I can assure you that the culture, customs and traditions of the Gulf region are not.