Please feel encouraged to jump on it.
Told in monologues, speeches, soliloquies, sermons, letters, cards, and lists, FUN CAMP is a freewheelin’ summer camp novel smashed to bits. Spend a week with the young inhabitants of a camp bent on molding campers into fun and interesting people via pranks, food fights, and greased watermelon relays. Along the way, you’ll meet Dave and Holly, totalitarian head counselors who may be getting too old for this, Bernadette, a Luddite chaplain with some kids to convert, Billy, a first-timer tasting freedom, and Tad, a shaggy dude with a Jesus complex.
FUN CAMP was a semi-finalist for the Lake Forest/&Now 2011-2012 Madeleine P. Plonsker Emerging Writer’s Residency Prize.
“FUN CAMP is a beautiful flight of tragic-comic prose, so sharply realized it would actually be upsetting, if Gabe Durham weren’t so root-for-able in every way. Come for his astonishing & repeatably funny turns of phrase, stay for his furtive romanticism. Durham is lousy with wit and soul. I loved this book and did not want it to end.”
—Julie Klausner, author of I Don’t Care About Your Band and host of “How Was Your Week?”
“A less adept writer would flatten summer camp into mere nostalgic idyll or slapstick farce, but Gabe Durham is alive to the tonal complexity of his subject. I celebrate this book for its formal inventiveness, its rich humor, its exuberant language, its genuine spirituality, and most of all for its tender and abiding regard for the oversized feelings of adolescence. Durham knows his pranks, but he is not a prankster. He’s the real thing.”
—Chris Bachelder, author of Bear v. Shark and Abbott Awaits
“I read thousands and thousands of book manuscripts for Mud Luscious Press, and none were ever like FUN CAMP. Durham’s debut is a novel but not a novel, a story collection but not a story collection, witty though not all about the clever, a kind of funny rippled with sadness: FUN CAMP is the perfect amalgamation. From now on, when someone asks me what it means to grow up, to run away into our future selves, I will hand them this book.”
—J. A. Tyler, former editor of Mud Luscious Press
“Many of these shorts are silly until they turn suddenly grave, poignant, and heartbreaking, as if a hilarious stand-up comedian has started to weep. As a voice says in the chapter titled, “Listen to Me”: “Because I know just when to kill a joke.” And that’s also why we should listen to Durham; he knows when to drop the ironic mask. With stylistic sleights-of-hand, his best jokes get beyond irony to an odd pathos and sincerity.” – Brian Trapp in The Collagist
“The way this book comes together, with the monologues, lists, letters, and sermons, keeps us engaged and surprises us with what appears next, tonally, linguistically, and grammatically. … [W]ell worth a read, for both the boisterous diction and for those bunk-bed memories it might ruck up.” – Maria Anderson in Ploughshares
#1: “FUN CAMP has the skinniest low voice. FUN CAMP has the most earnest eye width. FUN CAMP is tall and kind and stalwart and genuinely funny, sweetly so, like the difference between a blackberry and corn syrup … I mean, there are parts of this book that are literally better than Wet Hot American Summer. Yeah. For real. I’m not blowing watermelon relays up your ass. It’s not hard to read this book at all—this book is fucking entertaining.” — Mike Young, author of Look! Look! Feathers
#2: “Fun Camp acts as a strange microscope for the cabin of our lives … The miracle is how much gets packed into that short period of time; falling in and out of love, friendships born and betrayed, philosophical schisms formed and patched” – Peter Tieryas-Angela Xu at HTMLGIANT
“So frisky an attitude towards getting naked feels welcome in a fictional experiment. More commonly these days, younger American writers who eschew narrative tend to abstain in their fiction, as well, from pleasures of the flesh … It’s great to have Gabe Durham give those impulses fresh play, on a midsummer’s night in the woods.” – John Domini, author of A Tomb on the Periphery
“The physical, the sticky: from choking games to T-shirts soaked by squirt gun, speculation about cup size on ‘budding girls,’ the development of pubic hair, and the idea of birth control—these become, for the counselors, for the formerly but not so recently young, sources of disgust yet also abject fascination. Ice breakers dissolve into sexual fantasies, observations are tinged with envy. That the skits center on absurd moral lessons is worthy of derision—’All school shootings would have been prevented had the shooters gone to Fun Camp’ or ‘A beer sip and you’re blitzed’—but that they contain a kernel of truth only applicable to the world of the campers is, from the point of view of the counselors, like salt in a wound. – Spencer Dew, author of Here is How it Happens
“In revisiting the novel, early stories that work the first time around as parodies of camp rules and order become early stories that foreshadow the dire interactions between campers and the ideological fallout that follows in the second reading … These juxtapositions and deepening layers are difficult to divine on a first read when there are so many irreverent jokes and absurd passion plays to enjoy on the surface.” – Peter Fontaine in NANO Fiction
“Fun Camp is a wonderfully nuanced exploration of youth taken away from the familiar, and given the adult task of knowing which rules to keep, break, and change. More importantly it illustrates the desire to be accepted by being unconventional in a new convention, and explores the adolescent desire to be a better person no matter the cost. Much like the campers want a perfect Midnight Hike, we all hope for a perfect something even if the something keeps changing and is ultimately only a romantic idea.” – Michael Wayne Hampton in Necessary Fiction
“Durham excels at capturing a symphony of unique voices in Fun Camp… the pieces form a patchwork that, when read as a whole, reflects the hurly-burly experience of summer camp itself. Read as separate pieces, the book works just as well since the quality of these sketches is so high.” — Quincy Rhoads in The Fiddleback
“FUN CAMP kills it on so many levels … Durham’s book is such a fun sledgehammer to the stomach that you might be able to trick yourself (or a classroom) into stowing their iPhones long enough to notice something truly memorable.” — Joe Sacksteader in Tarpaulin Sky
“Durham essentially wrote the book I wanted to write before I could do it … These small stories are all funny and punch-sad. The prose is tightly-coiled. Every last line of every monologue and lecture and warm fuzzy and frantic letter home makes you miss the taste of blackberries, the incomprehensible hodgepodge of what it feels like being a teenager at a pretty weird summer camp.” – Origami Zoo Press
“Like adolescence, too, the pieces in Fun Camp run a superlative range. Durham gives us moments of mind-blowing insight and moments of devastating heartbreak … it’s like a dark blue water balloon coming at you at nighttime.” — Joseph Riippi, author of A Cloth House and The Orange Suitcase.”
“Durham is deft with his sentences; there really isn’t a single one not buzzing with some unexpectedly new and creative word or phrase…” – Scott Carpenter in JMWW
“Gabe Durham revives your subdued memories of bug juice, failed attempts to excel at archery, popsicle-stained kisses and grass-stains. That’s right, he brings you back to camp, and he unearths all of the confusion and complex politics that accompanied it.” – Vouched Books (via Scoutmob)
“There’s a level of sophistication here—the gut punch while you’re laughing—and it’s so subtle as to be stealthily disarming. Autumn comes and then winter, though in the summer it’s easy to live fast and maintain a kind of temporary short-sightedness that comes with warm water and soft skin.” – Mel Bosworth, author of Freight
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Portions of FUN CAMP originally appeared in The2ndHand, A cappella Zoo, American Short Fiction, Big Lucks, Corium, Dark Sky Magazine, decomP, Dogzplot, Everyday Genius, FriGG, Gargoyle, Heavy Feather Review, Hobart, The Lifted Brow, Monkeybicycle, Nano Fiction, NOÖ Journal, notnostrums, PANK, Pear Noir!, Puerto del Sol, Route 9, Saltgrass, Western Humanities Review, and Wigleaf.
“Tommy, Janna, I’m going to stop you right there. Now when I say the feelings you’re describing are exceptional, I mean nuke the moon. Your account of the time spent between Tuesday’s kickball game and this evening when I happened upon you in each other—all I can say is wow and God bless and cherish it because for some of us, this has never happened.” – NANO Fiction
“Boy here likes you, he throws you in a pool.” – FRiGG
“The returners can tell you that camp is catnip to those bastards. Too perfect an opportunity for him not to pop back into your life, take you for a drunk backcountry cruise, and defend his absence away from the castrating gaze of you-know-who.” – American Short Fiction
“I’ll be maid of honor in your wedding and you’ll be co-maid with my sister but only cause she’d disown me if I didn’t let her.” – Big Lucks
“Kids, there are two kinds of people: Those who naturally love sports and those who learn to love sports. And if there is a third kind of person, nobody worth chatting up wants to hear about it.” – Route Nine
“As the Director of Marketing for Fun Camp Ltd., I sort of have to read my reviews. I appreciate the statement ‘I don’t read my reviews’ as a sort of Old World gesture of humility/badassery, but in 2013 saying ‘I don’t read my reviews’ is like saying ‘I don’t turn when my name is called.’” – Interviewed by Peter Cavanaugh in The Short Form
“The rule is: When someone gives you a multiple choice question and one of the answers is ‘multiverse,’ always ALWAYS choose multiverse.” – Interviewed by Matthew Simmons (author of Happy Rock) in Hobart
“You can’t shut down all the activities during which children have died. The question, then, is whether the game is worth the risk. Our speaker in Fun Camp says yes, definitely, whereas I’m not married to Chubby Bunny. I never loved overeating mallows for the abundance of the chalky substance that keeps them all from sticking together in the bag.” – Interviewed by Tobias Carroll in Vol. 1 Brooklyn
“I want to tell this girl, ‘It’s okay. Not feeling stuff as intensely is part of growing up! It makes you more stable and functional.’ And then I might add, ‘Those songs suck anyway!’ but then I think: Maybe she’s right to mourn it. Maybe the best thing a person can do with a shitty song like ‘Kumbaya’ is mean it.” – “Book Notes” feature at Largehearted Boy
“Camp made me feel mature and independent, and girls were there. In high school, my friends and I got really into performing skits, which was one of my early revelations as a writer. I got to collaborate with my best friend on creative stuff and then make people laugh hours later.” – Interviewed by Adam Robinson in What Weekly
“But as I worked on the book, the pieces felt like they were most heating up when I both agreed and disagreed with the speaker. The requisite ambiguity of literary fiction can be exhausting or boring for how it keeps writers reticent of making the big proclamations. Here’s one way to have/eat your cake: Make your characters boldly proclaim stuff you’re ambivalent about. Maybe that’s obvious but for me it was a revelation.” – Interviewed by Joeseph Riipi in Heavy Feather Review
“My mom would cut my favorite comic strips out of the paper and send them to me.” – Interviewed by Brian Carr on YouTube
“I think for Dave, our head boys counselor and the mouthpiece for a number of these speeches, there’s a vulnerability that comes out of his awareness that he’s built a summer camp around a very narrow and surface-level (but also primal and kinda legitimate) concept of what fun is. So there’s conflict between his role as facilitator of wackiness, mandating that kids have fun and be fun–water sports, food fights, silly skits, pranks–and the fact that he is a full-grown man who just can’t get into that stuff like he used to.” – Interviewed by Kelsie Hahn in Puerto del Sol
“I’m not as interested in recreating my own camp experience as I am playing with that week-long radical value shift. So Fun Camp is religious, too, kind of, but the main emphasis is on fun, having fun, being a fun person, and loving/worshiping Fun Camp itself. Fun as mandate, fun as nonnegotiable. And that’s exaggerated here, but I think that’s absolutely a camp tenet. In school, you get praised by the authorities for being quiet and doing your work. At camp, you get praised for being kooky.” – Conversation with Lydia Conklin in Hobart