Literary Scene: Kim Volkman: For Those That Dance with the Skeleton – a book of short stories

BookPod 2019

How to begin writing about Kim Volkman’s second autobiographical publication other than to use a metaphor? Think of the mind like a mansion, and Volkman’s first book The Devil Won’t Take Charity as the entry way. Think then of the stories in For Those Who Dance with the Skeleton as the front windows. It is an unusual way to write about life experiences; the short story genre, but you will be amazed at just how well short stories work in this instance.

The short story has a lot going for it. It’s intense, but not long enough to engender discomfort. It’s descriptive without being overdone. It’s just enough for the reluctant reader to grapple with. It allows the writer to convey just one memory at a time, and those memories don’t have to be ordered in any particular way (though they can be if the writer wishes). The writer can be deliberately non-committal without causing the reader to believe there should have been a more finite ending. Short stories can leave the reader with a promise of another book of short stories if the first was entertaining enough.

There is no doubt that Volkman would have a goldmine of stories to dig into. In the title he touches on his love for things dark, alluding to the Danse Macabre: a legend in which Death appears at midnight on Halloween. Death calls forth the skeletons from their tombs while he plays his violin. There is a piece of original artwork by Volkman in the book, called The Violinist. And so the book’s title, art and short stories create a loose theme of passion for the netherworld, but don’t be fooled into thinking that the emotive effect is one of heaviness and gloom. Even in the most confronting of memories there is hope.

Perhaps hope is too restrained a word. There is joy in these stories. For those of you who play music, or enjoy music, or just plain ‘live’ music, you will find in these pages a kindred spirit. You will know of the difficulty in making a connection with someone who doesn’t find music is their lifeblood. (How can that be?) Even in the stories that are not about music in a direct way, you will recognize influences and passions that can’t help but creep into Volkman’s playing style. We are all the sum of many parts. Volkman’s music is the amalgamation of all the happenings that came before.

The St. Kilda lifestyle is on the wane, and so stories like these are sadly, becoming rarer and rarer. Gentrification kickstarted by shows such as The Block is making the once fascinating patchwork of what and who made St.Kilda so exciting, just a threadbare, soulless, upmarket wine bar of a place. Some parts of his life Volkman seems glad to say goodbye to: the desperation of the heroin years…the blankness of drinking, drinking and more drinking. There is nostalgia for childhood and old mates gone but not forgotten. There are stories of the natural highs found on stage in front of an appreciative audience with bandmates that can read his vibe like braille. Through it all there is the knowledge that Volkman is not sorry for any of it, though he is glad that some of it is behind him. Even the bad times were imperative to the creation of Kim Volkman the 2019 version.

If you enjoy a good music ‘bio’, give this book a go. It’s a bit different in a good way. Again Volkman worked with Pauline Bailey (editor), to give the stories some spit and polish, but don’t be thinking this is a super slick publication. Slick just wouldn’t suit Volkman at all. He comes across in his writing exactly how he is. No pretense, no illusions, no bullshit…but a hell of a bass player.

For Those That Dance with the Skeleton – a book of short stories by Kim Volkman is out now and available via mail order:

About Sharon Brookes 67 Articles
Sharon is a freelance music journalist with 20 years experience writing for street press, web publications and blogs. She specialises in reviewing gigs, books, CD’s, and theatre productions.