Song referenced here. Do you ever think about it–despite the time, against reason, even if, even though? Does it still crawl into the sheets with you at night, bathed and moisturized, and patted into place? Is it the extra limb you have gotten used to lugging around with you–the baggage always accounted for, and thus, already ignored? Do you still feel it in your arm like glass from a wound that has healed too soon? Do you no longer have a choice? Could you take the cutting open (again) to remove the punitive shard? Do you wonder if it is okay to be okay? Are you? Does it look back at you in the mirror? Does it allow itself to be forgotten only to resurface, sometimes–when you’re settled in, when your skin fits right, when you’re getting comfortable? Does it look small, now? Is it any less frightful? Or is it like a shipwreck in a bottle–is it still broken, even if you have set it aside?
I go in phases of wanting to read nothing but short fiction and only opening novels. I find that the former always hurts me more than the latter because they are an experience you cannot carry with you into other spaces of time: because of their immediacy, because they compel you to deal with them, as you are now. I thought I would share some stories that I have read and liked over the past few months. I’ve included a couple of things that I liked, as well as some lines from the stories which I have enjoyed. I was also lucky enough to have it turn out that these stories were online, so I can properly share them.
I Can See Right Through You by Kelly Link
(From Get In Trouble)
I have talked about this in previous entries; just when I think that my admiration for Kelly Link’s writing has peaked, she goes and writes something like this. I love this story for its dark candor, which I guess you can “love” about any Kelly Link story, but here the candor is especially dark and especially candid. I especially loved the reveal at the end–the curtain lifts, you peak into what it is that the language is relaying, has been veiling.
Some of my favorite lines: He knows what’s coming. Meggie rips into him. He lets her. There’s no point trying to talk to women when they get like this. He stands there and takes it all in. When she’s finally done, he doesn’t bother trying to defend himself. What’s the good of saying things? He’s so much better at saying things when there’s a script to keep him from deep water. There’s no script here.
The Dark Arts by Ben Marcus
(From Leaving The Sea)
I realize I am quite picky with male writers, and other than Ben Marcus, the only other male writer who I can think of at the moment to match is David Foster Wallace (loaded reference). That comparison is an unfair one for me to make because they are very different writers–in the sense that if you reach for one seeking the other, you will be disappointed–but I mean it in the sense that they have found a way to make every line an interesting one. This story is like sentence porn. I loved the language, I loved the absence of pity in the tone, the pacing of the narrative, and ultimately, what happens. This story hurt me really, really good.
Some of my favorite lines: Supine, prone, drooling, horny. Never mind how problematic that was, how much that confirmed that “treatment” was the wrong word. What should you call it when afterward you needed to be led from the premises? When, owing to the obliterating immunosuppressants, which preceded the perfectly refreshing speedballs of marrow, the body lacked the power to remove itself? Probably they didn’t care, at this first-class medical establishment, if the body was dumped in the Rhine. Just get it out of the clinic. Did they call it “the body”? Did they ask each other, peeking from behind their German curtain: Has the body gone? It is all clear, ja.
Amundsen by Alice Munro
(From Dear Life,)
I loved this story the most for its restraint: not a stray word. Alice Munro is good at writing stark without having the work be boring. I love how this story reads like the story that it is, if that makes sense. While it is a little bit slower-paced, and definitely more laid back (more “normal” in the traditional sense of a story) than I’m used to reading these days, it was able to achieve the same thing: that is, spin (that is, unravel) a yarn.
Some of my favorite lines:
He can’t go through with it.
He can’t explain this.
Only that he feels it would be a mistake.
It occurs to me that I will never be able to look at curly “S”s like those on the skate-sharpening sign, or at rough boards knocked into an X, like those across the steps of the yellow house, without hearing this voice.
Have you guys read any of these stories? If so, what did you think of them? I would love to know!
I am currently reading the rest of Leaving The Sea and Get In Trouble.
There is something very soothing about seeing the horizon, about knowing the width of a place. I think it has to do with the illusion of having the where figured out, having the lay of the land. These past few days, I have spent a lot of time looking out at the skyline. They say that that is good for improving your judgement of distance, of curing astigmatism.
I went to the coast, swam in the salt. I drank in the sun, let it eat away at the tip of my nose. I floated on the surface, let the water take me in. I stayed until I got wrinkled, until I felt like throwing up. On the sand, my toes were white. It looked wrong. I put on shoes. You can’t wash the city off of me.
We had a picnic in a park in the middle of the business district. I only like grass when it isn’t supposed to be there. I pull it out lovingly. I talk about time, I talk about the now–already missing it, that is. In the background, cars are being strung along. My friend says something about how summer is coming along. I am sad about it, almost devastated. I am okay with it. I am already learning to forget. I can put it away before it has arrived. Here on land, I am still being swayed by the sea.