This week’s Friday Fiction is actually something I read last Friday and forgot to post here. It is “Beyond, Behind, Below” by Betsy Phillips, published in Issue 1 of Betwixt.
Out beyond the big house with its massive Greek columns, behind the brick kitchen, farther than the vegetable garden, below the slave quarters, past the new barn and the fallow lower fields, on the other side of the stacked stone wall, across a muddy lane, along a creek sat the old cabin—the first home place, now abandoned.
I love this story—so much so, I emailed the writer b/c I couldn’t contain myself. Basically, I love the way this story unfolds—the way it seems to dip in and out of time and feels like it is traveling a path that loops back. And the prose just hooks me some place vulnerable. Mostly I just found myself rereading it and feeling myself sink in time and then bobbing forward. It’s a witchy, beautiful, unsparing story.
Friday Fiction for January 24 comes from Gigantic’s new Winter 2014 issue: “Form” by André Babyn.
Beneath the moon the snow is so bright that the air above attains form. This luminance becomes a space that can be traversed. Before the woods, where the bare trees cast shadows and disrupt the light, my three dogs on their leashes.
Oof. I love this. Gigantic is one of my favorite magazines. It consistently publishes pieces that tangle me up.
The Golden Key will start reading submissions for Issue 4 soon. Fourth issue already! The theme calls for HUNGRY THINGS. I am very excited about this issue’s object.
This week’s Friday Fiction:
Isabel and I grew up in the village near Tivoli. I brought her oranges I stole from the Cardinal’s trees. She rolled her eyes at my crime but ate the fruit. I’d wanted to be a sculptor since I was a child. When I carved a rose the size of my palm to give to her, a sliver of stone flew into my right eye and carved it out. Well, I still had one eye and the feeling in two hands and heart.
“Gargoyle” by Cezarija Abartis on Burrow Press Review
My flash piece “Security” is up at First Stop Fiction! Here’s the first line: “The soldiers who came for us had their orders in the form of stamped papers out in their hands.”
Liz mailed me a wonderful surprise from New York: a stack of books, including Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which I’ve never read, updated with JRM on the cover. Thanks, Liz! You made my week!
I’m currently reading Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories from History Without the Fairy-Tale Endings by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie, a directory of mini-biographies of various princesses—warriors, schemers, usurpers, and so forth. It was listed as one of the “Best Books Coming Out This Week” on NPR Book News, which is how I came by it. Unfortunately, I can’t pass on the recommendation. It’s a coffee table book, fun to flip through, but without real depth (or fine writing)—which is fine, I just wasn’t expecting history-lite. The mini-biographies are really mini. The tone goes for a casual flippancy that feels out of place and erodes my confidence in the writer as a serious researcher/historian. The language strives to be hip and funny but misses the mark. It’s disappointing to read a book that claims it’s trying to add dimension to the idea of “princess” as a fairy tale stereotype while discussing powerful characters in a trite, vapid tone. As a reader, I felt talked down to. The book did introduce me to a number of fascinating women I hadn’t come across before, even if several of them are figures of folklore or myth rather than actual history.
Two recommendations for Friday, November 15:
In the lull before morning recess, David looked up to see his mother’s head framed in the window of the classroom door. She grimaced, peered in, pressed the mesh with her vivid mouth. David sat in the back row, but even from his distance, he could see that her cheeks were flushed. She caught David’s eye, pointed frantically down at something out of sight, and waved. Her red kerchief sat askew on her hair. David, heart pounding, bowed his head. He sat hoping to himself that it was still early enough in the day that she hadn’t become wild.
“The Balcony” by Amy Parker
Unstuck is teasing excerpts from their third issue. I really enjoyed Amy Parker’s “The Witch Almanac” so I went looking for more of her work.
That led me to “The Balcony” on FiveChapters. This story cut a swath through me. The people in it are in a state of distress that I got caught up in.
Happy 1-year anniversary to The Golden Key! Issue 3: Things Unseen was released on Wednesday. Ten writers tackle writing the invisible. It’s speculative, it’s unsettling, it’s sure to shadow you for days. Each piece is illustrated by my super talented friend, Stacy Nguyen.
Here’s one word from each of the ten pieces to whet your appetite: forked, steamer, Camembert, obsidian, spine, wraith-mother, limestone, peaches, séance, bouquet.
Some of the most intense, marvelous pieces I’ve read and can’t forget are short and spare, and one of my favorite places to tap into more of that is inkscrawl, a journal of short speculative poetry.
Each poem is ten lines or less. Some of them read like a one-breath incantation. I love them so much.
Here’s a round-up of a few poems from inkscrawl. They’re small but not slight. Linger over them—I did.
“Of Sleep and Dreams and Random Things “ by Nancy Ellis Taylor, “What We Carry” by Beth Cato, “Even an Empty Life Can Hold Water” by Peg Duthie, “Desert Protocol” by Ann K. Schwader, “Sarcophagus” by N.E. Taylor, and Assorted Very Short Poems.
This week’s Friday Fiction is “Henry and Booboo” by Elanor Dymott. It’s in the anthology xo Orpheus: Fifty New Myths, edited by Kate Bernheimer.
At the end of each piece in the anthology, writers say a few words about their retelling (or remaking). About “Henry and Booboo,” Elanor Dymott says that it is “a retelling of the origins-of-dynasty myth of Candaules and Gyges, as set out by Herodotus in his Histories. King Candaules, so in love with his own wife that he thinks her the most beautiful woman in the world, persuades his favorite bodyguard, Gyges, to hide in their bedroom and watch her undress. She sees Gyges but says nothing. The next day she offers him a choice between killing her husband for having dishonored her, or being killed himself Gyges kills the king, marries the queen, and becomes the ruler of the kingdom.”
Her version of the myth does some powerful things to the original story. The three central characters are recast as siblings and a friend, which immediately creates a serious amount of disturbance. It’s a good story, one that makes some great narrative moves I really admire and enjoy. There’s a lot at work in it that I haven’t unpacked yet (and I have questions about the why of things, mostly a couple places that I felt were pretty explicit and I’m wondering why).
Anyway, it’s a great story, I highly recommend the anthology, so check it out!
It would be eight years before he told her he’d killed them. Or at least, before he told her he held himself responsible for their deaths, which at the time were put down to natural causes: dehydration, the heat of the sun, overexertion.
This week’s recommended Friday fiction: A bit of flash from the archives of Fractured West, “Wilson Point” by Stephen Kempster Whelpdale Thomas does some interesting things with the conversation two parents have with their child.
Listen, said my mother. We’ll be here when you get back.
Listen, said my father. It won’t take long.
Listen, said my mother. You have your whole life ahead of you. There’s nothing to worry about.
Listen, said my father, then. You’re young now but you won’t always be, and when you’re older, when we’re gone, you’ll be better off if you learn to take care of yourself while you’re young.