Paper Monument

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My, oh my, how the months fly by. Last I posted it was winter and now it’s fall again. Three seasons later, I have three things to share.

I’m very pleased to have published two new story-reviews this year. These are my experimental book reviews, or critifictions, as I call them sometimes. (A friend of mine said he thinks I might have invented this form/genre? Hard to say. Who knows?)

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Another Life

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My latest experimental book review is now online at Full Stop. (It originally appeared last year in the Full Stop Quarterly.) It’s part four in an ongoing series of experimental reviews I’m writing about literature in translation. I’ve been publishing them pretty slowly, about once a year. They’re a bit hard to place, being so different from traditional reviews, but I enjoy writing them. Many thanks to Helen Stuhr-Rommereim for believing in this piece and making it happen.

Another Life
On Recitation by Bae Suah, translated by Deborah Smith.

The critic read Suah’s novel, Recitation, on the train to and from a writers conference. At a panel about the art of criticism featuring Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Margo Jefferson the discussion turned to writing, the personal process of coming to terms with bias against different sorts of texts, the ways critics develop an approach for each piece. In the audience the critic listened as Jefferson described the nature of critical writing as “giving real coherence to ambiguity,” saying that not unlike a fiction writer a critic must also, “play different parts, very much adjusting your voice,” when interpreting a book’s potential meanings.

Continue reading at Full Stop

 

Damp & splotchy

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The splotchy thing above is a detail from a finger-painting my son did. He has no idea he created it. He just made it and brought it home from school before disappearing beneath a pile of Legos. I pinned the painting up by my desk at work and there it hung for many months until I noticed the intricate webbings inside the mess, and snapped a photo last week. Not sure why, and I’m probably overthinking it a bit, but it feels like I’m supposed to learn something from that somehow. Or not. I just like it.

Meanwhile, I was very happy in May to have two stories in The Brooklyn Rail. They are both very short stories, and appeared in print and online, so if you need a quick read, they’re on the same webpage. One is about death, and the title even says so: “Particles of Death.” The other is about love and is called “The Breath of Life.” I’m grateful to Donald Breckenridge for publishing them.

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A bird unbound

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Credit: M. Jakubowski

A translator reached out to me last week after my short story, “New Names for the Dead,” appeared online asking if I’d allow him to publish a translation in Tamil. I gladly said yes. It’s the first time my work has been translated and it feels kind of miraculous to have a story of mine exist now in a language as gorgeous as Tamil.

The translator, who prefers to retain some anonymity (his Twitter handle is @thackli), also gave me permission to post some of his notes on the translation.

For reference, here is my story “New Names for the Dead” as it originally appeared at (b)OINKzine. (The story is summarized in the notes that follow in case you’d rather not leave this page.) And here is இறந்தவர்களுக்கான புதிய பெயர்கள், the Tamil translation.

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New story in Fiddleblack

Very happy to say that my short story, “Sharpening the Sickle to Shame the Scythe,” appears in Issue #16 of Fiddleblack.

It’s about the way people cope with guilt during the grieving process. So it’s a bit different from the kind of short stories I’ve published thus far.

Many thanks to editor Jason Cook for publishing this piece. He wrote this introduction to the new issue, which features wonderful poems by Brian Kubarycz and Elias Marsten, and stories by Anna Boorstin, Maxwell Howard, and Caitlin Woolley.

Down in It: Fiddleblack #16

Here’s an excerpt from my piece. Thanks for reading. And of course I’d welcome a chance to hear your comments about the story.

In the hours before Lauren Hunter-Aikens got the news she was stuck trying to revise a story she had written in her creative therapy group.

In the story, the narrator imagined that the news of her son’s death would come by phone. She would be at work drinking coffee, clicking with intense focus through documents on her computer screen. Her phone would buzz in her purse. Not wanting to disturb the office silence, she would answer right away and keep her voice low out of respect for her colleagues on the other sides of her cube.

The voice would ask if she were sitting down. She’d say yes, why? The person who’d called would say the preliminary things she had feared for so long. Then the voice would tell her that there had been an accident. Most often she imagined the voice telling her there had been a car crash, but also very frequently it was an accident at home, where a nanny watched the boy until she and her husband got back from work around five-thirty. The boy had died in a fall down the stairs or been poisoned with household chemicals. A few times she imagined the boy had choked on something she and her husband had neglected to clean up, such as a penny or a tire from a broken toy car. In any case, in that scenario an everyday object in their home had somehow killed the boy. In the story, the woman would wail when she got the news, slamming her phone against the desk, causing the people in the cubes next to hers to jump up and look over the wall, asking what’s wrong, what on earth has happened?