I have a new story online called “Little Brother.” It’s about childhood and darkness and togetherness and escape. It’s one of my favorite short pieces.
It’s had a long life. Though I should say “lives.” It has existed for many years in one form or another. Its longest life was as a chapter of my first novel, which itself had an adventure (agent, submissions, interest, but not enough). I didn’t give up on the chapter. I adapted it to stand alone in these 1,300 words, which encapsulate a lot of overlapping ideas and theories and worlds that tumble around together in my memory of childhood with my sisters. In the story, they’re both older than me. In real life, I’m the oldest. But age is funny. We’re all older and somewhat wiser now, with spouses and children and good and bad jobs. Age doesn’t seem to matter much anymore. I’m so lucky to be close to them now. This story is for them, for us, honoring a piece of the vast, sacred weirdness we went through together.
He would have hands large enough to go to the edge of that green ground, jab his fingerspades into the sod and grip the turf woven with roots and rhizomes to lift the life-giving blanket of the earth, shaking it high in waves through the sky to reveal the giggling children of old and dead and forgotten beneath it, all the bumps and skeletal humps and vertebrae valleys, the shapes of history that are softened and hidden beneath sedimentary layers of the planet’s bedsheets, the holy collective decay of animal and vegetable life like leaf litter under which all the past sleeps until tectonic turmoil strikes at an invisible hour, the dead awaking the living above the blanket, as his hands shake the wavy coverlets free of the day’s greed and corruption.
Gripping the continental edge, standing in the Atlantic off the coast of Maryland, with one shake he sends the concentration camps flying, hurls aside the anti-immigrant shock troops, tumbles the white-power militias, upsets McConnell’s and Miller’s and Kavanaugh’s and Gorsuch’s beers, giving Trump the thump of fate beneath his feet and deep within his temples.
With this generation’s horrors flung beneath the moss, he’d throw his arms out and with his head back shout, “Tsunami!!!!” crashing backwards into the sea, letting his words and energy breach the shore, sloshing back beneath the waves, disappearing into the green black depths, having given, gone, some dreamed echo of justice.
In 2014, I wrote my first experimental book review and I’ve since written seven more, with plans to write as many as I can so long as people keep finding them interesting. Each one is a puzzle to write but I like what they allow me to do, as a form, compared to more traditional criticism. They’re written in third person about a critic, rather than as a critic. Each piece can stand alone, but if they are read sequentially, they show time passing for the critic, and her family, as her career goes on.
The latest review is about Russian author Ksenia Buksha’s novel, “Freedom Factory.” It was published this spring in the online cultural journal, The Critical Flame. Here’s an excerpt, with a link to the full piece below.
The next one will appear this summer in Textshop Experiments. It’s focused on “Aviaries,” a novel by the late Czech author Zuzana Brabcová.
Party On: An experimental review of Freedom Factory
The critic had missed her deadline and couldn’t bring herself to care.
On her couch, with her laptop on the coffee table, she looked at her notes about the book and read a quote: “The factory is a continuation of my father.” Ksenia Buksha had placed it near the end of her book, in one of the more experimental chapters. It had been meant, the critic thought, to convey a sense of something spiritual about the way the place a person works can enter their lifeblood. Continue reading →
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.
I have to make an apology of sorts for touting my own work on the blog so much lately. It was not at all planned, and this will be the last such post for a good while, but July has been a wild month!
On the 15th I had two flash fiction pieces published, “Half of Love” in Minor Literature[s], and “Currawong” in Berfrois. With “The Open Air” in Numero Cinq, that makes three stories published in July. Add to that the flash piece I published last month in The Bohemyth and that’s four stories in two months’ time. Four is typically my output for a year or 18 months, so it’s really caught me off my guard, in a wonderful way naturally. And being pressed for time otherwise with work and parenting I haven’t been able to post anything else worthwhile in between — though I do have more interviews with book critics in the works.
My new short story, “The Open Air,” appears in the July issue of Numéro Cinq. About the strange world of office work, it incorporates thoughts and things I’ve experienced over the past couple decades working in offices and corporate highrise towers in different cities across America. Office environments are some of the oddest places I’ve ever been in. How these so-called corporate cultures develop and how people survive in them is fascinating, something I’m sure I’ll end up writing more about later on.
It’s about the last deer my father shot before he died in 2012 after many years with cancer. It’s also a small attempt to hint at an enormity of things. What a family goes through during a loved one’s treatment, the motions of anger and solace that form grief. I took the picture of him, above, a few years before the last deer, on a cold morning in Michigan.
The June 2015 issue ofThe Bohemythbrings together texts and visual art by artists from around the world. And the journal’s archives showcase a fantastic mix of traditional and experimental work. I’m grateful to the editors for including my piece, especially toMichael Naghten Shanks.