Category Archives: Hooray Fiction!

PIECE BY PIECE: Clothed, Female Figure by Kirstin Allio

clothed-female-figure

We asked Kirstin Allio to introduce us to her short story collection–one piece at a time.

Millennium

The windows of the apartment were waxy, and had been painted shut in another era. If you pressed yourself against the interior-facing glass you could see, as if at the bottom of a secret well, a murky courtyard where a few scorched houseplants had been left for the wife of the doorman… I theorized that the millennium was like the Wizard of Oz—the moment before he reveals himself from behind the curtain.

Clothed, Female Figure

I came to New York at twenty-six and married the first man I met, literally and proverbially. He stuck his head around the fire escape. “Hey,” he said. “Neighbor.”

He had a loopy, charming grin and hard eyes the color of lapis. I had just brought home a pot of daisies (margaritka, in Russian), and I was setting them out on the little balcony. I wouldn’t have called it a fire escape. My English was good but not specific. He climbed over, still grinning, as if he were shy of my beauty but like a dog couldn’t help himself. He had long legs in tight jeans and white socks with holes in them. So already we were intimate. We had one son, Arturo, named after my husband’s father, the patriarch. The family business was Italian tiles. We were a mismatch from the beginning, although there were never any lighthearted fairies making fun of us.

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Holden Caulfield is “Anti-White”

In these days of grievance, it seems anyone can be “anti-white,” even America’s most iconic, lily-white, emo, prep-school complainer, Holden Caulfield.

As Quartz reports, over the next month, in honor of Banned Books Week, the Washington, D.C. public library system is hiding banned books around the city as part of a scavenger hunt. The books will be distinctively marked. Like obscenity, you’ll know them when you see them:

Each book has a black cover, printed with quotes from people who have tried to have them banned or removed from US libraries and schools. John Knowles’ A Separate Peace will be labeled “filthy, trashy sex novel,” and J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye is labeled “anti-white.”

The “anti-white” quote on the Catcher cover comes from a 1963 effort to ban CatcherBrave New World and To Kill a Mockingbird. Presumably, the anti-white complaint is more targeted at the book in which African-American characters are mistreated by whites. But hey, it’s a fun scavenger hunt, so just go with it.

While Salinger surely would have objected to this whole thing — since he objected to everything (including whites, I guess?) — he did once write a story that the kind of person who would label something as “anti-white” might consider anti-white. It was based on the life of Bessie Smith, including her death, which was alleged to be the result of being refused admittance into a whites-only hospital. The story was published in Cosmopolitan in 1948, and the editors changed Salinger’s title from “Needle on a Scratchy Phonograph Record” to “Blue Melody” without telling the author, which upset him deeply.

-Michael Moats

 

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Sean Beaudoin’s Welcome Thieves Tour Diary

Welcome Thieves

It may be apocryphal, but supposedly there was a time when you finished a book, sent it in to your editor, and then immediately headed up to the deer lodge with a case of bourbon and a few pounds of hardtack, ready to start the next. No need to block four calendar months for promotion. No need to come up with a clever social media campaign (“I’ll be live-mumbling the entire thing on Slapfish!”), and especially no reason to alienate every last friend and family member by flogging a novel they’ve either already bought or have no intention of ever buying. No, you’d just hit the road with a publicist who looked like Rosalind Russell, hit a dozen cities, keynote a conference, and on the way home offend a ladies’ book club or two. Finis.

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He Can Call Me Flower

Bambi - The Argonauts

After I read the last page of Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts, I closed it and put it in my bag. And then I took it back out and read all the praise on the back cover. And then I perused her bio and acknowledgements and all the praise in the first pages. I even read the end page that tells you about cover design and font and whether it is printed on recycled paper. (It is thirty percent post consumer wastepaper. Yes.) I started to read it again. I wanted to wholly absorb it. Study it, like notes for an exam. Make them a part of my brain so I could recollect them easily. Remember the paragraphs like I would remember the chambers of the heart. I needed to repeat each passage immediately.

I wasn’t ready to put it away.

When we were kids, my sister and I loved to watch Bambi—the classic Disney cartoon with the baby deer whose mother gets shot by a hunter, and whose standoffish father, “The Great Prince,” can silence the entire forest with his presence. Continue reading

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WHAT TO SAY ABOUT Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett

Pond Claire-Louise Bennett

Sooner or later, you’ll have to say something about Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett. This debut collection of linked stories from an English writer who lives in Ireland may be slim, but it’s packed with vivid imagery of a quiet life, and deep reflections from an unquiet mind. It’s excellent, it’s ravishing, it’ll win a ton of awards, it’ll show up on everyone’s Best of 2016 lists. So before everyone starts asking you about Pond, here are some handy talking points.

They’ll Say:

Pond is like a really intense diary with all the specific names and locations and backstory omitted. One of the best stories (“The Big Day”) takes place entirely within the narrator’s head while she sits alone, waiting for a party to start. It’s all about her inner thoughts.

You’ll Say:

Yes, but the book moves in both inward and outward directions. It can be incredibly claustrophobic—focused on one person’s whims and daily minutiae—and incredibly expansive—suggesting worlds of detail, meaning, and personality—at the same time.

They’ll Say: Continue reading

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Knowledge Porn

The Last Samurai

Over at The Millions, our very own Brian Hurley writes about Helen DeWitt’s The Last Samurai and novels that “perpetuate a seductive fantasy about the nature of intelligence.”

Read that thing.

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