Category Archives: Hooray Fiction!

Ultramarine

Excerpted from A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall by Will Chancellor. Copyright © 2014 by Will Chancellor.

A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall

Four days after his second surgery, in his undersize bed, Owen woke with resolve. He glanced to his clock, hoping for a single digit. A six, an eight, even 9:59 would do. One. The wrong single digit. But it explained the light. Thin winter blue through empty air, not even a dust mote dancing. Or possibly it was just because he needed his left eye to get the oblique angle. He slowly rotated his head, rolling into the thick of a radiating headache. He swallowed a painkiller and went outside for air.

All it took was a nudge of the aluminum frame to open the screen door, stained with salt-wind and hinge-sprung. The sharp dry squeak, a call to the gulls. An onshore breeze held the door closed after Owen passed through.

If he would be going anywhere, this sand would have to go with him.

Owen staggered down the cliff behind his house and over the shale, pooled by the low tide. He crabbed along the rocks until he found his familiar ledge. Leaving his sandals behind, he leapt to the wet sand.

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Remember Me

Abroad

FA review tag

Early in Katie Crouch’s ambitious and unnerving new novel, Abroad, her young Irish student narrator, Taz Deacon, takes us on a tour of an Etruscan archeological museum in Grifonia, Italy, where she encounters violent images of Iphigenia, stabbed as a sacrifice to Artemis. Taz wants to understand whythis happened and whythe disturbing images are so insistently reproduced and displayed. A smug and patronizing German dude in her tour group warns her: “You are too interested in this gory story…. It’s a sad, complicated story. Much too complicated for you.” You can’t handle the truth, girl, he sniffs. Abroad, like the myth of Iphigenia and the many familiar and unfamiliar stories it refracts, issimultaneously complicated and disarmingly simple. Like its setting, Grifonia, “there are layers here, thousands of years of life and death and secrets and untold history.” But don’t let Crouch or Taz or the German dude scare you. This is a can’t-look-away kind of book.

Many people will read Abroad because they remain interested in, and maybe even perversely turned on by, the sad and complicated story of Amanda Knox. Others will read Abroad because they have come to expect from Crouch’s earlier books that she will have trenchant, funny, useful answers to the question “What is it, really, that feeds a friendship between women?” Crouch herself has encouraged this kind of reading, notably in her February 2014 Salon article, “Amanda Knox, what really happened: Writing toward the actual story.” In Salon, Crouch says that, like Taz, she is most interested in the question of why: “Why was Meredith Kercher killed?” And Crouch describes Amanda Knox as “caught in a fiction other people want to read,” encouraging Knox to write her own story. Crouch says that she herself is “working on a novel loosely inspired by” Meredith Kercher and Amanda Knox. “Truly worthy fiction has empathy, even for the sinners,” she says.

Abroad is truly worthy fiction. It has empathy. It’s even inspired. It is not, however the “actual story” of Amanda Knox—at least not in the newspaper or tabloid sense, and it never pretends or wants to be. Crouch’s loyal readers will find serious attention paid to what this book calls “that empowerment thing. Staying in front of it,” even as the story acknowledges, achingly, that, “of course, you’re never in front of the heart”.
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Did You Hear? I Love You

New music! Sometimes old music. Music that we love!

I’m trying hard to resist my inner hipster here — I came across this song months ago and had it in mind to feature on Did You Hear? Before I got to it, however, I heard it on a T-mobile commercial, and immediately set to questioning whether I could still post it, or if this song is “totally over.” (See Portlandia clip here.) But, since 2 weeks ago I posted a song performed on Soul Train in the ’70s, i’m inclined to ignore any urges to try and discover something “first.” It’s a losing battle, people! These posts are celebrating music we think is worth listening to, end of story. And I love this song!

- Brook Reeder

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The Circle Jerk

The Circle

I wish someone besides Dave Eggers had written The Circle, a book about an Internet company that takes over the world.

I wish Jonathan Franzen had given The Circle the convincing female characters that tend to feature in his work, instead of the flatness and predictability of protagonist Mae and her best friend Annie, an up-and-coming Circle luminatus who hires her best friend from college into an entry level “Customer Experience” job. Quick plot summary: without really much emotional turmoil, Mae succumbs to corporate logic that technology has all the answers and that privacy is unequivocally bad, and ultimately helps the Circle to worm its way into dominant control over human activity writ large. I wish DFW had provided his sharp, brutal insights into corporate stagnation and hollow, apostatic greed, coupled, perhaps, with Douglas Coupland’s humor and particular flair with Silicon Valley. More than anything, I wish Jesse Ball had leant his far, far subtler allegorical vision and tidy but tender character interactions, rather than Eggers’ brutish (if earnest) attempt to steer a conversation about the politics of technology.

I wish all these things because we really need a much more convincing, more clever version of The Circle to intervene in ethical discussions of what it means to be online, to build relationships with and to and through data and algorithms. The last week has seen a raging debate on social media, privacy, experiments and research. The recap: Facebook researchers designed a technological intervention into the news feed of 700,000 users, tweaking the feed for two weeks based on semantic analysis of emotions. Results of the study were written up in a top research journal, and have leant themselves to some fairly scary headlines about Facebook manipulating the emotions of users without their knowledge. The fallout has stretched across mainstream newsmedia and the techno-elite, provoking corporate apologies and much academic debate.

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Proust Zumba

The Albertine Workout

FA review tag

1. Anne Carson has written her new book, The Albertine Workout, in numbered sections with alphabetical subsections. This makes for

a) easy reading.

b) an easy review conceit.

2. The content of the book could be described as the terse fruits of Carson’s labor to catalog all discernable facts about Albertine Simonet, the most lasting and beguiling of the Narrator’s loves in Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time.

3. The tone of the book is dry. You can hear this dryness in Carson’s reading and in this sample section: “3. Albertine herself is present or mentioned on 807 pages of Proust’s novel.”

4. The Albertine Workout is the latest from the New Directions Poetry Pamphlet series but don’t fret, it’s about prose and written in prose. Carson is not known for writing fiction but I would have to say she advocates for it, having produced a “novel in verse” and now a study of THE novel.

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Did You Hear? Rhythm of Devotion

New music! Sometimes old music. Music that we love!

This track is so many things at once: a sonic collage of hip-hop, electronica, industrial, and 80’s synth pop. If you don’t like it, just wait a bit, and it’ll meander to a new place before too long. Having said that, it’s definitely got a driving theme that will stick in your head (or craw, depending on your tastes). Sisyphus is a collaboration of Son Lux, Serengeti, and Sufjan Stevens, out of Brooklyn. Brooklyn has been killing it lately with a ton of great new music.

- Brook Reeder

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New Quarterly Lit-Mag: The Intentional

intentional

I root for my generation the way some people root for sports teams, and there’s nothing I loathe more than trend pieces bemoaning some supposed Millennial flaw, so I’m excited to see a new lit-mag that does the opposite. The Intentional, a DC-based quarterly journal, publishes fiction, essays, poems, and art, focusing on Millennial contributors and topics.

Their third and current issue is organized around the theme of vulnerability, which, because we’re mostly in our twenties, pretty much just means “sex.” People of all ages have a lot to say about sex, of course, but the perspective here is definitely Millennial. What does moving in with your significant other mean as the cultural importance of marriage wanes and the economic incentives to split living costs wax? How do women who choose sex work feel about their jobs, both ethically and emotionally? This approach is epitomized by a short excerpt from Chelsea Martin’s new chapbook Even Though I Don’t Miss You, which explores romantic ambivalence in a Tumblr-ready tone: “I momentarily forgot that you were not just an appendage to me and I said, ‘Do you want to make an OkCupid account?'”

In a generationally uncharacteristic move, the Intentional‘s creators decided to make it print-only (though their website is functional and attractive enough for an online magazine). As much as I cherish the convenience of the Internet, I think they made the right choice putting it on paper. The magazine as a physical object is gorgeous, and its strongest material is visual art, including an intriguing comic strip by Saman Bemel-Benrud and paintings by Erick Jackson that “construct a world in which children rule, but…lacks the playfulness one might expect from such a theme.”

I only hope that next issue will channel the Millennial passion for diverse media representation and showcase the work of more writers and artists of color.

Lauren O’Neal is a freelance writer and editor working toward an MFA in creative writing in San Francisco. She has written for publications like Slate, the New Inquiry, and theRumpus, where she was formerly the assistant editor, and is currently on the editorial team at brand-new lit-mag Midnight Breakfast. You can follow her on Twitter at @laureneoneal.

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NEW HARRY POTTER STORY!!!

THERE’S A NEW HARRY POTTER STORY! IT’S SHORT!! HE’S OLD!!!

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READ IT AT POTTERMORE.COM.

-Michael Moats

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