After the Fire
The smoke was tremendous—choking flesh made sky. It was even lovelier than the flames, great hands wrenching wood from stone, not a surgeon’s hands—anatomical, precise—but a drunk old pugilist ready to go down swinging. Or maybe they were more like teeth, ripping and tearing in one long devouring breath the entirety of my childhood. Of course, it wasn’t just the house. My father, brother, lover all burned. The three men in my life, their bodies grown round with beer and steak and wine. My mother had disappeared long ago. Hers was a diminishment, a gradual acknowledgment that her space grew smaller and smaller with each breath of my father or brother or lover, until finally, one warm July morning, she exhaled and collapsed into memory. Now, the heat and smoke rise and take the shape of her, phoenix-like, though I know it is only an illusion, a trick of the mind to render what is painful, to feel the pleasure of lapping at old wounds. As my mother became air, my father, brother, and lover remain grounded, their bodies a kind of permanence. Now they are piles of ash and teeth and bone, ready to drift into a plate of spaghetti, to slip through the gears of a pocket watch, to be sucked into my little cousin’s nose right before he sneezes. Continue reading
The Fire This Time edited by Jesmyn Ward: “National Book Award–winner Jesmyn Ward takes James Baldwin’s 1963 examination of race in America, The Fire Next Time, as a jumping off point for this groundbreaking collection of essays and poems about race from the most important voices of her generation and our time.”
The Field of the Cloth of Gold by Magnus Mills: “Magnus Mills’s new novel takes its name from the site of a 1520 meeting between Henry VIII and Francis I of France, to improve relations between the countries as the Treaty of London deteriorated. It allegorically suggests a number of historical encounters on British soil: the coming of the Vikings, the coming of the Romans. But The Field of the Cloth of Gold sits firmly outside of time, a skillful and surreal fable dealing with ideas of ownership, empire, immigration, charisma, diplomacy, and bureaucracy.”
How I Became a North Korean by Krys Lee: “Yongju is an accomplished student from one of North Korea’s most prominent families. Jangmi, on the other hand, has had to fend for herself since childhood, most recently by smuggling goods across the border. Then there is Danny, a Chinese-American teenager whose quirks and precocious intelligence have long made him an outcast in his California high school. These three disparate lives converge when they flee their homes, finding themselves in a small Chinese town just across the river from North Korea.”
Also this month: We’ll talk about Kingdom of Speech by Tom Wolfe, Bad Faith by Theodore Wheeler, The Humorless Ladies of Border Control by Franz Nicolay, and Girl & Flame by Melissa Reddish.