book reviews by Althea

Interfictions 2: An Anthology of Interstitial Writing

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This is one of those anthologies with a pretentious introduction, and apparently demanded that all the authors write a brief blurb explaining WHY their work is ‘interstitial.’ I am firmly in a ‘let the work speak for itself’ camp. However, the whole idea of interstitiality is interesting to me, and I like things that don’t necessarily fit into neat pockets… so here goes:
Jeffrey Ford, “The War Between Heaven and Hell Wallpaper” – Ever have that urge to write down your dream as soon as you wake up? Mr. Ford did, and this is the result. It’s a more interesting dream than most!

M. Rickert, “Beautiful Feast” – A story that aims for Zen, and doesn’t entirely succeed. A father is listed as killed in Vietnam, but his son believes that he is still alive, and goes on an obsessive quest to find him.

Will Ludwigsen, “Remembrance is Something Like a House” – A house is, literally, haunted by an incident that happened within it, and goes on a (literal) journey to find its former tenants. An unusual twist on this theme.

Cecil Castelucci, “The Long and the Short of Long-Term Memory” – What would be worse? To be unable to remember? Or to be unable to forget? A story of a research scientist and his brilliant assistant explores the question. The powerpoint slides didn’t add to the story.

Alaya Johnson, “The Score” – Hmm. A ‘story’ about fame, jealously, politics, and Occupy Wall Street protests, told in snippets of ‘news articles,’ reports, and suchlike. At first, it seems a fairly standard musing on the intersection of art and politics – but an unusual ghost story element creeps in.

Ray Vukcevich, “The Two of Me” – Bizarre story of a boy whose twin gradually grows out of his shoulder. I just don’t care for this sort of thing.

Carlos Hernandez, “The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria” – A little boy turns to voodoo rituals, looked up in a book from the library, after his mother dies. As in many stories, dealing with the dead is more complex than one might hope. A very authentic, almost autobiographical  feel to this.

Lavie Tidhar, “Shoes” – Set on the island of Vanuatu. The author obviously encountered the pidgin language of Bislama, and decided to write a story featuring it. As an old man remembers his lost love, the story speaks quite beautifully and effectively about the unfortunate period in history where South Pacific islanders were shanghaied into slavery and forced to work on Australian plantations.  [As a side note… did editor Christopher Barzak actually READ the stories in this book? In the afterword, he says this story “takes a magical realist perspective on current political strife in the Middle East.” HUH? Get out a globe!]

B. F. Slattery, “Interviews After the Revolution” – A World-War-Z-style piece, discussing a revolution on a remote island which was accidentally triggered by a brazen heist at a wealthy resort. I’ve read Brian Francis Slattery’s ‘Lost Everything,’ and I enjoy his writing style. Some of the sentiments here about resorts not benefiting the local people seem a bit overplayed, if accurate, but this story overall is excellent.

Elizabeth Ziemska, “Count Poniatowski and the Beautiful Chicken” – A man builds a time machine, and uses it to travel back in time to meet with the King of Poland, in a scheme to prevent WWII. The reasons this doesn’t actually happen are pretty sappy, and not really justifiable.

Peter M. Ball, “Black Dog: A Biography” – A big, black, demonic dog follows a guy around as he grows up, and eats most of his girlfriends. A bit too heavy on the metaphor for me.

Camilla Bruce, “Berry Moon” – Another very metaphorical piece: the internal artistic muse as vampiric, incestuous being (sort of), feeding on others’ lives.

Amelia Beamer, “Morton Goes to the Hospital” – A romantic story of two old folks… getting into trouble just like young folks.

William Alexander, “After Verona” – A really powerful story about dealing with the violent death of a loved one, and the emotions and unanswerable questions that follow. Beautiful.

Shira Lipkin, “Valentines” – A disturbing but effective story that conjures up the experience of living with brain damage due to epilepsy.

Alan DeNiro, “(*_*) ~~~ (-_-): The Warp and the Woof” – In a dystopian future, a best-selling author, his agent, and a young courier are drawn together, and secrets of the author’s past are revealed. Interesting political ideas are brought up here, and an interesting scenario, but I don’t feel that it all came together as well as it could have.

Nin Andrews, “The Marriage” – A short vignette about relationships.

Theodora Goss, “Child-Empress of Mars” – An Edgar Rice Burroughs pastiche written by someone who, admittedly, had not read Edgar Rice Burroughs. Interesting. I suppose it shows how very deeply certain tropes have entered our social consciousness, that this is possible (and it’s pretty well done, too.) However, if I were going to do this, I’d pick up a couple of paperbacks, at least… I’d still prefer the original to the meta-fiction, just on principle.

Lionel Davoust, “L’Ile Close” – Meta-fiction about the Arthurian myth. It didn’t win me over.
Stephanie Shaw, “Afterbirth” – A story, clearly autobiographical, about pregnancy and giving birth, with some surrealist elements thrown in. Boy, am I glad I’m not having any children.

David J. Schwartz, “The 121″ – A bombing occurred, and 121 people died. For some reason, the explosion didn’t die away or fade, but acquired sentience, melding the consciousnesses of its victims. It’s useful for action movies.


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