MH: If you could change one thing about publishing, what would it be?
CB: That's easy. The percentages. Instead of 88% straight, upper middle class, Judeo-Christian white women—65% straight white women and the rest a complete and shifting mix of gay men, men of color, gay men of color, queer and trans men and women of all colors, straight women of color, people with disabilities. Muslim women and men, Buddhists, others, just for starters. Give us 35%. Do even that and we'll start getting somewhere.
The result might remind us of what Nietzsche felt only Greek Tragedy could do: fuse the Apollonian and the Dionysian completely. But the play teaches us—and this might be its central lesson—that the Dionysian itself requires a balance of impulses.
You think Ricki is a narc. Then again, you think she isn’t. You don’t know because every decision you’ve ever made has sucked, right from the time you dropped like a brick from Alice’s womb. You remember her vaguely, from before they took her--long dark hair and tracked arms.
Patrol, jungle, ambush, monsoon. Done, thought Stevie, who now ate only cooked meals, showered daily, wore fresh fatigues, polished boots. Except for the tropic heat and menial work, life on the base was considered pleasant.
“So, you the one they sent me,” said Worth.
I recognize my journal and sink into my chair. The journal contains an idea I once had for a work of satire, maybe for the theatre, perhaps the big screen. I was sure my Orwellian piece would go further than my now estranged wife using it against me in couple's therapy.
The dynamic between light and dark is also important in how I edit the texts, in terms of what’s going to follow. I put a lot of weight on getting the balance right. I’ve always been fascinated by a passage from To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, when the artist Lily Briscoe talks about composing her pictures. She says that shadow here needs light there, and she realizes in a sudden insight that she has to put the tree in the painting further to the middle. And that’s been my guideline, really, for how to compose: I have to put the masses in the correct balance, and there has to be a center.
What kind of writing excites you?
I am excited by writing that functions at once as art and philosophy, and that works carefully and in an unexpected way at the level of the sentence. I am excited by writing that jokes compassionately and writing that I am on the very edge of understanding, that oscillates in and out of clarity, and that can’t be exhausted in a single reading or even multiple readings, and that takes formal chances.
Marzano-Lesnevich uses the great gift of empathy to explore her subject, instead of only relying on rhetorical flourishes. The facts in this work provide a vehicle for a deeper exploration of human emotion in the aftermath of an evil act—indignation, forgiveness, fear, resentment, understanding, etc.
Reading Ninety-nine Stories can be a disjointed, disorienting experience. It’s accessible, subdivided into bite-sized, fast stories that serve to chill or humor or unsettle. But these segments, extreme in their brevity and hyper-precise in their language, are often deliberately contradictory, confusing the book’s own ideas and the reader’s understanding.
MacLeod’s stories are stunning vignettes of the subconscious’ desire to transpose the lived body’s sense-memories into the pure memory of the past—the proverbial “life flashing before one’s eyes”—a phenomenon that is frequently associated with moments of loss or death.
What are you working on now?
I’m always working on a few projects at once so I never get bored. Lately I’ve been switching between novels and screenwriting. I have a series of Sci-Fi-ish books I’ve been writing for years about a cult in the Ozarks, along with a YA time travel book and a YA novel set in the grunge 90s. I’m also collaborating on a Sci-Fi script based on the Malaysian flight that disappeared and a TV pilot that reimagines Norman Mailer as a P.I. I also just finished a draft of a script set a hundred years in the future about a Trump-like villain as our President. Wait, did I say the future? I meant now.
Unferth is unable to write a boring sentence. She denies her creations cliché resolution, is resilient to heroic evolutions, permits no godly miracles. We anticipate these ill-fated characters will succumb to their predicted dead-ends, but Unferth time after time demonstrates a remarkable gift for conjuring the unforeseeable, and the restricted scopes of her worlds miraculously give birth to expansive possibilities and ambient revelations through a voice ignited by its own humanity.
I remember … there was once a time … I wanted to be you …. wanted to Afro-out my life … color my brown face … black … red … green … I thought it would make you happy … this rebel child … who taught … apartheid … Rap Brown …
They will see me. The cruiser’s tucked alongside a ridge of blasted granite that borders the inland side of the road. I wear a bug-eyed gunslinger’s mask of thick sunglasses complimented by my hat, dipped forwards ever so slightly. I sit not tense but hunkered down, ready, facing the direction of the Indiana border a little ways ahead.