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.
Right when most were expecting Saunders’s first novel would be the culmination of decades of his distinctively ecstatic and earnest comic stylings, the man has thoroughly zigged that zag with Lincoln in the Bardo, a book that is, whatever else it may be, nothing anyone was likely expecting.
“So the thing about Cat People,” the stuntman said, talking about the last movie he had worked on in L.A. before coming back to Utah, “is that I didn’t really have much to do. But still got the paycheck.” He laughed. “And that’s the thing with my line of work. It’s hard to get in.
If these fragments are to be found, / let them be found / with a picture of a mountain behind them, / Something ethereal, something blue.
Now that I have toiled and strayed so far over / the wilderness, am I to sleep, and / let the earth cover my head forever?
I have lived amongst creatures, delicate / yet hard as teeth. Honey and milk seeping / from mouths, sticking to our skin.
she / poured out sound so near your own / name and did without trying
I'm afraid that child isn't here anymore. / He left on the fog from last February, / taking with him his red fireman hat, / his parents, all torn to rags and once loved
In an inversion of The Handmaid’s Tale’s easily-grasped pictograms, our heroine gets stung because she does not understand the meaning behind a wordless feminine symbol. That is, she does not understand the symbology of herself.
With each palm he holds a bent knee so her limbs splay outwards. Squinting and searching, like Cousteau but on land, the Pirate has never held a map before but her legs still meet at the angle he knows best. Not his girl but his arachnid.
What are you working on now?
Christine Sneed: I finished a novel manuscript at the end of the summer and currently I’m only working on short fiction, which is a relief, I have to say. A novel is a marathon, and a short story is more like a 5K.