Calm before the storm.

KCA with Hollenbachs I took this

The Thunder Over Louisville hype is not what brought Ehrichto to the hotel. He’d been stopped in his tracks by the sight that greeted him at Fifth and Main. For a moment he’d wondered if he was somehow on the wrong block, or if maybe they’d re-numbered the streets, any explanation at all besides the obvious and unthinkable, that they’d torn down the Conway Distillery building. But they had. All the buildings on that block were gone, replaced by an angular structure of light brown brick and soaring green glass capped by a rounded, corrugated steel roof. The building looked for all the world like a giant soup can laid on its side.

He was standing, staring at it in horror when a voice to his left said, “I know, right? It’s the only decent block in the whole damned city. I so cannot wait to get to Man-hattan.”

Bardo by N. S. Beranek, forthcoming from Lethe Press.

Short Stories 365/348

“The Bloomsbury Nudes” by Jameson Currier from The Haunted Heart and Other Tales, Chelsea Station Editions 2014. Originally published by Lethe Press, 2009.

The next story in the collection is “The Man in the Mirror” but I reviewed it already as part of the inaugural issue of Icarus Magazine (see Short Stories 365/280).

Here I’m tempted to say the author saved the best for last, but you should be informed up front that I am biased. This story is about an artist named Dennis, who falls in love with a dancer, Jared, who is in a tempestuous relationship with a painter, Clive, who was involved with a man, Teddy, who was, in the fictional world of the story, involved with the turn-of-the-last-century freethinkers known as the Bloomsbury Group. That would be more than interesting enough but he takes it even further by conflating that real life group with another of their day, namely the folks who orbited Aleister Crowley.

I’ve said it here before: I’ve read six biographies of Crowley. It was awhile ago, mind you, but I’ve retained enough that this story set my mind afire. (“Wait, was there that much cross-over? I don’t remember reading that.”)

An excerpt:

The parlor was filled with gorgeously illustrated books on religion, mysticism, magic, and the occult, leather-bound volumes of The Book of the Law, The Equinox, The Secrets of Conjuring, Deceptive Conceptions, Malleus Maleficarium, Clavis Salomonis, Psuedomonarchia Daemonum, and early issues of The Magic Circular, The Criterion, and The Tatler.

Um, about that….

Thelemic Bookshelf 2

So yeah, definitely the best for last. In my book, anyway.

Short Stories 365/191

“Fairy Tale” by Justin Torres from Wilde Stories 2012 (Lethe Press). Edited by Steve Berman.

I’ve mulled this brief story for a long, long time, yet still feel that I barely have a handle on it, but here goes. It’s told from the perspective of a youth, and the visceral descriptions capture a fascination with the adult body that’s common to adolescence. The narrator is writing to his absent father, telling him about a curious development in their family: the men have begun to sprout wings behind their ears. The narrator is fascinated by the wings, but his uncles’ reactions are mixed. Uncle Ramon is proud of what, for him, is an indication of virility, though he is careful to cover them up when in public. Uncle Miguel’s wings are much smaller. More than anything else, he’s unsettled by their presence, and covers them even in private. Uncle Gabriel’s wings are smaller still, but also newer, and the family hopes they will continue to grow. That’s curious, considering their treatment of Uncle Tito, who has the largest wings of all. He’s been all but shunned because they disapprove of the attitude he displays concerning his wings. Tito isn’t conflicted or embarrassed by them. He’s comfortable with himself, and even worse in their eyes, he doesn’t hide that fact from his nephew.

There’s a lot going on in this tale. It’s a treatise on sexuality, gender roles, and sexual orientation (the narrator realizes that he feels about wings the same way that his Uncle Ramon says women always react). And, of course, the fact that the narrator’s father is removed dredges up the tension felt between fathers and gay sons.

You get all of that in a handful of pages. It’s astounding.

Short Stories 365/190

“The Arab’s Prayer” by Alex Jeffers from Wilde Stories 2012 (Lethe Press). Edited by Steve Berman.

I first began to contemplate the idea of doing this short story review project while reading the entries on ‘Nathan Burgoine’s blog last year. I decided I would try to get a jump on things, so I started writing reviews of the collections I was reading. Some of the projects didn’t get very far because I encountered stories that confounded me. This was one such collection, though this piece, which kicks it off, wasn’t the one that stymied me. That’s next, but I figure I’ve had over a year to mull it over. Surely I’ll think of something to say by tomorrow.

Here’s what I wrote then. Note that I decided to leave the last line in although I have since read and reviewed several other stories by the author. What was “I’ll definitely check out more by this author” has become “Alex Jeffers? Oh, good!”

Has the world truly changed so much in the few short years since this “speculative” story was penned that it could strike me as nothing but contemporary? I guess it has, because for the life of me I could not figure out while reading this tale why it was included in this particular volume. I simply took it in stride that the “jinni” with whom the main character was conversing was a Siri-like digital personal assistant, and that people halfway around the world from me should be protesting in the streets on behalf of gay marriage, standing up to the hard line clerics of three of the world’s major religions. Welcome to the twenty-first century.

Regardless of its speculative-or-not status, I thoroughly enjoyed this story. I liked the main character and found his wants and fears very relatable, yet there were enough interesting details sprinkled throughout that I felt I was continually learning about a perspective different than my own, which is one of the main reasons I love to read.

I will definitely check out more work by this author.