Introduction to Fiction
If last issue’s fiction folio embraced both the weight and lightness of living in this world, it strikes me that this folio embodies the beauty and difficulty inherent in human relationships. The pieces in Issue 13’s folio are stories driven by patterns of connection and disconnection. Works which wisely negotiate emotional, psychological and even spatial distances—distances between and even within characters—are foremost here.
Adania Shibli’s “little watch is the first to sense the change going in to and out of Palestine.” When the narrator is held by security and searched at the airport, her watch ceases to function. The stopped watch precipitates a number of questions about absence and distance: “Were there one day Palestinian employees who commuted to work by train? Was there a train station? Was there a train honking? Was there one day a normal life in Palestine? And where is it now and why has it gone?” Hua, Kim Frank Kirk’s protagonist, experiences profound alienation not only due to the social demands to hide the baby she carries but also with the knowledge that she must relinquish the child once it is born. Hua’s isolation is complicated by intergenerational conflicts with her mother—her only real companion besides a shopkeeper with whom Hua interacts briefly to purchase cloth. Sarah Klenbort’s story of a Welshman returning from the states to act as best man at a wedding is an emotionally charged one for its well-wrought portrayal of simultaneous rejection of, and nostalgia for, home.
Angie Pelekidis’ presents ways in which “old” versions of ourselves are sometimes manageable ghosts. Robin Messing’s “Drive-By” is a heartwrenching rendering of a troubled middle-aged couple’s dynamic, which portrays the suffering and revisionist memory one might experience with intense grief and the difficulty of overcoming well-weathered patterns in long-term relationships. In Tyler Peterson’s story, the wife’s shifting distance and proximity to self awareness about her own dissatisfactions makes this narrative a compelling one.
Diane Simmons’ tale of gardening and socializing is misleadingly lighthearted. The drama “In the Garden” digs deeply into suburban desire, ambition and boredom. Michael Stein’s “Literary Theft” looks at literature that crosses global borders, perhaps not in the best circumstances, and not without a cynical nod to American idealism and naïveté.
There are several shorts tucked within this issue’s folio. I am thrilled to include Viorel Cacoveanu’s “An April Night,” translated by Mihaela Mudure. The flow of intimate conversation and tender details narrows the distance between man and wife and makes the implicit critique and isolation of repressive regimes even more pronounced at the end. Dorothy Albertini’s elliptical shorts ask readers to place themselves within the distances between characters by traversing the cognitive leaps and swerves. Kirk Nesset’s short possesses such a profound feeling of disconnect, both stylistically and conceptually, that to navigate such fissures in a piece called “Family” is nothing short of brilliant. You will want to read and reread Sejal Shah’s “Climate, Man, Vegetation:” “Each word a country, inhabited and blue.”
Dramatist Claudia Johnson1 writes:
- …underlying any good story, fictitious or true—is a deeper pattern of change, a pattern of connection and disconnection. The conflict and the surface events are like waves, but underneath is an emotional tide, the ebb and flow of human connection…(3)
This tidal ebb and flow of human connection and disconnection seems an apt lens through which to consider these stories. Distances between a person and other people, distances between a person and him—or herself, between the world and itself2—cunningly crafted distances complicate and verify the substance of these stories.
Deborah Marie Poe, fiction editor
1 Hunter Johnson, Claudia. Crafting short screenplays that connect. Burlington, MA: Focal Press, 2000.
2 Robbe-Grillet, Alain. For a New Novel: Essays on Fiction. New York: Grove Press, Inc., 1965.