Why (some of us) love fiction and feel like it is more powerful than real life at times. The Neuroscience of Your Brain on Fiction – NYTimes.com.
In honor of Samhain, an excerpt from story I wrote for Newport Review… The central character was my roommate for a time, until she moved on.
A Person Unknown
I sit by my window as darkness falls this Samhain season and I shuffle the cards, scanning the horizon for storm clouds. My only company is the person unknown. She is frighteningly beautiful, more than an ordinary possession. She wears a face of power and dignity, the face of the goddess Durga, the face of truth. Her jaw is sharp and classic. She is S-curves from head to toe–one of god’s perfect designs. A bare tree, a dragonfly, a river delta–what is left when all is lost. A person not in time, but in eternity.
She was imported and sold in the bone trade. I know nothing about her, except that she was female, small, and poor, and the poor have to sell their labor, their hair, their bodies. I often wonder who she was, but her inscrutable grin reveals nothing.
For the rest of the story of the Person Unknown, go to Newport Review, here.
Friend Kathryn has a story that will make you afraid to open your closet, or walk past it, or live in the same house where the closet is, or look in the rearview mirror as you drive desperately away from the house…
I had dinner last week with my friends Kathyn and Mary. They are both writers, and Kathryn is the editor of the Newport Review.
Kathryn and Mary proposed a game of Bananagrams, a game kind of like scrabble at which they totally whipped me. Then they proposed a writing exercise where we would write a short story using the words from our Banangrams tiles.
You know, it’s way easier to write creative fiction when you have some prompt words and encouraging company. Creative people are praise junkies, mostly. I’ll bet even Emily Dickinson wouldn’t have minded hearing from someone that she wrote real good.
Today I visited my Dad, and he was clearing out his workshop of things he had collected and never got around to using. He’s a retired commercial artist and has an eye for good stuff. He had saved some thin aluminum sheets that were used in a printing process that has been outmoded by the laser printer. This is exactly what I had been looking for.
There’s kind of an art fad of painting on metal, and I’ve been begging used olive oil containers from the Liberty Elm Diner and cutting them up to get square sheets of aluminum. It’s difficult and greasy. The printing aluminum is thinner and flat and clean. It will invite a different kind of expression.
But speaking of finding stories in random words and mystery in found things, I read the Obits in the ProJo today.
As of a couple of years ago, you will die unrecorded if you do not fork up some serious money to Belo Corp. to have your obit published. For over a hundred years, such passings were considered part of the news. But now they charge.
Anyway, the words I quote were written by people who cared and were able to share them in print–
MARY IDA HOLDEN, AGE 83
She was born in North Carolina, the last survivor of ten children–
“She was a quiet and peaceful person that was devoted to keeping the family together. Her outward appearance did not reflect her true inner strength, which we will always remember.”
Mary Ida Holden ended her life in Charlesgate Nursing Home. It is so true that the person at end of life has a history their caretakers will never know. We hope that goodness and quiet heroism will not be forgotten.
CHRISTINE M. (CHRISSY) SLOAN AGE 42
She worked in administrative jobs for several years but also was an Emergency Medical Technician and a Certified Nursing Assistant. She could have taken care of elderly women like Ida Holden.
“Chrissy was always there to provide for all living things, especially the disadvantaged, the lost, and the innocent.”
So much to write about in the real lives of real people. Why make stuff up?
[Seeing that Reverend Wright has emerged for more media time, I’d like to run this post again. The Good Lord spoke in parables, and so does Ninjanurse, when she manages not to forget the point halfway through]
It was a lovely day for a wedding at the Full Word of God Church, the church that takes the Bible literally. The bride and groom were both pure and uncompromised. Both home-schooled, and graduated with honors from Bible College. He was already making a good living selling Amway, and she looked forward to being a full-time Christian mother.
A guy with a guitar played that Paul Stookey wedding song, and then the guest preacher got up to say a few words to the happy couple. The Pastor, sadly, was in the hospital with a kidney stone. At the last minute they were able to get Reverend Ezekiel Bright.
Rev. Bright said a few words about the importance of faithfulness, and then launched with a thundering voice into these verses from the Bible…
“Son of man, there were two women, the daughters of one mother:
And they committed whoredoms in Egypt; they committed whoredoms in their youth: there were their breasts pressed, and there they bruised the teats of their virginity.
… And the Babylonians came to her into the bed of love, and they defiled her with their whoredom, and she was polluted with them, and her mind was alienated from them.
So she discovered her whoredoms, and discovered her nakedness: then my mind was alienated from her, like as my mind was alienated from her sister.
Yet she multiplied her whoredoms, in calling to remembrance the days of her youth, wherein she had played the harlot in the land of Egypt.
For she doted upon their paramours, whose flesh is as the flesh of asses, and whose issue is like the issue of horses.” Ezekiel 23
The Reverend was winding up to share some more of the Holy Word, and elaborate on the ‘issue of horses’ but he never got the chance. Someone tripped over the microphone cord, and in that moment the choir director signaled the start of the Alleluia Chorus while the Ladies Guild surrounded Rev. Bright and hustled him to the back of the church.
The wedding went on with great festivity, and the Ladies plied him with cake until he fell asleep from sugar overload. He woke up in an empty church with a headache and a raging thirst, and a conviction that he had been greatly disrespected. ‘Tripped over the mike’ indeed. That was no accident.
“Lord!” he cried, “Why have they forsaken me?”
“What have I done, but tried to share your sacred word?”
“Have you not told us to be urgent in season and out of season, as St. Paul said?”
Tears filmed his eyes as he stared into the darkness of the empty church, and lo– the Lord appeared to him. Jesus walked up close to Rev. Bright and whupped him on the side of the head.
“Haven’t you ever heard of ‘context'”, asked the Lord. “How can you expect to reach people’s hearts and minds when you’re throwing a holy hand grenade at them?”
“But St. Paul said…”, Rev. Bright stuttered…
“Don’t start with me!”, growled St. Paul, materializing at Jesus’ right hand. “I was a Jew to the Jews and a Roman to the Romans. Give me credit for knowing a few things about politics.”
Jesus and St. Paul then stood on each side of Rev. Bright. St. Paul whupped him on the other side of his head and then they rose in a celestial cloud and vanished.
Rev. Bright pondered long and hard after that, but he never figured out what the Lord meant by ‘context’. It sounded too much like ‘compromise’. He ended up in a church that shared his vision, with a small congregation in a compound in Idaho.
He still feels hurt that the Full Word of God church would not hear his message about marital faithfulness, so biblical and appropriate to a wedding.
But sometimes it’s not what you say — it’s how you say it.
Joyce Carol Oates has finally written a memoir — based on the experiences surrounding her husband Raymond Smith’s death in 2008. From The Wall Street Journal:
Joyce Carol Oates has published more than 50 novels, more than 30 short-story collections and an endless stream of essays and reviews—and that’s not counting her novellas, plays and children’s books. Now, at 71 and newly remarried, she is tackling a subject she has seldom explored in her work: herself.
Ms. Oates recently finished writing a more-than-400-page memoir detailing the aftermath of her husband Raymond Smith’s death in February 2008. She describes the book, “A Widow’s Memoir,” as practical and darkly funny (Ms. Oates says she plans to include a “widow’s handbook” with advice on fundamentals such as how to pick out a grave plot).
What a wild couple of years it must have been for Ms. Oates — between losing her husband and falling in love, remarrying and moving to a new home. Can’t wait to read the memoir!