Sunday, July 27, 2014


So instead of executing me, they blindfold me, tie my hands behind my back, and drive me miles outside of town. There they leave me to my fate. To prove they aren't entirely heartless, that they're Christians after all and better than me, they shove eight dollars into my dirty palm. "Good luck, baby!" I hear one of them yell, laughing, as they drive rattling off in the pick-up.

Naturally, it immediately begins to rain. I stumble around aimlessly in the mud for a while. The soaked blindfold slips down. The binding on my wrists loosens. Eventually I come upon a farmer who has a thing for half-bound barefoot girls with no future. He takes me in. He warms me by his fire. He fucks me silly.

Sometimes at the very height of intimacy, he puts his big calloused hands on my throat. I don't even flinch. "Go ahead and kill me if you like," I say. I mean it, too. If you don't, the spell won't work. He howls like a wild beast and comes inside me, shouting obscenities like a French poet. Then he covers me with kisses as if he's hiding a crime under white roses. One day, I'm boiling peas and it hits me, "Wow, I really am in love." No one could be more surprised than I am. Meanwhile, he acts as if he planned it all along.

=book recently read: There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister's Husband and He Hanged Himself by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya=

A selection of short stories selected from the oeuvre of a Russian woman now nearly eighty, this particular batch of tales deal with love, romance, obsession, emotional need, sex, and the general morass of human dysfunction resulting therefrom. Ludmilla P-etc. is compared to a whole slew of writers on the cover of this book betraying the sad fact that here in America we don't know how to market writing like hers—which is to say writing with soul, political and social conscious, a sense of history, and human universality. This sort of writing is a tradition in a land that has produced writers like Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, and Gogol. Like those guys Ludmilla P writers with a mix of gritty realism, black humor, and what I can best describe as a sort of oracular fabulism. 

It is the folkloric quality to these tales that give them their age-old sensibility and wisdom. This is a quality that can't be faked. It must come from the very soil of a place, the collective wisdom of a people in touch with the truths of human nature in all its forms, in all its sufferings and exaltation, elemental truths that have always existed and will always exist. America, by contrast, is a young culture and seems only to be growing more immature and superficial as time goes by. Will America ever produce the equal of a Dostoyevsky, or even a Dickens? 

Ludmilla P's stories are situated somewhere between dreaming and waking, myth and everyday reality; they bear witness to the truth that you cannot have only one or the other if you want to convey what it truly feels like to be a human being. These stories take their particularity in the Soviet experience of privation, overcrowding, rationing of food, shelter, clothing, of inept bureaucracy, poverty, and endemic corruption but they attain their universality in the sense that lives everywhere partake, if not literally, then metaphorically of privation, of want, needs, desires and dreams that go unfulfilled. 

That's not to say that these stories are all gloom and doom because they are just the opposite. They are full of an often grotesque, desperate resilience that brings out the best of human nature even at it's worse, it's grandeur at the depth of squalor. For the most part, all the stories have a "happy" ending albeit a compromised and unconventional happiness as the folks that people Ludmilla P's fiction get what they want if often in forms they least expect, or even recognize. It's this quality of the everyday magic of life that gives her "fairy tales" their realistic bite and real life its enchanted fairytale quality.

=i like to lick things!=

=in the mail this week=

::Moan Lisa, Iowa City, IA::

Saturday, July 26, 2014

=A memorable breakfast=

Dad is making breakfast this morning because Mom is… well where is Mom, anyway? It's assumed that she must have gone out early. Either that or she's still upstairs, sleeping late. No one asks questions in this household, that's part of the unspoken pact. At the same time, what questions would you ask? It's hard to say anything is out of the ordinary when nothing is ordinary. 

It's pancakes Dad is making. It's a festive atmosphere in the kitchen, the kind that always seems to accompany the making of pancakes, but forced, strained. The whole room is like an elastic band about to snap. We're all pretending not to notice that Dad never makes pancakes. 

Suddenly I hear a car engine in the driveway. The opening and closing of a door, then a trunk. Mom's home. I go to the door to let her inside. She's carrying several bulky shopping bags, but its obvious to me from the way she's dressed and made-up that she's just getting home from the day before. She hands me a bag, says hellos all around. The first of the pancakes are ready. "None for me," she says brightly and disappears into the cool dark interior of the house, like a spider. 

My hand feels numb. I shift the lumpy bag in my arms to take a closer look. The hand is blue-black, swollen, and the nails are yellow. I can't seem to determine whether its my right hand or left that's afflicted. I already have a doctor's appointment scheduled for later that morning. Is it too late to cancel? I decide to cancel it one way or another, even if I still have to pay the office fee. 

At the stove Dad is weeping. Not that you'd ever notice, though. You have to look back thirty years from now to see it. 

"No, no, no!" my brother says angrily. "You've got it all ass-backwards, as usual. It's Dad that stayed out all night! Mom made the pancakes!"

But I don't think so.

Upstairs you hear something hit the floor with an awkward, heavy thump.