I read some fantastic and original stuff in November!
“Rain and the Designs of Your Body” by J. M. Guzman showed up in Fireside this month, sounding like nothing and nobody else. I am a sucker for beautiful figurative writing about the body that allows flesh to be the object of both desire and pity simultaneously. This is a gorgeous but short piece of prose that shimmers like a pool of clear water and lies just like love. Read it while there’s rain falling.
Following in the theme of water, I also read “How a Woman Becomes a Lake” by Jia Tolentino. Rape and violence against women are often treated as incidents in isolation, having no bearing on the entire history of that kind of violence or on other atrocities happening at the exact same time. Tolentino does a lot of work in this short piece to tie it all together, and it’s worth a read. That’s tough for me to say right now. I’ve about reached saturation on stories about sexual assault. This year has been exhausting and I just want a break so badly from hearing the worst every godsdamned day. Tolentino managed to make it very old and very new again. That’s so valuable to me. Maybe you feel the same.
Since we’re talking about violence and how hard it is to make new again, I loved Cathy Ulrich’s “Being the Murdered Homecoming Queen.” It’s as short and as sparkling as a diamond tennis bracelet, and it perfectly encapsulates the morbid glamour of the beautiful girl-ghost at the heart of a lot of stories. It made me want to get out a ouija board and call up Carrie White and Laura Palmer and JonBenet Ramsey and tell them they may be dead but at least they’re still pretty.
And through all of this, I found myself wishing I could order a new heart that doesn’t grieve and get sick of grieving; one that doesn’t lose sensitivity to all but the best and worst life has to offer. (To every god listening: please let this fucking year end.) It seems Natalie Theodoridou wanted the same, because she wrote a wonderful story about it. Another gorgeous story from Fireside. Buy someone you love a subscription. They make it worth your while.
In the category of books, the best thing I read in November was “How Long ’til Black Future Month?” by N.K. Jemisin. This is a story collection, and I guess it’s kind of cheating because it includes a story I love so much that I teach it in my creative writing class. But much of the contents were new to me, including “The Effluent Engine,” which is an amazing alternate history about a lesbian Haitian dirigible-traveling spy and a lady scientist that I just SQUEALED ALOUD about a dozen times while reading. Jemisin is a giant of the field, and this collection is just another proof of why. It’s a stunner, if you need a present for someone who loves good speculative fiction.