It happened again. I excitedly picked up a book at the store, rushed it home, then let it sit in a pile for a few months. When I finally opened it days ago I was shocked (and not shocked at all simultaneously, really) that it was an oddly appropriate collection for today’s frightening world.
The first page of the book is a quote from poet Elisabeth Hewer, and it lays the roadwork for the furious march within: “god should have made girls lethal when he made monsters of men.”
This collection of stories hit all of the the sensations roiling inside a good deal of us right now; rage, fear, superstition, lust, and more rage.
“I dip my foot into the water. There is a second of brilliant heat that slides straight through me, like steel wire through a block of wet clay. I gasp but do not pause. A second foot, less pain. Hands on the sides of the bathtub, I lower myself down. The water hurts, and it is good. The chemicals in the bubble bath burn, and that is better.”
That was EXACTLY how I was feeling as I boiled myself in the tub while tearing through this book. I felt personally involved in these stories. My heart beat in time with the story tellers. I do not use “story” lightly; this is a collection to be reverently shared around a campfire for years to come.
Once again I found myself faced with plague themed lit; a story that starts out as a diary of sexual encounters turns into a diary of living with and escaping from a fast-moving and deadly virus.
“I keep thinking I can see the virus blooming on the horizon like a sunrise. I realize the world will continue to turn, even with no people on it. Maybe it will go a little faster.”
My favorite piece was an unhinged take on several seasons of Law and Order: SVU. It was chilling, infuriating, and heart-wrenching.
“I choose this life,” the prostitute says to the social worker with the worried eyes. “I do. Please put your energy into helping girls who aren’t here by choice.” She is so right. She is murdered anyway.
Unfortunately, the stories run out of steam towards the back pages; I think a re-ordering may help the feeling of anticlimax. The pieces are great throughout, but the momentum grinds to a halt within the last few pieces.
I felt comforted in the visceral splatter of these stories, and I will never hear the Law and Order “dun dun” as I had before ever again.