I’m delighted to have a short story of mine, “Doctor Sveta,” in the current issue of Alaska Quarterly Review. Here’s the opening,
Doctor Sveta was twenty six years old when the Navy commissariat summoned her to Leningrad and put her on a cargo ship among a motley crew of agronomists, agricultural engineers, livestock breeders, and tractor drivers, none of whom knew where the ship was headed or how long the journey might take. Her fellow passengers looked as confused at finding themselves confined to a seafaring vehicle as Doctor Sveta felt. No tractors accompanied them; not a cow, not even a single chicken. The agronomists and tractor drivers were healthy young men and a few women, two of them visibly pregnant. Doctor Sveta had been trained as a surgeon in Leningrad; she assumed it was in this capacity she’d been recalled from her post at a hospital in Minsk, Belarus. Besides the ship’s medic, there were no doctors aboard and not even a basic medical facility. Doctor Sveta worried she’d have to embrace a crash course in obstetrics.
Half a century later, as she tells me this story, Doctor Sveta . . .
This is a print magazine. To read the story, please buy the issue.
Here’s an experimental short, recently published in a brand new magazine. Welcome, New Reader Review! Download the copy of the magazine with my story here. (My story begins on page 204).
Martian Federation’s General Consulate in San Francisco: FAQ for Citizens
I. General Questions.
1.1. What is a consular district? I currently reside in Utah. May I seek assistance from the consulate in San Francisco?
1.2. Why am I unable to reach the consulate by phone?
II. Passport of the Martian Federation.
2.1. Must I apply for my passport in person? May I apply for my Martian passport by
2.2. How long does it take to receive my Martian passport?
2.3. What are the advantages of carrying a biometric passport?
2.4. I have bad handwriting. May I apply for my Martian passport electronically?
2.8. My name has been poorly translated to Martian. What do I do?
2.6. I don’t have a Martian passport. May I enter Mars with my American passport?
2.7. I was born on Mars but have lived in Utah my entire life. I don’t know the Martianlanguage. May I fill out the application for my Martian passport in English?
IV. Registration of Legal Documents.
4.1. Will the consulate register a marriage between an American and a Martian?
4.4. My groom has a very demanding job and is very busy. We are unable to come in
person to the consulate in San Francisco to register our marriage. What do we do?
To continue reading, download the issue.
the museum of americana also published this story that’s near to my heart. I wrote it several years ago and kept tinkering with the ending — I didn’t want the connection between the two parts be too obvious, but I did want there to be several clear lines of connection, plus something else. After all this tinkering, it sure feels good to see this story out there.
“In sixth grade, I declared my love to a boy by slipping a homemade paper doll of David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust between the pages of the natural science homework I was giving him to copy. With the bright-eyed earnestness of first love, I believed I staked my entire future on the piece of cardboard decked out with a paper jumpsuit, a detachable red wig, and tall red boots—the details of the tricky costume carefully copied off a picture in TIME magazine.
“Thanks,” said Pete, grabbing the science notebook from my hands. “You’re a pal. I’ll give it back tomorrow.”
At home, when I’d been planning this handoff, I must’ve imagined it in slow motion and with deep significance to each word and gesture. . . .
To continue reading, go here.
My story Generosity is up on the museum of americana. I wrote this story some years ago, after attending an event, dedicated to Brazilian literature. Hearing the questions the visiting writers were being asked set my imagination reeling.
“The two Russian writers were young—billed as under forty—but in the month of touring the United States, they’d acquired heft and world-weariness. Seven days a week they answered questions: What does new Russian writing offer readers in the United States? and Do you see yourself continuing the great Russian novel tradition? . . .”
Continue reading here.
Janine Kovac weaves the stories about premature birth of her twin boys with experiences from her professional ballet-dancing career with the difficult path of learning to write about these experiences — and the result is a very effective and moving narrative, and a kind of a writers’ guide that might do more good than lots of more technical craft manuals.
Leaning against the bathroom door, I’m trying to breathe and at the same time I’m trying not to breathe. I watch myself from above–a woman with dark hair in a light green hospital gown and an enormous belly stretched taut. I can’t see my face; I can only see my back. There’s a tug–as if gravity is pulling me to the ground, reaching inside, and sucking life out.
Everyone thinks that an out-of-body experience means watching yourself from the rafters. That’s just the visual perspective. There’s also the feeling of being deeply rooted inside your vital organs, as if your heart were the center of the universe. In the same breath you observe from the outside and feel from within.
Check out Janine’s website and buy the book.
My story “Sick Babies” is out in Confrontation. Here’s the opening:
The baby’s sick. The mom brings him to the park every day, in late afternoons, and he sits limp in his stroller, dazed, unsmiling, eyes expressionless, pupils without any depth. The mom doesn’t seem to be aware of his condition. “Say hi to the gentlemen, Jacob,” she directs, rolling the stroller by the bench where we’re playing checkers. The baby doesn’t bat an eyelid. “He’s a little sleepy,” the mother apologizes. “It’s the weather we’ve been having.”
This afternoon, she parked the stroller right beside us, dropped her tattered backpack on a bench on the other side of the path, and took out a pack of cigarettes. She lifted the canvas canopy over the baby’s head, as though this were protection enough, and smoked one cigarette after another in rapid succession. We averted our noses, but, luckily, the wind blew the smoke in a different direction. True, some of us used to smoke in our youth, but it’s been long since that we’ve kicked the habit. The woman’s entire person showed signs of wear: unwashed hair going gray at the roots, tattoos on her arms looking ashen and flaccid, countless runs in the black hose. The baby stared right at us with his unseeing eyes.
Among ourselves, we’re convinced that the baby’s autistic, or worse. “Shouldn’t he be in some kind of an institution?” we debate.
To continue reading, please purchase the issue.
During my interview with Seville artist Anna Jonsson, I asked her about her sources of inspiration. I ended up having to cut this thread in our conversation from the essay that recently went up on Electric Literature–it was a tangent in the scope of that essay–but it’s a fascinating list of artists and writers, and I want to leave it here.
Anna Jonsson wrote,
“Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren—of course. All of her books and her illustrators. Tove Jansson and her Moomin stories and her drawings. Gitta Sereny, Oliver Sacks, Salman Rushdie, Bodil Malmsten, Claire Bretecher and her drawings, Linda Nochlin and her photograph ‘Buy My Bananas’ made an impact on me. Lately, I’ve been reading and crying and reading and crying over Svetlana Alexievich’s ‘War’s Unwomanly Face.’”
Jonsson’s list struck me as specific to her background and training. It was also a useful guide to an aspiring feminist art and literary critic. Some authors had achieved international fame; others had been less well translated. Astrid Lingren and Tove Jansson were two names I’d been familiar with since childhood. Oliver Sacks, Salman Rushdie; Svetlana Alexievich had recently won the Nobel prize for literature, and I’d been reading extended excerpts from her books, though still working on my stamina to hold as much pain as is necessary to read them cover to cover.
I looked up Linda Nochlin’s 1972 photograph “Buy My Bananas.” It turned out to be a take on a late 19th Century photograph in which a female nude is depicted with a tray of fruit, in a pose that suggests that both she and the fruit are for sale. Nochlin’s model is a male nude, photographed in the same pose. The effect of this gender reversal is both ridiculous and outrageous.
I was able to track down one other lead from Jonsson’s list. Bodil Malmsten’s memoir about moving from Sweden to France, was published in 2005 by Harvill, in Frank Perry’s translation, as “The Price of Water in Finistère.” A Swedish poet and a novelist with more than dozen books to her name, Malmsten wrote with wisdom and humor about starting life anew, at fifty-five, in an unfamiliar place, with only a cursory knowledge of French. Malmsten plants an elaborate garden that she describes in detail, drawing from these descriptions elegant metaphors about writing. “Like the first fifteen days for a plant, the first fifteen words of a story have to contain everything the story needs to survive.” Finding my way back to creative writing after having a baby, I found in this book just the right kind of inspiration.