Adelle Steals the Key To
By Kristina Marie Darling
I carried our wedding china out to the dock, threw every goblet into the ocean. He asked if I wanted a ticket to somewhere with ski slopes and full-length mink coats. I said yes and I’ll say it again. I miss you in the strangest ways. Do you remember when you bought me a new rug for the kitchen? A lover who wastes all his tokens on the house. I’ve got a red lipstick in my purse, and a few dollars for a cab. Every man wants a different song and dance. When the curtain closes, they all go home to the same freshly vacuumed rooms.
Feature image by Daniel Gordon. July 2, 2009, C-Print, 2009.
There is this fantasy that going to a privately managed school would lead to higher test scores, and higher test scores would lead to the end of poverty. All of that would be just great—except none of it is true. I mean, it’s a fact that every test that’s given anywhere in the world shows that family income is a decisive factor: the kids who come from affluent families are at the top, and the kids who come from poverty are at the bottom. That’s simply a fact; it’s not an opinion. It’s true on international tests, it’s true on state tests. You name the test—the ACT, the SAT—poverty is decisive. — Back to School, Nika Knight interviews Diane Ravitch - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics
For years, members of the religious right have redrawn science standards to make way for natural creationism in biology class. Now, with the passage of Celebrate Freedom Week, they make way for historical creationism in social studies. A civics teacher selectively emphasizing, say, Judeo-Christian threads of American history isn’t perfectly parallel to a science teacher presenting “intelligent design” as alternative to evolution. History, though we hope it is rooted in fact, is the province of interpretation; biology is data-reliant and less vulnerable to human beliefs. But the trouble with Celebrate Freedom Week’s religious accent isn’t open acknowledgment of the theological influence on America’s framing. It’s the agenda of those behind the legislation to erode the separation of church and state.
Freedom Mandate by Sarah Smarsh - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics
Feature image by David Goldes, Small Jacobs Ladder on Lined Paper, 2013. Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery.
A sustained engagement with the world, a sense of how it was and how it ought to be, and what has been lost, is imperative to good writing—I just don’t know how you can be a serious writer without it.
But I don’t think this makes it easy to settle the question of how individual moral values can be affirmed in such a dialogical and ironic art form as the novel—a form where all convictions, no matter how impeccable, ought to be contested. That’s why I am wondering if it’s better to get the beliefs and convictions out in the seven-hundred-word Op-Ed, and then use the broader imaginative space of the novel to challenge them! — Congratulations as well to Pankaj Mishra, another Windham-Campbell 2014 prizewinner! Read Mishra in conversation with Kamila Shamsie from our freedom of expression issue, here:
Where’s The Rage?, Kamila Shamsie in conversation with Pankaj Mishra - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics
There are some writers who want to leave politics out of their novels. I don’t.
— Congratulations to Nadeem Aslam, one of the Windham-Campbell 2014 prizewinners! Read our interview with him from August of last year, here:
Mystery Is All There Is, Michael E. Halmshaw interviews Nadeem Aslam - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics
The apocalypse was quiet. It had a way about it, a certain charm. It could be called graceful. It was taking a long time.
People prepared for an apocalypse that they could take up arms against, bunker down with. People hoarded filtered water, canned corn, dry milk, batteries. They published books on how to get things done in the new post-world, a world that they always imagined as being much like our own, only missing one or two key things. They might imagine, for example, that survivors would reemerge onto a planet stripped of all vegetable and plant life. First, the animals would grow vicious and then starve. It would be important to hoard as many of these animals as possible, pack them in salt and hide them away to keep. You’d want to have a supply of emergency seed to grow in a secure location, maybe using sterilized soil that you had already hoarded. Then you’d want to gather a crew. One muscle man with a heart of gold, a scientist type, an engineer, a child, and somebody that you thought maybe you could love, if you survived long enough to love them. — You, Disappearing by Alexandra Kleeman - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics
I realized that dreams are boring, yes, but people are never boring.
If you use the dream as a vehicle to access people’s interior lives and obsessions, that’s interesting. — How Does It End?, David Burr Gerrard interviews Scott Cheshire - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics
I disturbed a nest of baby rabbits under the catmint as I hacked back the dead sprawl. Something moved under my loppers. Five nestlings, each the size of a small teacup, curled into each other, wrapped in a tender blanket of down shed from their mother. Eyes closed, mewling and wriggling in my grasp. I wanted to protect them, and I wanted to kill them.
Baby rabbits, or kits, as they are known, have no smell, apparently so predators don’t detect them. Now they would smell of me. Their mother would reject them because of their new sweaty-hand-and-dank-garden-glove scent. I felt for this sweet brood, but turned instead to my garden. This is where I coaxed blue campanula to come back after winter, and tried to keep order among the reckless bee balm and catmint. A mother rabbit, a doe, can birth six litters in a season. I didn’t want them ransacking my garden, nibbling my asters to stubs, disrupting the line of creeping phlox by chewing them ragged. Nor did I want my dog to find sport in them, playing a macabre game with a score tallied in limp bodies. I gave the brood to our neighbors, who passed them along the block to Illinois Bob, an obsessive collector of rodents and other beasts. Motherless, those thumpers died, but at least not on my watch.
Later, in summer, I found a lone kit, wet from my hound’s mouth, lying damaged on the lawn, roaring silently. His mouth stretched wide, tiny see-through teeth vibrating. He made me think of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” the image that stares out from dorm room posters and kitchen towels and mouse pads, reminding us that human distress can spiral out for eternity. It’s called “Skrik” in Danish, capturing the moment in a life when raw pain prevails.
I filmed my tiny screamer on my phone, thinking it might be useful for some later project, as a record of anguish. I filmed as he ran out of shriek, until his mouth barely quivered ajar. He no longer had strength to raise his head from the grass. His crying slowly lost its desperation, trailing into a soundless mew. Did he cry for his mother? Was she hiding under the wild mess of golden rod and dock by the garage, or watching from a burrow beneath the deck? I knelt beside him, a surrogate parent offering comfort by being present. As if a parent’s presence alone could be enough. A parent of any species. In this case, a human mother with a camera, recording his torment. Watching him, I felt both invested in his suffering and detached. Sympathy and cool voyeurism coiled together. I shivered.
Unraveling by Toni Nealie - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics
Read this breathtaking essay by Toni Nealie, an interview with debut novelist Scott Cheshire, and more in our new issue, here.
Feature image by James Casebere, Landscape with Houses (Dutchess County, NY #8), 2010, digital chromogenic print.
Yes, I wish there were more books about the female experience of sex and drugs and toughness, but, as a woman, if you write about something that’s explicitly calling into question how men and women interact and what’s expected of them, then that’s what your book is about and those are the terms on which it’s evaluated. It’s considered a man-hating book or a feminist book, and the author is treated as having written a manifesto or an idea book rather than literary fiction, whereas, if a man writes a book with those elements, it’s judged differently. That bothers me.
Fiery Appetites, Dwyer Murphy interviews Merritt Tierce - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics
The judge called it “one of the most unspeakably vicious and brutal crimes in the history of the state,” which sounds a bit harsh to me. The young lad who killed that nun with the hacksaw in west Clare was surely worse, although they did say he was insane. That was the problem you see—Da wasn’t insane, not the gibbering, cuckoo’s nest sort of insane at any rate. The kind you could make hay with. The doctors, in fairness to them, did every schizo test under the sun, but nothing stuck. He wasn’t biting. Sitting there in the chair with a puss on him like it was his granny after getting aerated for no good reason. The shrinks (I love that word, “shrink”—when I was small I used imagine a load of scientists in a lab shrinking brains till you couldn’t fit any more bad thoughts in them) weren’t exactly falling over themselves to believe it either. True enough, his father—only allegedly, mind—and grandfather were convicted murders, but sure what was that save bad breeding? You’d get that anywhere, Malin to Mizen. Now a genetic predisposition towards homicide, let alone a family curse, that was something intelligent people found difficult to swallow. — Our Fathers by Dan Sheehan - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics