Wednesday, November 28, 2012
I don't write erotic fiction. However, if I believe that a unique touch of eroticism will add to the characters and will enhance the emotional tension of a story, I don't avoid it. This is what I did with "A New Beginning", a short story that was accepted for publication by Skive magazine for the December issue.
Skive magazine is turning nine years old in December and the issue will be "Erotica". The stories will be available for free online, on PDF.
If I were to draw a parallel between my short story "A New Beginning" and previously published stories, I would have to mention the anthology "The Literary Lover". Most of these stories have an erotic touch that was related to the development of the characters and the plot. My favorite stories from this anthology are by Joyce Carol Oates ("Morning"), Laurie Colwin ("Frank and Billy"), Edna O'Brien ("The Love Object"), Richard Bausch ("Letter to the lady of the house") and Mary Gaitskill ("A Romantic Weekend"). I loved many of these stories because they felt real and the characters were complex and interesting. However, I read "The Literary Lover" long after I wrote "A New Beginning," so I believe the inspiration to write this short story came after reading Maile Meloy's collection "Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It".
How about you? Do you avoid eroticism at all costs? Or do you use it when it serves a purpose?
Let me clarify something: "A New Beginning" is NOT a memoir. I need to state this clearly because a few days before this story was accepted by the editor of Skive Magazine, Matthew Ward, the editor of a different magazine wrote to me suggesting that I should submit it again to be published as a memoir. (If you are interested in stories based on true life experiences you should read "A Hospital in Latin America" and "Freedom is a Fragile Word").
Happy birthday Skive magazine! Enjoy the read.
Sunday, November 25, 2012
Battling cancer is a challenge difficult to endure, but dealing with cancer and poverty at the same time is an experience that nobody would like to imagine. Rick Powell is an American writer and an expat living in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is living on the edge right now, trying to make ends meet while he fights his cancer. His friend Vivi Rathbon sent me this link to explain his situation.
If you are willing to make a donation, you can visit this link. No amount is too little. You can also help by buying from amazon from his own website.
My heart goes out to Rick at this difficult time. I hope he will get the emotional and financial support he needs to move forward and battle his cancer.
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Edna O'Brien's writing is bold and straightforward. Her sentences are charged with layers of meaning, but she does not keep us guessing. She does not mind telling us information and, at the same time, she crafts each story like an artist, selecting the precise words for each sentence as if they were the brushstrokes of a painting that depicts vivid landscapes and characters in realistic situations, with endings that satisfy my expectations. By the time I finish reading them, I feel content. Through the eleven stories of this collection, Edna carries us to both rural and urban Ireland, London, and New York.
"Two Mothers", an autobiographical story, reveals the ambiguity of the relationship between the narrator and her mother, showing two opposing aspects of it. Edna O' Brien starts out with the image of a dream in which her mother's hand is on a razor, and she sees her face "swimming" towards the narrator "to mete out its punishment". When they lived together, mother and daughter were close but not intimately connected. Her mother did not understand her daughter's compulsion to write; she was even horrified at the thought of her daughter becoming a writer:
"She insisted that literature was a precursor to sin and damnation, whereas I believed it was the only alchemy that there was." Edna dives into her childhood and makes her mother jump out of the page: "She had beautiful hair, brown with bronzed glimmers in it, and blue-blue eyes that held within them an infinite capacity for stricture. To chastise one she did not have to speak -- her eyes did it with a piercing gaze. But when she approved of something, everything seemed to soften and the gaze, intensely blue, was like seeing a stained-glass window melt."
There comes a time when the narrator vanishes from her mother, or perhaps from her lack of acceptance. Then her mother starts a copious correspondence. "She who professed disgust at the written word wrote daily, bulletins that ranged from the pleading to the poetic, the philosophic and the common place." The narrator postponed the opening of these letters for many years. This is a story that made me cry, for I was able to empathize deeply with both characters. When she finally opens her mother's letters, there is a hint of intimate connection, and secrets are revealed.
"Sinners" is about the lonely life of a woman, Delia, who uses her house as a bed and breakfast place during the summer months. Edna transports us to her solitary existence, providing details about the workings of Delia's mind. Confined to her routine, Delia has forgotten the little pleasures of life and becomes a person who sees a sin behind any act that does not look conventional.
"Shovel Kings" is the story of an exile who migrated from Ireland to England. A transitory return to Ireland makes him come to the realization that he no longer belongs to Ireland...nor to England.
"Manhattan Medley" is an imaginary letter a woman writes to her lover. Her musings bring to my mind the poem by Neruda that says that "Love is so short, forgetting is so long". This woman, however, did not forget her lover and there are witty reflections that I savored and enjoyed reading more than once. The nostalgia she infuses into this story is powerful. "Even if I lingered here, there, or anywhere it would still run its course, in letters, in longings, and the whet of absence."
"Send My Roots Rain" is also about love and longing. A woman is waiting for a poet at a coffee shop and, while waiting for him, she reminisces about past relationships.
"Old Wounds" is about family relationships and conflicts between relatives.
"Plunder" is the story of a conventional family living in a rural setting who is attacked by soldiers.
"Black Flower" is about the relationship between a prisoner and a woman who volunteers to give art classes at the prison.
Edna O'Brien is not afraid of revealing the pain, the misery, the longing and the love of the characters, and, at the heart of her stories, she unveils the frailty of human nature, its naked vulnerability and isolation.
Saturday, November 3, 2012
I've never met this woman, but I know I could spend hours talking about life with her.
Let me explain myself. Have you ever felt connected to a writer who happens to enjoy the same writers that you enjoy? Soon after I finished reading Joyce's book, I wanted to read a writer I had encountered in a couple of short stories from two different anthologies. When I read her short stories I experienced some kind of kinship of spirits, a chemistry of thoughts. For this reason, I felt compelled to explore more of her work. I went to the local library and, after browsing her books, I borrowed her short story collection Saints and Sinners.
Before I started her stories I flipped through the pages and found an interview to her; the first sentence I read from it was, " I would love to have met Joyce, preferably in the evening hours when bottles were opened ". The first book she bought was about James Joyce. I am talking about Edna O'Brien. Yes, she raved about Joyce, and then explained he had a rival in her affections: Anton Chekhov. About Chekhov, she said, "Like Shakespeare, Chekhov knew everything there is to know about the heart's vagaries and he rendered the passion and conflict of men and women flawlessly."
I cannot agree more with her when she said, "I would be much lonelier on this earth without literature, and I might even have gone mad." She ended up the interview by saying that literature is the big bonanza, and writing is getting down on one's knees each day and searching for the exact words.
I am engrossed in her story collection "Saints and Sinners" now, and I will be writing an essay about it once I am done. Here is another fabulous interview to Edna O'Brien, done by The Paris Review, about the art of fiction.
By the way, this is my view from the kitchen window, a wonderful sight I cherish every morning while having breakfast...