I am delighted to present the works of four writers whose originality, intelligence and emotional acuity I deeply admire. The stories I’ve chosen are quite different from one another, in large part because each of these authors—Victoria Redel, Norman Lock, Chris Waddington, and Brad Zellar—writes like no one else. We might say these pieces run the gamut: fabulism, fable-ism, realism, and something very close to poetry; what’s of greater interest to me is the ability of these writers to draw us into worlds that feel at once uncharted and eerily familiar, as if animated by our collective fears and yearnings.
Victoria Redel’s “En Route” knocks me out with its incongruous marriage of compression and breadth, its subdued yet near-palpable longing, and its inquiry into the enterprise of story-making itself. I would highly recommend her collection Swoon to anyone interested in discovering whole worlds coiled within sentences. For that matter, I would vigorously recommend all of her books (please see the authors’ bios) and those of Norman Lock, as well as the stories of Waddington and Zellar—would hand them out, would Xerox pages, would hector and harangue you to attend their readings–for their ability to engage the hardest, most important questions with brio and aplomb.
Lock’s “By Artifice Do We Shut Ourselves Away From Night,” with its library of erased books and its warren of hidden rooms holding out promise and terror, approaches story-making from a different, peculiarly unnerving angle, and requires that we grapple with the tenuous nature of our perceived reality. His literary predecessors—whom he cites as Calvino, Hildesheimer, Anderson Imbert, Edson, Garcia Marquez, Landolfi—most certainly haunt his (virtual) pages, yet he cites visual artists Miró, Klee, and Joseph Cornel—as well as theater set designers–as greater influences on his oddly-lit scenes. Make no mistake: What Lock ultimately delivers is entirely his own.
Chris Waddington says he finds refuge from the demands of the “timely opinions and well-ordered arguments” of newspaper criticism (which he has produced for 20 years) in his richly layered fiction. With “The Missing Thing,” he transports Chekovian strategies—and a tale of the life of Flaubert—to the sorrows of a bedroom in New Orleans. I’d suggest reading this inspired and deeply compassionate story twice.
Finally, Brad Zellar delivers a whip-smart kick in the pants by way of a trio of Volvo-riding, Pogues-loving, no-nonsense angels.
Messengers By Brad Zellar
En Route By Victoria Redel
By Artifice Do We Shut Ourselves Away From Night By Norman Lock
The Missing Thing By Chris Waddington