The latest installment in Sarah McCarry’s generally essential chapbook series Guillotine comes from Sarah Gerard. The title here is BFF, and the focus is on a now-estranged friendship between Gerard and an unnamed friend of hers. As with all of Gerard’s work, the prose is immediate, intimate, and harrowing–closer to the rapid-fire narration of her novel Binary Star than her earlier chapbook Things I Told My Mother. It’s written as a direct address to the friend in question, but it also encapsulates aspects of Gerard’s life. Discussions of class come into play, as do questions of untruths told years before. A few sections are structured as lists, introduced with phrases like “Lies I told you” and “Lies you told yourself.” What emerges is a portrait of two people, each of which is, by necessity, incomplete. And while one could look at this and argue that it’s simply time and distance that atrophied this friendship–as tends to happen–this exhumation makes the reasons for the friendship’s quiet collapse much more tactile and immediate. Looking for the archetypal when the specific is more accurate is a dangerous temptation, and Gerard avoids that here.
Marisol Limón Martinez’s Honorary Men also comes via Guillotine. It’s a complex work, juxtaposing its author’s own childhood memories with anecdotes about how she is perceived by strangers, by family, by colleagues. Adding another wrinkle to this is her background in music: the teacher who told her, “You play like a man”; the musicians she interacts with on a trip to India. Honorary Men asks big questions, but comes at them in unpredictable ways, venturing into distinctive territory and forming a narrative few others could.
Constance Ann Fitzgerald’s chapbook I Wasn’t In Love With You, I Was Just Really Drunk is subtitled An Exorcism, and that sense of freeing oneself from a burden is deeply tangible here. The protagonist, referred to as “you” throughout, navigates a monumentally terrible interaction with a guy. “You’ll learn why you’re allowed to hate him forever,” an early sentence goes; much of what follows documents exactly that. Fitzgerald is the editor of Ladybox Books, which features a number of works that invoke the surreal or weird. There’s a scene here where a general feeling of realism gives way to to an invocation of psychological distancing, and then to a distinctly strange image. That image isn’t there for reasons of stylization, however: very quickly, it’s revealed to be something other than a window into the unreal–not inspiring feelings of transcendence, but shock and horror instead.