Obsessions and Tragedy: On Gabriel Blackwell’s “Doom Town”

"Doom Town"

There’s something incredibly rewarding about getting to watch a writer evolve in real time. Case in point: Gabriel Blackwell, whose first few books included memorable postmodern riffs on the works of Raymond Chandler and H.P. Lovecraft. Nearly all of Blackwell’s books to date have had some overarching thematic conceit — from the shorter works collected in Correction to the meditation on the film Vertigo in the novel Madeleine E.

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Alissa Hattman on Creating the Post-Apocalyptic World of “Sift”

Alissa Hattman

Near the beginning of Alissa Hattman’s novel Sift, Tortula reflects on Death, which to her is both miraculous and everyday. (Literally: Sift is about two women, traveling through a choked and smoky post-apocalyptic landscape in search of food and rest.) In the next paragraph, Tortula says, “I know, in that moment, we are going to die.” The next chapter is just one sentence: “Then, a horrible accident—we survive.” I love these moves, which feel beautiful and true to me—one, that a character can die and not (because you do go on, even when you can’t, not because you learn to suck it up, but because the world continues), and two, fragments that mean differently, depending on the light. Did we survive despite the horrible accident? Or is the accident our survival? Does it matter? Not, I think, as much as the question.

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Sunday Stories: “The Immanent Will”


The Immanent Will
by Larry Smith

Aunt Susie could be implacable in ways that were good and useful. Two salient instances of this still loom in my consciousness, both instances during great difficult transitions for me. The first was when Bill and I split up. Now, Bill wasn’t a bad guy, I never thought he was, not even during our worst adversities. He was often sweet and his instincts about people and the world were typically humane. But he had this irrational streak. He would get  something into his head and would not relent, no matter how unreasonable or indefensible he must have realized it was. I’m thinking of when Aunt Susie came to my rescue in a dispute with Bill involving a CD. Any divorce lawyer would have agreed that I was entitled to half of it. Bill insisted the whole thing belonged to him, always had and always would. It was more stubbornness than greed on his part. He wouldn’t listen to reason and averred he’d ignore any court order requiring him to pay. Didn’t make sense, and I was distraught because I needed the money then and there, not after some protracted adjudication and subsequent garnisheeing of his paycheck or whatever remedy was applicable.

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