Reading

Blew through Brian Evenson’s new collection Windeye. Some notes on the title story after the jump.

Read Sarah Levine’s collection Short Dark Oracles. Some absolutely jawdropping stories, particularly “A Promise.” There is an straightforward logic to the story — a mother and daughter’s well being is provided by the sacrifice of their relationship — but she pushes it to a terrifying conclusion. And the line “It’s like a promise,” just brings the hammer down.

Started Ryan Call’s The Weather Stations. Was initially leery of it. The first story seemed too twee, too meandering, like he was trying to substitute whimsy for plot. But his work has grown on me as the collection continues. It’s rare for an author to communicate such enthusiasm for a subject, particularly one as seemingly mundane as the weather, but Call makes it infectious. There is also a layer of menace in it that I didn’t appreciate when I began reading, perhaps because Levine’s conflicts were more clear and up front.

Notes on “Windeye,” the title story in Brian Evenson’s latest collection:

-“Windeye” is the strongest piece in a very fearsome, wide reaching book of stories.

-The plot is straightforward and can be described in a few sentences: A brother and sister find an extra window on their house. When the sister touches it, she disappears, and only the brother has any memory of her existence.

-The game they played at the start of the story could have easily been something else: soccer, tag, hide and seek, whatever. But the game Evenson invented suits the narrative best. It is based in the unreliability of senses, an obviously integral part of the story. There is also an air of menace to game — it is imaginative torture.

-The other game, the one where they lock each other in the toy chest, similarly compliments the plot. The game is obliterative — the person in the box could be left there, never rescued. The person outside the chest cannot see the person inside, cannot confirm their existence. The person inside the box cannot tell if the rest of the world still exists. The threat of disappearance looms over the story from the beginning.

-The presence of an additional window, the error in the structure of the home, is pure Bachelardian horror. The evil has attached itself to the house.

-If we believe that the brother imagined the sister then the window comes to symbolize his madness. It’s a defect waiting to be discovered. Once the error has been identified there is no going back.

-The plot is a straight line, not a circle, no loop de loops. Evenson winds it up and it goes. The disappearance of the sister doesn’t feel like a twist, because a twist has a ta-da element to it. The disappearance is inevitable, and its inevitability makes it all the more heartbreaking.

-The jump forward in time in section 5 is necessary and well executed. Evenson could have left the story with the disappearance of the sister, but that’s not the biggest tragedy — it’s the way the absence unspools over time, how the brother comes to and doesn’t come to grips with her death. The death of a person close to you isn’t just a one time event — their absence is a concrete, visible thing.

-The sentences!

“If he turned around, he would be wondering, would he find the wind’s strange baleful eye staring at him?”

“Which made him feel that he should hold himself very still, that he should be very careful about what he said, that if he breathed wrong more parts of the world would disappear.”

“It was held in place by a strip of metal about as thick as his finger, giving the whole of the circumference a dull, leaden rim.”

“In the back, where an oak thrust its branches over the roof, the shake was light brown, almost honey.”

 

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