Lauren Redniss at the Ziegfeld Follies; Nam Le in Cartagena; Amy Leach in her backyard; Fiction by Maile Chapman & David Mitchell; Focus: Russia; If You See Something, Say Something with Michael Azerrad, Ander Monson, & Mary Mattingly; Poetry by Laurie Sheck & Bin Ramke; & much more.
In honor of Halloween, we bring you an excerpt from Maile Chapman's ghostly tale, "Bit Forgive," which was originally published in APS 2.
This morning I received a letter ostensibly from my friend Niklas Nummelin, fifteen years almost to the day since the accidental sinking of his ship and his presumed death by drowning somewhere off the Finnish coast of the Bay of Bothnia.
The letter doesn’t contradict the version of events we all heard long ago from the single crewmember who survived by reaching (if indeed he was not incarcerated in) the small punition boat towed behind the Bit Forgive; criminal or not, we believed him when he described his drowning comrades shouting and gurgling through flooding mouths, pulling at him in the endless cold water with heavy, sharp fingers. And we forgave him for what we knew he must have done—fighting off the drowning men who reached his tiny boat, who would have sunk him under their combined weight. We believed and forgave because no one else from that ship came back to our harbor, neither alive nor dead, and surely we needed him, because we needed to see the proof preserved on his back, shoulders, and cheek in the form of five-fingered scars from those who did not survive.Continue reading
As of January 27, 2006, Western Union discontinued its telegram services, thus sounding the death knell for one of the first forms of more or less immediate long-distance communication. I have never received a telegram, and now will most likely never receive one in my lifetime. STOP
Is this a failure of myself or of technology? Or another completely different kind of failure, having rendered service well enough to have made itself obsolete? In this way success—a perfect usefulness—folds in on itself and becomes its eventual failure. Is it like a star that burns itself gradually away. Is that the purpose of technology, to find its purpose and to fulfill it, to, like a booster rocket, exhaust itself and dwindle back into the atmosphere we like to call the future. STOPContinue reading
In Cartagena, Luis says, the beach is gray at dawn. He points to the barrel of his G3 when he says this, steel gray, he says. He smiles. The sand is white, he says, this color, tapping his teeth. And when the sun comes up on your right, man, it is a slow-motion explosion like in the movies, a big kerosene flash and then the water is sparkling gray and orange and red. Luis is full of shit, of course, but he can talk and it is true that he is the only one of our gallada who has seen the Caribbean. Who has been to Cartagena.
And the girls? Edwardo asks.
Luis tosses back his greasy, black hair. He knows we will wait for his answer. He is the oldest of us (except for Claudia who doesn’t count because she is a girl), and he has recounted this story many times with pleasure.Continue reading
Over and over the word fragile.
"It looked so fragile, so delicate, that if you touched it with a finger it would crumble and fall apart." This from James Irwin, crew member of Apollo 15.
Astronaut Loren Acton spoke of seeing it "contained in the thin, moving, incredibly fragile shell of the biosphere."
To Aleksei Leonov, the first man to walk in space, the earth looked "touchingly alone."
And when Vitali Sevastyanov was asked by ground control what he saw, he replied, "Half a world to the left, half a world to the right, I can see it all. The Earth is so small."Continue reading
The Macedonian Officer
by Andrey Platonov
In the second installment of our Focus series, we turn our attention to Russia. The nine writers collected in the portfolio break away from humdrum realism and represent an alternative canon to the last century of Russian literature. Natasha Randall talks with poet Arkadii Dragomoshchenko about the etymologies of Russian words and how those histories inform contemporary Russian writing. Plus new work by Sergey Zavyalov, Elena Fanailova, Dmitry Kuzmin, Alexander Vvedensky, Sergey Gandlevsky, Daniil Kharms, Olga Zondberg, and Vladimir Arkhipov’s gallery of homemade inventions.
What follows is an excerpt from the second chapter of this unfinished novel. In the first chapter, Platonov introduces two central figures: a Persian slave girl called Ofriya and Firs, the Macedonian officer. Firs has been sent by Alexander the Great to spy out Kutemaliya, a Central Asian kingdom that Alexander intends to invade. Captured while trying to cross the frontier, Firs has been forced to work as an engineer for Ozny, the country’s insane and dictatorial ruler. After a night of passion with Firs, Ofriya has set off on her own, trying to escape across the mountains and take a message to Alexander the Great. Firs, meanwhile, has been summoned to the capital…
When Firs was a short distance from the palace, he heard the noise of madness; the Macedonian officer had known that noise for a long time—he had heard it four years before, when the Tsar had first summoned him.
Beside the palace itself, a platform had been cleared on a stony place and over a hundred people were torturing themselves in the enthusiasm of ecstasy. Firs kept his distance and began looking at these people with sorrow. One man was rolling about on the ground, struggling to rip away the hairy skin on his chest so he could take out the still living heart from in there and show how devoted it was to the Tsar, how brimming over it was with the blood of joy. Another was positioned with his legs up in the air and was continually spinning round on the top of his head, wanting to be blown apart by centrifugal force into insignificant dust. Five people were walking in an unchanging circle, without a stop, their heads bowed in possession of deep thoughtfulness; they were in mental search of the most glorious praise of the Tsar and, on finding it, they would cry out:
“O one and only fruit of gods whose blossoms are spent!”
“O sorrow of the world, assuaged forever!”
“Grandson of all times and father of eternity!”
“Messenger of a blessed creation!”
“Architect of dawn and cool rivers!”
“Ever brilliant and blinding!”
“In your presence all reason is foolishness!”Continue reading