|Art by Sandro Castelli|
"The Block" by Kostas Ikonomopoulos (6133 words)
Well this is a strange and rather ponderous story about life in an old apartment building, the tenants living free of society, exiles in many ways, their lives entwined and yet separate, their personalities sharp and all damaged. They go about the routine of living out their small hells with determination, all of them trapped, trapped by a world that has moved beyond them and by their own insecurities and by their loneliness and by their fear. The story is a tragedy in many ways and nearly like the shadow plays described, the characters but tricks of light, lacking a certain amount of depth and yet so much is implied by the image shown. These are people with histories and with stories that reach back, but most are never told. Instead what is presented is only the strangeness of the block and the people inside it, all loving and hating each other. And one man, a former soldier, slowly finds his own way through the world. I love the way the story feels like a fable, something huge and slow and ripe with meaning, but much of the context is stripped away. There is a history to a place but it is hidden. But it is a moody piece and slightly gothic in its isolation and evocative of a slow erosion, a decline that can only really end one way. It's a rather difficult piece, ambiguous and monolithic but still enjoyable, still interesting and compelling. A story I very much enjoyed grappling with!
"Another Beginning" by Michael McGlade (3720 words)
This is an interestingly constructed story about a man who becomes a magpie to serve The Boss (God, basically) after killing himself. It's a slightly conflicting story for me, personally, because it involves a man being cheated on by his girlfriend and best friend and…not taking it well. In that in some ways the story is about patterns, about patterns of being and patterns of living. Because the mythology that the story sets up has people constantly being reborn, again and again, constantly reentering the world. And many of them apparently reenacting certain patterns. It's an interesting premise and setting and the main character, Ógán, has a nice voice and is interesting as a magpie. The entire thing, again, sort of mimics a myth or fable, becomes archetypal, which I don't think is a mistake and which makes the story more then about breaking out of patterns of anger and hate and violence for something different. Trying to actually change through your actions. And, I mean, the action of the story, of Ógán tracking down pissed off spirits, is nicely done and I enjoyed seeing the various ways a spirit can get lost in violence. The bit with the girlfriend and best friend were a little bit more conflicting, again, but I think I understand why those parts are there and how they illustrate the "lesson" that Ógán learns, or at least show a bit of how he grows, how he changes. And while I might get a little squinty at parts of the story (the celebrities in heaven bit, for example), I think in the end it works enough, that I liked it and would say go check it out. So yeah, go check it out!