|Art by Sandro Castelli|
“Boneset” by Lucia Iglesias ( words)
This is an aching story about work and about parenting, about bones and breaking and life and death and immortality. About a man, a bonesetter, a father, a scholar. About his son, who is absent, who has left to face a word because of what he found at home, because his father was never much of a father, because there were sacrifices of his own to make. And really I see the story as generational in nature, showing how this drive the bonesetter has is what makes him good at his job, is what gives him joy and pride. It’s what makes him agree to any price to further his study, to further his ambition. And in turn he wants to leave to his son some amount of security and an interest in the work, so that he can carry on after the bonesetter is dead. So that the bonesetter can feel like he’s left something behind. And yet what he’s passed on instead is that same ambition, but for something a bit different. And that ambition requires sacrifices. And just as the bonesetter sacrifices his time with his family, sacrifices so much of himself, so too does his son sacrifice his place in the family, creating a rift that really can’t be bridged. It’s a lyrical, dense read, with the feeling of the world strange and dark and twisted, but also with a haunting beauty to it. The characters move through this magical realm with power and with skill, and yet they are never satisfied, never really still even when they’re sitting in one place. They are pushed on and on and I like how the story captures that and frames that, how it maps the relationship between father and son and shows just how far they drift, how for the bonesetter at least it’s a loss he feels now that his work is mostly complete, now that he’s finished his work and wants something else to get him through the twilight. It’s a wonderful and moving story with a unique feel and playful but wrenching tone. A great read!
“The Atomic Hallows and the Body of Science” by Octavia Cade ( words)
This story moves with a quiet and relentless power as it catalogs a time and place and mission. As it interrogates and reveals the various people and personalities, the scientists and archivists and wives behind the atomic bomb. The piece moves from the early days when nuclear fission was first identified, through the making of the bomb and into the hearings that happened in its aftermath. The story lingers on the testing sight of the bomb and the research being done, the women holding things together, the men and their various hang-ups and betrayals and dreams. The prose of the piece is sweeping and deep, changing slightly with each character, with each new perspective brought into the mix. And I love how the story connects all the dots, circling and circling, showing how delicate and intricate the web of inspiration, support, and harm went. The building of the bomb was a huge moment, for science and for war and for the country and for the world. It united so many people and yet there is a sense here that there is a seed of poison here as well. One that is very much coming out of the moment, out of the same violence and conflict that the Nazis were a part of. It’s a necessity that still carries with it a price, as the story itself says in a poignant moment. It’s a necessity that still harms and still twists and still corrupts. It’s power, and it’s blood, but the truth is the blood is coming from a wound, from this hurt that has been inflicted. And it’s borne not just by the scientists but by everyone touched by this mission, by the drive to create the bomb. Even those who weren’t exactly a part of it. It reaches far, and the weight of it is terrible, especially when the necessity of the moment passes and it’s time to pay. A powerful story with a sinking, terrible presence. Go read it!