|Art by Sandro Castelli|
“Bleeding Through the Shadows” by David Rees-Thomas (3300 words)
No Spoilers: Jonesy is an elderly shopkeeper in a small villages in Wales, a place that wears the markings of its age. For Jonesy, life is routine, going through the motions, dealing with the pains of age and the grind of daily life. There’s a numbness to it, until Idris, an old friend, returns to confront Jonesy with something from their past, and brings it all back. The piece is slow and quiet and full of pain and memories. It evokes in Jonesy a feeling of rootedness, of being fixed in one place, and in that of being stuck. Stuck because the place offers some sort of protection, yes, but also stuck because of guilt, and shame, and the shattering of the hope that used to come from new, wild spaces.
Keywords: Aging, Friends, Memories, Murder, Ghosts
Review: For me, so much of this story is about age and about being old. For people and for places. Because in that, Jonesy and his village are linked, both relics that time forgot. And that neglected feel is something that in some ways serves both of them. It means that they persist, where maybe they would have faded entirely. But that persistence isn’t really good in and of itself. For both of them, it means that they have buried a great many wrongs in their time, and haven’t really been called to account for those sins. It has made man and village a haunted place, and it exposes the way that age and lack of change can come from a desire not to deal with the past, not to dredge up old ghosts to put them to rest. As long as they all linger, as long as nothing is resolved, then people don’t have to confront what they’ve done. Which brings with it a sort of comfort for Jonesy, and for others, but not for the victims of these people, these places. For those ghosts, there is only being trapped, and trying to remind those still holding on that the past isn’t going away. Which makes for a powerful and resonating read!
“Rapture” by Meg Elison (2100 words)
No Spoilers: Poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning is dead and buried, and yet something of her remains, in a place where it seems all authors who want to go when they die, to sleep until they are awoken by living people moved by their works. And when they wake, they move and interact with their fellow writers, and come to a glass only they can see through, and get to witness the fruits of their work, their words inspiring in others feelings of joy and longing and rapture. The piece is quiet, Elizabeth polite and moving with a care through this strange and lovely afterlife. And there’s such a feeling of yearning to it, the acknowledgement that for many writers, the greatest gift would be to know that people had been touched by their work after death. That their work would live on, and could still inspire, and could still comfort and evoke, and that somehow that could keep the authors tied to the world, able to inhabit the space shared with the art they created.
Keywords: Poetry, Afterlife, Love, Rapture, Memory
Review: As a writer myself, there’s something so compelling about this story and the afterlife it imagines, which seems so neat and ordered and full of small pleasures and wonders. For Elizabeth, I feel that this vision of the afterlife is tailored to her, to her manner and her sensibilities. It’s less certain if it’s the same for all the other authors there, if they see the same halls and the same chambers. Even for Elizabeth it seems to change from time to time. But what remains is the general structure and organization of the place. That the authors sleep until they are called. That some are called much more than others. And there’s a sort of grace to it all, for me—that this is a kind of heaven, though not the one most commonly depicted. That here the authors get to experience only those moments when their art hit home, only when it provokes in others a sense of rapture. And I love that the piece focuses on a work that is often viewed as cliché and shallow. Mocked, as the story points out. And yet for that mocking it’s a piece that gets at something deep and moving. And while it might not be the most popular of pieces, it does continue to find ways to light the hearts of lovers separated by distance or circumstance. And it’s just a lovely story of longing, and contentment, and art. It’s not a long read, but it’s long enough to make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, and it’s definitely worth checking out. Go read it!