Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Quick Sips - Baffling Magazine September 2020

This month at Baffling Magazine there’s just one story to check out, but as it’s a new story by Nino Cipri, I’m pretty sure we can all agree that’s more than enough. And it’s a beautifully rendered portrait of suburbia. The façade of the pristine--the lawns, the cars, the “perfect” families. The bliss of quiet mornings and drives through the empty streets. But under that, something perhaps rotting. Something off. Something wrong. And the story might not find words for it but it provides a stirring and unsettling picture of it, of a boy finding something he doesn’t quite understand, but that he feels with his whole self. It’s strange and more than a little creepy but also powerful, like something is about to break through the shell that he’s been living on the surface of. And what’s coming through...well, perhaps I should just get to the review!


“Velvet” by Nino Cipri (1205 words)

No Spoilers: Finn is a young boy growing up in the suburbs, familiar with the sprawl of houses among contained pockets of woods. A landscape that provides little in the way of wild places, but does provide something in the way of wildlife--herds of deer that wander the subdivisions. Finn sometimes goes out with his father to drive around aimlessly in the early mornings, and the ritual takes him past the deer, seeing them and being seen by them. And during a time when Finn seems to be changing, the deer take on a new meaning, a deeper implication, and the story sinks into an almost haunting atmosphere. Action-wise, not a whole lot happens, but perhaps because every small, quiet thing that does happen has such weight, and a density that requires some care and thought.
Keywords: Suburbs, Family, Deer, Woods
Review: I love the feeling of this story, the way that it seems to feature Finn at a time when he’s changing. When things seem so loaded, so fragile. And life in the suburbs is a great place to set this, because it’s sort of detached from the rest of the world. Planned in ways that cities and rural areas are not, so that even the woods are designed, either remnants of a wilderness long since tamed, or else wholly artificial, planted to give a feeling of the wild without actually including it. Except of course that the natural world can never be wholly contained or suppressed, and so even in the faux-wilds of the suburbs there can be these dangers. Deer and other animals that represent a disorder in the center of a very ordered existence. That become this force pressing in on Finn, on his life. That it comes when he’s “growing up,” existing childhood for adolescence, is really important for me, because it really sets up this sudden wrongness that creeps into his life. A guilt, a shame, a disgust at bodies, at something that no one is talking about. There’s a bubbling up within him, it seems, a way that the familiar confines of the suburbs no longer really feel entirely comfortable. There’s something sinister there, sinister but at the same time compelling, that draws him unbidden from his bed and into the woods, into that in-between space of wild and tame, where he is confronted by something raw and bloody, something he’s not used to, that he hasn’t been prepared for at all, because suburban families tend to thrive on silence, on what isn’t said. And in that silence Finn finds that maybe something is missing, something is wrong, something that he doesn’t have language for yet but that he recognizes and is twisted by. And it’s a lovely read, wrenching and atmospheric and weird and good. So definitely check it out and spend some time with it!


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