Monday, August 19, 2013

Anthology review: Writing That Risks from Red Bridge Press

I've been waiting all year for Writing That Risks, the debut offering from new and local Red Bridge Press; the anthology was published last month. Close readers of One Finger Typing might remember February's post Dragons, Google Translate, and 'found' poetry, describing a San Francisco bookstore event at which contributors to the collection read. In any case, the anthology does not disappoint, presenting one glimpse after another into the minds of strange-thinkers ... hands down the most refreshing and enlarging minds to glimpse.

I most loved the short fiction. This despite, or perhaps because of the fact that some of it is seriously repellent: I kept having to put down Patrick Cole's "It Happened to Paul Sescau," a story in which a character's anxieties about purpose and meaning manifest themselves physically as ... how to put it without giving the story away ... a booger on steroids? The author brilliantly evoked the protagonist's anxiety in this reader. That's a good thing.

Edmund Zagorin's "A Dream of the Aztec" weaves together a similarly acute mix of anxieties. Will drug-filled balloons burst in the young protagonist's belly? Will the airplane carrying him crash? Will the brute in the next seat beat or rape him? Is the story behind this story the irritation of an unimaginably powerful god, with "hands the size of archipelagos and a grip that can throttle the wind itself"?

Zach Powers' tale, "When As Children We Acted Memorably," is another worlds-behind-the-world story, in the mold of Haruki Murakami or Neil Gaiman.

"Minnows" by Jønathan Lyons is one of the weirdest and most compelling mashups of formally self-conscious fiction and emotionally wrenching story I've ever read (it somehow reminded me of Malcom Lowry's Under The Volcano, but I'm not sure I can explain why).

"We ♥ Shapes" by Jenny Bittner is a story I've been waiting to finish since I attended that "Small Press Love Fest" in San Francisco early in the year. That afternoon, Bittner read the first part of her story and left me literally hanging off the edge of my chair in the back of the room, ravenous for What Happens Next. I had to read almost to the end of this anthology to find out; Bittner's story is the penultimate piece.

And, yes, it was worth both the wait and the circuitous ride through haunting and rarely-visited literary terrain.

Related posts on One Finger Typing:
Tinkering: on bookstore serendipity and novels that show what it is to be alive
Ursula Le Guin visits UC Berkeley
Dragons, Google Translate, and 'found' poetry
A speculative-fiction spectrum: Clifford D. Simak to David Mitchell

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