- Originally from Vermont, I now live in North Carolina. My work can be found in recent issues of REAL: Regarding Arts and Letters, The Jabberwock Review, The Emerson Review, Storyglossia, The MacGuffin, Confrontation, Passages North, SmokeLong Quarterly, elimae, wigleaf, Pank, and Gargoyle #57, among others. One of my stories has been translated into Farsi by Asadollah Amraee, and many others by Jalil Jafari, two of which have been published in the Iranian journal, Golestaneh Magazine. Currently, I'm an assistant editor for Narrative Magazine. I'm also working on two novels and a short story collection. In 2011, I was awarded the Carol Houck Smith Contributor Scholarship for the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
"Giraffes" by Steven Gillis
Steven Gillis must be one part sorcerer, one part mad scientist and one part romantic. I’m not sure any other kind of writer could have delivered such a unique group of twisted stories of love and fortitude. Gillis unifies the collection with threads of science and the absurd, but what really unites is the compassion Gillis shows toward his characters—-even those that are not destined to escape the reader’s judgment. Inside this book you’ll find children as human pendulums, a man with a tail, a community of shared spouses, a lonely runaway, a Little Person in love with Cinderella, and young boys who risk their lives to mark their passage into adulthood.
The strongest stories are the ones which navigate in weirdness and the absurd, and those pregnant with metaphor. In “Korematsu Love,” a man copes with strange changes in his body brought on by the emotional challenges of a serious relationship. In “Coveting,” a man struggles between his obligation to his odd community and his love for his wife. In the title story which begins “M.E. hung the children in the yard…,” M.E. is obsessed with proving his scientific theories while his girlfriend simply wants him to surrender to the inexplicable: love.
Perhaps my favorite is the last story, “Lift,” in which boys are expected to take a Rite of Passage exam: to build their own contraption and achieve flight. The story is a brilliant metaphor for what we do to our young men (and women) by sending them to war, essentially to pay for the sins of their collective fathers, while the rest of us carry on “nibbling on wafers and jelly sandwiches, oohing and ahhing with each new crash.”
So what happens when a sheltered boy of privilege, exempt from this peculiar Rite of Passage, decides to prove himself? You’ll have to read this unusual collection to find out.