by Dylan Landis. This is an incredible collection. Landis has delivered with precision, honesty and art, the adolescent female mind. Her sentences, vivid and daring, are honed to the clarity of a mountain stream. The details in her prose will surprise as will her characters even as their actions seem inevitable. I enjoyed the science threaded through the stories as well.
It's difficult to pick a favorite story in this even collection but the title story captures so well the precise moment in which a well-intentioned but disillusioned mother realizes she no longer has a handle on her daughter.
'It will hold, Helen thought. She was not lost. She was merely trying all sorts of stunts. Leah Sophia, one name from each grandmother. The cigarette was nothing. It was only smoke. It was only a moment: daughter, fifteen.'
The first story, "Jazz," is also striking in its raw honesty and head-on look at how a young girl rationalizes allowing a much older man to have sex with her. This passage shows so well how limited a thirteen year-old girl's understanding of herself and her place in the world is:
'She has known Richard since she was a toddler. She doesn’t have to be polite.
“Five minutes,” says Richard. He has freed a breast with his teeth. Rainey, propped on her elbows, sees how her breast lights up in the dark. It pumps out its resplendence like the sun. When Richard sucks on the nipple, the water rolls up through the pipes in Bethesda Fountain and rains on the heads of angels.
Rainey punches him in the head.
“Five minutes,” he says. “In five minutes you’ll be thirty-nine and I’ll be fourteen and then we can go.”
Rainey says, “Goddamit, Richard,” and she is half-crying. She is not getting raped but he won’t get up. She still wants to go too far but she is not sure how far is far.
“You think I just want one thing,” says Richard. “You think there’s only one part of you that’s special.” He kisses her mouth again, and she lets him, even though he has a beard and his mouth does not have that boy-sweetness; it tastes of tobacco and steak.
“Thirteen,” Rainey says, but there is clay in her mouth.'
For anyone wishing to understand those defining, and yet often lost moments, of a girl trying to leap into womanhood, this is a must read.
- 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, and Pank, among others, and forthcoming from Gargoyle #57 and REAL: Regarding Arts and Letters. 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. For two years I worked as an assistant editor for Narrative Magazine. Currently, I serve as a mentor for Dzanc's Creative Writing Sessions. I'm working on two novels and a short story collection. In May, I was awarded the Carol Houck Smith Contributor Scholarship for the 2011 Bread Loaf Writers' Conference.