Gossamer Threads of a Tale

A Review of Dominik Parisien’s “Spider Moves the World” in Lackington’s Issue 6 http://lackingtons.com/2015/04/08/spider-moves-the-world-by-dominik-parisien/ 

By Derek Newman-Stille

Like Dominik Parisien’s poetry, his prose story “Spider Moves the World” captures the beauty in the grotesque. Parisien takes the figure of the spider and reveals the beauty of spidery movements, the wonder of being carried on a spider’s back and the essential relationship between human and arachnid. These spiders revel in music evoked by instruments of spun threads and eight-legged dances, weaving tales as easily as webs. 

Parisien spins gossamer threads of spider silk between poetry and prose, pulling the two together into a web of beautiful metaphors, roping words into a multiplicity of meanings that extends their scope to include the nuanced potential embodied in poetry. 

Parisien reverses the paradigm of the spider as a figure who lurks at the periphery of human interactions, largely ignored and cast off and places this periphery onto the human narrator, a figure who reaches out to the much larger spiders only to touch his own insignificance in their experience.  Yet, all of the spiders’ seeming aloofness is part of their difference from human experience and simultaneously part of their acceptance of him or her as another spider, a human with a spidery core.

The caravan is a central image to this short story, evoking the desire for change and the constancy of movement. The narrator desires some form of change and movement and has moved to the region of Greensea seeking new experiences, and, perhaps, an escape from the past. But the spiders are figures of constant change, alternating who leads the group each day and allowing their young to float away in billowing clouds of silken parachutes… but all of them reply to questions of identity with “I am spider”, speaking of their fundamental similitude. 

The narrator (nameless because he or she, like the spiders themselves, is never only one thing but always shaped by travel, by change) feels cushioned by this arachnid community, after all, what could be more comforting than being wrapped in a silky blanket of community….

To find out more about Dominik Parisien’s fiction, visit his website at https://dominikparisien.wordpress.com

To read this story for free online, vizit Lackington’s at http://lackingtons.com/2015/04/08/spider-moves-the-world-by-dominik-parisien/ 

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Women Made of Words

A review of Sean moreland’s Rowena in Lackington’s issue 2 ( http://lackingtons.com/2014/05/13/rowena-by-sean-moreland/ )
By Derek Newman-Stille

Sean Moreland’s Rowena is a tale of names, words, and memory, and how these have been implicated in the creation of women’s identities. Structured as a series of letters from an accused witch to her daughter, Rowena is shaped by the aesthetic of loss. The eponymous protagonist reveals the loss of name and home that occurred for women in history and even after the death of her husband, who she is accused of murdering, she is forced to keep his name, taunted with the constant reminder that the world views her as his property.

Although words form her entrapment with her husband through contracts made between her father and husband, and words further rob her of her name, they are also part of the act of recovery, the means by which she is able to discover herself and her own identity. When she discovers a secret book written by her husband’s first wife, she is instantly attracted to her words. There is a blending of book into body that occurs as she lovingly examines the book’s spine, compares ink to bodily fluids and sexual fluids. The book becomes more than a text, but rather a communication across time and between spirits. There is a beautiful blending of text into identity, a love affair of words and spirits

Moreland reveals that much of what we are is words, that we are texts needing to be read and to express ourselves and that every reading of a book is a form of seance between the author and the reader.

De-voiced by patriarchy, disempowered by the official word, Rowena and her husband’s deceased first wife Ligeia need to voice the depth of their feelings and identity through subversion, through hidden texts, and these secret texts are part of the act of recovery, part of the expression of the self who is perpetually silenced.

Moreland’s Rowena is a beautiful love affair through ink and text, a meeting of pages full of memory and the desire to speak.

To read this and other stories from Lackington’s, visit the Lackington’s website at http://lackingtons.com/ .

You can access Sean Moreland’s story Rowena directly at http://lackingtons.com/2014/05/13/rowena-by-sean-moreland/ .

Feeding the Homeless

A review of Trevor Shikaze’s “The Harbour Bears” in Lackington’s issue 4 ( http://lackingtons.com/2014/10/28/the-harbour-bears-by-trevor-shikaze/ )
By Derek Newman-Stille
Homeless people are treated as human refuse, ignored when possible, and when not possible, treated as a social problem that requires police intervention and forced removal. Homeless people evoke a sense of horror partially because they remind society that the price for our own economic success is the exploitation of others. Trevor Shikaze’s “The Harbour Bears” magnifies this exploration of the dislike of the homeless and the disconnect that exists between seeing the homeless as a problem TO society rather than a problem CREATED BY society.
The narrator refers to individual homeless people as “a homeless”, making their identity solely about their living situation and de-humanizing them, almost using “homeless” as a species indicator. When homeless people turn up ripped to pieces, no one is moved or upset by this and the narrator’s first concern is about whether this will jeopardize tourism, placing the economic before the human.
The narrator, Luke, lives in a comfortable economic situation without a job that he is aware of and ignorant of where his pay check comes from. He is disconnected from the economy and unaware of how it relates to the homeless population and makes these populations vulnerable and under threat. He is the epitome of the modern capitalist subject, able to be totally unaware of the impact of his actions as long as he is perpetually entertained. In fact, when he starts to ponder where his money comes from, he quickly tells himself that “it is better not to ask”, mirroring the wider issue in our society of the dissociation from the labour process and our population not wanting to really look into how money does harm in the process of coming to us. He is fundamentally disconnected from suffering, able to distance himself by viewing the homeless as almost a different order of being.
But, things become complicated when Luke stops medicating himself at night and realizes that the homeless population may be literal prey for a government that wants to get rid of them in the most expedient way possible. Luke is forced to see the direct impact of the system on the population it feeds on.
To read this story online, visit Lackington’s at http://lackingtons.com/2014/10/28/the-harbour-bears-by-trevor-shikaze/

Asymmetrical

A review of Kate Heartfield’s “Bonsaiships of Venus” in Lackington’s issue 4 (
By Derek Newman-Stille
When most envision the space-faring future, they tend to picture sleek space ships that are ideal forms of symmetry. This is why it is so refreshing to see Kate Heartfield’s notion of bonsaiships, space vehicles that are trimmed like bonsai trees over time toward an aesthetic not based in symmetry, but in an organic growth.
Kate explores ships that are not just functional, but rather constantly evolving works of art, taking on nuances of beauty one subtle snip at a time. The constant in these ships is change, lending the ships a notion of organic growth rather than a stable form that will approach obsolescence. In a society that tends to view technology as disposable and tends to throw out objects rather than revitalize them, it is refreshing to see a vision of the future in which constant change in technology is considered beautiful, and even necessary. Her bonsaiships wear down unless they are constantly trimmed and pruned to keep them alive. But this is also a risky business since the ships are fragile and if too much is cut, the ship can be pierced and jeopardize the lives of everyone within it. Heartfield captures an aesthetic edge that is sharp as death.
Rather than devaluing art and viewing it as an indulgence of the artist as our society often does, the society of the future that Heartfield captures depends on their art for survival, both to refresh and renew the ships to keep them from decay and also to renew the scientists within the ship, who daily watch the artist trim the ship in order to become revitalized.
Kate Heartfield creates a text of renewal, both for the ships that are constantly being reshaped and reformed and for the artist who has lost his husband and is going through his own process of change as he accommodates to the loss in his life.
To read this story online, visit Lackington’s at http://lackingtons.com/2014/10/28/bonsaiships-of-venus-by-kate-heartfield/

Speculating Canada on Trent Radio Episode 25: A Discussion of Helen Marshall’s Work

In this episode, I focus on the work of author Helen Marshall. Helen wasn’t able to make it in to the studio for an interview, but I enjoy her work so much that I felt it needed a show of its own. Helen Marshall is the author of “Hair Side, Flesh Side”, “The Sex Lives of Monsters”, and “Gifts for the One Who Comes After”. She is a brilliant short fiction author whose work always evokes a sense of wonder in me and leaves me thinking about her stories for hours afterward.

As listeners who have been following my show know well, I often talk about the under-representation of short fiction in reviews, so I bring attention to some of the ideas, thoughts, and speculations from Helen Marshall’s short fiction in this discussion.

Explore Trent Radio at www.trentradio.ca

Explore Trent Radio at http://www.trentradio.ca

 

This audio file was originally broadcast on Trent Radio, and I would like to thank Trent Radio for their continued support. I would also like to thank Dwayne Collins for his consistent tech support and help with the intricacies of creating audio files.

Make sure to allow a few minutes for the file to buffer since it may take a moment before it begins to play.

Spin The Bottle With Death

A review of Helen Marshall’s “Death and the Girl from Pi Delta Zeta” in Gifts For The One Who Comes After (ChiZine Publications, 2014).
By Derek Newman-Stille

Cover Art for Gifts For the One Who Comes After courtesy of ChiZine Publications

Cover Art for Gifts For the One Who Comes After courtesy of ChiZine Publications

In horror films, sorority girls have a metaphorical relationship with death, perpetually constructed as figures who are courted by death. Helen Marshall, demonstrating her characteristic desire to play with tropes to disempower, subvert, and challenge expectations, makes that relationship literal in her short story “Death and the Girl from Pi Delta Zeta”. Marshall’s subversion is as beautiful as it is powerful, shifting reader expectations from the often disempowering genre of horror to play with expected tropes.

Marshall constructs a scene of a typical frat boy party, the sort where women in horror films are often the victims of monstrous acts. She creates the typical scenes of frat boys objectifying sorority girls, in this case literally writing their claims to them on their shirts along with sexualized slogans. Death serves as a contrast to this activity, asked by Carissa to sign her shirt with a magic word. Instead of writing exploitative messages, he playfully writes “abracadabra”.

Death is given celebrity status and constantly asked for his signature by people who he has helped by releasing loved ones from painful lives. Yet, he serves as a romantic contrast to all of Carissa’s previous frat boy lovers by giving her flowers, being romantic, and proving himself a gentle and caring lover. Death is by far the better alternative to frat boys. Horror film, generally constructing frat boys as the typical audience, depicting their expectations on screen, is here reversed by Marshall, who depicts them as background characters serving only as a contrast to the beauty of Death.

Marshall’s sense of play shapes this short story as a thoughtful but exciting piece. Like many of her works, she plays with scenes we have accepted as ‘normal’ and illustrates the beauty in re-framing them and seeing the subversive potential in them. She masterfully plays with normative scenes like a frat party or sending out wedding invitations and inserts a touch of the macabre.

You can discover more about Helen Marshall’s work at http://www.helen-marshall.com/

To find out more about the collection Gifts For The One Who Comes After, visit ChiZine Publications’ website at http://chizinepub.com/

You can read this story online at its original place of publication, Lackington’s at http://lackingtons.com/2014/02/13/death-and-the-girl-from-pi-delta-zeta-by-helen-marshall/

Home is a Place Created in Tales

A review of Amal El-Mohtar’s Mon pays c’est l’hiver (Lackington’s issue one, Winter, 2014 http://lackingtons.com/2014/02/13/mon-pays-cest-lhiver/ )
By Derek Newman-Stille

We pretend that home is an easy concept, something that comes easily, but Amal El-Mohtar’s Mon pays c’est l’hiver poetically charts the challenge of home. We hold on to memories of a wintery, beautiful landscape. But our sense of place always shifts. Nostalgia is something that creates a home that we can never return to, an idealised notion of home that is forever slipping away.

Mon pays c’est l’hiver reveals that that wintery beauty of nostalgia is something created in the labyrinths of the self, in the complex passageways of the heart, made of memory and substanceless desire. Nostalgia can be something alluring, constantly calling us back to an idea of belonging that is always slipping away, always proving itself non-existent when played out in our current existence. Home is a changed place, and a place that is perpetually shifting and El-Mohtar reveals to us that we are always travellers, always venturing in and out of memories of different experiences… and that perhaps the best way for us to ‘come home’ is to create it, build it with stories and tales that abstract from memory, that create new realms of belonging.

To read Mon pays c’est l’hiver, visit Lackington’s website at http://lackingtons.com/2014/02/13/mon-pays-cest-lhiver/

To discover more about Amal El-Mohtar’s work, visit her website at http://amalelmohtar.com/

Artwork for 'Mon pays c’est l’hiver' in Lackinton's issue 1 illustrated by Paula Arwen Friedlander

Artwork for ‘Mon pays c’est l’hiver’ in Lackinton’s issue 1 illustrated by Paula Arwen Friedlander