5/17/11

The I and the It

Conjunctions 56: Terra Incognita is out and, as always with Conjunctions, is spectacular. My story "The I and the It" appears alongside work from Benjamin Hale, Susan Steinberg, James Morrow, Kyra Simone, Howard Norman, Stephen Marche, Cathy Park Hong, Kathryn Davis, Charles Bernstein, Alexandra Kleeman, Joanna Scott, Donald Revell, Jonathan Carroll, Tim Horvath, Nomi Eve, Andrew Zawacki, Robert Coover, Barney Rosset, Ryan Call, Julia Elliott, Peter Gizzi, Andrew Ervin, Cole Swensen, John Madera, G.C. Waldrep, Karla Kelsey, Marc Nieson, and Peter Straub. In other words, an impressive and altogether humbling group of writers. My sincere thanks to Brad Morrow for including my story, a voyage of a different kind, involving "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," Glenn Gould, and other preoccupations.


Here is the first paragraph:
Under more agreeable circumstances—we are paraphrasing; Bennell was predisposed to cliché and imprecise language—Dr. Miles Bennell, a physician for thirteen years, would have welcomed the sudden relaxation, the opportunity to indulge a newfound frivolity; the life of a busy GP had never exactly encouraged the profligate humoring of passing fancies and so this should have been a glimpse of the life he had not yet found the time to lead. But no. His leisure was unlooked-for, his retirement an inescapable result of the tragedy. Why the metaphor of imprisonment? He was not at liberty. Why “a result” but “the tragedy?” Surely, the impact on his worklife was outweighed by the collapse of civilization. Ah. Still, he could feel sadness at the loss, regardless of its feathery avoirdupois on some imagined scale. This was the tragedy: his skills had overnight been rendered surfeit. Who, he wondered, would use them? His patients had been replaced. A verbal pun? Or a peculiarly telling choice of words? On the contrary, utterly concrete, not pun or metaphor at all. He had trouble remaining in the chair, complaining that it was unnecessarily low and missing its cushion. Could a cushion be provided, he wished to know? Existential questions were meaningless in a darkened backroom of a dry cleaner’s. He disliked being referred to as Banquo, and asked that we address him as Miles. We eventually settled on “Bennell,” to which he usually answered.