Fiction Pick of the Week: "Swimming Underwater"
A family disintegration, past and present.
A family disintegration, past and present.
Childhood lies and truthful, uncomfortable memories.
On the slow death of a beached humpback whale.
A depressed young woman takes a serving job alongside ominous, creepy co-workers.
Testimonies about the Soviet war in Afghanistan, reported by the 2015 recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Sometimes your mom keeps the monsters at bay, and sometimes, she is one.
Growing up Afghan in the era of the Afghanistan War.
The hopes, dreams and failures of Nigeria’s commercial capital.
Old India and new, viewed through the prism of the writer’s hometown.
A man in a small town in India builds local power by owning the only computer in his village.
A woman's involvement in an unstable Detroit activist movement.
"The houses we set out to destroy had already been inscribed by the city. The city had earmarked them as tear-downs during the first stage of a larger urban planning initiative – a large ‘D’ for Demolition had been written in white chalk on the front doors of the dilapidated multi-family structures, veterans of a time when Detroit was still a factory town, a place where the music of Motown fumed larger than the gusts of exhaust unleashed from the chains of cars which tumbled off the assembly lines at the auto factories and straight onto those glistening American freeways. The electric streetcar line along Woodward Avenue had been replaced by gas-powered buses. There’d been the great race wars. Even still, at the time those houses had been erected on that tender Northern riverbed which skirted the Canada border, the word future seemed more a promise than an urgency."
Girlhood in the 1970s. An excerpt from Steinke's forthcoming novel, Sister Golden Hair.
"I crossed my arms in front of my chest and angled my head. From practising, I knew the pose I wanted to present when I stepped on the bus. My chin had to have a delicate look and my lips had to be relaxed and slightly parted. I wanted to look mysterious like a Victorian heroine, with pale cheeks and sunken, glittering eyes. In Philadelphia I’d blown the first day of sixth grade by acting friendly and wearing a shirt I’d tried to sew myself out of calico fabric. I swore I would never let that happen again. I had a new persona I’d been planning to introduce the first day of school: a girl wise beyond her years who was not at all nerdy or spastic or prone to crying jags."
An Arizona family unwittingly approaches the cusp of tragedy.
"He looks up at me quick and decides to be pleased. Usually he won’t look at a person direct. He says eye contact is counterproductive to comprehension and communication. He’s got any number of ways to justify himself, that’s for sure."
The author walks to his hometown after the Great Hanshin earthquake of 1995.
Memories surface after an old friend reappears; an excerpt from Rahman's forthcoming novel.
All the same, it is not guilt alone that brings me to my desk to put pen to paper and reckon with Zafar’s story, my role and our friendship. Rather, it is something that no single word can begin to describe but which, I hope, will take form as I carry on. All this is quite fitting really – how it ought to be – when I call to mind the subject of my friend’s long-standing obsession. Described as the greatest mathematical discovery of the last century, it is a theorem with the simple message that the farthest reaches of what we can ever know fall short of the limits of what is true, even in mathematics. In a sense, then, I have sat down to venture somewhere undiscovered, without the certainty that it is discoverable."
Struggling to pay for her mother's medical care, a young woman is drawn into the sex industry.
"The man arrived in a BMW, a Be My Wife, Njideka teased. He was tall and dark, his simple linen buba and sokoto crisply ironed, and his shoes shone even in the dim evening light. He reached out his hand and took mine. He drew my hand upwards, and tipped his head just a bit as he placed a kiss on the back of my hand. He wore gold rings on three of his five fingers. They were not massive rings, but small diamonds circled each of them and sparkled so that the rings appeared much larger than they actually were."
An incident on a frozen stream, excerpted from Banks' 1993 novel, Complicity.
"We were told not to do this, told not to come here, told to sledge and throw snowballs and make snowmen all we wanted, but not even to come near the loch and the river, in case we fell through the ice; and yet Andy came here after we'd sledged for a while on the slope near the farm, walked down here through the woods despite my protests, and then when we got here to the river bank I said well, as long as we only looked, but then Andy just whooped and jumped down onto the boulder-lumped white slope of shore and sprinted out across the pure flat snow towards the far bank."
A dying grandmother shares a story about meeting George Harrison.
"I went to my room a little catatonic, in a mixture of religious awe and fascination with my grandmother. I confirmed the information and yes, Rishikesh was that city in India where the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram was, where the Beatles had stayed in the late 1960s and where they had composed a bunch of songs. It was incredible that Gran had managed to associate the song I had played with all that. And remembered the song, and that it was by George, and included herself in the story, to boot."
An obstetrician (and abortionist) makes the decision to marry. An excerpt from Wa, the most recent novel from this year's Nobel Prize in Literature winner.
"Aunty said that in all her years as a medical provider, traveling up and down remote paths late at night, she'd never once felt afraid. But that night she was terror-stricken."
Father and son endure in a crab fishing village in the Pacific Northwest.
"One year I loved Robert Louis Stevenson, the next radio cars, and my father never caught up. Sometimes I wondered why he came home at all."
A woman reflects back on a son who died in prison.
"A few of the guards were kind to her. In a couple of them she could see them look at her as if she were a vision of their own mothers driving four hours to be humiliated, to be searched, to have the insides of her thighs patted down for the love of a son who didn’t deserve it. "
Former U.S. Presidents are reincarnated as horses.
"Martin Van Buren is barn sour, but even he shouts out impossible promises at the turkeys from the dim interior of his stall: 'You are my constituents, my turkeys,' Van Buren neighs, 'and the love I feel for you is forever.' The turkeys promenade around the yard and ignore him. Rutherford wonders if they, too, have human biographies hidden beneath their black feathers."
Discomforting struggles between a homeowner and the hired help.
"But when I reminded her about the toast, she broke into a tirade – how could I think she would ever let the toast get cold or hard? But it is almost always cold and hard. "