Fiction Pick of the Week: "Suggestible Hauntings"
The lives of professional haunters.
The lives of professional haunters.
An anthropologist's log from field work in Papua New Guinea; an excerpt from the Kirkus Review prize winner.
"I am tired tonight. Trying to learn another language—3rd one in 18 months—probing a new set of people who but for the matches & razors would rather be left alone—it has never felt more daunting to me before. What was it B said? Something about how all we’re watching is natives toadying to the white man. Glimpses of how it really was before us are rare, if not impossible. He despairs at the deepest level that this work has no meaning. Does it? Have I been deluding myself? Are these wasted years?"
A deserting Civil War soldier sets out for home.
"As he approached Jacob Story’s farm, Benjamin saw that the corn stood dark and high. No hard frost or gullywasher had come. The signs held true, not only for the corn but the beans and tobacco. Smoke rose from Jacob’s chimney. Noon-dinner time already, he thought. Benjamin followed the trailway through a stand of silver birch, straddled a split-rail fence, placed one foot on his land and then the other. He had hoped Emma would be in the cabin. That way he could step onto the porch, open the door, and stroll in no differently than he would coming from a field or the barn. Benjamin wanted their separation to seem that way, he wanted to never speak of the war or their months apart. He wanted it to become nothing more than a few dark moments, like a lantern carried through a cabin’s low door."
A businessman-cum-boxer struggles with the motives and attention of an unlikely mentor.
"We went from the weigh-in directly to the ring. We were introduced not only by name and by record but by salary, title, and time served with the company. I felt certain this was the wrong thing to do, but there was no one I could tell. Everyone was in the bag for Cory. The referee had his arm around him and was saying nice things about his father, comforting things. A woman in the front row had a sign that said 'A Good Employee Punches In' and, beneath it, a drawing of a boxing bell."
A father and daughter engage in an elaborate deception in a roadside diner.
"I followed him, stretching my legs to match his stride. I swung my arms, too, catching the shiny rhythm of the way he walked when he was excited about something. I copied the bounce in his step. Even though I was just an eleven-year-old girl, I promised myself that I, too, would someday ride trains and sit around campfires listening to old hobos telling stories. Even if I had to dress like a man to do it, I wanted that kind of experience, even more than being a war nurse. Before he got to the front door, I caught up. 'Let’s play deaf again.' 'Okay, squirt.' He zippered his lips with his fingers. 'Mum’s the word.'"
What if science could trigger an out-of-body experience? Alex Shakar probes the question in this excerpt from his new novel, Luminarium
"He’s afraid: fear comes in ripples, emanating from his center. He can feel nothing but these ripples, he realizes, neither the chair beneath him nor the helmet on his head, nor his head itself."
A darkly comic piece about when the body goes awry.
"Daniel finds blood in his underwear on a Monday. It happens in the eighth floor men’s room, during a restructuring meeting. The meeting has something to do with 'capitalizing on human potential,' which is a phrase, after three hours of PowerPoint presentations, Daniel still does not understand. "