Have been reading and enjoying The Missouri Review‘s latest edition called “Experiment.” There is much to fascinate between these pages, to be sure, not the least of which is the interview with Frederick Barthelme in which he says (in response to what what kind of fiction he is drawn to):

More than ever, when most of the published writing is so drab and pretentious, just give me a voice on the page–a voice with authority and sure-footedness that takes me where it wants to go, as long as where it wants to go is not someplace I saw on TV last week.

There are also three early stories by William Gaddis. I have only read the first (“Jake’s Dog”) of these so far and while I found the beginning quite interesting–the middle and the end fell a little flat for me. Still, one cannot help but enjoy a brilliant mind at work.

Finally, I was moved by Tara Cottrell’s “Epiphora”–a haunting, humorous and tragic tale of a young woman who, after losing the love of her life in a car crash, must make something of her new life and disfigured face (epiphora refers to the condition she has since the accident which makes her tear duct leak). Instead of moving forward, she regresses by stealing the next door neighbor’s monkey and making of him a duplicate of her lost love–but not in the form of Romantic love–rather as he might have been as a baby or a monkey.

After her neighbor confronts her, she gives the monkey to the zoo. Later she learns that he is not fitting in and is living in a sort of exile–much like she is. Her neighbor confronts her a second time and smashes her car and then fights her–injuring her in a way similar to a car accident. It is here she decides that the only way to move forward is to steal the monkey back from the zoo.

“Epiphora” is one Hell of a good story. Relying on flashback and the ramblings of an unreliable narrator, we are left with a broken-hearted tale we completely believe and for which we fall. Mostly because the narrator is so broken, so damaged and so sympathetic. We want her to succeed, but we don’t know what we want her to succeed at. She is the one who has survived and with that survival comes all of the guilt and shame of not having died. Ultimately, saving the monkey is the only thing she can do. Her future is not clear–nor should it be.

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