The Daily

Fiction

Selections from Graveyard of Bitter Oranges: The Dead Children

December 30, 2013 | by

Sleepwalker-Anthony-Cudahy-Paris-Review

Art credit Anthony Cudahy.

This week, we will be running a series of excerpts from Josef Winkler’s Graveyard of Bitter Oranges. Inspired by the author’s stay in Italy after leaving his native Carinthia, the novel was first published in 1990 by Suhrkamp Verlag and its English translation will be published by Contra Mundum Press in 2015.

In the wine cellar, the ash from the volcano disgorged the wine from the bottles and barrels and filled them back to the brim. In the tombs, it displaced the ashes of the dead, settling down their place. The mouth, eye sockets, and skulls were filled by the rain of ashes from the volcano. A stream of lava, fifty meters wide and two meters deep, descended the slope of Mount Etna at seventy meters per minute. The lava flooded the stone houses as well, where pious images were hung, and flowed over the black crosses on the roadsides commemorating murders that had taken place. At night, the ash fell over the neighboring villages and the next day, the air was dull brown. Monks wore on their breasts the image of an erupting volcano, and stopped before each window, waiting until they’d received alms for the homeless. Boys ran through the shadowy side streets with lanterns on sticks, looking for cigarette butts that smelled of the fires of Purgatory. Street urchins hurled oranges and lemons at a train covered in with a film of hot ashes. Peasants leaned sacred images against the still-undamaged trees to stanch the searing flow of the lava. A tourist led an ass to the summit of Mount Etna to hurl it into the lava’s dreadful deluge. As it fell, the animal let out horrible cries before it burst into flames and blackened like a thicket of broom. The tour guide cooked the tourists fresh hen eggs in the scorching cinders from the volcano. English tourists pressed coins bearing the head of the queen into the hot lava, cleaned off the bits of lava that clung to the molten matter, and took them back home as souvenirs. Read More »

1 COMMENT

Bones

October 9, 2013 | by

antique_anatomy_illustration__human_ribcages_circa_1911_sjpg3245

You discover one day—while everyone else is doing whatever it is that makes them happy—that you can almost pop one of the bones in your hand right out of the skin. It’s awesome. First, you practice in secret, when you’re bored or exasperated by school. But one day, you are practicing out in the open when someone notices the little bit of white sticking out, and they say, Wow, how cool, and they ask you to do it again. Look at this guy, they say—when formerly you were ignored or marginalized or made to feel you were odd or would at any rate never to amount to much—and it occurs to you: maybe you’re on to something.

You get good at it, the bone popping, and in college you realize there’s a whole department devoted to the study of it: how they did it in the old days, how it became different when the boats came to North America. Yet, on the musty college campus, everything seems safe and no one’s trying hard enough. In fact, it’s difficult to find anyone doing a good or brave job of bone popping.

Eventually, you find places in the big city—loft buildings, various dark cafés—where people gather. Most can pop one or two hand bones, but a few can do their whole arm bone or an entire leg. Some of these people are actually making a living doing this. They get contracts to spend years on one big bone popping. Some win awards, or fellowships. But no matter how good you get, one old timer says, never remove your heart. Then you’re dead.

So you practice, getting good, refining your technique. Read More »

4 COMMENTS

3 Stories of God: 79, 80, and 93

June 7, 2013 | by

Cave-of-Despair

Benjamin West, The Cave of Despair, 1772.

This week, we will be running a series of pieces from Joy Williams’s 99 Stories of God. First published in The Paris Review in 1968, Joy Williams has since appeared in our pages many times. 99 Stories of God is her first book of fiction in nearly a decade and was written, she has said, partly in an attempt to imitate the inimitable Thomas Bernhard, that “cranky genius of Austrian literature,” and his The Voice Imitator: 104 Stories.

79

There was a famous writer who had a house on the coast. He was entertaining another writer for the weekend, this one less well known, but nonetheless with a name that was recognized by many. A third writer, whose husband had died unexpectedly only two days before, had also been invited for the evening. This was done at the last minute, an act of graciousness, as the woman was on her way south, on a trip she and her husband had long intended.

This writer was the least famous of the three. People couldn’t get a handle on her stuff.

The famous writer and his wife made fish baked in salt for supper. There were many bottles of wine. The third writer’s husband was remembered off and on, fondly.

Read More »

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1 Story of God: 71

June 6, 2013 | by

Irony-Paris-Review

Photograph via Wikimedia Commons.

This week, we will be running a series of pieces from Joy Williams’s 99 Stories of God. First published in The Paris Review in 1968, Joy Williams has since appeared in our pages many times. 99 Stories of God is her first book of fiction in nearly a decade and was written, she has said, partly in an attempt to imitate the inimitable Thomas Bernhard, that “cranky genius of Austrian literature,” and his The Voice Imitator: 104 Stories.

71

A child was walking with a lion through a great fog.

“I’ve experienced death many times,” the lion said.

“Impossible,” the child said.

“It’s true, my experience of death does not include my own.”

“I’m glad.”

“I’ve had near-death experiences, however.”

“Quite a different matter,” the child said.

Read More »

3 COMMENTS

2 Stories of God: 62 and 70

June 5, 2013 | by

Demolition-Derby-Paris-Review

Competition at the West End Fair Demolition Derby, Gilbert, Pennsylvania.

This week, we will be running a series of pieces from Joy Williams’s 99 Stories of God. First published in The Paris Review in 1968, Joy Williams has since appeared in our pages many times. 99 Stories of God is her first book of fiction in nearly a decade and was written, she has said, partly in an attempt to imitate the inimitable Thomas Bernhard, that “cranky genius of Austrian literature,” and his The Voice Imitator: 104 Stories.

 

62

The Lord was trying out some material.

I AM WHO I AM, He said.

It didn’t sound right.

THAT’S WHO I AM. I AM.

It sounded ridiculous. Read More »

4 COMMENTS

2 Stories of God: 13 and 50

June 4, 2013 | by

New-Mexico-Road

This week, we will be running a series of pieces from Joy Williams’s 99 Stories of God. First published in The Paris Review in 1968, Joy Williams has since appeared in our pages many times. 99 Stories of God is her first book of fiction in nearly a decade and was written, she has said, partly in an attempt to imitate the inimitable Thomas Bernhard, that “cranky genius of Austrian literature,” and his The Voice Imitator: 104 Stories.

 

13

It was May and in the garden they were drinking mango margaritas. Martha and Constance were discussing throwing an Anti–Mother’s Day party.

Martha says that in the movie A.I., there are seven words Monica uses to imprint the boy David. They are: Cirrus. Socrates. Particle. Decibel. Hurricane. Dolphin. Tulip. She is now his mother, and he will love her unconditionally and forever.

But he was a cyborg, she adds.

Constance becomes anxious when conversation deteriorates to talk of movies. She brings out her mother’s replacement knees, which she requested upon her mother’s cremation, though her husband, Jim, maintains that he was the one who requested them.

Laughing, Martha says that this is the most macabre thing she has ever witnessed in her life.

The heavy knees are passed around.

Later, Martha tells the story of the tenant in her Palm Beach condominium (willed to Martha by her mother) who committed suicide there by shotgun. It cost two thousand dollars to get the blood out of the carpets.

The other tenants of the condominium are annoyed at Martha because she didn’t come up right away from Key West to deal with the situation. Read More »

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