Some changes to announce on the editorial front.  Julia Goldberg is our new nonfiction editor.   Caroline Eick is now our book reviews editor.  And Dena Rash Guzman has joined the editorial team in our Poetry section.  Welcome to all!  (Publishers & publicists:  If you’d like to contact these editors, please see our Contributors page for info.)

Spellbound by a Saturday night beat Uptown
Sliding, grinding hips for that sultry sexy
Partner, wrapped up, locked in a lusty staring
                                   We are a rhythm

kealey_thievesknownThe Boots

from Thieves I’ve Known

 

It was a visiting priest, as it often was, and the two altar boys half-listened to the homily and stared out at the small congregation. Snow was falling fast outside, and many of the old people had stayed home, but there was one man – more ancient than any they’d seen – sitting in the back of the church, and he was obviously a homeless man and a little drunk tonight.

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LauraKrughoff_colorThis is a novel about mental illness and gender passing. Pretty dicey material for a debut effort, don’t you think?

I suppose. The issues surrounding mental illness, and the very separate issues surrounding our understanding of gender expression and gender identity, seem to be coming to the forefront of our social consciousness lately. Yet they’re both still taboo topics in many ways. Both communities—the community of people living with mental illness, either personally or due to the fact that a loved one has a mental illness, and the community of sexual and gender minorities—are becoming increasing visible and vocal, especially when it comes to how their members are represented in pop culture. I never set out to speak for anyone in this novel. I just had an idea for a story I wanted to tell and ran with it. The fact that the subject matter might be dicey never occurred to me. Literally. Until I realized people were going to get the chance to read it. 

MyBrothersNameCoverFinalI did not grow up in my brother’s shadow.  I grew up in his light.  I have been John’s sister since the very beginning.  He was not yet four when I was born, but he claims to remember the event.  He remembers naming me.  He tells the story of my naming as if that morning still shimmers, a perfect mirage, in his memory.  Our father dropped John off at an elderly neighbor’s house on the afternoon before I was born.  John says it was terrible to have been left behind, that the woman was strange and her house dusty, that he feared our parents would not return for him.  He says he thought about me a great deal, that he imagined me just as I turned out to be.

david_schickler

Schickler!  Tell us about your new memoir The Dark Path!

It’s about how I pursued the Catholic priesthood in my youth and early 20s.  Here are some very real obstacles I faced:  Quicksand.  Neo-Nazis.  The tango.  A psycho student who wanted to kill me.  A nympho hotel concierge who wanted me to kill her, in bed.  Oh, and true love.

Especially if you’re the sort of person
Who wishes to live
Where the snow is always
Chaperoned by earthquakes.
And maybe you could get a dog
Not a spaniel
And definitely not a poodle—
Perhaps a Weimaraner.
And you would never have to tell it—
“Stay.”
Because even if the whole world shakes—
You and your dog and
The little gingerbread house—
Will always stay in place.

widget_custom_image_1_1371909154“No, push them over.”

“David, sing ‘Rainbow Connection.’ I knooow it’s your favorite.”

“Hey, David,” said my sister’s friend Tina Cosgrove, who already had an amazing figure. “I hear you like Beth Vandermalley.”

The other girls made teasing Oooo sounds at me. I tried to defend myself. “Oh yeah, Tina, I hear you like Phil Kincaid.”

Everyone shut up. Tina burst into tears. Her pile of girls fell and they all started patting her back.

“David, what the hell?”

imgresI’ve known Lisa Borders for a decade. We teach together at Grub Street, Boston’s writing center, and see each other every few months at some reading event or another. I’ve always known that Lisa was a great teacher, because her students will happily give you an earful.

I was even more pleased to learn what a fine novelist she is. Her new novel, which follows her 2002 debut, Cloud Cuckoo Land, is called The Fifty-First State. It’s about a photographer in her late thirties who leaves New York City to help her half-brother through his last year of high school, after his parents are killed in a car crash.

So no: not a feel-good story.

Unless you’re the sort of sicko (like me) who is actually interested in grief and how we survive it, and how distant families function, and whether it’s possible to find redemption where you weren’t exactly looking for it.

I was curious enough about all this to seek a further interrogation of Ms. Borders, who agreed to answer a few questions…

denarashguzmanTNB

After W.S. Merwin’s “Some Last Questions”

 

What is the poem

A distillation of anything

 

What is anything

Anything is a story

Split-Feather

By Mag Gabbert

Essay

holdfast2

When I was fourteen, my father got a split-feather tattoo. He came home one Saturday and rolled up the leg of his jeans, wincing and cursing as it chafed his skin, and revealed his calf with a red and brown and black split-feather spanning its entire length. I touched it, running my index finger over the varied terrain of its healing. Tiny red and yellow scabs flaked off from the rough parts amid other smoothness; they looked like fruity pebbles in my hand.

“What does it mean?” I almost whispered.

Darci Picoult headshotPlease explain what just happened.

I heard children playing outside and a classical piano playing next door. Now there is a horn beeping. A man laughing. Life.

 

What is your earliest memory?

Seeing a lion on the wall of my bedroom and screaming for my brother to kill it. He made it vanish (with his fist? mind? a combo of both? don’t remember) and I thought he was a hero. Still do. A few years later I yelled to my sister that a cow was outside my window. She didn’t believe me until she looked and alas, saw it too. It wandered up the road from a nearby farm. We both had a hard time getting it to leave. Called the police who thought we were drunk and at a bar. “A cow outside your window?” I was maybe 12 years old. Finally the owner came and wooed the cow back to pasture

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f0aa55_c215c899908708e5cae60021e6f91826.jpg_srz_261_371_75_22_0.50_1.20_0You’re not crazy about being interviewed, are you?

 No.  I don’t like talking about myself.  That’s why I write fiction: to talk about other people.

 

Does it make it any better that this is a self-interview?

 That makes it worse, actually.  I have to do twice as much talking.