"Recovery Period" by Sasha Graybosch, recommended by Electric Literature

recommendedreading:


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Issue No. 113

EDITOR’S NOTE


In Sasha Graybosch’s “Recovery Period,” a sardonic woman called Greer suffers from a degenerative eye disease. “Eyes going Greer?” her boyfriend Lucien asks, as if she is both the victim and the cause of the disease, a patient zero. Keratoconus, it’s called, causes the cornea to protrude into cone. A Google image search of the condition reveals bulging eyeballs like those of surprised cartoon characters, and it’s fitting somehow to picture Greer that way—disoriented and flabbergasted—when she learns of Lucien’s death:

“Lucien’s exit from Greer’s apartment and then her life was incomprehensible; it disrupted the logic she’d once trusted—a grid had been twisted into additional dimensions. His death curled backwards over his entrance, so that when she reached for the beginning, or the middle, she always came up with the end.”

“Recovery Period” is one of the most extraordinary and sophisticated depictions of grief I have read. The world, viewed through Greery eyes, becomes both a reflection and a projection of her unstable emotional state: “Abruptly the temperature plummeted and a stretch of freezing rain bound the earth’s surface to the sky, one grey layer compressed beneath another. The trees, unable to prepare, suffered.” That kind of resonance between the inner and outer worlds is what elevates “Recovery Period” from subtle observation to gobsmacking truth.

But it’s not all straightforward. The story’s pathos is complicated by mysterious postcards that arrive from nowhere, and phone calls that may or may not come from purgatory. Graybosch makes reference to the famous eye slicing in Buñuel’s Le Chien Andalou, and I am reminded of another film that is not for the squeamish: Michael Haneke’s Caché. In it, a couple receives videotapes in the mail of their house, of them sleeping. The film, like this story, never reveals who is behind the missives. Though there are clues, I prefer the interpretation that the videotapes exist independently of a maker, as ontological evidence of their subject. To be watched one must exist, and so when Greer’s mysterious pen pal writes, “Lick your lips as you chop vegetables tonight, lovely lonely lady, and I’ll know it’s a sign,” and inadvertently she does it, the gesture is more than just a communication. It’s a sign that she’s alive.

I could go on, but I’ve already spoiled enough. “Recovery Period” is a tremendous story; why don’t you see for yourself.  


Halimah Marcus
Editor-in-Chief, Recommended Reading


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Recovery Period

by Sasha Graybosch

Original Fiction

Recommended by Electric Literature

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Sight-wise, Greer had developed a high tolerance for disturbance. Buildings doubling, streetlights smearing into ribbons, cars in the fore twitching against cars in the back, one pigeon appearing as a flock—fine. She could walk. She could still collect the mail, pick up bagels, get about. She learned to sit in the front at the movies, blink longer, take breaks, take the bus. When the world shook and danced at her windows, and she didn’t feel much like dancing, she could pull the blinds, shut her eyes. And Lucien was beside her in the dark.

It began early in the morning after her thirty-fourth birthday, an occasion she commemorated with an all-night jigsaw puzzle. Greer settled the last piece into place and stood, bleary, ready for bed, and noticed, bleeding from the kitchen light and the microwave clock and the hallway lamp, luminous halos. She rubbed her eyes. Bright cores diffused into ghosts. Lucien stirred on the couch, where he’d been sleeping since midnight. “What is it?” he said.

The troubles with her eyes emerged slowly—a faint stretch at the edges of distant words, the occasional wiggle of movement she mistook for a bug. Her glasses lenses were weak, she assumed. Lack of sleep, she thought. The distortions came and went; she often convinced herself she was getting better. The body had a way of sorting itself out.

At times, though, even the television was too much. “Balls gone bad?” Lucien would say when Greer squinted at a commercial. Or, “Eyes going Greer?” Or, “Greery?”

“Very Greery,” she’d say, the screen glaring into a muddle. They would click the show off, push her glasses back and do things up close that didn’t require looking.


Greer had met Lucien on a blind date arranged by a mutual friend, a self-proclaimed matchmaker named George. Greer knew George through cooking club, and George knew Lucien from an addiction recovery support group. George said he had been jogging with his wife along the river when Lucien surfaced in his mind, and then Greer, one figure folding into another. “It was a moment of inspiration,” he told Greer on the phone.

Greer was skeptical. “You met this guy in rehab?”

“That was years ago. You won’t like him at first, so be prepared for that. But I think you’ll be great together. I see how people can fit. He is the trees and you are the forest. He is the spicy pepper and you are the milk. He’s a piece of smoking meat left to burn in a pot, and you’re like a wet towel, or a lid. But not in a bad way.”

Greer decided not to be offended. “Does he have any other issues I should know about?”

“He’s had to work through some things—haven’t we all,” George said, the last phrase like punctuation, “and he’s a good person. Great listener. Not bad looking. His parents are rich, but you can’t hold that against him. I know you’re not judgmental, or all that excitable—that’s why I thought of you. You’re an open spirit, even if it’s not easy to see at first. I already told him about how calm you were when Cynthia hacked her thumb cutting pineapple. How everyone was falling over themselves and you just wrapped her hand up in a kitchen towel, led her out to get stitches.”

Greer was flattered. She realized George thought of her as some kind of stoic, a protector. She’d never thought of herself that way, as the someone who was good for someone. She suddenly felt curious. Open.

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Moby-Dick Marathon NYC Returns!

You may know the lovely and oh-so-generous literary citizen Amanda Bullock as the Director of Public Programming at Housing Works Books, but she is also the co-founder and co-organizer of the Moby-Dick Marathon (MDMNYC)! 

This three-day marathon reading of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, will be held in New York City from November 14th - November 16th (Ishmael super-fans may recognize the 14th as the anniversary of the U.S. publication of the book). In the past, over one hundred and fifty people participated in the event, each reading ten-minute segments of the novel. Three independent bookstores around the city hosted the reading: WORD, Molasses Books, and of course the Housing Works Bookstore and Cafe.

This year, MDMNYC hopes to expand their venue options, hire photographers and web designers, print programs in color, and provide their guests with more spoons for clam chowder! And they’re asking (nicely) for your help.

Show your support for this incredible project by backing their Kickstarter campaign! To make donating even more of a no-brainer, the MDMNYC team has also lined up some unreal-cool incentives for anyone who backs this whale of a project. The entire novel in Litograph poster-form? Yes please.

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"Books fall open, you fall in."

— David T.W. McCord (via observando)

"We become the books we read."

— Matthew Kelly (via observando)

This Weekend in Review: The BIG Party for Small Publishers & the 15th Birthday of the Lit Mag Fair

Whew! This weekend was quite the literary whirlwind. Between our BIG Party for Small Publishers and the 15th Annual Lit Mag Fair, we had our hands full—and we wouldn’t have had it any other way!

Saturday

The BIG Party for Small Publishers was held in Brooklyn, at A Public Space's lovely office on Dean Street. (Thank you guys so much for your generosity and open arms! The night wouldn't have been nearly as successful without your support.)

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The party was full of great food. Thanks, 2 Duck Goose—opening in Gowanus soon!

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And there was a kickass cocktail…

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There was even a raffle for subscriptions to FIVE amazing lit mags—Fence, Stonecutter, One Story, the Kenyon Review, and The Common—and a membership to the Poetry Project!  

But most of all, there was great company!

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Thanks for coming, everyone!

Sunday

The Lit Mag Fair turned 15! The festivities were held, as always, at the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in Soho. It was a lit lover’s dream. Literary magazines from across the country covered every surface!

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Editors from Bodega, Confrontation, The Literary Review, Rattapallax, and St. Petersburg Review gave one-on-one advice to blossoming writers! Readings were given by lit mag contributors Idra Novey (A Public Space), Aimee Herman (Bone Bouquet), and Camille Rankine (Tin House)!

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A thought-provoking discussion on women in publishing was moderated by Amy King (VIDA)!

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And yes, there was cake!!!

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Thank you so much to everyone who stopped by! We can’t even begin to tell you how much your support means to us and the literary community! We hope you had as much fun as we did, and we hope to see you all again next year!

Firecrackers Coming Back With a Bang!

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Great news! The Council of Literary Magazines and Presses has joined forces with the American Booksellers Association and a team of publishing professionals to revive and re-vamp the Firecracker Awards! This new and improved set of awards will celebrate independent literary publishers and self-published works of high literary merit.

CLMP Executive Director Jeffrey Lependorf says, “New and lasting literature from independent publishers and from self-published authors as well has been moving from the fringes to the middle. We believe the new Firecracker Awards can significantly increase the profile of exceptional, independently produced and self-published books—we want readers to know about the best from the full world of literary book publishing.”

Rest assured: the spirit and liveliness of the old award will be preserved (as in the past, winners will be announced at an unforgettable party). A major difference, however, will be a fully transparent and ethical judging system involving writers, editors, booksellers, and agents. Members of the new Firecracker Committee include representatives from CLMP, ABA, Tin House, Workman Publishing, Random House, Byliner, Greenlight Books, and literary agents, with writers to be added as the planning progresses.

By reviving and re-inventing the Firecracker Awards, CLMP hopes to provide independent literary publishers and exceptional self-published titles with a valuable marketing opportunity that will be meaningful for writers, publishers, booksellers, and readers. The committee intends to announce the first round of Firecracker Awards at BEA 2015. Submissions will be open to publishers and self-published authors starting in the fall of 2014. 

You can sign up for more announcements here.

We can’t get enough of either of these things.

We can’t get enough of either of these things.

(Source: weheartit.com, via realizes)

Which authors are keeping you company right now?

Which authors are keeping you company right now?

(Source: scribnerbooks)

A Big Thank You to Everyone Who Participated in the #myfirsttime Campaign!

Dear Writers, Publishers, and all who shared #myfirsttime,

Thank you for supporting CLMP and our #myfirsttime campaign! Your contributions touched and inspired us. Stories about first publications—some funny, some triumphant, many heartwarming—came in from all over the world, from established writers and hobbyists, from emerging writers and underrepresented writers. A writer’s first publication is a life-changing thing, and that’s precisely what we wanted to celebrate—small publishers changing lives by publishing new voices. This is why we love what you do, and why we exist! My First Time was a wonderful reminder of the vibrancy of our community of independent literary publishers and their authors.

We launched this campaign as a fundraising experiment. We wanted to see if the writers our members publish would support CLMP, an organization that for nearly fifty years has worked quietly on behalf of independent literary publishers, doing our best to support them via technical assistance and advocacy programs. During this time of great financial stress for CLMP (and arts organizations in general), we realized we needed to call on those our work supports, perhaps ultimately, the most: the writers our members publish. We weren’t sure it was going to work. Would writers understand the value of CLMP? Would they spread the world about supporting us if their publishers asked them to?

The answer, movingly, was yes. We couldn’t be more grateful and honored by the outpouring of kind notes, well wishes and declarations of support that filled our inbox on June 5th. Though our current fundraising needs exceed what this campaign brought in, it gets us off to a good start on our summer fundraising and helps us plain old feel great about our community.

If you’d still like to make a contribution yourself, please click here.

Thank you publishers, and thank you writers—you are the reason we are here.

Sincerely,

CLMP

PS. And a special, special thank you to members who acted as media sponsors for this campaign:

A Public Space
Apeiron Review
Blue Scarab Press
Bodega Magazine
Coffee House Press
Colorado Review
Creative Nonfiction
Electric Literature
Four Way Books
Futurepoem
Gigantic
Graywolf Press
Guernica
Iowa Review
The Literary Review
The Missouri Review
One Story
Rain Taxi
Tin House
Words Without Borders
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Support CLMP and Indie Lit in Our #MyFirstTime Virtual Fundraiser

Dear Writer,

Remember your first time?

First time being published, that is. Maybe it was a story in your college lit mag, or a poem in an online journal, or an essay in a periodical. Maybe you even had a manuscript accepted by a small press. Whatever your publishing track record, we’re willing to bet that your first time was something special—and chances are it was through an independent literary publisher.

Perhaps you’re still waiting for your first acceptance letter, but thanks to CLMP—the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses—independent literary publications are thriving, creating more opportunities for writers like you to be heard!

As representatives of the community of indie lit publishers, we ask that you join us in supporting CLMP, the organization that helps make it possible for us to publish writers like you. CLMP provides essential training and information to literary publishers small and large, established and just beginning. Russell Banks, George Plimpton and others founded CLMP in 1967, and CLMP has been here for us, helping us do what we do even better, ever since.

Supporting CLMP means that you play an active role in sustaining the very publishers most likely to publish you.

Today, we’ve banded together to show CLMP that writers will join us in giving back. Please make a contribution below, and to celebrate your support (and toot your own horn—you’ve earned it!), simply tweet/Facebook/tumblr about the first time you published—and the publication that made it happen—then add #myfirsttime and a link (https://bit.ly/1ku7abg) to our donate page.

Thank you for your voice, which inspires our work, and for helping us support this vital organization.

Sincerely,

A Public Space
Apeiron Review
Bodega Magazine
Coffee House Press
Colorado Review
Creative Nonfiction
Electric Literature
Four Way Books
Futurepoem
Gigantic
Graywolf Press
Guernica
Iowa Review
The Literary Review
The Missouri Review
One Story
Rain Taxi
Tin House
Words Without Borders
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englishkillsreview:

The Council of Literary Magazines and Presses (CLMP) is hosting a fundraising drive with the hashtag #MyFirstTime. The My First Time campaign takes to social media encouraging writers to talk about the first time they were published.

Participating writers are Tweeting a brief narrative about…

THANKS English Kills Review. You are, frankly, the very best.

Taste Test: The Filid Chapbook, Volume 2, Winter 2013

"Hitch" by David B Bradley (excerpt)
This is me, unmistakably me, sleeping deep as a whale slaking its whalehood on the bottom drainhole of the ocean, sleeping through the Yucatan and South Dakota, through Labrador and Indiana; waking at last to find my arm buried to the shoulder beneath the flaps of my old warrior backpack. I wrench free, knocking my boots down into spacious roar of an eighteen wheeler truck cab. 
Its driver slows off the gas, strobing on his four-way flashers, bottling a hard red glow through the bunk. “Yah live back there?” he calls. “If yah’re ya got the wheel, yah hear?” 
"Where the hell are we?" I plead, parched and aching. 

Taste Test: The Filid Chapbook, Volume 2, Winter 2013

"Hitch" by David B Bradley (excerpt)

This is me, unmistakably me, sleeping deep as a whale slaking its whalehood on the bottom drainhole of the ocean, sleeping through the Yucatan and South Dakota, through Labrador and Indiana; waking at last to find my arm buried to the shoulder beneath the flaps of my old warrior backpack. I wrench free, knocking my boots down into spacious roar of an eighteen wheeler truck cab. 

Its driver slows off the gas, strobing on his four-way flashers, bottling a hard red glow through the bunk. “Yah live back there?” he calls. “If yah’re ya got the wheel, yah hear?” 

"Where the hell are we?" I plead, parched and aching. 

Taste Test: Rocking the Wall: The Berlin Concert That Changed the World by Erik Kirschbaum, Berlinica, 2013

(excerpt)
Bruce Springsteen was backstage, getting ready for what was the biggest and probably most eagerly awaited concert of his life. It was the summer of 1988, and he was at the height of his career. The thirty-eight-year-old rock star was cooped up in a temporary dressing room behind the makeshift stage in Communist East Berlin, on a vast open field, a former racetrack, that was quickly filling with hundreds of thousands of East Germans. Springsteen was in the midst of his “Tunnel of Love Express Tour” across Europe that summer and was elated to have the chance to take a quick detour across the Iron Curtain for an extra show in East Berlin. 

Taste Test: Rocking the Wall: The Berlin Concert That Changed the World by Erik Kirschbaum, Berlinica, 2013

(excerpt)

Bruce Springsteen was backstage, getting ready for what was the biggest and probably most eagerly awaited concert of his life. It was the summer of 1988, and he was at the height of his career. The thirty-eight-year-old rock star was cooped up in a temporary dressing room behind the makeshift stage in Communist East Berlin, on a vast open field, a former racetrack, that was quickly filling with hundreds of thousands of East Germans. Springsteen was in the midst of his “Tunnel of Love Express Tour” across Europe that summer and was elated to have the chance to take a quick detour across the Iron Curtain for an extra show in East Berlin. 

Taste Test: On Immunity: An Inoculation by Eula Biss, Graywolf Press, 2014

(excerpt)
The first story I ever heard about immunity was told to me by my father, a doctor, when I was very young. It was the myth of Achilles, whose mother tried to make him immortal. She burned away his mortality with fire, in one version of the story, and Achilles was left impervious to injury everywhere except the back of his heel, where a poisoned arrow would eventually wound and kill him. In another version, the infant Achilles was immersed in the River Styx, the river that divides the world from the underworld. His mother held her baby by his heel to dip him in the water, leaving, again, one fatal vulnerability. 

Taste Test: On Immunity: An Inoculation by Eula Biss, Graywolf Press, 2014

(excerpt)

The first story I ever heard about immunity was told to me by my father, a doctor, when I was very young. It was the myth of Achilles, whose mother tried to make him immortal. She burned away his mortality with fire, in one version of the story, and Achilles was left impervious to injury everywhere except the back of his heel, where a poisoned arrow would eventually wound and kill him. In another version, the infant Achilles was immersed in the River Styx, the river that divides the world from the underworld. His mother held her baby by his heel to dip him in the water, leaving, again, one fatal vulnerability.