The lead story in the current issue of Fugue is Kevin Wilson’s “Breathing the Winter.” I was excited to see this story, as Kevin is getting a lot of well-deserved attention these days. I met Kevin in the summer of 2004 when he was on staff at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. He read part of a story of his that was possibly the funniest thing I’ve ever heard in my life, bent-over-double, can’t-stop-laughing, tears-in-my-eyes funny. This is not that story. This is the story of two brothers in their twenties trying to survive the winter. Their parents are dead. One brother is in an iron lung. The other, the narrator, gets through the day by shooting up.
“One night, there is an ice storm and outside we can hear the steady popping of tree limbs breaking off at strange angles and crashing to the forzen earth. I pull a chair as close to my brother as I can get and press my hands against the machine. I wait, holding my breath each time another tree sheds its limbs. I seize my body silent, and the air around me settles while I listen to the machine rhythmically force air into my brother.”
It is a frightening, heartbreaking story.
Also in this issue is an interview with George Saunders. At one point the interviewer asks Saunders, “What is it about the realist tradition that doesn’t appeal to you, or, really, the type of story you want to tell?” And Saunders replies:
“Well, to me, fiction should do two things–or at least, I want my fiction to do two things. First, I want it to do emotional work–to open up the world for a moment and kind of reconstitute it for the reader. Second, I think fiction has to sell itself–I mean, in terms of believability. The reader has to accept the premise and movement of the story. So seen this way, I don’t think about realism, per se, but just about making the story run deep enough that it affects the reader; and to do this, I have make the reader ‘believe’ the story. Basically I have to avoid that moment where the reader says: No way, that’s b.s., I’m being jerked around here.”
Fugue is quickly becoming one of my favorites.
Next: Indiana Review
>Yes, Kevin Wilson is a marvelous writer! His ‘The Choir Director Affair (The Baby’s Teeth)’ in New Stories from the South 2005 is funny and insightful in unexpected ways. I’ll be looking for Fugue to see what Kevin’s up to now.
>George Saunders has to be the most interviewed writer in America. The reason, I’m sure: he’s nice. But still. Turn someone day every now and then. See what it’s like, if only for a change of pace.