December 21, 2019 by The Citron Review
A few weeks ago, my youngest said the greatest words he has ever uttered: “Mama, I want to read all the books on your shelves starting with Fahrenheit 451.” He’s four, so we have awhile to accomplish this goal, but I cannot wait to tackle it with him. While all three of my children love books and stories, he is the most like me in that he always wants a story, wants to buy new books, and takes books with him everywhere. He has even proclaimed numerous times if he cannot take a book with him, he is not going. It is hard not to smile in those moments even with the high levels of sass.
I find the winter months to be naturally filled with stories. From the birth of the Christ child to Yule fairies to the stories we tell as we gather with family for the holidays, the winter, to me, means telling stories and listening to the stories of those around me.
While we was selecting pieces for this issue, I tried to imagine how they would be live, with someone telling these stories to me in person. The two micro pieces, “Babyland” and “Sign of Life” read like images pulled straight from my neighborhood. Though I have never been to a cemetery for children, like is the setting for “Babyland,” I think the imagery it evokes can resonate with anyone who has seen roadside memorials for people, sometimes children, killed in car accidents, or, as was the case in my neighborhood recently, a train. Levy’s images of the bears strikes immediately to the heart the same way the plush animals in those memorials signal to you that a child was killed.
Pravica’s “Sign of Life” is also extremely relatable because even if we don’t know our neighbors well (I will admit here to you now that I do not), if you find out that a tragedy has struck them, I think almost anyone would want to know how they fared as a result, be it from pure curiosity alone or genuine concern. I loved how the brevity of Pravica’s piece did not clarify which emotion motivated the nosy neighbor, but that blue glow was comforting all the same.
With the fiction pieces for this issue, we selected pieces who turned something ordinary into something extraordinary. In “Hanging Out the Laundry,” I loved that doing one’s laundry could be an act of rebellion, or even more specifically, an act of revenge. I loved the close third person point of view that lead us through Marge’s outrage to the moment she boiled over. In both “Crumbs” and “The Soldier on the Mountain” the draw for me was the magical realism of both pieces. One of my favorite authors is Daniel Wallace, and what I love about his stories are the way he peppers in the magic to these otherwise completely ordinary storylines. I found this in the way that a good scheduled weeping could be the answer to eternal happiness in “Crumbs,” or the beautiful way “The Soldier on the Mountain” uses a talking goat to lay a subtle scene for later tragedy.
“Men Learn to Swim in the Deep End” by Emma Pattee rounds out our selections for this issue. As a mother of all boys, I am hyper cognizant of the men they will one day be. Though this story is about the relationship between a father and a son, it strikes a chord with any parent: we are our children’s first teachers. I love the Pattee touched on the importance of how we deliver those lessons.
As we enter into the busy holiday season, I hope you are surrounded by stories. I hope you take an extra pause to listen and learn from them. This issue is a good place to start. I sincerely hope you enjoy them as much as we did.
Elizabeth De Arcos
Senior Fiction Editor
The Citron Review