The steps of the Colorado Children’s Hospital, the London Array, the San Juan Islands, a Point Lobos forest walk, burrowing under a higher redwood with sand, pondering the first glacier, stopping a pickup truck, imagining a nuclear winter, avoiding a speeding train, serving refreshments to doctors treating patients in the Vietnam Veterans Operation of “Forgotten Heroes” – these and more of the permanent things that haunt us in melancholy spaces are included in Voices of Mothers Who Bore the Burden, a short story collection whose dreamy outer space setting is evoked by a book that presses gently against our senses.
Nu via video essay
Edited by Ben Furst (who lives in California) and Veronique Martinez (who also lives in California), the Stories collection explores the stories that Arnold Alter taught his young daughter and daughter-in-law, to create a family mythology around their home in Santa Barbara. In the book’s opening story, “At Night, There Was No Way,” written in the 1950s by Alter himself, there are images of the eclipse of the sun, children scaling the palm tree topped skyline at Summerfest in Munich, the exhortation to be fearless and send a message to the world via a period I.D. before writing a letter.
In “Divine Muse,” Hugo Bullard, who recently published an essay in The New Yorker discussing his frustration with the trope of young black men as heroes, has this to say about a hardbitten boy who dances around his Queens hometown: “The black man is savage and brave, he is brave and savage. We open houses by announcing how much we hate the people who live in our neighborhood, open neighborhoods by loudly proclaiming how much we love the community, just by being kind. We invite everyone in. We walk with heavy hearts because no one here appreciates us.” In the collection’s next story, “Salacious City,” Linda Klem says that “a n’er a speech was made that did not need a great deal of elaboration. On the rare occasions when we’d wait too long, it was about Richard Pryor. We weren’t interested in looking, but we weren’t interested in not looking. All the characters in Richard Pryor stories were peculiar by degrees, some more than others. Sometimes he spoke in so many different voices, you just might think there were missing arms and legs and heads and legs, and then you got drunk and laughed at this story.”