“Electroshock” offers voice to three women who have undergone medically induced seizures: Polly, a 75-year-old housewife; Anita, a 52-year-old minister; and Barbara, a 44-year-old nurse. Their intimate testimonies interrogate the physical, emotional, and psychological complexities of electroshock therapy (ECT). Is electroshock an antidepressant or a form of violence against women?
Lately, I have been thinking a lot about money and writing. Namely: the inverse relationship between one and the other. Since I published my debut short-story collection last year, the large pay-checks have been noticeably absent. This was no surprise. With all the anecdotes I had heard from colleagues and friends, I didn’t plan for my book to add to my 401(k). Quite the opposite, in fact. I received a small advance, a handful of good reviews and was longlisted for one prestigious award. Not too bad.
Bacchanal below the rooftop: The emerald bottles of soju. Fried chicken. Beer. The cheering of Russians who find each other on streets named in Hangul and in English. Thin slices of beef dipped in sesame oil that is thickly salted.
Note the poem’s nightmarish opening: this uncanny character—at once everyman and no-man, perhaps an egg though this is never stated—sits upon a wall. Where is this wall? How did Dumpty come to be sitting upon it? Surrounding this proclamation we see no answers, merely the barren whiteness of the page.
So much that appears only briefly is marked by powerful physical sensation—a quick whiff of a scent that throws you back to childhood, the unguarded gesture that reveals one’s authentic feelings. A flinch. A pang. A welling in the chest that accompanies an unexpected emotion.
Imagine, if you can, one single, stranded molecule in space –not even a pinpoint in the darkness. In the whole of the universe, a molecule is truly an island to itself, its nearest neighbor some ten million molecular body-lengths away. If it were a person on Earth heading east from San Diego, it would not see another person until New York, and these two friends might then hike, swim, and wade their way to Denmark before finding anyone else. That is how isolated it is, this thing you cannot quite imagine: a solitary something vanished into a sea of nothing.
How many cavemen died milking tigers and mastodons before settling finally on the cow? How many aspiring farmers were ruined raising wolves and trying to eat whatever plopped out of them, before discovering the chicken and its delicious egg?
It’s mid-June in California, and the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada spread for miles under a pelt of yellow grass. Bristly invasive weeds fill the stomachs of the sheep but provide little nutrition. This summer there is drought, the most extreme in one hundred and fifty years, perhaps longer. The weeds that cover these hills are all that remain for the shepherd to feed his flock after a dry winter, when the germinating rains came late and meager and not much new grass grew.