For fifteen years, solstice magazine has published fiction that embodies diversity of various types: country of origin, class, race, ethnicity, gender, religion and age. In this Winter Print issue, we range from the depths of racial injustice to the heights of lesbian love. Also, we offer styles varying from the experimental through the more traditional, from the serious to the ironic. And we present a range in the careers of authors, those with multiple books such as Ann Harleman and Kent Nelson, to emerging writers such as Sylvan Lebrun. Particularly striking among all these five exceptional pieces is how deftly their authors infuse them with a deep sense of place and atmosphere, and how intimately they portray relationships that are both intense and tenuous.
Ann Harleman’s “The Most Intimate Thing” tells the profound, suspenseful tale of a young American man haunted by grief over the untimely death of his wife. As he travels with his son and lover in Israel, this foreign country forces him to face his fears and inhibitions.
“So, what do you think it is?”
“What do I think what is?” Gregory is watching his little boy down at the water’s edge. Paulie’s figure is so much smaller than his shadow. Beyond him the rising sun spreads a stain across the water, dyeing it the color of its name: the Red Sea.
“The most intimate . . . thing . . . between a man and a woman.” Claire’s voice, falsely patient, tells him that, once again, he isn’t listening.
Kent Nelson’s darkly humorous “A Journey through the Universe” takes his protagonist in the opposite direction of Harleman’s and leads us into the whirlwind world of a father in his 70’s, who, upon the death of his wife, suddenly transforms himself—protests in the nude, explores his bisexuality— and encounters ageism, but also freedom.
In May, when my father turned seventy-one, he got a serpent tattoo on his right shoulder, dyed the left half of his gray hair orange, and self-pierced his right ear lobe twice with a sewing needle. He put a stud diamond in one hole and skull and crossbones in the other. Until then, I thought he’d become more handsome with age. He was tall and craggy and had a full head of hair. My mother, who’d died five months before, had encouraged him to dress in brand-name clothes of pastel colors, because she wanted to present an image of our family as elegant and respectable.
In Sylvan Lebrun’s “Pink Novel,” a young American student living in Spain shows us the end of her heady, dramatic relationship with her Spanish girlfriend, and the sensuous evening that leads to a hook-up with another woman.
I can’t say that it wasn’t sexy when she shattered the glass bowl last night. Picked it up off the coffee table and threw it into the floor in one shock of elastic energy, like she had walked the motion over in her mind a dozen times, rehearsed it until it took on almost an unearthly grace. Like how good dancers have that ability to stop time, pausing in the air and letting you take in the moment for a little too long.
In the experimental story “The Motherless Daze,” val wang captures the unease and disconnection of an overwhelmed mother trapped in a bizarre time warp—three extra days after December that do not exist on the calendar— who guiltily wishes away her immigrant parents while her own young twins clamor incessantly for her attention.
This has been the very worst year. So much death. So much closing down. Lying flat on her back in the cold sheets, well before midnight, Val feels clamped shut like a touched clam. But soon that will all be past. The longest night of the year has gone, Christmas has gone, her parents have gone, and it is finally New Year’s Eve, her favorite. The sheets are warming. Sleep is coming. Tomorrow the sun will set later, the day after the kids will be back to school for the first time in almost a year, and then finally she will be able to tenderize her poor, numb heart with a mallet.
And Co-Editor Lee Hope personally solicited this last piece, an excerpt from Anjali Mitter Duva’s recently completed novel Between Light and Earth, which also deals with motherhood but transports us to nineteenth century India at the start of British rule. Told from two points of view—an adolescent, French Indian boy harassed for being a “half caste” and his unmarried, courtesan mother—the story shines a light on some of the lesser-known impacts of British colonialism.
Etienne slid into his seat, eyes on his desk with its familiar ink stains, his notebook with its neat, satisfying penmanship. He shouldn’t have recited that English poem so well. But the poetry lessons at his mother’s home, a courtesan house in an alleyway of the old city, had changed the very way he looked at poems. They came alive, the imagery dancing in front of him. Especially Persian poetry, calligraphy unfurling from the page. His classmates wouldn’t understand. Here in Lucknow at La Martiniere College for Boys, French-named but British-run, no one spoke, let alone read, Persian or Urdu.
Also, please don’t forget to check out our two provocative interviews: for a profound look into the world of racial relations, read some thoughts of distinguished author and activist jabari asim, interviewed by Lee Hope. And for a deep chat about the meaning of being a writer, delve into the ideas of the much-published ann harleman, interviewed by Elizabeth Searle.
With our respect,
Lee Hope and Anjali Mitter Duva