This story appears in VICE magazine's 11th annual Fiction Issue. Click HERE to subscribe.
Nothing really makes sense to me now. I am actually too old to write an introduction to an issue, and my husband, Clancy, who co-edits these issues, just won't do this kind of thing. Or he will, he will—he’d say that he would, and he would. But usually it’s not his thing, just like ordering at restaurants isn’t really my thing. Making phone calls isn’t really my thing. He handles taxes and bills. I write these kinds of things.
I’m pregnant, and until recently, physically, it was pretty normal, but now all of a sudden at 37 weeks I have trouble sitting in a chair. I won’t go on and on about it—I’m a whale. Clancy recently had a minor surgery. The doctors told us it was minor—a day procedure, with general anesthesia, no pain, in and out in a day. It wasn’t that way. He couldn’t walk afterward. So we’ve been a real pair. A real pair of invalids lately. And I just can’t write this kind of thing right now.
In this issue, we have some excellent short stories and a few top-notch excerpts. Ottessa Moshfegh let us publish an entire chapter from her forthcoming novel, My Year of Rest and Relaxation. Set in the late 90s and early 2000s, it’s about a woman who decides to hibernate by taking psychiatric mediation. It’s excellent and also confident and uncontrived. Akhil Sharma, Sadie Stein, Walter Kirn, and David Shields all contributed short personal essays about losing their tempers. It’s been an ongoing wish of mine to publish work by Sharma, and his essay in particular stands out for me, as he writes about feeling enraged by a man who is dying. We also have a story from Joyce Carol Oates, about an acclaimed writing professor feeling unsafe around a student during office hours. I’ve been teaching writing at UMKC, the local university in Kansas City, which is where Clancy and I live, by the way. I guess I could’ve written about that. Yesterday we workshopped a story in which a woman in a coma dreamed of having sex with her husband, and my students didn’t like the scene, because—get this—the woman had not given her consent. Early on I tried to engage over these kinds of things. When we were talking about Mary Gaitskill’s “Secretary,” I’d say things like, “I don’t know guys, is it rape?” Now I don’t bother. We also have really interesting work by Luke Kennard, Adam O’Fallon Price, and Jamie Quatro. Alena Graedon contributed a story that reminds me, in the best way, of David Foster Wallace circa 1998. It is about a man who has to wear the big padded suit and pretend to assault women during self-defense classes. The man has his mask and suit on already when he realizes a woman who recently dumped him, whom he’s kind of obsessed with, whom he has semi-violent sexual thoughts about—is among the women in the weekend workshop. I’m also really happy to say we have Victoria Freisner’s first published story, which is also about the gray areas of rape, but in this case, it’s how a rape victim thinks about and deals with those ambiguities. (“Is it rape, though, guys?” I’m kidding.)
Anyway, this may be the last fiction issue Clancy and I can work on, and if it is, then I guess we’d better say this has been a really nice thing for us, thank you, and goodbye.