‘Remember our breath turning silver in the moonlight? That’s how I see you now when I close my eyes. Silver-sketched. Embroidered on my eyelids in threads of frost.’
C.S.E. Cooney’s Bone Swans won the World Fantasy Award for best collection in 2016. It’s part of my tbr mountain, and after reading this short story I need to dig it out. The Book of May was a collaboration with Cooney’s husband, Carlos Hernandez. It was published in Mythic Delirium’s 2016 collection: Clockwork Phoenix 5.
This is the story of two friends, Harry and May. One of them is dying. They keep up an exchange via e-mail, texting, and typed letters. This exchange reveals their longstanding feelings for each other, as well as some shared moments from their past.
‘Remember that New Year’s Eve you stayed all night? Never did drink so much champagne before or since. You said that if we were both still alive at eighty, we should get married and raise hell in the old people’s home.’
This is a pleasant and amusing story which showcases some lovely descriptive language by the authors. Unfortunately it didn’t really appeal to me because I couldn’t connect with the characters. The fantastical element is saved for the end of the narrative–and when it came it was a nice surprise. I liked the epistolary style which gradually reveals a little of who Harry and May are. But overall the story didn’t excite me. I can’t remember too much about it apart from the ending.
What I did like was this quote from the authors from the Mythic Delerium website. They are talking about the style they wrote this story in:
“We have entered a new Golden Age of epistolaries. In the age of the telephone, many lamented the lost art of letter writing. But now it’s back: e-mail, texting, voice-to-text, e-invites, Facebook status updates, Tweets. We are, as a culture, rediscovering our textual selves. Some of us still write snail mail, too. We read Flaubert’s letters at an influential age, and all we ever want to do is send our friends miniature novels in stamped and sealed envelopes. We know they’re our friends, of course, if they take time to decipher our execrable handwriting. That said, whether scribbling our innermost thoughts in peacock-blue ink on illuminated vellum or knocking off an e-mail at forty-five words a minute, there is something so intimate, so revealing in a letter unique to that medium. The people we are when we write are both idealized and inadvertently exhibitionist. After all, we can edit, rewrite, delete, and trash–we can try again. But at the same time, writing reveals how unaware we can be, how casually and blithely we expose our ugliest prejudices to the world. And the insights, hopes, terrors, raptures, and kindnesses we didn’t even know we had. Like wrapping up an exposed nerve still singing and stinging and raw from its contact with the ravages of the world and posting it in trust to the person at the other end of the line/signal/private message box/USPS delivery service. That’s what’s strangest about writing, finally, how ghost-laden it is, how queerly capable concatenated strings of ink or pixels are at rendering the human mind. And the ghost is, in the end, all that remains of us.”
February 2nd, 2020
Now it’s time to select the next story. As I shuffle the deck, I think the phrase: “Give me a really good short story…” and draw the trump card XVII The Star. This card suggests hope, that we should follow the path of that which inspires us.
The story randomly paired with “The Star” is “THE ROAD, AND THE VALLEY, AND THE BEASTS” by Keffy R.M. Kehrli. It is another story from Clockwork Phoenix, which contains twenty short stories. Again, this is another author new to me.
Thanks for reading and see you next time.