I learned about Dad’s
fall on a Monday afternoon in August, two days after his eighty-seventh
birthday. The doorbell security camera shows Dad shuffle across the wet grass
with Gracie, his smaller dog while his neighbor walked the other dog. No cane
in his hand, no walker, and no one escorting him. The video cuts out as he
nears the neighbor’s driveway. I’m both frustrated and relieved that it stopped
because then we’d know exactly what happened.
On Monday, August 10,
2020, a derecho passed through northern Illinois. A derecho is a widespread,
long-lasting wind storm with multiple fast-moving squall lines. There were
fifteen tornadoes in northern Illinois that day, and the town of Harvard, where
Dad lived, experienced sustained winds over seventy-five miles per hour. The
skies were dark, and tornado sirens kept sounding to ensure residents remained
in their homes.
Dad was alone, but had Stella and Gracie to keep him company, although they were likely spooked from the storms as most dogs are. The house had a full basement, but he was too unsteady to use the stairs to take shelter.
The Silent Patient is told from the written perspective of Dr. Theo Farber, a talk therapist, who changes jobs to be able to work with the famous patient, Alicia Berenson, a painter who had shot her husband, Gabriel, several times in the face and then never spoke again. Instead of going to prison, she was committed to the failing psychiatric unit, the Grove. There, Theo faces internal resistance to his attempts to help Alicia. The novel also explores Theo’s own psychological issues and is partly told from Alicia’s diary leading up to the murder of her husband.
The Silent Patient is Michaelides’ first novel and won the Goodreads Choice Award for Mystery & Thriller. I hadn’t finished it by the time it won this award, so I did not vote for it myself. But I can see the appeal.
It’s spring, 1998. The world is obsessed with Titanic, discovering the Internet through AOL, rocking out to bubblegum boy bands, enjoying newly-FDA approved Viagra, and learning a lot about sex in the oral office–I mean, oval office. It also happens to be the year that fledgling writer Robert Devereaux finally publishes his landmark novel Santa Steps Out.
Since penning the first draft ten years earlier, it’s been a hard-fought battle. Many industry leaders claimed to love it, but never to the extreme of publication. Pat LoBrutto, a highly successful agent, went so far as to say he wanted to tell his grandchildren he edited the peculiar Santa book. Pat pushed the book at Tor, where it seemed like a Christmas miracle was finally going to happen. Devereaux made thousands of revisions per their request. But once again, when it came down to it, nobody dared publish the sex-filled Santa Claus horror novel.
Two years ago I got a wild hair up my ass and
decided to make a fiction magazine. There weren’t many magazines out there that
produced what I wanted.
What I wanted was the equivalent of a low budget, terrible-but-great horror movie. Despite having no budget, and despite having no directorial skills and no trained actors and no sober crewmembers, a bunch of enthusiastic fans with a camera and a heart of gold can still make something incredible. And by incredible, I mean incredibly bad. But something magical happens with these kinds of bad movies. The audience can quickly adopt the movie’s shortcomings, and, somewhere along the line, the chemistry of the water changes. It’s the puppet show effect. Don’t bother hiding the strings. Everybody can tell that it’s a puppet. There are no illusions. The strings don’t matter. You can still enjoy the show.
I wanted that DIY, screw the rules, “lean in”
quality in a literary magazine. And, equally as important, I wanted to show off
the good work that my writing group was producing. Most importantly, I wanted
to reestablish subterranean mutants and slimy, semi-erotic monsters into the
great Literary Conversation. So I got to work, learned what I needed to learn,
and put out the word.
The artist intended it to look like a bowl of fruit.
Everybody who sees it can tell that it’s (say it with me now) a bowl of fruit.
Contemporary Art is different:
That could be a bowl of fruit – or it could be various snakes of different colors who’ve just devoured a pack of rats, then curled up together in this bowl, their skins distended into vaguely fruit-like shapes by the currently-being-digested lumps.