Although, traditionally, I only intend to write about the fiction when I get a new Irreantum, I will need to address some of the poetry and essays that refuse to be ignored. Fiction first, but I will be brief that I may hit all points.
"Conference" by William Morris
I'll admit my first layer of thinking about "Conference" consister in large measure of "How dare he write the sort of story I am trying desperately never to write again?" Which is hardly a fair spot to begin judging a work on its merits.
So never mind the fact that much of this story takes place in the protag's head as she debates the lousy options she feels life is providing her. Or, rather, let's not never mind them, but accept them and be glad someone else is writing them instead of me.
I'll admit I'm not sure what I am meant to take from this story even though it is clear our protagonist does have a victory of some sort. The sort of victory I might expect from a protagonist of Melissa Leilani Larsen's, which should be taken as high praise indeed.
Like much of Mel's work (both plays here, for instance), William is aptly drawing a woman trapped in the liminal spaces left for (especially single) women in Mormonism. She's trapped in no-man's-land (unfortunate pun)---an observer struggling to be more fully an actor. Whose triumphs can be disrupted by those who will never have to navigate her space.
And with that, I'm already failing to be succinct.
"The End of Happy Endings" by Courtney Miller Santo
I just picked up Santo's new book largely on the strength of her last Irreantum tale, and this story makes me want to drop all the Important Stuff and Already Begun Books and get to it right away. A brilliantly drawn and layered story of a woman who kills a dog and tries to save a soul and the spiritual and emotional whirlpool these opposing fronts result in.
There. That's what brief looks like.
"The Sinkhole" by Larry Menlove
I'm a fan of one Menlove story I've read and not so much the other. And how does this tiebreaker fair?
I will admit the tidy way all the threads come together is a bit much, even with a nod at them, but still: it's hard to bicker over such a demonstration of craft. This is a story I could present my AP kids and they could do marvels with it. While leaving plenty behind for the professionals to uncover still.
I don't know that "too perfect" is a substantial enough complaint, so let's just say this midcentury Montana tale fits snakes (with their symbolic weight), a halfbreed (with all his symbolic weight), a blonde girl (ditto), a Jack Mormon (ditto), and other plainfaced symbols (that function solidly as their realworld counterparts as well) around none-too-subtle centerpiece of a sinkhole.
Holy smokes, but the more I think about it, the more every single bit of everything in this tale is a loaded symbol. The fossils! The dead horse! The placement of the wound! Et cetera!
I really should seriously consider teaching this story. If you can't analyze this thing, there is something wrong with your analyzer.
And with that, I think I'll postpone the rest of my Irreantum discussion until Wednesday.