THERE HAS ALWAYS BEEN a strong connection between madness and genius. Between “mental illness” and art, exemplified in the careers of talented-but-troubled individuals from painter Vincent van Gogh to poet Sylvia Plath to rock musician Kurt Cobain. Could it be that the sensitivity which attunes them closer to the mind of the universe than other people– that allows them to “see” and express things the rest of us can’t see, also makes it too painful for them to live? Does their genius itself push them toward thoughts of suicide?
These thoughts are occasioned by our newest feature story, “Suffering, Suicide, and Immortality,”by Jess Mize. Ms. Mize writes fiction and poetry as edgy as any we’ve seen, anyplace. It doesn’t always make for comfortable reading, so be forewarned on what’s coming. We can’t ignore, however, that it’s particularly at this time of year, a time of bleak weather combined with the expectations of the holiday season, that the thoughts of many turn to suicide. Many have been there on one occasion or other, and so, perhaps, can identify with the troubled character in this powerful story.
My second attempt at suicide happened two years later. I had just quit my job at the dry cleaners. I had no ambitions, no motives, only a red and black despair that clouded over my every thought and action, a red and black despair like the closing of Joyland at night.
We talk often here at New Pop Lit about reinventing the short story. We ask for contributions and help in this endeavor– but we also spend time working toward the objective ourselves.
Today we have a story from our own Kathleen Crane entitled, simply, “Sam.”
Note how “Sam” has similarities to our previous story– in its slice-of-life realism– but differences as well, mainly in terms of style.
In the artistic choice between fantasy and reality, we lean toward reality– it’s the source of the most moving and meaningful art. At the same time we know that realistic writing has to be more than bland accumulation of trivial details– it needs to connect as immediately as possible with the reader. Does the story “Sam” achieve this?
Kathleen Crane believes in simplicity in art– that a work can be superficially uncomplex yet express a great deal of power and meaning.
The attributes of her story might be described as simplicity, compassion, and truth. That was the objective– only you the reader can tell us if we’ve reached it or not.
She was an angel, and she had loved him, Sam. They had lived on the beach together in Miami, with him busking for money, and Melody dancing to the music on the white sand, long golden hair swinging in time.