A few weeks back, Matt Bucher (via Twitter) suggested that because I enjoyed David Markson’s “notecard” novels so much, I should get a hold of Evan Lavender-Smith’s anti-novel From Old Notebooks. I went to order it from my bookstore, promptly found out it was out of print, and was bummed. And then like maybe a week after this, Matt let me know that the book was back in print from the good people at Dzanc. Anyway, it’s good stuff, and I’ll have a full write-up later this month.
Because of a postage screw-up, my original order was lost. When I let Dzanc know my book hadn’t arrived yet, they promptly sent another copy of the book, along with Jennifer Spiegel’s story collection The Freak Chronicles:
An American missionary sleeps on the dung floor in a witch doctor’s hut in South Africa. Two women contemplate “poverty porn” while trying to start a nonprofit in China. An heiress locks eyes with a whore on the streets of Cape Town. A college girl stalks Mickey Rourke. A professor from New Jersey gets scammed in Old Havana before Castro’s demise. A mom obsesses about the fate of Sesame Street characters. A study abroad student goes home with a Russian street artist. Backpackers question their global idealism. Terrain, both ordinary and extraordinary, work on the imaginations and perceptions of people on the run, freaks in the making, eccentrics by choice.
The short stories in this collection explore, both implicitly and explicitly, the notion of freakiness. They worry over eccentricity, alienation, normalcy, and intimacy. What is it that makes one a freak, makes one want to embrace quirkiness, have the fortitude to cultivate oddity? Is there a fine line between abnormality and the extraordinary? Jennifer Spiegel’s stories delve into these questions and others.