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So begins "Silver," one of the 27 stories in Thaisa Frank's hauntingly beautiful new collection of short fiction, Sleeping in Velvet. With prose as affecting as the title is magnetic, Frank's words coalesce in a consortium of stories best described as lovingly, uncomfortably alluring. The stories in Sleeping in Velvet are exceptionally real; one can feel the author herself riding in the backseats of cars, hiding in closets, and sitting in piercing parlors or rented houses on rainy cigarette-smoke mornings with the characters she creates. No one story is exceptionally talkative; rather, the alignment of so many terse, color-packed vignettes in such a way coaxes the reader to float in and out of many lives, lives of distracted, sometimes muddled, sometimes amorous people, and emerge bright yet gray. The arrangement of these stories is not unlike the cinematic technique whereby the camera follows one person down a street until the lens catches someone even more immediately enticing and does an about-face to shadow them. For all these characters, though, the environment overhead is the same. It is life right now, in all its mismatched tragedy and curiosity; it is you and I and the people you pass on a given day, whose lives continue on down the block just as yours does, waiting for the walk sign or in other, intimate settings. Thaisa Frank's Sleeping in Velvet does the literary about-face to follow passersby a little further into privacy.
|Love in the Hour of Haniel||11|
|The Cat Lover||21|
|The Terrain of Madame Blavatsky||23|
|The Eye of the Needle||34|
|Three Tales From Cyberspace: Conceptual Fruit||67|
|Three Tales From Cyberspace: Houdini on the Net||71|
|Three Tales From Cyberspace: The Short and Unhappy Life of HAL the Computer||75|
|The Book of Miss Edna||78|
|The Dungeon Master's Mother||80|
|The Letter Writer||88|
|Stairway to the Stars||92|
|Running in Place||99|
|In the Middle of the Night||115|
|The Enchanted Boyfriend||126|
|The White Coat||156|
|Sleeping in Velvet||170|
|The Map Maker||173|
Q: What have you read lately that just knocked you out?
A: The very short novel (96 pages) called Silk almost knocked me out. It's by an Italian writer whose name I can't remember, and I lent the book to a friend so I'm afraid I can't check the name. I say "almost" because I felt that at some point the clear and elegant plot line began to unravel. How to Write a Mystery by Larry Beinhart is currently knocking me out. I think every writer should read it (as well as Finding Your Writer's Voice). But these don't knock my socks off as much as The Dwarf by Par Lagerkvist, or Charles Simic's autobiography.
Q: Are you a reader of the Best American Short Stories series? If so, what is your opinion of these very popular anthologies?
A: Not religiously. And since I don't read them religiously, I obviously don't think they're bibles of American fiction. I think all of them have, at their source, the taste of a particular editor. Some of the stories are good and some are rather predictable.
Q: If music could accompany you wherever you went throughout the day, what would you choose as your personal soundtrack?
A: A good question. If I could only listen to one thing, it would be a toss-up between the blues piano player Jimmy Yancey and Bach's Inventions played on the piano. In many ways they're similar: A clear, clean line. Persistent bass obligato. Jimmy Yancey was a great blues player, and Bach wrote the original boogie-woogie.
Q: What is the best lesson you ever learned from one of your many creative writing students?
A: That my suspicion that talent isn't always immediately obvious was correct. In one of my creative writing classes, before I began to teach on the graduate level, I had a student whose writing was very primitive. But there was something about her that made me want to encourage her -- and in any case I'm always encouraging: I must have been a wicked writing teacher in some other life, because when I started to teach I made a vow that no one would ever leave one of my classes not wanting to write because of my feedback. In any case, I encouraged her, she worked with me for a few semesters. Her writing got stronger and stronger. Eventually she became a very fine writer and began to publish.
Q: Tell us about the most serene and beautiful place you have ever visited.
A: Another toss-up. The first place is a poppy field in Provence that made you feel like you were stepping into the Monet painting called "Women Climbing in the Tall Grasses." It was like entering a dream. The second place is the travertine waters of Havisu Canyon. I stopped there on a river trip I took on the Grand Canyon. That was like entering William Blake's Songs of Innocence.
Q: Right-handed or left-handed?
A: Right-handed. I always thought it would be cool to be left-handed.
Q: Write a haiku.
A: n failing to see a good friend
so much to say!
what keeps us apart?
cold winter nights
Q: What, to you, is the most important time of the year?
A: The solstice. It seems like an inevitable pause, dictated by the earth's rhythms -- I don't think it's an accident that all the festivals of light happen around that darkness.