In this provocative collection of short stories, Karen Hofmann creates characters who struggle to connect or disconnect from entanglements and relationships. With ironic accuracy and sensuous imagery, Hofmann considers a range of human foibles: a newlywed couple who transform into feral beasts during the hardships of a remote research expedition; backbiting faculty members who strip down during a post-conference BBQ; an heretical nun who explores the possibility of a new life by imaginatively excavating the fossils of BC's Burgess Shale; and an ambitious bylaw officer determined to make her mark on the city's streets.
In Echolocation, Karen Hofmann has found new ways to sound the depths of the human heart.
Praise for Echolocation:
"Part Darwinian, part Ovidian, these are waltzing and desirous tales of transformation, thrumming with verdant light reaching through forest canopies. Hofmann’s characters are strange creatures bumping against one another in the shadows, with cracking voices seeking to connect. And then, when you least expect it, mad leaps from the dark into the light."
~ R.W. Gray, award-winning author of Entropic and Crisp
"Echolocation is a magical and surreal examination of humanity at the edges of experience."
~ Kristian Wilson, Bustle
"...lived up to our high expectations."
~ Kerry Clare, 49th Shelf
|Publisher:||NeWest Publishers, Limited|
|Sold by:||Barnes & Noble|
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Virtue Prudence Courage
He saiddream vandals, the animals roaming the island at night.
What kinds of animals? she asked. She had never heard a man talk about his dreams before. It was like hearing him say frightened or pussy. She blushed. She was wearing little suede boots, jeans, a long baggy sweater, jade-green. All of her clothes were cheap. She had pale eyelashes mascara didn't stick to, and an overbite - she had been raised by her grand¬mother, no dental plan - and tended to hide behind her hair, which was not cut properly, and fell like a hood around her face, thick mats of it slanting across her forehead and over her cheeks.
At this party at her residence, she had been approached by a raw-boned, wispy-bearded young man, a young man who had barely enough flesh to cover his long bones. In his lanky, rusty-haired, knob-jointed ugliness, he had seemed less intimi¬dating than the more smooth-faced, opaque-mannered young men she met in her classes or at church. She had not been afraid of him, and so she had talked to him, listened when he explained about his work on sea birds, and had him all to herself the whole evening.
To be sure, she did not always understand what he was talking about. White bears, he said. A society of white bears, who exchange secret vows with smoke. You can see the gou¬ges in the walls of houses. Their warnings. You can see their neon tags on the boles of the cedars. They want to put their own gloss on the scripts in my head. He said this patiently, but as if she should be able to figure it out on her own, too.
It was poetry, she thought, like Ecclesiastes or The Revelations of St. John the Divine on the Isle of Patmos. She waited for his pause. Would she be expected to provide an extem¬poraneous close reading? That did not seem fair. She stood on one foot, then the other, remembered not to bite a hangnail.
She asked, What do they say about your dreams, the ani¬mals? She thought that she was being intelligent, to ask this. But his eyes, which had been meeting hers in an open gaze, now narrowed and hardened.
I can't keep doing the work for you. You'll have to figure it out yourself.
She blushed. Okay, she said.
He was twenty-seven, a Ph.D. student.
Then they had made arrangements to go see something in his lab, and for a hike, and another hike, and she saw that she was spending all of her free time with him. He called her a lot. She did not have any close personal friends with whom to discuss him; she fell into his life activities, his energy, as into a vortex.
He lived alone, austerely, with a mattress on the floor and camping equipment and stacks of animal skulls piled against the walls. They lay side-by-side reading their textbooks dur¬ing the long rainy days and still she did not think of him as a boyfriend. Then one day he put his large-knuckled paw on the small of her back and kissed her nape, and when she turned her face toward him in surprise, her mouth.
Then he began to kiss her more, and to undo her clothing, and she said, I am a virgin. She meant this as an apology for her lack of experience, which was soon to be revealed, but the young man said, I respect that, and even if I never do more than kiss the tips of your fingers, I will devote my whole life to you.
This was, surprisingly, a disappointment to her. When she encouraged him to continue to move his ginger-furred hands under her clothing, he said, We should get married. There were so many good excuses for not inviting family and friends - distance, penury, scheduling - that she was not even remotely troubled by the possibility of other motives for their secrecy and haste.
It was final exam time. For their honeymoon, they would spend a month on a remote West Coast island, where he would be doing his research. There would not be electricity or internet on the island - they wouldn't even have a phone. That made her feel safe from something.
Table of Contents
Virtue Prudence Courage 9
That Ersatz Thing 23
Vagina Dentata 41
The Bismarck Little People's Orchestra 55
The Swift Flight of Data into the Heart 77
Unbearable Objects 103
The Canoe 115
The Burgess Shale 153
Holy, Holy 159
The Birds of India 181
The Flowers of the Dry Interior 223