Strange Attractors: Lives Changed by Chance

Strange Attractors: Lives Changed by Chance


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Has a stunning surprise or lucky encounter ever propelled you in an unanticipated direction? Are you doing what you always thought you would be doing with your life or has some unseen magnetism changed your course? And has that redirection come to seem inevitable? Edie Meidav and Emmalie Dropkin asked leading contemporary writers to consider these questions, which they characterize through the metaphor of "the strange attractor," a scientific theory describing an inevitable occurrence that arises out of chaos. Meidav's introduction and the thirty-five pieces collected here offer imaginative, arresting, and memorable replies to this query, including guidance from a yellow fish, a typewriter repairman, a cat, a moose, a bicycle, and a stranger on a train. Absorbing and provocative, this is nonfiction to be read in batches and bursts and returned to again and again.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781625344243
Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press
Publication date: 02/15/2019
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 753,879
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

EDIE MEIDAV is the author of Lola, California, Kingdom of the Young, Crawl Space, and other work, and believes in the luck that brought this book to your attention. She teaches in the MFA program for poets and writers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. For more information, visit

EMMALIE DROPKIN's short story, "A Lamentation of Swans," was nominated for the PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers.

Table of Contents

Introduction On Strange Attraction Edie Meidav 1


A Certain Devotion-Pamela Thompson 11

Double Exposure-Rebecca Bell-Gurwitz 19

Chain of Tools-Kris Brandenburger 27

The Unclimbable-Danica Novgorodoff 32

Children and All That Jazz-Liesl Schillinger 37


Cake-Jenni Quilter 55

Mr. Rochester and Mr. Matthiessen: On Mentors (and Romantic Confusion)-Sharon Guskin 66

In a Woman's Kingdom-Sheila Kohler 72

Stanley Adelmam Magician of Typewriters-Thaisa Frank 85

What Do You Want from Me, Life?-Debbie DeFord-Minerva 90

Fractal Cats-Judy Grahn 97


Rumination in Three Parts-Noy Holland 111

Conspirators-R. O. Kwon 115

The Only Other Person in the World-Rebecca Wolff 121

On Mothers, Lovers, and Other Rivals-Ana Castillo 129

Ring Theory-Sejal Shah 145

The Unfounded: A Nectar Guide in Names-Laynie Browne 151

A Season of Sophistication-Bonnie Friedman 158

Creative Spark

Leap-Sarah Ladipo Manyika 173

The Life of Stuff-Heather Sheehan 176

After Smithson-Clarinda MacLow 184

My Magdalene: Divinity and Desire-Dale Kushner 189

Polarizing Forces

Fetish for Complicity-Sonia Feigelson 197

The Line-Melinda Misuraca 205

All about love, nearly-Andrea Scrima 217


Fortuneteller-Terese Svoboda 227

Yonder-Rachel Cole Dalamangas 230

On Serendipity-Indira Ganesan 235

Cups (A Dream) -Rikki Ducornet 240


Coyote on Holy Mesa-Quintan Ana Wikswo 245

Weaning, a Love Story-Elizabeth Rosner 256

Watchfires-Hilary Plum 260

Breaking Down-Donna Ford 272

(Rifle, Morphine)-Carolyn Cooke 276

Afternoon and After-Debra Jo Immergut 281

Contributors 285

Permissions 293

What People are Saying About This

Susan Fox Rogers

Chance -- the charm of chance -- that permeates these stories is startling, often dazzling, and always life-affirming. You'll wish most of these talented women writers were your friends.

Elisa Albert

A wonderful book, unique in all ways, truly and deeply full of wonder.What a stunning constellation of seekers, believers, wanderers, questioners. A collective spiritual autobiography like nothing I've read before.

Annie Liontas

Strange Attractors reminds us that even chaos has a pattern, and now more than ever, we are grateful for it. Attraction is evidence of the sublime. The very idea sparks revelation.

Cathy Chung

Urgent and reflective, infused with a revelatory grace,Strange Attractorsis a wondering wander of a book, a curiosity shop of stories filled with surprise and clarity, longing and transformation. Lyrical, experimental, or conversational, this collection's voices explore encounters that change the course of our lives.

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