Tuesday, April 7, 2009

PANK/Lauren Becker/Sue Haigh/Flash Fiction Review

Nominating Editor: Roxane Gay

PANK is an annual print journal as well as a monthly online imprint. The word pank itself is a regional term from Michigan's Upper Peninsula where we live. If you ask three people what pank means, you'll get three different definitions, but the general consensus is that to pank is to pack or tamp something down. It is used with regard to mining (dynamite) or snow (panking it down to walk on because we get so damn much of the stuff). Where the magazine itself is concerned, editor Matt Seigel believes that PANK comes from the end of the road, the edge of things, a north shore, up country, a place of amalgamation, and unplumbed depths, where things are made and unmade, and unimagined futures are born. An ultima Thule, PANK – no soft pink hands here. We bear old scars, fresh scabs, callous, blood, and dirt. PANK is serene melancholy, spiritual longing, quirk, and anomaly. PANK is experimentation and improvisation. PANK inhabits contradiction.

More than anything we're interested in good writing. Everyone says that, but it bears repeating nonetheless. We particularly enjoy writing from people who take the time to read. You would think that goes without saying, but there are a surprising number of writers who don't seem to read anything but their own writing. We try to avoid them. Those writers make us sad. PANK publishes a lot of work that is cross genre, post genre, experimental and quirky. In our third issue, we had quite a few pieces that played in interesting ways with form. More traditional work also finds it way into our pages. We want words we will remember the next day and the next week and the next month. We've been extremely fortunate in getting a lot of work that meets that criterion.

I loved Lauren Becker's "You Should Know" the moment I first started reading it and I go back to it every few days because I love the way she uses language and the rational tone the narrator employs while relaying something that is irrational. The imagery of being held together imperfectly with rubber bands slays me. The piece is short but tight and there's something going on in every word in every sentence in every paragraph. It is, as a piece of writing, an embarrassment of riches. It's exactly the kind of writing that finds us.

Nominated Flash Fiction: "You Should Know" - Lauren Becker

Reviewed: by Sue Haigh

In this stunning little piece, Lauren Becker casually hands out useful advice on the first signs of madness (a pocket guide to self-diagnosis, as it were ), drawing her reader into her world, the one that lies on the other side of sanity. Look out, she says, with disarming kindness, this could be you.

In a mere 200 words, powerful metaphors – elastic bands stretched to breaking point, moving tectonic plates, bits not quite in place - are hinted at, as if seen from the edge of Becker’s eye, like the memory-traces of a strange dream.

The disturbing tragedy of her song-in-prose hides behind its stark, staccato delivery (not a comma in sight before the third paragraph). Emotions are kept strictly under wraps in case they should escape and blow her cover. The catalyst, a careless lover, is dismissed in a single sentence, as if too many words might destroy her again.

The subtle, insistent rhythm of Becker’s prose, the repetitive nature of her kind advice ("pay attention," "be careful," "see a doctor," "get a pill," "be on the lookout") speak eloquently of what threatens and binds us all – the human condition.

Reviewer's Bio:

Sue Haigh has spent most of her life on the north-east coast of Scotland, but now lives and writes deep underground in a cave-house in the Loire Valley in France.

She has written a collection of short stories, The Snow Lazarus, with support from the Scottish Book Trust. Stories from the collection have been published in print and online magazines and anthologies in Britain and America and have won a number of national and international awards and short-listings.

Stories from a Cave, her book of short stories for children, set in and around her house in France, will be published next year.

Sue studied psychology in Dundee and languages in Bristol, Paris and Cologne. She has worked as a teacher, university lecturer, clinical aromatherapist and counselor.

Sue is currently working on the final chapters of her novel, Missing Words, set in Germany and Scotland, and is also engaged in research for her next book, set in medieval Bruges.

Thanks for visiting Five Star Literary Stories and reading about this flash fiction.

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