Sunday, June 22, 2008

Black Juice

By Margo Lanagan.

This is an anthology of 10 fairly short stories, but it still took a while for me to read. Like dark chocolate, they're rich but I could only take one or two a day. Most involve dark moments, often juxtaposed with incongruously light elements: a young boy sings at his sister's execution, an assassin kills clowns in a world ruled by clowns, a woman at her grandmother's funeral lives in a world filled with pollution, an "angel" (with horns, red skin, and leathery wings) presides at a grandmother's death, a girl's love is spurned; others, like "Wooden Bride", "My Lord's Man", "Little Pippit" and "The Rite of Spring" were not so dark (unlike the Stravinsky ballet).

My favorite passage is in "My Lord's Man":

I wait to speak, until I know my voice will not shake with anger. "Mullord sees something in you," I finally say, "beyond your beauty and beyond your rage at the world. If he sees it, I believe it must be there."


"My lord sees something in me, you say. But does Berry see?" She's not jesting; she's asking me for a piece of myself, without telling me how she'll use it: whether she'll toss it away, and Berry with it, or hold it in her heart to fester and poison my life with.

"Why, I see the rage, as we all do. And I see the beauty, for no one could miss that either. [...] But the other thing—I cannot lie to you, Mistress. I do not see it."

We wait at the bottom of the path. The sun creaks a little higher at the edge of the world, and I can see the mistress's face composed, raised to the scrubby hillside, her beauty no less for the absence of its usual color, for the shadows exhaustion has painted around her eyes.

"I will tell you, Berry," she says, her voice broken to a croak, "I cannot see that other thing either."

No comments: