Friday, April 24, 2015

Watchlist Countdown, Day 5: “The Relive Box” by T. Coraghessan Boyle

     Most people, when they got their first Relive Box, went straight for sex, which was only natural. In fact, it was a selling point in the TV ads, which featured shimmering adolescents walking hand in hand along a generic strip of beach or leaning in for a tender kiss over the ball return at the bowling alley. Who wouldn't want to go back there? Who wouldn't want to relive innocence, the nascent stirrings of love and desire, or the first time you removed her clothes and she removed yours?

       from “The Relive Box” by T. Coraghessan Boyle

Most of the short stories in Watchlist are about people watching other people, but The Relive Box asks, What would it be like if we could watch ourselves?” In this frightening, sharply-observed tale of obsession, T. C. Boyle (The Harder They Come) holds a mirror up to the narcissim of our social-media culture.  This isn't Facebook, it's Memory Box--more specifically, the five-thousand-dollar, second-generation Halcom X1520 Relive Box with the In-Flesh Retinal Projection Stream. Wes, the narrator, brings home the “slick black metal cube with a single recessed glass slit” and spends increasing amounts of time sitting in front of it, virtually-projecting himself back into his past, replaying his mistakes over and over again. As you can imagine, this turns out to be somewhat less healthy than a carrot-and-whey protein shake. In this interview with The New Yorker, Boyle says, “With Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like, not to mention pizza delivery and the drones Amazon is planning to employ to ship us things, we just, as a society, don’t seem to get out much anymore.”

Watchlist: 32 Short Stories by Persons of Interest, edited by Bryan Hurt, will be published by O/R Books on May 21.  The “persons of interest” contributing short stories to the anthology include Etgar Keret, Robert Coover, Aimee Bender, Jim Shepard, Alissa Nutting, Charles Yu, Cory Doctorow, David Abrams, Randa Jarrar, Katherine Karlin, Miracle Jones, Mark Irwin, T. Coraghessan Boyle, Dale Peck, Bonnie Nadzam, Lucy Corin, Chika Unigwe, Paul Di Filippo, Lincoln Michel, Dana Johnson, Mark Chiusano, Juan Pablo Villalobos, Chanelle Benz, Sean Bernard, Kelly Luce, Zhang Ran, Miles Klee, Carmen Maria Machado, Steven Hayward, Deji Bryce Olukotun, Alexis Landau and Bryan Hurt.

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