We did not understand how she came to be alone. We wished to know more, the more that she alone could tell us.
from “Adela, Primarily Known as, The Black Voyage, Later Reprinted as, The Red Casket of the Heart. By Anon.” by Chanelle Benz
I think fans of David Mitchell, George Saunders and Emily Bronte will particularly dig Chanelle Benz’ story in the Watchlist anthology. Benz describes “Adela, Primarily Known as, The Black Voyage, Later Reprinted as, The Red Casket of the Heart. By Anon.” as a 19th-century found object piece narrated by a collective We in a baroque, Gothic style. It’s one of the cleverest (and creepiest) stories I’ve come across in the anthology so far. “Adela” first appeared as a chapbook, Our Commutual Mea Culpa, from a small press called The Cupboard. Here’s an excellent summary about the chapbook written by Dustin Luke Nelson at In Digest magazine’s blog:
This book, it asserts, is primarily known outside the U.S. as “Adela” and was originally published in 1829, and was later released as “Red Casket of the Heart.” While it formally has an anonymous author, it appears to have been co-written by a small group of children, years after the incident they describe. The children are, collectively, the protagonist, telling the story of their commutual mea culpa, of their relationship with Adela, an aging local woman, entering “spinsterhood,” with moderately hermetic tendencies who isn’t quite despised or shunned by the community, though the neighbors are wary. They aren’t sure what to make of her, and the children’s parents don’t love that they want to hang around her so much. The children love Adela, and upon learning of what they perceive to be her great lost love, they take it upon themselves to right this cosmic wrong. Much in the manner of the contemporaries of the anonymous author it poses as a story of romance, a comedy of errors. But where Benz — our true author — takes us is some place far darker.Dark, indeed. Like The Turn of the Screw dark. Like Heathcliff on the moors dark. Like little children banding together to kill a tragic heroine dark.
Reader, I loved it.
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.