My husband and I just bought a house, an old one with the sort of mysterious insulation and basement tile that just might be asbestos. We did our walk through this week and, while looking at the suspicious golden-colored puffs of insulation poking out in the attic, I couldn't stop thinking about Victor Reusch's story, "Sweet Miseries," in the latest issue of The Gettysburg Review. Reusch's narrator substitutes his fear of asbestos poisoning for a deeper existential anxiety. I could imagine, as the narrator did, those strange fibers percolating down into my lungs and making a nest. And then what? That's what the story is about.
This issue of the Review with its eerie art is filled, of course, with moving stories, essays, and poems. Perhaps my favorite is Gina Troisi's "Wrapped Up in Skin, Hidden behind Eyes," a heart-breaking account of her childhood with her horror-movie addicted stepmother and her self-absorbed father. Troisi circles around and around, uncovering the pain of a child living in fear of rejection or injury, and we wonder what other dark depths lurk beneath the attractive facades of those around us.
As is their custom, the editors of The Gettysburg Review don't label their essays or stories, except in the table of contents. Maybe I'm too narrow-minded about this, but knowing if I'm reading fiction or non-fiction affects the way I interact with a piece, and so I find it irksome to have to flip back to the table of contents each time I reach a new entry. But, that's a minor quibble. The collection is, as always, beautiful and haunting. Check it out!