The new literary magazine Sotto Voce, which is available online and soon in print as well, features in its second issue a short story by Kathryn Magendie, a North Carolina author and editor of The Rose & Thorn E-Zine.
Magendie’s story is one of those rare pieces that use smooth and graceful style to strip characters, and I’d say humanity itself, to the bones. Unlike many intellectual writers, Magendie carves her well-thought, deep, and witty prose with exquisite poetics that balance out her brooding mind.
The story is about Beth, a Vicodin munching, fifty-year-old woman who keeps her husband ignorant of his failures, which are at the same time her own failures.
“Beth hates the smell of sex in the morning. Her panties hug her thighs as she lets loose the water she’s held since the sun first broke over the mountaintops. She feels chilled, but her stream is hot and that heat makes her feel alive, in a way the sperm squiggling inside to her useless womb does not. She imagines the little spermlets’ struggles to find the eggs that no longer drop like beautiful ripe fruit. Not that those ripe fruit ever bore anything more than an ache.”
Struggling to reconcile her young bones with what she sees as older face, Beth attracts a younger man, which both flatters her and pushes her deeper into the strange state that is neither that of sadness, nor repressed desire, neither lack nor the fed-up-ness. Beth is flattered by the young lover, but the meaninglessness of it comes up when she reacts to his name: “‘By the way, my name’s Gary.’ She thinks what a normal name this is. Not like Zeus, or Hamlet, or Thor, or Hercules.” Then again after they’ve had sex.
Magendie’s earlier stories and brilliant essays indeed all create the same kind of strength-fragility, and wit-sensibility syntheses. Read “Woman Inside Out” online, and visit Magendie’s blog where she speaks about her forthcoming book Tender Graces.