Through the Drowsy Dark (Conversation Pieces Book 27) Kindle Edition
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That said, Rachel Swirsky is a very good writer, and several of her works herein are emotional tour-de-force pieces. "Heartstrung" is the story of a young girl having her heart sewn onto her sleeve, which could be silly but works as a sad commentary on the process of a young girl becoming a woman in a society where women do not appear to be very valued. There is "The Black Angel's Kiss", which is a meditation on various statues of angels in Ohio and the legends that have sprung up around them. There is "Heat Engine," the story of a small family imploding under the weight of financial problems, and there is "Inside Her Heart", an odd little poem about one woman's empty nest syndrome. Most of the rest of the collection is various shades of forgettable, in my opinion.
I'm glad I read "Through the Drowsy Dark" just the same, because it's good to be reminded that even authors who have written steller pieces sometimes write average works. I really liked the stories I mentioned above, so the collection was (barely) worth what I paid for it, but it's not a collection that will be finding a place on my shelves. I'll be donating it to the library, for them to hang onto or to sell as they like. In the meantime I'll be watching for Rachel Swirsky in the "Year's Best" collections where she usually shows up, steller work in hand.
As a general thing, I prefer prose to poetry. So while I enjoyed most of the poems, two of them rather a lot, for me the real draw of this collection was the stories, among which there was not a single dud. Swirsky is an insightful, incisive writer, and with these stories she gently (sometimes not so gently) vivisects reality, uncovering truths -- often painful, occasionally joyful, frequently delightful -- that are sometimes revelatory but that, at their most effective, feel familiar, make me feel I may have allowed myself to get too comfortable living as though I didn't already know them. Swirky's imagery is sensual, her stories sensitive and honest, but it is the feelings they evoke that have lingered, that have made these stories stand out in my mind and my imagination.
On the strength of this collection, and the stories of hers I've been able to get my hands on since reading it, I'm happy to declare Swirsky an immensely gifted and talented young writer. And with a number of fine and significant stories including but not limited to "A Memory of Wind", "Eros, Philia, Agape" and "Dispersed by the Sun, Melting in the Wind" remaining uncollected, another collection of her work cannot come soon enough.
"Those Who Wait Through the Drowsy Dark" -- original to this collection
"Heartstrung" -- Interzone 210 (2007)
"Mirror Images" -- Fantasy Magazine (May 12, 2008)
"Of Passage" -- Flushed (Bannock Street Books, 2009)
"Heat Engine" -- Last Drink Bird Head (Ministry of Whimsy, 2009)
"The Black Angel's Kiss" -- original to this collection
"Detours on the Way to Nothing" -- Weird Tales 349 (2008)
"Defiled Imagination" -- original to this collection
"The Debt of the Innocent" -- Glorifying Terrorism (Rackstraw Press, 2007)
"No Longer You" (with Katherine Sparrow) -- Interzone 229 (2009)
"A Season with the Geese" -- Abyss&Apex (2007)
"Pomegranate" -- original to this collection
"Remembering the World" -- Electric Velocipede #15-16 (2008)
"Insider Her Heart" -- Ideomancer (2007)
"The Dream Vacation" -- Mothering Magazine (2006)
"The Oracle on River Street" -- Goblin Fruit (2007)
"Dear Melody" -- Sybil's Garage #4 (2007)
"Invitation to Emerald" -- Lone Star Stories (2007)
"The Fate of Hitler's Brain" -- Flashquake (2006)
In these emotionally-fraught tales, Swirsky renders abstract feminist ideas of identity, bodily sovereignty, and social justice into gripping and persuasive narratives by grounding them strongly in the human and the emotional. Through strong character development and skillful evocation of physical sensation, the ideas Swirsky grapples with are rendered real.
The intensely emotional stories are interspersed with more thought-driven pieces, which provide leavening and a balanced reading experience, along with the fun and enjoyment of engagement with the ideas themselves. The final story, "No Longer You," co-written with Katherine Sparrow, is perhaps the best of these. As a stand-alone story, it might be too emotionally distanced for my taste, but coming as it does at the end of the collection, it provides a welcome transition out of the emotional intensity of the previous pieces, back into the world outside the book.