Award Date

5-1-2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Committee Member

Maile Chapman

Second Committee Member

Donald Revell

Third Committee Member

Michelle Tusan

Fourth Committee Member

Douglas Unger

Number of Pages

122

Abstract

The Edge of Mercury is a collection of stories inspired by myth, ritual and fairy tales. Many of the stories in this collection investigate the making of meaning and the construction of identity. Others directly reference Biblical stories or Greek and Roman myths, seeking to fuse contemporary realism with the numinous, and to create in the pairing, a narrative that is focused on the liminal, the silence beneath plot. In “Brother Death” two sisters create a ritual to revive their living-dead brother, only to lose him in the current of a river. In “Ambrosia,” the ghost of Pavarotti’s mother is searching for her dead son to deliver a sandwich which is made of everything – the mythical ambrosia. “Beginnings” is a conversation between a mother and daughter about karma and destiny. Over the course of the conversation the daughter tells and retells her mother’s story, in order to ask – what is the shape of a life without narrative? These stories are influenced by my study of the short story in America, its evolution from folk tale to meta-fiction. The story form has become in some ways so recognizable and standardized that it seems a particular challenge to introduce flexibility and playfulness. In this I’m inspired by many writers, including Franz Kafka, Italo Calvino, Angela Carter, George Saunders, Grace Paley, Lydia Davis and Kelly Link.

The more traditionally realist works in the collection are interested in what is not said in a dramatic moment. In “Cold War” a young girl reacts to the imminent breakdown of her family by becoming obsessed with the Soviet Union. In “The Edge of Mercury” – which is also a ghost story - a husband and wife come to terms with the husband’s senility, but avoid talking about it directly. In writing drama, I’m interested in slowing down dramatic moments and in paying attention to silences and am as influenced as much by film as by fiction. The slow, uncomfortable scenes in a film by Mike Leigh or Ingmar Bergman have always seemed to me a more interesting way of approaching conflict: leaving the camera on, letting the scene extend. I try to do that in my writing and in these stories, albeit with a dose of humor.

Keywords

Fiction; Stories

Disciplines

Creative Writing

Language

English

Available for download on Tuesday, May 14, 2019


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